Junior wasn’t even forty-five minutes into the trees when his son Denny called him on the walkie, to meet back at the truck. Denny was twelve, and Junior could tell he’d got spooked again.
He wasn’t going to get any less spooked if Junior called him on it, though.
So, instead of staking out a north-facing meadow like he’d been intending, waiting for the sun to glint off some elk horn, Junior tracked himself back, stepping in his own boot prints when he could. And it’s not that he didn’t understand: coming out an hour before dawn, walking blind into the blue-black cold, some of the drifts swallowing you up to the hip, it wasn’t the same as watching football on the couch.
The bear tracks they’d seen yesterday hadn’t helped either, he supposed.
Since then, Junior was pretty sure Denny wasn’t so much watching the trees for elk anymore, but for teeth.
He was right to be scared, too. Junior was pretty sure he had been, at that age. But at some point you have to just decide that if a bear’s going to eat you, a bear’s going to eat you, and then you go about your day.
One thing Junior knew for sure was that if he’d been in walkie contact with his dad, then there wouldn’t have been any meets at the truck.
Junior was doing better, though. It was one of his promises.
So he eased up to the truck, waiting for Denny to spot him in the mirror. When Denny didn’t, Junior knocked on the side window, and Denny led him fifteen minutes up a forgotten logging road to a thick patch of trees he’d probably stepped into for the windbreak, to pee.
“Whoah,” Junior said.
It was a massacre. The bear’s dining room. At least two winters of horse bones, some of them bleached white, some of them still stringy with black meat.
Junior had to admit it: this probably would have spooked him, twenty years ago.
Hell, it kind of did now.
The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.