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by beetle
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Supernatural · #2020160
Written for the prompt(s): Invent a monster.
They call the creature the Eater of Souls.

Rumors and anecdotal evidence are all that attends the story of this creature. It could be one, or it could be many. There’s no guaranteed way of knowing for certain, as those who encounter it never live to tell their tales.

How, then, did the rumors start, you ask?

It began as so many true rumors do: with the garbled recountings of a traumatized child. According to the meticulous journals kept by the Baron von Stoddard, noted historian and occultist, the boy’s story, in condensed form, is as follows:

One day, in the month of October, the boy had been sent by his mother to gather kindling in the forest near their home. The boy—who von Stoddard identifies only as Hans M.—did so, and upon returning to his home, found the bodies of his family laid out on their wooden floor as if deeply asleep.

Startled and horrified, the young child tried to awaken his mother and two adult siblings. It was to no avail. Finally, he ran outside calling for his father. He checked in the barn first, for that was the last place he’d seen the man.

What he found—

What he found was his father being held up in the air by the throat, his legs kicking weakly. The thing that held his father aloft looked like an ordinary, if extremely tall man, in a dark, hooded cloak and clothes.

Long white hair hung down the creature’s back and chest. It was holding the boy’s father so that their faces were a mere inch apart, their open mouths almost jammed together. It was then that the child noticed a strange, beautiful, pulsing white-gold light was flowing from his father’s mouth and into the creature’s.

As the boy watched in shock, the beautiful light began to weaken and falter. When it stopped flowing altogether, so did his father’s struggles.

No!” the boy screamed, and the creature, done with its supping, dropped the limp body it held, and licked pale lips. Then it turned to the child and smiled gently.

“Today is your lucky day, little one,” the creature said in an equally gentle voice. “For you are not nearly ripe enough for my tastes.”

It then turned to toe the supine body of the boy’s father with a moue of distaste, before glancing back at the boy.

“Run,” it said softly.

And the boy did, not stopping until he came at last to the seat of the Barony, and von Stoddard, to whom he recounted this tale I have told you. . . .

Now, as I stand on this cracked and crumbling doorstep, I knock quietly and wait for the door to open, my excitement barely contained. Patience has always been my watchword. Patience is the key. For the man who resides within is quite old, now, and cannot run nearly so fast as he used to—not even to answer the door.

When, at last, that door opens and we are face to face once more, after so much time has passed, I smile.

The man smiles back bemusedly, but congenially enough. “Yes? May I help you?” He shivers in the gust of wind that shakes this cool October night and scuttles thick clouds across the night sky and the face of the full moon.

“Yes,” I say softly. “Have I the Mueller residence? Home of Herr Hans Mueller?”

“Yes, this is the Mueller residence and I am he,” the old man says and squints up at me intently. “You look familiar, young man . . . do I know you?”

I push back the hood of my dark cloak, and the old man’s eyes widen instantly in shock and terror as white hair cascades down around my shoulders.

“No, you do not know me, little Hans. But we have met before. Eighty-seven years ago tonight, it was. I have been looking for you for a long time, dear boy, and at last—” my smile grows wider as the old man takes an instinctual step back. I take one step forward, and he doesn’t even think to shut the door on me. Not that that would have saved him in the end. I grab him by his weedy neck and lift him up until we’re eye-to-eye, then I draw him nearer, till our faces are a mere inch apart and our mouths aligned. “At last, I’ve found you.”

The old man struggles futilely and gasps in a breath he quickly exhales. On it, I can smell his soul, finally ripened—and beautifully seasoned—enough for supping. Better, by far than the paltry meal that had been von Stoddard.

Little Hans has lived well, and tonight, I will sup well. . . .

They call me the Eater of Souls. Rumors and anecdotal evidence are all that attends the story of me. I could be one, or there may be others like me. There’s no guaranteed way of knowing for certain, as those who encounter me never live to tell their tales.


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