My grandparents raised me. It just happened that my parents died in a car accident.  I almost don’t remember them; I was three years old then. We lived in a big house in a village all together: grandfather, grandmother, father, mother and me. One winter day, my parents were called to visit the neighbouring town. They decided to leave me at home with old people. And then came the bad news: my parents were killed on the road.

The old people were kind, helped me with my school subjects, and helped me get into university. Then, they gave me even money for the first time when I was about to move to the city. Time passed quickly, and I became more mature and independent. I got a good job, bought a flat and a car, and found a beautiful and faithful wife. I’m about to have a daughter. I never forgot about my grandfather and grandmother. Every year, I went to visit them. First alone and then with my wife. We helped them with household chores and spoiled them with city gifts.

In general, life went on as usual. , but a few days ago, my grandfather called me and told me in a hoarse voice that my grandmother was gone. He asked me to come and help with funerals. I wanted to drop everything and go right away. But the bad weather didn’t allow it. I can’t describe how bad I felt during those days. My wife calmed me down with all her might. I didn’t show up at work and took leave without pay. It was terrible and painful for me to realize that my grandmother had died. But the cause of death was still unknown to me.

When the weather improved, I finally left for the village a couple of days later. I left my wife at home. The road to the village was terrible, and it took about four hours. It seemed endless to me. When I was a few kilometres from the village, someone ran out onto the road. I braked sharply and froze. It was very dark outside, and it was snowing lightly. An oversized dark silhouette resembling a bear could be seen in the headlights. I sat in a stupor for a few seconds, and the figure stood motionless. I honked several times, but there was no response. Something inside me told me not to get out of the car. I only looked away for a few seconds and looked back ahead, but the place where the figure had been was empty. `

-I must have been imagining it from stress, – I said out loud and drove on.  

When I reached home, my grandfather met me. I gave him a big hug. At that moment, we both almost cried. I was offended and incomprehensible: why and why did God take this beautiful woman? But unfortunately, there was nothing to be done. We went into the house and sat down at the table.  

-Grandpa, what’s wrong? Grandpa, what’s wrong? Your heart? – I started asking the old man.

-Oh, my dear. I don’t even know how to tell you, – Grandpa cried.

-Tell me, don’t be so long, – I said, taking him by his shoulders.

-She was found in the forest by local fishermen, torn out. Her insights were all out. They told me she was mauled by wild animals when she went for firewood. But it’s all lies. She never went out there in winter. The firewood in the shed is stacked up. You know that very well, don’t you? – Grandpa told me.

-What nonsense is this? Who told you that? Where have you been? – I asked.

I am on a shift at the guardhouse. Your grandmother and I never went to the forest at night. We rarely picked mushrooms and berries in the summer; sometimes, we went out for air. And now this has happened. My heart felt that people didn’t know what happened there.  

I couldn’t believe my ears. How could Grandma go into the woods alone at night in winter? Grandpa kept crying.

-God, why did you do this to my wife? It would have been better if she had died on her own accord, – he said bitterly.

-So, nobody wants to deal with it; they write it all off to the wild animals, – I said, looking out of the window with annoyance.

We talked a little more and then changed the subject. During the night, I wondered what kind of creature had done that to the poor old woman. But on the other hand, if I knew who had done it, I would kill him with my own hands. After a while, I fell asleep.  

I dreamt of the very forest where I had found my grandmother. On the white snow, I saw her disfigured body. Her arms were spread out in different directions. Her chest was torn like paper. And her insides lay somewhere not far away. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. Suddenly, a black figure emerged from behind a nearby tree. It approached the body and dragged it by the arms deep into the forest. I couldn’t see the creature’s face or body. Only a giant black blob of what looked like wool.

I woke up in a cold sweat. It was about 10 a.m. I looked around and exhaled, then went to the kitchen and got dressed. Today, I had to go to the cemetery to visit my grandmother. When I came to the table, I found my grandfather cooking meat. I briefly told him about my dream, but I didn’t mention the mystical black figure. The old man only swallowed and said it was from shock and stress. He had had the same dream before my arrival, and only sleeping pills helped.

After breakfast, I packed up and went to the cemetery. There, I met our neighbor, Auntie Botagoz. She was my grandmother’s best friend. She hugged me and cried.

-I can’t believe your grandmother is gone. I can’t believe it. What’s going on in the village? A year ago, Yermek died. A month ago, Magripa from the end house. And now your grandmother, – the neighbour said, crying.

I hugged her, and when she calmed down, she told me something that gave me goosebumps.

-I wanna tell you something. May your grandfather forgive me, but you should know. There’s an evil thing in our forest. It’s been here since before you were born. It hardly ever comes near the village. You can mainly spot it in winter near the forest. It hides in the dark behind the trees. It only comes to us if it follows someone wandering. But at night, it just grabs them, and that’s it. Huge, shaggy and scary as hell. I once saw it while driving out of town with my daughter. It hasn’t shown itself for a long time, but now it’s getting fierce. It killed two people this year. But there’s a good chance it killed your grandmother, too. So you should be careful, too, – Auntie Botagoz told me.

She said something else, but I wasn’t listening. I spent the rest of the day as if in a fog. The neighbour’s words didn’t leave my mind. Immediately, I remembered the strange figure I had met on the road. I wanted to believe our neighbour was slowly going mad and had made it all up, but I felt uneasy.  

While in the village, I helped my grandfather as much as possible. I did the housework, fed the cattle, and carried firewood into the house. The nightmares continued to torment me. I didn’t sleep well. In my dreams the same picture kept popping out of my eyes: my grandmother’s body on the snow and this creature was standing next to her. I couldn’t make out what it looked like.  

I couldn’t stand it, so in the evening, I told my grandfather about my dreams again—only this time in detail—and also about what Auntie Botagoz had told me. He changed his face and spoke.

-As much as I’d like to hide it, she’s right. But she didn’t tell you everything. You remember what we said about your parents, don’t you? Well, none of it is true. Your parents did have an accident, but not a fatal one,  – Grandpa began.

My eyes rounded with surprise. I waited impatiently for the rest of the story. Grandpa sipped from his mug of tea and continued.

-That night, they were driving to a neighbouring village. On the way, they had a flat tyre and hit a tree. Then the forensics came back with all this. But the police couldn’t explain why your parents were found dead, not in the car. Your father’s body was lying a few meters away from the wrecked vehicle. It looked like wild animals had torn it apart. And your mother’s body was found a few kilometres away from the road, in the woods. Her head was torn off; her limbs nibbled as if torn by dogs. That day, three more bodies were found in the forest. All mutilated in different ways. Since then, villagers have been afraid to go to the forest, – my grandfather said, and tears ran from his eyes.

I took a long time to digest what the old man had told me. We were silent for about ten minutes, and then I spoke.

-I wouldn’t tell a child something like that either. Grandpa, I almost hit someone in the woods on the way here. I think that was it. I didn’t get a good look, but I saw something big, I told the old man.

If you get that close to it, that’s not good. It means you need to leave as soon as possible. These dreams are not a good sign. It’s angry with you and wants to find you. So, leave tomorrow morning, not tonight like you were going to, Grandpa ordered me.

His words sounded mendacious and severe. After his story, I wanted to leave right away. But as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t. I had to wait out the night and leave my homeland.

-Grandpa, what about you? In case this thing gets you too, come with me to town. You will live with us, I turned to the old man.

-Don’t worry about me, I’ve got a gun. As soon as I see that thing, I’ll kill it. And I won’t be able to live in the city; I’m sorry my grandfather answered.

It was useless to argue with the old man. I could only hope that he would be alright.  

At night, I had a nightmare. Again, it was that horrible scene in the forest. But now I could see the creature. It had big, wide eyes and a wide, white-toothed smile. This creature wasn’t human. It was looking at me and chewing my grandmother’s hand. I shouted at it, found a stick, and swung it at the bastard. But it just vanished into thin air. And I heard a low chuckle and snow scraping somewhere behind me.

In the morning, I was even more depressed and broken than usual. I just wanted to sleep and not think about that nightmare. I went outside to warm the car, but it wouldn’t start. By the time I could fix it, it was getting dusk outside. Grandpa tried his best to stop me. But I was determined to go today. He and I hugged goodbye.

It was already dark when I left. I drove very fast and tried to concentrate on the road. Suddenly, halfway there, my car stopped. Just before I got out of the woods, an unexplainable anxiety enveloped me from head to toe. I tried to start the engine repeatedly, but everything was in vain. As luck would have it, no cars were on the motorway. I pulled out my phone. I was lucky; I had reception. I called for a tow truck, wrapped myself in a blanket, and lay in the backseat. After a while, I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep. But not for long.

I woke up to a noise outside. The headlights weren’t on, and I couldn’t see what was happening there. But I didn’t dare switch them on and looked for some reason. After a couple of seconds, I heard metal scraping. I was terrified that this thing would find me. When my eyes got used to the darkness, I noticed movement near the bonnet. Goosebumps covered my whole body. Suddenly, something struck the car hard. I quickly climbed into the front seat and switched on the headlights.  

I still can’t forget what stood in front of me. In the headlights, I saw a huge thing. It was as wide as two adult bears and about three meters high. Its eyes were wide, and its mouth was like a shark’s. It was hitting the car with a huge paw, giggling evilly. I closed my eyes and started praying. I remembered everything I had ever heard and seen.  

Suddenly, the thumping stopped. I opened my eyes and saw the light from the headlights in the distance. I realized it was a tow truck. I was so glad I’d been able to call it. I waited for the car to get closer and jumped onto the road. The tow truck slowed down, and a man about my age ran out. But I didn’t have time to say a word. This thing was coming at him from behind. It ripped the poor man’s head off before realising it. It gnawed at him like a hungry lion eats a zebra. Blood flew in my face. I stood there in a horrible stupor, and then I turned around and ran as fast as I could back to my car. Screaming, I slid inside and closed all the doors.  

The creature meanwhile continued to eat the driver’s body. Suddenly, I saw it stop and sniff. It looked at me first. The monster giggled, blood dripping from its bloody teeth. I already thought that its creepy smile would be the last thing I saw in my life. But suddenly, the creature stood up on two paws and headed towards the tow truck. And then I noticed a kid about ten years old in the tow truck. The kid had come with his father to the call. He was so terrified that he couldn’t even move. The creature slowly began to crawl into the cab of a tow truck. The next second, I heard a child’s heartbreaking scream. In a panic, I tried to start the car again. After two or three tries, it miraculously started. I pressed down on the gas with all my might. But as I drove past the tow truck, I saw an eerie sight. This monster stood there looking at me with its wide eyes and hands. It was holding the head of a poor kid.

I’ve never driven so fast. I didn’t think about anything. My goal was to get to town. When I got home, I told a story about hitting a deer on the road. My wife believed me. I called my grandfather and told him I got home okay. I didn’t tell him what happened on the road. I was afraid that the old man would worry even more. I had to have the car repaired.

I had nightmares about that monster all the time. In my dreams, I stood there on the road and watched helplessly as the creature massacred the boy. Meanwhile, it looked at me with its white eyes and giggled. I realised it was mocking, showing me the exact moment of my cowardice. It wanted me to feel guilty. I was doing something about it. I didn’t show it to my wife. At work, too. I was doing the best I could. I lived like that for about a month until one terrible day; I got a phone call from the village. Auntie Botagoz was on the other end of the line. She told me that my grandfather had been found mutilated in his own house. What I feared most had happened. That thing had got Grandpa. I couldn’t take it anymore. I packed all the essentials without saying anything to my wife and left for the village. The main thing is to get there before it gets dark. Grandpa’s gun is at home. I’m going to end this nightmare.

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