Keeping it spooky
Published in

Keeping it spooky

A hike

A father goes hiking with his infant daughter.

A dense forest of pines
Courtesy of

He brought the girl along with him. She was six.

All around, the bugs would crash in the lazy leaves, rustiling with this faint breeze that sounded like the rain. His daughter, she said:

“It’s not water coming from the trees, Pop, it’s caterpillars.”

It was true, the insects, they were all around, hanging from their invisible ropes. The father, he had fought and lost and swallowed a bunch of them already.

The forest, at his daughter’s heights probably, smelled of humus with a vague rotten undertone. The adult fought the urge to get on all fours and shimmer his way all around. The rifle, hanging on his back, would have attained Eme’s face and he couldn’t let that happen.

This morning, when he’d said she didn’t have to go to school, Eme had first jumped with joy before averting her gaze. “But then I won’t be seeing Candace and Louis,” she’d said, her eyes almost closed in the fashion she adorned when she thought her dad was playing a trick on her.

“We’ll be back by Monday, no worry.”

“We be gone three days,” she exclaimed, extending four fingers before correcting herself.

Despite this, Eme was now walking joyfully on the decayed ground of the forest. She’d get ahead quickly on her own before checking on her father’s position.

There’s this link between you and your child no one can really define. It’s this trust that exists even through the void in-between worlds. It’s a heavyweight, the confidence your kid places onto you, tis certainy no harm could ever come to them when you’re around. A responsibility most parents thoroughly accept.

It can drown you in fear, some nights.

The father tried to have Eme put up the tent all by herself. They’d walked for a fairly long time, with the bird’s song shuffling as they got deeper. Air smelled of dried leaves and lush bark. When the tree’s trunk began to turn scarlet in the vanishing sunlight, the father decided to set up camp. Neither of them had eaten for a day, yet the little girl didn’t seem famished.

The dad knew the hunger would come. Later.

“Dad, dad, y’hear how the whole forest’s silent, now?”

Father would never admit it but he had drifted asleep. With his left hand, he gripped the small body next to his.

“It’s time I show ya something,” he growled.

They exited the tent.

He took her walking through the woods; teaching, no passing down how one shall walk on dried leaves through the nocturnal silence.

The deer slept, rolled over itself as some grumpy cat. Father had made sure to approach it with the wind in his back, but he would give those details to his daughter later.

It was certainly a doe.

By his side, his daughter couldn’t repress a “Oh,” a chuckle. While at first he harnds came up to her mouth to cover the noise, soon her finger drowned into the beast fur.

The detonation shattered the silence all around. Its light blinding the both of them, for but a short moment. As the noise crashed down, it melted in a staccato of evading feet stomping the ground.

Father didn’t care.

“Why d’you do that?” cried Eme in the crux of the night.

He never answered, saying instead: “Now, we sleep.”

The daughter didn’t comprehend the whole of it. One or twice she turned around, towards the carcass. Her footsteps sounded heavier than when they’d arrived.

On the second day, the father took her hiking and swimming in a nearby pool he’d researched.

Before the dusk settled, he found time to go and fetch the body. By the look of it, only certain flies had laid still. It smelled more like meat you’d got in a supermarket than decaying flesh.

Unaware of the whole charade, Eme clapped.

“You strong, daddy.”

They hadn’t eaten for two days.

The father still didn’t like the smell of the carcass on the third day. So they decided to build a cabin instead.

“Waddaya think Candace’s doing?” he asked.

“Certainly not building anything,” Eme said. “She could be drinking tea but I think she’s drawing.”

“How do you know?”

Eme seemed to think for a second.

“Candace, she likes Michel, so she might give him a drawing for his birthday.”

“Oh, is that a secret?”

“Yeah. Michel he doesn’t know. All he does is playing the sand and pulling girl’s hair.”

“A busy man.”

“An idiot.”

“Don’t say that. That ain’t nice.”

Once again, she brought those half-closed eyes to his face and the father couldn’t unsee the person she’d grow up to be. The myriads of her there’d be before her death.

And after.

When they returned the eyes of the doe had turned white. The father plunged his bowie knife in the innards of the beast, driving the blade though its pelvis, on the left. Rotten entrails swept on the dried floor as some dying wave.

It sort of sounded the same. Except for the birds chirping.

The smell of hollowed cavity and rot rose up, strangling the humus scent of the falling night. Eme gasped and stepped back and pinched her nose with her dirty fingers. Intestines crawled oh-so-slowly towards her feet.

“Don’t do that,” he said, taking her hands off her face.

“But itssss disgusting,” she cried.

“It really isn’t,” he simply offered while kneeling next to the corpse.

He sniff-sniffed the body twice, lusting for the moment to come before plugging his head in the dissected beast. As his teeth shattered organs, he felt the fur and the rigid body moving under his every bite. He loved the way physics made it appear as if the animal was trying to fend for itself.

Eme shimmered underneath his left arm. She began to fetch. He would hear her baby teeth gently gnawing at the fur, at the flesh. When she raised her head, the daughter was smiling. Her mouth was covered in bodily fluids, fecal matter, blood. She giggled clumsily and hid her mouth full as he stared at her.

A piece of intestine dropped to his shirt, to his daughter’s hilarity.

“They used to call us were-hyenas but we just ghouls,” he said, plainly.

Once again, Eme stared at him as if she could pierce the shells he’d built through flamboyant years and downfall, as if none of them mattered.

She laughed and put her blood smeared hands on his arm before feeding. This stained his shirt. The father didn’t care.



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Basile Lebret

Basile Lebret


I write about the history of artmaking, I don’t do reviews.