My gut was telling me that I needed to look behind that bush. I wasn’t sure about what to expect, maybe a squirrel eating away at a nut of some kind? But if it was a squirrel, it seemed really angry. As much as I wanted that scenario I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something worse waiting for me.
“… Melissa?” I subconsciously called out while staring at the bush. I didn’t know what possessed me to actually think that she would be behind there. If it really was her, why didn’t she come out after I called her name the first few times? That girl wasn’t there. At least, that’s what I thought. The only way I was going to be certain was to look behind the bush for myself.
Part of me wished I didn’t.
I got up from the bench and went around to the bush, my sneakers walking through damp dirt. It hasn’t rained for days, so why was the dirt wet? I looked down to see what I was stepping on and froze up. The white edges of my sneakers were covered in a sticky mixture of dirt and something red. Juice, maybe? When I tried to bring my foot up it looked like red glue was stuck on the underside of the shoe. There was a trail that lead underneath the bush; there was something sticking onto it, light brown in color and looked like a clump of dirty cotton balls. The theory of a squirrel came back, this time it being injured and fleeing behind into bush to escape from whatever hurt it. The cracking sounds kept up, louder now since I was right in front of it.
As hesitant as I was, I forced myself to lean over and look behind the bush. That’s when I got my answers, but a new question arose: Why?
Entire body low to the ground, hands and feet buried under the dirt to keep steady. A face covered red, fleshy chunks filling the gaps of her teeth, a gnarled grin every time she stopped to breathe. There was a pile of fur and stained bones around her, the severed head of a squirrel on top. Its dead gaze was aimed right at me.
She kept chewing, crunching through the small animal’s rib cage. Now I was sure about what was causing the snapping and cracking sounds.
I… I didn’t know what to do—you’re not taught what to do in this kind of situation. I mean, how could a kid even be capable of doing something so gruesome and violent? She was only nine years old!
My legs were too stiff from fear to try and walk away. I was still leaning down over the bush, watching the bloody scene. My heart was racing, trying to flee from my body and escape. I wanted to scream, but if I did, the other kids inside the classroom would have ran out here to see what was happening. There was no imagining how traumatized they would have been after seeing their own classmate feasting on a squirrel’s innards. I was still struggling myself to try and act like I was imagining it, but this scene was real and right in front of me.
Melissa was tearing apart an animal’s body with just her teeth… and eating it.
My mouth hung open, soundless. I wanted to get Melissa’s attention, but it was too unpredictable about how she’d react. I wanted to try and help her, but I didn’t want to be her potential next meal. How can you help somebody, or something, like this? How the hell did she even get like this in the first place?
I went to prop myself up, but my weight must have been too much for the bush; the twig my hands were resting on broke and I went falling into the bush itself. Parts of my blouse got caught on twigs and small branches, trapping me in place. I managed to put my arms out so that my face wouldn’t fall into the bloody dirt. I took a minute for my composure to come back. I brought my head up, and held my breath when I realized just how much worse my situation got.
Melissa’s eyes were completely bloodshot. The ends of her hair were tinted red. Her mouth was mid-chew, blood oozing out from the corner of her mouth. Our faces were only inches away.
She started growling.