The first rays of sunlight filtered through my tent and woke me up sooner than I would have preferred. I glanced at the smoldering embers and saw that Anak was already gone. Although we never discussed it among ourselves, I’m sure we all wondered where the wandering giant went during the heat of the day. As curious as I was, it was a mystery I was perfectly content to wait for ‘bigmouth’ to bring it up. It was certain to occur to him at some point. Then we would find out without having to pry, ourselves.
After a breakfast of bacon, eggs and coffee; several of us rode out to check the predator traps. Nearly all of them had been robbed of their bait without capturing any of the animals responsible. One did have dried blood on it so we knew we’d been partially successful. At least one of them had ran out of luck. Incredibly, the anchoring mechanism to tether it to the ground had been ripped all the way out. The trap’s jaws were twisted open until the steel teeth no longer touched!
Someone whistled a low note after seeing how mangled it was. We knew that any animal that could bend open a steel spring trap, was of great strength and intelligence. It would take a lot more than simple baited traps to solve the considerable problem. There was no other choice but to take turns on a night watch to protect the herd. We had already lost nine head of cattle and that would come out of our pay. A few collateral losses were allowed due to unforeseen circumstances but nine would certainly be inexcusable.
After supper, we drew straws for night watch duty and Mack drew the shortest one. He grabbed his trusty rifle and a pot of coffee; and headed over to the corral. About the usual time, Anak’s shadowy figure drifted in from the darkness. After wolfing down his plate of food, he noticed that Mack was absent from the festivities. “Where is the one called Mack?”; He inquired in a resonate tone. When we explained that he was on watch for predators attacking our livestock, a very peculiar thing happened. At first Anak appeared nervous and concerned. Then he smiled in an eerie way that sent a shiver down my spine! I won’t ever forget that sinister smile.
A few songs and stories later, he motioned that he wanted to take another turn sharing with the camp. Surprisingly, he decided to use Sammy’s method of building upon a earlier tale; over delivering an original one. It seemed odd for Anak to recycle the only one he had told before, but we realized he was still new to the game. Obviously he had very little human contact or exposure in the past.
In his newly enhanced revision, he added that the ruthless giants could change shape at will, and could walk among mortal man undetected. He also added that this hybrid race of creatures would soon enslave humanity. Most of the inspirations for his new additions were transparently obvious but we pretended to be unaware he was trying to scare us. I’m sure our faces betrayed what we were thinking because he broke out in cackles of spine chilling laughter.
It was the first time any of us had ever heard him laugh. Frankly, I was amazed at his rapidly developing sense of humor. Even though we knew it was just a big set-up to create more mystique, we still didn’t know much about him. Curiosity had eaten at us long enough. Jim blurted out what the rest of us were thinking.
“But seriously Anak, tell us about yourself!”
“I just did.”; He replied while warming himself by the fire. “I enjoy walking among you humans since I am actually the ‘short’ one of my own people.”
This time the laughter didn’t die down for at least three minutes. He was becoming quite a comedian! After I retired to my tent, I was puzzled by the feeling that I had heard his supernatural story somewhere else before.