Building a Better Monster

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Release Date: July 2014
Author: Christopher Treagus
ISBN Paperback: 978-1-935460-52-7
($11.95 USD)
ISBN eBook: 978-1-935460-53-4
($5.95 USD)
LCCN: 2010928868
Edited by: Allison Itterly
Cover Artist: Stephanie Flint
Pages: 152

If enough people believe in something, can that belief make it real? Explore the creation of mankind’s newest monster, the Chupacabra, in this mesmerizing tale of the creature’s origins.

The story begins with the earliest reported sightings of the Chupacabra in the American Southwest in mid 1990s, then weaves its trail of blood-sucking destruction  into the folktales of Mexico and Puerto Rico. Part vampire, part animal, part alien, the Chupacabra is blamed for the slaughter of countless animals—and humans—throughout the region.

While the Chupacabra seemed to come suddenly on the scene from out of nowhere, it would not be the first time that the collective consciousness of humanity’s wildest imaginings breathed life into a myth, giving it flesh and blood and deadly purpose…

And now that we’ve created it, can anything stop its modern day reign of terror?

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“Regardless of our heritage or economic background, fear is something we all have in common. Christopher Treagus shows us once again that believing is seeing, seeing is believing—and THAT can create a deadly reality.” —Catherine Russell, author, The Stage and Exit Stage Left

“Treagus weaves a tale of terror, integrating mythology and the archetypal battle of darkness versus light along with the richness of the Mexican culture. Building a Better Monster is hard to put down and will leave you checking the shadows before you turn out the light.” — Val Muller, author, The Scarred Letter

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In the hours before dawn, Carlos Santigo moved briskly through the streets of his village of San Rafael in the Sinaloa region of Mexico. His thoughts were still on his girlfriend, Angelica, whom he had left behind not more than a few minutes before, after their first time together. Her sweat still clung to him, mixed with his own. Their night of lovemaking had been nearly overwhelming—passionate and intense—and he hated to leave her.

But there was no other choice; he needed to be at Uncle Manuel’s fields before daybreak. Though he was eighteen, he still had to abide by his uncle’s wishes as long as he was living under his roof, and it was his turn to tend to the fields. If he was discovered missing when Uncle Manuel made his rounds at dawn, there would be hell to pay… and he would be lucky to ever see Angelica again.

With that thought in mind, Carlos cocked his head toward the sky, attempting to determine just how long he had to make it back to the fields. The moon, what little sliver there was of it, had already begun its descent toward the west, though the dark of the night would remain for quite some time. Carlos quickened his footsteps, cursing the dim light the moon provided.

The streets here were never brightly lit, and it was easy to stumble on the potholes that lined the road, not to mention tumbling into the ditches on either side. When the moon was thin like this, it would be nearly impossible to find his way back to the fields. He would be lucky if he made it back by dawn.

This thought was suddenly very funny to Carlos. Not in a humorous way, but rather in an ironic, bitter variety. He found himself laughing out loud. The sound of that laugh, however, caused his heart to skip a beat, as it reverberated through the dark all around him, making him think, for the briefest moment, that he was surrounded by at least half a dozen others, all laughing in the same sardonic way.

Stopping in his tracks, Carlos shivered. He peered through the dark, trying to make out the shadows that lurked there and what might be covered within them, but there was nothing. It had only been an echo. Though Carlos had suspected as much, it never hurt to be sure. He did his best to shrug off the chill that had overtaken him and prepared to continue on his way, putting out of his mind the thoughts of all the horrid, creeping things that could be waiting in the dark. He moved through the darkness lost in thoughts of Angelica. As he plodded on, he thought of her the way he had left her, flushed and naked, the covers pulled up just below her exposed breasts, her lower lip pouting, her eyes wide, tinted by just a hint of sadness, not wanting him to go.

“Please, Carlos, stay with me!” she had pleaded. “At least until morning.”

But Carlos shook his head. “I can’t. Uncle Manuel will kill me if he finds me missing again!” he had said as he struggled to put on his pants.

With that, Carlos quickly kissed her on the forehead, then grabbed his shirt and was out the door. As he parted, he thought he had heard her say, “God be with you, my love, and keep you safe from harm,” but he wasn’t quite sure, and he didn’t want to go back to find out.

When he had stepped from the house into the night, a chill scraped him to the bone. Even now, the shadows swarmed all around him. It was certainly going to be a long trip to the fields, and he shivered yet again at that thought.

Just then, something in the darkness stirred. Carlos stopped dead in his tracks, his heart suddenly pounding, his breath coming in quick spurts. A shiver traced his spine. A rustling of wings reverberated behind him. Something shifted just out of sight from the corner of his eye, and the wind picked up a new chill.

“What was that?” he wondered aloud, his voice but a whisper. He didn’t like the dark. He had never been fond of the night. It held too many secrets, hid too many shadows. There always seemed to be something lurking there—something that was better left unknown.

Carlos turned his head cautiously from side to side, scanning the dark. Shadows loomed all about and seemed to be closing in on him. But there was nothing concrete he could make out, just vague, blurred forms of trees that could have been withered, hunched-over men, watching, waiting for an attack. There was a disturbing stillness to the night. The crickets had silenced, even the frogs, and all the little critters of the dark. The street seemed hushed by an unnatural calm, as if death had swept into the valley, and Carlos shivered for what seemed almost a full minute.

Something was definitely not right here; something had gone terribly wrong. Carlos suddenly had a conviction of this. Though he couldn’t quite place exactly what that could be, he did know one thing for certain: he wasn’t going to stick around to find out what it was.

Petrified, Carlos hastened his step, moving far more quickly than he had before. He cared little for the potholes or the ditches he could stumble into, which would be nothing compared to what was lurking in this darkness. The sooner he was away, the better.

But no matter how far he went tonight, he knew that the shadows would still cling to him like a wraith, some horrid fetch that would ride him into death. He couldn’t escape it, no matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried. The darkness remained cloaked all about him. And every time he looked into those shadows, he was sure he could see dark, unholy figures lurking there, watching him, waiting.

Carlos knew the dangers of the darkness on this coast of Mexico. When he was younger, he had heard tales from the older boys at school. Before his father had died, he had told Carlos of the things that haunted the night, and how they were always stronger in times of strife and struggle. And the Lord knew these were certainly such times.

Carlos continued his path through the darkened streets of his village, tossing backward glances over his shoulder every now and then just to make sure he wasn’t being followed. Shadows could be quite deceiving, and it never hurt to be cautious. His mind was lost in thought, but not so far gone that he wouldn’t notice any odd happenings in the wretched dark if they were to occur. He was attuned to every crunch of twig beneath his feet, every kick of dirt before him. If someone were to creep up from behind, he would certainly notice it.

Even with all his precautions, he couldn’t seem to get the feeling of impending doom out of his mind. Was there really a dark fate waiting for him out there somewhere in the shadows? Carlos’s skin began to prickle, and a cold line of sweat inched out from under his scalp, running like an icicle down his cheek. He was deathly frightened and almost convinced that there was indeed someone or something out there following him, lurking. Whatever it was—wherever it was—he could not let it get him.

Carlos quickened his pace until he broke into a run. He barreled through the dark, no longer caring to avoid the shadows or checking each one to make sure it hid no secrets. His objective now was simply to get out of here, to get to his uncle’s fields and wait for the dawn when all would be safe again, when the horrors of the night would evaporate and fade away with the sun.

But as the shadows continued to loom and swarm about him, even in his mad dash Carlos became increasingly sure that he would never make it. He could see the silver moon balancing just on the edge of the horizon, but it provided no comfort. It was not a promise of the dawn to come, but a reflection of the devil’s smile wickedly taunting him as though it these were the last few moments of his life. He bounded faster in a desperate effort to save himself, but his foot caught on a root, and he tumbled heavily to the ground, rolling off the side of the road.

Carlos landed hard at the bottom of a ditch, his head striking a rock, his body sinking in the mud at the bottom, beneath a layer of water thick and stagnant with the odor of urine and feces. Something beneath him was squirming. And then something else was on top of him, biting into the soft flesh between his shoulder blades. Panic flushed through him, and his muscles tensed, as if they had been suddenly pulled tight by a dozen imaginary strings. Excruciating pain swept through his body. He tried to scream and pull away, but his mouth instantly filled with the pungent water, flavored with the bitter taste of urine mixed with sewage filth and something else—blood!

He rolled over on his back, gasping for air, and the thing fell away—whatever it was. Yet the squirming beneath him continued. There was something in the filth and mud down there. Carlos couldn’t quite make it out in the dark, but he could see it moving, felt it under him. Dark shapes slowly rising, he imagined, like countless dead from moldering graves.

Carlos shuddered. He tried to move, but couldn’t. His body was petrified. The muscles of his legs and back tensed, trying to get his extremities to respond, but they were suddenly too heavy, as though they were strapped down. He could not escape. After all his attempts to outrun the lurking shadows, it had come down to this. He really was doomed after all, and no one could save him.

The dark shapes were converging on him, crawling onto his body, his legs, his arms—he could feel their warm, quivering bodies, their tiny, clawed feet digging into his flesh, their dark, beady eyes boring into him. Carlos opened his mouth as a scream slowly built its way up from deep inside.

“Oh God! Oh God!” He trembled as the black things crawled onto his chest, squirming between his legs, finding their way beneath the cotton of his shirt, his pant legs, to the flesh below. Tiny little teeth dug into his skin, and his blood flowed hot over his stomach and legs.

“Oh my God!” He was becoming more desperate as the blackness converged upon him, within him. Dozens of teeth and claws continued to prick his skin—at his nipples, his thighs, even his groin—until finally Carlos could take no more and broke free of his icy fear. A scream broke from his lips, echoing deep into the night. He rose up suddenly, splashing through the stagnant, filth-infested water to the edge of the hole, sending the darkness scattering.

Once he was on dry ground again, Carlos began to pluck what was left of the quivering dark things from his body. Only then did he notice their thick wet hair, long leathery tails, and fiendish muzzles. He flicked the last of the critters to the ground and kicked at them as they squirmed back toward the ditch. He shivered.

“Rats!” he growled, still tasting the filth of the sewer on his tongue. “Goddamn rats?” A vile thought grabbed hold of him, and his whole body seemed to lurch with a sudden sickness, wrenching the pit of his stomach until he thought he was going to fall over.

Carlos shook his head and looked around. The rats had all clamored back to the sewer and were once again minding their own business, waiting for the next intruder. In fact, looking into the ditch, he could hardly see them at all—there was nothing but slight shadows on the surface of the water, but that could have been from anything.

The hair on the back of his neck slowly began to rise, and he quickly whirled around. The shadows behind him rustled as the branches of darkened trees scraped together in the breeze. “The darkness is ever deceiving,” his father used to say. “It plays tricks on you. You’re not always seeing what you think you are.”

Carlos gazed into the waters of the ditch. Nothing seemed to stir there anymore. All was still. No sign of the rats. It was almost as if they had never been there at all.

His body felt cold and clammy. The distant moon’s descent was now nearly complete. Dawn was thankfully near. But Carlos knew that while there was only a short time left before sunrise, perhaps an hour, maybe a little more, there was still enough darkness remaining to be a threat. He needed to get out of harm’s way as soon as he could.

And he still had to make it to his uncle’s fields.

With one final glance around to make sure he was alone, Carlos set off on his path, hoping and praying that nothing else in the darkness would come after him. He made the rest of the trip in near-record time, moving as fast as he could, but being careful not to break into a run as he had earlier. A repeat of the incident in the ditch would not be welcome. He could still taste the bile of the sewer every time he swallowed. The wounds the rats gouged into him would take a long time to heal.

Despite his fevered pace, dawn was slowly creeping up as Carlos neared his uncle’s fields. The shadows that clung to the night were taking their own sweet time to pass away. He just couldn’t seem to shake them; no matter what he did, the darkness still hounded him. He could not escape the fear that some horror lay in wait for him somewhere… and he would find it before the night was over.

As he approached the fields, this fear began to grow stronger and stronger, gnawing deep within the pit of his stomach, warning that there was trouble ahead. He walked more slowly, despite his apprehension. He was almost there; whatever was lying in wait would soon be upon him. The time for running was over.

If Uncle Manuel were to see him now, he would laugh and say, “What imagination you have, Carlos! So much like your father, always lost in your fantasies! But let’s concentrate on tending the sheep now, boy. You get paid for work, not dreaming!”

Something akin to calmness overcame Carlos as he reached the top of the hill, a resignation to whatever lay beyond, perhaps, or an abandonment of concern. Maybe it was just the moment of release when one could no longer fret about inevitability because it was finally upon them, and there was nothing left to do but relax and let it come. For whatever reason, Carlos Santigo no longer feared as he reached the hilltop and gazed over his uncle’s fields. For one fleeting moment, he thought that the terror he anticipated would never come, and he was at last free.

But the ever-deceiving night wasn’t quite through with him yet. As Carlos came up over the hill and took his first tentative steps toward the other side, something suddenly stirred from the fields before him.

He heard it first. A mass flapping of wings, rapidly fluttering as if next to his ears, it was so loud. Then the sight—the gray, early-­morning skies darkening as a black mass lifted up from the field, blocking the dawn from view. It converged toward him. Carlos opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. He was completely and utterly paralyzed with fear.

A piercing cry broke through the dawn as the fluttering black mass swooped across the valley and up the hillside toward him. A thousand blind eyes stared at him, and sharp teeth gnashed in his direction. The rising sun was eclipsed by the darkness.

The dark mass moved closer. The flapping of wings grew louder and louder in Carlos’s ears until he was sure his eardrums would burst. The constant relay of screeches and that awful cry still ringing in his head was almost enough to drive him mad. And it only became more powerful as the blackness approached.

The mass spread as it flew up the hillside, though its inky darkness remained. Carlos could only stand, dumbstruck and staring, his body trembling as if the very earth itself were convulsing beneath him. Every instinct told him to turn and run, but he just couldn’t make his body obey. It was as if he had been turned to stone and was helpless to stop the coming attack.

It was closer now, nearly upon him. The rustling, flapping wings had never seemed so loud. The mass seemed to be more indistinguishable up close than it had been further away—all heads and teeth with no real body to speak of, nor arms or legs. Just snarling, rodent faces with spiky, beady eyes staring wickedly at him.

Somehow, some way, strength came to Carlos, enabling him to break the fear that clutched him. He leapt away from the flocking horde just as it reached the top of the hill. He rolled down the hillside into the field below. The black mass parted into the sky. Flecks of darkness sprinkled the gray dawn, finally vanishing against the horizon as it chased the night.

Carlos continued his tumble down the mountain.

When he reached the bottom of the hill, he simply lay there for a few moments, staring into the morning sky, which was already beginning to brighten. The grays were becoming blues, and the distant call of the cock could be heard somewhere on the wind. Carlos rose and staggered about the field as he struggled for his bearings, trying to make sense of what had just happened.

His eyes followed the western horizon where the last point of the moon disappeared. Not a trace of the black mass he had just narrowly escaped remained, save for the few specks of black that clung to the horizon like dirt on a windshield for the briefest of moments, then vanished with the rest of the tide.

“My God! What the hell was that?” Carlos mumbled aloud, reaching to the back of his swollen head. There was a sting when he touched his scalp, and he wasn’t surprised to find blood on his fingers. He shook his head, as if to clear away the injury, and sighed. He couldn’t believe he had survived. Whatever that had been, whatever had happened, he had actually survived. Carlos Santigo suddenly found himself laughing at that prospect. The Lord must have smiled upon him this day, for he hadn’t really expected as much. When the black mass had come toward him, he was sure it was the end.

Chuckling softly to himself, Carlos headed back toward the farm where Uncle Manuel was probably just getting himself out of bed. He was still trying to make sense out of the whole night when he stumbled over something and fell—hard.

“¡Mierda!” he grumbled as he straightened himself out. He put his hand on a rock to help push himself to his feet, and instantly recoiled.

His hand was covered with warm, thick blood.

He turned his head slowly and nearly retched at the sight. Lying before him was one of his uncle’s sheep, fully eviscerated and covered in blood. Its body had been gored and torn apart—hind legs severed from the hips, front legs twisted and broken, neck cruelly contorted in some sick manner until the head was almost completely detached and only a few dangling tendons held it in place.

Carlos reeled himself up to his feet, and began to back away from the carcass when he noticed other shadowed lumps spread out across the field—bloody, mangled stumps of what used to be sheep. Their bodies were covered in blood and had been dismembered, mauled, and eaten. The evidence of the slaughter spanned from one end of the field to the other. There were no survivors.

Carlos could barely stand; his head was spinning. Blindly, he started toward the house, slowly at first, then faster as he thought about what he could possibly say. Uncle Manuel would kill him when he found out; he would simply kill him. He was supposed to be out here, guarding the animals. He was supposed to be watching them. How could he have let this happen? How could he…

Suddenly, Carlos stopped dead in his tracks, staring at the house where his uncle and his family lived, just beyond the fields. He was still a fair distance away, but close enough to see that the door stood open and the screen was battering to and fro in the morning breeze. Uncle Manuel was already out and on his way to the fields. Carlos had to think quickly. He racked his mind, trying to figure out what happened here…

And then he knew. He had heard rumors of it from others. Tales of a beast that roamed the hills. He set out toward his uncle, blood still splattered on his clothes, the stench of the sewers lingering in his nose, bruises and gashes about his face, arms, and chest.

“It was the Goat Sucker!” he cried. “It was the Goat Sucker that did this!”

By nightfall, all of the Sinaloa coast of Mexico would know of the terror and tragedy that had struck the Santigo family farm that night of early May.