If asked, he’d say he was no one. A shadow cast without light, the invisible fist that clenches empty bellies.
But if you asked again, he’d tell you the truth: he is the monster, and your flesh belongs to him.
He has no memory of his beginning; it’s lost in a druggy red haze of blood and satiating flesh and screams, fingernails never clean and teeth always in need of flossing. Meat gets stuck in there, between them. He lives with it.
Name? No, and why would he have one? Everyone knows who he is. He’s that place in the backs of stores where shadows breed deeper than they should, until your brain screams SOMETHING IS WATCHING even though you know behind that shadow is just children’s white tennis shoes, sizes 2-4.
Maybe he’d laugh at this point and let you go. More likely, he wouldn’t.
It’s better not to ask him anything at all.
Dried hide hangs unevenly from his shoulders like caveman regalia, and he chops his matted gray hair when it grows long enough to get in his mouth. He doesn’t stink. He’s like any predator with a healthy coat of dirt in its fur: you smell nothing at all, and if you do, it’s too late.
He looks old, Mongolian, and crazy, and his smile is yellow-stained-thick. Sometimes, you can see meat in it.
He has no one and nobody, though he knows he did once. He doesn’t miss them, whoever they were. Whoever they were, they’re likely too dead to miss him.
If you see him, don’t run.
If you see him, look at his hands.
He has one possession that matters: an old photograph, age-yellowed and crisscrossed with zipper cracks like failing ice. They say it shows a thin woman draped in the drab and ill-fitting garb of the Great Depression. She embraces herself as if both cold and defiant; men walk past her, blurred and weary, their derbies and panamas pulled low. Her eyes are hard and sharp like stones in the dark, and her lips are thin as razors.
Why doesn’t matter. If he is holding that photo, you have time to get away.
And maybe, if the stars are right and the meat in his teeth is fresh, he will let you go.