Hank took his clothes off, threw them on a boulder and jumped naked into the crystalline water pooled at the bottom of the cascade. His testicles drew up in his body as soon as they touched the icy water. The pool below the falls was deep and rocky, but clear as tap water. He turned and looked at the jagged rock with deep crevasses, shelves, and boulders strewn on the sandy bottom. The water from the falls curled white and furious into the icy calm of the rocky basin. Trout suspended in the water hid in the shadowy corners of the rock. The fish turned and coolly surveyed Hank’s awkward nakedness. When his feet hit the bottom of the pool he sprang up like a dart through the water. Breaking the surface, he shook the water from his hair.
"Damn, that water's cold," he said drawing out the damn as if it had three syllables.
"My dick shriveled to a nub and my balls got sucked up in my body," he said. The water was cold, but refreshing. Hank didn't want to get out, so he went back under. Looking underwater, he watched his companions Jerry and Todd jump in - their pale white bodies surrounded by a coverlet of bubbles as they descended into the water. Their hair rose straight up - eyes and mouth glazed silver by the air. Their shriveled genitals couldn’t be seen behind the air bubbles filling their pubic hair.
They all rose to the surface at the same time.
"Damn, that’s cold!" Jerry said.
"Yeah, I see what you mean about your balls. I think mine are plum up around my ears," Todd laughed.
After the three stayed in the icy water as long as they could stand it, they climbed out onto the steep rocks surrounding the falls to put their clothes on. They had been drinking beer and fishing all day and wanted to go swimming before they went back to camp. It was early May and trout fishing season had started a few weeks before in the North Carolina mountains.
Todd fried a freshly caught trout in a black iron skillet over the fire as three baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil cooked in the hot coals. They started to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in cans as soon as they returned to camp from their swim. They had been drinking non-stop for the last three days. They started drinking in the morning when they got up, then drank all day and night until they passed out. After they ate the fish Jerry pulled out a bottle of bourbon and started to drink it straight from the bottle.
Jerry was a deer hunter and started to tell the others some hunting tales.
"One time we shot this young buck and cut his dick off and put it between two pieces of bread and gave it to Dave Trexler to eat. He bit into it and started to chew on it before he realized what he was eating. He spit it out saying 'you sons of bitches. I'll get you for this,' and that night after we went to sleep, that son of a bitch put shaving cream in my sleeping bag. He got me back, but I think he would have liked that dick sandwich if it hadn't been so rare." Jerry laughed out loud, his buckteeth shone in the light of the campfire.
"Want to have a little fun tonight?" Jerry asked.
"Doing what?" Todd said, "Eating rare dick meat?" he laughed.
"No, you son of a bitch. You know that good-looking blonde we saw today in Edgemont with that college boy. I've been thinking about her and I think she needs to get to know a real man," Jerry said.
"What about her boyfriend?" Hank asked.
"I’m not worried about him. When I saw them two at the store in Edgemont this
morning, I know she wanted it," Jerry said. He grabbed his crotch with one hand and
squeezed, then he laughed.
"That sissy long haired boyfriend of hers is just going to have to watch out," Todd said.
"I don't know about this boys," Hank said.
That morning Todd, Hank and Jerry were at the store in Edgemont buying some groceries and saw a tall, wiry, young man, of about twenty one, wearing hiking boots, hiking shorts, and a sweat shirt with Appalachian State University on it. He had an angular face and long black hair that fell to his shoulders. His girlfriend, a very attractive blonde, waited in the car as he went inside. Hank and Todd followed the young man into the store. Jerry stayed outside and walked over to the car where the girl waited.
“Where you from?” Jerry asked, propping his arm against the car.
“Boone,” she answered.
“Up here camping?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” she replied, running her hand through her long blonde hair in a teasing manner.
“You don’t have to call me sir, little lady, my name is Jerry, Jerry Guilder, me and my friends are from Elkin, up here trout fishing on Wilson Creek.” He paused. “What’s your name?”
“None of your business Mister, but I’ll tell you the name of my boyfriend - Frankie Ketchum, he plays football at Appalachian. He might not like you talking to me.”
“I’m sure he won’t mind, I’m just being sociable. Ain’t no harm in that is there?” Jerry leaned on the black Jeep Cherokee, real close to the girl’s window.
“This guy giving you trouble?” Frankie said, coming out of the store holding a paper bag with groceries in it.
“Get your hands off my car buddy.” Frankie said, looking Jerry hard in the eyes.
“Hey, I didn’t mean no harm. Just talking that’s all.”
“Jerry this young-un giving you some trouble?” Todd said, coming out of the store behind him.
“Let’s get out of here,” the girl said to her boyfriend.
Frankie got into the car and pulled away from the store in a cloud of dust.
Todd, Jerry and Hank all started laughing.
“Don’t know what they were so uptight about, I was just talking to a pretty girl - ain’t no crime in that.” Jerry said.
Todd slapped him on the back and laughed. “Wanted to get you some didn’t you?’
“Well….” Jerry said drawing out the word.
“What about her boyfriend?” Hank said.
“Nothing a bullet couldn’t take care of,” Todd said, his eyes turning hard and cold.
The three men crept along a narrow trail through the forest up the mountain to a clearing near a stream where a campfire was burning very low. Near it stood a blue nylon tent supported by aluminum tubing. A battery powered light lit the inside of the tent. A dark shadow moved on top of another lying on the ground. A female voice made soft love sounds as a male voice grunted deeply from inside the tent. The woods were dark and filled with the sounds of tree frogs, birds, cicadas, and crickets. There was no moon and the sky was filled with stars, it was cool, but the air was still. The water rushing in the stream beside them made a low roar as the men approached the illuminated tent. The two in the tent didn't notice the forest sounds cease as the three men approached.
Jerry opened the tent flap with the end of his loaded hunting rifle. The others stared in behind him.
"Move over, boy, we want to have some fun too," Jerry said, grinning a wide toothy grin.
Frankie’s naked white bottom greeted the men as they stared inside the tent. A well toned college athlete, he had broad tanned shoulders, strong back, narrow waist, firm butt, strong thighs, and good muscle definition. He turned quickly to look at the intruders with wide dark eyes. His girlfriend looked up in shock then screamed.
“Get the fuck out of here, you son’s of bitches.” Frankie said, practically spitting his words out, grabbing the side of his sleeping bag to cover himself and his girlfriend.
"Yell all you want, no one will hear you out here. You may as well let us do what we want and enjoy yourself, cause ain't nobody going to stop us," Jerry said, smiling, holding his rifle in his hand.
Jerry grabbed Frankie’s arm and yanked him out of the tent.
“Let go you son of a bitch.” Frankie said, as he struggled to get free. Hank took the other arm and quickly tied a rope around Frankie’s hands behind his back. Jerry reached down and grabbed one of Frankie’s wool socks laid across his boots sitting at the foot of the sleeping bag, and stuffed it in Frankie’s mouth.
“That ought to shut you up.”
Frankie tried to spit the sock out of his mouth, his face turned red as he struggled.
“You need to calm down young fella, ain’t nothing you can do to stop us, so you may as well take a seat, watch, and enjoy it.” Hank said, walking him to a log beside the campfire, pointing a gun to this head.
“You move, I shoot. Do you understand?” Hank said.
Frankie nodded that he understood. He then sat down on a log near the fire, not taking his eyes off Hank. His eyes reflected the red of the campfire.
"Hank, you watch the boy," Jerry said. "There'll be plenty left for you after we have our fun."
"Sure," Hank said, crouching in front of the fire, holding the gun across his knees as he warmed his hands.
Frankie sat tense and rigid as he listened to his girlfriend struggle in the tent, then scream. Hank dropped a blanket over the boy’s shoulder, "Here, don't worry, you and your girlfriend won't get hurt unless you try something. We're just having a little fun, that's all."
After Jerry finished with the girl, Todd stepped into the tent.
The girl screamed again.
"No, please, no."
Hank looked down, stirring the embers of the fire then looked toward the tent. Suddenly Frankie stood up and lunged at him.
Jerry raised his rifle and shot Frankie between the eyes. He fell face down in the dirt a few inches from Hank. Dark blood pooled under his head, flowing from the clean round hole in his forehead.
"Why the hell did you do that?" Hank asked, looking sharply at Jerry.
"He was coming at you," Jerry said.
"He wasn't armed, he’s necked. He couldn't have done any harm."
"Oh yeah?" Jerry said, holding the boy's hand up, untied, clutching a knife, “he must have picked this up off the ground.”
"What are we going to do with the girl?" Hank asked.
"After we've fucked her, I guess we'll have to kill her too."
They heard screaming from inside the tent, then Todd yelled "Goddamn, bitch," and
she ran out of the tent, naked, holding a blanket. Todd stood behind her, holding his
finger in his mouth where she had bitten him. His pants hung down around his ankles and his thick red penis pointing straight out in front of him. She tried to run to her boyfriend, but Jerry grabbed her by the hair. She screamed hysterically when she saw her boyfriend was dead.
"Goddamn, bitch," Jerry said, holding her arm behind her.
“You’re next Hank.” Jerry said.
"I don't want to fuck her. She's too damn crazy. She's liable to bite my dick off," Hank said.
"Okay, if you say so." Jerry let her go. She looked at them, confused then started to run into the woods. Jerry picked up his rifle and shot her in the back of the head, killing her with one shot.
"Goddamn, Jerry. How the hell are we going to get ourselves out of this one?"
"Let's have a drink," Todd said, pulling a pint of bourbon from his back pocket. They sat down on a log beside the fire and passed the bottle around. Frankie’s body lay face down, in the dirt in front of them, naked, partially covered with a blanket. They were so drunk from drinking all day for three days that they were beyond drunk, almost sober, in a state of mind that operated by it's own set of rules, rules that were soulless and crazy.
"We're going to have to bury them and burn their equipment, after we take what we want. But I say let's have some fun first - let's skin the buck," Jerry said, watching the firelight dance across the muscled back and buttocks of the dead man lying at his feet.
"What?" Hank said.
"You heard me," he handed Hank a hunting knife. "Let's haul him up and skin him, then we'll bury em both. What difference does it make, he's dead.” They took the tent down, gathered the backpacks and clothes that lay scattered around the tent and put them in the fire. The nylon made a black smelly smoke.
“Save the sleeping bags. We’ll bury the bodies in em, the fire will make a mess of them if we try to burn them.” After they had taken what equipment they wanted and burned the rest, Jerry rolled Frankie’s body face up, took the knife and cut holes in the heels between the tendons and the bone, then he took a stout piece of aluminum tubing from the tent and pulled it through the holes in the ankles. He tied two ropes around the ends of the aluminum tubing then threw them around a heavy branch above, as he had done time and time again when he skinned a deer.
"Help me haul him up," Jerry said. The three men pulled the ropes and hauled the body up into the tree, facing the fire. The head and arms hung down loose with the legs spread out stiff above, held in place by the metal rod piercing the ankles. Frankie’s long black hair almost touched the ground.
Jerry cut circles in the skin around the ankles, wrists, and neck then began to cut straight down the backs of the legs to the anus, where he cut a neat circle. He then began to peel the skin down the legs, separating it from the muscle with his knife, working down slowly. He worked around to the front where he took the penis and scrotum in one hand, pulled them straight out and cut them away from the body in one piece with the testicles in the scrotum still attached to the severed penis. He kept the genitals together, wrapping them in a rag and placing them on a rock away from the fire. He then began to cut straight down from the anus along the spine to the neck, being careful not to puncture the muscle beneath. He used his knife to separate the skin from the muscle layer below, peeling the skin away from the body as he pulled it down from the back and abdomen towards the neck. With much of the skin hanging in a mass from the glistening red body, he made a slit from the neck to the armpits and peeled the skin up from the wrists, where he had cut earlier, to the neck, which was already separated from the skin of the head. He was careful to keep the skin intact, in one piece, instead of dividing it up, just as he would a deerskin.
When he was finished, the body hung red, raw, and glistening, in the firelight. Blood ran down the face and eyes in rivulets through the black hair, pooling on the ground. The feet and hands were untouched, as was the head, but the body was stripped of its flesh and desexed. It looked like a lesson in anatomy, all of its athletic musculature revealed, as the firelight danced across its bloody bright surface.
Jerry took the skin and washed it carefully in the stream, then folded it neatly and laid it on a rock. He then picked up the genitals in the cloth and washed the blood off of them. He had saved a couple of nylon stuff sacks from the stolen gear, put his trophies in them, and lay them on the ground beside the fire.
The three men dug two shallow graves for the boy and the girl beside the creek. The ground was black, rich, and soft. Digging was easy. They rolled the girl’s body onto one open sleeping bag, dragged it to a grave, and lowered her into it. Then they lowered the boy’s body from the tree, removed the aluminum pole from his ankles, and rolled it onto the other sleeping bag. His eyes looked alive as they stared up at them. Hank looked at the body, red, raw, and glistening in the firelight, with his dark eyes staring and shuddered. Todd passed Hank the bottle of bourbon.
"I can't believe we did this," Hank said, taking a drink of straight bourbon, speaking almost to himself.
"Shut up and don't think about it. Another hour and the sun will be up," Jerry said gruffly. They then dragged the body to the grave and lowered it in.
They covered the bodies with leafy mountain dirt, the boy to cover a nakedness that no man should see, and the girl with a look of horror frozen on her face. Then they doused the fire, and scattered it, brushing the ground with leafy branches to cover any traces of a disturbance in the forest.
The next morning Hank awoke with a terrific head ache. What had they done last night, he thought? Then he remembered. It was too horrible to be true; surely he had dreamed it. He pulled himself up under his covers and looked down, the cover felt wet and clammy. He saw that he wasn't covered by a sleeping bag or a blanket at all; it was skin, the boy’s skin, laid over him like a blanket as he slept. On a stool beside him sat an empty bottle of bourbon, and a lumpy piece of meat placed between two slices of bread. He focused his eyes on the sandwich until he saw what looked like the purple head of a penis poking out between two pieces of bread.