My grandfather used to tell us ghost stories around the campfire on his old farm. He told my cousins and I a number of silly stories about scary things when we’d come over. It was my way of getting to go to camp. Every year my cousins and I would go to grandpa’s farm and sit around that stone circle with a large fire popping and crackling away in the moonlight. Grandpa thought it was important to tell us these things and get us into nature. He said it “thickened our blood and made men of us.” But alas all good things must come to an end. Camping at grandpas ended in a way I’ll never forget. There were five of us. Me, Sheldon, my cousins Marty and Matt, and their sisters Sarah and Heather, respectively. My mom had brought us there from a few counties over. She dropped us off with grandpa on a Saturday evening. I noticed immediately that Grandpa was different from the last time I had saw him. He didn’t seem to look at us so much as through us…he just gazed, sometimes forgetting to blink and sort of coming to as if he had been asleep with his eyes open. My mom asked him “Dad are you OK? Do you want me to get you something? A glass of water? A sandwich? You look kind of pale.” Grandpa shook his head like he was shaking the sleep off. “OH uhm….no Virginia, thanks. Just ate. Boy me and you kids are gonna have a good time this week! Go on Virginia, I’ll be fine, just didn’t get enough sleep is all. “ “Well alright. “ She said. “You kids have fun! And call me if you need anything dad. I love you.”
“I love you too sweetie…more than you know. “ Grandpa said as she headed out.
He then turned to us and said in a tone that sort of alarmed us “we need to build a fire now.” We followed grandpa out to the back field and played and laughed as we gathered firewood. This is how we always performed this ritual. We made it tradition. We would sword fight with the wood all the way to the stone circle. Then we’d throw it on. We got a kick out of it and Grandpa got his yard cleaned up. Soon we all sat down around the fire and the usual chatter set in. But grandpa wasn’t participating. Soon he had no choice. “Grandpa grandpa, tell us a scary story!” Sarah said excitedly. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah grandpa!” We all sort of yelled in a garble. “Oh uh…alright…grandpa will tell you a story. This isn’t a ghost story though kids uhh….everyone listen up.” We huddled together anxiously. This sounded good. He began. “You’re all too young for this. I know you are. But for the good of you I have to tell you. You have to be ready.” Grandpa said in a nervous tone. This wasn’t the way things usually went. Grandpa was acting very serious. He usually told these stories in a very played up manner, he was very active and descriptive. Tonight however, he was quiet and reserved. “I wanted you to never come out here, never to have to do this. The Galrot would not let me. It has ways of persuading you. It threatened to hunt you down one by one if I did not bring you out here, as I always do. You must understand this was our only chance. It was chance this stand against him or certainly lose you all.” He did not laugh. He did not quip or joke. We were not laughing. It was clear to us now that grandpa was very serious and that this was not like the other camping trips. “The Galrot is a beast with a mighty neck. It has a head as big as a truck and a body like a tank. It has a face like a crazed wolf, its eyes…its eyes can drive a man mad. It has a thick layer of armored spikes that cover its back and side. It has razor sharp studs on its tongue which can wrap around a man and kill him without taking the first bite. The only place to come at it is from underneath, only it never raises up. The Galrot is smart, smarter than you think. And he is deathly fast. He can crush you with just his weight. It is older than time. More than anything the Galrot craves to hunt a child. This is why he brought you here. “ “Grandpa you’re just telling a story aren’t you?” Little Matthew asked, his eyes now watering, ready to cry. “I wish I was little Matty. I wish I was. Matt burst into tears. Grandpa continued. “ The Galrot has taunted me for years. As soon as I think it has moved on it will destroy my herd or I will hear about a death in town. Always the same. A vicious mauling. You see our family has been fighting his kind for centuries. Our ancestors were hunters of the malevolent beings. They slew dragons, vampires, werewolves, wiped them out to extinction. The Galrot however were far more intelligent. This one has managed to haunt our family for ages. Rather than pass on the trade to my children I vowed to rid the world of this one once and for all. We have wounded each other time and time again. I never can manage to get a kill strike. Tonight has to be the night though. “ Grandpa then reached down to the chest he had been sitting on. I think we all noticed it being a new addition to the scenery, but no one had really thought anything of it. He pulled out old chainmail armor. It had our family crest emblazoned on the chest. We had this same crest above our fire place at home. Mom had put it there. I was very frightened. He pulled out more armor and began handing it to us. He then said very matter of factly, “We need to make spears now.” Everyone put on their armor and grandpa handed out long poles and gave us all swords of varying lengths from the chest. Matthew was only 9 years old and his armor dragged the ground behind him. He was sobbing as he tried to sharpen the pole grandpa had given him. Grandpa looked at me and said “That’s good. I won’t be able to guard you all. Since you’re the oldest you should look after Little Matthew.” Everyone was scared to death. We barely knew what was going on. I’m sure some thought that we were just playing along with grandpa and this was all a big joke. All of these notions were cast aside when we hear the howl. It sounded like the scream of a woman combined with the ungodly bellow of a pack of hounds. We saw those reflective eyes peering at us through the treeline, only for an instant, and then they went black. We saw nothing after that. Grandpa took command. “BACK TO BACK! Everyone put your backs against one another. Swords out, spears up, do not strike unless you have a clean shot. He will try to trick you, he will try to fool you into falling so that he may devour you. He will try and pick you off one by one. He wants a hunt! He wants a hunt more than anything, but we won’t give it to him. If he wants our meat he will have to pry it from out of our armor and from our swords. WE WILL NOT SUBSIDE DEMON BEAST!” From the woods we faintly heard the beast snarl back “You are….mistaken old man.” This was no ordinary creature of the forest. It could speak, and malevolently so. It was horrifyingly fast and cunning. We were more afraid now than ever. Suddenly we heard it. Kathump kathump kathump kathump. KATHUMP KATHUMP. We saw the black hide in a blur, barreling at us at inhuman speed. It was aiming straight for little Matthew. Grandpa yelled “BACK TO BACK! DON’T MOVE! HE WON’T COME STRAIGHT AT US! HE’S TRYING TO MAKE US SCATTER! HOLD! HOLD CHILDREN!”
He looked like a warrior general in his armor, slightly more ornate than ours. I wonder who had worn this before me and what they had killed in it. The Galrot was approaching quickly and I knew we would not escape unscathed. Matthew began weeping uncontrollably. He then began screaming at the top of his lungs and broke the line. He began running toward the house.
“NO MATTHEW!” Grandpa shouted. Grandpa then began to run at the Galrot. He was in a dead sprint. His speed was uncanny for his age. He was reborn in our eyes. We reformed the line, just the three of us now. Back to back. Shaking. The Galrot closed in. He lept. Grandpa lunged at the great beast and slashed at its unarmored legs. The beast rolled to avoid it. The resulting thump of his hide hitting the ground sounded like a car wreck. This was the most massive creature I had ever seen. And now it was circling my grandfather, snarling. “You have hunted we Galrot to the brink old man. It was a fool’s errand. WE WILL NEVER DIE…” The Galrot bellowed. “Wrong beast. This ends here. Tonight. You will haunt my family no longer. I will see your head on a pike before this fight is done. “ “Hahahaha” The Galrot laughed. “It is too late for that old man. I am no longer alone in this world. It took me centuries, but I finally found a mate. My family is much bigger than yours.” “HRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW” The Galrot howled into the night sky. Suddenly a piercing shriek of howls and chitters came from the woods around us. We saw the same reflective eyes again from the treeline. Not one, not two pair. Dozens. Then we heard the thunder of their mighty paws as they approached. We knew there was no hope. Matthew was now safe inside the house but we knew even the sturdy old ranch house would not hold back this army of beasts. “GET IN THE HOUSE CHILDREN. THIS IS NO LONGER A FIGHT YOU CAN WIN. I’LL HOLD THIS BASTARD OFF.” Grandpa shouted.
He began to slash at the Galrot. He was agile. He dove into the beast’s hide with his sword, time and time again. Every time a “clank” and the sword came out clean. The beast was circling him, trying to snap when the sword went into the armor. Finally the great Galrot lunged at grandpa. Grandpa put his sword deep into the mighty beast as its claw came through his side. They both lay there, the Galrot dead, Grandpa dying. We were at the house by then. I told the children to continue in and went to get grandpa. “You must save them now boy. There is a safe room. It is below the house In the cellar. The combination for the door is 21899. Go there. There is food there, and weapons. You’ll be safe at daylight. I don’t know if it will hold them all back but it is your best chance.” Grandpa said. He lay on the ground, bleeding heavily. “Grandpa…your side…come with us.” I pleaded. “BOY THERE IS NO TIME” he shouted. “NOW GO! GOOOO NOW BOY! “ I ran. I ran and cried and ran harder. I made it into the house and turned around. Grandpa was back on his feet. Clutching his side. “YOU TAKE CARE OF THEM BOY! YOU’RE MY BLOOD. YOU WILL FIND A WAY.” He shouted. Then, laughing, he turned toward the onslaught of tank sized armor plated beasts pummeling towards him. He laughed and began swinging his sword. I saw him take down one, two, before finally being lost in them. I still heard him laughing as I closed the door to the safe room.