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Lesser Creatures

There's nothing nobler than man's best friend.

In The Gutter, some men don't deserve nobility or friends. 

Lesser Creatures by John Teel




Ferland studied the man on the basement floor with unblinking eyes.

The man, Phil, tried to stand, but a quick blow to the nose with the butt of Ferland's pistol fixed that. His nose shattered, exploding in a torrent of thick, dark blood that painted the concrete floor like spin art.

When Phil started whimpering, Ferland said, "If you keep that up, I'm gonna do worse than a broken nose. Now shut your mouth and don't get up again. I mean it."

Phil was still crying but he kept it pretty quiet, so Ferland didn't hit him again. Anybody else would've been buried by now. It was only business, after all. Something about this one bothered Ferland.

He'd done creeps like him before, but the things he found at Phil's house got to him. The video tapes, the torture, bodies piled up in the shed with more flies buzzing around than a dumpster at a seafood restaurant. The unlucky ones, still clinging to life in the basement, were caged, starved, and beaten.

Just shoot him and be done with it, Ferland thought.

Phil began to pray.

Ferland chuckled, shaking his head. "I should've known. You're a big Jesus guy, huh?"

Phil kept his eyes closed and his palms together. "I'm a sinner, just like you. But we're all His children. He made me. And you."

"Give me a fucking break," Ferland said. "You think He made you like this? Why? To challenge you to reject the wickedness in your heart and stay on His righteous path? Well, let me break the news to you, dick head. You failed. Big time."

Phil's lips began to tremble.

"You think he loves you unconditionally? He doesn't. You know how I know that? Because he left you here to me." Ferland holstered his pistol. "I'll make you a deal. I'll give you twenty minutes. If you can get that cunt up there to show me a sign, I'll let you go. Just like that. If not, well then, I'll just have to finish off what I came here to do. I wouldn't count on His help, though. Jesus hasn't had much to do with me in quite some time." Ferland sat on one of the empty cages and checked his watch. "You got twenty minutes. Pray."

...


"Time's up," Ferland said, pushing himself up and drawing his pistol.

Phil was still kneeling, still praying, blood soaking the front of his shirt.

Ferland almost felt guilty. "I shouldn't have done that to you," he said. "There was only one way this was going to end." Ferland's ears were ringing from all of the barking in the basement.

Most of the fighting dogs down there were severely malnourished; skin stretched too thin over bones too big, gaunt faces pock-marked with fresh puncture wounds. Most of them would soon end up on the pile out in the shed. One Pit bull stared out from its cage. It was a good looking dog besides the chunk of meat missing from its lower jaw, white bone jutting from its brindle muzzle.

Ferland felt the anger swelling inside of him again. He pointed the silencer at Phil's leg and pulled the trigger, tearing his kneecap.

Phil screamed and tumbled over, slamming into one of the cages, the crash and the scent of the blood sent the dogs into a frenzy. 

Ferland's eyes fell on a particularly mean-looking dog. He didn't bark but his teeth were exposed and a rumble was coming from his chest. A thin line of saliva dribbled onto the floor. He was in much better shape than the others. "This must be the prized horse," Ferland said, dragging the cage out to face Phil. 

He wasn't praying anymore. Phil huddled against the wall, eyes pinched tight, sobbing and moaning while holding his shattered knee.

Ferland opened the basement door and gripped the latch on the cage. "The Good Book calls animals the lesser creatures," he said as he freed the dog. "Let's just see how true that statement is."

Ferland closed the basement door and waited until the screaming stopped.

It didn't take long.



John Teel is a union ironworker from Philly. His work has appeared in Dark Moon Digest, Pulp Modern and Shotgun Honey. When he's not working he spends his time with his wife Rae, their two kids, and the ugliest rescue dog you've ever seen.