On the last Friday of the fifth week of the Rust Belt Mega Phenomena, the Gut Eater rose from beneath the ruins of the abandoned Horlaks funeral home, fur the color of tache noire, dripping with amniotic rot, its long, crocodile-like snout snapping and gibbering.
The monster’s birth trauma had begun decades prior, when Janis Joplin still played on the radio and women could be caught out wearing fringed suede miniskirts. The funeral home that sat atop its morbid birthing chamber like a scab encrusting a boil was located in a remote stretch of Michigan, off of U.S. Route 127 between Lansing and Jackson. It was a place surrounded by trees that whispered about dirty secrets in summer and clawed at the cyanosis sky in winter.
Something about the funeral home put people off. It was too far from the nearest town. The walls were too slanted, the bricks too dark, the main double doors too much like a portal to the other side. And it had the taint of murder about it. This stretch of highway had seen a spate of killings in the early seventies. A dozen young women had gone missing, their bodies turning up days later looking like cuts of meat used for practice by an apprentice butcher.
In addition to funeral services, Horlaks provided the area’s only autopsy chamber, rented to the local coroner on a per-case basis. It was a front for an illegal organ harvesting side business.
Working together at night, the pair sawed out bones and replaced them with PVC pipe. They plucked eyes from orbits, lifted hearts out of ragged chest cavities, and scooped pancreases into ice-filled Styrofoam containers. At first, the operation stole only from those bodies that on the slab to be embalmed. As the partnership grew bolder and greedier, they began harvesting from murder victims as well. It was easy; the corner simply falsified his reports before turning a corpse over to his partner for funeral preparation. No outside party ever counted innards to determine that something was missing.
Embalming and autopsies both happened within a single large chamber, called the preparation room. This room had a central drain in the middle of a tiled floor, and a gutter covered in a metal grate that ran around the outer edge and then inward on multiple spokes, converging on the sewer opening. Year after year, hundreds of gallons of unspeakable muck flowed through the gutter and into the drain. Each procedure, whether embalming or autopsy, generated anywhere from half a gallon to two gallons of runoff – blood, bile, formalin, phenol, formaldehyde, and rinse water.
As the harvesting business intensified, the runoff started to contain other things: bits of flesh, chips of bone, a rancid eye not worth salvaging here, a liver too riddled with veins of fat to be of use there. It was all supposed to wash away to wherever the stormwaters took feces and animal carcasses and tampons and solidified bricks of kitchen grease.
But a curious flaw in the sewer formed a deep oubliette where, on dry days, heavy organic matter and fluids accumulated instead of vanishing through the system as they were supposed to. In this pit directly under the preparation room, rotting blood from murdered hitchhikers mixed with the embalming runoff of children struck down by drunk drivers and leukemia. Unwanted organic refuse harvested from young husbands and wives macerated in chemicals that formed into thick poisonous layers. Anguish was flushed into the sewer along with flesh. The pit became a poena cullei of filth, toxins, disease, human remains, and psychic pain.
It was here, within this hellish soup, that the Gut Eater spontaneously generated, bursting forth from a rotted hunk of brain tissue as a squirming fetal tumor smaller than a maggot. It soon grew long limbs with claws like scythes, and an elongated maw with trocar teeth. It budded a serpentine tail with a cluster of stingers on the end, each swollen with a different poison. Somewhere in its tooth-lined throat it had an organ like a stabbing proboscis, which in theory could strike out to pierce flesh and siphon blood, although by this point the Gut Eater had yet to pry open its grinding jaws.
While the Gut Eater marinated, in the world above decades were born, grew sick, declined, and died. The organ harvesting enterprise was unearthed and those responsible were hauled away to prison. The funeral home was abandoned and soon fell into disrepair, and rumor spread that it was a haunted place, littered with empty caskets, body parts in jars, and dark secrets. In time, young adventurers broke in and explored, shining high-powered beams into every crevice. They found no ghosts but left with a disappointed sense of something evil lurking deep below, out of reach.
The Gut Eater was at this point still a malformed thing, more corpse than beast, locked in a twilight state of pre-life. It wasn’t even unique; there were creatures like it all over the world, buried deep below other toxic disaster sites. There was one under the lead and concrete sarcophagus enclosing Reactor 4 in Chernobyl, and a pair of twin horrors suppurating in infectious corpse dust in an undiscovered Black Death plague pit in central London.
The Gut Eater would have remained like its siblings, ghastly but inert, were it not for the celestial event known as the Rust Belt Mega Phenomena.
For a period of six months, the planet Wormwood, sometimes called Planet X or Nibiru, came into alignment with Earth, casting malefic energy across a swath of the northern part of the United States. This dark light, invisible to all but the most gifted psychics, caused an eruption of supernatural activity across several states, from Wisconsin to New York.
When the Rust Belt Mega Phenomena began, the Gut Eater had stewed in its pit for more than half a century. The chemical and organic sludge had long since settled to the bottom, encasing the monster completely within a substance that had the consistency of clay, with a deep layer of stagnant sewer water on top. None of this was a barrier to the heavy light of Wormwood, which pierced deep into the pit as effortlessly as maggots churning through rot-softened meat.
As the light entered the hibernating form of the Gut Eater, a terrible transformation took place. Atrophied muscles tightened into cords of steel. The spine lengthened. Shoulders widened. Primary, secondary, and tertiary eyes glowed with green swamp gas. One poison-tipped tail wasn’t enough, so it grew two more. The sludge and water in the pit churned and spat as if it were full of feeding piranhas.
On the last Friday of the fifth week of the Rust Belt Mega Phenomena, a fist the size of a human head punched through the old tiles of the preparation room, and the Gut Eater hauled all nine feet of itself out of the pit and into the world.
For a time, it remained still, hunched double, long arms grasping its backward-facing knees. Only the shallow bellows of its sides betrayed that it was a living thing, or a dark mockery of such.
Some newborn animals will imprint on a living creature or an object in proximity. The Gut Eater now did something similar. It slowly unfurled itself until the pointed tips of its ears brushed the ceiling, and then swept the funeral home with its senses. It had many to work with. It could sense dozens of energy spectrums, several unknown to science, as well as hundreds of psychic wavelengths.
Somehow, the monster had been birthed with an awful appetite: it wanted to eat intestines. Perhaps too many alimentary tracts had ended up down the sewer to ferment in its birthing pit, but no other meat interested it. It wanted to tear guts out of human carcasses and gulp them down like shit-filled pasta.
The monster recognized the funeral home as a place of the dead. It was cold and dusty and silent. There were no intestines here. It sniffed with its many senses. No. That wasn’t quite true. There were no intestines now… but recently, yes. Something living had been here, mere days ago.
The Gut Eater loped through the silent halls, following a trail of psychic and pheromone human scent, sometimes growing so excited that it forgot its size and smashed its head through the ceiling tiles. To the Gut Eater, the trail was as obvious as a wide smear of fresh blood would be to a human.
The path led throughout the building, sometimes doubling back on itself, before congealing in a sheltered spot between two display coffins. The Gut Eater sniffed the floor and licked it with its black tongue, sifting through psychic signals. A female human being whose soul was stained with shadows and fairy blood had explored this place, and then slept right here. The Gut Eater could taste her dark dreams.
This female was the one. The ONE whose guts it would eat.
“Ehhheeet.” The word, the first it had ever spoken, had to be forced out like a clot of vomit. “E-e-e-eat. Eat. E-eat Priest. PRIEST. Adriana-aa. Priest.”
The Gut Eater found its way to the main entrance and unmade the double doors with a casual push, snapping the heavy chain wrapped around the handles and sending broken links skittering across the floor.
Here, at last, was the whole world. The Wide Open Spaces. So many mysteries and scents. So many intestines to devour. In due time. There was only one set of innards it wanted right now.
“Eat. Eat-eat Adriana Priest’s guts.”
Her trail was neon under the starless sky. The Gut Eater followed it.