Ten Claws :
Many years ago, a small village in Germany was held in the grip of terror. It began when a number of farmers in the area started complaining that a wild beast was preying on their livestock. None of them knew what kind of animal it was. Nobody had ever managed to lay eyes on the mysterious beast. It seemed to strike with devastating savagery, then vanish into the night as quickly as it had appeared. It never left any tracks behind.
One morning, at the break of dawn, a farmer went out to check on his sheep and found a horrifying scene. In the middle of his field, there was a bloody mess of raw meat and white wool. Three of his sheep had been disemboweled and partially devoured during the night.
A few days later, another farmer woke to find two of his best sheepdogs had been killed. They lay dead at his back doorstep, their stomachs ripped open and their internal organs torn out. As time went on, more and more horses and cattle were found dead, mauled and eaten in exactly the same way. The elusive beast seemed to have a hunger that was insatiable.
Soon, everyone in the village had heard about the grisly fate the animals had suffered. Not one person could identify the type of beast that might have killed them. The farmers began to worry that their entire herds could be wiped out.
Then, the unthinkable happened. A human being was brutally murdered. It was on the night of a full moon that the town drunk, Thorsten Bauer, was last seen leaving the local pub and staggering home along a dark country road. In the morning, his mauled remains were found lying in a ditch by the side of the road. His body had been torn to pieces and his severed head was impaled on a rusty iron gate.
When news of the killing spread throughout the village, the people were thrown into hysteria. The villagers were terrified. Now that the beast had a taste for humans, nobody was safe.
Most people were afraid to set foot out of doors after sundown. Farmers made sure they kept all of their livestock locked safely in their barns. Men and women alike began to arm themselves with whatever weapon they could find. Families locked their door and bolted their windows at night. Mothers went to bed with a knife under their pillows and fathers slept with their shotguns within easy reach.
During the day, the talk throughout the village was focused on only one topic. The wild beast. People put forth all kinds of wild theories and speculation. There were some who believed that the killing had not been committed by an animal at all, but a human being. Neighbors eyed each other with suspicion and nobody trusted anybody else.
Then sadly, several of the village children just ended up missing without a trace.
The men in the village decided that something had to be done, so they banded together to form a mob. They didn’t know what they were fighting, which made things even worse. They also lacked a leader, which made them an unruly mob. Unfortunately, it seemed as if they were unable to organize themselves enough to take action.
There were two brothers named Wolfgang and Dieter Hoffmann, who lived on the outskirts of the village, near the forest. It had been their cattle that were slaughtered by the beast. Fed up with the inaction of the other men, the two brothers went home to discuss doing something themselves.
That evening, they sat around their kitchen table, trying to come up with ideas. Their old grandmother sat by the fireplace in a wheelchair, her black shawl wrapped around her.
“We have to do something and we have to do it tonight,” said Wolfgang. “If we delay any longer, the beast will just claim more lives.”
“You’re right,” his brother agreed. “Whatever this thing is, man or beast, it strikes only during a full moon. Tonight, the moon will be full again.”
“We can’t underestimate what we are dealing with,” said Dieter. “This vile thing attacks without warning. It stalks the forests like a ghost. Hunting this beast will be extremely dangerous. We’ll need all the luck in the world if we are to come back alive.”
Wolfgang looked over at their old grandmother who was still sitting by the fireplace.
“Will you wish us luck, Oma?” he said.
The old woman didn’t even look up. She had been senile for years. The two men went back to their conversation.
Wolfgang began to outline his plan. “We will both take our shotguns to the outskirts of the forest tonight. We’ll set ourselves up on the path between the forest and the village. If the monster comes out tonight, it will have to pass by one of us.”
“And what protection will we have?” asked Dieter, worriedly.
“Each other,” Wolfgang answered. “We’ll stay within shouting distance of each other. And we’ll keep our backs to the village so that we face the forest… and the wild beast.”
“It’s a dangerous job, but someone has got to do it,” Dieter said. “We don’t know who the next victim will be. We can’t just sit back and let this monstrous thing kill us off, one by one.”
They stood up and grabbed their shotguns. Wolfgang pulled a long, sharp machete from off the wall. As they were about to leave, Dieter stopped at the door.
“Don’t worry about us, Oma,” he said. “We’ll come back to you alive.”
Outside, the night was pitch black and silent. The full moon hung low in the western sky. They set out, walking toward the forest. As they drew near to where they had planned to station themselves, Dieter whispered, “I wonder what it looks like?”
“I’ve been thinking about that myself,” Wolfgang said. “Whatever it is, we’re going to find out. Just pray it doesn’t attack you from behind.”
Just then, they heard something moving quietly through the undergrowth. Both brothers felt their skin crawl and the hair on the backs of their necks stood on end. Slowly, they both turned and looked behind them. There was nothing but trees and shadows.
For several minutes, they stood together like that in the dark, each one paralyzed by his own horrible thoughts. Then Wolfgang held up his hand and indicated to his brother that they should take up their positions. The two brothers moved off in opposite directions. They couldn’t see each other in the darkness, but they remained within shouting distance.
Standing in the dark, Wolfgang carefully cocked his gun. Then he took the machete and stuck it in the soft ground by his feet. He waited.
Not far away, Dieter fumbled nervously with his gun. He felt his hands shaking and sweat was pouring off his forehead. He wished he could see Wolfgang, but his brother was obscured by the dark shadows of bushes and trees. Dieter turned around to look toward the village and wished he was safe inside his cabin. Then, he heard the cracking of a twig behind him.
He spun around and before he had a chance to react, he felt ten sharp claws digging into his neck.
Wolfgang heard his brother’s terrified scream echoing through the forest. He grabbed his gun and his machete and followed the awful cries. His brother was in trouble and he had to save him or die trying. As he drew closer, Wolfgang strained his eyes, but couldn’t see anything in the darkness.
But then he heard Dieter’s voice, choking and desperate. “Wolfgang, it’s… it’s…”
Wolfgang raised his shotgun and fired into the darkness.
The next morning, when the two brothers failed to return, the other villagers went out looking for them. Searching the area, the men came across the two dismembered bodies lying on the ground next to each other in a pool of blood. They fetched some sacks and filled them with body parts. Then, they carried Wolfgang and Dieter’s pitiful remains back to the village.
When they reached the brothers’ cabin and began transferring the body parts into coffins, no one ever noticed that their grandmother wasn’t there. They all thought the old woman was senile and paid no attention to her.
None of them noticed that she was gone from her spot by the fireplace and no one noticed when she slipped silently in through the back door and sat down there again. From her wheelchair, the old woman looked over at the bloody remains of Wolfgang and Dieter.
No one saw the evil smile that spread across her wrinkled face and no one saw the clawed hands she hid under her black shawl.