It was snowing when Alferd entered the pub on Bradshaw Road. He stomped his boots and shook the snow off his coat before sitting at the bar.
“What can I get you?” asked the bartender. Alferd thought the man looked smart – a black button-down, black slacks and carefully gelled hair.
Alferd glanced around the pub while the bartender busied himself. A couple talked quietly at a table by the frosted window. A Christmas tree sat hunched over in the corner. Holiday music spilled softly from a small speaker behind the bar and black and white photos in cracked frames decorated the walls.
“You hungry?” asked the bartender.
The bartender set down a dusty glass of whiskey in front of Alferd. “New to town?”
“You could say that.” Alferd took a small sip and smacked his lips. At least the whiskey had improved.
“What brings you?” asked the bartender.
“I’m a journalist. Writing a story.”
“Yeah? What about?”
Alferd pointed behind the bartender’s head. There was a black and white picture of a man with a very long beard, a manicured mustache and wide eyes.
The bartender glanced behind and chuckled. “Peckish Packer?”
“Peckish Packer,” Alferd muttered. He frowned.
“You writing a historical piece?” asked bartender.
The bartender shrugged. “’Fraid I can’t be much help. Been a century and a half since he lived, and I only know the stories.”
“The stories are exactly what I’m looking for, actually,” said Alferd.
“You sure you’re not hungry?”
Alferd shook his head and looked pointedly at the picture behind the bartender’s head.
The bartender shrugged again. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the bar.
“The guy was… a nut job, to tell you the truth,” he said. “Attempted to cross the mountains and… it didn’t go too great.”
“How do you mean?” asked Alferd quickly. He took another sip of whiskey to hide his eagerness.
“Well, he – he ran out of food.”
“He ran out of normal food.”
The bartender hesitated. Alferd’s leaned forward. His heart pounded.
“He killed and ate all his buddies,” said the bartender. He suddenly burst into laughter.
Alferd snapped straight. “What?”
“Yeah. Murdered every last one of ‘em, and cooked ‘em up. Crazy fella, like I said.” The bartender shook his head, chuckling.
“Well, what else was he supposed to do?” Alferd snapped.
The bartender blinked. There was a flash of anger in Alferd’s eyes that was hard to miss. “I mean – he could have died. Would’ve been more honorable.”
“Uh huh. You would have done that, would you? Died even when a solution to death was right there in front of you?”
The bartender fidgeted.
Alferd took a deep breath. Play it cool.
“So, what about after?” he asked calmly, leaning back and taking another sip of whiskey.
The bartender furrowed his brow. “Whadya mean?”
“You know – after the… occasion. What did Packer do after?”
The bartender was a shrugging man. “Went to prison, I suppose. You want something to eat now?”
Alferd shook his head. “He went to prison for eighteen years. What about after?”
“Never heard of any ‘after’ with this fella.”
“What about the orphanage he funded? Or the old museum he saved?” pressed Alferd.
“I told you, I never heard – I thought you didn’t know anything about this guy?”
Alferd shook his head and downed the rest of his whiskey. The bartender’s curious eyes clouded with suspicion.
“Who do you write for?” he demanded.
“What about that little girl he took in?” asked Alferd. He set the whiskey glass down on the bar a bit too hard for the bartender’s liking.
“Easy there, man,” said the bartender.
“What about the war he served? Was that honorable enough?” The couple by the window turned around and stared at Alferd.
“Calm down, buddy. I don’t know why you’re –"
Alferd stood up quickly and pulled out a large knife from beneath his coat. The bartender stumbled back, pressing into the photo hanging on the wall behind him.
“What’s your problem?” he shouted.
Alferd looked slowly around the bar. The couple stared at the knife in his hands. An ornament had fallen off the Christmas tree.
“I’m hungry now,” he said quietly, turning back to the bartender.
The bartender swallowed. “I’ll get you anything you want, man. Just – just put the knife away.”
“They were wrong, you know,” Alferd continued as if he hadn’t heard the bartender. He held up the knife and examined it lovingly.
“They said there was a deer near the campsite. They talked about big game in the woods. They were wrong.”
Something moved in the corner of Alferd’s eye. He whipped around to see the couple beginning to stand and he brandished the knife at them. They held up their hands.
“Please,” said the man weakly.
“Do you know what hunger does to a person?” Alferd shouted. “It blinds you. It shakes you. It pulls you down to the depths of hell until nothing else matters. NOTHING.”
Alferd slashed the knife through the air. The woman whimpered. The bartender shivered.
“They said I chose the dangerous route. The wrong route. They must have forgotten to mention it was the fastest route. And in the middle of winter? It was hike fast, or slowly freeze to death.”
“You’re crazy, man. Crazy. Put the knife down,” said the bartender.
“They sentenced me to 40 years. For what? Living? For being brave enough to do what others could not? Four decades.”
“I have no idea what you’re on about. You’re scaring the folks back there. Put the knife down.”
“And that’s all you remember me for? That’s it?! CHRIST, IT WAS A BIT OF MEAT. JUST SOME FLESH AND BONES.”
The bartender gawked at Alferd. There was something familiar about those wide eyes.
“Yes,” whispered Alferd, catching the look in the bartender’s eyes. “Peckish Packer. A nickname I’ll never quite live down, it seems.”
“You’re – you’re crazy,” whispered the bartender.
“No. I’m not crazy. I’m hungry.”
Alferd lunged over the bar and plunged the knife into the bartender’s chest.
This story is inspired by Alferd Packer, the first convicted cannibal in the state of Colorado.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
What a surprise plot! I did not see that coming. The prompt this was written for did not conjure up anything like this when I glanced over it at first. Great story
Thank you for giving it a read, Patricia!
Great story! I really enjoyed the suspense and mystery involved and how you based it on historical events. Even though this character could never really be called "good", I like how you make a point of letting him express that there's more to his life than just a criminal past. Too often I think society makes it so one action or event is able to completely define a person, but I think people are a lot more complicated than that.
Hi Lyn - thank you so much for reading and commenting! I completely agree - when researching Alferd, I was surprised to see that he was described as "charitable" and that "children liked him." Of course, I found that underneath all the information about his cannibalism.
This was a unique take on the prompt, and well written. Great job.
Thank you for giving it a read and taking the time to comment! Much appreciated.
I love this story, and I loved how you used an actual cannibal! How did you come across him? Where did you hear about him? Such a unique (and terrifying) character!!
This was a prominent guy talked about at my college! Thank you!!
Wow, this story had me hooked the entire time! Great job!
Thank you so much!
The dialogue in the story makes my blood run cold.
Wow, I loved the story! It pulled me in from the beginning and kept me interested all the way through. Great job!
Thank you so much for giving it a read! Really appreciate it!
Wow! Wow! Wow! This story was great! The plot was funny but I enjoyed this piece...keep writing, Leilani!
Thank you so much! Just joined Reedsy, so this week is my first time submitting anything, but I'm excited to keep going! :)
Hehe, no problem! Yeah, Reedsy is awesome..I’ve barely been on for 6 weeks but I’m obsessed ;) P. S. would you mind checking out my new story? Thanks!
Great story!! i love it so much and im wondering if i could rewrite it but not say the idea was my own? i want to be able to share this masterpiece its really good especially the last scene!
Thanks for giving it a read. I do not give permission for any of my writing to be copied or rewritten. Without directly crediting the original author, that is plagiarism. Thank you for your understanding.