My cousin the Taxidermist
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Posted by PostMortemCreamPi on: 08:57 PM, 01/20/19
My cousin was kinda a weird guy, I didn't see much of him despite living roughly in the same town. He had always lived out on a farm outside the city limits, but still in the same general area. Despite his awkward behavior, probably brought on by living so far from most people; he was a good person. He was also a damn good taxidermist, and I mean a damn good one.
He picked up the hobby from going hunting with his father and learning to stuff and mount bucks as trophies. He picked up the skill fast, my uncle was proud of him. I was damn proud of him, my cousin was an artist when it came to stuffing animals. Throughout high school he made a good amount of cash doing taxidermy for hunters in the area. Some of his work still sits in the local hunting store as a testament to his skill, and an old advert for his business.
He's been missing for nearly a year now, we've lost hope that he'll be seen again. Since my aunt and uncle have passed, the duty of assorting his affairs have been place on myself. So I took the time to go out to the old farm that has been in the family for generations, where my cousin had been raised and lived till his disappearance. Where he also had a large garage set up for cleaning and stripping game, as well as taxidermy.
I was the only person who say him regularly when he was still around. Regularly for us meant about once a month, we'd usually just hunt or fish in some of the surrounding land. Besides the hunters who'd come by when wanting his service, he had no one else. His disappearance while upsetting to most of the hunters, only held weight to me. He was my last living relatives, not including my children.
Going back through the house felt a little surreal, the house itself like a ghost. Everyone who lived there was gone now. Yet the photographs and furniture still sat, grampa's favorite chair, my aunts old dolls that she collected still on shelves. The trophies my cousin and uncle had from hunting, still on the walls or standing in the corners. The place was dusty but was just as it had always been, and I guess it was now mine.
The workshop was barren when I entered, no tools or works in progress. It seemed that my cousin must have left on his own accord, not letting anyone even me know. It wasn't until later that week when I received a letter did I wonder. It was from old man Jacobs, who owned a local storage facility. It was addressed to myself, asking to come by and clean out the units my cousin had been renting. He seemed to express sympathy for my loss, while giving me as much time that I need to swing by.
I went the next day to go clear out the thing left behind, figuring it was mostly old family mementos. I was a bit shocked when Mr. Jacobs told me there was three units, I hadn't a U-haul or a pick up and would have to make multiple trips. The first unit was just as I expected, old family furniture and boxes of photos. I took my time with these, looking back at photos of grampa and gramma's wedding. My dad and uncle in some of their early birthdays, being twins it was had to tell who was which. Ones of me and my cousin, back when things where better, back when I still had a family.
I had cleared it out, making sure to get everything. I even took the worn wardrobes back with me to the farm. I hadn't much use for the workshop so I could store thing there. I didn't sleep that night though, a heavy storm kept me up. I sat flipping through the family albums again and again, while making space for them on a shelf. During the windy night I heard a tapping. A branch from a bush under the window must have been hitting up against the house, something I'd have to look later.
The following day, I made my way to the storage units first thing in the morning. The second unit was bound to be full larger items. It sat next to the final unit that sat on the end of its row. When I finally got inside to look, it was a bit of a shock. From wall to wall it was covered in various stuffed animals and pelts. From full bears and mountain lions, perfectly mounted buck heads, to boxes of small and large pelts. Some of them seemed familiar, like the buck that head been caught in the barbed wire a few years back.
I remember that summer, we'd been out camping for the weekend and when we got back it was there. Stuck in the barbed wire of the fence, tangled something awful. In its desperation the buck managed to get a post out of the ground. Then managed only to get more wrapped up in it. The thing must have been there for a day because it reeked. It had that rotting meat smell, gamey and putrid. Not much of the thing would have been useful, but I guess the head was intact enough for something.
The other things I figured had minor imperfections or where to be sold online. He would post his stuff online from time to time when bills got overdue. Others would be marked with notes with prices and names. It wasn't unusual for a hunter to try and haggle after the item was made. Either because they didn't have enough on them or just didn't respect an artisans craft. So some of these had been held for a later payment or to be sold to buyers able to pay their worth. From time to time he'd donate some to nature museums, it was his form of charity.
I knew I wouldn't be able to take all this stuff with me in my sedan so I made a few calls. Desperate to get the bigger items sorted, I sold them cheaply to the locals who hunted the animals. Figured if my cousin left them all here then I could sell them for whatever I wanted. I loaded the boxes of pelts and hides in my car, figured a bear-skin run and old cattle hide where to good to pass. The smaller things would just be sold later, or used for projects. After waiting hours on this one guy to show up and get his moose, I finally had the place emptied.
Later while back at the house I had been so tired, I didn't want to mess around with the bushes. So I ordered a pizza and decided to browse the movie streaming services. I was about halfway through some show I'd put on to kill time, when it dawned on me. If my cousin did leave on his own accord, why did he leave all those stuffed animals unsold? Most people would sell them to make travel easier, or take them with for examples in a new place. My thoughts got side tracked when the pizza guy showed up, I tipped him an extra 10$ for the distance and put on "Old Boy".
I remember falling asleep on the couch at some point,  not being bothered to get up. Sometime in the night I woke up to use the bathroom, and heard that tapping noise again. I found it a bit strange considering it was a calm night. No wind or anything that could cause one of the branches on a bush to hit up against the house. I couldn't tell at the time if it was possible an animal in the trash cans or just the old house making noise. In all honesty I just to tired to want to investigate, something so mundane. I would just get some better trash cans and have the places looked at later in the week. Making sure the place is safe to live in and no animals can mess around in the trash.
The third and final day of cleaning out my cousins old storage was finally here. I was going to be glade when it was all over and I could just continue with things as normal. I was a bit worried however, the final storage unit was on the end of the row and was larger than the others. It was one of those storage spaces with its own little side door you can open instead always using the sliding one. I figured it would be even more stuffed animals and boxes of horns and hides. That I'd have to try and contact people to sell or take the things I didn't need.
So when I got to the storage center, I was going to open the main door and just take photos of the stuff. Go to a local pawn shop or the sporting store and see if anyone was interested. I remember the events that actually transpired all to clearly. I opened the garage style door and was greeted with a rancid odor. The hot, wet gamey smell of a carcass filled the air around me. A smell like an animal had been killed and in the process of being skinned. The unit itself contained a human corpse lying on the ground skinned and bare. Collapsed in front of a prefect effigy of my cousin, dressed in his Sunday best standing in a neutral position.
The police ruled the murder of my cousin as suicide, despite the obvious flaws in the logic. A person can't skin themselves while making a near lifelike representation of them at their best. However they saw a clear cut case in the fact that he was skilled in taxidermy, and was the only one known to have a key to the unit. I'm still fighting the system, demanding they look further into the case then nothing at all. I can still hear the tapping, and I think I know that it is. It sound a bit like a small metal object tapping against the glass of a window.


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