Children don’t scream when you close in on them. They’re not expecting it, and their power of denial is usually strong enough to slow their reaction, allowing me to administer the proper dosage of etorphine and get them cooperative.

This of course, all depends on if I pick the right ones, of course. You want the ones that are unsure, the ones whose parents rule over them with an iron fist or whose parents don’t even say hello when the kid comes home, the ones who are so used to being told what to do at every turn that they second guess their own instincts even when they shouldn’t, or the ones who’ve never been told what to watch out for in the first place. It’s a spectrum of options.

So there is a power trip aspect to it. I admit that. But that isn’t why I do this.

I do it this for the taste. The taste of victory and the taste of the meat.

I’m just a hunter.

This isn’t personal. There is no sexual deviance present here.

I want to make that clear.

What’s hard is actually catching the kids. That’s the most challenging part. Picking the right moment and the right area. Kids are almost never alone these days. Most parents, even neglectful ones, are hysterically paranoid. Everyone is convinced the boogeyman is around the corner. No one trusts anybody.

But this can all be used to your advantage, just like the serial killers of old preyed on people’s naiveté and relative innocence. In today’s society, people don’t pay attention to anyone but themselves and their families. No one wants to get involved in anyone’s business.

So all you have to do is choose wisely, and wait for the right moment.

Once the kid is caught, the hard work is over and you can pretty much do what you need. The process is always the same, honed by years of experience. The research, the hunt, the needle, the transfer, the butchering, the feast.

I wear my make-up when I go out. No one’s ever given an accurate description of my real face. I’ve been doing this roughly three decades now. I only hunt once or twice a year, and never in the same part of the country.

Kids go missing every day. A lot of it is sex trafficking, some of it is domestic drama, but every now and then you get special cases like me who aren’t in it for the diddling or to get back at the spouse. I just want to feel the thrill of the hunt, and the thrill of the catch.

There are exceptions to my rule as far as only picking obviously submissive targets. I haven’t always chosen right. I remember one little girl I sprang on outside of Nashville who immediately started shrieking, “Oh, no Daddy, no no no!”, looking up at me with these bright blue eyes and wringing her hands like an indecisive politician. I disappeared into the nearest building and got the fuck out of there, discarding my disguise as soon as I could. I was lucky that time. I didn’t see anyone else, but chances were her Daddy wasn’t far behind. I heard sirens as I fled.

I don’t usually target white kids. Latinos and black kids are the safest bet. Always low-income. Boys tend to be easier to single out than girls, but girls aren’t as strong as the boys and are usually easier to stick with my needle, sliding it in at the correct angle so the etorphine (thank you, Dexter Morgan) goes into their jugular on a fast track to their brain. One scrappy little white kid I took in Appalachia nearly broke my wrist before I could get the needle in him. Fortunately, most of my targets are rendered docile by the surprise of the sting.

I’ve almost always picked the right target, and I can tell right away if I’ve chosen correctly. They usually just go silent and still. They freeze. Watch any predator catch a baby animal. There might be a struggle, but there’s no real fight unless the parent gets involved. Swoop in and administer the medicine before they can do anything other than seize up.

Obviously, the most important thing is to wait until they’re alone. That’s the hardest part of the catch — waiting until the kid is alone. That’s why the marginalized and the troubled are the easiest targets. Kids who are abused or neglected are the most likely to be by themselves. It’s tragic, but that’s nature. In some cases, I’d like to think I did these children a favor by delivering them from what was otherwise a painful and pitiful existence.

As the hunt commences, I’m as placid as a pond on Sunday morning. I don’t say anything. I speak with my motions. I’m fast and I’m bigger and I’ve surprised you, and if you try to get away I’ll catch you easily and it’ll be worse. So just go with me and you’ll be all right. All that’s conveyed in seconds, with one firm grasping of the upper bicep and the tender meat beneath the skin.

Once they’re under my needle’s chill, there’s a transfer period where their sleep-softened body gets packed up in a duffel bag I carry. I drive back, sedating them as needed and making sure they’re sufficiently hydrated as well. When I get home, I butcher them. I’m proud of my efficiency.

I should mention that. I know what I’m doing when it comes to meat. I’m a butcher by profession. I have a butcher shop outside a major suburban area in the continental United States. If you’re from my neck of the woods, you may have even heard of it. It’s been in my family since my great-grandfather opened it in the 1920’s. I used to run the place hands-on but now I just allow management to do their thing while I sit back and collect what comes in. That said, my skills with a cleaver and a knife have never been sharper, if you’ll pardon the pun. And with my easy capital, I have all the time in the world to indulge my hunting hobby.

Human meat, especially the meat of children, is so tender and so juicy it defies comparison. Its texture is one of a kind, but that’s all I can really say about it. Some folks who claim to have tasted it have described the taste as sweet. I wouldn’t. Its texture and feel have additionally been described as indistinguishable from veal, but whoever made that observation must’ve been talking about adult human flesh, because again, I don’t see it. Cuts of juvenile human are in a savory, delectable league of their own.

One kid will usually last me half the year. Once they’re properly butchered, they go in the freezer with everything else. No one has ever mentioned the little arms and legs and torsos stored in the far corner of my freezer. They don’t look much like human body parts after I’m done with them anyway, wrapped in old newspapers. One perverted proclivity I’ll admit to is wrapping the kids in newspaper stories that tell of their own disappearances. That’s about as perverted as I get when it comes to this. I don’t go Portnoy’s Complaint with the kids’ liver or anything.

As for the leftovers and the throwaways, I boil what’s left off the bones, pulverize them into powder, and incinerate everything else I don’t use. I’ve tried preparing various organs before — the testicles of little boys are a tad too chewy but rather tasty if you roast them with brown sugar like chestnuts. One time I ate a particularly feisty 6-year-old’s heart raw. I sank my teeth into it like a piece of fruit, salting and peppering with each bite. For some reason it reminded me of a tomato, slimy and dripping.

My latest kill was a seven-year-old girl named Isla Cortez. She was an easy catch. She was on her phone. Kids are way easier to nab now that they have their goddamn phones, willingly lost in a cone of perpetual distraction. My process is well-refined, though I’ve had to adapt as kids’ social habits have changed over the years. They were easier to catch in the 90s because they were outside more, but nowadays they’re easier to research and therefore easier to predict. You just create a convincingly fake profile of a kid the same age as your intended targets, and start friending away. Take your pick of an Instagram or a Snapchat, find a particularly troubled or quiet kid, learn his or her habits, determine where they go and when they go there. Then you wait.

This part takes a few months, if not more. Careful research is the whole set-up. If you fail to plan right, you’re almost assuredly in for catastrophe. Though I’ve had some aforementioned close calls, I’ve never failed to bag a kid once I’ve decided they’re fit for my dinner plate.

I should mention this, too — I would dress as a woman whenever I hunted. No one looks twice at women, especially older women, and certainly no one considers them a threat. I wore different wigs, sunglasses, contact lenses, fake nose, fake chin, make-up, jewelry, the whole thing. I had a body-suit made. I never wore heels. I made myself as harmless and invisible as possible. My bedroom closet looks like a literal metaphor for repressed transexuality. I have to say, I’m far more weary of someone finding out about that than I am of them discovering what I keep in my basement freezer!

I’m rambling, I know. Let me try and focus.

I’m drooling as I write this, remembering Isla, all soft-looking and helpless after I’d caught her. I remember she was dressed in a pink shirt with a purple hoodie and black jeans. The words ‘Business Bitch’ were inscribed in bold black letters across the front of her hoodie, which was a couple sizes too big for her. I remember removing her clothes before I stretched her out on my chopping table. I remember shoving them in the incinerator. I remember she had a sweet fruity scent about her that evening in the parking lot. She occasionally did make-up tutorials on an amateur YouTube channel, and she was wearing a light mascara and blush and cherry lipstick that day. I remember her front teeth were crooked.

It was late summer. Her dark hair was streaked with blonde highlights. She was of Puerto Rican descent. Her parents worked and presumably still work at a bakery outside of Hoboken. Isla would take walks in the back of her apartment complex when she’d had enough of her parent’s arguing and her brother’s pot-smoking. They all shared a three-bedroom apartment. God bless social media and the easy information it gives you. I learned all this from Isla’s own two lips.

As far as my targets went, Isla was relatively well-adjusted. Just liked to go for walks by herself in the back of her apartment complex. Her parents didn’t mind it, never seemed to question her prolonged absence when she said she was going for a walk. No one ever went back there anyway, as far as they knew. And she always had her phone in case of trouble. So much for hysterical paranoia. Her parents would treat her school and busy public spaces as potential landmines of stranger danger, but the back of their apartment complex parking lot? Almost always empty, within close proximity, and therefore relatively safe.

Isla was a prime selection, and she turned out to be one of the most choice cuts I’d ever produced, and there are more kids like her than you can even conceive of. Lonely, shiftless, daydreaming, and ripe for carving.

Everything would always go really bright for me in the moments before I moved in for the needle-strike.

When I snatched Isla, she looked up at me and for a second I thought she’d scream like a lot of those PSAs are instructing kids to do now. Don’t get in the car, once you’re in the car they have you and can do whatever they want. Boy, are they right. I’d always worry about that. It almost never happened.

As I revealed myself from behind the dumpster, Isla did what most of my selections do — nothing at first, followed by vague confusion once she registered I was coming at her. Most kids don’t panic when a woman tugs on their arm. They think you’re trying to help them, or that you want something. There’s none of the immediate fear or revulsion or even suspicion that’s reserved for men. I’m actually quite effeminate and slight-shouldered, so I pass relatively well.

Isla’s phone clattered to the ground and her earbuds popped out of her ears still blaring the techno nonsense she was listening to.

The meat under this seven-year-old girl’s thighs would be getting digested in my stomach within a few weeks time. I was salivating just thinking about it as I reached out for her arm. I’d picked an area in the back of her apartment complex near the dumpsters to make the abduction — no cameras and low visibility from the neighbors. She was playing Pokemon Go before I grabbed her.

She started to cry when I stuck the needle in, the realization of what was happening to her and that it was already too late all crashing into her preteen brain at once. I’d practiced my sticking technique on pigs, seeing how quick I could catch and sedate them without missing the right spot on the neck. My record is three seconds. Isla took about ten. She went limp and fell into my arms like the proverbial fainting damsel in distress.

There were tears drying on her cheeks. I licked them away greedily, savoring the salt on her smooth face-skin. I got my tongue under her eyelids, sucked on her eye sockets a little bit. I couldn’t help it. A couple seconds ago she’d been Isla, another seven-year-old Latina girl who listened to Ariana Grande and dreamed of her make-up channel going viral. Now she was mine.

The whole thing only took a few seconds. There were no doors opening, no shouts of concern from any unseen bystanders. Just the humid summer evening and the crickets’ chorus and the far-off rush of traffic in the burgeoning twilight. I held my capture close like a stolen package and made my escape. That was always easily the most exhilarating part of my hunt. Before the needle went in, the kid was still a person. After it was in, they were meat. My meat.

I picked up Isla’s phone from the cracked asphalt and carried her into the small patch of woods that lined her apartment complex. I could feel her little heart beating against mine as I motored my way through the tree trunks and thorny brush. I thought of her ass cheeks crisping on my grill under some thyme and lemon slices. My stomach rumbled.

My car was waiting in another parking lot a few blocks away, tucked back in an industrial center where everyone had gone home for the weekend. I was stealthy. I moved fast, no footstep misplaced and no actions wasted. I laid Isla in the backseat of my friendly-looking Chevy Volt hatchback — no creepy pedo van for me, no sir — as though she’d passed out after a rowdy day at the amusement park or something. Her final journey began.

Later that month, I slathered her rump roasts with A1 sauce and devoured them in four mouthfuls each. They practically melted in my mouth, flavor so divine I nearly wept.

You’re probably wondering what the point of all this is.

As I mentioned, I’ve been at this since the 90’s. I don’t now how many kids I’ve taken. The number is probably around fifty or sixty, despite my earlier estimation of only hunting twice a year.

But it’s time for me to stop. I’m retiring. In more ways than one.

I can’t go on like this. Every time I hear a baby cry, I salivate. Whenever I see a child of the appropriate carving age, I run through my head how I’d prepare them, what kind of marbling they must have on their shank.

Regular meat isn’t good anymore. In fact, it’s fucking bland.

I’ve tried stopping my hunts. I can’t. In fact, as old age looms, I’ve been stepping up my research, sometimes with more than four or five kids on the shopping list. This has caused me to be sloppy, to take unnecessary risks.

The hunger is getting to me. It refuses to subside. I was in a restaurant the other night and that fucking Ed Sheeran song was playing. He kept singing, I’m in love with your body and there was this girl of about ten sitting in the booth adjacent to mine and I couldn’t stop staring at her and wondering what her choice little candy-fed sweet breads would taste like properly prepared with flour and oil, sizzling in a saucepan. I ordered a fifty-dollar porterhouse steak medium rare and tore it to pieces. It did nothing for me. The girl’s father saw me staring and stared back until I walked over and apologized, tearfully lying about the girl reminding me of my recently deceased stepdaughter. I probably could’ve just walked out, but the lie earned me a relieved pat on the arm from the girl’s mother and a brief, obligatory hug from the girl herself. I touched her shoulder as she half-heartedly looped her arm around my waist and gave a quick squeeze and chirped condolences. Her chuck would be positively delightful — I could tell even from that momentary brush of contact. I went home and took a cold shower, trying to clear my head.

So it’s clear to me. Between my rapidly deteriorating physical abilities and my increasingly stressed and insatiable mental state, I know can’t do this forever. I’ve always known it. Both my age and my habits are catching up. It won’t be long and I’ll be too slow and too feeble to hunt effectively, and if I ever miss a needle shot, I’m done for. Prison is not an option for obvious reasons.

More than this, I’m certain if I continue, it’s all but certain I will eventually be caught. Though I’ve been careful, paths will lead to me in the end. I’m sure of it. And that’s if my increasingly reckless behavior doesn’t do me in first. Before Isla, I would’ve never even considered doing a hunt so close to a kid’s actual home.

But I can’t live without the hunt. The hunt is my reason for living. I derive no pleasure from the preparation of the meat of mere farm animals, dumb-headed creatures loaded with antibiotics and preservatives. They might as well be lobsters for their lack of self-awareness. Give me a child brimming with youthful energy that thinks its going to defy the odds of its unfortunate, bleak circumstances, believing in the sugar-sweet laws of Western pop culture that says everyone is special and everyone will one day be rich and famous regardless of their background. In one swift moment, let me steal any chance of that decadent, distant future away, and wash it down the drain with the hot blood that my cleaver frees from the young flesh containing it. Let me see it in their wide eyes, the same expression as a baby raccoon that’s been caught by an owl, startled and wracked with thoughts of impossibility towards the event unfolding before them — No, this can’t be happening, not to me, I have thoughts and plans and things to do and I’m going to live forever!- followed by bottomless fear that curdles to helpless resignation. Isla’s tears were not the only ones I’ve lapped up from smooth, peach-fuzzed cheeks.

So I’ve decided to dispose of myself, once this vague, meandering confession of a suicide note is completed. My trusty 12 gauge awaits. I’ve saved the last cut of Isla — her left flank — for the occasion, and I will enjoy every last slice and chew of that seasoned and grilled strip of girl. After that, it’s been one hell of a ride. I truly hope nothing else happens. I embrace the void.

Given this note, I doubt anyone will count my death as a loss. I have no wife or heirs or family to speak of. I’m leaving what money I have to my managers at the butcher shop. They’ve earned it. All the legal paperwork is included with this note.

I suppose there’s nothing much left to say now. I have tried to do what I do the best I can. Though I can’t provide a list of all the children I’ve consumed in my time, perhaps this confession will leave some folks with some closure. Isla Cortez’s family, at least, will know what became of her.

But really, the taste of child. You really should consider trying it sometime.

Everything is a work in progress.

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