Cows! by Matt Shaw is a short 43-page horror story, something you can read with your morning coffee if you want to start your day from a rather different starting line. The title tells the story of the threat. Cows are going to do some horrible and terrible things to whatever hero figures we have. The question is: Why will they do it? What has caused cows to go rogue?
Gillian, her husband Robert and sons Jordan and Jack are traveling with a social group of fifteen on an adventurous nature weekend. All members of the group want to get away from civilization; they want the benefits of fresh air while they learn survival skills during their trek through the woods. They explore caves, cross rivers on rope bridges, learn survival skills, go abseiling, forage for food, and each evening they vote and pick a place to spend the night. It isn’t exactly a democracy because if they pick a campsite an instructor doesn’t like, the adventurers are overruled.
Daniel, Duncan, and Steve are the expert guides leading the group. Ex-military, they are a part of a company that introduces city folk to the joys of a more primitive life style. They are more guides than instructors because, as many in this group note, there is not much instruction going on. The guides talk about first aid but don’t show and demonstrate how to do it. Daniel amazes the group with knots and snare traps but doesn’t show group members how to make them. But maybe the group doesn’t really need to know too much. They are camping for the last night; tomorrow they will go home. Everyone is looking forward to the end.
In the middle of the night, Gillian wakes up and notices her husband is not in the tent. He is outside with several other members of the group and they are discussing the appearance of a bunch of cows just outside the camp perimeter. The cows are acting in ways completely strange to normal, stereotypical cow behavior. They are staring at the humans and they seem to be hungry. Gillian looks at this as just another bad break on this trip. She has always had a fear of cows.
And where are the instructors to give them an idea of how to get out of this strange situation? Daniel, Duncan, and Steve have disappeared. There is no way to go out to find them that does not include wading through the group of cows that have totally surrounded the small campground. The adventurers are on their own. And the real adventure is about to begin.
The last three words of the story are “To Be Continued …” but that is OK. This story can stand on its own as an incident. It would be nice to see it expanded and I will look at this very prolific writer’s other works to see if I can find one where this story moves on. There is graphic violence in this short story. There is absolutely no sex unless you count a teenage boy’s lustful, hopeful looks at a fellow female adventurer. It is a short story which should please fans of the genre horror.