Black Petals Issue #85, Autumn, 2018

It's Out There
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Bottle Music-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Bridge to Forever-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Door County Getaway-Fiction by Roy Dorman
It's Out There-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Napper's Holler-Chapter 4-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Napper's Holler-Chapter 5-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Napper's Holler-Chapter 6-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
The Gift-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Gifted Ones-Fiction by David Powell
The Seeker-Fiction by Ken Hueler
Blood/Brain Barrier-6 Poems by Will H. Blackwell, Jr.

Art by Hillary Lyon 2018

It’s Out There…


 By Kenneth James Crist, BP Editor


Watching you



It all started with bird feeders. And guilt. Squirrels came later, but not much later. They’re opportunistic fuckers, squirrels. Later, I even had some turkeys. Yeah, really. Wild turkeys, flyin’ right into my back yard to clean up what was left on the ground. Five hens, two jakes, and a big old tom. A jake? That’s what they call a younger tom. They look just like a hen, but they have that beard thing hangin’ down…

The guilt? Well, sometimes when ya get older, things you did thoughtlessly in your youth will come back and start to bother ya. That’s the way it was with me. When I was just a brat, growin’ up on the farm, kids all had BB guns. Then later on, we all had rifles. Shotguns. And we hunted. Always ate what we killed, so that was alright. Except for when we were little and got that first Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. Then we shot at anything and everything. And there were a lot of birds around.

Sparrows, starlings, crows, pigeons—I didn’t care. I shot ‘em all. Shot ‘em by the goddamn truckload. Shot a lotta rats, too, but there’s no guilt there. Gotta keep the rats down when you live on a farm. Otherwise, they’ll just about take over. But the birds? Hell, they weren’t hurtin’ a damn thing. They were just targets. Never thought shit about it at the time. They were just something to shoot. Never thought about how they might have had nests, with babies they wouldn’t be coming back to feed.

So, yeah, guilt. I decided maybe I could adjust things a little, maybe swing the compass needle of Karma a little more in my favor. So, I put out bird feeders and birdbaths in the back yard. I’d get through a hundred and fifty pounds of seed a month. The squirrels showed up right away. I didn’t try to run ‘em off, I just put the food out and let nature take its course. Never thought much about what else I might have been attractin’, either. That would come later.

I guess I fed nature’s critters for a couple years before things started gettin’ a little strange. And, at first, that’s all I could say. A little strange. Like in the spring of this year, I had as many as eight or nine squirrels out there at a time, quarreling over the sunflower seed. Then, within a week, there were none. Didn’t see any for almost a month. At the time, I figured there was just too much natural food out there and they’d be back when fall came and crops started dying back and harvest was in. Now, I know better. Couple weeks ago, I started seeing squirrels again, but they were not full-grown. They were the offspring of the adults I’d fed before, most likely.

Then I started seeing a lot less activity around the regular feeders, too. Instead of going through two feeders full every day, suddenly it was down to one every three days. The birds were a lot spookier, too. Time was I could sit out on the sunporch and watch them for hours. Then, within a very short time period, they got weird. Now, if I as much as crack open the screen door, they’re gone. I began to wonder what was going on. I made some assumptions, based on ordinary logic.

I assumed, first of all, that some predator was taking the squirrels and birds. I had seen nothing to indicate this, other than the rapid decline in the population. I had seen no hawks or any other predators hanging around in the daytime, so I had to conclude something was happening at night. Being both curious and retired, I decided to find out what was going on. After all, I had time on my hands. I went to a local sporting goods store and bought myself a trail camera.

This thing cost seventy-nine bucks and, for that price it was a bargain. It was battery-powered, fully automatic, and used an infrared flash. It would take decent pictures in total darkness and record them on a computer chip, which could be downloaded to my laptop. It came with various nylon straps and fittings, so it could be fastened to a tree and left to do its thing.

There was a period of about a month, when I got pictures of opossums and raccoons and the occasional field rat, coming around to clean up what the birds and squirrels had missed. And then, they too began to disappear. And, last Wednesday night, I got the first hint of what I was dealing with.

There were three shots in rapid sequence, I would assume as fast as the camera could cycle. In the first, a raccoon is under the center of my three feeders, caught by the camera with a handful of seed. It is also turning its head, and its mouth is open in the beginning of a snarl. The second shot shows a blur of something moving with such speed and agility that the lens and shutter speed cannot match it. There is the impression of a rounded something, maybe an abdomen, maybe not, and what could be legs…but if they are legs, there are way too many of them…and in the last shot, both the raccoon and whatever got it are gone. Nothing to see here, folks, just move along…

Thursday night: nothing, not a single frame of anything, weird or common. Friday night, ditto. Last night, there was one shot, again blurry and indistinct to be sure, but still there and very close to the camera. So close, in fact, that only the shape of something across the lens can be seen. It’s black and spindly and a bit shiny and looks like it has spiky hairs all over it. I know it can’t be what it appears to be…but then the camera itself was smashed and chewed by something, its tough plastic case split and ruined, the nylon straps torn like so much tissue paper. I managed to save the memory chip.

So, this morning I decided to just say the hell with this and leave. I live here alone, and it’s twenty-two miles to town. I packed some stuff for hotel/motel survival and climbed into my pickup, and, of course, it wouldn’t start. I picked up the hood and found that something had stripped all the wiring out of the engine compartment. Having it rewired would cost more than the old truck is worth.

I went back to the house and picked up the phone, intending to call a friend, and it was dead, too. Outside, the phone lines were ripped off the wall and mangled, just like the trail camera. So, I can hike or I can stay and fight.

Like I said, I live alone, and for that I am glad. I will face whatever it is, whenever it comes, by myself. And it will come. Because it now knows that I am aware of it. And it is hungry...ever so hungry. I have weapons to defend myself and I am a good shot. But I have seen its incredible speed and its power…and what if there’s more than one?

It’s about forty minutes past sunset and I have barricaded everything I can. The lights are all on throughout the house but a few minutes ago, they flickered. I know it likes the darkness and I’m really worried about the service entry cable from the pole to the house…


The End


Kenneth James Crist,,, of Wichita, KS, wrote BP #85’s “It’s Out There…” (+ the SF serial, starting in BP #76,  SURVIVING MONTEZUMA;  BP #78’s “Those Other Guys,” “The Big Well” & “Virtuality” for BP #75, “Gift of the Anasazi” for BP #73, “The Weeping Man” for BP #72, “Pebbles” for BP #71, “The Diner” for BP #67, “New Glasses” for BP #61, “Ones and Zeros” for BP #50, & the novelette Joshua) and has edited BP for many years, continuing as Editor Emeritus, then Coeditor/Webmaster. Widely published, esp. in Hardboiled and on Yellow Mama, he also has four chapbooks currently for sale in Kindle format on, Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.

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