It’s Out There…
By Kenneth James Crist, BP Editor
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…
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
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?
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…
Kenneth James Crist, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.blackpetals.net, of Wichita, KS, wrote BP #85’s “It’s Out There…” (+
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
Amazon.com, Dreaming of Mirages, The
Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for
Burial, his latest zombie fiction.