Sometimes there are things you think you see that your better sense says you do not and there are things you think you hear that you convince yourself you did not.
It came from next door, a place called the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge. A lot of strange and horrible sounds come from there but never, ever, anything like that.
It was a cry so chilling that every living things held its breath and even the moon took cover behind a cloud.
Leaves refused to rustle.
The refuge is a scary enough place as it is. It is so overgrown with sedge that it has no defined surface and the ground is so soft that it has no bottom. Most days it is hidden behind mist and most nights it is shrouded in fog.
Since history began the swamp has had such a poor reputation that no Lakota dared step foot on it and no pioneer was foolish enough to homestead it. Only the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reluctantly claimed the place – and then only because the little chunks of untitled land that dapple the map fall to them to administer.
So they set it aside as a refuge for mosquitoes and promptly forgot about it.
But there are more than mosquitoes who live out there. There are things, unseen things that only betray their presence by a parting of the grass and their cries.
Speaking of things…
Sometimes there are things you don’t want to do and there are things you have to do and then there are things that are both.
Whatever it was I had to confront it. If I didn’t someone else would have to, so I grabbed my double barrel shotgun and stuffed two shells into the chamber. The first shell contained a load of rock-salt, I use it to make a statement. The second shell holds a slug, I use it to end the conversation.
Tapped over the top of the barrels is a high beam flashlight, it is what I use to guide my way and highlight whatever it is that needs a talking to.
As I swept the beam across the ditch bordering my hay field…
It sounded again.
This time so close that I could not help but catch it in the light.
What I caught was amazing!
Even Hollywood couldn’t come up with anything that weird. Think of a small dinosaur, gussied up in leather, spikes and scales. Think part eagle, part shark, part cougar and part snake.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this critter represented a lot of desperate encounters at Mother Nature’s roadhouse and not a few evolutionary deadends.
“What in the hell are you,” I asked, more myself than to it.
Astonishingly, it answered.
“What the hell do I look like?”
“I haven’t a clue,” I told it.
With a voice as lonely as death, it said, “I am a Wendigo, an ancient malevolent spirit” and than snarling and rattling its spikes like dry bones, it added, “Glad to make you acquaintance.”
I held my ground.
“Aren’t you scared of me?” it asked quite incredulously.
“Not really,” I said, reminding it that it was I who held the shotgun.
“Oh for pity sake,” it exclaimed and flopped on the ground. “This is going to be harder than I thought.”
It seemed more like a petulant child than a monster. In that instant, I had very little fear of it.
“What is going to be harder?” I asked.
“Creating blinding rage,” it said.
“And irrational fear.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Because it’s my job,” it said, sounding rather annoyed at the question. “I have been taking time off, now I want to get back to it.”
“That is pretty messed up,” I told him.
“What else is a wendigo supposed to do?”
What could I say?
“Look,” it said, “I am a malevolent spirit. Fear and loathing are my stock and trade. It is who I am and it is what I do. You do what nature tells you to. There are about two billion mosquitoes out here who would rather be doing something other than sucking blood and getting squashed. Do they get to try anything else?”
“I suppose you have a point,” I conceded, but the little guy seemed pretty depressed about it all so I figured it wouldn’t do any harm to talk over his issues.
“So what’s the problem?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Everything I do, the media does better. The slasher films on STARZ put my horror to shame. CNN streams disasters as they happen. Even Lifetime serves up heartbreak better than I can.”
“You wouldn’t be the first victim of progress around here,” I told him.
“If I only had a technological edge,” he pondered out loud.
“So you need something to create blinding rage and irrational fear?” I asked just to be clear.
Sometimes there are things you say that your better sense says that you should not and sometimes there are things that you say that you wish you hadn’t…
“Hmmm,” I said, “ever heard of Twitter?”