Sometimes there are things you thought you saw that your better sense says you did not.
Then there are things you thought you heard that you convince yourself you did not.
The howl came from next door, a place affectionately known as the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge. Many strange and horrible sounds come from there – but never, ever, anything like that.
It was a cry so chilling that the moon took cover behind a cloud and every living thing held its breath, even the leaves refused to rustle.
The refuge is a scary enough place as it is. So overgrown with sedge, it appears to have no defined surface and so saturated with muck, it has no bottom. Most days it lies hidden behind mist and most nights it is shrouded in fog.
Since the beginning of history, the swamp held had such a poor reputation that no Lakota dared step foot on it and later, 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 then 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 and 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 it.
“Look,” it said, “I happen to be malevolent spirit, fear and loathing are my stock and trade You do what nature tells you to. We don’t get to choose. There are about two billion mosquitoes out here who would rather be doing anything other than sucking blood and getting squashed. Do they get to change jobs?”
“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 aloud.
“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?”