I drove my pickup truck to the end of the street and then pulled back into my drive shortly after. I didn’t have the heart for searching for roadkill tonight.
Something was in the air.
Something that I couldn’t seem to place.
There was a darkness that stole my enthusiasm for it.
I had been pleased with my job, where I was going, and the freedom it possessed just two weeks earlier.
Now, I felt like I was on the last train at midnight and had nowhere to go.
I was looking for something or someone.
I knew what it was, but I chose not to think of it out loud for fear it would become a reality.
You see, a few weeks back, I was attacked in my own home by some flying Mothman of sorts.
I have no idea why it chose me.
However, an apex predator that most call a werewolf or a dogman came to my rescue, and until two weeks ago, I had been being left gifts by this creature.
That is something I don’t understand either.
I should be afraid for my life every single time I am in the presence of such a creature, but instead, I am not. I feel at home, oddly enough.
You see, about two weeks ago, the visits stopped. No more dogman, no more roadkill to bring back to life in an oddly nurturing way, like a spider that nurtures her web in such a way that with each wrapping of the web, her trickery goes unnoticed because the outcome is one of magnificent beauty.
I had kept myself indoors for most of the last few months after my attack; my friend Adam and his family sent me care packages and wine. Notes that said, “Get your ass up and out! We Miss you, Sal.”
I didn’t budge. Inside I thought of things to say, but I, for whatever reason, remained quiet. I had become depressed, moody, and there was something about all of this that I just needed a mental break from.
My silence was a sign of my temporary mental illness. I had so many questions, and how pathetic that the only friend I interacted with during this time was a mythological creature. I did wonder, however, where Kodiak had gone.
I had started calling the dogman Kodiak after an old Husky I had when I was a little girl because he resembled him. All Black with white and greyish brown fur on his chin like an old man’s beard. His eyes were blue sometimes; sometimes, they looked green and golden.
Kodiak stood about seven feet tall. I only saw him during the early morning hours, but the last time I saw him, he had a scratch on his side that was bleeding. I recall being frightened, but I walked towards him as he lay a dead goat on my front lawn. It was Mr. Slate’s animal. The poor goats had often been found on the side of the road because they escaped artists. Mr. Slate couldn’t keep them in their pen as they always found a way out again.
This time a car had hit the poor guy, and while he was barely recognizable, Kodiak gifted him to me. I made Mr. Slate aware that very morning about his animal, and he ensured the gate to his pen was fixed.
I got out of the pickup truck walking towards the front of my house. As I did, I swiveled my neck, constantly searching for the creature.
There was something about it that seemed otherworldly in this strange connection. I didn’t know if it had been the breakup with my boyfriend, my mood, or the death of my dog, or maybe all of the above. All of these things had happened in a matter of a few weeks, not to mention the attack on me in my own home.
My mind went back to that night as I recalled the Mothman creature hellbent on killing me. Not sure if I was just meaty bones to be devoured or if I was an object to be stolen from Kodiak. Kodiak had saved me.
Now more than ever, I couldn’t stop wondering where on earth he had gone.
I woke up the following morning feeling like a hangover, only I had not drunk in a few weeks. My head pounded with almost devastating pain. I staggered towards the bathroom and managed to splash cold water upon my pale face. Something came to me then; it was a vision of a man whose face I could not see. Only I could hear a gun go off and the sight of blood by a tree. There was a scream that seemed to pierce my eardrums into complete and utter pain.
I fell to the bathroom tile, and then the pain, as suddenly as it started, had stopped. My body shook, and then I got sick.
Thank god I had already been by the toilet.
I washed myself off in the shower. I felt almost 100% better after the fact and retreated to my kitchen to read some emails. I was unclear about what made me so sick, and I felt as if the pain in my head had been related to the visions.
Once it passed, I tried to get back to my usual morning. I had some work to do for the local tackle shop. Taxidermy was still my favorite thing in the world. I was creating a new way for an animal to come to life after death through no fault of its own.
I worked until about five and then stopped. I was hungry and in need of a beer for maybe the first time in weeks. I needed some sort of stimulation to my brain and my gut.
Peddling around my kitchen, I realized that I needed to order out. There was nothing in my fridge, and it hadn’t been for a bit. I had been so distracted by my depressed mood.
I poured some of my beer, tasted it, and then spat it out almost immediately. How old was this bottle?
I sighed and ordered my food. SUSHI SAMS would be my dinner tonight.
I poured a glass of water, and oddly that didn’t taste normal either. Maybe it was me. Perhaps the wrong was by me and my weird brain denying myself any form of pleasure.
I sat and did some brief research on my laptop on various topics, one that led me to a new type of hiking shoe. I heard the doorbell ring and recalled thinking it seemed fast. I had not realized that thirty minutes had passed but only seemed about fifteen minutes at the most.
I went to the door, nearly tripping over construction pallets from where I was still having the wall in my home replaced by the sweet Mothman that had decided to tear half my house apart to get to me. Fun.
I opened the door and didn’t see anyone, but a back was on my porch.
“Doordash is faster these days,” I mused and picked up the bag.
It was in a bag stapled with a yellow smiley face on it, just like every time I ordered Sushi.
I opened the bag and nearly passed out.
Inside the bag was ahead, one of a werewolf.
I dropped it onto my wooden floor and stepped back. What the absolute fuck?
Upon closer inspection, I realized that it wasn’t real but was made to resemble the one that came to my home.
Underneath was a letter. My hands were shaking when I moved the faux severed head and fake blood to reveal a poorly written letter on dark yellow paper.
Underneath that, much to my anger, was a box from the sushi restaurant.
“Oh, come on! What asshole does this?”
It was apparent it was a sadistic joke by someone. But who?
I looked at the letter.
HI SALLY, REMEMBER ME?
“No, I don’t, thanks,” I said aloud to myself.
Seriously, I was eating that Sushi. I was too hungry to give a crap. The fake blood all over the inside of the bag didn’t deter this taxidermist.
The head was oddly admirable and had to take a significant amount of time to replicate.
I unboxed my food. Luckily, it was also stapled to death, so I knew no one had tampered with it.
Kai, my sushi dude, never let me down. He included extra sauce and my favorite spicy crab salad. My mouth watered just thinking about it.
As I dug in, I began to think of the mystery of who had sent this head to me and who knew about the dogman visitations? I had not told anyone. Well, anyone except my buddy Adam. He wasn’t so cruel as to send this fake head, was he? Nah, his wife would kill him.
It had to be someone else in special effects then. Who would know?
There was a sound in my backyard, and I slowly got up from my kitchen table to view who it was in my yard.
Only a deer. I picked up my phone, wiping teriyaki sauce on my pant leg, and called Adam.
“Hey, Sal,” he answered.
“Do you think you’re funny?”
“Um, not sure how to answer that. My wife laughs when I do helicopter for her but only when I’m drunk,” he laughed.
“Ew,” I said, trying not to picture that. “Seriously, someone put a fake werewolf head in my sushi dinner bag. Was it you?”
“Sal, I’m going to say that this is probably the weirdest phone call you have ever made to me.”
“Can you come over to look at it? Maybe you will have an idea.”
“Yeah, give me a few, and I’ll be over,”
When Adam arrived, he looked at the food, my messy house, and smiled. “Your place looks like my old college dorm room.”
“I’m sure it probably smells better,” I smiled.
Then I picked up the head off my floor and held it up to him. It was still dripping fake blood, and Adam stepped closer, pulling his glasses down for a moment. “Good work, whoever it was, but it wasn’t me.”
“They gave me this letter too, but it didn’t say much,” I held the yellow piece of paper up to him.
“Are you sure you have no idea who would do this?” he asked me sternly.
“No, I thought maybe you did. You were the only person that knows about, you know,”
“Yes, I recall it much to my nightmares. Look, for now, just wait and see if they send you another clue.”
“That is just it; Kodiak hasn’t brought me any gifts in two weeks. I think something happened to him.”
“It’s a mystical creature of the night; he probably had people to eat or something,”
“Adam! I’m serious; I think something bad happened to him. He wasn’t like all the other creatures that go bump in the night.”
“OH no, I know exactly where this is going. I have to take the girls to the airport tomorrow morning. I DO NOT have time to go traipsing around the forest like Lord of the Rings or the damn Chronicles of Narnia looking for a dogman!”
I smiled up at my friend.
“NO, I said no,”
“I know, but did you mean it?”
Adam took a deep breath and shook his head.
“You know I’m going with or without you. I have walkie-talkies. I thought I’d finally get to use them. They were the ones my dad bought me when I went to that taxidermy school. We can be covert operators on the hunt for the big bad. Come on; you know you want to!” I poked him on his chest.
“I said no, Sally; that is my final answer.”
“Okay,” I sighed.
“I have to go home now. Please do me a favor and don’t do anything stupid,” he patted me on the shoulder.
“I’m leaving tomorrow morning after a good night’s rest. Six sharp, so that you know I’m going the Oak Hill in case something happens. I want someone to know where I’ve disappeared to.”
Adam nodded and left.
He was like having an older brother you didn’t want and always wanted to tell me what he thought as a kid sister. Yet, he had all these responsibilities. I got it, but for once, I wish he would just throw caution to the wind and join an adventure.
I locked up and then got my hiking gear together.
I was a little nervous, but I had to figure out where my supernatural friend went. It had been the source of most of my depression; only I had not seen it until now. The visions showed me a large tree, and that was the tree I had to find. It would be unmistakable because it had green moss growing up half of it, and the rest looked like a white ghost. It was also as wide as my kitchen table was long.
I picked up my gun and put it inside my gear bag. I was going to be ready for this hunt.
I had strange dreams all night until my alarm went off, rescuing me from the dangerous night terrors.
I showered, got dressed, made my coffee, and poured it into a large thermos. I put on my flannel jacket and an oversized scarf. It was going to be chilly and possibly raining, according to the weather channel. I would be prepared for anything.
I opened my bag and tossed in my phone, a few things to eat, a compass, my handheld gun, extra ammo, a couple of bottles of water, batteries, a flashlight, and a few other items I would need along the way. I wasn’t sure how long I would be out on the trail, but I wanted to be prepared.
I got into my truck and pulled out of the driveway.
There was this sense of loneliness as I sat in the truck thinking about Charlie. He was such a good puppy, and I missed him. It was a trip like this that he would have been made for Charlie. He loved to go out and about with me on the hiking trails. He was ready for any adventure that may have come my way.
It would be about a three hours drive into the park because there was a secret trail that I needed to take. I knew it well from the vision. I had hiked it once upon a time, and it was about six hours or so on foot.
It had started to rain, and that was something I expected but not wholly. The rain hit my truck like someone had thrown their entire body at it. The heavy rain continued, and as I turned onto the dirt road, I noticed a man in a yellow and black raincoat. He was waving me down.
I slowed but wasn’t sure what else to do. He had pretty much blocked the lane I was on.
I rolled my passenger side window down and looked at him. He was a handsome guy about my age.
“Can I help you?”
“OH MY GOD, thank you for pulling over! My transmission has gone out, and I need a way into town to get a hold of someone for help.”
“I have a phone. Can I call someone for you?”
“I don’t have anyone’s numbers. Look, I am not a weirdo, my stupid phone died, and I would call my brother-in-law, but I don’t have his number memorized.”
Oh, Sally, I said to myself internally. This isn’t a good idea. He could chop you up in a million pieces.
Thanks, Adam, you should be here, I thought to myself.
“Look, I am not going directly into town; I am headed north to the center of the park. I can drop you off at a ranger’s station, and you can get help from there if you’d like.”
It was against my better judgment, but there was something about his big brown eyes. There was kindness in them.
“Oh, absolutely perfect. I appreciate this. My name is Blake, by the way,” he said, holding out a grease-covered hand.
“Sally,” I said, declining to shake his hand.
“Sorry, I am a little dirty. So where are you headed on such a day?” he asked, smiling.
He was very talkative and not precisely what I wanted to deal with, but it was a while off until we got to the first rangers station.
“I am a taxidermist. I hunt for weird and unusual things,” I said, hoping that if he was a serial killer, he might back off thinking I was scarier than he was.
It was a shame you had to think like this in this day and age, but it was what it was.
“Oh, are you familiar with that famous movie guy from this area?”
“What movie guy?” I was genuinely interested.
“Red Barnes, he is a prop guy from Hollywood. I relocated here a few years back. He has some bizarre stuff in his shop of horrors; at least, that is what it seemed like to me. He has anything and everything you can think of.
I had heard of him, but only because he made the news for thinking starving animals were “art.” He had once tied a dog up at a museum to see how long it would take to die. The museum art directors were later sued and the dog taken by authorities—disgusting human beings.
“Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.”
“Mine neither. Didn’t he kill a goat live on his youtube channel to show proper skill and what not?”
“Yeah, I don’t kill animals; I tend to look for things like roadkill or things that die of natural causes,” I said, remembering that stupid video.
“Want some Doritos?” he asked suddenly.
“It is six in the morning,” I laughed. “It isn’t really in my breakfast stomatology.
He smirked, and I thought I caught him blushing.
“No, I suppose not, but I have been out here since late last night. I should have waited till tomorrow to make my drive back to Pennsylvania, but I’m stubborn.”
“Is that where you live?”
“That is a long drive,”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” he shoved another chip in his mouth and then turned to look at me.
He stared at me for a long time until it was almost uncomfortable.
What had I done? This guy was a little weird. What if I ended up on the eleven o’clock news?
“You remind me of a girl I used to know,” he said suddenly.
“Yeah, she passed away a few years ago. We weren’t close. She was actually kind of a bully to me in school. Karma, I guess,” he said matter of factly.
I felt a slight chill and wondered if I could just kick him out of my vehicle now. Only I didn’t want to make any decisions that may get me in trouble at the moment.
“So, what brought you to Ohio?” I asked, trying to make conversation.
“Rocks, I’m a geologist.”
“Really? That must be interesting.”
“It can be. I mostly study the effects of fracking and whatnot. Everyone thinks I dig up dinosaurs, but that is a paleontologist.” He looked down at his phone.
The rain seemed to create eerie darkness as we drove on. It only made the atmosphere that much more creepy.
“Is there a way I could use your phone?” He asked, still trying to get his phone come on.
“Sure, here, let me unlock it for you,” I said, looking down for only a moment.
Suddenly, Black grabbed the steering wheel, and we went off the road.
“What the hell, man?” I screamed as the car hit a large boulder, and we ended up in a wet hole.
My truck was tall enough it didn’t sink.
“I’m sorry there was something in the road, and you would have hit it,” Black exclaimed, trying to catch his breath.
I looked at him as he turned around and stared directly at the road behind us.
“There was nothing in the road. Look, I’ll take you until we reach the bridge because there is a bathroom and drinking fountain. There is even a plug to charge your phone, but I don’t think we should ride together anymore,”
Just then, something hit the back of my truck.
Blake ignored my recent comment and got out of the truck. He pulled out a ball bat, which I noticed had what looked like blood on it. My hands shook as I now held onto the steering wheel. I debated for a moment whether or not to speed off without him.
Then I heard the water splash. I noticed Blake running towards the truck.
“GO!” he yelled at me as he hopped into the passenger side of the truck.
“Just drive, Sally, drive,” he was still looking at the back of the truck and had now slammed the passenger side door shut.
I backed up away from the large rock, hoping it had not damaged anything, and then drove onto the rainy road.
“What happened back there, Blake?”
“Something was there in the water; I don’t know what it was; it might have been a giant alligator I have no idea. Please get us out of here for both our safety.”
I drove on for a long while, not saying anything. I prayed that I wouldn’t slide off the road going as fast as I was.
“There aren’t any alligators in Ohio, Blake,” I said, finally looking at him.
“I don’t know how else to describe what I saw,”
For the first time on our road trip, I wondered if he was telling the truth. I was freaked out, but who was I to judge? The entire reason I was on this road trip was that I was trying to find a cryptid creature who had saved my life.
I took a deep breath, and then I stopped the truck. The rain had subsided a bit, and I reached into the back of my car and handed Blake a large umbrella.
“This is as far as I can take you, Blake,”
“If you follow that trail right there, the nearest ranger station is approximately fifteen miles. You should reach it in the next two hours. I hope you the best, Blake, and a safe journey back to your home.”
He looked at me for a long moment and then got out of the truck. He slammed the door and darted up the hill.
I retook a long deep breath, this time one of relief; then I sped up the road going about sixty miles per hour. I wanted to put as much distance as I could between me and all that weirdness. After all, I still had another two-hour drive to the Oak Hill trail, where I suspected I would find the tree I had seen in my vision.
I drove up the road and found myself slowing down. Something was causing my front right tire to putter.
A flat tire.
Wasn’t this some shit?
I knew I had a spare in the back, and while I didn’t want to get out of my car in the rain and change it, I had little choice in the matter.
Just then, my phone rang.
I picked it up and looked at who was calling.
It was Adam. No doubt checking up on me. I hit ignore and went to change my tire. It was far more critical at the moment. Part of me wanted to get the hell out of here and just go back home, but something told me it was now or never to find out the answers about my friend, Dogman Kodiac.
I went towards the back of the truck, and where my spare usually was, was only a tarp and significant claw marks. Where the hell was my spare tire?
Was this a joke?
“Fuck!” I muttered under my breath.
I wondered if whatever had chased after Blake had only gotten the tire instead of my wayward hitchhiker.
I went into my truck and sat in the driver’s seat, and locked the doors. I picked up my phone and called triple-A. It seemed to take forever, but an operator finally came on offering services. I explained my location, and they said they had a guy that would tow me back into town in the next hour and fifteen minutes.
I hung up the phone and then called my friend back.
“Sal, I tried to catch you before you left. Teri scolded me for letting you go out there alone,”
I smiled, nearly bursting into tears. I wasn’t usually this frustrated to tears, but I needed to talk to a friend right now.
“I have had the craziest morning,” I told him.
“I picked up a hitchhiker and then got a flat tire.”
“Hitchhiker? Why on earth would you do that? That is dangerous. You are all alone out there. If you had maybe waited till tomorrow, I could have gone with you. I’m sorry I couldn’t today. Is the hitchhiker still with you?”
“Oh no, he is off to his next destination. Right now, I’m waiting on a guy to help with a tow back into town. My spare tire seemed to have disappeared.”
“Well, I hate to say this, but I’m glad you won’t be going up there alone,”
“That is fine; let’s make it a plan.”
Just then, I spotted two lights behind me.
A driver pulled up in a large tow truck.
“I think this is my tow driver; I’ll call you when I get back home.”
I hung up the phone and rolled my window down.
The driver of the tow truck rolled his window down and smiled at me. “You must be the gal who needs a tow,” he said to me.
I smiled back. “How’d you guess?”
He pulled up in front of me and then got out of his vehicle.
He had no clipboard or anything with him to check me off the list like they sometimes did.
I got out of the truck, and he shook my hand.
“You can go sit in the front of the tow truck, and I’ll get this thing hitched up,”
I listened to him and grabbed my hiking back. I left a few things behind since I was just going to have him tow me to a car repair shop for a new tire.
He came around to the passenger side as I got into his truck. “Looks like something slashed your tired good. Looks like claw marks or something. Did you have a run-in with a black bear up here?”
“Not that I know of. I did have a run-in with something,”
He looked at me and shut the door.
I waited for another few minutes, and my truck was on the back of the tow truck in no time at all. Red got into the tow truck and looked at me with an empathetic smile.
“This isn’t your day, is it?” he laughed at me, and I smiled back.
“I don’t think anything has gone right today,” I sighed, leaning back into the passenger seat of the truck.
“Well, we will get you to where you need to be.”
I sat in the car and listened to the radio. Red liked to play talk radio, and he had it on some political station. I wasn’t paying much attention until the broadcast came on.
AUTHORITIES ARE STILL LOOKING FOR THE MISSING MAN FROM POUGHKEEPSIE WANTED IN THE KIDNAPPING AND SLAYING OF HIS EX-WIFE MARSHA MATHEWS. HE WAS LAST SEEN WEARING A YELLOW JACKET AND CARRYING A RIFLE. IF ANYONE HAS SEEN HIM, PLEASE CALL OUR TIP LINE.
I sat up in my seat, thinking about Blake. He had been wearing a yellow jacket and was going back to Pennsylvania. What in the hell?
“You okay?” Red asked me.
“Yeah, that man they are looking for, I dunno it is frightening to think about,” I said, thinking about my need to get him out of my car.
As we drove on, I noticed that the road we were on didn’t quite look familiar. The rain had stopped, and there seemed to be a fog in the air clouding the horizon. Before I knew it, we were going up a long drive.
“Sorry, I am not able to go much further. We will need to wait it out a bit here.”
“Where is here?” I asked.
“This is my house, my wife usually has coffee in the pot, and you look like you could use a cup.”
I looked at him, and as I got out of the truck, there was absolutely no way I would be able to drive up this road with the fog. It was so thick that as Red walked towards his house, I had to call out to see where he was.
We reached his front door, and the first thing I noticed was the smell of cat piss. I saw a large black cat sitting on a stoop with one eye. It watched me as we entered Red’s home.
“Honey, I brought a guest,” he yelled. There was no response.
There was a smell of burnt coffee, and Red poured a large cup for me. Handing it to me, I took it just to be nice, but more than anything, I just wanted to be home.
It was slightly comforting because it was hot, and the air outside was now very relaxed.
The home wasn’t clean but wasn’t dirty necessarily. It was cluttered with animals and wall hangings of deer heads and boar heads. There were guns hung in cabinets and knives in cases on the wall.
There was a patchwork quilt half made sitting on an old sofa. The room smelled of pipe tobacco and sage.
“You want something to eat?”
I shook my head, smiling.
“I have some jerky in the jar over there by the coffee pot. If you get a hankerin’ right now, I need to feed my dogs; I’ll be back shortly.”
He headed towards what looked like a large cellar off from the kitchen. He slammed the door shut, and I could swear I heard a chain, then a lock.
Did he keep his poor dogs locked in the cellar? I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself.
Suddenly, the phone in my pocket rang. I looked at it, and it was from the 800 number that I had called for my tow service.
“Ma’am, my name is Joe, I am here at the corner of Joselyn and Waterford road, and I don’t see your truck. Did we get the address wrong?”
My heart sank.
“I was picked up about thirty minutes ago by a tow truck service,”
“Ma’am, who was it? There isn’t a tow truck service for two hours from here.”
I looked at the cellar door as it slowly opened.
“Um, thank you, Is this the best number to reach you at?” I asked.
“Yes, Ma’am, are you in an unsafe location?”
“Um, I think so. Can I call you when I get out of here?”
I hung up the phone as I now knew the man who had picked me up was no actual tow truck driver. How had this guy known I needed a tow truck?
My thoughts went back to Blake. Was this a con job to kidnap me? I had to be losing my mind. There was no way this was happening. My mind was playing tricks on me after this long day. The man had been so kind to me.
When Red came upstairs, I looked at him. He was wiping his hands on a towel. It looked like rusty-colored oil.
He walked up to me and then smiled at me.
“How’s the coffee? Maybe I should make a fresh pot. It was a bit burnt for my taste buds.”
I laughed. “It was okay; you have been so kind already.”
“No, I’ll make a fresh pot.” he went to work on dumping out the old and cleaning out the coffee pot.
If Red was a kidnapper, he had a funny way of showing it.
I pulled up a seat to his kitchen table and looked around the room.
There were photos of young women and him. I wondered if they were family.
“My daughters. That is Amy, Jess, Katlyn, and Patty. They have moved away now, families of their own. You know how it goes.”
“I do; I did that to my own family a few years ago.”
I realized with a sudden ah-ha moment. The man in front of me was none other than Red Barnes, the artist.
“Wait, are you Red Barnes?” I asked, looking at a portrait of a sickly wolf.
He looked me dead in the eyes.
“I used to be a very famous artist; I’m just a man now.”
“Weren’t you in the American Museum of Art?”
“Yes, until they accused me of cruelty to animals. I was never cruel to animals. The real cruelty was in the people that claimed everything they did was FOR animals. I just shoved what they did wrong in their faces. The dog at the museum I got arrested for? I found him living on the streets fending off humans. I tied him up for three days in the museum so those elitist bastards could see what they had done. Society is a mess, Sally; someone should pay.”
I suddenly was in awe of him. It seemed to make sense with him living off the grid in this tiny cabin.
“I save roadkill, so I get it,”
“Roadkill Sally? YOU’RE ROADKILL SALLY?” his eyes lit up.
I had a name?
“Um, I guess. I have a shop about an hour away.”
“What an absolute pleasure to meet you. I have seen your work. It is whimsical, original, and thought out. Not much out there like it except for that guy who does the chess games with taxidermy rodents,” he chuckled.
I looked at Red and realized that for the first time in my life, I was someone. The worst day of my life was suddenly turning into one of the best days.
“I have done my share of recreations or reanimations of animals. You, on the other hand, are one of a kind,”
The coffee pot beeped, and the new cup of Joe was ready. I noticed Red had four yellow and black raincoats hanging on the wall near the cellar. I didn’t want to let my imagination run wild further. I sipped on the coffee and talked to Red about art, animals, rescue, and a whole assortment of things. I had forgotten the fog outside and the fact my car was hitched to his tow truck.
It wasn’t long after that we heard a big sound coming from the cellar.
Red looked at me with a sort of concerned gaze.
“I’ll be right back; the pups must be hungry,”
With that famous artist, Red Barnes, left me to attend to his animals.
I looked outside and realized that my long morning into the hills had now turned into evening.
I heard a scream then.
I stood up and walked towards the cellar door. I stood in front of it, not sure whether or not I should open it. I didn’t have to make the decision myself.
The door to the cellar nearly hit me in the face as it flung open.
To my shock, the person standing in front of me was none other than Blake.
I backed away.
“Holy shit! It’s you!” Blake said, hugging me.
His yellow rain jacket was now soaked in blood.
“Get away from me, you murderer!”
“No, Sally, you don’t understand.”
I looked at Blake with blood on his hands and nearly fell backward.
“Where is Red? What did you do to him?”
I remembered my handgun, but it was in my truck. I took a stifled breath and tried to gather my senses.
I ran from the house with Blake chasing close after me.
I ran into the foggy woods outside his home.
I found a slight covering outside near Red’s property that was surrounded by a tall chainlink fence. I ran as fast as I could until I reached a covering and hid.
I heard feet as I tried to put it all together in my mind. Blake and Red this place the day I had had. It was all too much to comprehend.
I pulled out my phone and dialed 9-1-1.
I was unable to reach help. My phone was now only displaying a weird message across the screen.
The screen went blank and blue light illuminated from my phone. Then as if it couldn’t get any worse, I heard a loud splashing of water.
I realized with a startling panic that I was near water and something was coming out of the water.
Something began to rise out of the water. It looked like a crocodile in body but was a surreal version of an apex predator. Its face resembled a frog, and its face was long like a man with a beard like that portrayed on Merlin. It was what I now believe was a Slovic water spirit known as a Vodyanoy. I had never seen one in person, but it stopped short before it could reach me with its strange amphibian hand. It was chained to a large rock in the center of the water.
Before I could even process that, I saw what looked like a giant butterfly that let off an electrical vibration, and I could see it electrocuting moths whenever they flew too close.
A tall creature resembled a Praying Mantis, and to my utter horror, at the end of the allotment was a woman. Her face was nearly missing and replaced with robotics such as a metal mouth, red glowing eyes over glossy rubber skin. Her body was human, and there was a sign with her name “Marsha Matthews” before I could process the fact that this woman was the woman the police were suspecting as dead, Blake was now standing by me, looking onward at all these horrifying creatures.
Then the woman screamed. “Husband, they are here! They are standing here beside me!”
I heard then what sounded like a growl far off into my field of vision. I knew then that my friend was somehow. Here.
“Kodiac?” I said out loud.
“We have to get out of here!”
It was Blake.
I didn’t question why he was here, but when the spotlight in Red’s backyard shown upon us, I then saw that Blake was now missing an ear, replaced with some sort of antennae device. His right eye was now missing.
I didn’t have time to feel bad because as I stepped closer to what I only assumed was my freedom- the end of the caged creatures- did I think my body was consumed by sudden numbness.
I fell to the ground, and then I felt fury hands carry me towards the small cabin where Red lived with his family.
I could only close my eyes.
I don’t recall much about my time spent in the cellar.
It is something I rarely like to discuss.
The one thing I recall is upon waking up, I saw him, Kodiac; he was chained to a wall inside a large shadow box. He was comatose, and the things beside him, I now recognize as Red’s four daughters. He had pieces of skin and fur missing as if he had been used as an animal you would see in the fur trade.
This diabolical man had imprisoned his wife and daughters and then began to turn them into art – living art.
I had seen the photos online. They were printed in some of the most prestigious magazines. No one would ever suspect that they were not digital renditions.
But the horrors inside that house.
His tall blonde daughter had half of her face cut off to reveal metal skull bone underneath; another was tied to the other by their intestines. They were kept alive the entire time. I did recall Blake cutting down the locks to the fences holding these creatures inside. They escaped to their freedom, except for the one that mattered the most.
My Kodiac had somehow fallen victim to this man upon his ritual hunts at night. The other creatures – other cryptids were also kept. They were the rarest of all animals. He cut them up for “art” as if it mattered.
I was spared.
When I woke, I was inside my truck—parked in the middle of nowhere.
My phone was on the charger and had my home address already programed. My truck was cleaned out of any evidence. Blake and the infamous artist Red Barnes were both now missing. I would have no idea if the two were somehow connected. I feel though that Blake tried to rescue me even though I had thought he was a murderer. He was not.
Red’s family was also missing. The creatures that lived there
I was happier knowing I was home.
Adam and Teri came to feed me and ensure I wasn’t losing my mind.
“Are you okay?” Adam asked.
“What is okay?”
“I guess we will never really know,”
“No, but my friend is out there, and I won’t rest until Kodiac is safe.”
“I wish I could say that I was going to stop until he is safe, but you know me,”
“I plan to go alone, but if you wish to go on an adventure, you know how to find me.”
Adam sat on my hospital bed.
“I’d expect nothing less. Could you use some company this time?” Adam asked.
“My dearest friend thought you’d never ask…”