Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
3:30 p.m., 1-September: One three-person party entered the Rio Grande National Forest in Hinsdale County, Colorado. They consisted of Trevor Nyson (37 years old) and Matilda Nyson (33 years old), a married couple, and Benny Nyson (8 years old), their only son.
5:31 p.m., 1-September: Trevor and Matilda, highly distraught, encountered a Forest Service ranger to report their son missing. They could offer no details beyond “we turned around, and he was gone.” Matilda experienced a panic attack shortly thereafter, and had to be treated on-site with 20 milligrams of benzodiazepine.
5:33 p.m., 1-September: U. S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Uncategorized (DoiBou) was contacted.
5:46 p.m., 1-September: A CH-47 Chinook helicopter landed 13 miles SSE of Lake City, CO. Trevor and an impaired Matilda were presented to DoiBou agents for interrogation.
5:47 p.m., 1-September: Based on the information presented, DoiBou agents confirmed Cryptic Contact.
That’s where I come in.
Did you know that Hinsdale, Colorado is the most isolated place in the lower 48? There are fewer roads per capita, and longer distances between them, than any other place.
Have you ever wondered how people felt upon discovering that monsters were real? The British Museum assumed in 1799 that the platypus specimen before them was an obvious joke. Nordic seafarers feared the terrible kraken, leaving us to laugh at their primordial beliefs before considering the subsequent modern discovery of the colossal squid.
None of this mattered to Trevor, who kept chewing on his hair, or Matilda, who was staring placidly at some nearby leaves.
“We’ve established that last contact with Benny was at 37.887 degrees north latitude, 107.214 degrees west longitude, at 3:33 p.m. What more can you tell me about the departure?” I asked crisply.
“Who are you?” Matilda responded in an airy sort of way.
“That’s not important right now,” I shot back. “I need to know the circumstances surrounding your son’s departure.”
Trevor looked up at me with bloodshot eyes. “‘Departure.’ You keep saying that word. And how do you know so many specifics?” His delayed speech and increased breathing indicated the early warning signs of shock.
I regarded him stoically. “The sun will set at 7:29 p.m. tonight. Overnight temperatures could drop as low as 59 degrees, which presents a potentially extreme danger to an exposed eight-year-old boy. And the public is unaware of the wildlife that has been documented in Rio Grande National Forest. Each minute spent conversing about mundane nonsense is a minute of daylight wasted. Now tell me: did your son have any food?”
Trevor stared back in broken defeat, his eyes rimmed with tears. “Just gummy bears.”
I grabbed for my radio. “Get the Chinook ready to fly, now!”
Matilda spun her head toward me as I prepared to run. “Who – are you?”
“Call me Lisa,” I shot back. “Now get the fuck out of my way.”
The chopper landed me as close to the coordinates as was humanly possible; I had to jump the last six feet straight onto the ground.
The crew flew away immediately afterward.
We couldn’t afford the risk of scaring it off.
Besides, I didn’t need them hanging around. All necessary equipment had been packed ahead of time.
I found the family’s trail almost instantly. There was a path of broken twigs, scattered dirt, and even a discarded trail mix wrapper.
I followed their marks cautiously, scanning every inch.
It didn’t take long for me to find it.
An unnatural rise in the grass had snaked its way toward the path that I’d been traversing. If I hadn’t been looking for it explicitly, well –
I might have stepped right on it.
The birds were quiet. No crepuscular animals were stirring. Even the wind was holding itself at bay.
I tried to silence my own breathing, but my elevated heart rate prohibited such an endeavor.
I looked across the rolling landscape, toward the setting sun. It really was beautiful. Root beer floats were inspired by Colorado sunsets; I thought of this fact and worked to calm myself.
It had a moderate effect.
I reached slowly into my pocket, immensely thankful that I had packed everything I would need.
I extracted said equipment, then looked down at my trembling hand.
Gummy bears. Only red ones, for the love of God. And definitely no greens.
I tossed a handful onto the artificial rise in the grass. For a moment, nothing happened.
Then the rise coiled around the candy, closing in like a snake, and retracted.
I didn’t realize how frozen I had become until my head swam from a lack of oxygen.
Then I sprang into action, moving my legs to follow the retreating rise in the ground. It disappeared into a copse of trees, then vanished from sight. I stared at the plants before me.
No, not plants.
At least, not all of them.
Broken fur rose in vertical lines along the edges of the trees. The brownish hue blended well with the bark.
I wasn’t fooled.
I stared up at the point where the fur stopped. It towered at least seven feet above the ground – much higher than my 5’ 2” frame.
“Look,” I offered shakily, pulling out a fistful of red gummy bears. “There’s plenty more.” I dropped them from my trembling hands onto the ground at my feet.
There was a snort.
Then a large head emerged from the shadows. It was covered in thick, soft, brown fur. Its two eyes, both five inches across, were jet black. Two tiny triangular ears sat atop its skull. There was no visible nose. And its razor-sharp canines would have presented an imposing threat, if it weren’t for the fact that they were misaligned in a massive, crooked underbite.
“Ffffffssssnuuuuu?” it asked. Then it reached out a massive paw, clearly focused on my gummy bears.
“Whoa!” I shouted, trying to look more intimidating than I felt. I stepped protectively over the candy.
He snatched his paw back like I’d burned it. His eyes glistened as his lower lip began to tremble and drool.
“No!” I yelled, pressing my advantage. “Give me the boy!” I stepped forward, causing him to flinch and raise his paws in a protective stance. It was almost funny; this bipedal monster was defending itself from something one tenth its size.
But to him, I suppose, the term “monster” would be entirely relative.
“Give him to me!” I screamed again, and he scurried into the bushes.
Cautiously, I followed. He hadn’t gone far; I could see his brown fur trembling in the dark.
I leaned in.
Benny Nyson, eight years old, lay sleeping in the fetal position. A furry arm rested on top of him.
I slowly reached for the bag of gummy bears. More slowly still, I raised them up in front of me.
I pointed to the boy.
And he understood.
Benny woke up as the monster handed him to me. He began to panic.
“Shhhhh,” I offered as I completed the solemn exchange.
I grabbed Benny tight as the giant paws rolled him into my arms. He looked around wildly. I quickly grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and practically forced it down his throat. After a moment of panic, he began to drink like a baby finding its bottle.
A few feet away, I heard the distinct sounds of a monster devouring candy.
Benny finished the water, rolled out of my arms, and looked up at me. “Who are you?” he asked incredulously.
For the first time, I smiled. “Lisa McMurry of DoiBou. You know, you’re just like your mother.”
He looked at me in confusion. “Are you an angel?”
“No, not at all,” I explained. “I work for the U. S. Government.”
He seemed to understand.
“I search for cryptids,” I elaborated. “They’re what you would call monsters. After spending nearly all of human history hiding in the shadows, they’ve run out of places to go. Cryptids are terrified of humans (and rightly so), so they’ve been relegated to the status of legend. Unfortunately, their natural habitat is essentially eradicated. Their only hope of survival is within the government’s Environmental Niche Replication Program, which is basically a classified government zoo. We’re currently maintaining breeding programs for several wild monsters. The one that you found for us,” here I pointed to the grunts coming from the bushes, “loves your gummy bears. It’s why he took you from your parents.”
He looked in confusion at the enormous fuzzy brown rear end poking out of the leaves. “Is he dangerous?”
For the first time, I laughed. “Oh, no. He’s essentially a giant puppy-hamster. He’s strong enough to rip a truck apart, but doesn’t understand how to hurt things. That’s why it’s so dangerous for him to be around humans, who specialize in hurt.”
The slurping, smacking noise that came from the shadows began to slow its pace.
I placed Benny on the ground. He remained in a sitting position, grabbing his head as though in confusion.
“So… there’s a secret government plot to capture monsters?”
“Cryptids,” I corrected. “Yes. The one you just met is eating red gummy bears that have been prepared with a heavy sedative. He should be ready any minute now.”
Right on cue, there was a loud THUMP. Benny and I both looked up to find that the monster had collapsed just feet in front of us, and was now snoring quietly.
The overwhelming shock of the situation was keeping Benny subdued. “So…” he continued. “Why – why would you tell me all of this?”
I smiled sadly at him. “Because the water you just drank was laced as well. You’ll be out in less than a minute, and you won’t remember a single thing about what we discussed when you’re reunited with your parents.”
I think he was trying to give me an angry look, but it was just impossible with his eyelids fluttering so much. His head lolled once, twice, three times, before finally coming to a rest on his shoulder. I gently grabbed him, then helped him to lie on the ground. He pushed me away at first, but eventually settled on sucking his thumb instead.
I stood up and looked down at the two sleeping creatures.
Mission fucking accomplished.
I whipped out my radio. “I need an extraction team ASAP. The primary target has been found near the coordinates of deposit. Equip the Chinook to carry one small/mid class cryptid. And alert Cheyenne Mountain Complex that we have a package for delivery. This is important: I’ll need one large bag of red gummy bears.”
I looked down at the boy. He had snuggled up to the monster, and was now acting as the little spoon. Or as the teddy bear, depending on your point of view.
I sighed, then spoke into the radio once more. “Tell Cheyenne that we’d better make it two large bags of gummy bears.”
I signed off and stepped out of the shadows.
It was 7:29 p.m. The sun was saying good night.
It really was beautiful, I decided.
Like all the world was a root beer float.
CREDIT: P.F. McGrail
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