The Abalone Thief

May 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Although there is no internet access or even cell phone service in this tiny cabin where I sit typing, perched on a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean, still I write this blog, in the hopes that it might find some new civilization, long after mankind is gone. That this may be a testament to one man who found faith and religion, after doubting for so long.

You see, I was never a spiritual or superstitious man. I was a man of science. A student. A marine biologist. Before this I never had what one would call faith in anything resembling religion. To me it was all math, everything. The strange mutations of life were simply an exponential progression of evolution. But now, as I see the sacramental fires burning bright on the beach below me, and feel the awakening of the ancients echo in my sleep and dreams, now that I realize that man’s time is over and it is a new beginning for beings much greater and more powerful than our own, I offer up a poem, a sacrament, a narrative, to the events that unfolded before the great awakening.

Let me start at the beginning.

I was a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Cruz working on my PhD in marine biology. Mollusks were my specialty. Specifically Haliotoidea Haliotis rufescens, or as they are known by their common name: red abalone. Abalone are an edible type of sea snail, a marine mollusk, single shell gastropod found in coastal waters around the globe. Like all snails they have a head, with a mouth and a pair of eyes, and a foot which they use to cling to rock formations while using their file like tongue to scrape algal matter into their mouths. They also have an enlarged pair of tentacles. They are considered a delicacy, their flesh being comparable to calamari. Red abalone, the largest and most prized of the species, are found only on the west coast of North America. Red abalone are not endangered but because of overfishing and acidification of oceans they have become rather scarce; that is why, California put a ban on the commercial fishing of them in the 1990s. They can be harvested for personal use only north of San Francisco, April through November, with a hiatus in July, and with a limit of only three a day and a total of eighteen a year.

Since I was writing my doctoral thesis on Haliotis rufescens it was deemed that I should spend the summer in a tiny fishing village called Shelter Cove. There I would study, measure, count and map the abalone and also report any suspicious activities relating to abalone poachers to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. So, when the school semester ended in June I packed up all my gear (scuba set, books, slides, specimen jars, microscopes) and strapped my kayak to the roof of my trusty old Subaru outback and headed north up highway 101 for Shelter Cove.

Shelter Cove is a quiet little hamlet on the coast of Humboldt County. The sign as you enter declares it, “An Island in Time”. There is only one long, winding road in, which climbs up to nearly 2,000 feet as it transcends the summit of the King Range mountains and, conversely, only that one twisting, dangerous, cliff strewn road out. To the south is nothing but inaccessible shoreline facing steep cliffs, dotted with pockets of tiny beaches where the surf smashes down on jagged rocks, and deep, dangerous tide pools. To the north it is relatively the same, only a thin, potholed, dirt road winding over the cliffs slightly to the east.

This is why this area is known as Humboldt’s Lost Coast. The brave surf and kayak here but it has a notorious rip tide and once an entire troop of tired boy scouts resting on the beach were swooped up by a sleeper wave and sucked out to their deaths in the ocean’s depths.

The lodgings that were given to me consisted of a small cabin, nothing more than a shack really, perched high up on a cliff face. To the right I could see the boat launch the fishermen used, the caged in area where they gutted their catch. A small stretch of beach lay there where locals would drive their pick-up trucks up onto the sandy shore and drink beer and barbeque. To my left was another stretch of beach they called Deadmans, separated from the boat landing by a jutting cliff. Deadmans, a favorite surf spot, is only accessible by the ocean. The surfers have to paddle on their boards around the cliff face to get there.

The only internet access in Shelter Cove is from satellite and the university was too cheap to put one up in the shack they had supplied me with. I couldn’t even get cell phone service to use my phone as a hot spot. So when I had to post my data on the University’s Science Lab website, I would have to travel down the road a few miles to a coffee shop in the lobby of an old hotel that had Wi-Fi. There I could also manage to get cell phone service, but only in the parking lot at the top of a steep embankment.

My closest neighbors lived down a rutted dirt road. A young single mom and her 9 year old girl Suzy.

On my first day, as I was unfastening my ocean kayak from the roof of my battered old Subaru Outback, Suzy rode right up to me on her pink Huffy bike, an inquisitive look on her round little face.

“Who are you?” she asked in that bluntly curious manner children from small towns often have.

“My name’s Theodore.”

She nodded as if she approved of my name, her eyes wandering along all of my equipment.

“What’s all this stuff?”

“This is my scuba gear, these are specimen jars, and these, here in these boxes, are microscopes. With a microscope you can see real small stuff.”

“I know what a microscope is. The sixth graders use them at my school. Why do you have all this stuff?”

“Well, I’m a scientist and I’m here to study abalone.”

“Abalone? Oh gross, my Uncle Bob tries to make me eat that stuff every 4th of July. I don’t like seafood.”

“You live in a fishing village and you don’t like seafood?”

“No. I don’t like anything slimy, stinky, slippery, wet or gross.” She nodded her little head in that authoritative manner she had used when I told her my name and then rode off, leaving me standing there laughing.

After that day, whenever Suzy rode past on her bike and saw me she would stop and talk. Though she claimed to hate slimy stuff- (“Oh!” she’d squeal, “Get it away!” when I held up a baby squid for her inspection), she soon fell prey to the wonders of nature, marveling over a sea urchin or laughing uproariously at the awkward antics of a huge dungeness crab I had brought back from the ocean for her amusement. Her big brown eyes would gleam and her pig tails would bob up and down as she stroked a starfish. I showed her the tiny holes in the mantle of the abalone’s thick domed shell, the respiratory apertures, and explained to her how the sea snail vented water through them with its gills. She stared into the microscope at macro algae and I explained how the abalone fed on them with the small median teeth of the radula. As her enthusiasm began to grow I sensed a future marine biologist in the making and grew to truly love her visits.

I quickly settled into a routine of waking early and taking my kayak out to dive. Even though it was summer the water was cold, averaging about fifty degrees, and I had to wear a full wet suit with a hood and gloves. I would pull my hood over my head, pull down my half mask, put my regulator’s mouthpiece to my lips, and slip into the murky water to explore the underwater rock formations with my flashlight, looking for the domed, brick red shells that are the underwater homes of the abalone who had suctioned themselves to the craggy surfaces. I would count and measure them and then return to my kayak to scrawl out my findings. It was peaceful work but it could be dangerous. Every year dozens of abalone divers wash up dead on the shores, smashed against the rocks by a swell or sucked into dark ocean caves. In 2004 an abalone diver, who ironically worked for the Recreational Fishing Alliance and was on a federal fisher management panel, was attacked by a great white shark while diving not too far south from here, off the coast of Mendocino. When his friends first saw the huge cloud of blood in the water they thought it was some kind of sick joke. They were gravely mistaken. His mauled and ravaged body washed up on shore a day later.

In the evenings I would type out my statistics on my laptop, their average depth and proximity to the shore; and, in my free time, I would wander the desolate shoreline exploring the tide pools while I sipped a local micro-brew and sampled some of the fine cannabis the hills to the east of us were famous for. I’d gaze up at the sky, streaked in pink and purple as the sun sunk down into the ocean, watching pelicans beat their wings in unison as the high pitched wails of young harbor seals echoed off the towering bluffs. I was happy. As happy as I’ve ever been. By my third week I had charted the entire shore line for over half a mile.

At the end of the first month I had made enough inroads with the notoriously secretive locals to be invited to a party.

It was a wild event, held on a sprawling manor that sat on a grassy hillside with the ocean spread out below it. It was the last day of June and there would be a month long hiatus for abalone harvesting all of July, so the abalone divers were throwing a feast. There was abalone wontons, abalone salsa, two kinds of abalone ceviche, abalone sausage, but the most scrumptious was the abalone wrapped in dates, goat cheese and bacon and deep fried. All of this as well as the standard fare of salmon, halibut, cod and oysters. Bottles of wine from nearby vineyards littered the tables and ruddy faced fishermen gathered around kegs of local micro-brew. The sheriff was there in full uniform and when someone passed him a joint he puffed it and passed it on like everyone else.

A week into July I noticed a massive amount of abalone missing off the point of Deadmans.

Abalone concentrate where current flow causes drift seaweed to accumulate. The point of Deadmans was one of those places. Because abalone expand a large amount of energy when moving they tend to stay in one location. Last week the point of Deadmans had been littered with abalone; now, there wasn’t a single one left. I shone my flashlight along the submerged rocks, nothing. I reached my hand into a narrow crevice, felt around the deep fissure for the telltale feel of those thick shells, cautious and aware that a swell could suck me into the narrow space, crush my bones, wedge me in and trap me.

Even if there wasn’t a moratorium on abalone fishing going on an absence of this size was unprecedented. This had to have been some kind of large scale poaching. In San Francisco, in Chinatown, dried abalone sells as an aphrodisiac for $2,000 dollars a pound. A haul this big could easily net over half a million dollars.

First, I alerted the fish and game department. Next, figuring that the poachers, after having exhausted the supply on the point, would now move down into Deadmans cove itself, and that they would most likely come in the early twilight hours, I decided to stakeout Deadmans beach to see if I could catch the poachers if they returned.

The only way accessible to Deadmans cove is over the ocean; so, I hauled my kayak out to the boat launch, slipped it into the dark water, waves lapping at the concrete pier, jumped in and paddled out. There was a full moon but the fog was rolling in thick across the relatively calm water.

I kayaked past the beach where a few pick-up trucks were still parked, surfers relaxing on the shore and having a few beers after a day of riding the waves, and made my way around the towering point of Deadmans, carefully avoiding the crescent of jagged rocks that rose up out of the black water and fog. Paddling into the small cove I rode the surf up onto the beach. Pulling my kayak across the black, pebbly sand to the cliff face, I found a small cave, nothing more than a craggy wrinkle in the bluff, and tucked my kayak into it, camouflaging it with driftwood, dried seaweed and a few handfuls of sand. With my kayak hidden I hiked down the beach and behind a large, washed up tree stump I set up my small one person tent. I hunkered down for the night, staying awake for a good while, but then drifting off to a light slumber, determined to sleep lightly and awaken as early as I could.

In the middle of the night I awoke to a garbled noise. I at first assumed it was the yapping of sea lions; but as sleep left me, I realized it was human voices. It sounded like they were singing or chanting. I poked my head out of my tent. The entire beach was now draped in a thick shroud of fog, but when I peered out into the distance I was startled to see a mass of orange flames flicking up into the night sky. It was a huge bonfire and silhouetted around it appeared to be a circle of people. Was I dreaming? I blinked my eyes and focused on the fire and, yes, around the fire was a ring of people in black, hooded cloaks.

They held hands and slowly circled around the flames, chanting, with the fog swirling around them. On the outside of the circle were others,also in dark cloaks, remaining still as statues, holding torches. They couldn’t see me, hidden in the fog behind the massive log, and I watched curiously. It was definitely strange; but, I just assumed it was a bunch of teenagers getting weird, or, maybe even a coven of old hippy wiccans getting their witch on. Either wouldn’t be unheard of in these parts.

I watched the strange ritual for over an hour till they were done. Then they responsibly put out their fire (which impressed me), burying its smoldering remains in sand, and wandered up into a ravine where a trail took them up the cliff side. So there was a way to Deadmans cove besides the ocean. I would have to scope out that trail when I got a chance. Maybe the abalone thief used it to get to the beach.

Since the strange cultists, or whatever they were, had not waded out into the ocean or given any sign of abalone poaching, I paid them no real mind -live and let live, right? Just a bunch of kooks getting weird. I had often heard that Humboldt County was a weird place and that Southern Humboldt even weirder. I waited all day on the beach for any sign of poachers, eating trail mix and dried fruit, but saw nothing.

When the sun set and the sky began to grow dark I packed up my tent and went and retrieved my kayak. I had been on the beach for over twenty four hours and had seen no sign of the abalone thief. I pushed my kayak out into the surf, jumped in, and paddled back around the point.

That night, even though I was exhausted from my little expedition, I was restless and unable to sleep, tossing and turning in my bed. I went outside onto the cliff edge to smoke a joint and drink a beer to calm my nerves. A slight breeze stirred the leaves of the manzanita and dune tansy that lined the cliff edge, the salty smell of the sea heavy in the air.

It was then I noticed that from up here I could just make out a fire burning on Deadmans below me, tiny silhouettes of circling acolytes around it. I could even make out the torch bearers that encircled the group. They were back, the local weirdos. Probably just a bunch of Goth or metal kids who listened to too much Marilyn Manson. The beer and pot were doing their trick and I yawned, feeling exhaustion take over.

That night I had the first of the dreams.

I dreamed I was in the ocean, deep underwater, beneath the waves, examining the abalone. I ran my finger over their hard outer shell imagining their fimbriated head lobes, their columellar muscle. It was breeding time and I could see their respiratory apertures venting eggs and sperm into the ocean’s water column.

I had no scuba gear. I didn’t need it. It felt as if I had some sort of gills, for I could feel the salty water swooshing in and out of me as it churned, cold and green. Full of fascination I studied the formations of rock and shell as a hand, almost human, crept over the craggy shelf. It was covered in pale, green scales and the tips of the fingers ended in black claws. It reached out and took hold of a Haliotis rufescens’s blood red shell and slowly peeled it off the rock, the slime trail the sea snail uses to locomote leaving a viscous, oozing stain.

I gazed in wonder as a humanoid head then rose up over the rocky ledge. A face with the features of a fish: gills, small holes where the nose should be, massive black, empty eyes. I stared on as the creature put the abalone to its mouth and with fanged teeth pulled the sea snail slowly out of its shell and began chomping on it, swallowing it in quick, eager gulps. When it was done it extended a long, thin, black tongue, forked like the tongue of a snake, and licked the empty shell clean.

So this is the abalone thief, I thought to myself, with the calm and calculating mind of a scientist, without any fear whatsoever.

Then I saw, out in the murky distance of the ocean floor, more. There were more of them, hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands of them. An army of these scaled sea creatures, feeding on the abalone; I realized that they were gaining sustenance to strengthen themselves. They were preparing for something.

This army of creatures was readying themselves for the coming of a being greater than that that has ever roamed this earth. They awaited a great awakening. And in a massive epiphany, I realized the importance of their mission, and that I was needed; I must join them, lend my psychic support, and then I realized what the cult on the beach was doing, what their goal was. Then I looked down at my hands and realized that my hands, too, were webbed and covered in scales. I was one of them.

I awoke bathed in sweat, shivering, unable to dislodge the strange dream from my mind.

The dream was bizarre. Silly. Obviously it had no bearing on reality. Sea creatures poaching the abalone? But something within me felt different. I felt very unscientific. For the first time in my life I felt an inexplicable spirituality: a desire to worship a higher being, a higher power. I also felt very, very scared, though I couldn’t say why.

The next day I searched for the path that lead to Deadmans. I realized that from my cabin, I could walk along the cliff edge, between the clumps of coyote bush and dune tansy, down a hill into a gully that eventually formed into a steep, rocky ravine. Following this ravine down into a small valley I found the trail. Nothing more than a deer or elk path, really.

On an impulse I decided to stake it out that night. To watch and see if that strange group appeared again. Just to check them out, for curiosity sake, and see what they were up to. If I could identify any of them maybe I could question them about the abalone thief. See if they had any good intel on boats or strangers coming or going from the beach.

That night, sure enough, as I crept down to the ravine, I could see the fire burning on the beach below. I positioned myself off the trail and above the cove, just close enough to see the beach fairly well with my binoculars. I crouched down and put the binoculars to my eyes.

I could see that they were holding hands around the fire again, slowly rotating, most likely chanting the strange mumbo-jumbo I had heard last night. I tried to make out their faces to see if I could catch anyone I recognized, but their hoods obscured them and all I could see were dark shadows where their faces should be.

I scanned the gathering with my binoculars and noticed something going on off to the side, some sort of commotion against the cliff wall. Two hooded figures were holding a struggling figure by its arms. I focused my binoculars and what I saw made my mouth go dry and my gut clench. It was Suzy. They were holding little Suzy and she was naked. Naked and struggling. This couldn’t be.

Then, as I watched helplessly above, they pulled her forward to the fire. It took four of those cloaked maniacs to hold the squirming girl down, as another, this one’s robes a crimson red, raised what must have been a knife above her, for it glinted in the moonlight, long and pointed.

I froze.

What should I do? What could I do? There had to be at least a dozen of them down there.

Then it all happened so quickly: the knife fell and I thought I could hear that little voice I knew so well cry out in pain and go silent. The crimson robed one hacked into her chest and pulled out a dark object I could only assume was her heart and brought it to his mouth. He then passed it on, little Suzy’s pale, naked body now limp and crumpled on the sand.

I had to do something. I had to call the cops.

I spun around and clawed myself up off the ravine and as I did my foot slipped and I sent a shower of pebbles and dirt down into the mist covered gully. I froze, my mouth dust dry, clinging to the rock face. Had they noticed? With a pounding heart I started back up.

Once I got to the top I sprinted over the bluffs to my Subaru, now out of breath and huffing. Fumbling with the keys I started the engine and sped down the road. I squealed into the parking lot of the Inn of The Lost Coast, leaped out of my car and with sweaty, shaky hands dialed 911 on my iPhone. When I told the operator what had happened and where I was she transferred me to the sheriff.

“Calm down,” he said, “and explain to me again what happened.”

“I saw them kill her,” I said. “Kill her and eat her heart.”


“Suzy Anderson.”

“Suzy Anderson that lives on the corner of Toth and Steel Head with her mother Cathy?”

“Yes, I’m sure it was her. On the beach at Deadmans.”

“You saying she’s been murdered?”


“By a cult in hoods on the beach?”

“Yes. Fuck. They ate her goddamn heart. Are you not listening to me?”

“Okay, Ted, okay. Just calm down. Now, listen, what I want is for you to go on home. I’ll check up on this and stop by after I get it all sorted out.”

“But they killed her.”

“Now, Ted…”


This time firmer: “Now, Ted!”


“Now, no more buts, Ted! You go on home and I’ll see you there. Got it?”

I couldn’t believe how nonchalant the Sheriff was being but what could I do? I would just have to do what he said: go back to my cabin and wait for him.

“Well, okay,” I said and I heard the line go silent. I stared down at the black device in my hand, knowing if I left this one small spot of land it would be rendered useless. I would be cut off from the rest of the world. Alone. But what could I do? He was the sheriff. Even if he was an overweight, pot head, he was the sheriff, and I had no choice but to listen to him.

So I drove back to my cabin and waited. I looked out over the cliff face but I couldn’t see the fire burning anymore. I drank a beer, tried to go over my data, but I was too shaken up. My hands shook so bad I couldn’t even manage to type numbers into the keyboard of my laptop.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door that startled the living shit out of me. Shook me to the bone. Wishing I had just hightailed it out of there earlier, driven away down that long winding road that was the only way in or out, never to come back, I crept up to the door and cautiously pulled the curtain of the window back. Peeking out the window I saw the Sheriff standing at my doorstep with Suzy’s mother Cathy and a little girl.

I tentatively pulled the door open.

“This the girl you saw murdered?” the sheriff immediately barked at me.

I gazed at the little girl before me, a girl the same age and height as Suzy, with similar hair, but definitely not Suzy.

“No. This isn’t her. I said Suzy Anderson.”

The little girl looked up at Suzy’s mother. “What’s he talking about, Mama?”

“This is Suzy Anderson,” the sheriff grumbled. “And this is her mother. Known both of ‘em my whole goddamn life. Now what the hell is going on around here?”

“No. It’s not. That is not Suzy. I saw them kill her!” I shouted. Somebody had to fucking believe me. I gazed up to Suzy’s mother who looked at me like I was crazy and clutched the little girl to her.

“Momma, Ted is scaring me!”

“Okay, you two go wait in the car,” the sheriff mumbled, waving Suzy’s mother and the little girl along.

He then put one of his big, beefy hands on my shoulder and pushed me into the cabin.

“Listen, mister, you’re scaring that little girl half to death and you need to tell me what the fuck is going on.” He spoke into my ear and his breath was hot on my face. “You on drugs? Doing a little meth to stay up all night and do your research?”

He gazed suspiciously around the room, the specimen jars full of bugs and mullosks, the beakers of sea water samples and glass slides. “Do I gotta go get a warrant from my old buddy Judge Johnson and come back here and search this place?”

“Am I on drugs?” I shouted. “Me? I saw you smoking a joint at that party!”

He laughed a hearty laugh and grinned a big shit eating smile. “Hell, son, that’s for my glaucoma. I’ve had medical marijuana for over fifteen years. Was one of the first people in the cove to get it. Everyone knows that.”

I was starting to feel dizzy, the room was beginning to slowly rotate.

“You alright, son? You don’t look so good.”

“But the fire on the beach. Did you check out the fire?”

“Yeah, I went down there. Looks like a bunch of kids was having a party, left fucking beer cans everywhere. But they’re gone now.”

“You went down? How?”

“How do you think? I walked.”

“You know about the secret trail?”

“Secret trail? Damn, you’re a dumb one, ain’t ‘ya? That fucking trail ain’t secret. Everybody knows about that fucking trail.”

I staggered back. The sheriff pulled out a chair and pushed me heavily into it.

“I saw it. I saw them kill her. Kill her and eat her heart.”

“You didn’t see nothing, son. Sometimes the light of the moon reflecting off the water, the sound and rhythm of the ocean, they can play tricks on your mind. Trust me, I’ve seen many a good man go a little crazy out here. Shelter Cove is known to have its share of crazies and they didn’t all start out that way.”

I sunk my face into my hands and shook my head.

“But, I… but, I…”

He put his big mitt of a hand on my back in a tender way, gave me a pat. “Tell you what, son. You get some rest. Sleep on it. I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon and we’ll talk again. Even take a little walk down to that beach. I’d like a walk with a scientist guy like you, maybe you can tell me what some of that weird looking shit in the tide pools is.”

How I fell asleep that night I don’t know. It was as if I had been drugged. I drank half a beer and a great lethargy fell over me and I stumbled to the bed with my eyes heavy and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

That night the final dream came to me and I had the great realization. I was in the ocean, with all the other deep ones; the cool salty water swooshing in and out of our gills, the light of the moon sending out great shafts of pale light through the deep, murky water. Of course we were harvesting abalone. Eating some for our own strength, bringing back armfuls of others for the great one who slept out in the ocean depths: the dark lord who was awakening and who would soon rise in a fury of black leathery wings and tentacles.

The next day the sheriff arrived at my house as he said he would. He brought with him a box. I opened it to find a large, black, hooded cloak. I slipped the cloak over my head, pulled up the hood, and together we walked down to the beach to start the fire and await the arrival of the others.

Credit To – Humboldt Lycanthrope

Looks Like We Got a Live One Here, Boys

April 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Yarrow was in the garden planting garlic with her seven year old daughter Sophia when the old man appeared, ranting and raving, screaming bizarre premonitions and strange warnings, scaring the living shit out of both of them.

It was winter in Humboldt County, California, but it was one of those rare days when it was not pouring rain, when the sun managed to shine down and warm the earth for just a moment before it sunk beneath the towering Douglas firs and sequoias.

Yarrow was kneeling in the garden, her knees sunk into the damp, black earth, her long chestnut brown dreadlocks falling in a ring about her, as Sophia, her round little face etched in concentration, reached into a small woven basket and pulled out a clove of garlic, handing it to her mother.

“Are fairies real, mama?” Sophia asked as Yarrow pressed the clove into the dark, crumbly soil and reached up for another.

Yarrow laughed softly to herself.

“It’s not funny, Mama. Are fairies real or not?”

“Well, some people believe you can only see them if you believe in them, sweetie.”

“Well, I know the tooth fairy’s not real because I saw you put that dollar underneath my pillow.”

Yarrow chuckled as she sunk another clove into the ground, Sophia was growing up so fast.

Neither of them had noticed the old man approach, not until his shadow had fallen over them. At first Yarrow just thought it was Calendula, coming down from the cabin where he had been wiring some battered old solar panels he had managed to round up, and she smiled.

But when she looked up at the figure that loomed over them what she saw was the old man. He was dressed in a pair of dirty old overalls and his bloodshot eyes bulged out from beneath a battered John Deere hat, a long drop of tobacco stained drool dripping from his mouth.

“You all people gots to get!” he hollered with a shower of spittle, bending down close so that Yarrow could see that the whites of his eyes were jaundiced and yellow behind the maze of red veins. “You knows where you are? You got any idea what’s out there in them damn woods? They’re breeding them fucking things out there, for god’s sake! You don’t get out you gonna die! You’re all gonna die!”

The old man startled little Sophia so badly that she screamed and dropped her basket of garlic. Yarrow quickly scrambled to her feet, pulling the little girl protectively behind her and backed away from the old man who came at her waving his arms maniacally, stepping all over the garlic they had just planted.

“It’s a curse, that’s what it is! The injuns bred ‘em back in the old days and now they’re back. They’ll use ‘em on you, girl. Use ‘em to get back the land they lost. They’ll use ‘em on you and that’s no joke. For god’s sake, they’re breeding those damn things up there!”

“What are you doing here!” Yarrow screamed at him. “Get away from us!”

The old man looked around for a moment, startled. Then he spit a wad of tobacco juice onto the ground and started ranting again, this time a little calmer, but still not making any sense.

“You got nothing to fear from me, little missy. I ain’t gonna hurt you. I’m just here to warn you. It’s them damn things out in the woods you got to worry about. I’m telling you they are breeding them things! You all gots to get away. Now, while you still can!”

Calendula, having heard the commotion from all the way up at the cabin, came sprinting down the hill and burst into the garden, out of breath, his stubby blonde dreadlocks bobbing, his face screwed up into a grimace of concern. Althea, their golden retriever, raced along beside him, barking like mad.

“What the hell’s going on?”

The old man turned towards him. “You all got to get! Get while you still can!”

“No,” Calendula screamed, storming over. “You got to get! This is our land now and you’re on private property! Now get the hell out of here before I go and get my fucking shotgun!”

Althea danced around the old man’s feet, barking. When the old man went to swat at her she squatted down on her hind legs, bared her teeth and growled.

“I said, get the fuck out of here!” Calendula yelled as the old man kicked at the dog.

“I’m a going. I’m a going. Just keep that damn dog the hell away from me. I’m only here to warn you, but you stupid kids are obviously too damn dumb to listen.”

The old man stomped out of the garden and down the trail to the road, mumbling to himself loudly.

Calendula looked up at Yarrow who clutched Sophia to her.

“What was that all about?” he asked.

“Just a nice neighborly visit, I guess,” she said, and burst into laughter. “Well, I guess that’s one of the crazy redneck neighbors the real estate agent warned us about.”

Calendula shook his head and started laughing along with her.

“What did he say to you?” Calendula asked, running his hand through his beard.

“He said, They are breeding those things out there.”

“What did he mean?”

“I don’t know. He’s obviously crazy. It was scary but I think he’s harmless.”

“I told you we needed a shotgun.”

“Oh, Calendula, we don’t need a shotgun. You said you were getting that thing for the bears anyway, not crazy old men.”

“Whatever it takes to protect my girls,” he said with a big grin and sauntered over and wrapped his arms around his wife and child, his little family. He squeezed them and held them close, kissed his wife’s face, the smell of her hair and sweat flooding his senses.

“What’s a redneck?” Sophia asked, and they all burst into laughter.

They had managed to buy this forty acres of rugged, forest covered hills four months ago with an inheritance Yarrow had received from her Aunt Sophia, whom they had named their daughter after.

Sophia was Yarrow’s favorite aunt and Yarrow had held her hand and watched her wither away to nothing on that dingy hospital bed in Sacramento, listening patiently as she rambled on- why do you do that to your hair? You had such pretty hair. Why do you call yourself that silly name? Your name is Megan, a beautiful name. That was your grandmother’s name.

I know, Aunty, she had spoken softly back, Yarrow is only my forest name- you can call me Megan. She had whispered in her ear, trying not to notice how skinny her dear Aunt had become, how much hair she had lost, please, call me Megan.

It was a terribly hard time for Yarrow. Sophia had been like a mother to her, but now, at least, she had something beautiful to hold on to- she had this land- and they were going to make it a paradise.

Yarrow and Calendula were both certified permaculture designers and they had quickly set out to turn the forty acre hillside into an organic farm.

The plan was to eventually get some goats which they would then use to clear sections of land for gardens of lavender, Echinacea, chamomile, lemon balm and mint. Medicinal herbs that didn’t need irrigation and were deer resistant. With the goat milk they would make cheese and soap to sell at the farmer’s market. They wanted to dig a pond for water storage and raise up some Cray fish and tilapia in it, get a couple of ducks gracing its surface to provide meat and eggs. They would run their gray water through a marsh of edible cat tails. Turn the rundown little cabin, just a hunting shack really, into a functioning ecological green home with solar panels and micro-hydro, an attached, south facing cold frame to heat their house in the winter and sprout their vegetable seeds in in the spring.

It would be a paradise, a dream, a utopia; but, it was a lot of hard work. More than they had ever anticipated, and for the moment most of those projects had fallen by the wayside. They had spent nearly all winter just cutting enough firewood to keep their tiny little cabin warm, getting out when they could, on rare days like this when the sun broke through those seemingly ever present black clouds that filled the sky, to plant Jerusalem artichokes, fava beans, kale and onions.

But Calendula had built his chicken coop/greenhouse and packed it with a dozen Rhode Island reds. It was his pride and joy and a symbol to him of the permaculture ethic of capturing and recycling energies in a circular pattern: the chickens heated the greenhouse and supplied it with manure for fertilizer, and the greenhouse provided fresh greens, chard and kale, for the chickens to eat. A symbiotic relationship.

Just this week the chickens had finally started to lay eggs and he was ecstatic. Now he was planning on letting the really broody one (he called her Bonny), the one who pecked at him when he tried to reach into her nest and pluck an egg up from under her, hatch her brood. Things were working on this little dream of a farm, even if it was going slow.

So far, he’d only had one real problem, when some chickens had squeezed through the chicken wire that separated them from the plants and had demolished the kale and about 20 tiny marijuana starts they had hoped to grow and make a few bucks off of in the fall. But one little set back when you sit on the doorstep of a utopia is nothing.

They awoke at dawn the next morning, Sophia somehow ending up in their bed sometime in the middle of the night. After they drank their coffee, ate their eggs, and smoked a big fat joint, Yarrow and Calendula went down the hill to the garden, Sophia between them, holding on to their hands and swinging.

“Oh, no,” Calendula muttered as he turned the corner. The chicken coop was destroyed: lumber and chicken wire strewn across the garden, chicken carcasses scattered about, mauled and ripped up. Clumps of bloody feathers lay everywhere amongst the debris of the greenhouse: limp kale and chard starts, their white roots exposed to the air.

“Damn it. Damn it. What the fuck!” Calendula shouted, stomping about, kicking the scattered boards, searching amongst the debris for maybe one living chicken- let it be Bonny.

“Calm down, Calendula,” Yarrow hissed, scooping Sophia up into her arms. “You’re scaring Sophia.” She soothed the little girl, stroking her hair and whispering. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“But our chickens, Momma. The poor little chickens.”

“Oh, sweetie, it’s okay. That’s just life on a farm. We’ll get new chickens.”

Calendula picked up a two by four that had been snapped in half. “What could have done this?”

“Some kind of animal. A bear?”

“Yeah, maybe. But I didn’t even hear Althea barking, she usually doesn’t let any animals near here. Where is…” he circled around the devastated chicken coop and saw the dog. She lay on her back amongst a clump of chicken wire and greenhouse plastic, her belly ripped open and her guts spilled out.

Calendula gripped himself, fighting back a flood of rising tears and bile.

“Yarrow, take Sophia up to the cabin. I’ll meet you up there in a while. I got some work to do.”

Yarrow swooped up Sophia, pressed her head against her shoulder, and looked to Calendula, her eyes widening in horror, mouthing the words, “Not Althea?”

Calendula nodded grimly back at her.

As Yarrow shuffled away back to the cabin, Calendula got a shovel and started digging a grave.

He pulled the old dog by its hind legs to the pit, real tears now coursing down his cheeks. Althea was ten years old; he’d had her before he’d even met Yarrow, before Sophia had been born. Now she was gone. He dumped the old dog’s body into the pit, flinching at the thump that the body made when it hit the bottom, and slowly started filling the hole with dirt as the shadows grew long and darkness fell. A thick fog leaked out from the forest and the land grew cold; he could see his breath as he headed back up to the cabin.

As he reached the summit of the hill that his little cabin sat perched on, he thought he caught something move from the corner of his eye. Something tall, dark and ape like, swinging long arms as it sunk into the woods. But when he blinked it was gone and there was nothing there but trees and shadows. Had he seen something? No. Just paranoid. He was just being paranoid.

They ate dinner in near silence that night. Yarrow tried to make conversation, saying how now they could get some runner ducks and finally try experimenting with bogs like they’d always wanted to. Calendula smiled and said how great that’d be. But a melancholy mood hung heavy in the dim light of the small cabin, the fire crackling in their little, black woodstove and throwing strange orange shadows against the walls. Luckily Sophia was tired and fell right asleep, Yarrow sitting beside her, stroking her long dark hair for a long time while Calendula sat alone in the dark, thinking of his old dog and, with tears in his eyes, listening to the sound of rain on the roof.

Yarrow finally came out from Sophia’s little bedroom, sat beside her husband and ran her hands through his short, blonde dreadlocks.

“It will be alright, sweetie,” she said.

“I know it will, honey. I know it.”

They kissed briefly, then sat back and drank organic pinot noir out of mason jars till their heads spun. Their mouths were stained dark and purple and they stared in silence at the rain splashing down against the window. Then they stumbled to their little bed and passed out.

At first he thought it was an earthquake.

The cabin shook violently as the scream like sound of wood splintering filled the small space. His head pounding with an early hangover, Calendula leapt out of bed and ran to the kitchen as their small propane refrigerator went crashing against the wall. The rain had stopped, the clouds blown away, and the full moon shone its light into the rustic kitchen, illuminating it perfectly.

What Calendula saw froze him in his tracks. His mouth went dry and cold as all the blood drained from his face. There, bending over the sprawled refrigerator, picking through the tofu and tempeh, was a huge, fur covered creature. It was not a bear. It had a tall forehead, and a hairless face. The creature looked up at him and roared, its mouth unbelievably huge and filled with glistening, square teeth.

“Momma!” Sophia cried out from her tiny bedroom.

“My baby!” Yarrow hollered, pushing Calendula aside and darting into Sophia’s room.

The monstrous creature leapt over the refrigerator and Calendula had just enough time to think to himself, the shotgun is under the bed and the shells are in the closet (Yarrow refused to allow him to keep a loaded gun around) when the beast gripped his shoulders in its massive, ape like hands and pulled him forward, sinking its teeth into Calendula’s neck. It pulled its giant head back, the torn jugular vein in Calendula’s neck releasing a shower of black blood that rained down over the kitchen. The creature then grabbed Calendula by the face and with a quick tug snapped his spinal cord and ripped his head completely off his shoulders. Howling an awful, bestial scream, the creature violently threw Calendula’s head into one corner of the tiny cabin and his decapitated body into another.

Yarrow screamed and the monster turned toward her, howling.

“Stay away from my baby!” she hollered, and the huge beast grabbed her by one arm and began pounding her against the wall. It beat her against the wall even after her screams had stopped and her body went limp, violently thrashing her until her arm dislodged and her body fell down, crumpled on the cabin floor.

The creature stared curiously at the severed arm, lifting it up and down so that Yarrow’s hand flip-flopped back and forth, when suddenly flash light beams and voices filled the room.

“Well, goddamn it. Just look at this fucking mess. I told you to double check the goddamn lock on that cage!”

“Sorry, Pa, sorry.”

A big man wearing a Caterpillar cap and a tan Carhart jacket, a thick coil of rope hanging over one shoulder, stomped through the door. “Just look at this god awful mess.” The big man stepped up to the creature. “What the fuck you think you’re doing?” he shouted at the beast. “Look what you did!”

The creature looked sheepishly down at its feet.

“Bad!” the man yelled. “Bad! Bad, boy!” and he began beating at the now whimpering and huddled creature. He pulled the coil of rope off his shoulder and looped it around the creature’s neck, handing the line to the teenage boy behind him.

“Now, Joey, get this damn varmint loaded up in the truck.”

As the creature meekly scurried past him, head hung down, the man kicked it hard on the rear. “Goddamn stupid fucking Sasquatches.”

He then started peering around the room with his flashlight. “What a mess,” he muttered under his breath. “What a goddamn mess.”

He stepped into Sophia’s room and shined his light under the bed.

“Well, looks like we got a live one here, boys!” He reached under the bed with his huge mitt of a hand and grabbed Sophia who began screaming and thrashing.

“Grand pop, bring me that burlap sack!” the big man screamed as he pulled the kicking, struggling little girl from under the bed. “Damn, ain’t she a feisty one,” he grumbled as he hit her solidly over the head with his flashlight and she went limp in his arms.

The old man came shuffling into the room with a large, burlap sack in his arms, mumbling, “I tried to tell ‘em. Get going, I said. Did they listen? Do they ever fucking listen to an old man like me? No. Never. Goddamn stupid fucking kids.”

“Give me that,” the big man scowled, roughly pulling the sack from the old man’s hands. “Go wait in the truck, Grandpa.”

The old man shuffled away, mumbling incoherently.

The big man bent down and scooped the little girl up into the sack.

When Sophia awoke she was in a cage, laying on a mound of filthy straw. Her head ached terribly. She gazed hazily about, her eyes blurry and crossed. All around her were cages similar to her own. In each was a large, hairy creature with a bald face. In the cage immediately next to hers, a creature cradled a tiny, fur covered infant to her sagging, hair covered tit. The baby looked over its shoulder at Sophia with big, white rimmed eyes as it suckled noisily, a thin trickle of milk running down its lips and into the downy fur of its chin.

“Awake, huh? Are ‘ya hungry?” the big man asked as he strolled over with a bowl of slop in his hands. He slid the bowl into the cage. Behind him was an old, hunched over woman and a young girl not much older than Sophia dressed in a ragged princess dress with a sparkling tiara perched atop her head.

“Well, look at her,” the old woman cooed, poking Sophia through the bars with her finger. “Ain’t she just adorable.”

“Can we keep her, Daddy? Can we?” the little girl pleaded.

“Well, I suppose, if you promise to feed her and clean her cage you can keep her,” the big man said.

“Oh, I promise,” said the little girl. “I promise.”

Credit To – Humboldt Lycanthrope


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