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Black Ibis



Estimated reading time — 21 minutes

I have been a hunter since a very young age. A wanderer of the silent woods, a stalker of the croaking marshes, a drifter of the sighing deserts. My father was a hunter as was his father. I would say it runs in our blood, but I think it runs through all of us, some have just let it crawl into the darkest corner of themselves where it sits and longs for the feeling of dirt and wind and snow. It’s the primal part of us that exists despite the 9 to 5 slog, the grocery stores we patronize, and the concrete forests we call home. We make enough money to provide for our family and to send the kids to football practice.

But something has been lost. We long for a struggle that tests our fortitude. The rewards of the endeavor are redemptive, yet like a rat in a trap, people don’t know how to release themselves and be truly free. The shackles of modern living are strong, but there is a key. Stepping outside the safety and security we understand and challenging the natural world that we lost acquaintance with so long ago.

I am grateful for my father who introduced me to the harsh beauty of the world. It made me strong, self-reliant, liberated, enlightened. I remember walking through the corn fields of South Dakota with him, dry corn stalks whipping across my face, squinting against the lashing onslaught. We were hunting pheasants and I wasn’t old enough to hunt yet. I could barely see over the tops of the stalks. The hunters walked 10 yards apart down the corn rows, pushing the pheasant out in front of them. The bitter wind howled in an attempt to mask the explosion of wings and the pheasant took flight. They erupted seemingly from nowhere.

It was always in that moment of flight when they were backlit against the feeble sun where everything ceased to exist. Life’s greatest and most troubling questions were brushed from my mind as the pheasant burst forth from the earth. The males streaming tail feathers and colorful plumage popped in contrast to the grey sky. I swear I could even see the yellow iris and pupil that seemed fixed on me alone. If the call of, “Rooster!” from a nearby hunter didn’t slam me back to earth, the crack of the shotgun would. In another moment of time as frozen as the landscape around me, the bird’s upward momentum halted, and the bird fell, the corn stalks reclaiming what they had lost to the sky. My brain once again registered my surroundings and I cheered with those around me and the hunter picked up the bird. For one last moment the yellow iris stared at me before disappearing into a game bag, taken from the land.

I learned a lot from my father about hunting. He taught me about animal behavior, tracking, the weather, and terrain. The more you understand an animal, the more successful the hunt.

In southern California, we hunted quail in cold woods where we yearned for the sun to break over the tops of mountains that were black like pitch. As we walked through the dry grass, I was self conscious of the crunch of vegetation under my feet and the snap of branches that cut through the air. The air itself seemed disapproving of the blundering noise we created.

As we walked, we would occasionally stop and listen for their distinctive call that would guide us to them. Silence was their savior and their calls were a beacon to us. We would share a glance and eagerly quicken our pace to catch our quarry and just where we expected them to be, they materialized, their camouflage so complex that it was as if the ground itself was fragmenting and scattering in every direction.

As we pursued them, my father would hold out a hand and I would stop. The silence was so complete that I would breathe through my mouth to avoid the chill air whistling through my nostrils. My heart skipped when a quail flew from a bush and beelined for safety and as I struggled with my cold wooden thumb to get my safety off, my father had dropped the quail with a single shot. The silence, punctuated by the shotgun blast, was replaced by the ringing in my ears. As he retrieved the bird, I asked him what he had stopped me for. He said that the silence and unknown bring more fear than what is seen and heard. The brain can process a direction to flee when danger presents itself. But when the danger is unseen and unheard, it creates a panic. This panic drives the bird to flight when its camouflage would easily conceal its presence from us.

As hunters, we are always trying to exploit a weakness in our prey, leveraging their natural instincts such as the drive to eat, drink, and mate to our advantage. When hunting predators such as coyotes, the sound of a dying rabbit playing over a speaker was irresistible to them. To add to the illusion, we would place a mechanical box in the middle of a field with a wire running from it to a furry object with a tail. The mechanical box had a motor that would whip the wire from side to side giving the appearance that a panicked furry creature was injured and thrashing around. The screams and thrashing brought out a compulsion that the coyote could not suppress. Coyotes would come running towards the decoy at a dead sprint and by the time they realized what had happened, it was too late. A .223 varmint round put them down quick.

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We used calls for other animals too. From the massive moose that glided through the snow and trees like wraiths, to the ducks that dove from the sky to land on misty ponds. But calling isn’t as easy as blowing on an instrument. There is technique required, utilizing a specific pitch, pattern, or sound in order to create the desired effect. Every call meant something different from feeding, mating, fighting, and warning. If the wrong call was used at the wrong time or with an improper technique, it could spook the prey. There were many times where I attempted to call an animal only to have it turn tail and flee in the opposite direction of me. An effective call could mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful hunt.

Every game animal required a different set of skills and techniques in order to successfully hunt them. Part of the thrill of hunting is becoming a master of every style and the continual process of self improvement.

What I hunt varies from year to year. Depending on how busy I am during the season, I can sometimes travel out of state but often due to work, I stay local and hunt within a few hours of my house. It was early on in the duck season and I had gone to a local honey hole that many people were not aware of. I rarely saw other hunters in this area so it was a good opportunity for me to walk through the marsh and by the river in silence and solitude. On this particular morning, I pulled up to the dirt patch on the side of the road where I parked my truck and shut off the engine. I got out and was greeted by a chill moist air. I was within a couple miles of the ocean so the air was always somewhat damp and salty. The river and marsh were briney and the level of the water was impacted by the tides as they rose and fell.

I shut the door, leaving the warm truck cab behind me. I started to walk down the dirt path that paralleled the marsh and river. I enjoyed the walk. Even in the off season, I would come here and walk to enjoy the cool air, the smell of salt, the cry of the local fauna, and the rising of the sun that brought the promise of a new day. Even on a slow hunting day, there was still a lot to enjoy.

There was a kingfisher that would perch high in the trees, his bright blue body like an orb of water pulled from the river, purified of mud and silt. The sentry scanned the water with his keen eyesight. Then, when he spotted his prey, he dove from the tree, tucking his wings to his side as he pierced the surface of the water. He would emerge with a sprinkling of water that was caught by the weak dawn light. Shimmering like the scattered drops of water was the small fish that was speared upon his pointed beak. He would return to his branch to consume his meal.

There were ospreys that dove for fish in the river as well. Gulls and cormorants began their exodus from the coast to inland waters to feed. Vultures like torn black rags circled above. I even saw a seal swimming down the river presumably heading back to the sea.

A stoic great blue heron stood in the middle of the river, absolutely motionless. The slender bird deftly maneuvered his way through the muck and reeds with his skeletal legs, head bobbing and cocked to gaze into the water. I observed the lord of the river, his stature creating a commanding presence. As I approached, the stilt walker clumsily took to the air with a croak that belied his majesty.

I continued my walk. I looked down at my gun. It was a 12 gauge under over Browning. No polymer like the newer shotguns, just wood and metal with intricate engravings in the metal. I broke open the barrel and inserted two 3” shells, snapping it shut.

The sky was lightening and I gazed downriver. It was hard to tell due to the light, but there seemed to be some ducks out on the water about 100 yards from me. I crouched down and slowly moved towards the bobbing black blobs on the surface of the river. I used the bushes to my advantage as I stalked closer. When I thought I was close enough, I burst forth from the bushes and my quarry took flight. A quick evaluation of the flight pattern and body structure told me it was a duck. I raised my firearm, looked down the length of the barrel and led the flying bird with the bead. I made sure to smoothly track the bird, took a deep breath, squeezed the trigger, and continued to follow through after the shot.

The duck’s wings promptly folded and it plummeted to the water. I ejected the spent shell and gunsmoke filled the air and my nostrils. I was wearing chest high waders so that I could remain dry while retrieving the ducks from the water. The first couple feet were always the worst. The mud would sink me up to my knees for the first few steps, threatening to apprehend me. But once in the deeper water, the river bottom became firm. I reached my prize and picked it up from the water. I gasped.

It was one of the most beautiful ducks I have ever seen. The majority of the front of its body and chest were covered in white plumage. It had a shiny black stripe that started at the base of its neck and traveled to the tip of its tail. But what was most beautiful was its head. Towards the top of its head was a white spot like a cotton ball. At first, I thought the area of the head surrounding the white spot was black. Upon further inspection, I realized that as the rising sun struck the feathers, they turned an iridescent purple and green. I pondered the implications of this color scheme and wondered about its evolutionary benefit in the continual survival and propagation of the species, and then I realized that it didn’t matter. Reducing the beauty of this creature to blind evolution seemed to be a disservice to its creation. It was a masterpiece that I could not take for granted.

I decided to call it early and placed the warm body inside my vest as I made the walk back to my truck.

I got home 20 minutes later and my grandpa greeted me as I came through the front door. My grandfather had been a hunter too, that is, until he had his stroke 15 years ago. He had a hard time getting around and so he had been giving away his hunting rifles and shotguns over the years. He was 80 now, and when it rains, it pours. He had many health issues and he had moved back with my parents so that they could help take care of him as it became increasingly more difficult for him to take care of himself. But despite his circumstances in life, he was a man of faith and I admired him so much for that. I attempted to live with the same faith that brought him peace and joy even as his health faded. He saw everything as a blessing, even the tragedies. He saw beauty everywhere.

That’s when he noticed the duck. He couldn’t see very well so he asked me to bring it closer to him. I approached his wheelchair and held the duck up closer for him to see. He peered through his enormously thick glasses at it and stared for a moment. Then he looked up at me and said it was the most beautiful black and white duck he had ever seen. He told me I should take the duck to a taxidermist to immortalize its beauty. I told him that I would.

He passed away two weeks later.

While his death was tragic, we were able to reflect on our fond memories of him, especially the last couple of months that he was with us. Everyone said what needed to be said, he made amends, he found peace, and he saw the beauty in life.

Winter’s grasp was creeping across the land and for me, that meant the hunting season was almost over. I thought I would get my mind off things and go for an impromptu hunt for dove out in the desert. I woke up early, around 4:30, on a Saturday morning and started my two hour drive towards Bakersfield. I loved early morning drives by myself. I would usually throw on a podcast, listen to some ‘70s rock, and cruise in the slow lane. I always loved the journey. I started to head down the winding grade and in another hour, I was in Bakersfield as the horizon turned a dusky blue. I turned off the highway and drove through the town until the buildings became fewer and the agricultural fields dominated the land. There were groves of almond trees in this area and dove typically used these fields as flyways. Even before I made it to my destination, I saw the flitty flight pattern of mourning doves, their dark silhouettes becoming visible.

I reached the end of the dirt road and slowly came to a stop. I turned off the engine and the radio followed. I got out and for a few moments just stood and admired the stillness. Soft birdsong came from the grove of trees, the dusty air stank of agriculture, making me realize how far from home I was.

I decided to set my chair up on the edge of the treeline with my cooler of water, Gatorade, and a gas station cold cut. Now all I had to do was take it in and relax. Oh, and also be ready to draw on the drop of a hat if a dove flew by. I settled into a more comfortable position in my chair and watched the skies for some time.

The next moment, I awoke with a start. The shotgun in my lap fumbled and I almost pitched forward out of the folding chair. I let out a strangled yell at the sudden awakening when I hadn’t even realized that I had fallen asleep. I took a deep breath and mentally shook it off as my heart rate lowered and my breathing returned to normal. I looked around me. Still no dove flew over the trees. For that matter, nothing was moving. The soft birdsong I had heard earlier had ceased. For a moment, I thought the peace had been shattered by my violent awakening and that’s why the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. But…something persisted. The adrenaline spike should have ebbed by now.

But something lingered. Gut instincts are hard to ignore when you’re alone in the woods. I tried to focus my attention on my senses. I realized that I had been straining to hear. At first, I couldn’t tell whether I was listening for anything at all or whether I was listening for something…and that’s when I heard it. Well, I couldn’t tell what it was yet, but it was certainly a sound. It snaked its way through the grove of trees, slithering across the leaf litter. Despite the now relatively warm air, a chill started at my right ear and traveled down my neck and into my lower back, like someone had whispered in my ear in the dead of night. I looked in the direction that the sound had come from. The trees stood before me. I felt just as rooted as they were. Something kept me from moving forward. My eyes remain fixed on the trees, eyes narrowing. I held my breath, standing on the precipice. Without realizing it, I had taken the first step forward. I moved forward into the silent trees, searching for the source of the sound.

I had been walking for several minutes. This silence was not the type that I sought. The ambient noise I had previously taken for granted was now absent. No birdsong, no drone of insects, nothing. The only sound came from me wading through the loam and leaves. But the sound was muffled, suppressed somehow. The same way that snow absorbs sound and intensifies silence. These trees were suffocating. I got the prickling feeling on the back of my neck again. I whipped around to look over my shoulder back the way I had come. Nothing. As I turned back, I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and I spun my head around to see nothing but the bemused trees.

I looked down at the ground slightly, trying to center myself. I gripped my shotgun tighter and managed to grin grimly. I really had nothing to worry about. I almost laughed. There wasn’t much that would be able to withstand two shotgun blasts, even if it was just birdshot. I looked up again and kept walking. I realized the trees were granting a respite. They were beginning to thin and I felt my tension melt.

Then, through the top of the trees, I saw a flock of birds, the first living thing I’d seen since I had arrived. I only caught a quick glimpse of them, but I wasn’t sure that I recognized the species. Before I could stop myself, I quickened my pace to follow their progress through the trees. Something in the back of my mind whispered to stop but I only increased my pace, stumbling over roots and rocks and I tried to keep the birds in sight. I was now running and I couldn’t pull my gaze away. The trees rushed by me and while my mind was now screaming to slow down, look, and listen, I was hurtling forward in my rabid pursuit. Suddenly, I burst through the edge of the trees and found myself in a clearing. I frantically searched the sky and I saw them.

I realized what they were.

It was a flock of black ibis. I stared in stunned silence. They were circling the clearing and there were hundreds of them. The sight was overwhelming. They beat their wings frantically like their lives depended on it. Their beaks were agape and their throats vibrated at an alarming rate. No other sound filled the clearing except for the beating of their wings. Normally I would admire animals in their natural habitat but something about this was…wrong. I didn’t know what a flock of black ibis could possibly be doing in Bakersfield. Ibis were typically marsh or wading birds and could be found near wetlands. Bakersfield was a damn desert if it weren’t for the irrigation that supported agriculture. Something about them wasn’t right. They were heralds of dread. I felt as if I was about to completely lose my nerve as I stared up at the circling flock, ceaselessly flapping.

That’s when I heard it. And I knew that it was the sound that had awoken me on the edge of the treeline. It was a female voice. A soft, silky, smooth, sensual voice. It creeped across the clearing, coming from the other side. It came in waves, breaking and retreating, crashing and hissing, ebbing and flowing. I couldn’t understand what was being said, but I knew what it meant. The harder I tried to make out the words, the more I let go of the world around me. All that mattered now was the voice. It would ebb, and with each flow I was drawn closer. My mind was adrift and I let it float in warm bliss, floating on a clear, warm sea, waves lapping my body and lulling me into a state of peace. Basking in a green meadow with grass that caressed my face. I was halfway across the clearing, following the voice.

That’s when she appeared from behind a tree. She was a tall woman with milky skin, her voice like honey. She had thick, black hair that billowed despite the lack of wind. She wore a white dress that flowed down to her bare feet. Her body swayed and undulated just like the ebb and flow of her voice. I was mesmerized. I vaguely realized that my gun was back on the other side of the clearing. Her soothing words stopped as did I and we both stood, staring at each other across the space left between us as the ibis circled like fabric of the night stitched to the sky. There was a pause. A serene moment. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She smiled at me with warmth that I felt in my chest and it radiated to the rest of my body. Tears filled my eyes as I stared at this radiant woman as the ibis continued their flight.

The peace was shattered with the crack of a bone. My eyes widened as the woman’s head inclined with a snap and her mouth split in a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Bones cracked in her fingers and toes as her hands and feet lengthened. Her nails grew into thick darkened claws. I was frozen. Her legs lengthened to spindly stilts with backwards facing knees and her arms elongated to her knees. Her previously smooth black hair became matted dead black strands. Her spine popped and protruded through her upper back, forcing her upper body to bend until she was on all fours. Her previously soothing voice was replaced by something that was discordant, high and low pitched at the same time, seemingly moaning, screaming, and growling at the same time. My will left me. The creature continued it’s unsettling vocalization. The ground around it was torn as soil and grass flew from it’s fitful transformation. With a final moan, it finally stopped moving and looked up at me with dark eyes peering through that matted hair.

It grinned.

At that moment it lunged as the ibis squawked above me which tore me from my daze. I dove to the side and as soon as I hit the ground I was up and running, sprinting in the opposite direction. I frantically looked for the shotgun as ibis scattered in every direction, shrieking and flapping. There! I saw it through the flapping of black wings. It was there in the grass. But I had no time to spare, she was unleashing her unearthly call behind me. I sprinted toward the gun and dove toward it as the creature simultaneously lept towards me but sailed overhead as I dove under it. I grabbed the shotgun and took off running through the trees with the creature close behind me. My chest was burning and my breath came in sobs. The creature sounded triumphant as it screamed to the sky. As I ran, I opened the barrels and swore when I realized that there were no shells in the barrels and the ones I had with me had been lost during the chaos. I threw the gun away and sprinted further into the trees.

I tried to put as many trees between myself and the creature as possible to break its line of sight. Its calls became fainter as I found a tree to hide behind and catch my breath. I sat there breathing heavily and suddenly it dawned on me with a sinking dread.

I was the prey.

I felt cold sweat as I heard its distant vocalization.

Prey behavior.

That is what was going to save my life. All my knowledge was going to determine my fate.

Refocusing, I looked behind me and saw that my trail through the trees was pretty clear. I swore silently and saw movement between the trees.

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A glint of black eyes. Pallid skin. A stretched smile.

I ripped my gaze away and found the nearest tree, climbing into it and tearing the skin on my hands as I climbed. I reached the top of the tree, huddling in the foliage. I had to cover my mouth to stifle the sobs and gasps for air.

A couple minutes passed in silence.

Suddenly, I looked up into the branches and saw a dove, the first one that I had seen since this morning. It was huddled as close as it could get to the trunk of the tree and it’s unblinking eyes were fixed somewhere in the direction from which I had come.

I stared at it with dawning realization. I hadn’t seen this dove or any other for that matter as I walked through the trees. Until I came across the ibis. If I couldn’t see the birds in the trees, then maybe this thing wouldn’t see me. I grasped the trunk and held my breath.

That’s when I heard it, shuffling and dragging through the dead leaves and black hair littered with filth. A low, warbling hum was emanating from the creature. It resonated in my chest and I felt that this low frequency sound was going to expose me. The creature continued disjointedly ambling with its head swaying back and forth, searching. I don’t know how much longer I could hold on. Tears were streaming down my face and it was everything I could do to stop myself from crying out or gasping for air. The creature continued this sound and turned its head. It was angled away from me, listening.

I saw the corner of its mouth rise in another horrifying grin.

It moved out of sight.

And then there was silence. The same awful, deathly silence.

The creature was nowhere to be seen. I remembered the quail in those cold woods so many years ago. Their panic was their downfall. But the silence was pressing in. I felt the urge to jump, to flee. Just as I thought I was going to lose my composure and scream, a dove burst from a nearby tree, darting and weaving through the trees. The creature vocalized it’s discordant call and it galloped after the panicked bird.

After the footfalls had faded to silence, I let out a gasp and gulped in air as I shakily wiped the sweat from my face. I began my descent through the branches and looked one more time up at the trembling dove perched in the tree.

I broke my gaze and began my sprint through the trees. Silence but for my racing footsteps through the leaves.

The creature was somewhere in those rows of trees, waiting.

Then I heard it again. That cry.

I picked up my pace as I saw something pale loping through the trees, like a dog running through tall grass.

The sight was enough to break me but adrenaline pushed my body to move as fast as it could. I saw a flash of reflected sunlight through the trees. It was the reflection of a pond. I didn’t know what else to do. I ran straight for the pond, noticing the reeds and heavy brush that sprouted up from the water. I grabbed a handful of brush and covered my tracks the best that I could, shakily brushing the ground. I slipped into the cold water and it clawed at my chest as I gasped. I embedded myself in the thick reeds and sat still, already shivering from fear and the penetrating cold.

The galloping footsteps came closer and the creature appeared at the edge of the pond. It was low to the ground, crawling along the bank. I looked down at my shaking hands and my heart dropped. Blood. I was bleeding from the tree that I had climbed. Without moving my body, my eyes tracked the creature’s movement. It was staring at something on the ground. As I watched in repulsion, a thick, grotesque tongue emerged from its maw and it dragged it across the ground. I closed my eyes and huddled into the reeds. Did it know where I was? Was it toying with me?

I opened my eyes and the creature was gone. For the first time I looked around. Through a gap in the trees I could see my truck! I wanted to make a break for it but I had no idea where the creature was.

That’s when I heard the rustling in the treetops. Between the dark foliage I could see glimpses of that skin like sour milk.

It was stalking me. It knew I was close.

The foliage rustled once more and then it was still.

Minutes passed, and then an hour and the cold water was beginning to take its toll. My muscles ached and I felt drained. There was no denying my situation. The creature knew I was close and it was only a matter of time before it flushed me from hiding.

Then, the voice.

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“Don’t go, my love. We could have so much fun together. I want you. I NEED you.”

I saw a glitter of black eyes like chiseled flint. I clenched my fists and looked towards my truck. If I was going to run, it was going to be on my terms, not when that thing found me.

Then, I heard another voice, a male.

“Hey is someone out there? I saw your truck.”

I jumped with a start and before I could stop my self I broke for the bank and yelled, “Yes I’m here in the…” and I cut myself short as I realized my mistake.

The creature lept silently from a tree and stood at its full, formidable height. I backed away slowly, shaking at the nightmare that stood before me. Without taking its eyes off me, it began to bob and jerk in a mechanical motion. It was moving imperceptibly closer to me all the while swaying, rolling, leaping, and bobbing. I was transfixed by its unnatural movements and I felt like I could neither fight nor run. My limbs refused to obey me as my mind floundered with thoughts, none of which I could focus on.

It got closer yet, still grinning at me with a mouth that seemed to be nothing but sharpened teeth jutting out from stretched lips. It crouched within an arm-length of me and it extended its face toward me from its crouched position. It inhaled deeply through its nostrils and shook slightly as it exhaled with an excited whimper. The eyes rolled back in its head with unrestrained glee. The massive tongue flopped from its maw and it grabbed my bleeding hand with a vice-like grip.

I fell to my knees as it’s grip forced me to the ground. The tongue wrapped around my hand, slurping and lapping at the wound. I couldn’t avert my horrified eyes as it’s breathing grew quicker and heavier. The tongue retracted back almost unwillingly and it refocused on me.

It flung me into the pond with contempt and I hit the water. Before I could orient myself it was upon me and I flailed trying to reach the surface. I opened my eyes underwater and came face to face with it, inches away. It’s hair flowed like a billowing dark cloud. It screamed in my face and bubbles obscured my vision.

With panic filling me I lashed out and caught it in the stomach with one of my flailing feet, pushing it away. I seized the moment to push off from the ground and broke the surface with a gasp. I desperately swam for shore not looking back to see if it was following.

I clambered onto the slick bank and then felt that iron grip clasp my ankle. I looked back and saw it’s head half submerged in water and black hair spread across the surface. The grip clamped harder and blood mixed with the mud and water as claws sank into my flesh. I screamed and blindly lashed out with my free leg trying to dislodge it. It only dug deeper and screamed.

One of my kicks landed and it loosened its grip enough for me to make it onto the muddy bank and slipping and sliding, I made a hobbled sprint for the truck. I gritted my teeth and broke through the tree line.

I reached the truck door and ripped it open as I clambered inside. I slammed the door shut just as the creature burst forth from the trees, loping towards me. I turned the engine over putting the truck in first and dropping the clutch as I shot forward with dust boiling up behind me. It kept pace, lashing out its long arms against the truck until I punched the truck into second gear and sped away, leaving it behind in the dust.

As the dust obscured the creature, I saw the silhouette change to that of a woman. She didn’t move as I lost sight of her in the rearview mirror, now going 60 miles an hour down the dirt road.

After I had put a few miles between myself and the creature, I skidded to a halt, not even bothering to engage the clutch, killing the engine and bringing it to a halt. A mixture of relief, dread, and fear washed over me and my head hit the steering wheel as I sobbed.

I couldn’t process the events and I could do nothing but weep. I didn’t try to understand or make sense of it. I let it wash over me. I sat stunned and shaking as my brain finally realized that I was safe. I looked up toward the horizon with a shaky breath.

I started my truck again and made the journey home, leaving the danger behind, but not the horror that I experienced.

I don’t hunt anymore. The joy and peace I experienced from being in nature was extinguished. My pride I once found in bracing myself against the brutality of the world was dashed and irreclaimable. That part of me was beaten into submission and left to lie in a dark corner of my soul, never again to see the light of day. The beauty I once found now refuted by the monstrosity that lurked in the trees. Everything I thought I knew about the world had been flipped upside down until I didn’t know what to believe. I wrestled with the existence of that creature, I couldn’t believe that such a creature could be created by the same thing that created that black and white duck. The contradiction drove me to madness…no…I was looking at it all wrong. It was always there I just didn’t realize it. Nothing had changed. These circumstances didn’t change the way the world worked, the brutality of it.

I was a monster. I always had been.

But now I know…I am not the only monster that stalks the earth.

Credit : Cory Syverson

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