Has anything ever happened to you that you couldn’t explain? You rationalized, reasoned, and reevaluated, but the mystery remained impenetrable, unassailable.
When it comes to books and movies, I’ve always hated the unexplainable. It always seems like such a cop-out, you know? By refusing to explain the story, you’re putting the responsibility on the audience rather than shouldering it, as the author should.
I held this delusion until I experienced it for myself.
I’m sorry to say, but there is no way I can explain what happened on June 16th, 2002. Over the years, I have revisited the events of that afternoon and each time, I walk away more confused than before. My hope is that someone will read this and relate, maybe someone can tell me what this all means, if it’s not too late.
But even I know that is optimistic. I’m sure this will baffle you all as it has baffled me. But at least I no longer have to bear this fear alone.
I grew up on a farm in southwestern Minnesota. The land was cold, desolate, and flat. But as a child, I didn’t really notice the shortcomings of our little home. Aside from the occasional loneliness of being the youngest by five years in our family, I enjoyed living on the farm. There were plenty of sheds, barns, trees, and hidey-holes to get into and they provided me with hours of entertainment.
But my favorite was when my cousins came over.
They lived north of us in the cities, so they didn’t get to come down very often. But when they did, it was a blast. There were six of them, and paired with the three of us, we got into all sorts of shenanigans… some of which were terribly dangerous. We used to play “the floor is lava,” except the “floor” was located in the tractor shed, and we had to jump between the machinery to avoid it.
Like I said, dangerous.
One of our favorite games was Sight Tag. It’s the same rules as regular tag, but the person who was It didn’t have to actually touch you, they just had to scream your name indicating they had seen you. It was much more of a challenge than normal tag, and we all enjoyed it, even if there were some unfortunate bouts of cheating that eventually ruined the fun.
That particular June, my cousins and I were engaged in an intense game of Sight Tag, and I hadn’t lost yet. I was determined to close out the day without once being It, so I chose one of my favorite hiding places in the tractor shed.
My cousin Jesse and I decided to hide together, being the closest in age and more like sisters than actual cousins. We made our way to the back of the rather expansive building, hiding behind a large John Deere combine.
Now, the shed had a rather special setup for the door. For whatever reason, the door locked from both the inside and the outside – each side of the door had a simple latch, although the door was so old that it could probably be broken down with little effort. The possibility of being locked in the shed was a very real danger – once, my sister was locked inside for so long, she had to crawl through a hole in the wall at the back of the shed.
On that particular afternoon, Jesse and I had tucked ourselves behind the combine and waited for my sister Samantha, who was seeking. Jesse and I remained absolutely silent, breathless in anticipation, waiting for the sound of Sam entering the shed, as we both knew she would.
We didn’t have to wait long. To be honest, I was a little surprised – for whatever reason, nobody really thought to check the shed during Sight Tag, maybe because it was the obvious hiding choice. I began to worry as I heard the door click shut…
And then the distinctive sound of the latch falling, locking the door from the inside.
Jesse gave me a questioning look, understanding implicitly that this hadn’t been how I imagined things going. She and I shrunk closer to the machinery, hoping that my sister would pass by unnoticed.
I strained my ears trying to pick up the sounds of her approach. But what I heard… wasn’t her.
Instead of hearing two light, fast-moving feet, I heard something heavier. Something with a thump, and it was accompanied by a dragging noise that sent an involuntary chill up my spine.
I could tell that Jesse heard it, too. She was beginning to look a little scared, and opened her mouth to call out to Samantha, sacrifice our win just to put an end to her anxiety. Out of instinct, my hand shot out and covered her mouth. I couldn’t explain it, but I knew that it would be suicide to make a sound.
My hand still clamped tightly around her jaw, I peered around the side of the tractor.
I only had a few seconds to stare at the creature before its head turned towards me and I was forced back into hiding… but those moments are forever ingrained in my memory, unforgettable in the worst possible way.
It was… huge. In fact, I had no idea how it might have fit through the door. If it were standing straight up, it would have stood well above ten feet. As it was, its back was curved and hunched over, its back feet carrying most of its weight while its front appendages dragged along the ground, as though it were feeling for something through the dust and dirt. Its gray skin looked as though it was four sizes too big, and wrapped several times around the delicate skeletal frame that housed its organs. At the same time, its movements were brutal and animal-like.
Just before it turned towards me, I realized that, with its gaunt wolf-like head pushed to the ground, its snout was… sniffing. Trying to scent for prey.
Trying to scent for Jesse and me.
Immediately, I knew that we had to get out of the shed. My fight-or-flight instincts began to battle – half of me wanted to make a run for the door, but the other half recognized that, with a giant fucking beast blocking it, escape from that route was impossible.
And then I remembered my sister, and the day she was locked in the shed.
Now, Jesse and I were already near the back of the shed. I knew that there was a hole somewhere along the bottom of the wall, a depression in the ground that allowed someone small to crawl through it and make it to the outside. If Jesse and I could find it before the beast found us… maybe we could get out.
Jesse and I had always been remarkably close, so when I gave her a meaningful look and grasped her hand, she understood that I was going to try to lead us out of there, and she knew I wanted her to follow me without question. Normally, she wouldn’t have bowed to my authority – she was only a year younger than me, and she never let me forget it, just like I never let her forget that I’m a full year older than her – but I knew the shed better than she did. It was my responsibility to get her out of there.
I moved away from the combine, trying to stay in its shadow as much as possible. Jesse and I couldn’t make a sound as we moved, or the… thing… would notice us. Taking a deep breath, I pulled her along as I darted behind another piece of equipment, something huge and nameless but safe, and surveyed my surroundings more carefully.
The move had brought us closer to the wall of the shed, and in the distance I made out a shard of light coming from the space where the ground met the wall. That must be it. I noticed that it was obstructed by a tiller – a long piece of machinery with round blades. We would have to crawl through them.
My heart began to pound in my chest as my stomach burned with the stress of the situation. Oh, God. We were going to have to get through those rusted blades, shimmy out of the crawlspace… all before the creature saw us.
I pointed towards the sliver of light, and Jesse understood what I was asking her to do.
Her normally alabaster skin lost any glow of life it may have held as she assessed the blades. Then, she very, very carefully began to fit her body through the jaws of the tiller. As she worked her way through it, I stood watch, desperately hoping we were fast enough to avoid the thing’s clutches.
It mustn’t have taken her more than thirty seconds to get through the blades, but it may as well have been excruciating hours to me. As soon as she was safely on the other side, I began my own reckoning with the machinery.
I made my way through the blades a little faster than Jesse had, but my speed compromised my accuracy and I sliced my left arm open in the process. I hissed a little as I reached the other side, grasping at the bloody mess my skin had become.
Suddenly, the sniffing sound grew louder, and the meandering thud of the creature’s movements ceased entirely.
The blood… oh God, it could smell my blood.
Jesse gave me a look of sheer terror as my eyes searched out the hole. It was tiny, only a few feet wide and not nearly as tall, but it would have to do. Silently, I urged her towards it.
She pushed herself onto her stomach and began to drag her body through the crawlspace. She had to push and pull her way through it, her delicate skin scraped raw by the splintered wood that had long-since given way to create our escape. She was struggling to yank her hips through the opening when the creature came close enough to spot us.
I remember staring into its eyes and thinking that they looked almost cat-like – a deep amber with a black slit inside. The pupils flared as its eyes fell on me and my bloody arm. A long tongue snaked its way out of its maw and licked at its wrinkled skin.
It was hungry.
We held each other’s gaze for a long moment, neither of us daring to move. In that time, Jesse had managed to pull herself free from the wall and screamed my name from the outside. Her terror spurred me to action, and I fell to own belly as I crawled through the hole.
Now, I was a bit taller than Jesse, and being older my hips had begun to fill out. I managed to pull my torso through the hole, but I found myself stuck by my hips.
I began to pull frantically, trying not to panic but panicking all the same, wondering how long I had before the thing on the other side of the wall got around the tiller. I didn’t have to wait long – after a few seconds of fruitless struggling, I felt my shoe ripped off, and a sharp talon trail its way down the flesh of my foot.
A sudden, blinding pain overtook me as the thing’s claws raked through my foot, shredding the delicate skin. I began to scream.
Jesse grabbed my hands and yanked on me as hard as she could – we would later discover that she had dislocated both my wrists. I wiggled desperately, trying to dislodge my hips. When I finally did, I shot out of the hole like a bat out of hell, the blood from my foot dripping all over disturbed earth.
The adrenaline in my blood was so high that I didn’t feel a thing aside from exhilaration as I ran towards the house, screaming bloody murder. When my mom came outside to see what the fuss was about, she nearly fainted – I was covered in blood, pale as a sheet, and Jesse was trailing behind me in tears. It didn’t take long to gather the cousins and siblings and get us off the farm. My mom took them all along with me as she took me to the Emergency Room. She called my father, who was on patrol that day, and made him come home to examine the farm for whatever beast had attacked me.
You must understand that Jesse and I had both seen the same thing that day. Well, she hadn’t seen it, I guess… but she’d felt its presence. She knew it was there. She knew I was telling the truth. But adults have this disturbing tendency to dismiss what they can’t understand, to refuse to see the truth with all its black holes of mystery.
My mother and father determined that we had gotten scared during our little game, and that I’d cut my arm and my foot several times over crawling through the blades of the tiller. Man, I got my ass chewed for doing something so stupid.
Of course, neither of them was able to account for the fact that the door had been locked from the inside. Or that there were strange animal prints in the dirt of the shed floor, accompanied by trails that matched the dragging motion I’d described.
My parents told me I had imagined it – I’d scared myself half to death. I wish that I was blind enough to believe them.
The thing is, I know that I saw something that day in the shed – something awful, something unnatural and yet embedded in nature all the same. The few times I’ve tried to talk to Jesse about it, she’s gone pale and refused to acknowledge my questions. The few times I’ve talked to my siblings, they’ve told me they’ve never seen anything strange on our farm.
But I know something was there. It probably still is, perhaps out stalking the fields or the grove, waiting for some hapless child to come too close to its lair…
And sometimes, in the dark of the night, I wonder if it, too, thinks of me… and if it can still taste my blood on its lips.