In 1976 A Bunch Of Children Went Missing From Our Town, And I Think I’ve Found Out What Happened To Them

micadew
micadew

Read Part One Here.
Read Part Two Here.


The problem of Pip’s parentage plagued my mother and I for quite some time.

It was a few months before we made the discovery. In that time, Pip grew to be quite sizeable. Apparently these creatures have a tendency to grow pretty quickly, because soon he was about half as big as his mother. Luckily, our basement is pretty big in and of itself, so we didn’t have to worry too much about them having enough room. However, Pip, like any child, is somewhat rambunctious and we noticed he became restless over time.

As such, we had my father expand one of the windows just below the ceiling and install a window well.

My father doesn’t know everything about Jo and Pip. He knows the absolute minimum. To be honest, he isn’t much interested in creatures or anomalies or change of any sort. My mom and I “handle” the creatures, and that’s good enough for him. When he came down to work on the window, Jo and Pip stayed far away from him in a shadowed corner. He returned the favor and didn’t bother them.

Once he was finished, Jo and Pip had a way to get out of the library. Perhaps this sounds like something of a hazard, but it isn’t nearly as concerning as you might think. The back of the library is fenced in, so when night falls, the window well gave our little guardians the perfect opportunity to play around outside for a bit, get some fresh air, all while remaining hidden. Of course, for the first few weeks, my mother and I supervised any and all nighttime forays into the backyard. As time went on, however, it became patently obvious that the creatures were no danger to anyone else, and they certainly weren’t *in* danger because they were more than capable of handling themselves.

By the time dad had finished the window well and Pip and Jo had made full use of it, my mother and I had mostly given up on figuring out how Jo got pregnant. After all, we knew next to nothing about her species – perhaps she had a long gestation period and had been pregnant even before I was born. Maybe she reproduced asexually. Either way, a thorough search of the library revealed that there were no more guardians hidden in the building, so we decided it wasn’t worth worrying about.

Interestingly enough, the window well provided us with our answer.

It was about two months after we’d installed the window well. We’d noticed that Pip and Jo had been using it regularly – the window could be pushed open from the inside, but didn’t open from the outside, so Pip and Jo could use it at any point but remain relatively protected inside the basement during the day. Until that point, they’d shown no qualms about using the window well.

But then, suddenly, both our guardians began to keep well away from the window well. They stayed huddled in the far corner of the basement, refusing to leave its shadows even during the day. Now, the last time Jo had behaved so strangely, she’d given birth to a whole litter of spider-esque creatures. Naturally, my mom and I were concerned.

We decided to stay overnight with Pip and Jo once again, trying to discern what exactly the problem was. We stayed in the basement and chatted, brushing both our creatures with soft-bristled hairbrushes to keep them calm. (We’d discovered that they very much enjoy being brushed.)

At first, nothing happened. The entire library was deathly quiet, aside from my mother’s and my quiet conversation. The moonlight slithered in through the window and cast a pale glow on the basement floor. Otherwise, the world was pitch black and peaceful.

But then the light disappeared.

It took me a moment to register why that was strange. It was such a sudden shift – not as though a cloud had obscured the moon, but as though something heavy and solid was blocking the window.

And it was.

There was a thud as something dropped into the window well. Pip – who I’d been brushing – drew back from my hand and tried to smush himself even further into the corner. I was trying to pet and soothe him when I heard a scratching noise come from the window.

I almost screamed when mom grabbed my hand, but I managed to swallow down my surprise. She pulled at me, and I was horrified when I realized she was pulling me towards the window. She wanted to see what was out there. I knew she had a flashlight, but she hadn’t turned it on yet – I guessed that she didn’t want to alert whatever was out there to our presence.

We inched our way towards the window. The scratching became louder and louder. After a while, it stopped, only to be replaced by a loud tapping noise. It sounded as though someone was tapping a knife against the window.

By the time we were halfway across the basement, we still couldn’t see anything. Mom stopped moving and I followed suit. I could hear her fumble with the flashlight, and I held my breath as I waited for the burst of light.

We only had a few seconds to see what was on the other side of the glass. I caught sight of thick, dark fur, spindly legs, and a massive body crammed into the relatively spacious window well. One of the legs had split into multiple finger-like appendages that drummed slowly against the glass panes.

As soon as the light hit it, it shrieked and scrambled up the window well, dragging its heaving body along like it was made of lead. I think, if I’d been capable of moving at all, I might have screamed. As it was, I stood still, my heart hammering so quickly that I wondered if I was actually having a heart attack.

My senses came back to me slowly as I realized that Pip and Jo were still cowering in the corner, paralyzed by fear. The implications of what we’d just seen hit me like a train, and I realized…

Not only are there more creatures like Pip and Jo, but those creatures are living in our hometown. Outside. Completely free.

And they might not be as kind as our guardians.

beetlejuice

That night in the basement taught us a few very valuable things.

First of all, there are other creatures out there – one of which had made its home somewhere in our community. Second of all, it must have gotten into the library at some point – how was a problem neither my mother nor I could answer. Third, it scared Pip and Jo – this was, in all likelihood, not a benevolent creature. Fourth, it was both larger and potentially more aggressive than Jo.

The most important thing we learned was how very much we didn’t know about the creatures.

We knew that Jo liked to eat sweets and lived mainly on sugar, but I’d seen for myself that she could eat meat – and lots of it. In the wild, what do these creatures choose to eat? Where did they come from? Do they usually choose one home for their entire lives, or are they nomads? Do they mate for life? Can they be killed? If so, how?

The last thought sort of sickened me. I don’t even like killing insects, much less giant furry living creatures. But when I thought of how terrified it made Jo and Pip… well. I was somewhat less inclined to be charitable.

But before we even got to that point, we would have to figure out where it lived. And that was going to require some research.

So, while my mother searched for answers in the chaotic hell called “public records,” my dad and I covered the window well – temporarily, of course – and placed extra locks on the library to keep it safe.

It was another few weeks before my mom found anything.

beetlejuice

To be honest, my mom found answers surprisingly quickly, what with our general lack of information to go off of. What ended up triggering it was a news story from 1976, one that had never received a real explanation.

My mother only investigated it on a hunch. The newspaper had reported on a recent increase in missing children – four in one year. In a small town, that’s a big deal. They were all young, ten and under, and subsequent research showed that none of them had been found.

They all had one thing in common – they’d last been seen in the old cemetery at the edge of town. When I was growing up, everyone thought that it was haunted because it wasn’t in use anymore and had mostly fallen to ruin. Turns out that the cemetery was shut down after the children disappeared – and for a while after that, things continued on as normal.

But there were still disappearances over the years – a child here and there, a few adults who most people assumed had skipped town. One teenage girl who was a suspected suicide, although her body was never recovered.

My mom was really stuck on that cemetery.

“Do you think we could find something if we went to the cemetery? Maybe a clue?” I asked, once my mother had showed me her findings.

She hesitated before answering, “I think it’s the only way to find the creature, but it could be dangerous. If we go, we should go during the day. And we should bring weapons, although I don’t want to attempt to kill it unless we absolutely have to. At least, not yet.”

And so we made our preparations.

The next day, my mom and I headed for the cemetery. Although we were going around noon, we still brought a flashlight, just in case – after all, we knew that Pip and Jo liked dark spaces. We also had a length of rope and a crowbar. Finally, each of us carried a pistol. My mother isn’t a particularly good marksman, but I seemed to have inherited the skill from my father, so I chose the gun with which I was the most accurate.

Now, because my mom does a lot of genealogy for her patrons, I was somewhat familiar with the abandoned cemetery. She and I had traipsed through it a few times, looking for some of the older graves. It was always a pain because nobody took care of it, so it had fallen to ruin. Weeds obscured most of the stones, and some of them had completely sunken into the ground. Some of the graves had also fallen in, the wood coffins having degraded over time.

The first thought my mom and I had was that the creature had burrowed into some of the graves – perhaps some of the graves that hadn’t caved in as of yet. If we could just find a hole or opening, we’d be able to locate the creature.

Unfortunately, after a few hours of stumbling around and cursing at hidden rocks and headstones, we came up with nothing.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I was ready to give up. While mom was on her hands and knees, practically combing through the long grass at one of the edges of the graveyard, I sat on one of the larger protruding headstones and wondered how long it would be before she was satisfied and we could go home.

It just so happened that, as I was sitting there, I was facing the grove at the edge of the cemetery. It was a rather expansive grove, one that I would have enjoyed playing in as a kid, were it not for all the legends and horror stories about the cemetery it bordered. As such, I’d never really bothered to notice it.

I noticed it then. And I saw something incongruous, peaking out from behind the trees just enough to give me pause.

As my mother was too focused on her task to notice my absence, I didn’t bother informing her as I headed for the woods. I figured that I would be back in a few minutes, tops – it was probably nothing, after all.

Well. I was wrong about that.

It took some doing, climbing over fallen trees and struggling through tangled foliage. But once I arrived, the effort was well worth it. In front of me stood a rotted wooden chapel, its boards long since falling away, but still somewhat intact. It must have accompanied the cemetery long ago, only to be overtaken by the encroaching grove.

I didn’t want to get too close, but the roof was still mostly in place. And it looked dark inside.

I scrambled back to tell my mom.

When I explained what I had found, her eyes lit up and I knew that she’d happened upon the same suspicion that I had. We returned to the chapel together, intent on a little ill-advised exploration.

At first, my mother didn’t want me to go in – too dangerous, she said.

“Bullshit,” I answered – not caring that I’d get read the riot act later – and plunged through the decrepit door into sure darkness.

The flashlight was invaluable as mom and I gave the area a quick once-over. The interior of the chapel was fairly small and littered with memoirs of the faithful dead – overturned pews, a rickety altar, and what appeared to be a rather ancient bible sitting on top of it.

It was gloriously creepy.

But there was no creature in sight.

“Where could it be?” I murmured. My mom tugged at my shirtsleeve and pointed to a far corner of the chapel.

Under the statue of Mary – that sagged dangerously under its unstable platform – there was a dark patch that, once illuminated by our flashlight, revealed itself to be a large hole.

I had a feeling that we’d found our creature.

With light, hesitant footsteps, I crossed the length of the chapel, hearing the floorboards groan in protest under my weight. My mom hissed something at me – probably telling me to stay behind – but there was no way I was leaving without proof. I shuffled my way over to the hole and got down on my knees, peering into its abyss and shining my light straight down.

The beam of light hit something long and spindly. It yanked itself out of the light immediately, and I heard it scrambling away into a darker corner.

I jerked back and raced across the floor, praying to gods I don’t remember that it wouldn’t give. My mom grabbed my hand and yanked me out of the door so hard I tumbled into the grass.

I sat there, heaving on the ground as she glared at me as only a mother can, furious with my bravery-turned-stupidity. I gave her an apologetic smile and that only made her glower more intense.

Well… at least we knew where the creature was.

beetlejuice

I think the only thing that stopped me from getting grounded – and, yes, my mother can and still does ground me at 22, what can I say, she’s terrifying – was the fact that we had found this creature and it needed to be taken care of. Permanently.

Now, my personal opinion was that the creature needed to be killed. Exterminated. Preferably via a mix of bullets and fire, to ensure that it wouldn’t be coming back for any more surprise late-night visits.

My mom was having none of it.

“We don’t know that it’s violent. It might be just as gentle and docile as Jo and Pip.”

I gave my mother a skeptical look and reminded her of the way Jo and Pip had reacted to it – both of them were utterly and completely terrified. They felt threatened.

When my mother asserted that it was still no reason to kill another creature, I brought up all the missing children.“For all we know, the creature could have mauled them alive!”

“And for all we know, it didn’t,” she retorted.

My mom never did like baseless speculation, if that’s what you’d call this.

However, on the off chance that this creature was violent and hungry, we couldn’t just leave it to its own devices. Therein lay the problem: how would we go about determining if it was a threat? And, if it was, how would we go about defusing said threat?

But then, of course, an enthusiastic email from another librarian twenty miles away reminded us – we weren’t the only ones who knew about the creatures. Oh, no, there were a slew of librarians who had creatures of their own to take care of. And certainly they’d learned a thing or two about them in the process.

My mother’s first move was to contact Clark. As the library director for the county, he was the one who authorized the move of the guardians to their new homes. He was a tall man, somewhat quiet, but very intelligent and a skilled problem-solver. If anyone could help us, it would be him.

And sure enough, the second mom finished detailing our findings to Clark over the phone, he already had a plan.

“We’ll get together a team of librarians to help us,” he said, “Let’s have Sharon Thompson, Analise Trent, and Michael Kramer to start with. Sharon has a lot of experience identifying local wildlife, Michael teaches a rock-climbing class on the weekends so he can get us into the hole and out of it, and Analise has an impressive background in chemistry.”

“Chemistry?” My mom asked.

“Insurance. We still aren’t sure how it moves around and operates, but she could put together a few chemical solutions that could confuse it, perhaps through obfuscating one or more of its senses. In the event that the creature is dangerous or tries to attack us, she could be our first line of defense, and the least violent.”

“And if the creature is a threat?”

“Then we’ll need a team designated for extermination. I’ve got a few people in mind – let me make some calls. I’ll get back to you with a full list later tonight.”

With that, he ended the call, leaving my mother and I to wait in nervous anticipation for whatever might come next.

beetlejuice

A few nights later, nine of us found ourselves outside of the decrepit chapel in the woods, staring an uncertain future in the face.

The first to arrive was Clark, followed closely by my mother and I. He had found three other librarians to assist in the potential “extermination,” should the situation call for it. One was a woman of impressive stature and stern countenance – and her name was Mary Sue. I chose not to comment on it. Then there were two men – one was a refined, lean man named Thomas Cheung, and one was a gruffer sort who simply went by ‘Bub.’ Finally, Sharon, Analise, and Michael had all made good on their promise to come.

We made something of an odd team, standing there in the dark, unsure of exactly how to proceed.

Luckily, Clark took the lead, and before I knew it we were swallowed up by the darkness of the chapel.

Michael went first, examining the hole in the floor and peering inside. As he was unable to see the creature – it must have scurried away into one of the corners – he deemed it safe to enter. Well, as safe as it could possibly be. He attached several ropes to various pillars and beams that he deemed sound. I wasn’t entirely sure I trusted him, but Clark went first and proved the way down was safe as houses.

We all followed, with Michael last as he supervised our descent. It was nerve-wracking, climbing deeper into the darkness without knowing for certain what it obscured, but Analise informed us she had brought a combination of noise- and light-making devices.

“They’re fireworks,” she deadpanned as we waited in the darkness for the others to follow.“I’d like to say I came up with some foolproof chemical solution, but as it is, this seemed like the easiest and most effective route.”

I liked her a lot.

By the time we were all in the basement, our apprehension had become almost intolerable. I could feel that we weren’t alone, but it wasn’t the same feeling I got when I was with Pip and Jo – tension was radiating from somewhere in the basement. The creature wasn’t entirely happy that we’d encroached in its lair.

Well, too late to back down now.

On the count of three, we all switched on our flashlights, keeping them trained on the floor at first – we didn’t want to startle the creature. Clark was the first to move his beam of light, sweeping across the basement to survey his surroundings.

Of all of us, he was the most calm, the steadiest. Yet he almost dropped his flashlight when it landed on a pile of rotting bones strewn across the floor.

“Oh my God…” Sharon whispered as his flashlight traced the bones to the back left corner.

There was considerable more carnage there, ending in a pile of remains that had far too many tiny skulls for us to be comfortable. And on top of the pile sat a giant mound of fur and legs.

There was no doubt in any of our minds that the creature was connected to the disappearances in the area… perhaps going back hundreds of years.

The creature bristled as the light hit it, so Clark calmly lowered his flashlight, leaving it shrouded in darkness once again. I didn’t like that.

“Did you get a good look at it?” he asked Sharon.

“I…” she paused for a moment, trying to pull words out of thin air. Finally, she finished, “I don’t know what the fuck that thing is. But if you’re set on killing it…”

“Seems likely,” said Bub, and I couldn’t help but agree with his assessment.

“…Then,” she continued, ignoring his interruption, “I can tell you its legs are stronger than they look, and they’re long, so it will probably try to attack from afar. That leads me to believe its torso isn’t well-protected. Most likely, its belly is a weak spot. Our best bet is to get it to show its mouth – that’s the surefire way to kill it.”

My knees felt a little weak as I imagined that giant creature pulling itself up on its tentacle-legs and opening its maw to devour us. Oh, great, this was gonna be fun.

All conversation halted when we began to hear it. A deep sound emanating from the darkness that raised the hairs on the back of my neck and gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was a sound I’d never heard from Pip and Jo, even when they were frightened or sick.

It was a growl.

Before any of us had time to react, the creature appeared in Clark’s beam of light, launching itself at Analise. It might have gotten her, had Thomas not stepped in front of her. He’d brought along an ax, which proved to be a fantastic choice as the creature tried to spear him. He swung with precision and buried his ax in the creature’s leg, not quite severing it. The creature wrenched its leg back with a strangled sort of screeching as Bub came to join Thomas in keeping the creature at bay. He fired a few rounds from his shotgun, and I noticed that each time the creature flinched, not from the impact of the bullet – which seemed to have very little effect as they hit the creature’s back – but from the sound it made.

Analise noticed it, too.

“Stand back,” she said, her voice loud enough to rise over the din of Thomas and Bub fighting the beast, but calm and self-assured all the same. The two exterminators barely managed to get out of the way as she set off several sparklers and tossed them towards the beast.

The lights and noise confused the creature. It reared up, its uninjured legs flailing to protect it from the fireworks. Mary Sue took the opportunity to slide underneath it.

At that moment, I was sure that she was dead. The creature sensed her beneath it and covered her immediately, its dagger-like teeth intent on disemboweling her, perhaps as an example to the rest of us. Unfortunately for it, she had a few daggers of her own – two, to be exact.

For a long moment, there was a silent struggle between Mary Sue and the beast. Thomas and Bub tried to get closer to help, but the creature was vigilant against them. Fortunately, this was the perfect distraction, and Mary planted one of the knives deep in the creature’s gut.

It screamed in pain and fury as she wiggled the dagger deeper and deeper into its flesh. It tried to spear her with its tentacles, but her position was rather strategic and it couldn’t reach her without losing balance and toppling over. Eventually, it did and she leapt onto it, stabbing the creature to death with her other knife as Thomas separated its strong limbs from its body with his ax.

It seemed to take a long time for the creature to stop moving, although in actuality the whole expedition had taken only about twenty minutes and the death couldn’t have taken more than two. Seeing the mangled remains of the beast made me a little sick to my stomach – although it was blatantly obvious that it had spent the majority of its life mauling children to death and certainly deserved no sympathy from me, I couldn’t help but shudder. What a way to die.

Now, at this point, we had a decision to make – a very unfortunate one, at that. Here we were in this rotting chapel, essentially sitting on a giant dead monster and a heap of human remains. The only way to explain the remains was with the giant monster… but it wasn’t as though we could just call up the police and reveal our secret. After all, if people found out about this monster, they’d find out about Pip and Jo. I couldn’t foresee any way *that* would end well…

And yet we couldn’t let the bodies just rot away into nothingness. Those victims had families, people who were still looking for them, waiting for them.

In the end, it was my mother who came up with the idea.

And, fortunately, Clark remembered to bring the gasoline.

beetlejuice

Pip and Jo still like to go outside at night.

It’s safe for them now, you see. And now that they’re finally at ease and happy, my mom and I can relax a bit. Oh, there’s always fun moments with them. The time that Pip tried to climb the stairs and tripped, almost breaking a tentacle. The time that Jo got… the stomach flu? We still aren’t quite sure what kind of illnesses she can and can’t get, but let me tell you, the creatures can throw up – a *lot*, when occasion calls for it. And ginger soothes their stomachs just like it does for humans.

Yes, there’s never a dull moment with our creatures, but that’s how we like it. We love them, and we would do anything, give up anything to protect them.

As for the victims of the monster? In order to incinerate human bones, the fire has to burn much hotter than the measly flames we set off at the chapel. The chapel went up in flames quickly, as dry as the wood was, and the fire department came about 20 minutes after we’d left the scene. By the time they arrived, all that remained of the chapel were the bones and some ashes.

And, of course, a few strange bones with fur still stuck to them. In the end, the police would never identify what creature they came from, and I suppose they never will. They did, however, manage to identify almost all of the victims. Additionally, each and every library that received a creature has named a room or section after one of the victims. Perhaps for those people there will never be a happy ending, but we genuinely hope this brings them some semblance of peace wherever they are.

My mom and I are still vigilant for more creature sightings – after all, it would appear that there are both good and bad creatures, just as there are good and bad people. However, life has returned to its relative peace, and all the guardians are flourishing in their new homes.

So, the next time you go to the local library, take your time to look around, find a book, and think to yourself… what’s hiding in your library basement? TC mark

More From Thought Catalog