The Truth About My Work (pt.4) - The Tyler Hutton Case
While 2014 came and went and Christmas was celebrated, and then fading into a new year altogether, I had no idea what the year of 2015 would have in store. I wish I could relay the events that unfolded while I was in Edmonton as though they were important - in the first 3 months alone, I would track down and kill a total of 6 different U.A.P’s, of which I began to notice certain patterns relative to what I suspected to be 3 different breeding pairs, though couldn’t confirm. Meanwhile, somewhere on the west coast of British Columbia, a young man was dying horribly.
Tyler Hutton was a mauling victim of a U.A.P the year before, yet miraculously had survived despite severe traumatic injuries to his neck, face, and upper torso. So much in fact, that within the timespan of a month, he was back home being monitored by someone within the government’s need-to-know basis about this ordeal. In late January, after experiencing terrible aches in his muscles and bones, as well as uncontrollable fits of rage (that’s what I was told during a meeting in late Feburary, as you’ll come to understand later), he was taken back to the facility in British Columbia for observation. What happened in the span of 2 weeks must have been so painful, so scary, and so horrific, I cannot imagine the horror this young man went through in his final days, yet there was video proof.
Within a couple of days, he would have to be constantly sedated to be controlled at all. X-rays showed that his bones were shifting with great tension, and blood tests revealed what would end up being called Lycenthosis, though at the time nobody could figure out what the hell it was because all the white coats thought it must be something that had already been discovered. There was a desperate scramble for answers. A lot of false leads, and a lot of thinking inside the box. Meanwhile, Tyler Hutton only got worse. He died on the 15th day after being brought back. By then, he didn’t resemble the man he used to be at all. His skull had begun to elongate into a sort of muzzled shape, his hands had changed completely into a mess of pudgy rounded pads, his jaws had broken sharp teeth, where a visible canine was protruding through his upper lip, and worse yet, his tailbone and broken through skin. He died convolting and bled out all over the observation room he’d been locked in. The white coats, as I’d be told later in the year, had just watched it happen.
So, by the end of Feburary 2015, we knew that there was a species of unknown animals viciously killing people, and that their bite could pass a pathogen into the human body that would cause the host to die a horrible death slowly. Fun, right?
As far as anyone knew, any case prior to Tyler Hutton didn’t actually exist because, without a doubt, someone would have heard about it. The autopsy on Hutton’s body revealed his internal organs had been slightly repositioned by, what was to become an inaccurate theory, a bulging of the spine and realignment of the ribs. None of it made sense but his innards were essentially not where the guts of a human being should be. It was also discovered that his lungs were bigger, as well as his heart, though the exact details of that occurance were never specified in detail.
Flying back to Edmonton from Ottawa after the meeting, I fell into a deep sleep where what I’d seen in the video played for all of us attending replayed over and over. The young man bashing his head against the wall, biting himself, vomiting blood, crying out in pain. They were brief clips of footage and sound that still haunt me to this day.
By the end of March, more people had died, a couple new outbreaks in attacks had occured on the border of Manitoba and Ontario, and more trackers like myself were recruited albeit with a better briefing on what they were getting themselves into than I had experienced. The situation was changing though. Theories of where this disease had come from, and what it had potentially done to its hosts, which ultimately could very well effect other species. Hell, maybe it had been transferred to wolves naturally, and the end result was the animal we were now dealing with. It didn’t explain the tattoos, it didn’t explain the DNA mystery, and it didn’t explain how it was spreading to all regions of the country, including as far south in America as northern California. Fort McMurray would begin to experience another bout of attacks soon enough again, too.
My work continued through the spring, while both Canada and America put their top teams of biologists, doctors, specialists, you name it, into figuring out what the hell was going on. It was our country that recognized the Lycenthosis as a totally brand new disease and named it as such for its terrible transformative abilities to the human body. The Americans, though, were the ones that made the breakthrough of all breakthroughs during a string of attacks in Oregon. Two hitchhikers were brutally mauled, yet survived when a trucker saw the attack happening and, with his sidearm, shot and killed the U.A.P after unloading an entire magazine into it. Both victims were treated for their wounds and held for careful testing and observation. Their names were withheld from the information package sent to us, classified as T.S ( Top Secret). Myla Gohtz and Derek Blythe were held, and within 6 weeks, were no longer themselves as the same terrible effects of Lycenthosis took hold. Derek died, Myla did not. In May, I was once again called to a meeting with senior top officials in Ottawa after whispers and rumours that some big conference between top brass in Canada and the U.S had transpired in N.Y State. No one knew what we were in for.
During this meeting, another video was played. For the next 40 minutes it went through the process of the two young Oregon hitchhikers god awful ordeal. It showed the moment Derek Blythe died - he had, for lack of a better term, gone completely mad and bit his tongue off, whether on purpose or by accident, nobody could tell because of the intense convulsing he was experiencing. Myla Gohtz, by the end of the 6th week of observation, went through “complete transformation” as the narrating official called it. There wasn’t one person in the room that didn’t gapsp when the video showed a closed room, three padded walls, one reinforced glass wall for observing, and inside that room, laying on the floor, panting desperately for air and seemingly exhausted, bloody, wet, and grey, was a U.A.P.
Defying all science, logic, biology, whatever you want to call it, everything began to make sense, all the while not making any sense at all, and the term ‘Werewolf’ started getting tossed around a LOT afterwards, for obvious reasons. Everyone sat quietly. The video stopped. Nobody in the room said a goddamn thing.
So that’s what we had by June, 2015. The brass urged us not to use the term ‘werewolf’, insisting we refer to them as U.A.P’s until further notice. In standard fashion, nobody was ever made aware of what happened to Myla Gohtz once she changed. I suspected the americans would run all kinds of tests on her (it?) and hopefully some of that information would works its way into our weekly email briefings on the situation. But now the stakes were even higher for us trackers. We were the ones expected to find these things and kill them, already at terrible risk to ourselves, but with the knowledge we had about what awaited if we were attacked and survived, either was we were as good as dead. Some trackers resigned.
I’d passed along my observations from the winter regarding the fact that the three pairs of animals I’d tracked down seemed to be in some kind of courtship akin to a breeding pair, which was passed along to all the other trackers as well as the top brass, and while I never heard anything more on the topic from Ottawa, other trackers, in secrecy, mentioned that they’d been noticing the same thing, and the increased danger it posed.
The number of killings began to sky rocket. Here we were, half way through 2015 and the nightmare only showed signs of getting worse. In July, 2015 I was taken out of the field, as the area in and around Edmonton had gone quiet. By now, in Alberta alone, there were more than 35 different hired guns tracking U.A.P's in places most of them had never heard of until this began. Across the country, I remember hearing the number of us being somewhere close to 250, but I can't confirm that. "Outbreaks" where popping up all over the place, then be tethered under control, only for another one to spring up somewhere else.
July and August I spent back home in Owen Sound, yet never fully at ease. I kept myself in the loop with the goings-on within 100km of home, carefully watching for any reported animal attacks, missing hikers, things of that nature. When a cottager walking his dog was mauled to death in late August on Manitoulin Island, a few hours north and a two hour ferry ride away from where I live, I took notice. Ultimately it proved to be a Black Bear attack, the bear was shot and killed after it stalked two Sunday morning joggers, but again, I couldn't seem to shut my mind off. How was this going on? How was the general public not aware? How could the number of killings be increasing? Most of all, how could this be going unnoticed in majer city centres?
By September, about a week before schools opened, I recieved orders to fly to Kenora, a town on the border of Ontario and Manitoba, and meet with Adrian Cuza. Adrain was born and raised in Kenora, moved with his mother and stepfather to Ohio, joined the Army Rangers after dropping out of college, and had served overseas, but it was his knowledge of the town that proved to be a major asset. Add to that the fact he'd killed 13 U.A.P's in that last 9 months alone, and had made some terrifying and incredible discoveries.
Adrian had been commissioned by the Canadian government just as I had, but feeling that field studies were useless based on the nature of the animals, he'd begun to study them himself. Frankly, he was obsessed. He'd even trapped one, drugged it at great risk to life and limb, and hauled the damn thing back to a hangar on his father's property. Adrian's biggest discovery had come a couple months before after he'd trapped a very large male, killing it, and then killing a female the very next night in the same area. He'd used old trapper methods and utilized large grip and hold traps, the kind one might use for bears. In any event, knowing the effects that a bite or scratch would have, he took his blood samples, photographs ( a huge no-no, if you remember my mentioning) and preformed full inspections. He found that the female was lactating.
Close by, he found the den, and inside of it, four hairless, groaning, disoriented pups - something that had never been documented until that exact moment. Another breakthrough, and he wasn't sharing it with anyone. There was no protocal as to what we were supposed to do in such a situation, so he made his own, and dispatched the young ones. As I entered the hangar a few hours after my arrival and introduction with Adrian, he led me to where their corpses were preserved, piece by piece, in large jars.
Truly ugly goddamn things, worse than the parents. I will not forget sitting around a resin foldout table, drinking a beer, me on one side, Adrian on the other. Him flooding my mind with all this knowledge of these things, so far beyond anything I'd been able to piece together so far on my own. In a dark corner of the hangar, Adrian had a lifesize replica mount of an adult U.A.P, customized to the exact scale of the biggest one he'd ever shot. On a cork board near a fridge, he had pictures of various victims who had been killed by them in Kenora and the surrounding areas.
"We don't get accurate reports for what's going on out there on the Reservation lands. They don't keep us in the loop. But we do hear through locals that people are going missing. That's as best as I can tell." he told me.
"Were you briefed on the effects a bite can have?" I asked.
"Sure, I saw the video, but suspected that might the case a few weeks prior to the brass confirming. I trapped one up near Rainy Lake, fuckin' thing was covered in tattooes. Great tattooes. Like, the kind someone who is so fuckin' into tattooes would get. The whole backside was nothing but tattooes under the fur. I started putting two and two together right about then." he said.
I slept that night, but awoke in the morning wondering. I wondered about alot, but mostly I wondered how long before the entire world knew what was going on.
The answer would come shortly.
The Truth About My Work (pt.3)
Here's an exerpt from my notes:
Activity in the area has tapered out. No sighting, just dead dogs, cats, a couple of goats, and the 3 new attack victims in the vicinity around Borealis Park. After the three attacks, the thing seems to have disappeared entirely. New nightvision optics arrived this morning. Patrolling Park tonight. Plenty of snow on the ground now - should make tracking easier."
I can't express how boring things had become by now. Yes, three different people were killed. All in the span of about 8 hours, and all in the Borealis Park area of Fort McMurray. The park itself is beautiful (google it) but the victims themselves left people terrified. The news reported only one of the deaths as a bear mauling, and the other two weren't reported at all. The "crew" even went so far as to tranquilize a black bear, and release it near town so that the local authorities would find the culprit easily. Some time later, I'd learn that the autopsy revealed that the stomach contents included part of the "victims" clothing - none of which was true because I also later learned that the necropsy was done by one of the members OF the "crew".
Things were getting strange. How does a newly discovered, unnamed, highly aggressive killing maching just vanish? How does something that seemed almost inclined to prey on humans just stop? Yes, there's a lot of room to roam in the surrounding area, but with tendencies such as this, they're bound to resurface soon. On the other hand, I'd learned that the surviving attack victim from the previous month had made a full recovery, though his memory of the attack was blurry. He'd been quoted as saying that the attack happened so fast, that all he remembered was teeth. I found this particularly odd considering if I was attacked by something straight out of a horror film, and survived, I'd have a pretty vivid recollection of the whole thing.
For the majority of November, things on my end remained uneventful. There were online meetings with various others in the field across the country. Some places it was suspected that up to half a dozen U.A.P's were active - that was the Acronym given to these things, as nobody was ready to give this new species a name just yet, let alone go public about it. U.A.P stood for Unnamed Aggressive Predator. I learned I wasn't the only sharpshooter called back into service to hunt these things down, either. By Midnovember there were 14 different servicemen spread across the country, many with great tracking experience and a steady eye at long distances.
During this period there wasn't a whole lot of "discoveries" or "breakthroughs" going on. My first kill had been hauled off to a facility somewhere in British Columbia, where both American and Canadian scientists were, as I'd been told, working around the clock to figure out just what the hell these things were, where they may have come from, and how they were ending up with things like tattoos, piercings, and especially a glass eye at least one of them. Also, I wanted to note that for anyone who's interested in the finer details of my first kill, it was confirmed as a male.
Seeing as most of the activity, when it did occur, happened during the night or periods of low light ( dawn, dusk, severely cloudy days) I'd made a note that to me it seemed these animals were sensitive to high levels of light. Not light entirely, just very bright light. The day I had shot mine, it had been cloudy, unseasonably warm, and in late afternoon a fog had settled in. I had also been corresponding with two of the other trackers in the field - Marcus Humbolt and Neal Vandermeer. Neal and I had gone through basic together in Pettawawa, Ontario but had gone our separate ways afterwards. Marcus I didn't know, but had heard much about while overseas.
They're case was strange in of itself. They'd been sent to Edmonton - a major city with a population of roughly 900 000 people living in it. But sure enough, there had been attacks in the industrial park area. Two confirmed dead in just over 24 hours apart of one another. They'd been outfitted with a tactical vehicle disguised as a local police SUV, given state of the art night optics, and set loose to hunt the U.A.P down. Except now they had confided through email that based on what they were seeing, there might be more than one. As much as they could tell, the U.A.P(s) were using the network of commercial railway lines to travel to and from hunting grounds. By the time the guys showed up, the U.A.P(s) were gone, and the victims had been picked clean.
At the end of November, the story of the smaller U.A.P that had seemingly vanished came to an end. By then I'd also been cast into a disguise role as a Ministry Of Natural Resourses Technician there to study seasonal trends of animal-vehicle collisions. Any police responding to animal collisions had to call me immediately, and as per the job title, I was required to respond. On November 27, 2014 I responded to a call about a vehicle collision on Range Road at the southern end of Fort McMurray. The animal, though killed, was unidentifiable by the responding officer.
I arrived and though I didn't say anything about it, I could tell based on the remains that this was the second U.A.P that I'd been searching for. The carcass was about as smashed to smithereens as any animal being hit by a Dodge Ram could be. I identified it as a Grey Wolf and so the officer filled out his report, while I loaded the remains into the bed of my truck and called the clean up "crew". The woman on the other end of the phone asked my location, where the animal was now, and when I told her I had put the remains in the bed of my truck, she went off. In a stern tone, she firmly said that under no circumstances am I to touch the U.A.P's, and then ran me through a checklist of questions. Did I wear gloves while touching the remains (no), if I had any open wounds on my arms or hands (no), if I was able to immediately wash and sanitize my hands (thanks to the officer, yes). It was my own fault. This was, as far as I knew, a brand new species and there was no telling what kind of nasty shit might be hiding in its blood.
This small U.A.P measured from nose to tail at 3'11"though based on the condition of the carcass, I couldn't get an accurate measurement of girth,but it was definitely a female based on the pronounced nipples - 6 in total as far as I could tell. Her canines measured 3.1" in length, but I doubted that getting an accurate weight would be next to impossible. The clean up crew showed up just as the officer and owner of the vehicle left, and took the remains, asked me a few questions, and that was that. I didn't even have time to take any photos ( which, in case I failed to mention, was a big no-no. It had been stressed during the original briefing and again when we'd been assigned our specific A.O (Area of Operation) that we were, under no circumstances, to photograph any of the U.A.P's we found and killed. All documentation was left to the clean up crews.
November faded into December and seeing as how both of the U.A.P's were now dead, and no further activity had been documented, I figured that was it, and I'd be home in Ontario well before christmas. I contacted my superior for further tasks, and was told to hang tight. Keeping up with what was going on with Neal and Marcus, they'd sent various emails keeping me posted. December 1st, Marcus had tracked one U.A.P down and killed it in an abandoned factory, where it had been living in the lowest level of the building - they'd begun to refer to places such as this as "dens". The one Marcus shot was massive, measuring almost 5ft exactly, 4" canines, and almost 200lbs. They suspected it was a male, and found that it had 6 different tattoos on its back, shoulder, and forelegs, though they didn't mention any details regarding the tattoos themselves.
Despite Marcus' success, more attacks occurred in the industrial park area of Edmonton. One railway maintnance worker was killed on December 4th 2014, another on the 5th. Both were dragged away from the kill site and eaten, yet not as cleanly as before, which indicated to both Neal and Marcus that they were only dealing with one remaining animal. They'd been able to track the last one through the (unnauthorized) use of trail cameras, and hoped to do the same with the second.
Around this time, I thought about requesting to be transferred to their A.O. I figured at the very least, based on what I had seen here in Fort McMurray, I'd be able to lend a hand. But unfortunately it wasn't to be. On December 12 2014, I recieved an email from Neal, after not hearing from him for a couple days. I learned that they had figured out that the last remaining U.A.P had been "denning" in the Maple Ridge industrial area. They'd gone in to locate it during the day, and were ambushed by not one, but two different U.A.Ps. Both animals were shot and killed, but in the process, Marcus had been killed, too. He was 36.
Neal didn't go into further detail regarding the events, but wanted to point out that the second U.A.P didn't seemed to be deterred by the gunfire when they had dispatched the first. The time between each attack was, Neal figure, no more than 5 minutes apart, and during the first, Neal had been bitten on the left forearm twice, and Xrays confirmed his arm was shattered. He expressed that the jaw pressure was startling. He wasn't sure about how well his arm would heal, but he hoped for a full recovery.
I couldn't believe what I was reading. These were two highly trained, highly regarded servicemen who'd had a long history being badasses. One was potentially crippled and the other dead. I thought about Marcus and what his family was going to be told. He had three children with his ex-wife. Neal was, no doubt, being taken out of the field and heading home after a long, painful debrief.
The next day, I recieved confirmation of what I began to expect while laying in bed the night before - that I was Edmonton bound. It would not be the last time I saw Fort McMurray.
I arrived in Edmonton December 16th, the same day Chandra Kelly was killed while walking home from work. I hadn't even unpacked my vehicle. Her body was found down a back alley behind some dilapitated houses deep within the city center of Edmonton. An elderly woman walking a dog found Chandra Kelly's foot in the alley, having been chewed off and discarded. I wasn't sure how this was going to be kept under the radar from the public and press. When I arrived, there were 6 cruisers, all with lights flashing, and a crowd of people had gathered. I was still under the guise of an official with the Ministry of Natural Resources, so I suspected I might not be let into the crime scene, but to my surprised, I was ushered right in.
By now you know the drill. The clean up "crew" was called, they came, took the remains under a guise of their own, and that was that. Not so much as a word was reported on the subject when I watched the news that night.
Things stayed quiet for a few days. The next attack took place on December 21st, at exactly 9:33pm at the employee smoking area behind an energy plant in the Industrial area. It was snowing heavily that evening and Roy Arseneault simply vanished while alone on his smoke break. I found his body in a drainage ditch along the railway tracks about 150 yards away from the smoking area. Searching the area, the building had several security cameras along its perimeter. Securing that footage might be a huge breakthrough if any of them captured the attack on film, and so I requested the footage. At this time, I was also given option to take on the identity as a detective with the city of Edmonton if I felt it would help speed my own investigation along, and so I left the world of fake Wildlife tech behind for the exciting world of fake detective.
The Truth About My Work (pt.2)
The first one I ever shot was two weeks into my stay at Fort Mackay.
Shit, I even remember the exact date - Tuesday, October 19th, 2014 at exactly 4:43pm along the shore of the Athabasca River. As far as I’d been able to tell up until then, there were two separate animals doing the killing. I’d been learning a lot about them over the last two weeks. They were virtually non existent during daylight hours, but once dusk came around, they’d almost always be out. It didn’t need to be night, just low light. The smaller one seemed to be making its way along the river, attacking and killing, then completely disappearing. I’d still yet to actually get a visual on it.
The big one was much harder to track consistently. It seemed to show up further north, go on a killing spree, then vanish. I’d only been lucky enough to actually catch a glimpse of it in the middle of the road one night on my way back from McClelland Lake after investigating a potential attack (turned out to be a black bear). I could see a dead animal on the shoulder of the road, a moose I think. Then, as if out of a horror scene, it slowly crept ontop of the carcass, blood stained teeth shining in the headlights. Both my rifle and shotgun were locked up in gun cases in the backseat and unreachable.
I was about to get a lesson in just how aggressive these fucking things are.
The distance from the front of my truck to where the animal was located on the shoulder of the road, was roughly 60 yards or so. In the time it took me to grab my camera to get a photo, the animal had almost completely covered that distance and was viciously attacking the front of my truck. Stunned, I couldn’t comprehend what the fuck was happening. It seemed to focus on the noise of the engine, trying to bite through the hood at several different angles, jolting the vehicle. I threw the truck in drive and got the hell out of there, not stopping once until I got back to my motel room in Fort McMurray, south of the Fort Mackay area. The front of the truck was all kinds of fucked up. Hell, there was so much blood and fur from where the animal attacked, I’d have been surprised if it hasn’t killed itself in the process.
I made a note of exactly where the encounter took place, notified my superior, who was overseeing my operations and acting as public relations officer in case anything became aware to the public, and planned to sit over the moose carcass the next evening, suspecting that one animal couldn’t possibly clean up an entire moose in one night, and would almost certainly come back again to feed on what was left.
I am a skilled marksman, effective with a scoped rifle ( preferrably my .308) inside of 700 yards. Bearing this in mind, I was feeling confident I could set up a safe distance away from the carcass, maybe in a tree stand or something, ... something to keep me the hell off the ground, and still accurately hit the target. The next afternoon I returned and set up a comfortable 350 yards away from the dead moose. There was little traffic at all down this road, which paralleled the Athabasca River, so I also felt comfortable there would be little risk at all of any accidents, and except for one vehicle that passed the moose carcass very slowly, but kept going, I didn’t see another soul while in the stand. Nor did the animal come back that evening, too. The night was still, and pleasant and by nightfall I was back in the truck, tired, and hungry. Before leaving, I placed a trail camera overlooking the dead moose, just in case the animal came back. If it did, I’d know exactly what time to expect it and would make a move based on that information.
Tuesday, I went back to inspect the contents of the SD card and found that while two black bears, a wolf, six different coyotes, as well as ravens, magpies, and a whole list of smaller wildlife had visited the carcass, my intented prey had not returned, which felt strange to me and I made a point of making a note about it in my notebook I’d started when I’d taken on this job. The moose must have been close to 800lbs, not massive, but not exactly small either. For the animal to have just killed it, fed once, then abandoned the rest made little sense, at least to me.
It was warmer that day, and as early evening approached, a light fog descended on the lower areas. At this point I remember being so goddamn frustrated. “Go kill this highly aggressive murder machine that lives in such sparse numbers that we don’t know a damn thing about it, let alone accurately pattern them” I thought to myself. In my gut I knew I’d blown my chance to kill the damn thing the night before. What was worse was that I wasn’t even looking for it - the encounter happened by chance. I still didn’t know where the smaller one was, or where it was going....hell, I hadn’t even seen it yet.Things weren't going well.
Rounding a bend, I saw the black VW Jetta pulled off to the shoulder of the road. The drivers side door was open, the passenger side window smashed out, and the four ways on. Nobody was around as I pulled up behind it. I removed my shotgun from its case, loaded two shells with 00 Buckshot, and one with a Sabot Slug - my standard issue bear stopper. Approaching the passengers side of the car, I realized the side of the door was caked in blood, a blood trail leading up over the side of the ditch, and to what remained of Mrs Tanya Hargraves (27). It was exactly the same scene as the photos I'd been shown in the briefing - half eaten, faced mauled horribly, paw prints all around. She'd been dragged all of about 20 feet from the car before the fucking thing began to make a meal out of her.
I pushed the safety on my shotgun off and walked slowly to the opposite side of the road. It was there that the scene of another attack unfolded and where Mr Jordan Hargraves (31) had met his end. Based on the bloody paw prints crossing thr asphalt from where Mrs Hargraves was found, my best guess was that it had killed her quickly, then chased a stunned Mr Hargraves down and killed him as well. I found his jacket stripped into ribbons on some rocks opposite the car, and then blood. Then more blood, and then more, for about 110 yards up the ditch heading towards a creek that passed under the road. In the creek, and despite the impaired visibility, I could hear something moving in the shallow water. If my memory serves me, the creek wasn't more than 15 ft wide. I suspected that the animal was down there in the creek consuming Mr Hargraves almost immediately based on the blood trail, and not wanting to give it any indication of my presence, as well as being completely prepared, I did two things.
1. I went back to my truck, got my sidearm and holster, as well as my .308. Dailed the scope back, and chambered a round. I figured based on what I DID know of the aggressive nature of these things, three guns are better than one, and if by some chance this thing got on top of me, I could unload an entire magazine from my Berreta into it.
2. I took my Tac Boots off, and approached in sock feet. The boots are heavy, and gravel on the road tends to grind underneath them. They're not meant for stealth, and seeing as how the need to be extremely stealthy was of the utmost importance, sock feet were the best bet to accomplish this.
I approached the creek again, this time from the right hand side of the road - the same side that Mrs Hargraves' body was located, whereas the suspected animal was on the leftside. When I reached the creek, I listened for a moment and sure enough I could still hear movement. Sometimes it was subtle, but other times it was violent thrashing and splashing. I crept slowly until I could see down into the creek bed. From the road, my position was elevated so that I was roughly 20ft above the creek. Peering down, I could instantly see the shape on the animal. It was 40 yards upstream, and as I suspected, feeding on what remained of Mr Hargraves. I layed down slowly into a prone position, slightly increased the power on my scope, and centered the crosshairs on the animal, which seemed inaware of my presence, just as I'd hoped. There was no breeze at all, as far as I could tell, so the possibility of this thing catching my scent was low.
The crosshairs steadied, the animal turned broadside. I touched the trigger and the rifle buckled. Immediately chambering another round, I looked through the scope and saw that it had gone down hard. A twitch of the leg, a slight quiver of the body, but that was it. No fierce showdown, no climax, nothing. I shouldered the rifle, and grabbed the shotgun, not knowing if this thing was playing possum. As I approached, it was clear it was as dead as dead could be.
I had been instructed that when I did kill one, or if I came across any victims, to call a private number and that a crew would deal with the "clean up" process, and so I did. The woman's voice on the other line told me to hold tight, and the "crew" would be dispatched from Fort McMurray about an hour away. In the time it took them to get there, I photographed both Mr and Mrs Hargraves, measured the animals' body length and girth, as well as the length of the canines. It was coated in much more dark brown fur than the dead one during the briefing, which had been a dull grey colour. It's canines measured almost 3.5" in length - something that shocked me given that its body length was 4'9" from nose to tail.
It bore no markings. Its upright ears (think wolf or german sheppard) had Deer Ticks in them. The belly was almost completely without fur, muscular. It was the eyes that really caught my attention. One was flamey yellow orange, pupil almost round with sharp fingers flicking around it. The other was completely green and very human-like. It lacked something the other did not, which I fully realize is hard to explain, but this eye didn't seem to be sitting correctly in the eye socket. Not having a pair of gloves on me, I leaned down and with my pen, gently poked this eye.
To this day I will never forget the feeling of complete confusion I experienced when I realized that the animals' right eye was fake.
Over the next 6 years and countless dead ones later, I'd find all kinds of strange things like this. Mostly tattoos, but sometimes piercings, too. None would shock me later on, but that eye...the sound of plastic pen tapping against what I think may have been glass. There was no way to know exactly where this would lead to.
The crew eventually did show up. I gave them a debriefing on what had happened, how I'd responded, and eventually learned the identities of the victims, as you already know. The animal weighed in at roughly 144lbs, and I was relieved to learn that after that evening, there were no longer any attacks north of the fort.
South of the fort was a different story. The small one was still killing, and it seemed it was getting closer and closer to Fort McMurray as well. A week later it was less than 3 miles from town, had killed two fishermen, a gas station attendant, and had severely mauled a young man named Tyler Hutton. He survive his injuries, but would become a study case and horror story in his own rite.
That night I lay in my hotel bed, unable to sleep.
The Truth About My Work (pt.1)
Call this a confession I guess.
The reality of how I’ve spent the last 6 years of my life,...the untold pay cheques per dead myth. The outbreaks, the lost causes, the close calls, relationships falling apart as secrecy creeps in like a cancer and tears them into pieces. Here I am today, a shell of my former self, having seen too many bodies torn to shreds, lives ripped into oblivion, you get the point - sort of.
In 2014 after a handful of years had passed since I’d returned from Afghanistan, I’d attended a meeting in Ottawa, Ontario - told by a senior official I’d worked with in the forces while in Kandahar. “Between you and me, whatever this is...it’s raising a lot of concern out west right now. Especially the area around the foothills in Alberta. We’re not sure what exactly “it” is, but I can tell you it’s highly classified. Even I haven’t been briefed on the situation. The Brass wanted someone who was experienced in tracking, so I dropped your name.”
Of course he did. When I’d gotten home from overseas, I took a guiding job with my uncles hunting operation in northern Quebec, where I’d track Caribou, Black Bear, and if we flew far enough north, and the client was willing to pay top dollar, Muskox. Just as I’d been in the forces hunting down the Taliban, I’d become proficient with tracking down big game animals without them ever knowing I was there. I can see you sitting here, reading this, wondering if while in the mountains on my own in Afghanistan, if I’d ever pulled the trigger on another human being.
Yes. And there is nothing more sobering for the soul than that. Nothing.
Let me save you the time and tell you the short version of the meeting. A lot of high ranking officials, two provincial Premiers, 4 biologists (you’ll understand later) and several other people of significant authority were in the room, some of which looked as though they hadn’t slept for days. I recognized one person in the room as Master Sargeant James (Big Jim) Keller Corbett, a renowned Sniper from the Patricia’s that I’d had the pleasure of accompanying on a handful of tasks while over there in the mountains. He seemed perplexed, taking notes, flipping slowly through a file folder.
As I sat down, the same file folder was handed to me. A voice began to speak but I instantly zoned out while going through the physical copy in front of me. It struck me as odd that rather than an operational briefing, these looked more like case files from various horrific crime scenes. 11 in total, termed by the places they had happened in. Elk Lake, Ontario, Notre Dame, Quebec, Attawapiskat, Ontario, Norway House, Manitoba, places I'd either been to or had never heard of. It seemed that there were denser clusters of victims of whatever this was out west though. Though the photos were black and white, the gruesome nature of the remains in the photos, to me, indicated an animal predating on prey, while others looked to be vicious maulings and nothing more.
Midway through the briefing, it dawned on me that I'd been brought here to track and kill whatever was doing this. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd hunted down some seriously fucked up individuals during my 3 years in Afghanistan, men who would do ungodly things to other human beings, and never once did I bat an eye to the thought of it, but what I was seeing in these photos was something else entirely. At this point, a large stainless steel table was wheeled into the room with a lumpy shape under a grey sheet on it. The biologist folks got up at the same time and walked over to it, and all of us were asked to join them. Removing the sheet, the culprit of the various attacks was revealed as an unknown animal, certainly a predator, resembling some kind of cross between a wolf and a bear, but really neither. It was all business up front, with thick grey fur around the shoulders, neck, chest and back, which tapered out into almost bare skin towards the back end where a small hairless tail, maybe under a foot long. One of the men put a pair of gloves on and began to talk about what they knew of the animal, pushing the fur back on the left shoulder revealing a marking of some sort underneath.
I remember the voice of Big Jim asking what the hell it was, and the biologist replying that as far as they could tell, it was a tattoo. I leaned over the table as far as I could to get a better look, and sure enough, it looked an awful lot like one of those old pin-up girl tattoos, colourless, faded, but at some point someone had been close enough to whatever the hell this thing was, to get that tattoo onto it.
"Gentlemen, at this point in time we really don't have any idea what these things are, or where they came from. We do know that the reported attacks seem to happen only in smaller towns in northern area of provinces, often in clusters. Alberta, and B.C are reporting the most, but we've recieved confirmation that there have been attacks in two places in Washington State, and one in Montana. Currently the attacks are going unreported to the press until we can figure out just what it is we're dealing with. " said the man with medals pinned to his chest. He introduced one of the biologists, who would give us, i'd hoped, something a little more detailed in terms of information about the dead animal.
"Right now we don't know much. As you can see these animals feature several predatory traits; eyes at the front of the skull, immense canines, exceptionally muscular in the shoulders and forelegs, paws unusually spaced and elongated pads, the tail as far as we can tell serves absolutely no purpose in terms of stability. It should be said that the nature of these things as far as we can tell, is extremely aggressive, but they're skeletal structuring is remarkably frail. This specimen has been confirmed as a male, 170lbs roughly, though we're unable to confirm its age."
Nobody said a goddamn thing.
He continued, "You see, we can't really study them without putting our field biologists in immediate danger. What I can tell you is that if one is injured, it gets the others excited. They don't seem to be pack animals so to speak, but in areas with more than one, if it's confirmable, they do tend to hang out relatively close to one another. We're not sure if there is any kind of social structure to it. We don't know when they breed, or where. We can't get any DNA to back up the lineage of where they've come from because all tests have been contaminated with human DNA. We know they're extremely aggressive, often going out of their way once they spot another animal or person, to maul it or kill it. We don't know if they have territories but at this time it seems reasonable to assume they may."
A voice from the other end of the conference table: "What was the cause of death in regards to this particular specimen?"
He flipped through a notebook and replied "As I mentioned earlier, their skeletal system is relatively poorly built. This one was the culprit of the Elk Lake attacks as far as we know. A resident shot it with a .243 after it attacked their hunting camp. 4 people at the camp were killed before it was shot."
It didn't seem plausible in my mind that such a strong looking predator could be built so poorly, but the entry hole and exit told the tale of what a well placed shot was capable of.
A new folder was handed to me toward the end of the meeting. New attacks, seemingly out of the blue, in a place called Fort Mackay, Alberta. 3 people confirmed dead, another 4 missing and presumed dead. Again, the photos of the victims were horrendous. I still vividly remember the permanently horrified look on the female victim, 20 years of age who had been camping with her fiance. In truth, her face was the only thing that could tell you that she'd ever been a human being at all. I am haunted by that photo even to this day.
That's how this all started for me. That one phone call that led to that one meeting, would reshape my life for the next 6 years. Worst of all, and I wish I had of known then what I know now, but things were only going to get worse for those northern towns.
At the sight of early morning light mixed with the sound of the poplar leaves descending all yellow gold heavenly from above, fluttering onto the the fly of the tent then sliding down the sides, I am awake now though curled up snug inside my sleeping bag as autumn commences its charming grace. Me being the kind of guy that would be remiss if I didn't drop everything to travel 8 hours of blacktop one lane through Sleepytown North America, past combines, tractors, rockfaces, school yards full of kids so sweet and oblivious to the change and ever changing symphony of colour and light and temperature, and cycling of season surrounding every single inhale of that crisp fall air. So I do, and as I said, drop everything and leave.
Bob Seger sings his songs on the radio, the miles start stacking up as by now I'm slowing into Deep River, though just how deep? We may never know. These highways are like wagon trails into outposts you didn't know existed, with people you didn't know were here either. I wonder about them, their lives, what drives them to get out of bed in the morning, what the highlight of their day might be, whether they're sad - I mean this place looks a little sad, and maybe that sadness projects itself over the people who live there, or maybe it's just me.
Anyway, awhile later and there's the Ottawa River pumpin' away down the right, wide flat and tranquil as all hell, rock cliff walls as if to contain the uncontainable, stuck between dam after dam of power prone hydro electric barrier and as long as they run, the lights stay on I guess, yet suppose we lost something even greater in doing so. Even so, there we are coasting along, blasting down the highway if you'd call it that - this one lane stop-for-everything-beautiful and take a photo to show the ones who'd never come up here unless they were forced to once yer' back home. As I said before, we're haulin' highway miles behind summer rubber black top, Blue Zephyr hummin' along like nothing and nobody else in the world even does or ever did exist, counting lakes and rivers and blue jays and maples, hours upon hours of it like we had no direction at all.
Winding down and into Mattawa, slowing before the roundabout and then under the trestles that cut cross big river O' and follow the opposite bank, here I am secretly wishing this was our destination. How long would i last here before i got restless? It always happens and always has. I get to thinkin' maybe (probably) isn't the place at all but my restless baby soul in need of motion, or travel, or momentum. Something to rock me back to internal peace. I get shaky, jittery, can't stop moving until that type of momentous travel withdrawl beast is satisfied with endless new places and views and smells and things to think about - hell, if I could get the same feeling from books, I'd lock myself in a tiny blacked out apartment somewhere nobody would ever find me and travel the world through the pages of all of them, just infinite walls covered in books about other people in other places and not pay much mind to what they were doin' so much as I'd be sucked into where they were and what it was like.
That isn't the case. Never has been though I do enjoy my reading, and time spent writing about the places I go. Trips like that get my mind pondering about just writing books for a living, making no money in societies' eyes but living a writers life of valuing the words that describe that which transpires around me and those around me, having something to say and saying it, and all the while attempting to avoid self destruction.
Gladly as it might seem, the glades of pines along the sandbars bulking the river can be just as haunted as those things that sober the soul. Ghosts can move through them, demons poising for attack, the places that looks peaceful enough can be holding cataclysmic anomolies we don't expect to find, let alone those horrors that somehow manage to find us no matter where we go, and indeed here I am thinking that escape is once again at hand - that we've put enough miles behind me and them, that they can't navigate their way this far north, that if I just get deep enough into the Crown Lands and find a nice quiet place back in the Birch, they'll never find me here, and of course I realize this is all nonsense yet something in the back of my mind tells me it's worth a shot, so here we go.
Here we go heading north still and soon into Quebec, faster speed limits, quiet little agriculture towns with corn row barriers and openess set against the Soy fields and Corn fields and wide open spaces where you can see anything coming from a long ways' away. And the whole way up, one sleepy town after another - nothing much going on except for the hum of some Case tractor back somewhere. Somewhere...you bet. 'We are really "somewhere" now' I think to myself quietly, not noticing that Bob Seger stopped crowing an hour ago and the playlist has moved straight on into Red Wanting Blue. The old man keeps exclaiming the sheer size of all these fields, so much bigger and vastly inconceivable as they seem more like prairie than nestled between the breasts of the Canadian shield, yet there they are all prairie-like and massive.
There's really not much left to say about it. This is an escape. An unspoken escape where things back south at home have caught up to me. It's the unknowing of what the hell to do. I'm the writer who's words won't pay his debts, put food on the table, or put a downpayment on that little brookside cottage where I can live out the rest of my days writing non-fiction about whatever the hell I want. It's the space in my bank accounts as empty and massive as those fields with the combines working them and gliding along next to them, I make the sad realization of what a metaphor those combines harvesting all that grain have become to me.
And though I always find adventure when I go north, I realize I never really find the answers.
I awoke to a gloom out the window right there around seven or so, lookin' at it like it as though I'd awoken to find it staring at me through the window, inquisitive and curious enough. Darkened, dreary, the radio still shrilling some kind of rock, maybe April Wine I think. Ya, Sign Of The Gypsy Queen, there it is. So I pull the comforter up over my shoulders with me seeing it all unfolding outside and figuring any minute the cold drizzle will come sopping in through the screen to get me.
And so that's how the day began. I'd been up in East Gwimbellbury the other night to celebrate Dave's birthday which I'm told at his age and dads'age isn't something you really want to celebrate anymore yet everyone seemed to have a great time enough, there didn't occur any issue. Middle of a pandemic and people show up hopefully to be supportive of a friend and all, or in our case, an uncle.
Throw on a comedy special on the drive down and sure enough I pass out cuz' I'd been at it all day again, having a good time and fully aware of it. Now, waking up with all the low cloud coverin' the tops of the trees springing leaks all over the place and staining the asphalt a different shade of saturation, I figure maybe today I pay for the playfulness in retribution of my sins from yesterday and yesteryear.
Or maybe not. I'm head north later - you know how it is. A collective panel of inner restlessness voting in favour of exile for a little bit and just get the hell outta here. Charge the camera, phone, computer, pack a cooler, rifle, extra warm clothes and head for El Rancho in the heart of the Alvar. Listen to the Woodcock spook during a walk in the low area. Sandhills somewhere on the endless ranchland, or maybe coyotes at night just as the moon starts its sortie. That's where my heart goes and is what my heart needs.
Sanctuary from brake dust and dead end conversation under orange glow streetlights overtop manicure grass lawns cut drone bee perfect to signify the stature of the man and his lawn and his hedge. Here lives a respectable man, not a deplorable vagrant type with no direction, no nest egg, no means to fit in. And good, keep that behind me while I sit in the still of evening eating a well-cooked fireside hotdog listening to cattle bellow, loving every single second of it.
There is, of course, more purpose to it then that and that only. It always has been a place that a man can provide for his loved ones in a perpetual state of seasonal harvest. There is firewood here, berries, apples, deer, bear, hare, grouse, woodcock, duck and goose, and one can engage in the most primal instinct next to sex, which is to provide. To provide is to survive. There always was and always will be a tenative drawing to come here for sustanence for me, which may or may not be a hunters' drive nor may it be spiritual, but a calling nonetheless. One that can't be ignored. In no way has it ever been a camp-out-kill-fest of any sort.
Last time we were here a couple weeks back, we'd seen deer in the ranch grazing into the wind, so we'd just sat down and watched, and watched, and watched. Beautifully eloquent in all that they are, perfectly designed, survivalists. They faded into the cedar thicket, disappeared into the shade, we left and walked back to the trailer saying nothing but each alone with our own thoughts reflecting the world we live in at home and up here.
The alvar could be the only place in all of Sleepy Town, Ontario that remains beautiful all year, having no single season that lacks more than the last. In the winter deep, it's downright desolate enough to stop a soul dead in its tracks. It'll freeze a tear to skin with its cold comfort. Snowshoe Hare tracks tracing across fresh snow and then the Buntings out in the open as to absorb the wind in big flocks, taking off as I walk the gravel road past Mary-Ann's old place and then climb up onto the corral looking in thinkin' bout the cattle drives I never saw.
By then there isn't a heifer to be found on those ranches. It's a different kind of quiet without the symphony of the other seasons' collective. There's no telling if you're arrived on some different planet faced with chronic winter syndrome like Planet Siberia or something in the way of it. Then outta nowhere, you cut a fresh set of deer tracks, or maybe even turkey which do live out there too. Coyote walk up and down the road that maybe gets ploughed but maybe not, too. A pack of them usually in the winter, they're everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. Masters at their art and speaking of respect, I've nothing but it for those wild dogs out there scratching out a living right there in the middle of the Alvar.
And, like phantoms, you rarely see them cuz' they're always playing games with the night, two powerful allies covering one another. I'd have hunted them before, unsuccessfully, yet caught a brief glimpse of two that first time, looking like a hovering dog of grey, gliding effortlessly just the way it all intended them to. I couldn't have taken a shot even if I'd wanted to, then get up and question why the hell I was out there in the first place, emptied the rifle, and walked back to camp sayin' nothing. That same night, I'd heard them howling a couple properties over, stirring up those ghosts deep in my core, but also make me ponder a landscape without those howls at night.
So I'm heading there because it's what is needed.
A conduit of intuition, a shift in everything seasonal can be had in the air today. Vital to the passage of time as I’ve always known it, apparent in the streets that once bustled only a couple days ago, or here especially on the deserted patio. The harbour is quiet, no sailboats leaving despite the good wind and calm demeanour of the water beyond the break wall.
It’s that sort of season where nobody really seems to know what the hell exactly to do with themselves. The week is packed the way it always was, especially if one is a parent, but beyond that, the weekends also lack the breathing room to wiggle out of the hustle and breath peace.
I watched the other day as the Blue Zephyr wound down country lanes into Sleepy Town, Ontario over and over, a fiscal hush having fallen like a fog over each of them as the wheels quickly put them behind us and then onto the next. My business in that area is of no consequence - I am a traveller with no real permanence. A wanderer of the seasons as I see fit.
If you were standing here albeit from a distance, you’d see the smile that graces this ugly mug. The smile of cooler nights and shorter days, harder work, cracked skin, scratches, blisters, bruises, miles and miles tacked onto the odometer, early mornings, early nights, fresh air, rain and autumn colours. The kind of shit that never leaves you hanging without the proper procession before it passes altogether and fades into memory that someone might akin to their glory days.
The chatter among the scant patrons in the dining hall revolves around those narrow minded topics that drive a person to all types of different madness. Chowing down on the plates, content and so am I. Here, alone, watching the world go by without the falsely projected perception that I am and you are and all of us are removed from it like so many would like us to believe. Each leaf in the poplar flip flaps oddly longing-like for escape into its earth-bound fate, returning to the ground like everything and everyone does, so I watch it in its plight for a bit and tune the conversations out.
And behind it, the red maple starting down the dapper road of final colour, rewarded for its shade maybe but perhaps for other things too. It’s earned it. Thank you for not faltering under the duress of the winter ice storms, summer winds and lightning, pal. Thanks for hanging around, I can’t speak on behalf of all these other oblivious bystanders but I appreciate you.
The waitress is nice enough, keeping my glass topped up, smiling through her fabric mask, and of course I refrain from asking her to sit down and wonder over how that conversation might go. She’s a human being and so am I but we don’t live in the same world. No, our realities are two different realms of life separating us yet binding all the same to a common ground, so I get to thinkin’ that maybe it would be that small talk that acts like a map to getting through a situation without too much left for discomfort, or would she be such an intellectual, so aware, going forth with guns loaded, ready and all set for conversation with the stranger alone at the table down the row, drinking beer and typing furiously on his phone.
But I don’t, cowardly as it might be, however she is working, a shimmy type dance of perfect timing between three different tables and periodically disappearing into the kitchen. That is what I am after all - a stranger. A nobody, a face at a table quiet and focused. No hope at all, really. No way of knowing that it’s possible to put all preconceived notions of humanity aside, the danger, the fervour inherent in the temptation of sex and struggle and insecurity, and just sit down and talk as two humans with a need to communicate with one another.
So, for obvious reasons, I politely accept the topping off of my glass, and stare outside across the docks again while Don Henley croons’ over the radio about baseball and lost love.
Let me describe this place. It’s a usually busy seafood restaurant with a waterside patio overlooking a small harbour type yacht club, the kind with the typical lobster traps, schooner models of all and every kind, lobster traps, fish mounts, kerosene lanterns in the corners collecting cobwebs, fuel tanks and customary wood walls stained something’ natural I guess.
That’s where I am. Sting with Andy Summers and Steward Copeland serenading that stalker tune from speakers in the rafters, watching the gun metal sky over the river across from the harbour while the blonde ale takes hold and everything shifts with a whole new meaning and whatnot. The club sleepy, as if calling it quits for the season and supposing it’s not far off.
Then, as if to contradict everything up until now, there goes a yacht, clearing the rocks and then out into the bay before heading east and out of view completely. The yacht may as well be heading to Bolivia for all I know, for once they head east, it’s a few drops down to the Atlantic.
And while I’m finishing this beer, I look around and notice that the place has begun to get busier. People coming in for their evening fill, or maybe date night, or whatever folks do these days. Like a creep, I scan the tables. Imagine the dismay that descends over me when I see those couples who aren’t so much as interested in talking to one another! I watch them and they’re doing all manner of things as far away from intimate as possible. Texting, reading, silent, staring down at their tables and not across at each other and in that vital moment I realize three things.
That I’m becoming sad, and that it’s time to pay my bill and head out the front door. But also that I miss her. The couple waterside watch as a family of Mute Swans swims by the railing, and the Dave and Glenda rise, pull their phones out and snap numerous photos to show their retired friends later this week. I look at my empty glass and know for sure it’s time to leave, and so I do.
I had a choice to make, and one choice only. Of the three, which would you choose? They called it a 'gift'. "Take one, experience something entirely 'other' from what everyone else will, but...you HAVE to choose.
" How much time do I have before a decision must be made?" was the only question I found within myself, greeted with the stress, anxiety and whatever else comes with learning that the answer to my question was "5 minutes".
Withe flight, it'd be easy to convince myself I could fly anywhere I wanted - hell, Jupiter is supposed to be nice at this time of year, right? Fact is, though I could fly, I'm still human and the places I'd want to go would largely be off limits to any air-breathing bipedal hairless ape like me.
Telepathy sounded like a goddamn curse rather than a gift. It's bad enough that I can usually read a person just be being around them for awhile, let alone know exactly what kind of horrendous adocious think-trains were running down the tracks in thei mind. Then again, maybe I could stop some sort of tragic crisis from occuring. Maybe I'd save lives with the power of telepathy. Then again, would I? Just because I'd possess the power and could doesn't mean I should. If I could, and didn't, could I live with myself? Where the hell does it end?
Far from the end of the line when it came down to the decision at hand, sensing his growing impatience, I knew he wasn't as eager to make the deal as I'd first thought. This is 2020 after all and souls are a dime a dozen out there - everyone willing to sell anything that's of monetary value in order to stand out from the rest of the herd. And here he was, in the flesh, offering only a couple more minutes to make the trade.
Invisibility seemed really nice. I remembered as a teenager in high school the amount of times I'd wished I could disappear. Save myself from football field beatings, ackward and dismal encounters with crushes, some which would scar my emotionally for years. Remain invisible and fade away from pain, trouble, obligations, committments, and all the like. I crouched down like a detective might when investigating a crime scene, in the company of him, myself, and my thoughts, the clock ticking.
Here's what I knew - as life goes on, time just keeps taking and taking and taking and there's no way to stop the pain. No way to stop friends, family, loved ones from growing old and grey and fading into memories in the faulty fragile pictureshow playing constantly behind our eyelids. My chest tightened at the thought of it. Mom, Dad, my siblings, all gone one day, wishing that it wouldn't happen but knowing there's no way to pause the train just for a moment for one fucking chance to breathe.
Invisibility might give me a way to run, hide, leave and just be on my own without the guilt of others. To spare myself the torment, while dealing with another. I'd just one day be gone. It almost sounded too good.
"I'll have to go with invisibility." I said with a semi-smile, half-assed, knowing what it meant.
And when I looked up, the Devil was gone. Time had ran out, and I'd lost my chance. I'd lost my chance because even the Devil is on a schedule, and he's got things to do and places to be.
Shocked, a little shaken, but with soul (whatever it was worth now), I walked up from the ravine, my shoes and socks, pantlegs too, soaked from standing in the shallow water. I went about my business, stuck in my head the whole time. Did the things, went through the motions. Mom and Dad, one on the couch, the other in the recliner, watching evening television, oblivious of time. I went up stairs, and scolded them for the pain they'd inflict in my life from becoming invisible one day, never to be seen or heard from again.
A Letter To Matthew
I realize in the grand scheme of all this that we haven't seen each other in well over a decade for obvious reasons, and so I thought that given the opportunity (and courage) I'd write to you. And maybe because nobody writes letters to anyone anymore except for maybe in those third world countries, whatever the hell that means. Nevertheless, I find my poor ass in a dark basement apartment here one town over from where home used to be before everyone split and went their separate ways after saying "enough is enough", and truth be told, very sick and very alone. This last year hasn't been a good one, something that you'll see later in this letter as I write it to you.
You know me, I've always hated change, the one goddamn thing that would do me the most good and I'm fully aware of it yet fight it tooth and claw, hanging on by the fang of complacency and complicit-ness, exempting myself from the discomfort of feeling discomfort. This is a sad letter already, I'm frightened to know that it'll only get worst, so heed my advice and buckle up for this one, pal.
There's no way to know what your days look like lately but mine follow the same routine except for weekends when Dad comes out from west of here and wants to drive north into the country to fish, always early Saturday mornings, after my friday night is filled with shots and pints from the pub across the river from where I live here. That description of Friday would also reflect well my Monday - Thursday. Get up, catch the Green Snake into Toronto with the other cattle packed on the rail cars, watch murky green Lake Ontario zip by along the Rouge Hill stop, then the burbs, then the Don and into the rail yard at Union. Work at the shop, go for a drink or two on my lunch, work at the shop, done at 5, out by 5:30, a drink or two before catching the Snake again, last station stop, bus, pub, grub, booze, home, all over again tomorrow.
There's no escaping the low I've hit. It started with a involuntary parting of a former lover and I, and then a darkened deep depression which I've yet to shake and the sauce temporarly convinces me it's helping until a sober up and feel like twelve pounds of shit in a ten pound bag. There's no more colour to the world, no taste, stale air, brake dust and I can barely breathe as it is already, yet refuse to change and I'm doing this all to myself - denying the heart and soul what it's screaming for, a move, a life-flip, some peace and goddamn quiet away from the ebb and flow of chaos while all of us on the 09:43 westbound sell what individuality we have in the name of a buck and something to call a living. I'm losing my mind.
Last January, I'd had enough one night and decided this was it, and I'd go through with it finally. I got liquired up, found one of those blue cables for putting in the back of a computer so that the damn thing can have faulty internet, took it down to the park in the middle of the night after a big one blew in off the lake and covered everything with fresh snow. Crying now, I rigged it up over the swing set which I figured to be a good enough distance from the ground that when I stepped off the swing my feet wouldn't touch and have the desired affect. Problem was that with all that fresh snow sparkling in the orange glow of the street lights illuminating the walks and curbs, and the park of course, everything looked magical and so I cried because though I couldn't bare it anymore, I was deeply saddened by the fact I could only imagine what it all would look like first thing at sunrise when the light hit it.
Crazy right? Not sad for my family, my friends, my dog, those who I'd always wanted to say something to but never did and those who always wanted to say something to me and never did and would never get the chance. The sun on the snow. Right?
As I was saying, I rigged up the ending-it cable, stepped up enough and put the loop over my neck, tightening it enough I figure, and without even thinking, took a step.
Being sparing with the details, the panic, the tears, the struggling of my hands around my neck begging for air, I remember darkness and then nothing. Then, still in the dark, I woke up on the ground, head throbbing somethin' fierce, looking across the frozen ground. Figuring I was dead, and this was my first glimpse of the afterlife, I slowly looked around and saw the swingset, the cable, which had snapped in two at the very top, noose still around my neck and tangled in the chain, and realized I wasn't a ghost and in fact had been cheated, more tears and anger then home before anyone saw me lying there a pitiful disgrace.
I called for help that morning, but it didn't change anything. The drinking kept going, the pain, the internal turmoil, anger, disdain for self and others, countless other aspects of it all and as so, a constant taunt. All this I suppose to say that I get why you did it, and never thought any less of you for going through with it. Suffice it to say this road is going to be a long road that, if I'm lucky, may end suddenly and by my own devices, as you did. Guess it took all this to see that in life one can find things worse than death.
Acknowledging the truth that things, though bleak for this dark heart could turn around, suspicious as I am of it, I'd have to reconcile with change, forging a new relationship with it, and awareness OF this, seems at this time impossible.
Wish me luck, as I wish you. And if such a thing exists still, lets call on mercy, too. I will write again soon.
Wish well regards, always.
Ben Lawrence Skinner.
S'pose everything started to go downhill come the sunday night when all the long weekend warriors dreary of the jetski, wakeboard, tubing haulering "go faster! slow down!" out there on every lake wide enough, deep enough, and long enough to accomodate them started heading home to somewhere south of here. I think "t'hell with it, I'm not going anywhere" not because I can afford it, but because the option is open to stay a few days longer and write, type, create new content, whatever.
I know I'm a bum, that's okay. I'll stick around here while half the city leaves tonight for home and the other half tomorrow, clogging the four corners like a clot in a vein. Let them go, they'll be fine.
As though it could be avoided, it's a holiday weekend and that's as good a reason, at the end of a summer, let alone this summer, for 'em all to head up to "gods" country though its evidentally all his country, they'll use god as a way to describe it as a higher heavenly type of place, straight out of the heathers. All fine and well from here in this chair on this dock, on this rocky lichen covered shore facing south south east.
The point of all this to say that these words are typed from live on location here just a little south of desolation but an hour and a half north of madness. Madness though can follow you if you're not careful, mindful, well rounded enough to spot it coming from a mile away and do what needs doin' to stop it.
So sip cold Leffe blonde, poison of choice. Stare, then stare some more wondering what it is exactly that I'm hoping to accomplish - the short answer is nothing. And that's fine enough s'pose as long as it's a fine lighthearted nothing that leaves a some kind of smile on my face because the last few days of summer are simmering and the gettin's good.
The long answer is something along the lines of within a very short, very consuming amount of time, hell be if we have to call it a blink of the eye, something of a stock response moniker followed by cruel observation about time, age, and the passage of each. As I was saying, the long version is rich in that sort of shit, of which there's no escape. I love summer just a like a love all three of the other seasons so when it leaves, its the beginning of something entirely new - a blanket white canvas painted on by desire among a whole lot of other factors. Regardless, when summer leaves, I miss her, and hate to see her go.
This is right around when the float plane comes out of nowhere though sure I could hear it somewhere off behind me. Buzzing down to the other end of the lake, circling, then landing out of sight past the narrows where though the speeed limit in the narrows is 10km, that son of a bitch on the jetski flies through there a dozen times or more, cottage folk screaming at him and cursing and throwing their hands up in the air, I just know it because everyone comes to the cottage on the long weekend for peace and quiet and because everyone is up here, the only peace they'll find is the quiet of sleep.
Otherwise things are well, and okay.
Two Leffe blondes later and maybe some pretzels though I''ll never admit it, I start to feel the slight effects of the 6.6% and then, yes, definitely smile. Smile because here I am, and we are, sitting here on this elevated rock slung with birch and pine, feeling good and like Dafoe said "feelin' goods' good enough" and right at this moment here, I couldn't agree more. Shit, I even smile because when I look over this whole thing, I realize with sincerest childlike enthusiasm that what I'm really doing is writing about drinking while I'm drinking because I'm writing.
Curious enough, maybe summer has something or nothing at all to do with these Leffe blondes or the mood I'm in or anything else other than right here is where my ass decided to plant itself and all seems well enough so why argue? Carefully crafted is how each of these recent moments feel and not being the type to debate a good feeling, but simply roll with them. And hell, doesn't it come from some of the most unlikely places, people, and things, or a mix of all three in variations that, had I taken en edible instead of sitting down with this laptop, I might have accomplished none of these seven hundred and ninety six words so far, rather than sat contemplating those variations all night until the mosquitos drove me back indoors and closer to the fridge, which is where the Leffe live.
Anyway, as the sun starts falling, rounding out another day here while other folk hit the road and head south back towards whatever kind of home they have there, I'll seek my long sleeve and another Leffe (hell, there's only two left anyhow and I have a 'no soldier left behind' policy) then sit right back down. Chase those last of the rays, while the rest set to work getting the evening fires burning, so that the glow of each can be seen from the end of the dock no matter where we are here. No, I won't look down on those who left - they have their reasons, and that's fine and well enough, but know enough to know there's a high probability that they are missing out, then head inside.
Well enough, until I try to stand up which has no become something of a chore all on its own. A mosquito lands on my arm, the poor bastard, bites in, starts stealing my blood. Moments later as her abdomin fills with it, she hesitates, then falls over dead from alcohol poisoning, or that's what I tell myself.
Whether it's true or not, it doesn't make a difference, but without a shadow of a doubt signifying that it is time for bed.