Our imaginations warned us of monsters lurking in the darkness. We huddled closer to the safety of the light. Told each other scary stories with a foolish bravado that only deepened our fright, pulling it down into our bellies where it twisted into terror. This terror we kept to ourselves. No one could know. This was how we were taught to make ourselves brave.
She stood at the edge of the snow bank, kicking at the road grime which collected there. When the snow sat fresh, she’d made herself a snow beast. One that would protect her.
The snowplow had wrecked it before it had the chance. Pushed it right into the snow bank. Like the bullies did to her at recess.
The road twisted away from her as she looked up to check for the school bus. Soon it would race around the far corner, stop in a squeal of protesting brakes. The door would open, the bus driver beckon. She would hesitate, she always did. Her bully waited for her at the back of the bus. Waiting for the bus driver to watch the road. Waiting to begin the morning ritual of terror.
She often thought of running into the woods. Hiding. Escaping. But no. It would be worse trouble in the end.
Her gaze flicked to the ground. Had something moved? Lumps of salt and sand encrusted ice, half-melted and refroze countless times, nothing alive in there that she could see. It shifted again, frosty crust sparkling.
A gasp of horror escaped her as it lifted from the roadside, not a dirty snowbank but her snow beast in a roadside camouflage. She couldn’t look away, even as she saw the school bus arrive in the corner of her vision.
The familiar squeal of brakes filled the air as the yellow bus mowed into the beast.
The beast growled and opened its terrible yawp.
It swallowed the bus whole.
The beast burped once before it settled back into the snow bank. The girl stood there, quiet, unsure of what to do.
“There’s a wasps’ nest over here, come on!” said the boy.
“Are you sure?” asked the first girl.
“Yeah, it’s right over here – oh. Oh no.”
“What happened?” asked the second girl.
“Something got to it.” The boy poked at the broken chunk of nest with a stick.
“Something must have broken it open to eat the wasps,” suggested the first girl.
The second girl’s eyes grew wide. “What kind of a monster eats wasps?”
“One with an armored mouth?” the boy suggested.
The first girl nodded her head in agreement. “And thick, tough skin that a stinger can’t break through.”
The boy gasped. “It’s a T-Rex!” he wailed.
That was all it took. They all ran home in a dreadful fright, certain a tyrannosaurus rex lurked somewhere close.
A raccoon, munching on wasp larva high in the tree, watched them go, wondering what all the fuss was about.
The beast looked out from within his cave, watching, waiting. He didn’t feel sociable today, but visitors were rare and they might be delicious. He licked his lips and found his voice. “Would you like to come inside for dinner?” he asked the children, smiling his ghastliest grin. His fangs glistened in the afternoon light.
The first boy stepped back. “I warn you, I eat a lot of brussel sprouts. I’ll taste bitter and terrible.”
“I’ve never been to Brussels,” said the beast. “But I’ll try anything once.”
“Not me, you won’t,” said a second boy. “I bathed in hot tamales just this morning.”
The beast shrugged. “So I’ll eat you with a glass of milk to cut the spice.”
“I taste delicious!” said the third child, the little sister who’d tagged along. “I eat apples every day and sweets like pie and cake and cookies…”
The beast retched and backed away. “Disgusting!” He dry-heaved his retreat into his cave.
The little girl’s jaw dropped and she burst into disappointed tears as her brothers dragged her away. “I could’ve been eaten by a beastie!” she wailed, and they shook their heads in wonder at her.
She peeked over the edge, hoping to count the rings in the stump and figure out how old the tree had been. She never expected a goblin to be staring back at her. With a shriek, she ran and hid behind the nearest tree.
“Wait! I’m sorry! I know I’m spooky-looking, but I never meant to scare you!”
The girl poked her head out from the tree, taking another look from her safer distance. The monster’s mouth opened into a terrible, splitting gash, but she supposed it wasn’t his fault. “Have you ever lived under a bed?”
“No, just this old stump.”
“Do you know the boogeyman?”
“Never heard of him.”
She took a step towards him. “Promise you won’t eat me?”
“Okay, then.” She hopped over and grinned into his horrible face. “I’m Paige.”
The autumn monster has awoken. Hungry after three long seasons of hibernation, she stretches and gets to work without delay. First, she chooses a maple, her favorite, to begin, and puts her lips to the bottom of a leaf where it meets the stem. She takes one last look around to make sure no one is watching and – she sucks out all the green. SLURP!
Every so often he donned his best camouflage and peeped at the world above to see if it was ready. He sniffed at the air and poked at the soil, checking for seasoning, marinade, and a full-bodied flavor. It wasn’t quite to his liking just yet, so he settled back into Below. After a million or so years of waiting, he saw no point in rushing dinner now.
This baby hydra first appeared on the shores of the Bay in the summer of 2016. Most people looked upon it with an idle curiosity. Others, perhaps with some ancient Greek DNA hidden away, felt a shiver despite the August heat. Most important: no one did anything about it, and the hydra was left to grow, safe and hidden away in the cool depths of the Bay.
The boy grabbed his sister’s shoulder and held her back. “Be careful! It’ll chomp you if you get too close!”
The beast reached out its monstrous arm to comfort the frightened child. She jumped with the beast’s talons touched her shoulder. Then she noticed its talons were fuzzy. Soft, even. She swiped at her tears and turned to get a better look. “Well, you’re not so scary after all.”
The beast smiled and tried to be brave. The child had terrible, red eyes. Some sort of liquid was leaking down its face. More dribbled from its nose. Its fur was all shaved off and it was covered in strange blankets. Whimpering, the beast stepped back into the forest as quiet as it could.