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Monster Hunting and Other Inadvisable Behavior

Monster Hunting and Other Inadvisable BehaviorReading Time: 7 minutes3:30 p.m., 1-September: One three-person party entered the Rio Grande National Forest in Hinsdale County, Colorado. They consisted of Trevor Nyson (37 years old) and Matilda Nyson (33 years old), a married couple, and Benny Nyson (8 years old), their only son.

5:31 p.m., 1-September: Trevor and Matilda, highly distraught, encountered a Forest Service ranger to report their son missing. They could offer no details beyond “we turned around, and he was gone.” Matilda experienced a panic attack shortly thereafter, and had to be treated on-site with 20 milligrams of benzodiazepine.

5:33 p.m., 1-September: U. S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Uncategorized (DoiBou) was contacted.

5:46 p.m., 1-September: A CH-47 Chinook helicopter landed 13 miles SSE of Lake City, CO. Trevor and an impaired Matilda were presented to DoiBou agents for interrogation.

5:47 p.m., 1-September: Based on the information presented, DoiBou agents confirmed Cryptic Contact.

That’s where I come in.


Did you know that Hinsdale, Colorado is the most isolated place in the lower 48? There are fewer roads per capita, and longer distances between them, than any other place.

Have you ever wondered how people felt upon discovering that monsters were real? The British Museum assumed in 1799 that the platypus specimen before them was an obvious joke. Nordic seafarers feared the terrible kraken, leaving us to laugh at their primordial beliefs before considering the subsequent modern discovery of the colossal squid.

None of this mattered to Trevor, who kept chewing on his hair, or Matilda, who was staring placidly at some nearby leaves.

“We’ve established that last contact with Benny was at 37.887 degrees north latitude, 107.214 degrees west longitude, at 3:33 p.m. What more can you tell me about the departure?” I asked crisply.

“Who are you?” Matilda responded in an airy sort of way.

“That’s not important right now,” I shot back. “I need to know the circumstances surrounding your son’s departure.”

Trevor looked up at me with bloodshot eyes. “‘Departure.’ You keep saying that word. And how do you know so many specifics?” His delayed speech and increased breathing indicated the early warning signs of shock.

I regarded him stoically. “The sun will set at 7:29 p.m. tonight. Overnight temperatures could drop as low as 59 degrees, which presents a potentially extreme danger to an exposed eight-year-old boy. And the public is unaware of the wildlife that has been documented in Rio Grande National Forest. Each minute spent conversing about mundane nonsense is a minute of daylight wasted. Now tell me: did your son have any food?”

Trevor stared back in broken defeat, his eyes rimmed with tears. “Just gummy bears.”

I grabbed for my radio. “Get the Chinook ready to fly, now!

Matilda spun her head toward me as I prepared to run. “Who – are you?”

“Call me Lisa,” I shot back. “Now get the fuck out of my way.”

*

The chopper landed me as close to the coordinates as was humanly possible; I had to jump the last six feet straight onto the ground.

The crew flew away immediately afterward.

We couldn’t afford the risk of scaring it off.

Besides, I didn’t need them hanging around. All necessary equipment had been packed ahead of time.

I found the family’s trail almost instantly. There was a path of broken twigs, scattered dirt, and even a discarded trail mix wrapper.

I followed their marks cautiously, scanning every inch.

It didn’t take long for me to find it.

An unnatural rise in the grass had snaked its way toward the path that I’d been traversing. If I hadn’t been looking for it explicitly, well –

I might have stepped right on it.

I listened.

The birds were quiet. No crepuscular animals were stirring. Even the wind was holding itself at bay.

I tried to silence my own breathing, but my elevated heart rate prohibited such an endeavor.

I looked across the rolling landscape, toward the setting sun. It really was beautiful. Root beer floats were inspired by Colorado sunsets; I thought of this fact and worked to calm myself.

It had a moderate effect.

I reached slowly into my pocket, immensely thankful that I had packed everything I would need.

I extracted said equipment, then looked down at my trembling hand.

Gummy bears. Only red ones, for the love of God. And definitely no greens.

I tossed a handful onto the artificial rise in the grass. For a moment, nothing happened.

Then the rise coiled around the candy, closing in like a snake, and retracted.

I didn’t realize how frozen I had become until my head swam from a lack of oxygen.

Then I sprang into action, moving my legs to follow the retreating rise in the ground. It disappeared into a copse of trees, then vanished from sight. I stared at the plants before me.

No, not plants.

At least, not all of them.

Broken fur rose in vertical lines along the edges of the trees. The brownish hue blended well with the bark.

I wasn’t fooled.

I stared up at the point where the fur stopped. It towered at least seven feet above the ground – much higher than my 5’ 2” frame.

I listened.

It breathed.

“Look,” I offered shakily, pulling out a fistful of red gummy bears. “There’s plenty more.” I dropped them from my trembling hands onto the ground at my feet.

There was a snort.

Then a large head emerged from the shadows. It was covered in thick, soft, brown fur. Its two eyes, both five inches across, were jet black. Two tiny triangular ears sat atop its skull. There was no visible nose. And its razor-sharp canines would have presented an imposing threat, if it weren’t for the fact that they were misaligned in a massive, crooked underbite.

“Ffffffssssnuuuuu?” it asked. Then it reached out a massive paw, clearly focused on my gummy bears.

“Whoa!” I shouted, trying to look more intimidating than I felt. I stepped protectively over the candy.

He snatched his paw back like I’d burned it. His eyes glistened as his lower lip began to tremble and drool.

“No!” I yelled, pressing my advantage. “Give me the boy!” I stepped forward, causing him to flinch and raise his paws in a protective stance. It was almost funny; this bipedal monster was defending itself from something one tenth its size.

But to him, I suppose, the term “monster” would be entirely relative.

“Give him to me!” I screamed again, and he scurried into the bushes.

Cautiously, I followed. He hadn’t gone far; I could see his brown fur trembling in the dark.

I leaned in.

Benny Nyson, eight years old, lay sleeping in the fetal position. A furry arm rested on top of him.

I slowly reached for the bag of gummy bears. More slowly still, I raised them up in front of me.

I pointed to the boy.

And he understood.

Benny woke up as the monster handed him to me. He began to panic.

“Shhhhh,” I offered as I completed the solemn exchange.

I grabbed Benny tight as the giant paws rolled him into my arms. He looked around wildly. I quickly grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and practically forced it down his throat. After a moment of panic, he began to drink like a baby finding its bottle.

A few feet away, I heard the distinct sounds of a monster devouring candy.

Benny finished the water, rolled out of my arms, and looked up at me. “Who are you?” he asked incredulously.

For the first time, I smiled. “Lisa McMurry of DoiBou. You know, you’re just like your mother.”

He looked at me in confusion. “Are you an angel?”

“No, not at all,” I explained. “I work for the U. S. Government.”

He seemed to understand.

“I search for cryptids,” I elaborated. “They’re what you would call monsters. After spending nearly all of human history hiding in the shadows, they’ve run out of places to go. Cryptids are terrified of humans (and rightly so), so they’ve been relegated to the status of legend. Unfortunately, their natural habitat is essentially eradicated. Their only hope of survival is within the government’s Environmental Niche Replication Program, which is basically a classified government zoo. We’re currently maintaining breeding programs for several wild monsters. The one that you found for us,” here I pointed to the grunts coming from the bushes, “loves your gummy bears. It’s why he took you from your parents.”

He looked in confusion at the enormous fuzzy brown rear end poking out of the leaves. “Is he dangerous?”

For the first time, I laughed. “Oh, no. He’s essentially a giant puppy-hamster. He’s strong enough to rip a truck apart, but doesn’t understand how to hurt things. That’s why it’s so dangerous for him to be around humans, who specialize in hurt.”

The slurping, smacking noise that came from the shadows began to slow its pace.

I placed Benny on the ground. He remained in a sitting position, grabbing his head as though in confusion.

“So… there’s a secret government plot to capture monsters?”

“Cryptids,” I corrected. “Yes. The one you just met is eating red gummy bears that have been prepared with a heavy sedative. He should be ready any minute now.”

Right on cue, there was a loud THUMP. Benny and I both looked up to find that the monster had collapsed just feet in front of us, and was now snoring quietly.

The overwhelming shock of the situation was keeping Benny subdued. “So…” he continued. “Why – why would you tell me all of this?”

I smiled sadly at him. “Because the water you just drank was laced as well. You’ll be out in less than a minute, and you won’t remember a single thing about what we discussed when you’re reunited with your parents.”

I think he was trying to give me an angry look, but it was just impossible with his eyelids fluttering so much. His head lolled once, twice, three times, before finally coming to a rest on his shoulder. I gently grabbed him, then helped him to lie on the ground. He pushed me away at first, but eventually settled on sucking his thumb instead.

I stood up and looked down at the two sleeping creatures.

Mission fucking accomplished.

I whipped out my radio. “I need an extraction team ASAP. The primary target has been found near the coordinates of deposit. Equip the Chinook to carry one small/mid class cryptid. And alert Cheyenne Mountain Complex that we have a package for delivery. This is important: I’ll need one large bag of red gummy bears.”

I looked down at the boy. He had snuggled up to the monster, and was now acting as the little spoon. Or as the teddy bear, depending on your point of view.

I sighed, then spoke into the radio once more. “Tell Cheyenne that we’d better make it two large bags of gummy bears.”

I signed off and stepped out of the shadows.

It was 7:29 p.m. The sun was saying good night.

It really was beautiful, I decided.

Like all the world was a root beer float.

 

CREDIT: P.F. McGrail

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The Cat With Human Teeth

The Cat With Human Teeth

 

There I was, scratching my ninth scratch-off ticket in a row at my local convenience store. My eyes widened with hope, but also sank in with the anticipation of disappointment. The other eight representations of my gambling fuel rested in pieces inside the store’s waste bin. Revealing each number using my “lucky” penny, I scratched away, while simultaneously grinding my teeth.

In a moment of displeasure, I tore the ticket to shreds and tossed it aside with the rest. It was another loser. At this point, I was about fifty dollars deep and knew I had to shake my bad habit. However, betting my smidgen of wealth was an angel in comparison to the demons I’d annexed throughout my short-lived life. I had just turned eighteen a couple months prior; an achievement of sorts for a boy with such a shaky childhood.

My parents didn’t always gravitate to each other in the way that happy couples do; like flowers reaching for sunlight. No; their values were pitted against one another, through verbal quarrels and even physical exchanges. With these background altercations and the scent of booze that bled through the air and walls, getting sleep at night was like pulling teeth.

Even days I was left home alone, I could swear on my life that I heard my mother and father screaming and yelling, as if they were still in the house. I’d witness the walls shake, knocking down lamps and picture frames in chain reaction to the vibrations. On top of that, I recall seeing my dad pacing in the upstairs hallway, countless times. Every time this happened, even with certainty that no one else was there, I’d search around the residence anyway. I never found a reason for the disruptions.

Taking the homelife a lot worse was my younger brother Gregory, as his young mind solely paired confusion as a counterpart to the madness. At the age of nine, my brother had picked up a handful of the traits dispersed throughout the paper-thin walls. The anger, the sensitivity, even gradual changes in appetite all became a part of him as a being. Getting through school is tough enough for him, let alone the miracle that was me receiving my bright white graduation cap and gown earlier in the year. However, I’ve made a tremendous effort in aiding his educational progress, despite resistance on various occasions.

But enough about that; back to my gambling woes.

I cut myself off, hoping to replace my vice with a more pleasant distraction; one that would come in the form of gray fur and paws. My older sister Jennifer, who took my brother and I under her wing in recent years to help us resuscitate, adopted me a three-year old gray cat. This was compensation for leaving me during the bad times. I decided to head home and meet the little furball, whom I predetermined would be named Smokey.

Opening the front door, I was met with a brush of softness, both from a touch of fur upon my leg and within the audible “meow” that had dispensed from the adorable pet. The short-haired gray cat had seemed to already have a comfortable sensibility to my presence. In return, I knelt down to pet him, but only to be welcomed by a strained screech. The high-pitched scream didn’t come from my new purring family member, but from my sister.

“GREGORY!!!” She yelled out. “Get over here, right now!”

I made my way over to the hallway, in which she voiced her concern, to see what was going on. With my dismay, black marker ink was plastered across the tan-hued wall. The ink was shaped into something that made my eyes widen in shock. I was petrified. Terrifying depictions of cats with their teeth ripped out, along with a young boy tearing his own teeth out, were drawn. My little brother had crawled out of his room on all fours with a wide grin on his face and smudges of black ink spread across the palms and backs of his hands.

“Gregory! Why did you do this? You made such a mess!” My sister Jennifer had yelled in exasperation. “Clean it up right now!”

My little brother just stared with that creepy little grin on his face, not a single word spoken. All that was received, was a lingering silence. Up until the quietness was suddenly cut off by something frightening. An ear-splitting shriek emerged from my brother’s mouth. Both my sister and I clamped our own ears tightly to protect our suffering eardrums from the noise. After a minute or two, silence returned, and little Gregory scurried back into his room, the door shutting and locking behind him. Jennifer and I, still horrified and shaken, ended up cleaning the wall ourselves.

Later that night, I was woken up by the sound of deep and slow scratching, like sharp claws were being embedded into wood. My first thought was that Smokey was trying to leave the room, but he remained curled up at the edge of my bed. As I rose up from my slumber and began to step towards my door, the scratching increased in both speed and volume, the noise only ceasing when I turned the knob and opened the door.

I crept my way down the stairs, as cautiously and quietly as possible, as to not alert my sleeping siblings. However, my tactic was deemed a waste, with the clamor of what sounded like pots and pans being tossed around in the kitchen. Stepping into the vicinity of the noise, I came across the culprit. It was my cat, Smokey, perched up on the kitchen counter, knocking down the pans that hung from the backsplash behind the stove. My brain was boggled by the fact Smokey managed to sneak past me unnoticed, especially with me walking incognito.

Looking down, a canvas of red caught my eye. Streaks and drips of what appeared to be blood trailed across the hardwood floor, leading to marks dug into the wall. I assumed this was the source of the scratching sounds, but Smokey was blood-free and the engravings were far too large for such a small cat to make – besides, he was in my bed when the commotion began. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I was too tired to investigate. Hoping it was just a chimney-lurking raccoon, I cleaned up the mess and headed back to bed.

The next morning was an aroma-filled paradise. I could almost taste the greasy maple bacon, as the scent gathered in the air. The poached eggs and golden-brown wheat toast danced around my imagination before I rushed down to the dining room. My sister was already at the bottom of the stairs, about to call my name, as I interrupted her with a close collision. I hopped into a vacant seat and dived right into the gloriously prepared plate of food. Glancing over at Gregory, I acknowledged him with,

“Good morning! Get a good night’s rest?”

However, I was met with complete silence and a defined grin once again. I expected another outcry, but instead my eyes made contact with Gregory’s hands. His fingertips showed signs of stress, but the severity of it was beyond the likeness of fingernail biting. His nails were receded down to the flesh, and the skin freshly broken with signs of blood loss.

My brother began to open his mouth and motioned with a foreshadowing of vomit, then let out a mass of black liquid and gunk. The regurgitation left me disgusted and frankly, quite baffled. I immediately turned to my sister to see if she witnessed what unfolded, but it was already too late. My brother vanished from the dining room table, along with the obscure grime that spewed past the crevice in which his lips were shaped.

Almost instantly after the disappearance, I woke up. The events that appeared so real, were conceived as a nightmare. That familiar smell of breakfast again lingered around the house. I figured these scents had just temporarily carried over from the bad dream. Upon strolling on down to the kitchen, my theory was proven right. My sister had already left for work and it seemed the kitchen remained untouched. Except for one part…

A subtle pulsating breath greeted my ears. The wetness of a single drop of saliva was felt along the peak of my shoulder. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest idea to look up at this point in time, but my curiosity collided with my impulse reflexes. I swear my eyes almost slivered out of their sockets, because when I stared, I was looking at something that made me question my sanity. My little brother Gregory was up above me, defying gravity, his hands flat against the ceiling as if it was the floor. He was foaming at the mouth, bug-eyed, his face pale and gray but with a reddish tint.

I remained frozen in place from fright when Gregory leapt down from his perch. He immediately dashed upstairs on all fours, quicker than I could ever run. After this, a resounding animal-like whine, the kind you’d expect to hear when a cat’s tail is accidentally stepped on, roared throughout the home.

“Smokey!” I yelled out as I ran up to my room. What happened from there disturbed me, to say the least. Tears hit my cheeks. My face expressed disgust in both movement and color. I was upset in more ways than I knew a person could feel. The combined emotions of terror, revulsion, wretchedness, and perplexity overcame me in this very moment. My cat Smokey laid rested with his teeth torn out, but surprisingly still conscious. I watched as my brother, with radiating yellow eyes, rip out his own teeth as well. Oddly enough, quick and easy like tearing off a bandage. Gregory then placed his own teeth into Smokey’s mouth and did the same to himself with the cat’s fangs.

The scene before me was remarkable, but in the worst sense. A young male, about four and a half feet tall, with a mouth resembling a feline’s. A once cute-looking feline, altered into a humanoid appearance via its jawline. My brother picked up Smokey’s new form into his arms, walked away, and vanished right through the wall, neither of them to be seen again.

Many of us are raised up in a not-so-perfect home life, but how people handle this is varied. One might grow up scratching lottery tickets, while another scratches up the walls of the home they live in. A more vulnerable host attracts negative energy at higher rates, qualifying for a manifestation of their own demons. In this case, my brother was a target. Also, a fair warning for you. His body is still out there somewhere, possessed by something sinister, along with Smokey; the cat with human teeth.

 

CREDIT: R.T. Maxim

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My Neighbor’s Dog Has a Zipper

My Neighbor's Dog Has a ZipperReading Time: 11 minutesAt first, I didn’t think anything of it. My neighbor would stop to chat with me, leash in hand, and I would catch glimpses of the metal slider dangling from its belly. I assumed it was wearing a piece of pet clothing, or that perhaps it was the byproduct of some awkward veterinarian procedure, but the more we chatted and the more I saw this mystery zipper, the more I realized it was out of the ordinary; clearly imbedded in the dog’s skin. It drew my attention every time we engaged in small talk, until finally one day, I decided to ask about it.

“Say, what is that zipper for on the little guy’s belly, anyway?”

“Oh, that? It’s a long story, I wouldn’t want to bore you.”

“I’ve got nothing but time.”

I wondered if she could see the beads of sweat forming above my brow.

“Really it’s nothing, just a safety measure.”

And that was it. She pretty much laughed it off, granting me little in the way of an explanation. Thinking back, her responses were downright vague and deflective. She could see how curious I was, so why not just tell me? And what exactly did she mean by “safety measure”?

As unfruitful as our conversation was, I didn’t press the matter any further. Days, weeks, months went by. I would occasionally see the dog’s strange cosmetic feature, but I brushed it off every time, knowing it would only haunt me if I dwelled on it. Still, the thought itched in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until a few months had passed that I would finally have the nerve to scratch it.

I was pulling up weeds along my fence when I looked over at my neighbor’s place, noticing the dog lying on the back porch. A stray cat wandered by, as often happened in our neighborhood. Without so much as a warning growl or malicious stance, the dog trotted over to the cat and scarfed it down, the sound of sharp teeth colliding with bone. The cat screeched in agony until it was no more. In a minute flat, its entire body was devoured. I was in shock.

The cat’s cries alerted my neighbor to the situation. She raced outside, grabbed the dog by the collar, and pulled him into the house. Through the sliding door, it was tough to make out, but I swear she unzipped him and reached inside, seemingly adjusting one of his organs. He didn’t flinch, not even a bit. After pulling her arm out, the dog dropped to the floor, dead as a doornail, from the looks of it. She then carried him outside and placed him back on the porch, arranging him into a sleeping position before getting in her car and leaving for the day.

This five-minute span of visual information was unlike anything I’d ever witnessed. Words like gruesome, strange, and horrific are too tame to describe what I saw. I was appalled beyond measure.

After the shock wore off, I hopped the fence and approached the dog’s carcass. I felt its neck; cold to the touch, no pulse. I looked to its underside, and there it was. That god-forsaken zipper in all of its mysterious glory. I felt kind of bad for the dog dying, but I had to know what that damned thing was there for. I needed an explanation for not only the dog’s, but my neighbor’s odd behavior just moments ago.

I slowly unzipped the dog’s belly, placating my curiosity with the satisfying sound of metal sliding across metal. I spread each side of the opening with my hands and peered in, divulging the animal’s inner workings. What I saw was absolutely dumbfounding.

My neighbor’s dog was… animatronic. There was wiring, gears, a tank where its stomach should have been; the whole nine yards. It didn’t make any sense, but there it was, staring me back from behind the zipper.

After scurrying back home in shock, I decided that my best course of action would be to call Animal Control. I could tell them my neighbor’s dog trespassed on my lawn and was attacking the neighborhood cats. They would show up, examine the robotic carcass, and then go from there. I knew there wasn’t a protocol for that sort of thing, but I assumed they could take care of things and contact the appropriate people, whether it be the police, the government, or The National Enquirer. As long as this weird predicament was taken care of, I could sleep easy, knowing that my neighbor’s strange robot dog wasn’t going around eating whatever it pleased.

Simple, right? Nope. Far from it.

Animal Control took a while to get there. By the time they arrived, my neighbor had come home and disposed of the evidence, hiding the dog somewhere in her home. The Animal Control officer apologized for the misunderstanding and left, leaving my neighbor on her front porch, glaring in my direction. It appeared privacy meant nothing to the local authorities. Just my luck.

The days that followed were… different. My neighbor’s dog had sprung to life, re-activated by its master, no doubt. They would walk their usual path around the cul-de-sac, but would not stop for small talk. I knew her dirty little secret, after all. I was no longer a friendly neighbor to be conversed with, oh no. I was an enemy; a danger to this woman’s unusual way of life. Even if I meant no harm to her or her strange choice of pet, she didn’t seem to see it that way. She continued to give me the cold shoulder for about a month and a half before finally speaking with me again on one of her daily strolls.

“Hey there!”

“Hello. Everything alright?”

“Just peachy. I’m having a cookout on Saturday at noon. You’re more than welcome to come.”

Strange. We weren’t on speaking terms for over a month, and now I was suddenly invited over? Maybe this was her extending an olive branch my way; her way of saying, “No hard feelings.”

“Yeah, sure. I can make it. Sounds like a good time.”

“Great! I’ll add you to the list.”

As she walked away, I felt the need to apologize, even if her dog was a weird, cat-eating robot.

“Hey, about that Animal Control call. I just wanted to say-“

“Don’t worry about it. Water under the bridge. See you Saturday!”

She hurried off home, and that was that. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

The night before the cookout, I couldn’t sleep. I kept hearing what sounded like footsteps creeping around the perimeter of my house. Every time I got up to investigate, the sound ceased, and the coast appeared to be clear. It was either a prank at my expense, a burglar taking their sweet time to pull the trigger, or ghosts roaming around in the night. Either way, it left me anxious, making sleep a distant dream, just out of my reach.

During a particularly loud set of footsteps, I raced downstairs, just in time to catch four glowing dots peering in through my living room window. This was enough to make my neck hairs stand upright. Though terrified, I wasted no time grabbing a ball bat and storming out my front door to greet the would-be intruders. I may be old, but I can still kick some ass when needed, especially when it involves crossing my property line.

To my astonishment, my yard was empty. I covered every side of the house, only to find no one – not a soul in sight in any direction I looked. I don’t care how fast you can sprint, NOBODY could have made it out of eyeshot in such a short period of time, even in those low-light conditions. Baffled, and even more anxious than before, I locked up every last door and window in my home before crawling under the covers like a frightened child, scared of the mystery figures lurking in the shadows.

The footsteps dissipated over the course of the night, and as the sun came up over the horizon, so to did my fear. My waking nightmare had ended, but not before putting a weary, sleep-deprived frame of mind in its place. In a sluggish slur of movement, I grudgingly made my way to my neighbor’s house around noon, ready as I would ever be for the neighborhood get-together.

Oddly enough, there were no cars in the driveway, aside from her own. I wondered if I got the date wrong, but after knocking on the door, she greeted me with a smile and rushed me into the house. We exchanged pleasantries, and she sat me down at a bar stool in the kitchen. After a few moments of awkward silence, I mustered up the courage to ask about the elephant in the room.

“So… where is everybody?”

“You’re already here, silly.”

I tilted my head, puzzled.

“What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else. You’re the only person I invited.”

All at once the pieces clicked into place. I felt stupid for not realizing it sooner. Her sudden kindness, the noises the night before. There was no cookout. There was never any cookout. I was in the middle of a trap, lured in largely due to my own idiocy. I should have guessed that something sinister was going on the moment I unzipped that dog.

“So, what happens now?” I asked.

“You’ll see. Just sit tight.”

I quickly jumped up from my chair and turned towards the door. With inhuman speed, she bolted in front of me, a large kitchen knife in hand.

“Not so fast.”

I stood, still as stone, intimidated by her fluid motions and firm stance.

“We need to talk.”

“About what?”

I knew exactly what.

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

And that’s when I noticed it. On her chest, peaking through the top of her blouse. I would have missed it had the sunlight coming through the window not danced across its metal.

She had a zipper too.

Stricken to my core with fear, my gaze was interrupted by an angry hand gesture.

“My eyes are up here!”

The moments that ensued are a bit fuzzy, but I can only guess that I was knocked out or chloroformed, as I awoke strapped to a chair in a new room. Given the staircase, I assumed I was in her basement, though this realization didn’t help me any. I attempted to break free of my restraints, but it was no use; unless she were to free me herself, I was fastened to that chair for life.

In absence of mobility, I decided to give the place a once-over. The staircase was to my left and a concrete wall to my right, but directly in front of me was a work station, complete with about a dozen computers. This is where my neighbor sat, a USB cord snaking out of her unzipped chest, typing away at a blinding rate. Her motives were still unclear to me.

Though confined to the one view, I was able to turn my neck enough in both directions to form a decent picture of what was behind me. It was a wall of cages, each housing an identical copy of her dog. They didn’t move, even in the slightest, likely just as animatronic as she was. What on God’s green earth had I stumbled into?

Just then, my neighbor ripped the cord from her chest and walked over to me.

“Ahh, good. You’re awake. Did you have a nice nap?”

I refused to reply, looking her up and down in disgust, trying to make out what this thing was that was speaking to me.

“What’s the matter? Dog got your tongue?”

I remained silent, in lieu of her taunting me.

“That’s alright. You just need to listen. Sit tight. I’ll be right back”

She walked over to her work station and grabbed something before reclaiming her spot in front of me.

“I’ve worked too hard in this location to have you screwing things up on me. Then again, it’s my own fault. I was careless. I never should have left my core on the porch like that.”

I assumed she was talking about the dog.

“I want you to look at this.”

She placed the object at eye-level. It was a badge of sorts, upon which was a logo that read “Syntheti-Tech.”

“I’m an android. I work for a large company, moving from location to location, gathering specific information that is crucial to our initiative. You can’t know anything beyond that. Hell, you already know far too much.”

I hadn’t noticed it at first, but she seemed to keep playing with her zipper.

“God, I am so sick of this fucking meat suit.”

Before my very eyes, she removed her clothing and unzipped herself down to the groin. In the most unnatural way possible, she slid out of her own skin, revealing to me her true form. She was nothing but a pile of electronics, pieced together in a human shape. It was a strange sight, nauseating in every sense of the word. The way she moved and spoke while like this was downright sickening.

“I can’t say anymore, but I want you to know that our work is necessary. If you were to speak these truths to the world above, you would be jeopardizing everything we’ve accomplished. You have to submit to our intentions and see that they are just.”

I didn’t know what to make of this. I simply looked away, wishing not to see her grotesque, animatronic face any longer. Unfortunately for me, she grabbed it and forced it in her direction anyway, the feeling of cold metal enveloping my jaw.

“You need to PROMISE to me that you will submit. You are not to tell anyone of any of this. Do you understand?”

I nodded in agreement, but only because I wanted her hand off of my face. Luckily, she let go and backed away.

“Good. You know, we’re not so bad when you get to know us. In a sense, we’re just like you.”

Internally, I scoffed at the thought of this. I was nothing like her, and not just because of her appearance; I was never one to go around kidnapping my neighbors, holding them captive in my basement. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

“Well, this is it. I’ll need you to take over from here. Don’t make the same mistake I did, lest you regret it for the rest of your life.”

This was the last thing she said to me, though I had no idea what any of it meant. I must have been knocked unconscious again, because the next thing I remember was waking up on her basement floor, no longer bound by my restraints. For one reason or another, she didn’t kill me. I was a free man.

Without warning, a group of trained operatives burst through the basement door and raced down to help me up.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes. I’m fine. What’s going on?”

I noticed a few of the men walk on opposite sides of the room to gather evidence. One guy ripped open a cage, grabbed one of the dogs, and unzipped him, revealing it to be nothing but a hollow carcass.

“They’re empty, sir. A collection of shells.”

“Just as I suspected. No matter. Load them into the truck with the hard-drives. Hopefully she didn’t wipe them before she left.”

I must have looked completely bewildered, because the gentleman grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me straight in the eye.

“Everything’s fine now. We’ve been on this woman’s tail for a long time. We may not have captured her, but this is still a big win. And it’s all thanks to you.”

I was still confused, but more so relieved that it was all over.

“Are you sure you’re alright? Don’t need a ride to the hospital?”

I shook my head, not wishing to be poked and prodded after what I’d endured. I didn’t trust doctors much anyway. I just wanted to go home.

“Okay. Let me walk you to your house.”

I agreed, and we were off. I couldn’t wait to get inside and put the whole ordeal behind me. That was the plan, anyway.

Whatever government officials they were, the entire crew picked the place clean and left my neighborhood within a couple of hours. That night I received a call from them for a statement regarding the situation. I obliged and asked some questions myself. Though the information was privileged, I guilted them into giving up some details, claiming I needed some “peace of mind” so I could sleep at night. The fact that I was just a ‘frail, old man’ helped too.

It would seem my neighbor was a high-ranking disciple in an android cult hell-bent on infiltrating various government agencies. They were currently in the process of recruiting new members to aid in their cause. That’s all I was told, which was more than I thought I’d get. This was enough to placate my curiosity and keep me from dwelling on the events as they unfolded. I thanked the man on the other end and hung up, content with my findings.

After ending the call, I heard a knock at my front door. I didn’t usually get visitors that late at night, but I suspected it would be one of my neighbors, asking about the sting operation that just took place next door. I opened the door, and to my surprise, there was no person there to greet me. No. Not a person. Instead, there was a dog, identical to my neighbor’s. Before I could process its arrival, it trotted inside and sat on the floor. A voice then emanated from its collar.

“Shut the door.”

I did as the dog said, baffled and afraid.

“Hello. I am SERIAL #724234. I will be your core companion on your journey of fulfillment. True adventure awaits. Would you like to begin your first task?”

I didn’t know how to respond or what in God’s name was happening, but it was at this point that I felt an itch running up the length of my torso. It was subtle at first but grew to the point that I had to reach down my shirt and scratch at it. That’s when I felt a familiar metal caress my fingers. It took a moment for it to sink in, but I knew exactly what I was feeling.

It was a zipper.

 

CREDIT: Christopher Maxim

(Click HERE to check out Christopher Maxim’s latest book, How To Exit Your Body and Other Strange Tales)

 

 

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