Fred thought about the story Bob told him as he drove home. If there was some sort of strange critter running around he wanted to investigate. He knew that severely mangy coyotes looked a little strange, he saw one a few years back. Badgers were pretty ornery and behave in a peculiar way sometimes. Couldn’t have been a bear he didn’t think, maybe it was a big Golden Eagle, that might be the most likely to fit. In the fog, looking through a scope it could be hard to tell, and Gus may be getting a little senile. There were too many details in his story that just didn’t fit, the skin color, the silver container. It started to bother him.
After putting his supplies in the cabin and filling his generator with diesel he figured he’d take a hike along the river to the lake and have a look for himself. It was getting late in the afternoon so he figure it might get a little cool on his way back so he grabbed his huge brown Carhart jacket. From his make-shift cooler, he snatched a large piece of smoked trout that he got from Bob, filled his canteen with water and started out. He thought about bringing his shotgun for a second but didn’t feel like carrying it all the way to the lake, so it was left in the rafters where he usually stored it. He forgot about the revolver in the truck’s glove box. Fred didn’t really expect to find anything but thought the hike would clear his head and convince him that Gus was just getting old and crazy and starting to hallucinate. He hadn’t been to the shore in a while, maybe he’d find something to salvage. It was a little misty, he liked walking around in the cool fog and mist, it somehow made him feel more secure.
Fred walked across the field in front of his cabin, then through a section of hardwoods that sloped down toward the river. The water was low this time of year but recent rains made the river bank muddy. He followed a familiar game trail along the river which casually weaved in an out of stands of cedar trees which became denser as the river dropped towards the big lake. They were tall and with the sun starting to get low, the shadows made the trail a little dark. Periodically he could see a beam of sunlight piercing through the trees and illuminating the mist hanging in the air. As he got closer to the mouth of the river the banks became rockier, with intermittent gravel sand bars near the river bends. It wasn’t a wide or particularly deep river, he could wade across in some places. There were a few deep pools which usually held trout and in the fall some salmon could even be found coursing up river to spawn. He thought about the salmon and noticed a hunger pang beginning to emerge. He should have brought another piece of smoked trout to snack on. After about an hour of hiking he stopped on one of the gravel sandbars and stooped to re-fill his canteen from the river. Mosquitoes were all but completely gone this time of year, so he took his time. He’d been drinking water right out of the river for years with no ill effects. Fred figured he had about another half hour to go before he reached the lake.
As he neared the mouth he could hear waves gently lapping the rocky shoreline and the trail became bright as more light poured into the opening from the lake. It was still cloudy and misty along the lake shore, rarely was there a sunny day here, but that was ok with him. He didn’t care much for sunshine and summer heat that came with it. A cow moose and it’s calf were at the shore drinking from the lake when he emerged from the cedars. The water was about 50 feet from the tree line, so he stayed snug against a large cedar tree to remain unnoticed and watch them for a bit. They never saw Fred and gradually moved along the river’s edge in the direction he’d come from until they were out of sight. He always like seeing wild animals, moose, deer, bear and some of the smaller ones too. There were plenty to observe in this area. He noticed a small hatchet blaze on a cedar tree down the shoreline a ways so he slowly strolled through the rocks towards it to check it out. This was the location for one of Gus’s traps he’s suspected. He figured it was where he had a fox trap. He could see no trap but didn’t want to disturb the area with his scent in case Gus wanted to use it again. He moved away, looking down as walked, when he noticed two spent rifle shells on the ground. A .223, he slid them into his pants pocket. This must have been where Gus fired off those shots Bob told him about. Huh. He thought for a minute, maybe Gus was on the level? Fred looked around, still standing in the cedars where they gave way to the rocky beach. He looked left towards the river a short distance away, then right along the slowly curving shore. He could hear the drone of a power boat in the distance, probably a charter fishing boat returning to Duluth for the evening.
Intently staring down the shoreline, he noticed something that stood out from the usual rocks, debris and tree trunk strewn coast. Something moving, something standing, standing just barely in the water. He moved along the tree line carefully for a closer look. A sudden queasiness filled his stomach. “my God” he thought to himself, now being able to see the thing clearly. Gus was telling the truth. This thing was less than 4 feet tall, with a thin skeletal frame and heavy muscled appendages, arms, legs and chest. It looked like a small human form, but kind of reminded him of a chicken for some reason. A rooster, that was it, but no feathers. It’s face was human like, but with amphibian features. It had a longish skull with a small pointed lobe at the back on top of long boney neck. When it turned slightly Fred could make out a short, thick tail, with a sharp looking ivory colored, boney spike protruding from it. Its skin was sort of a dark rose color and looked slimy at a glance but on closer examination appeared to be more snake like. The thing had human like hands with long skinny fingers, he couldn’t see its feet as it was standing in the water. “What the….” Fred was flabbergasted. This creature was holding the silver container Gus had described and shaking it to empty its contents into the water. He could see a few things drop from it and splash into the water.
Fred stepped back and disappeared into the tree line a when it seemed the creature was about ready to come out of the water. It pivoted its head back and forth, scanning the shoreline then abruptly darted into the thick cedars and underbrush, still clutching the silver cylinder. Fred could feel his heart beating and was aware that he was breathing rapidly. “Calm down and think” he said to himself. He could hear nothing and was focused intently on the small items that had been deposited in the water, then on the spot where the creature disappeared into the trees, then back again. When he felt assured that the creature was not returning, it seemed like hours had passed, he stepped out of the tree line, looking toward the things floating in the water. He reluctantly walked over and waded into the water to check out the floating objects.
Five round orbs, sort of resembling maroon colored walnuts or large seeds suspended barely above the surface of the water. He gawked at them for a few minutes, they seemed inert. Then he picked one from the water, rolled it around in his hand, shook it, smelled it, then shoved it into the side pocket of his jacket. He plucked the other four seeds out of the water and did the same with each. Fred wasn’t really sure what to do with them, but knew they had some sort of significance. He was baffled. His mind was racing with all kinds of crazy thoughts. Should he go tell Bob? Should he call the sheriff? Should he just keep them and this experience to himself? Kind of leaning towards that one he thought. He hoped he wasn’t pocketing some sort of weird critter turds. Fred’s pondering soon gave way to anxiety and he looked around to see if the thing may have returned. Nothing. Time to head home.
Sitting in front of the cast iron wood stove on a little wooden chair, rubbing his hands together in the heat radiating from the top, he examined the seed pods that were laid on the floor next to his large boot covered foot. What the heck were these things, what should he do? They were something the creature was disposing of, or were they something it was planting, or were they poisonous or were they eggs of some sort? He opened the door on the stove and tossed one into the fire.
After a few minutes a distinct popping noise was heard from inside the stove, followed by a ten or twenty seconds of sizzling and crackling sounds. Then nothing, nothing except a thick brown smoke that wafted by the window. Fred went outside and looked up at his chimney stove pipe, heavy smoke billowed from the opening at the top but soon subsided. It had a strange odor, almost chemical like, similar to the asphalt and tar he sometimes smelled while on his construction jobs, but more pungent. He returned to the stove and one at a time burned each of the seeds. He somehow knew it was the right thing to do.
- Seeds of Destruction - An Outlandish Tale
Chapter 2 of the short story "Seeds of Destruction"
- Seeds of Destruction: A Fatal Encounter
Chapter 4 of the short story "Seeds of Destruction"
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on January 23, 2017:
Jim, I agree with Larry, very creative, this one was also riveting. I am reading the in backwards sequence.
Blessings my friend
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 23, 2017: