A Slayer’s Work: Part Four

“Come on, Jackie Boy, rise and shine.”

I was not in the mood to do either of those things. Turns out that even in nice cabins, camping involves an obligatory lack of sleep. “Five more minutes, Poppa.” I told my father as I pulled the pillow over my head.

“You said that an hour ago.” He told me as he began to shake my shoulder, “Come on now. Let’s get a move on.”

I knew it was a losing battle but I stubbornly hung on a moment m,ore before conceding defeat and sitting up. My father does not believe in sleeping past sun up. It’s a religion with him – no wasting of daylight in our house. I went through most of grade school with bags under my eyes. It didn’t matter what time I went to sleep; I am simply not a morning person.

But Poppa was still calling me ‘Jackie Boy’ knowing I hate it – which meant he was to the point of trying to annoy me into getting up. A glance at the clock told me the sun had been up a couple hours. I was not inclined to join it but I wasn’t getting a choice.

Before ten am and coffee, I’m not much of a person regardless but I stifled the urge to argue with my father as he insisted on me getting dressed and coming to the lodge. Evidently, he wasn’t convinced I could do that all by myself as he was still in the living room when I emerged from the bedroom, fully if not happily, dressed.

“Your Momma wants to talk to you.” Poppa informed me as we walked.

Great. Firing squad at dawn. She probably thought I really did hit that little idiot.

Entering the lodge improved my mood. It was still filled with the wonderful smell of breakfast. I knew I was probably too late for the cinnamon rolls but I also knew Momma wouldn’t kill me on an empty stomach.

I was wrong – Momma had saved me two rolls to go with Mrs. Abernathy’s French toast. I knew then I was doomed but I wasn’t sure I cared. At least my last meal was great.

Momma came and sat across from me as I finished the last of my toast. I looked at her expectantly – stalling only makes it worse with Momma. Besides, i hadn’t actually hit the little turkey.

“What did you see last night?” she asked, direct and to the point as usual.

It caught me a bit off guard. I was expecting a talking to about not bullying my youngest, most annoying brother. It took me a second to answer.

“I saw something big right outside the window but I didn’t get but a fraction of a second’s look at it, Momma. I can’t describe it – it was just a blur.”

“Your Crystal said none of you knew what it was but thought maybe a day creature under concealment?”

I nodded, “Yes, Momma, I know how dumb that is but we can’t sense anything and Clifton is sure it’s nothing natural – or Bigfoot, whatever that is, if it is.”

“So he said. Any sense at all?”

I shrugged, cleaning my plate, “I woke up because it felt like I was being watched – but it didn’t feel anything like a creature. Mike started yelling almost the second I woke so I could have been wrong – but I really don’t think so.”

“Tell me about it.”

I filled her in on what had happened, including how I woke up. Ever since she found out about the mess up regarding who my mentor is, Momma’s taken a rather keen interest in anything I might not understand. her own power is long gone but to be honest, her experience is invaluable. If she hadn’t asked, I’d planned to ask her later in the day – much later, of course.

“Day or indeterminate.” Momma told me. “Some day creatures stalk at night – a few even hunt at night. Were you concealed?”

I shook my head, “I practice every day but I haven’t gotten to where I can do it asleep yet.”

“Did your father tell you what happened this morning?”

I suddenly had a feeling of dread wash over me. Now that I thought about it, none of my usually boisterous and noisy family were present. I had just figured they were playing around the camp but I hadn’t seen anyone walking over here, either. “No, Momma.”

“A boy went missing. His parents and he were heading for the boathouse and he stopped to pick up a rock. they walked past and when they turned to call him to come along, he was gone. I spoke to the couple they are staying with – the woman saw the boy stop and turned to get something herself. She heard his mother call for him a second later – no more, she says she’s sure.”

I’m no woodsman, but you don’t need to be in this campsite – the trees are spread out and all the undergrowth has been cut – you have to walk at least a hundred yards in the opposite direction from the lake to get to where the undergrowth is. A kid couldn’t disappear that quickly.

“How old?” I asked.

“Six.”

Old enough to walk alone but no where near old enough to do a hundred yard dash without anyone seeing him.

Momma was already answering my next question, “I know several – four I can reach. Two can’t come, one can’t come until Wednesday and I’m waiting to hear back from the fourth.”

I nodded, getting to my feet. We wouldn’t have a day slayer to help today. “Where?”

“They were organizing a search from the main office. Donna is keeping the youngsters busy and I’m going to help with the kids so more people can volunteer.” Momma told me as I took my plate to the kitchen.

That meant she and my sister Donna would handle the nursery duties so available and willing adults could lend in the search. Logistics was Momma’s specialty – she’d probably already arranged for a lunch crew as well.

I gave her a kiss on the cheek as I left. I’m no woodsman, but I am a slayer. If nothing else, I’m an able bodied male who can beat bushes as well as the next guy. Since I couldn’t track whatever it was as a slayer, I could darn well provide the extra boots.

Four and a half hours later, I was cresting a hilltop alongside one of the park rangers when he got the call. Little David Withers had been found, safe and sound, ten miles away.

I only got that last bit because Bert, the ranger, couldn’t believe it when they told him on the radio where they had found the boy. He’d blurted out that it was ten miles away.

The good news is the boy is safe – that’s the important part. But there’s no way in heck a six year old walks ten miles in about six hours. At that age, they don’t have the stamina to keep walking like that. A grown man, sure, no problem in half that time or less. But a six year old kid? No way.

Whatever had taken him hadn’t decided to keep him – or hurt him. That ruled out every night creature I could think of and most of the few day creatures I’d read about. I didn’t like this. I hadn’t liked it before – I liked it a lot less now.

I tried not to show it when we reached the office – the crowd was understandably jubilant and there was no reason to ruin the mood. Same thing when I got back to our lodge, now full of volunteers along with our group. Momma was in the process of feeding them, of course. I got a ham sandwich and a soda and went to find Crystal.

I only got as far as the porch – she and Clifton were headed our way. We got them food, picked up my brothers Tim and Kevin along the way and set out for the pier in hopes of having a somewhat quieter place to eat.

Excepting that my sister Donna and her new friend Melissa had beat us to it, it was quieter – at least quieter than the madhouse our lodge had become. The girls chatted as we ate. Kevin made Tim fill him in on all he’d missed the night before. Clifton provided the official story – he just didn’t look like he believed it.

Neither did I. Those tracks weren’t human, that much even I knew but the official story had a stalker lurking around overnight and managing to spirit Little David away this morning. Made no sense – an adult couldn’t have disappeared with a kid that fast either – but that was the story they were sticking to ‘pending further investigation.’ Translation: they had no clue, either.

I suppose I can’t fault them for wanting to keep people calm. They were going to have extra rangers on hand for a few days and lock the park gates at night. They were doing their best and my sarcastic thoughts about how a locked gate with no fence was surely the best protection from a giant that can out sprint an Olympic gold medalist while carrying sixty pounds of dead weight weren’t going to help. I kept them to myself.

Donna and Melissa finished first and wandered back to help finish up whatever they had going with baby sitting duty. Kevin decided he’d better corral Mike and Marty before they got bored and started mischief. That left Tim, Clifton, Crystal and I, and none of us were doing much talking.

Tim, strangely enough given how quiet he usually is, finally spoke, “Not a dang bit of that makes sense. And neither of you killed anything, right?”

Crystal and I confirmed his suspicions. I went ahead and told him that Momma had called for back up.

Crystal then had to explain the difference in periods to her cousin – and my brother. Heck, I wouldn’t know either if I didn’t absolutely have to – weird and useless information unless you kill supernatural creatures as a hobby.

Clifton finally motioned for her to lean over. She did and he whispered in her ear. She shrugged, “I don’t know. Did anyone…?”

Clifton shook his head, “No, I’m sure they didn’t. No one talks about it but they always have the funny look about them. I was there for the debrief – none of them looked like they saw anything weird.

“I’ll ask the day slayer when they get here – otherwise, I’d have to see it.” Crystal told her cousin.

I didn’t ask. Whatever he was nervous about, Crystal was confident it wasn’t our troublemaker. I’d ask her later, if and when we were ever alone.

Which wasn’t going to be now. Kevin, Mike, Marty, Tina and Donna were on the shore hollering for us to come. I knew as i got up we were going to have a busy afternoon.

Normally, well, busy is normal for my large family, so it rarely bothers me. But now, I felt uneasy. I glanced around seeing only lake and trees but still, it felt like there was something in the air – something heavy and dark.

A Slayer’s Work: Part Three

At two am when Mike started screaming again, I seriously regretted not putting him in the cabin with the girls.

I should explain. I was already just waking up – something felt wrong. I wasn’t sensing a creature but still, it felt like someone was watching me. Being a slayer, I rarely get the creeps but this was just enough to wake me – and really annoy me.

My eyes had just opened and I was staring at the wood paneling beside my bed when Mike began his wailing. What happened next took a lot less time to happen than it will for you to read this. I threw myself over, tossing the covers as I did. I looked at Mike but knew instantly he was looking at the window so I spun in that direction as my feet hit the floor.

Outside, there was something. Big – really big – was my only impression before it disappeared.

Slayers are inhumanly fast at times. that’s how I could do all that in a fraction of a second. That’s also how I could catch my now infuriated youngest brother as he went for the window with a stick he’d found earlier.

It was a good sign, really. He was past being afraid and well into being ticked off by whatever had been messing with him. But it was gone and I wasn’t at all sure he was going to bother with niceties like opening the window before trying to hit the thing that wasn’t there anymore.

“Whoa, whoa, calm down!: I ordered as I got a hold of him, “It’s gone.”

Mike said words I won’t repeat – and promised later not to tell Momma about.  He’s the family runt, troublemaker and hothead – and right that moment, he was twisting my arm half off trying to get at the thing.

Marty was on his feet and had enough sense to go get Tim in the next room. Tim told me later he was coming out of his room when Marty got to the door. They got back quickly and Tim and I wrangled Mike together until he finally started to talk sense. To his hotheaded credit, it only took a minute or so.

Leaving Mike to Tim, I borrowed the stick to go investigate. I grabbed my flashlight along the way and met Clifton in the living room. He had pants and shoes on – I was still in PJ’s but honestly doubted anything was still out there. wordlessly, we went onto the well lit porch and then into the darkness.

I gave up doubting things when I became a slayer – I kill vampires, who am I to doubt other weirdness in this world? I admit, the prints in the dirt were not what I was expecting but I promptly rationalized that they were just bear tracks. Really big ones.

Clifton knelt beside the tracks and looked closer. He looked none too happy once he got back up. “Let’s do a walk around in case it’s still here.”

I nodded. Bears do not belong in the campground. If it were still here, it needed to not be.

But a complete walk around the campsite, with the obligatory poking into every dark corner, produced no bear or anything else furry. I did see a tree frog I stopped to quietly move from my sister’s cabin window to the edge of the woods so both of them would live a lot longer. Otherwise, nothing. No critters, real or unworldly, at all.

As I finished my frog rescue, Clifton spoke, “What do you make of those tracks?”

“By the window tonight?” I was still convincing the frog that he could safely let go of my hand.

“Those and the others on the dirt road.”

I finished and stood up. “I didn’t see the others – I’m not exactly Paul Bunyon, but the ones i did see looked like a really big bear.”

We started toward the front of the cabin, but he was gawking at me, “Bear?”

I sighed and shrugged at the same time, “I only know what they look like from a book we used in Scouts. Never seen anything like one before tonight.” I paused as it hit me, “Um, but what else would be that big out here?” Not knowing Clifton well, I did not want to voice my second choice.

He just shook his head, “A grizzly couldn’t make a track that big. I worked out of Tacoma last summer and got to see a few in the wild. Bear don’t make tracks that large unless they are stepping on their own tracks – but that isn’t what those were.”

I stifled the urge to sigh again. Clifton works search and rescue for the Forest Service – he’s a trainer and an expert woodsman. I’m the guy a rabbit managed to spook when I was a kid – he’d know better than me but he didn’t seem to want to put a name to option two either. I decided it would be quicker to just get it over with, “Okay, that leaves what, bigfoot?”

He shook his head again and abruptly changed course, “No, I … saw some of those, too. These were… Heck, hang on.” He hopped up on the girls porch and tapped twice, followed by three more.

He stepped back down to where I was. We could here movement so we just waited.

Crystal’s voice was speaking as she opened the cabin door, “Yes, I’m sure. Go back to sleep, it’s just my cousin.”

I heard Jane’s voice reply but didn’t catch the words.

“Night.” Crystal responded, then closing the door, turned to us, “This had better be good. Do you know what time it is?”

Clifton nodded, “Sorry, Crysie, but I need you to look at something. It’s got to be from your side of the street but neither of us recognize it.”

Crystal joined us, pulling her robe around her in the chill morning air, “What? Can’t be – I haven’t sensed a thing. You?”

Meeting her gaze, I gave an emphatic shake, “No, but something woke Mike and me – it was at the window. I didn’t get a good enough look. It left tracks but I don’t know what they are either.”

“Why does it have to be a creature, Cliff?” Crystal turned to her cousin.

We were almost there. “Let me show you.” he replied.

We got to the spot. The light was out in the window but the other cabin lights were still on. We showed Crystal the tracks.

She did pretty much the same stuff her cousin had as she knelt beside them. The Scouting program down south must be better than ours, I concluded. Crystal took a lot longer than her cousin had before she finally got back up.

She shook her head, “It’s nothing I’ve seen before – not a creature of the night at all. I mean, it could be a creature of the day, those are hardest for us to sense, but it gets less than ten feet from a true slayer, even one from a different period? That seems really unlikely. Could you track it at all?”

Clifton nodded, “Yeah, just a short distance – I’ll show you where they end.”

“Okay. Just to be sure, those Sasquatch things don’t have claws like that, do they? I mean, I’ve only seen casts in videos…” Crystal asked her cousin.

“No, they don’t. That’s why I figure it has to be something you guys deal with – it looks like a cross between a pigeon toed bear and a bigfoot with a limp. Here, I’ll show you.” Clifton took one step more before kneeling in the roadway, “See?”

I saw dirt with scratches in it. Mostly dirt. Crystal knelt beside her cousin so I joined them, but they proceeded to talk about the tracks they were looking at in ways I couldn’t follow.  Even with them pointing out features, it was just swirls in the dirt to me. The gist was the thing was really big, walked funny and was definitely dragging one leg just a little bit.

I was silently apologizing to all those film writers I’d  laughed at over the years because I didn’t believe you could get that much from lines in dirt as we reached the end of the tracks. We all knelt again but this time the cousins were a lot more animated about their findings.

I loaned Crystal my flashlight and they split up, trying to find more tracks. I just knelt there, trying to think back to my first sensation after waking. It hadn’t been a creature, I was certain. At least, it hadn’t felt like one. Then again, I’ve never met a day creature. Sonia, the day slayer I have met, says the sensation of period is pretty close between slayer and creature – so a creature of the day should feel a little like her. But I’d just emerged when I met her and had almost no sensation of her.

I was considering if it could have been concealed when the cousins returned. It was kinda fun, listening to them squabble like siblings. Clifton was the closest thing to a brother that Crystal had and it showed. But they weren’t actually angry with each other – it was frustration and predawn hours taking their toll.

Once again, they’d found no further sign. That bothered them both because the loose dirt hadn’t ended; the tracks had. Even with the huge steps it seemed to take – Clifton tried to imitate one and couldn’t make the same distance even stepping as far as he could without losing his balance – there should have been more tracks to the wood line.

At least according to them. Crystal and I briefly mulled the idea of concealment. That seemed to explain it best – although why a concealed day creature would stalk a cabin with a true slayer in it in the middle of the night was something we couldn’t explain at all.

Which left me with nothing to tell my siblings as I returned to the cabin and Clifton walked Crystal back to hers. They were my brothers, so I was stuck with the job but I would much rather have been with my girlfriend, even if she was still fussing at him when we parted.

Getting Mike calmed down took another hour. Clifton, once he returned, helped considerably. Mike gave his word more credit – he’s an expert; I’m just his dorky brother. But he wasn’t happy when he finally agreed to go back to sleep. He took one of the couches and I took the other. Marty joined Kevin, who slept through the whole thing, Tim and Clifton in their room. I couldn’t honestly blame him.

I managed to stay awake until Mike drifted off. I was right behind him.