"Howie, I think we were further down the river, closer to the pumping station."
"Jake, you think like Caesar. He thought his ass was an ice cream freezer."
"Yeah, and you think Dotty Wilson shits golden turds."
"Don't even go there. See, look straight across the river. See those three pilings? This is where we caught the big salmon."
Howie and I have been friends since third grade. We have the same birthdays, and we just celebrated turning thirteen at his house this year. We have just one party for the both of us. My dad calls it a 'money saving tradition' and --
"Holy shit! Look at that log. It's as big as a Mini Cooper. Where did it come from?"
"Ssshh, I think I got a nibble. Come on baby, take the bait."
I grab Howie by his arm. "Shit, man look. Look, look."
"What is wrong with you? You made me miss -"
"Howie, that's no log -- it's swimming across the current. Shit, it's coming for us."
Howie puts down his pole and picks up a rock as big as his fist, winds up, throws, and hits the thing hard. The rock sounds like it hit a thick metal wall. I pick up a rock, but the thing is swimming toward us faster now.
"Shit, let's get out of here. Come on Howie. That thing is pissed off now. Come on!"
I'm already starting up the bank to the top of the levee with my tackle box and pole. I look back, and the thing is about twenty yards from shore. Howie is frozen in place just staring. I drop my gear and run back and grab the back of his shirt. I try and pull him up the levee. Howie falls on his butt. I glance up for a second and more of that thing is exposed. It has to be over twenty feet long.
"Howie! Fuck! Come on!"
Howie screams like he's lost his mind, turns and starts scrambling up the levee. I'm right beside him when I feel more than hear this big low, bass, rumbling noise that gives me a mass of goose bumps.
We are slipping and sliding on the loose gravel and shredding our clothes and blooding our hands and knees on the rip rap.
I hear the Thing crashing ashore, ripping through the shrubs. It bellows again as we reach the top of the embankment and our momentum carries us across the levee. We can't gain our balance and tumble down the steep bank almost into the path of the cars racing along River Road.
I hear someone whimpering as I lunge into the street in front of a red Toyota pickup. The driver hits the brakes and swerves around me up on the side of the levee. Horns are blaring, brakes are squealing, someone is screaming and cursing.
A white Honda sedan is screeching to a stop a foot from me. A car crunches into the rear of the Honda.
I don't even slow down. I lurch into the path of a BMW convertible. It's too late for the BMW to brake. The driver drives up on the sidewalk and misses me by inches.
I collapse on the sidewalk just as Howie trips over me. That's when I realize I'm the one making the whimpering sounds.
The traffic is stalled in both directions. People are yelling and cursing, horns are blowing. Some drivers are out of their cars looking confused.
The driver of the Toyota pickup is out of his truck and pointing at us. He's yelling something I can't and probably don't want to understand.
I can understand the angry blond woman who was driving the BMW. She's right in my face.
"What the fuck is wrong with you assholes? Are you on fucking drugs?"
I want to say something to her, to say I'm sorry, but I can't take my eyes off the top of the embankment.
The blond lady is shaking my shoulder.
"God, what happened to you two? Did you get hurt? Was someone after you?"
I turn to face her, but I turn right back to watch the levee.
The horns stop.
Howie, looks at me, grabs me by the collar. "Shit, shit, holy Shit! We better get out of here. We better get out of here now. Right now!"
"Yeah, yeah, but where?"
"Home, home, we need to get our asses home."
The blond lady is stooping down to talk to us. "Boys, boys, what's wrong? What're you frightened of? How did you tear your clothes and get all scratched up like that?"
I feel the bass rumble vibration. I see the head of the Thing, God, its mouth's huge, like a crocodile but like ten feet of mouth and teeth as big as footballs. I try to warn the Toyota driver, but by the time he turns toward the Thing it has him in its mouth, all of him.
Now there is screaming and running and car doors slamming, cars trying to back up or turn around and more screaming and people running every which way. The blond lady is running into the apartment complex behind us yelling for us to come with her.
Horns are honking again all over the place and the Thing looks confused for a second before it launches itself at the closest horn blowing car and crawls on top of the little Chevy and crushes it.
The creature scrambles toward another horn blower. We run.
"Howie, we're not going home, not home. We're not taking that thing home."
"To the freeway, to Interstate Five. Let that fucker tangle with some eighteen wheelers."
"Jake, it might not follow us. Slow down." We stop and look back. "Look at the easy food down there. It's like a picnic for that thing. It has forgotten about us."
We're on a slope about a hundred yards away from the Thing looking down on the whole scene.
The Thing looks up at us as we look down at it. There is that rumbling bellow as it launches itself in our direction.
We run. We run for our lives.
The fucking thing has to be forty feet long, but fast even coming up the slope. We dash to the cyclone fence along the freeway looking for the hole the homeless people made to get to their camping grounds along the freeway. As we squeeze through the opening the bellow is so close I can feel the wind from it and smell its swampy breath.
The fence doesn't even slow it down. It tramples the fence like it was made of toothpicks. We race along the twenty foot-high cinderblock sound wall looking for the opening between the sound walls. The opening is just a few feet wide, way too small for the Thing to get through.
We slide through the opening and run south along the freeway until we both trip over vines connected to the sound wall.
The thing explodes through the wall, busting it apart like it was made of Lego blocks or something. We struggle to our feet as the thing bellows and advances toward us like it knows we can't run any more.
A gasoline tanker blasts its air horn as it approaches us doing about sixty-five in the slow lane. The thing whirls around and bellows a challenge to the tanker. The monster charges the tanker as we scramble toward the next break in the wall.
We make it behind the wall just before the explosion. We feel the heat wave roll over us and smell the gas and the burning flesh. It's sickening. We vomit when the oily black smoke gets to us.
Shaken and tattered we climb through the broken cinder blocks and over the crushed fence and limp home.
* * *
It's all over the news the next day. We're not in the news.
"Shit, man, that was like, fucking Jurassic Park shit. Wow! Look at it burn."
We're at my house in my back yard. We have watched videos of the twisting, turning, raging thing on fire, but refusing to die. We're watching on our computer tablets what we were too scared to see in person. We have watched the phone and helicopter clips for hours. I'm finally reading one of the articles on the, "... improbable, impossible, inexplicable incident."
"Jake, here's a new one it shows the --"
"Howie, shut up. Shut up for a minute, man. Listen: 'Scientist believes the creature may be related to the Cretaceous period crocodile, the Sarcosuchus, at about ten tons, the largest crocodile ever.' And --"
"Wow! Jake, do you think we should contact Fox News and be on TV? Like, we discovered this thing-"
"Listen, Howie, listen: 'Professor Arnold Rossdale of UCLA believes the Sarcosuchus mated for life and were devoted to each other and that there may be a second creature.'"
"What! Say that again. No way! I didn't see any second creature. Did you see any --"
We didn't see a second creature and don't see it now. Not yet, but it's close. We tremble as we feel that bass bellow vibration in our bones.
Article © Frederick Foote. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-01-04
Image(s) are public domain.