The storm came that night, that’s how I remember it. Lightning and thunder scare the grumpkins outta the dog, and she patters around, panting and whining and fretting. I gotta get up, do stuff, turn the kettle on, make noise. Otherwise, she freaks out all night and nobody sleeps.
The storm? Oh, yes, a biggie. Dropped more rain in one night than for the whole previous season — yes, the wet season, winter, had no rain, effectively. No crops this year, no food that doesn’t come from the storage box.
Which is low, but not at the bottom. Not yet. It won’t be long if we don’t get the follow-up rain after the storm.
After that sleepless night, I planted a few rows of this and that and pegged it with the wire. Possums, birds, rats — they’re all starving, too, but we don’t have enough to share.
Dog sits with me, but she watches the sky, barks at anything that might be thunder. She doesn’t settle after a big storm these days.
Me, too, if I’m honest. Days, maybe weeks, before I venture beyond the back door. I used to love storms, would go to the beach and watch them roll in over the horizon, flashes of bright blue-white that lit up the deep darknesses of the ocean.
Not now. Not since that night.
Something like that can’t be imagined. A human brain isn’t big enough. My brain shrank at the sight of it.
Everyone thought it was the water, you see, but I saw it that night. Lightning lit up the critter in the middle of its despicable act.
How many people died last year? Hundreds of thousands, and all the quacks put it down to a bacteria. Nobody thought about those critters, now in plague proportions. Why didn’t they? They aren’t natural. No one knows where they came from, do they?
Cute as a baby monkey, fluffy, long tails. White fur that mottles the underlying hues. They make a sound that hums against the body, calms people. Pets. People keep them as pets, but I saw what it did! I know why they don’t eat much and yet look so healthy.
It’s not that they’re good ‘do-ers’. Not at all. They get their sustenance in other ways.
They do! I saw it, with my own eyes. And the dog, she saw.
That fluffy little thing saw me, too. Those big, round eyes, deep brown with a twist of pupil, clicked with a sound like a camera, and I heard it, and I knew.
Marked. Soon, I would be food. It — they all have one mind, you know — would wait for me to leave the boundary of my abode – don’t ask me why they can’t come in, I’m not a mind-reader, not of things like that! – and then it will curl the tail around my leg, use the pincer that emerges from the end, stick it in my skin, sedate me. One of it’s long arms will reach out the hand to hold my throat, the other will remove the clothing from my belly, and then …
I’m crying, can’t help it. One day, I’ll have to leave the house. I’ll have to walk down the street, I’ll have to walk past houses where they’ll all be looking out the windows at me.
Such cute critters. Big eyes, long limbs, long fluffy tail. One single long tooth on the lower jaw, retractable. It is, too. I saw it extend and retract. It’s that tooth they sink into the belly. A long way in. What they suck out? Who knows, I sure don’t. I do know no one remembers it, no one talks about the thing in the tail, no one understands the open wounds people get on their bellies, or why they won’t heal.
No one knows why those people wither up and die.
I should tell someone. Do I know anyone who doesn’t have one as a pet? Am I the only person who chose to trust that when the dog growls at something or someone, it’s not a thing to trust? Am I?
It seems so. My bones are so old, 92 yesterday, that no one would believe me anyway. They’ll say it’s dementia. Of course they will. When the next storm comes at night, you should be behind the glass, hidden, so you can see for yourself.
But don’t let them see you. Seen by one is seen by all, you know.
A short story for edification. I’m doing a bit of R&R (and still editing in the time I can), but … I’ll … be … back … unless those things get me first.