By Andrew Ross
The call came in about a wild animal, type unknown, killing and eating people’s pets in the neighborhood. I glance at my partner, Theo, and say, “Okay, it sounds like we have a carnivorous predator to deal with.” He nods and puts the truck in gear.
After driving around through the suburban area for a while without seeing anything out of the ordinary, we spot a cat fleeing a dark creature and observe as it desperately scrabbles over a fence into a backyard. The odd predator follows in a smooth flowing, almost fluid, movement.
“What on Earth was that!” I exclaim. It seems to run and then to slither. It makes no sense; I have never seen anything like it.
“I might know, Mary,” Theo says, “but I need to see it up close before I’m sure what we are dealing with here.”
We clamber out of the truck, go to the rear, and collect our gear. I’m not sure what we need, but Theo seems to know. What is it about this man that draws me towards him? What is the attraction? He makes me feel light headed whenever he looks at me.
We hear the cat screaming, which makes the hairs on my arms rise, and Theo calmly gets ready. He hands me the tranquilizer gun while he pulls together a collection of net, hook, and prod stick. He leaves one of the containment boxes with the door open.
“Okay, Mary, let’s see what we’ve got.”
We go through the gate and find a large, strange slug-like beast. It is fighting and changing shape, seeming at once to have limbs and then looking like a python, all while trying to control and ingest, the yowling, struggling cat.
While I covered him with the tranquilizer gun, Theo steps up to the pair and, using the prod, pins down the vile looking beast. It immediately releases the cat, which flees away instantly.
Without a word, Theo scoops up the creature dripping with fluid in the net and we walk it back to the truck.
I gasp, “What is that thing?”
He says nothing, just gives me a little smile.
Theo stuffs the slug-creature into the holding box. While he removes the net, the thing envelopes his hand and rapidly slides itself up Theo’s arm, engulfing it completely.
I watch, frozen in horror, not sure what to do. If I shoot a tranquilizer into it, it could go through the beast and hit Theo’s arm. What was it doing to his arm? Was it eating it? Poor Theo.
Oddly, my co-worker remains calm and, as the thing reaches his shoulder, Theo bends his arm so his hand is lined up with his mouth.
I watch in a sort of fascination mixed with revulsion as Theo opens his mouth wide and slurps the tail end of the creature in. His mouth continues to open wider as he in turn envelopes the creature and…and…what was going on? I feel like I am watching a kid with a popsicle as he strips the beast off his arm and finishes swallowing it.
As Theo glances at me, seeming satisfied, and I feel a chill. I feel like I am falling. The look in his eyes makes me shiver in horror and yet I feel that strange attraction. I take a dizzy step back as he smiles broadly and gently holds my hand. I can’t look away. His eyes…are too much. Why is he looking at me that way?
“Theo…what…a…what…are…you?” I struggle to say, as everything fades to grey.
Andrew C. Ross was born in Toronto, Canada, resided in Santa Barbara County for over 56 years, and is currently living in Orcutt. He has three published works, several novels in process, and about 30 short stories and articles. Andrew is a member of SLO NightWriters, for writers at all levels in all genres. Meetings are held monthly and are open to all; find more information at slonightwriters.org.