(Copyright David Anthony Kearns, Chapter 4, Book 2 of the Monster Hole series. All rights reserved and protected.)
Nov. 25, 2014 – Coleman, Texas.
Rancher Juan Mejia watched the herd in the twilight. The cattleman had four generations of experience in his blood telling him there was no one but himself and his fifty head of prize steer between here and town, a distance of some thirty miles, but something was wrong anyway. None of the longhorns were grazing or even lowing at each other. They were just standing there watching the sky, all of them facing due south as if waiting. The wind rustled through Mejia’s white-grey locks and his salt and pepper moustache. He took off his hat and swatted the giant flies away from his face so he could hear what it was that was causing his prized ganados to remain so still.
There were Texas cougars to worry about of course, coyotes, and other assorted creatures, and there were the stories, about Chupacabra out this way, but Mejia considered that superstitious nonsense. He knew better. Sure, he had had livestock go missing, had found some of his goats and sheep mangled, but the likely culprits were always commonplace in his world view. He was a down-to-earth sort of man, who kept superstitions of his culture and his job in check, lest he succumb to them and go loco. There was so much time when a man spoke to no one out here. If a mind wandered to those places, a man could start hearing things, ancestors talking to him, that sort of thing. Juan wanted nothing to do with all that. And yet it was an unexplained feeling of impending doom that caused him to unclip the holster-snap on his Colt .45 Peacemaker and keep his hand on the pearl handle of the revolver. Why had he done it? This was not like him, giving in to such “hunches” and feelings.
He was proud of that pearl handled weapon, and an excellent shot with it. He kept it mostly to protect his beloved mount from rattlesnakes. This was the first time in memory he had ever unleashed the weapon without a target already in mind.
The lights came from the south and hovered above the grass beneath a series of hillocks. They were like the sun of a new day, each of them perhaps thirty feet across and ten feet thick, solid white. Juan shielded his eyes for a second to make sure he was seeing what he was seeing. Little shadows emerged from beneath each of them. For all the world they resembled flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Then, away slipped the lights after dimming in intensity for a split second.
Temporarily blinded, Mejia completely un-holstered his pistol and trained it in the direction of the lights and the flying monkeys, but they had seemingly disappeared from the air. The rancher exhaled, and steadied himself with the knowledge that he had not had a drop of tequila in over seventeen years. He attended his meetings twice a week, and he had not slipped up recently. If he had just seen flying monkeys, well then he had seen them, or he had finally gone loco. He offered a quick prayer to the virgin to make the flying monkeys resolve into something more familiar.
Mejia squinted hard to see, and discovered after a moment of relief, they were not flying monkeys, after all, but small dogs of some sort. The ravenous animals, apparently a hundred or more, began scurrying back and forth in the grass, sniffing out rabbits and moles which bounded and zigzagged ahead of this mysterious pack. He shoved the image of the ovals of light to the back of his mind for later review. Right now he had cattle to protect.
Mejia wheeled his speckled mount around and galloped over to the barbed-wire fence between his herd and this menace whatever it was. The horse stopped up short and reared slightly. Mejia placed his hand on the beast’s shoulder to steady her.
“Angelina, calmate” he assured her.
He steadied the pistol again at the crook of his left elbow and fired a single round which toppled one of the dogs over backwards. He was still an excellent shot and these creatures indeed were real, and he would likely see that they were nothing more than desert coyotes as they came a bit closer.
The remaining animals stopped and looked at Mejia quizzically. One of them cocked its head, stretched its wings for a moment, refolded them and continued chewing on a prairie rat. Soon they began yelping to each other, as if discussing what to do about the rancher.
“Pues, no son perritos. Eso es ceirto.” Mejia whispered to himself.
One of the animals trotted brazenly over to the fence. Its head looked hard and knobby, covered in scales, speckled with splotches of yellow, green and tan. Its eyes were yellow with black slits over a devil smile, full of spiky fangs. The rest of it appeared to be that of a hairless coyote with the hinged wings of a giant bat.
Juan blinked, then blinked again “Hijo de la chingada! Que diablos es usted!”
It reared its head and sniffed at the herd of steers which began lowing and dipping their horns in threatening gestures backing away from the fence. The animal smiled and squeaked at its fellows making more cries that sounded like an unnamed beast somewhere on the classification scheme between a chimpanzee and wood-stork. The little animal initially gave Juan Mejia no more notice than a tumble-weed. So Mejia, very carefully, furtively raised the pistol to squeeze off another shot but the winged devil was upon him in an instant, gnawing on his arm and clawing at his face before he could pull the trigger.
The gun discharged as he fell from his mount and dozens of the little creatures lifted off from the ground over the fence and began to set in on the herd. It didn’t take long. They tore out great pieces of flesh from the animals which fell one by one, and gorged themselves on blood, filling sack-like, red pouches along their necks before trotting away. Juan lifted himself from the prone position in time to see them all take flight again into the twilight sky banking toward the west.
Bleeding, but alive, the rancher managed to get up and stagger to his mount. Strangely enough the horse wasn’t harmed in the slightest. Mejia, slumped over the saddle, trotted the mare back to his ranch, praying he would reach home before his heart failed.
Rosa had known something was wrong when he returned through sage and dusk without the herd. The dogs wouldn’t let him alone, another bad sign; they mothered over him, licked his face and wounds as he slumped from his horse and collapsed on the ground near the family picnic table.
Rosa contacted the sheriff’s department on her cell, fearing that her husband had been attacked by drug runners and knocked senseless. Then she called emergency services as she ran out to meet him.
He was alive but just barely. His voice was weak. His face flushed as though he was being consumed by some strange, internal fire.
“Que fue, mi amor?” she asked.
“Son animales diabolicas,” he kept repeating through rasps and coughs. “They are demons. They attacked the herd. They’re all gone!”
It didn’t take long for the ambulance to arrive, maybe fifteen minutes, but to Rosa, it seemed an eternity. Juan was placed in the back of an ambulance for the long ride to the hospital twenty miles away. She wanted to ride with him to the hospital but their grandson, Julian was inside the house sleeping. He would have to ride along with her in the family car.
Just as the ambulance left the ranch with sirens blaring, three black sedans pulled up to the entrance at the Mejia ranch and scrambled down the dusty lane to the house.
“What now?” Rosa asked.
Men got out and told Rosa they were from something called the North American Aerospace Defense Command. They needed to look around the ranch. She said she didn’t care, she needed to make calls and drive to the hospital to look after her husband.
Within an hour two helicopters had landed on the property, a hazmat tent was set up to analyze the dead livestock.
Mejia told nurses and staff at Coleman Memorial an insane story as he died of a bacterial infection that spread like lava from the gashes in his arm and cheek. He spoke of winged devils in the desert attacking and killing fifty head of cattle; he described how they seemed to speak to each other with yelps and cries; how smart they were; how strange, and of course glowing discs had deposited them on the prairie below the hills.
His wife, Rosa, arrived too late to say goodbye.
An Air Force official working for NORAD was able to glean some of the details about Mejia’s death from a few nurses and staff before the charge nurse asked him to leave. But he did get enough of it to place into a report which he shared with a colleague, an old roommate from the US Air Force Academy.
Washington D.C – OIS investigator Lt Colonel Kurt Warner USAF had seen and had heard of some wild-assed reports but this was way more than anything he had ever dealt with in his three years with the office of investigative services and ten years in Air Force counterintelligence.
He strode through the Air Force side of E-ring at the Pentagon, looking for Colonel Jason Epps.
Epps, who was also OIS, was a defense advisor to Georgia Republican Senator Myles Stansil, chairman of the defense appropriations committee. Warner had to get to Epps as soon as possible before he headed over to the hill.
“Truly strange shit, colonel. I thought you should know and advise the senator just incase this gets out,” Warner said entering Epp’s office
“What did you find out?” Epps said leaning back in his chair and raising his hands behind his head and clasping them. He did this whenever he meant to subtly deflate the junior man with an air of bemused skepticism.
“Well they found one of the creatures dead this time. The old man, a rancher named Mejia, got a round off and popped one good with a Colt .45 before they got to him,” Warner said.
“Did the rancher make it?”
“Nope. Like the others, got hit with a wicked bacterial infection of some sort. Barely lasted three hours,” Warner said.
“Tough sum bitch,” Epps said.
“What do you mean?” Warner asked.
“Three hours is in fact, a new record,” Epps said with a smile. He might have been discussing sports highlights.
“What did the creature look like?” Epps said.
“It was more than your typical, hairless coyote, a really strange case. Might be hard to cover up if it gets out, unless we make folks seem crazy,” Warner said.
“Strange? How so, Warner?”
“This thing had wings, head like a fucking iguana. The NORAD people have it. They could not be persuaded to release it,” Warner said.
“NORAD? Shit! Who let them in on this?” Epps said leaning forward. This was serious now, no frat party.
“Hey they were tracking two objects that obviously came in over the gulf, went straight for Texas even though they had been painted by ground radar,” Warner said.
“What the fuck can they be thinking?” Epps said.
The comment stunned Warner. He looked at the Air Force colonel for a second. Epps acted as if UFOs were capable of understanding and signing human treaties, or could read a roadmap – as in “now this here, is Texas, see? That’s US territory and this here this is Mexico, see? Fly above radar all you want there, but not in Texas. You know better…” or something of this nature.
“Warner!” Epps snapped.
“What the fuck else you got for me?”
Warner took out a photocopy of a photograph.
“Well, a Norad guy told me, that within the dead body of the critter, they found this,” he said.
“Great what am I looking at?” Epps demanded.
From the file Warner produced three still images.
“A microchip on a tracking tab with a UPC code on it, and some Chinese characters. Looks like it came from a facility in Macao. This tag, or whatever, was buried beneath the creature’s skin, just behind its ear.”
That got Epp’s attention good. He stared straight at Warner now, intently interested.
“My source also said there were some funky looking pouches on the thing’s neck, used for collecting fluids, like maybe blood or plasma,” Warner said.
“Follows right along with the whole Chuppacabra myth, doesn’t it?” Epps marveled.
“Blood sucking, flying dogs, UFOs, the Chinese? What the hell is going on in the Southwest, colonel?” Warner said.
“You’re on a need-to-know basis, Warner and right now, you don’t need to know,” Epps said as he stood up and prepared to leave the office with the file.
“You’ll put in a good word for me with the senator?” Warner said.
Epps merely smiled a lascivious grin. He had to hurry. He didn’t have time for any pleasantries right now with the ambitious younger officer.