By Phillip Ghee
Generations of a lost colony eventually revert back to an earlier period in the development of man with some surprising consequence.
The fact that gramps decided to have it gift wrapped was really a nice touch. Much of his hardness is just a bluff. I don’t think that gramps realized it was wrapping paper for a Quinceanero gift. Hell, there was no Mexicans around these parts when gramps came up, soo’s he probably wouldn’t have known even if they told him. He probably would have thought it was sumpt-in associated with video games or teenage phone/ text lingo. But here I was, a full blooded Tennessee-American, Ha-ha!;15 years old ,unwrapping what could’ve only been a fire arm or a damn little paddle for a short canoe but, Hell we don’t do short canoeing here in Tennessee.
“Com’on boy, whatz taking you so long, hurry up will ya, Open it up, lets take a picture and be done wit it. Hell, I need to get these Yankee teeth outta my headthey’s killing me.”
Sure enough, there it was, a rifle of my own:
Virginia Arms SX2012 Blue Bolt: Tru-fire Series Rifle w/Scope, AccuTrigger, precision for low recoil, topped off with Sightron, Nitrogen filled scope that could be upgraded to accommodate laser trak and infrared lenses.
Well, the clerk in the gift wrapping department at Wal-Mart certainly didn’t give grandpa a lot of customer service, Ola Senior but, who was ever in the Gun Department sure had a bead on the youth and what we think is cool. The barrel was what really stood out because of its non-traditional color, Cobalt electric blue. Get that! Old school style was represented too! It had a Mahogany Stock. The rifle was an ammo store owner’s dream, due to its versatile load handling anything from a 22LR to a 300 win mag.
“I ain’t going to school tomorrow gramps.” It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday, gonna party like it’s my birthday. I waved the gun over my head. “Can I get a whoop, whoop?”
“Suit yourself, Harmon. Harmon, git in here and take this picture, Damn Dentist”
Harmon is my little brother, Oh! I am Clyde Justin Smith. We can trace our family way back, back unto the Civil War. Grandpa is kinda raising us cause Daddy got into a little trouble. He tries making an honest living when times are good, logging-manual labor, Hillbilly mechanic and general fix-it up type stuff. But sometimes, times aren’t good .Daddy can’t compete with all these low wage immigrants and, you know. Sometimes the convenience store down in the city is the best game in town, not for cashiering though, And I don’t think I want to say anymore about that.
Me, Reilly and Titan Head all cut school the next day. I also brought Harmon along for a teaching experience. I was playing the father’s role and I hope that Harmon would turn out a little better than me and a lot better than Daddy. I had already made one mistake by brining Reilly and Titan Head along. I had let my ego to show off my new rifle overpower my judgment. Here I was trying to sit a good example and I brought these two imbeciles along. Lucky for us, Reilly was much more interested in smoking and drinking than hunting. So’s I took there ammo and left them back at camp while Harmon and I set off in search of game. They were stoned off their ass boohooing about being left defenseless but they had their hunting knives so I wasn’t too concern. We traveled far into the woods, in fact further than I had ever been with grandpa. For a while I even considered the possibility of getting lost so I started marking my tracks like real good.
Trough a thicket of brambleberries and criss-crossed vines I could make out just a patch, something grey, moving around the otherwise green canopy. This was far too hilly and thick underbrush for a raccoon to call home so I figured we would be feasting on possum stew tonight. I slowly crept up on the beast but the rustling of the bushes must have alerted it. Suddenly I could see the rapid swaying and ejection of bush, branches and dirt. The agitated roar of some type of animal and before I could wrap my mind around any of it something rocketed through the last network of bush, separating it from me. I managed to get off a shot. And then, thud! It hit me hard somewhere between the pelvis and lower belly. As I feel backwards, my eyes spotted something else, more distant in the bush. It was tall, taller than most animals in this neck of the woods. I guess it could have been a bear standing on its hinds or something? Or maybe the impact had me seeing creatures rather than stars.
“What the Hell is that, yelled Harmon. First he looked at me and thus concluding that I was alive he turned grandpa’s old shotgun towards the downed beast. “You think I should shoot it again, Clyde?” Intoned a nervous Harmon. I could sense that the beast was letting out its very last whimpers. I had managed to prop myself up just a little and was busy trying to get reacquainted with my breath. “Naw!” I said hoarsely. My shot was a clean shot but I knew that if Harmon took a shot at it with the shotgun than I could forget about a trophy visit to the taxidermist. The beast resembled a pig but it was all mutated like one of those horror films. Neither Reilly nor Titan Head had seen anything like it before. We just knew we had encountered something bizarre and unknown. We’ll be famous, we all reckoned as we took turns dragging the corpse home on a homemade sling.
“Grandpa, look-it what we killed”. Shouted an excited Harmon.” We got ourselves a monster” Grandpa took one look at the expired beast, slapped his knee and let loose with an obscene belly laugh.
“You boys done went and got yourself a wild boar”. We all looked bewildered.
“Straight up wild pig…you numb nuts” Grandpa continued to laugh irking Titian Head in the process. Grandpa had never told me about wild boars and the likes.
“I guessed I must have blinked that day, there haven’t been sighting in these parts in decades.” He mused. Later that night during a tasty but gamey pork dinner. He lectured the boys on the pedigree of the boar. Wild boars were not native to North America. The early Spanish explores are said to have brought along a small population to the new continent. Eventually most of these wild boars died out, escaped into the wild or were mated to domesticated pigs unto the point where their line became absorbed and undetectable. Wild boars differ considerable from their non-threatening cousins. They are wooly, narrow and muscular in frame. They do not sport a curly tail and a playful snout. For defense, their elongated muzzles boast enormous, quite sharp and effective tusks. They furiously grow out like mutant canine incisors. Grandpa informed the boys that enough of the wild board genes are intertwined with domestic pigs that if totally domesticated pigs were to escape into the wild; in just a few generations they would find themselves reverting back to their savagely wild cousins. This was not folklore but true. Although a recessive gene, were ultimately dominant and he to be kept in check by continued domestication. Most importantly a wild boar is quite capable of killing a man.
Well the mystery had been solved and the boys rested well on a full belly that night except for Clyde.
Clyde failed to mention the other thing he thought he had seen. He feared he would become the subject of Big Foot sighting jokes and even taunting at school. So he kept that episode to himself. The fleeting image however had staying power. It did not go away. It haunted Clyde’s dreams for many nights there after and even followed him into adulthood.
Crime and Punishment
“Clyde a got a dozy for you. I only can trust a case like this to my best man.” Collin spoke with such a patronizing tone that Clyde wanted very much to show him what he could do to those pristine capped teeth. Who would have thought that Clyde Justin Smith would become one of the best Probation Officers in the entire State of Tennessee.? Clyde had with his client’s one of the best recidivisms rates in the State.
“Yeah!” Clyde spoke unenthusiastic and not bothering to give Collins the courtesy of eye contact.
“Criminal, Crook or Crazy?” Clyde already had a good idea of which. Clyde due to his fathers’ trysts had sort of grown up in the penal system. He had been, shall we say lucky enough to have , able to avoid any State Condo time himself but the frequent visits to the courts and all the other stepping stones leading into and out of the big house, he had come familiar. He understood the criminal mind the way an expert tracker can read footprints and trail signs. But rather than condemn his prey he usually set them off on a new path. Although he hid it well, he often had a bit of sympathy for the criminals and the environments and circumstances that lead to the perfection, and most often imperfection of their craft.
He was able to put the fear of God into the white collar crooks and corrupt politicians. He was a little less tolerant with these types but his ferocity with them often panned out with credible results.
Now dealing with the crazies was a different matter all together. Firstly most of them had never deserved to be in the penal system in the first place. The overburden mental facilities were just overrun and poorly funded. What’s worse was that society safety net for the insane and feeble minded had holes in it as big as the Smokey Mountains. Social Services, Out Patients Resources and Community Mental Health clinics were usually reserved for the more functional and astute member of society. The rest sooner or later found their way into the morgues, jails and penitentiaries.
Crazies were hard to integrate back into society and keep on the straight and narrow. It was to keep a man down here on Earth when his luggage was still on Pluto, was one of those bits of wisdom that Grandpa had imparted to Clyde, before his passing.
Collins love to give Clyde these sort of cases because he knew that it would cut down on those impressive recidivism numbers Clyde had obtained. Collin had been raised in a sheltered upscale Brentwood, TN to be a caring liberal. However, the true nature of the man was as elitist and un-empathic as they come. Career was his only motive and high political aspirations his only goal. His prestigious training in a private fancy-swanky college guaranteed that he would remain Clyde’s boss yet; he was still threatened by the man’s reputation. There were times that Clyde wanted to show his true nature and give the man an Appalachian beat down but, that would have only put his relationship with his dad in closer on more even turf. He maintained his civil composure.
Lucas Burroughs was obviously a disturbed individual who never should have been in the penal system in the first place. All his crimes on his extensive rap sheet had more to do with his illness than of any pursuit of illegal gains. Take for instance the time he broke into the aquarium. He maintained that he only wanted to set the captives free but a manipulating front man took advantage of his gullibility and manage to fetch a pretty penny for many of the rare and exotic fish stolen. Then there were the multiple shoplifting charges. How was a man supposed to eat and clothe himself when he lacked the aptitude to even garnish Food Stamps or General Relief. He was only probation for one of these shoplifting charges when he was picked up down on Farm Road 117. He was butt naked, not a stitch on him except for the homemade Hobo satchel he was carrying. Inside the satchel was a menacing serrated Rambo-style hunting knife and some survival gear he had managed to lift from the Surplus Store a few days earlier. The major problem with Lucas’s case that because of the possession of the knife while on probation and contributing factors he would probably be treated the same as a three strike felon and be sent off to prison for a very long time. Not only would this have been cruel and unusual punishment in Clyde’s opinion, the tax payers dollars used to house a felon for prolonged periods of time far outweighed, as much as tenfold, the cost of maintaining a mental patient.
“Lucas, I don’t know if I can pull this off, It will be difficult”. Clyde confessed as he maintained vigil over Lucas’s case file. “How would you feel like spending a few years at a good mental health facility that will take care of you and make you better?” Clyde raised himself up from the paper work and looked deeply into the man’s eyes. Lucas was busy watching through the windows the treetops sway back and forth. He was slow to acknowledge Clyde. Clyde saw the man’s appearance aside from disheveled, he looked emancipated and starved. Clyde ordered lunch for the man.
The lunch arrived and the man tore into it. Between bites he finally spoke. “I ain’t crazy. You think I am crazy. I use to be. That’s until I met up with the freemen. They’s alright. You’re the ones who crazy. You think you got something living in your plastic boxes. Always at war. Always destroying the Earth, Ya’ll the ones crazy.”
“Oh Hell. Thought Clyde. The Freemen. He remembered the name from long ago. They were survivalist, an anti-government clan, who died a martyr’s death in a shoot out with the Feds. Every so often an up-start group would take up the name and mantle of the original Freemen. Clyde now speculated what if a new up start group were preying on the feeble minded to do their dirty work and homegrown terrorism.
“Lucas you’re a special individual and these Freeman try to get you to do things, bad things, which might hurt you. But at the hospital they can’t get to you, they won’t be able to hurt you.” Lucas seemed to take no account of what Clyde was telling him between the bites and sips of his meal he simply stared out the window.
“Live free or die” Lucas inadvertently blurted out. “At least time in the license plate factory had taught him something,” Clyde mused to himself.
“The Freeman won’t hurt me.” A now serene Lucas, spoke.
“They always come to me. They come to me when I am in trouble. They visit me when I was in the pokey. They visit me at night…just like they do you.”
Clyde knew that this was just the ramblings of a madman and could have in no way correlations to his own sometime night disturbances. Yet the hairs on the back of his neck stood as rigid as prickly swamp grass. Clyde had not had one of those night time disturbances in over a year. And yet the Lucas comment caused him to recall the apparition yet as if it was yesterday.
“Lucas what makes you think the Freeman come to me?” He leaned embarrassing close to the man, not wishing for any co-workers in adjacent cubicles to hear him. This line of engagement drifted far from his Probation/Parole Officers duties. He was not a psychoanalyst and entertaining a mentally ill client on this level could be more dangerous to the client than beneficial.
“They told me another one of us would be there to help me once I got out the pokey.”
“And why do you think that I am another one of…us?”
“Cause you see’em. They don’t just let anyone see’em.
“How do they know that I have seen them?
“They sent you a pig didn’t they?”
Lucas spilled some of the hot coffee he was holding. It scalded his hand. He escorted Lucas back to the waiting area. This phase of the interviewed had come to an abrupt halt. Lucas ventured to the restroom to relieve himself. He doused his face with copious amounts of cold water. He returned to his office and quickly and conclusively returned to the real business of a PO. Instead of inviting Lucas back into the office, Clyde advanced over to the waiting area. He gave Lucas an appointment two weeks before his trail date. He looked deep into Lucas’ eyes and once again implored him to, in lieu of jail, to consider being admitted into the Mental Hospital. It would be hard for Clyde to even pull it off but, he had a few friends that owed him favors. He handed Lucas the card of a Social Worker who would help get him into a men’s shelter and attend to his needs in the meantime.
Clyde was visited that night by the familiar shadow. This time Clyde was entreated to visions of other shadows. The setting was a lush forest he could identify trees and bushes yet the figures themselves remained blurred and out of focus except for one. In the midst of the shadowy figures he could make out Lucas. In the dream Lucas held up what must had been a business card and torn it into. Clyde awoke to discover that at sometime during the fitful sleep he had torn open his pajama top. He had rent the garment with such force that several of the severed buttons he found on his dressing bureau
Although he did not feel particularly stressed or overworked Clyde viewed the dream as well as his nocturnal strip tease to be indicative of signs of stress. He made plans to take the next week off.
Clyde needed closure from that early adolescent hunting experience. He had never gone back to that section of woods since the incident. And now as a man, he seldom hunted at all; his outdoor recreation of choice was sports fishing with his city friends. He had long since parted with his snazzy Electric Cobalt Blue rifle but he still maintained a shotgun, mostly for home protection and several small arms. Yet upon planning his solo hunting expedition Clyde opted instead to rent a Hi-Power hunting bow from the local hunting supply store.
Clyde had not been to the old rural neighborhood in many years, not since Grandpa’s passing. The rural communities had really been devastated. Much of the younger generation now had education enough to sustain them making a living in the cities. Most of Clyde’s chums who had escaped the penal system ended up either out of State or in the various Tennessee cities.
Even the most traveled paths of his youth had been overgrown and barely negotiable. Tangles of vines, branches and thickets surrounded him at every turn like to grotesque vegan spider web. By the time he reached the inner-most sanctums of the mountainous forest he was exhausted from all the hacking of brush and the tedious progress of navigating the treacherous and at times rocky slopes. It was not yet midday still most of the brilliance of the summer sun was absorbed way up high in the canopy of the tall pines, sycamores, oaks and a bounty of varied spruces. Occasionally Clyde would encounter a clearing. It was at one such clearing that he decided to make a short camp. He needed to revive himself and thought a quick catnap would do him well. The visitors at night had never made themselves during daylight hours that is until that day.
This dream was unlike any other in another respect. Clyde seemed to have been taken on an aerial tour of the entire hidden city of the forest dwellers. He perceived what he thought to be children. The faces and exact physical details of the creatures were still very blurred and distorted. He believed that they were children due to their animated quick gestures and their assumed playfulness with each other. They ran joyfully and, unencumbered, to and fro the obstacle laden forest as well as vertically, up and down it.
Larger beings gathered in distinct groups. One group was assembled by what Clyde could only liken to Mayan style calendar. The structure was inside one of the expansive clearings. It was circular and rose from the ground at least a foot or more. Its base structure was formed by intricate marked and crafted with yellowed mud bricks. Finer detail of symbols, markings and such were made with shaved branches and pine cones. One small segment of the circle was incomplete. Although the first level of base brick had been laid it lacked the other tier which would brought it in height to an equal proportion to the rest of the circle. However it appeared that such a brick, due to its still earthen red color, was newly crafted was set off to the side.
He was shown another group. This party was inside a cave. Inside the cave were artifacts. There was what appeared to be garb and clothing still remarkably preserved from the Civil War both Union and Confederate artifacts were identifiable. There were busted up shackles and chains. He saw other relics from a long ago past chronicling of different eras; turn of the century farming equipment, a typewriter of the early 20th Century, GI Helmets circa WWII. He also find more modern relics that seem to have no historic importance especially the bevy of rusted out shopping carts, some perhaps dating to the 1950’s. The most modern were sleeping bags, moldy and no longer used.
He saw a group of hunters using small and simple weapons, mostly knives and bows and arrows approach large game that seem to be suffering from the “ deer in the headlight syndrome “ as the being approached them and made quick and humane kills.
With the exception of the beings themselves most everything was seen in crystal clarity, including Lucas. Lucas was vivid that Clyde believed he was still in his presence once he awoke. Then Lucas spoke. Clyde blinked and wiped his eyes several times but was unable to erase out reality. Lucas was real and with a comic smile looking down upon him, almost face to face.
“They sent me to bring you the rest of the way, Man! You’se having a tough time making it, aren’t you?” Lucas let fly an insane laugh and helped Clyde to his feet. Time for argument and questioning was over. Clyde assumed at this stage of the game, considering all that had transpired; it would be a moot point. He got up and followed the naked and now surprisingly agile Lucas. Following Lucas, surprisingly his only wish at the time was, that Lucas had worn some pants.
A group of the beings, a welcoming party had assembled to greet the new arrivals. As he got closer to the group their features became clearer. They were tall. The adults were at least seven to eight feet tall. They were hairy, some sported shaggy shoulder length manes, others dreadlocks and others sill abundant afros. The need for clothing was obviously a hindrance for these forest dwelling creatures but unlike pasty pale Lucas they did have there own sort of modesty. An extensive hair growth did cloak and cover most of their bodies both the male and females. This gave them the appearance, a potpourri of what Hollywood taught us the Cave men, Neanderthals or even Bigfoot’s and Yetis might resemble.
As he came closer still something remarkable happened. The entirely new image of the creatures he had just been treated to begin to unravel with every step. Now he could only see more the essence of form than form itself.. These ethereal, free flowing and seamless beings advanced effortlessly towards him. Every point on their bodies pulsated with either electrical or light energy cumulating with their whole bodies being covered in a heavenly aura. They spoke to him without opening their mouths. Their words flowed directly into his mind.
“It’s just a stage prop that we learned to use. Speaking of which, let’s get you and Lucas out of your clothes and stage props and into something a little more comfortable.” He looked and pointed towards the last mud brick. “Our ride will be here soon.”
The End (of the age)