I love nature, I love the surprising and sometimes perplexing adaptations it produces to fill an ecosystemic niche. Just when I think I’ve seen it all through my many romps and hikes, a new creature, flora, or fauna presents itself to me and evokes a childlike wonderment. It was in that spirit that I left home, having had a strong cup of coffee alongside a bowl of soft boiled eggs and toast. I wanted to witness something you’d see in a nature documentary, extraordinary yet in the flesh and real. A memory I could play back to myself and others at my own leisure.
I set out on a day hike down a trail through a redwood forest, a trail I’d walked a few times before. I’d started keeping track of the game trails branching off of it and a new one I’d never seen before trailed off toward a muddy, recently flooded grove. I walked forward and as I did, I heard a squelching and splashing, it sounded large like a deer or big cat, yet the tromping sounded bipedal. The source of the commotion was obscured behind a family of redwoods and thicket of scotch broom shrubs. As I investigated closer it strode out from behind a redwood.
An anthropoid with white translucent flesh all covered in engorged ticks, not a sixteenth of an inch of flesh was left exposed. Antennas wrapped up above its scalp from the back of its skull, no eyes or ears were visible. A mouth hole centered on its face resembling a lamprey’s puckered and pulsated. Eight slender tube-like fingers on each hand stretched out about 14 inches long, all with similar lamprey mouths at their tips.
The ticks all individually wriggled as it lumbered slowly toward me, perhaps in anticipation of quenching it’s sanguine thirst. It’s hideousness was temporarily paralyzing, I misjudged it’s speed as it suddenly stretched out an arm and buried its lamprey fingers into a tree trunk between myself and it. It quickly began elastically pulling itself towards me from tree to tree and closed the distance between us in an instant. It was inches from my face, it plunged all sixteen of its mouth fingers into my ribs and immediately injected topical anesthetic and anticoagulant, so I felt nothing and bled freely as my blood wouldn’t clot. I could feel it’s finger mouths wriggling and tickling my ribs and I laughed, as though it had induced a euphoric drug like state. I laughed and laughed as I felt the blood draining from my torso. It rocked its face forward into mine, tapping my head and face with its antennas and clamped on to my nose, cutting and grinding with its concentric jaws. Still I laughed amidst blood and mucus, choking, crimson laughter. Finally, its teeth began burrowing into my prefrontal cortex and one final thought crossed my mind as I saw the ticks pocking it’s skin engorging,
“At least I die laughing, at least I die happy.”
About the Author
Philip Gustavus Hostetler, is 33 and from Santa Cruz, California. He’s a plumber by day and a writer, musician, and general hack by night. He enjoys dabbling in poetry, flash fiction, short stories and a woefully neglected fantasy novel. Generally he sticks to sci-fi, horror and fantasy in fiction as he feels the imagination is best exercised in unreal, fantastic realms and situations. The hope is that his musings strike a chord with the reader and leave a lasting impression.