Sunday Snippet, Creature by Bill Chance

I can tell you something about this place. The boys around here call it “The Black Lagoon” – a paradise. Only they say nobody has ever come back to prove it.

The Creature From the Black Lagoon

Beer Cap

Creature

Sammy Peeps lived by a park where a lot of people walked their dogs. He didn’t have a dog but since he quit working he had a lot of time and he’d walk by himself. There were little dispensers of plastic bags and he developed the habit of carrying one and picking up any forsaken piles of feces. He thought he looked odd carrying a little bag of dog shit with no dog, but he did it anyway.

There was a string of ponds lined with a few benches. On nice weather days he would sit and watch the dog walkers going around and around. As the days went buy he began to notice all the other critters that inhabited the park and the ponds. He was surprised at the amount and variety of wildlife, given that this was a tiny green space in the midst of a huge city. Squirrels would scamper in the trees next to his spot and cackle at him – either playing or pissed, Sammy couldn’t decide. Ducks swam across the water or flew through the air. So did two flocks of geese – Sammy was shocked at how large the geese were once he was able to observe them closely. His favorite sound was the whish and splash as the birds flew in for a water landing. Turtles – laconic red-eared or primordial, savage snappers – basked in the sun or moved underwater with heads poking up.

If he walked out at dawn or just after sunset he would see coyotes out for a nighttime duck snack along with rats, skunks, or other nocturnal creatures. The city had to wrap wire around the lower trunks of the trees to protect them from the beavers that lived upstream. On a couple of rare occasions he even saw the large, black bulk of these sliding through the water or crossing from pond to pond.

As the months went by he learned the entire menagerie of wild animals and the society of dog walkers until it was all very familiar and mundane.

That amplified the shock when something new showed up. It was small and slick and reptilian and slid from a drainage pipe into the pond. He stared at the slight V of the wake as it swam smoothly just under the water. Then he saw a face – part fish-like, part reptilian, and part shockingly human rise above the water for a few seconds. It seemed to be looking at him.

He would see the creature again and again, almost every time he went to the pond, which was at least every day. Now that he had found something strange and unknown, the pull became irresistible. The creature seemed aware of him, though it never came close – would simply swim this way and that, or climb a short way out of the pond, to rest in the warm sun. Sammy was confused that nobody else, none of the dog walkers, paid any attention to the strange creature. It was like he was the only thing that saw it and the only thing it saw.

He bought a pair of powerful binoculars in order to observe the creature better. He felt odd sitting there on the bench in public scanning the ponds with the heavy instruments – people would glare at him but nobody said anything.

Sammy had no idea what the creature ate, but it was growing. Imperceptibly at first, but the change began to add up over the months. It was getting undoubtedly bigger.

Then, one day it was gone. Alarmed, he went to the ponds in every spare moment, scouring the place for another glimpse. He even took to walking the creek up and downstream in case the creature had moved to another area, but nothing.

Finally, one night, he woke up to the sound of his doorbell. At first he did nothing, hoping it would go away. It was not the time of night for anyone to be trying to bother him. But the ringing continued and was interrupted by a kind of knocking on the door itself. The sound sent shivers up Sammy’s spine – it was almost like a human knuckle knock, but just a little soft, a little wet sounding.

Sammy finally gathered all the courage he could and went to the door. He looked through the peephole and saw what he was afraid to see, though he was expecting it.

It was the creature. It had grown to a human height and was standing on his front stoop, still knocking on the door. It’s face was covered with scales and it had some sort of preternatural gills hanging down from its neck – but it looked more human that it had at the pond.

Shivering with both fear and excitement, Sammy Peeps reached out, unlocked the bolt, and began to turn the knob.

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