This story is by Evin Barış Altıntaş and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
It must have been two weeks before that awful murder, I think. It had been a strange summer even before. It was unusually cold. We had had an earthquake in Landona for the first time in 52 years. Then there was the seagull scourge: one cool afternoon dozens of gulls came swooping, attacking people on the street. Their attack was so relentless, the city had to cancel postal services for two days.
I hadn’t suspected any of these could be linked, but looking back at the events of that summer, I am certain they were all connected. And it all had to do with the thing I saw, that I have never been able to tell anyone. Well, almost anyone.
I was driving to CryonicsL’s lab in the south with Jenny, our front desk receptionist. She was a chubby, cheerful and middle-aged woman, about whom I didn’t know much. Yet I had agreed to drive her to work during her stay at her mother’s house, which was near my own. It was a beautiful morning: the sun, which previously appeared to have turned its back on Landona, was shining through. The hills, which had for the past few months seemed eerily grey, finally carried some hints of green.The smooth drive was interrupted when I bumped into something in the road. I was certain I hadn’t hit an animal as it had made clicking sound. I pulled over to check. When I got out of the car, I saw something on the side of the road. It was rapidly moving towards the hills, it appeared to be in a hurry.
Then as if it felt my gaze it stopped. It was a hideous creature; a monster. It turned around and stared back for what seemed to be an eternity and then ran off into the thickness of the trees behind him and disappeared. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. Its most distinct feature was his size; it was as large as a gorilla. Its disgusting reptilian golden skin was covered with warts; and it shone threateningly under the early morning sun. But the creature’s most appalling feature was his Cyclopean head, which had only a single eye in the middle and a repulsive wart-ridden horn just above it. Its sharp fangs glimmered like a set of knives. Just as he disappeared, I heard him make a sound; not quite animal but certainly not human. It let out a loud screeching cry, which sounded strangely sad.
I thought I was losing my mind. I remembered why I had stopped and looked to see what was in front of the car. There was nothing.
Climbing back into the car, I heard Jenny ask “What was it?” For a second, I thought she also saw the monster, but she said: “Was it a large-size can or something?”. She asked me if I was alright, I didn’t look well, she said.
The drive to CryonicsL was difficult. I kept replaying the scene in my head: seeing that awful creature on the side of the road. I was questioning the reality of the moment.
When we reached the lab, I decided to question Jenny about what I saw. She agreed to have lunch with me. Until lunch time, I kept changing my mind about mentioning the beast, as I was doubting my own sanity, but it also struck me as odd Jenny hadn’t seen the beast standing only a few meters away from the vehicle.
When we sat down in the cafeteria, Jenny asked, “Do you want to talk about what happened this morning? You looked shaken after you returned to the car. Tell me about it.” And I did.
Our receptionist, it turned out, was a skeptic. Also, a well-read one. She spent most of her time at the front desk reading, and knew a lot about hallucinations. She asked me if I had been using any medication, something that might possibly cause me to hallucinate. She spoke at length about her niece, who, at age 3, claimed to see a man in her room. Her mother was convinced she was seeing ghosts, but it had turned out to be a side-effect of her allergy pills. She suggested readings criticizing paranormal claims; listed a number of medical conditions that might have caused this effect and suggested I see a professional if my “visions” repeat.
For the next two weeks, I tried to shake the apparition off my head and I was quite successful, until one morning when I was woken up by the ringing of a phone. It was a colleague, inquiring if I had heard the news: Jenny was found brutally murdered the day before in her home.
Jenny’s murder was the front page story of the Landona Times: “Detectives Can’t Say if Killer is Man or Beast,” the headline said. According to the newspaper, Jenny’s body had been hacked into pieces and there seemed to be wounds with the appearance of bites. The attacker appeared to be an animal, but the source of it wasn’t clear.
There was also a feature article next to the report titled “Strange Cases of Rampaging Monsters.” It listed a number of cases where the victims appeared to have been killed by unidentified animals.
I skimmed through the article. I knew what I was looking for. Down a few paragraphs, it said:
“India certainly has no shortage of such cases. In 2005, some kind of bizarre monster killed four people in the Mangali village of the Yavatmal district. The creature was reported as killing its unfortunate victims by tearing their bodies into pieces and it was also said to have a reptilian-like skin and only one eye. The identity of this animal, which was responsible for the gory deaths of four people in the area, remains a complete mystery to this day.”