We recently interviewed Lyle Blackburn on the Monster Men to discuss his new movie, Boggy Creek Monster, and book, Monstro Bizzaro. If you’re obsessed with cryptids like I am, Lyle is one of the best investigators in the field today. His previous books, The Beast of Boggy Creek and Lizard Man have prominent positions on my bookshelf.
When all was said and done, I realized I still had a few more questions I’d wanted to ask. So, here is the original video interview along with the bonus questions Lyle was kind enough to answer. Now let’s go squatchin!
We’re very much alike in that we grew up fascinated by tales of Bigfoot and other creatures (as well as a fondness for The Creature from the Black Lagoon!). How did you take the leap from being a rocker in Ghoultown to cryptid reporter?
LB : In addition to being a musician, I’ve always worked as a writer. Among other things, I wrote for a rock magazine and then for Rue Morgue (www.rue-morgue.com) as their cryptozoology-meets-horror columnist. I’ve always wanted to write a book, so I decided to take some time off from the band to pursue that. I ended up choosing one of my favorite subjects, The Legend of Boggy Creek. Once I started investigating these sort of cryptid cases and writing the books, I really enjoyed it so I continued. I always thought the job of a professional writer sounded boring, but this brought me to interesting places and I met interesting people as part of the writing process – not to mention it involved my fascination with cryptids. My band Ghoultown still plays and records, but we don’t tour like we used to.
One of the best things you bring to the field of cryptozoology is your straightforward, journalistic approach to researching and educating people about creatures like the Boggy Creek Monster and the Lizard Man of Bishopville. You report the stories and the facts as they are without dramatization for the sake of titillating your readers. What made you decide to go in this direction and do you think the field needs more level headed reporting so it can be taken more seriously by the mainstream media and public?
LB: I think these stories are fascinating unto themselves without trying to sway people toward a certain point of view. I just tell the story, report the facts, and let whatever evidence speak for itself. I like to take the reader along as I investigate and give them credit to make up their own mind.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
LB: As far as writing and cryptozoology, I would say John Green and Loren Coleman. Green always had a level-headed approach to Sasquatch research and presented the stories in an engaging way. He also paid attention to details and getting the facts correct as best he could. Coleman, of course, paved the way for the modern cryptozoology researcher and has investigated so many of the seminal cases. Many times as I’m doing research, when I trace an investigation back to its original source, Coleman was there first. I’m honored that he wrote the Foreword for my first book, The Beast of Boggy Creek. It’s like having one of your heroes endorse your efforts. So cool.
Out of all the photographic and video evidence for Bigfoot, which to you is the most compelling evidence that it is real? And with just about everyone having a camera/videocam in their pockets, why aren’t we getting more solid evidence? Could it be we are but because it’s so easy to fake now, the real deal might be hiding in plain sight?
LB: To me, the footprints represent the most compelling evidence. Examples such as the Elkins Creek cast from Georgia stand out, especially when I’ve been able to interview the police officer who originally discovered the track.
As far as all the photos and videos, it’s really hard to discern between what might be real and what is a possible case of pareidolia or just outright fake. All the blurry shots don’t do us any good. We need something much clearer in this day and age, and even that is suspect since modern technology allows for such amazing CGI. Most people do carry a smart phone camera these days, but the lack of a clear photo shouldn’t be used as a basis to completely rule out the possibility of these creatures. Chance encounters typically last only a few moments, making it hard to pull out a phone, open the camera app, aim, and take a photo.
I’m sure you’ve heard the Sierra Bigfoot recordings taken back in the 70s. What are your thoughts on it and other similar recordings? Most of them are downright chilling.
LB: They’re definitely creepy and very compelling. In my opinion the Sierra Sounds are legit. And if it’s not a hoax, then that leaves very few possibilities beyond an undiscovered creature such as Bigfoot. I’ve heard recordings from other places which sound very similar; sent to me by credible individuals. They just don’t sound like any known animal.
Do you have any plans to investigate the Skunk Ape in Florida? I have the Fate Magazine with the famous Skunk Ape picture on the cover and keep waiting for someone to hunker down and do some serious research in that corner of the country.
LB: Earlier this year I visited the Ocala National Forest in Florida where there’s been a good amount of Skunk Ape sightings over the years. This was part of the research for my upcoming book, “Beyond Boggy Creek: In Search of the Southern Sasquatch” in which I document the history of Bigfoot sightings all over the Southern U.S. I dedicate an entire chapter of the book to the Skunk Ape, although there’s so much to this cryptid’s history and so many sightings, that I could write an entire book on it. Perhaps in the future.
Follow Lyle Blackburn at http://www.lyleblackburn.com
In the mood for a good cryptid book? Check these out…
I’m not afraid to admit I have an addiction. I can’t get enough movies about UFOs, aliens and abductions. No matter how bad, I’m compelled to watch them all. Lately, it seems as though a law has been passed decreeing that all UFO/Alien flicks MUST be found footage with a 10 shilling budget. I’m here to guide you from the darkness and into the light (you know, the one emanating from the underbelly of the Mothership).
Here are my favorite 11 (because anyone can do a top 10 list). I’ve put a quick synopsis followed by my own review for each. When you’re not watching the skies, put your peepers on these…
FIRE IN THE SKY
(Based on a true story) In 1975, logger Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney) and his co-workers discovered a hovering UFO. Walton’s pals fled, but Walton was not so fortunate. Whisked aboard the strange craft, he was subjected to a painful, unearthly medical study.
The Travis Walton case is one of the most intriguing abduction cases of all time. The movie is very well done, tense and downright creepy, especially once we get a glimpse of the interior of the gross and trippy alien ship. 4 of 5 flying saucers.
Was a damaged alien spaceship really hidden by the government in the infamous Hangar 18? This film shows you how it might have happened. Aired on television as “Invasion Force,” but with a different ending.
I loved this movie when I was a kid. Plus, it stars Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin. It doesn’t hold up so well, but I can’t ignore the pull of nostalgia. 2 of 5 flying saucers
Still reeling from her parents’ divorce, April (Brittany Allen, Dead Before Dawn) is dragged by her boyfriend (Freddie Stroma, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, Pitch Perfect), and a group of his friends back to the cabin where she spent summers as a child. Her trip down memory lane takes a dramatic and terrifying turn when a fireball descends from the sky and explodes in the nearby woods. The group venture out to the crash site and discover the remnants of a ship from another planet, along with footprints that suggest its alien occupants are still alive. They soon find themselves caught in the middle of something bigger and more terrifying than anything they could ever imagine.
This is one bat crap crazy movie. And the more I watch it, the more I like it. I especially love the ending, the very point most directors in this little genre drop the ball. 3.5 of 5 flying saucers.
(Also based on a true story) Whitley Strieber goes with his family and some friends to his holiday home in the forest. They experience some weird occurances, are they UFO activity? Whitley is abducted and then faces a horrible dilema; was I abducted or am I going mad? He sees a psychiatrist who tries to use hypnotic regression to discover the truth.
Now, this one holds a special place in my tin foil heart. Living close to where author Whitley Strieber had his experiences, the book and then this movie totally captured my attention in the 80s. I watch it at least once a year, every year, despite its odd construction. Hey, it stars Christopher Walken and a score by Eric Clapton! 4 of 5 flying saucers.
THE FOURTH KIND
Based on actual case studies, The Fourth Kind uses archival footage and dramatic reenactments to present the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever in this provocative thriller.
Set in a remote Alaska town, I admit I was one of the suckers who bought the line that the footage interspersed within the movie was real. No matter. Even knowing it’s fake, the movie still gives me chills. 3.5 of 5 flying saucers.
Doctors are baffled when an expectant mother wakes to find her nearly-to-term pregnancy apparently disappear overnight. Police investigate the situation as a missing child, and only her husband and brother trust her version of events.
I’ll bet most of you have never heard of this one. I plucked it off of Netflix one day and was pleasantly surprised. It’s downright haunting and a found footage flick that gets it right. 3.5 of 5 flying saucers.
In the summer of 1947, a rancher discovers the charred remains of an unidentified flying object in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. 20 years and 350 eyewitnesses later… the truth about what he found is finally coming out.
No, this is not the TV series. I think we all know about Roswell and Area 51 by now, but when this came out, it was pretty riveting. I believe this was produced by Showtime. I had to wait to watch it on VHS because I couldn’t afford Showtime back then. It was worth the wait. 3 of 5 flying saucers.
A farm family wakes up to find a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard and are told that extraterrestrials are responsible. The circles begin appearing all over the world as the family grapples with the fact that Earth is being invaded.
By far, this is my favorite M. Night Shyamalan and Mel Gibson movie. It’s a movie about a broken family smack in the middle of one of the most terrifying alien invasions ever put on film. Very atmospheric and one of the few movies where old Mel is not the macho hero. Swing away! 4.5 of 5 flying saucers.
As the Barret family’s peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.
Another well executed film about a family in crisis. I actually jumped a couple of times when I saw it in the theater. The ending pulls no punches. Pretty bleak stuff. 4 of 5 flying saucers.
Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.
Wow, wow, wow. Don’t expect over the top theatrics and insane special effects. This is pure storytelling woven with some high concept science. It’s taut, intelligent and at times, heartbreaking. A must watch! 5 of 5 flying saucers.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
Universally considered the best film ever made about alien visitation to Earth, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind was nominated for eight Academy Awards®, winning for Best Cinematography. Power repairman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has an extraordinary encounter with a strange spacecraft while out on a call. Recurring visions of a mountain fuel an increasing obsession that drives him to an emotional breaking point.
This is the godfather of all UFO movies. So much of this has become part of our everyday culture. Beautifully shot with a fantastic performance by Richard Dreyfuss, at almost 40 years old, it’s still the one UFO movie to watch if you plan to watch only one. 5 of 5 flying saucers.
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Over the course of writing The Jersey Devil, the elusive cryptid and I have gotten pretty close. He recently told me, over a cup of what he said was mulled wine, but I suspect it was something far more disquieting, that he wanted to get out and travel the country, if not the world. After over 200 years in the Pine Barrens, it’s time to spread his wings, so to speak.
“There’s just one teensy weensy little problem,” he said to me, tapping his cloven hoof on his chin. “I’m afraid there are too many monster hunters out and about nowadays. You see them bumbling about with their night vision cameras. I fear for my safety as much as my anonymity. The last thing I want is to be featured on some reality paranormal show…or shot!” Shivering, he added, “I don’t know which would be worse.”
Point well taken. We sat against the pygmy pines in the dark of night, contemplating his dilemma. As a cloud obscured the moon and the howl of a nearby Sasquatch got our attention (“Oh, that’s just Larry,” JD said), an idea came to me.
“How would you like to live vicariously through my book?” I asked.
Old JD flicked his tail excitedly. “How so?”
Knowing he’s a big fan of Instagram and Twitter (whereas Bigfoot prefers SnapChat & the Loch Ness Monster is partial to Facebook), I told him that I and my Hellions could take the book wherever we go and post pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #JerseyDevil. That way, he could see the world while in the relative comfort of his forest preserve.
“Oooo, I like that. Can you take me to a cemetery first? I’m so tired of the ones around here. It’s so…so…dead out here in the Barrens.”
The next day, I did just that, taking the book to the oldest cemetery in my city.
He wrote me back immediately on Instagram. “Love it! So nice to see new headstones. Where to next?”
Indeed. Where to next?
That’s where you come in. Help old JD out and tote your copy of The Jersey Devil with you when you’re out and about, on vacation, even in the house puttering around. Post your pic on Instagram using #jerserydevil and @huntershea2017 or Twitter using #JerseyDevil and @huntershea1 so the beast and I can collect and enjoy this little travelogue.
We’ll pick people at random every week to receive free books from the Hunter Shea library!
It’s the holiday season. Be kind to cryptids. And have fun doing it. It will be interesting to see where The Jersey Devil ends up. Plus, it’s always a smart idea to keep a monster happy. You wouldn’t want an angry Jersey Devil tapping on your window late at night, would you? Don’t end up the main ingredient in his ‘mulled wine’. Just saying.
I’m so happy to let the world know that I’ve joined the Sinister Grin Press family. My first novel with Sinister Grin,WE ARE ALWAYS WATCHING, will come out as a limited edition hardcover, followed by ebook and trade paperback in early, 2017. For those that remember, I started writing this book last fall for my editor Don D’Auria and Samhain. We all know how things went there. I couldn’t have found a better publisher to take on this unsettling mystery on a remote Pennsylvania farm.
Here’s the official press release. I’ll share cover art and more as we get closer to the big date.
Hunter Shea Signs Deal for First Hardcover Limited Edition with Sinister Grin Press
Austin, Texas—Sinister Grin Press is pleased to announce it will partner with acclaimed horror author Hunter Shea for his first limited edition hard cover collector novel, We are Always Watching. It is categorized as horror with elements of paranormal mystery. It should be available in January of 2017 through order on the Sinister Grin website. After the order period for the collector edition, it will also be available in paperback and e-book.
“I’m thrilled to find a new home at Sinister Grin Press, which has a stellar reputation for publishing top quality horror,” Shea said. “They have an amazing team who are true fans of the genre. I can’t wait to see the finished product for my first limited edition hardcover. That’s one to tick off the bucket list. Get ready for a whole new chapter!”
The team at Sinister Grin Press is looking forward to launching 2017 with We are Always Watching. “We are very excited to work with an author of his caliber as we are always striving to publish some of the best horror available in today’s market,” said Matt Worthington, co-owner and operating officer of Sinister Grin Press.
Shea is a best-selling author of 15 novels and novellas and a few short stories across multiple publishers. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world.
Sinister Grin Press continually works to give horror readers books that they can proudly spend their money on. It’s horror that’ll carve a smile on your face. To learn more about Sinister Grin Press, and to receive updates on books available or upcoming, please join us at sinistergrinpress.com or sign up for the newsletter.
It’s no secret that Robert Dunn is one of my favorite writers. His book, Behind the Darkness, is one of my all time fave alien books. His latest book, A Living Grave, takes a slight left from horror into mystery. Robert takes a moment to explain how he got there. I urge you to pick up A Living Grave. Like me, I’m sure you’ll be wanting more.
THE MYSTERY OF MYSTERY or HOW DID A NICE HORROR-LOVING GUY LIKE ME END UP WRITING A MYSTERY NOVEL
by Robert Dunn, Author of A Living Grave
How did it happen? There is no easy answer. I suppose it started in elementary school. There were a few of us who fell into the Hardy Boys. It was innocent fun I tell you. Just school kid curiosity.
I blame my friend David for taking things further. He was an out and open Sherlock Holmes reader. He handed me the League of Red Headed Gentlemen like it was a normal thing. He dabbled in Ellery Queen and dared me with it. It wasn’t enough. He started mainlining Agatha Christie. David said it was what all the cool kids were doing. It was probably too late for me to help him, but not too late for him to drag me down too.
Sure, by then I had found Heinlein and Asimov. Bradbury was my shield. I even had Lovecraft, Poe, and Robert Howard at my back. Clarke and Dick led me to James Herbert to Blatty to Benchley to King. Even before the novels, had a bulwark of Vampirella, The Witching Hour, Tomb of Dracula, Weird War Tales, Eerie and Creepy. I say all that to make the point I was protected. I had options.
Still I got dragged into mysteries.
I don’t know how. When I started writing the stories were always about weird, gruesome things happening to mostly unprepared and innocent people. I loved seeing what the normal folk did in the face of the terrible. I liked monsters.
Every once in a while, though… Just occasionally, an idea would creep in that had no monster and no supernatural thing driving it. Yeah, it was an itch. It was a call. Because you never really get free.
I will admit that I kept reading mysteries, but the books changed. The mystery was no longer the thing. It became all about character. Writers like James Lee Burke created people with flaws and motivations beyond the puzzle and set them loose in extraordinary circumstance. I could get my teeth into that. Or maybe I was rationalizing. It didn’t matter.
One day I had an idea. As it happens so often with me the thought was of the ending of a book. The climactic scene played out in my head with visions of the people involved and their roles. Something about it kept niggling. I was thinking, working something out, like people do when they have a word on the tip of their tongue.
It came to me not suddenly but as an almost missed understanding. I was thinking of characters with reversed roles. My hero was female and the injured person in need of rescue was male. No wonder it was so hard to come to. It was a minor, almost irrelevant difference. Or so an astoundingly enlightened, 21st century man like me thought. Did I mention handsome? Because I’m a terribly attractive older man with silver in his hair.
Well—all of that aside—I discovered when I looked around at the characters and the books, a strong female lead character was not exactly the norm. I did a little digging and found that women in mysteries, when they were the main character, usually made the book less gritty. It was like the books didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The biggest and most successful example were the Kay Scarpetta books written by Patricial Cornwell. They are amazing, filled with detail, science, and mystery. The character is smart, brave, and so well put together it makes me wish I dressed in less flannel. She cooks too. The thing is, she is a forensic pathologist and solves mystery with gloves on. I had been reading books about men with war injuries and horror stories who struggled through to face down violence and save the day. The day was always almost always a woman. I wanted to see what would happen when a woman had those experiences and problems with drinking and violence.
AND—And I wanted to write a mystery. That was a punch in the gut. But you know what? It worked. And I found out I was not just a horror writer. I was a writer of books with mystery, romance, horror, science, and great people. I stopped worrying about what kind of writer I was and gave in to my addictions. I embraced my influences, all of them, not just the ones I wanted to think were important.
Is there a lesson? I don’t know. There are always events and we make our own lessons I guess. I wrote a mystery and I’ll write more. A Living Grave is the first novel in the Katrina Williams series. Book two is about to turn in to the publisher and I will begin the third. When it is all done I hope I will have a following, fans who know me as a mystery writer. That will be a nice cap to the story don’t you think? And I know you’re wondering—what ever happened to David? He didn’t fare as well as I did. Mystery got into my system and I was able to live with it, growing into the vibrant, handsome – if poverty stricken – and struggling writer you know and love. David went to medical school. He has a job and a beautiful wife. I still wish I could help him.
Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #ALivingGrave
A Living Grave, Synopsis
- Print Length: 266 pages
- Publisher: Lyrical Underground
- Publication Date: September 13, 2016
BODY OF PROOF
Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.
The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bottlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unraveling each thread will take time Katrina might not have, as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…
Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.
An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.
A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness and The Red Highway.
Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.
Praise for Robert Dunn and A Living Grave
“The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read! It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!”
-2 Book Lovers Reviews
“This is hardboiled fiction at its best. We’re talking Elmore Leonard territory. A fantastic read and I hope there’s more to come.”
–Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon on A Living Grave
“Dunn’s lyrical descriptions of Katrina’s inner struggles and demons read almost like poetry as he weaves an intricate and deadly plot of motorcycle gangs, the MOB, cancer survival, and child abuse into a novel so rife with complex feelings and life-situations, you are compelled to read it slowly, so you don’t miss a nuance of the gut-wrenching emotions he elicits from his characters.”
– Peggy Jaeger, Author of The Voices of Angels
“Parts of this book moved me to tears while others made me want to cheer out loud at Katrina’s kick-ass-atude. The twists and turns in the story kept me on the edge of my seat until the entirely satisfying ending. I’m so happy that this is just the start of what promises to be a totally addictive series! I highly recommend this phenomenal 5 star read.”
-Horror Maiden’s Book Reviews
My latest novella with Severed Press is now available in ebook (and trade paperback in a few days), LOCH NESS REVENGE. This one is especially near and dear to me because Nessie became one of my first monster obsessions thanks to an episode of In Search Of back in the 70s (you can watch the actual episode here). I remember checking out every book I could find in the libraries in the Bronx, wishing I could fly to Scotland and just live by the Loch, searching for proof of Nessie.
Cut to a few decades later, and I’m hunting her down in a book that blends fact with fiction. So, what’s this latest foray into cryptid terror about?
Deep in the murky waters of Loch Ness, the creature known as Nessie has returned. Twins Natalie and Austin McQueen watched in horror as their parents were devoured by the world’s most infamous lake monster. Two decades later, it’s their turn to hunt the legend. But what lurks in the Loch is not what they expected. Nessie is devouring everything in and around the Loch, and it’s not alone. Hell has come to the Scottish Highlands. In a fierce battle between man and monster, the world may never be the same.
And here’s a little something to whet your appetite (or wet your appetite, when you’re talking lake monsters!) Read the preview of chapter one and if you like what you see, you don’t have to go all the way to Scotland to grab a copy.
Even the Scottish whisky can’t stop the nightmare from coming. And believe me, they have some pretty incredible shit here. The locals drink it like water, but I’m not a local.
I may have been here for five years, but they’ll never accept this American interloper. Fine by me. I realize I’m just a transient, albeit one that’s been here for a handful of years. When the time comes, I’ll be happy to leave the Highlands forever. A girl can only take so much sourdough and tartan.
Hmm, but I will miss the scenery. So pretty out here. Well, when it’s not foggy, overcast, or raining. And the Scottish men, nothing to complain about there, though I wish I could understand them a little better. I have a terrible ear for accents and sometimes I can’t believe we speak the same language. I was barely able to understand what went on in the movie Trainspotting. This is a whole new level.
I’m up and sweating and can’t catch my breath.
Is it technically a nightmare when the thing that wakes you up in the dead of night is a memory?
Not that it matters.
Nightmare…memory…either way, I can never get a full night’s sleep.
I slip my legs out from under the covers, grab the glass of tepid water I keep next to my phone charger, and gulp it down. When it comes, I sweat enough to soak through my clothes.
Years ago, my simple solution was to sleep in the nude.
It didn’t work out. Changing sheets is a hell of a lot harder than slipping on a fresh pair of panties, sleep shorts, and a T-shirt.
The spare clothes are neatly folded on the floor by my feet. I stand, stretch, get down to my birthday suit, pat myself down with a towel, and get dressed.
The radio is still on, some late, late night call-in show hosted by someone with such a thick accent, I can barely understand what the hell he’s talking about. Like I said, I’m Scottish tone deaf.
Snapping the radio off, I collapse back into bed.
The good news is, the nightmare never comes twice.
The bad news is, falling back to sleep is never a guarantee. It’s almost four in the morning.
Early to bed, early to rise.
I went to bed at midnight. Not sure that constitutes early.
I close my eyes, the remnant of the nightmare – memory – still playing like an old filmstrip as the heat from the projector bulb rapidly melts it away.
It was 1995. Shania Twain had exploded on the music scene. I couldn’t stop playing her CD. The fact that it pissed off my twin brother Austin was just a bonus. He was all grunge, all the time, back then.
We were camped right where my RV sits now. Me, Austin, Mom, and Dad.
My father had been downsized by the genetics company where he’d worked for almost twenty years. They gave him a goodbye package that left us flush with cash. No tears were shed. He was a scientist toiling away for a corporate entity. He’d felt he’d sold his soul for long enough.
So he took us out of school and we headed for Europe. He’d missed the chance to live his dream and backpack across the continent when he finished college.
“It’ll be much more fun with you guys. I knew I waited for a reason,” he’d said.
Austin and I didn’t care where he took us. We were just glad to be out of school for the rest of the year.
We alternated between camping out when the weather was agreeable and staying in nice hotels, especially when we were in cities like Florence and Berlin and Barcelona.
By the time we made it to Scotland, spring was fading into summer, and Dad wanted to sleep under the stars in the Great Glen, the glacial fissure that tore Scotland a new one 400 million years ago. The words lush and green are all you need to know to describe the Great Glen. Nature done did it right when she painted this scenery.
Smack in the middle of the glen was a series of lochs, one of them being my current home and setting of my nightmare – Loch Ness.
“We can’t go to Scotland without spending some time at Loch Ness,” my father had said. “Maybe we’ll even see the monster!”
We thought that made this place the coolest stop on our trek across Europe.
Kids are stupid.
It was dark. Austin and I were roasting marshmallows over the remains of our fire. Our parents went down to the water’s edge to clean out the pot we used for cooking chili. I was playing Shania Twain on the boom box, but had to keep it low. When Austin tried to hit the Stop button, I whacked him on the back of his hand with the hot end of my marshmallow stick.
“Jeez, that hurts you asshole!” he shrieked, cradling his hand to his chest.
“You’re such a baby. I can’t believe you came out first. Mom saved the best for last.”
He chucked a marshmallow at my head.
“You’re more like my afterbirth.”
I shrugged it off. We’d been saying the same things to each other for so long, we could recite each other’s lines.
That was as close to ‘twin speak’ as we’ve ever come. We look nothing alike, we act nothing alike, and we sure as hell don’t think alike.
It was then we heard the screams.
Two screams, to be exact.
My mother and my father.
We bolted to our feet, spilling the plastic bag of marshmallows into the fire.
There was a tremendous splash of water.
We ran to them, heedless of what we might encounter. Someone was attacking them. A deaf person could hear their struggle, the pain and terror in their cries.
We got to the shore a moment before we lost them forever.
Their heads were visible, floating atop the churning water. Something big and black and shiny, like the body of an anaconda, was wrapped around their necks. It must have given a sudden, powerful squeeze, because their voices were cut sharply.
“We have to help them!” Austin blurted, going so far as to get in the water up to his ankles.
But I held him back.
I watched my parent’s eyeballs puff up and explode from their sockets seconds before they were dragged down into the Loch’s murky depths.
And just like that, they were gone.
I watch them die every single night.
I can’t un-see their eyes, blowing up to cartoonish proportions before popping like balloons filled with mayonnaise and blood.
It’s why I fucking hate looking at people’s eyes. I can barely stand to look at my own in the mirror. I haven’t worn makeup in years just to save myself the horror.
- The clock says 4:15.
I’m not the least bit tired.
Early to rise it is.
Maybe today’s the day.
If it isn’t, oh well. I’ve got nowhere else to go.