Fault Line

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) 3

Beware the raccoon! ... Image via Wikipedia

John stepped out of his truck into the foggy dark, the crunch of the dirt under his feet piercing the still, midnight air. The world around him slept in loud silence, but his senses, as always, were invigorated by the cool, quiet hours.

After breathing the crisp air into his lungs for a minute, he headed for the porch stairs at the side of his house, digging in his pocket for his keys as he went, but when he reached the top step, his foot knocked against something, sending it clattering across the porch.

Oh no. Not again.

He unlocked the door, reached inside to flip on the porch light, then looked down at his feet.

Yup. Just what I thought.

A bag of trash, which he’d set out on the porch earlier that day, was now torn open, its guts spilled out all around it. John’s blood ran hot and he slammed the door shut.

Dang raccoons!

Last night he’d shot one that was trying to get into his trash – the latest in a recent string of rubbish ravagers, and, he had hoped, the last one. Visions of vengeance now played across his mind, sandwiched by self-condemning thoughts, his stupidity for even leaving the trash outside again, and then he remembered that he’d left a shovel by the back door that morning after using it to carry the carcass into the woods. He huffed.

I’d better go take care of it while it’s on my mind.

He descended the steps and went down an embankment onto the dewy back lawn, then passed through a wall of shadow projected onto the fog by the corner of the house closest to the porch light. His vision was near-black for a few moments, then his pupils adjusted and he could just make out the back door.

But where’s the shov

WHACK!

***

John woke in the dark, pain pulsating through his head with every heartbeat. He went to rub the sore spot, but discovered that his hands were bound behind him. He tried to figure out where he was, but found it hard to focus his groggy mind – he could only tell that the place was damp, and smelled of earth. When he stretched his legs, however, he realized that his feet were loose, and he was just about to try standing when he heard a scuffling sound opposite him. He stopped, tuning his ears; it sounded like someone coming towards him, and the noise echoed a bit, as if this place was underground.

A faint light then appeared in the direction of the sound, and John could see enough to tell that he was indeed underground, in a small earthen chamber. He struggled to his knees, and with tense muscles he waited for the appearance of whoever was coming.

But first came a voice.

“You are the one called John, who lives in the fortress on the other side of this hill.”

John’s eyes darted around. Fortress? Hill? Who is this?

“You are he?”

“My name is John, yes.”

“You know why you are here?”

John shook his head. “No, I don’t.”

“You know, of course, that I lost a brother this week, along with my eldest nephew.”

“I … I’m sorry, about that … but I … no, I didn’t know that.”

“You did. You do.”

John scowled with perplexion.

“You do not realize yet; I am not surprised. It is one of the great shames of your kind – you forget the faces of those you’ve killed.”

Killed!?! I-I haven’t killed anybody, never, in my whole life!”

“You haven’t?”

“No!”

Then John heard the scuffling sound again, and a face began to come into view; John couldn’t see it all, but he could see enough, and his mouth went dry at the sight of it: a dark nose on a light-colored snout, and above that a dark horizontal band across the eyes.

“You understand now,” it said. “I see it in your face.”

“Yes, but … I didn’t … I mean … they were messing up my trash; I was just–”

“You were protecting your own? Yes, and so were we – gathering food for us and our little ones.”

“But … how …”

“You wonder how this is happening? How this is real? How it could be real?” John gave a slight nod. “You have good questions, yet it always amazes me that for all the intelligence of your kind – and you are an intelligent kind – you have never understood the mystery of shadow and mist, and the world they open up.”

It paused, measuring John’s expression.

“You have two things written on your face: surprise, and confusion: Surprise at learning that you are not the first of your kind that we have … brought down here, though I commend you on surmising that fact; and confusion about the world of which I speak, the world of shadow and mist. You are now aware of that world – this world – but if you care to learn more about it and thereby dispel your confusion, you will have to do it on your own.”

“You mean … you’ll let me go?”

There was a pause.

“You thought I would kill you — a justifiable thought, but no, I will not kill you. You are different than the others who have been here. You seem … not hard, and that gives me reason to hope … and I hope my reason does not fail me.”

For the first time in minutes, John was able to swallow.

“You must close your eyes now,” it said, “and I will send you back.”

“Okay,” said John as he closed his eyes. “Thank y–”

WHACK!

***

When John opened his eyes, he had the same headthrob as before. He tried to massage the pain away, but – Ow! – it was too sensitive to touch. He struggled to his feet and looked around; he was outside his house, only yards from his back door. It was still dark, and foggy, but he noticed that the shovel was back where he’d left it. And then he heard voices.

He whirled around, scanning to the farthest reaches of his yard, and he was sure he saw something move. It was too dark to tell what, however, and he wasn’t interested in sticking around to find out; he headed for the side door, passing through the wall of shadow and into the foggy brightness of the porch light before climbing the embankment and then the steps. As he went for the doorknob, however, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and he looked to see two raccoons coming out of the shadow wall into the lit part of his back lawn. He reached for the door, instinct telling him to go get his shotgun, but then he noticed the trash that was still scattered across his porch, which reminded him of who’d created the mess and why, which reminded him of the throb in his head and how he hoped to never have another one like it, and he felt a sudden drain of the native desire to protect his own. So he turned away from the raccoons and into the comfort of his home, shutting off the porch light as he went.

***

Rubbish, John thought a minute later, anger welling in him. It’s all a bunch of rubbish.

He stormed back through his house, flicked on the lights and stepped out onto the porch. The raccoons were still on the back lawn.

Chik-chik. BOOM!

Chik-chik. BOOM!

Then all fell silent. John went back into his house, shut off the lights and went to bed, leaving the two carcasses ’til morning.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jasondrexler
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 13:07:52

    Thanks for the like, PhotoBotos!

    Reply

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