by Shannon Grant
It was Ro’s first time in the presence of the Merka.
She had been studying the creatures since the previous summer, those strange alien animals falling into her imagination like they were made to be trapped in the confines of her mind. She had cultivated her obsession so much that they had worked her way into her dreams. While she slept, she felt like she could reach out and touch one of the them, smoothing her hand along the texture of its back, its legs, its feet.
As she hid herself behind one of the gigantic trees, she could hear the low bellowing sounds the Merka made over the persistent noise of the waterfalls. The excitement at seeing them gripped her heart. The spring sun shone down on the clearing, leading her there to the animals that existed in their own beautiful seclusion away from the outside world. They had notoriously bad eyesight, the isolation of their home keeping them safe.
The animals appeared in Ro’s line of sight. She counted four of them, the tallest drinking from the stream of water that passed them, the strange mouth working the way a valve would. It moved like a brontosaurus, its long neck craning and stretching to reach the stream. Ro was fascinated by the process, taking out her camera in order to better capture what she was witnessing.
She crouched down to hide herself better. She knew through research that the click of the camera were soft enough to not disturb the Merka. Looking through the viewfinder, she focused until she could capture the large one’s feet. Ro admitted to herself that she was envious of its long, thin legs, compared to her own short ones. She snapped a couple of pictures of the legs, first the back ones, then the front, then noticed a group of hikers drawing closing to the animal.
What are they, nuts? she thought.
She stood up and walked out from behind the tree, hoping they would notice her. She began to wave at the people, trying to figure out how much she could communicate to them without shouting.
They didn’t know. They were too ignorant to do the research, Ro supposed.
She moved close enough so that she could make out what their guide was saying.
“And as you can see,” she said in a perky voice. “They gather by their water sources. They will move in and live here for a very, very long time.”
Didn’t they have weapons? If they knew what they were doing, they would. Ro had brought a stun gun in her backpack in case of emergency. She drew a gloved hand up to her mouth, stifling any sound that might fall out of her mouth by accident. She tried to wave again.
The guide stopped, looked over at Ro, and gave her a wondering look. Ro stopped waving, took the hand away from her mouth and turned her pointer finger up, bringing it to her lips in that universal “shush” gesture.
“Hello there!” the guide shouted.
No matter how much Ro wanted to shout at her, tell her to shut the fuck up, she knew that she had to remain quiet. Any loud noises would alert that she was there. She shook her head, trying to make herself understood in any way possible.
There was a rustling from the treetops, so forceful and violent that a few loose leaves shook down, landing around the hikers. Ro began to back away to the shelter of her tree, careful enough not to make any sound. Her feet cried for her to run, but her eyes wanted to see the thing that would come out.
The Kirken came swooping out the trees like a small bomber, its wingspan as wide as a condor’s. It resembled a small pterodactyl, its brown, leathery skin providing a picturesque contrast against the Merka’s grey covering. It perched itself atop the Merka’s head, then let out a splitting screech that cut through the air.
Then it attacked.
The talons cut deep. That was the last thing that Ro saw before she turned away, being left only with the screams of the hikers to create a picture inside her mind of what was going on.
She knew the Kirken were the Merka’s eyes, there to act as the bodyguards to the gentle creatures. She hid away behind the tree, safe because she had done the research.
Shannon Grant had a vivid imagination as child.Then she grew into an adult and decided to use her imagination to try to scare the bejesus out of the general public.Her first body horror story, “The Butterfly Queen,” is in the anthology Invocations by Great Old Ones Publishing.Her second story, “Grandpa’s Bears,” is the last story in the anthology Exploits in the Adirondacks by 518 Publishing. In her spare time she enjoys movie marathons and traveling to weird and unusual tourist attractions. She is currently working on more creepy tales to share with the world.