If we hadn’t been raising three orphaned chupacabras at our house, I wouldn’t have gotten so involved in the investigations happening in our area regarding cattle deaths and mutilations. I knew though that the authorities would eventually come here, looking around. I sat down with the “kids” and asked them hard questions. “Is everyone here sticking to eating just the magical goats the Babas created for you?” They all nodded. The three of them were about the size of ten- year-old human children, but with fangs and spine ridges and big round eyes on either side of their heads and a forked tongue. Dylan, Aidan and Aerosol (she chose the name, honestly) sat on their handmade stools in front of Bumble and me. Dylan had his goat in his arms, and he was petting it gently. They named their goats too, the ones that could be killed and resurrected easily if I just planted a seed in the ground next to the three holes in the backyard we kept reusing for the nightly carcasses. “Don’t forget to plant the seed. That will bring the goats back to life in the morning,” the Babas told me. I had told them not to let the goats too far out of their sights, or they might go hungry. I didn’t know where the Babas were right now and I couldn’t create a new magical goat. “And the goats are enough for you every day, right? You’re not snacking on something else too?” They shook their heads. Aerosol said, “I love the taste of Angelfire. She’s all I need.” Okay. The other two nodded as well. Aidan called Skippy into the room to show me how much he enjoyed sucking blood from Skippy the resurrectable goat. “No, no, no,” I said, “you don’t have to prove it to me. I believe you.” The blood that the goats produced did not come out of the carpet, so we limited their eating to outside in the yard. Bumble and I had been eating our dinners out there with them as a family. We’d been doing this for about three months, ever since the Babas came back with three chupacabras in their arms, wrapped in blankets and sucking on bottles of goat’s blood, telling us. “We found them near death. So, of course, we brought them here to you.”
We tried to always make sure one of us was here with them, but when we couldn’t the Babas babysat, and the Monster Under the Bed took shifts as well, taking them into his lair under the bed, which was a lot roomier than I imagined and playing Gotcha Games with them.
I went to the local town meetings where folks talked about the cattle mutilations and deaths. I couldn’t make out which were rumors and which were actual sightings, but they included black helicopters, UFOs, chupacabras, and black hooded cult members. Chupas often got blamed for the deaths of cattle and goats. Granted a chupacabra might eat ONE, but they were loners by nature and killing fifteen or fifty cattle at a time—that wasn’t a chupa. I listened for what evidence they had. Frankly, when it was all finished—even after the government sponsored scientists told us what they suspected—natural causes, some sort of disease—I couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. “Surgically removed the testicles of all my bulls? That’s natural causes? Why—it was a clean cut, better than Dr. Homer ever did to my steers,” someone said giving shade to the veterinarian in the room. “You never hold them still enough,” he murmured. I came away from the meeting knowing two things: the whole town, our neighbors, were on alert for weird happenings and watchful on their property, and two, they would believe anything at all—with just a little evidence.
“They have government investigators going farm by farm,” I told Bumble. He said, <We are not a farm.> I knew that, I said, but they were being thorough and would probably want a statement. “I tried to give my statement at the meeting, but they weren’t taking them.” I worried that the investigators would come on a day when the Babas’ house slunk back into the yard, or that the chupas would be playing soccer in the yard. Or that Bumble would be doing anything at all. <People know about me,> he said. “Yes, but these kinds of things have a way of making people change their mind about people they know. Give them enough reason to think you’re responsible for a natural disaster or other unexplained event and they’ll agree you were a shifty critter all along.” I wasn’t even thinking about ANYTHING else coming into the yard or by my house while they were here. That could happen. What if the Boogeyman showed up for tea? Oh god, what if Penny came back now, six years later, flying right over their heads, just to say hello? I can’t turn my inner beacon off.
Bumble put a blanket over my head. I said, “It doesn’t dampen my signal to all the Hiddens, Bumble.” I took the blanket off my head. He said, <No, but it hides you from the investigators and maybe it will comfort you a little. It’s a comforter.>
I laughed, “Who will meet them at the door?” He touched his chest. No, I told him. I couldn’t take the risk that he would be misinterpreted. “I appreciate that, babe. But they might not have an interpreter. We can’t take that chance that they see a ten-foot Yeti waving his arms at them and growling.” He rolled his eyes. He could dress up as Chewbacca. I squinted… hmmm. “Let me think on that.” Meanwhile, the plan was for me to speak to them alone and everyone else hide.
Too often for my liking, Hiddens were blamed for things that humans did or things that naturally occurred. How many times had I heard that Hurricane Elmo, or whatever, was brought on by “the unnatural people living in our midst”? Or some people die mysteriously and no one can come up with a good government conspiracy? They have to start talking about how Mr. or Miss Hidden came into the neighborhood about that time and there went the neighborhood! People will fall back on their prejudices in hard times. It’s one of our worst traits. And dead cattle? That was such a Chupa signature in the mythology they’d created. It’d be like if Harold liked ice cream and someone stole a truckload of ice cream—oh, it must be Harold!
The chupas killed their goats at dinner, Aidan slurping so loudly I thought the farmers hiding in the bushes three miles away could hear him. We always made a fire. We always sang silly songs that we made up. Tonight it was about Santa’s sleigh being led by magical goats. I brought out the guitar and set it to music as we were creating it. I knew that the kids would have to go back out into the world when they were adults—in about five months. I would miss them. I wondered what kind of a world I was sending them out into.
Three inspectors came to the house in a couple of black vans nine days later. I’d told the kids that since the goats made goat sounds we needed them to be easily seen, and we would watch them. The Monster Under the Bed took the chupas down into his place. I met the inspectors in the front yard. I introduced myself. Immediately, I told them, “My partner lives with me and he’s a yeti, and he doesn’t speak, but he does sign.” They stopped talking. “I’m telling you this because my partner is going to come out of the house in a moment. He’s ten feet tall and is not a threat to you.” Bumble and I decided that he was probably known enough in the area for his absence to look suspicious, and we wanted to come out to meet them as a couple. “Mr. Redeker,” the lead inspector looked at me. I said, “Call me Yukon.” He saw the three goats playing in the yard. “Oh they’re adorable. Pets?” I nodded. “I love little goats. Did you name them?” he asked. I introduced him to Angelfire, Skippy, and… Lunch. He didn’t laugh so I tried to laugh a little harder. He asked if we had seen anything suspicious. “What would be suspicious? A group of people in a couple of black vans going from farm to farm stealing vital organs from cattle?” He stared at me. “Or do you mean something else?” We had them out on the back deck. I didn’t want them in the house. “We just waxed the floors.” Bumble had acted out Slippery for them. “Did you see other black vans?” he asked. I shook my head. I said, “I just wanted to know what suspicious would be? I’m very far from anyone’s farm, so I didn’t see what might be happening.” He pointed behind the house. “But the roads all connect. Did you see any suspicious vehicles–?” He placed a pen ready on the notebook he carried, “…people… creatures?” He didn’t have to look at Bumble for me to know he was thinking of looking at Bumble.
“If I had anything I could add to aid your search, I would,” I said. He smiled, “People have stories about you and this area. They say there’s a lot of activity here. You work with Hiddens, don’t you?” I nodded. “Yes, I work with them.” He nodded too. “And have any of them looked suspicious to you?” He really believed someone I knew was involved because… of course. That would be nice and simple for him. Everyone would believe some Monster did it. Did I hear what happened in Russia? With that fire burning a town and then the forest coming back? What if that happened here? “Can we trust them? In your opinion. I mean, you work with them,” he said.
I told him, “I think you should work with them too. I think your suspicions would go away. Yeah, you should have a Hidden on your team. I bet they have ideas you haven’t even considered. Maybe they have some thoughts.” I turned to Bumble and asked, “Do you have any thoughts on what might be happening?” Bumble said, <He is a dickhead.> I said to the inspector, “He doesn’t know, but he hopes that you find out how it is happening.” The inspector looked at Bumble, “You’re a big one. What do you eat, I wonder?” Bumble signed, <Inspectors.> I said, “He is really fond of banana bread, actually.” The inspector looked at me, “Does he like beef?” I said to the inspector, “Tell me, Inspector, did any of those cattle actually have meat taken from them—or was it just balls and intestines and other organs? Did it look like anyone got a good fat juicy steak off them?” He said no. I looked at Bumble, “He likes his steaks grilled and we get them from the grocery store.” Bumble signed, <I could make an exception and eat him now.>
“Tell me, Yukon, have you ever met a bad Hidden? An evil Hidden?” I looked at him, “I’ll tell you if you tell me first if you’ve ever met a bad person or an evil person.” He didn’t answer. “I bet you have. I bet you don’t arrest every person just because you met a bad one once.”
He stood up. His men stood up. “Well it was nice meeting you, Yukon, and Mr. Bumble. If you hear of anything or see anything that seems out of whack–,” he gave me his card, “give us a ring. We want to get to the bottom of this Cattle Mutilation thing. Someone, or something, needs to be brought to justice.” We walked them back to their black vans. I said, “Good luck,” and Bumble signed <I see something out of whack.> The inspector waved back to both of us and they left.
I breathed a sigh of relief until I caught Bumble’s eye. <Where are the goats?> I looked around and realized neither of us had been watching them. It was getting late in the day too. The kids would be hungry. I called out for the goats. Bumble quickly ran around the outside of the house. No goats. I called inside the house. No goats. The kids came out. “You lost the goats?” I told them they wandered off. We needed their help to find them. But don’t go too far. I couldn’t risk a farmer seeing them. They called for their goats. The kids had never been off our property, or even known where the boundaries were. That seemed now like an oversight. What would magical goats do if they were found by other people? Would they just act like regular goats until something killed them? I told Bumble we needed our friends in the forest to help us find the goats, so he went down to the forest. I told the kids that we needed them to stay close to the house and that we would look for the goats.
But the goats would not be found. Not even our friends in the forest could find them. Hours passed. No goats. Kids hungry. Three teenage Chupacabra biting their lips, needing blood to drink, preferably from cattle or goats. “Anywhere we could go buy some small goats?” they asked. I didn’t know. It was getting dark. “Gang,” I said to them, “This is going to be a rough night. But I need you to stay strong and stay in the house.” They got dressed for bed. I tried to give them the blood from some cold pork and a steak… they didn’t like the taste. I wasn’t sure if it was really safe for them to drink anyway. Bumble and I decided not to eat dinner either. We wanted to show them we could get through it together. I told Bumble that if the goats had gotten killed somewhere, then I should plant a seed and maybe they would come back in the morning. <We don’t have their bodies.> I told him we would call out in the morning and see if they answered. I planted the seed. Bumble told me when I came to bed that I was glowing. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t see anything. Bumble said he could see it. And feel it. In fact, it kept him up the whole night. I slept. He didn’t much.
In the morning I found Bumble asleep on the floor with headphones on. <They helped.> We both immediately went outside and called for the goats. Nothing. I told the kids to stay in the house and Bumble and I would go recruit our friends again and call around in the area. I didn’t even have a chance to get very dressed. I knew if they didn’t feed soon, we would have a big problem on our hands. I called for what seemed like hours.
It is such a precarious balance Hiddens have in the world—if things are going well in the place they live, they are fine. But economic downturns, riots, natural disasters, even basic dissatisfaction could bounce back on them. And a death, or an assault from a mysterious source? Hiddens always felt like they were one mistake from being hated again, of people being frightened of them. The Inspector proved that the thought isn’t far from their minds.
I heard a big whoosh above me, and there was a full-grown gold dragon flying above me. It was Penny. She swooped and turned on a dime and landed beside me in a windburst. I laughed—and I needed that laugh—“You are enormous!” I yelled. Her voice boomed back, “Thank you! I feel great!” She brought her head down to my level. With her chin on the ground, I only stood as high as her nose. “What’s up? You are sending out waves of distress.” I was? “Some goats have gone missing,” I said. “We have to find them so that three Hiddens can eat, but–,” I held up my hand, “there’s a catch. Everyone in the neighborhood is freaked out about some cattle killings in the area and so they are looking for a Hidden to blame. If you fly and they see you, they will think it was you who did the killing. So we have to find the goats without attracting any attention.”
She lifted her head, “I think I hear a little chaos.” Oh, that’s awesome! I thought, assuming the chaos was goats. “At your house.” She immediately lifted off. “No, no, Penny. They’ll see you.” She called back, “I hope they do.” I was running just to keep up with her
I came up from the forest to where I could see the house. So many cars and trucks—I could count seven of them. I started running to the house across the meadow. “Wait!” I said.
I was out of breath, and running as fast as I could. I couldn’t yell. I was about fall down when I felt three sets of hands catch me. I looked up and saw my friends, the satyrs. I couldn’t say anything. “We got your signal,” they said. “We knew you were in trouble.” I saw behind me Sabitha, the Baba’s house on cat legs, spring over the edge of the forest and keep running past us to the house. I stood up and started running again.
By the time I got to the house, I recognized faces in the crowd. Oh no. My worst nightmare. An angry crowd of villagers. I think in the back of my mind for years this scene was playing with no sound…just images of villagers with pitchforks advancing on the Frankenstein of the Day to rid themselves of the Strange One in their Midst.
Seeing a house on cat legs, a flying dragon and several satyrs coming at them had sent the townspeople to yelling and backing up. “Wait! Wait!” I called out, huffing and puffing. When I got there, I doubled over. I couldn’t speak. But they quieted down.
“Yukon,” someone said. “We’ve all come to see you.” The townspeople were speaking and oddly everyone was waiting for me to lift my head. I sat down on the grass and looked up. I recognized each family. I knew my neighbors—I had met many of them. I was ready for their Rumors and their Threats. Terry, one of the cattle farmers in the area—the one who had lost the most—came towards me, knelt down. “We wanted to make sure you and yours were okay,” he said.
I was still breathing hard, “What?”
Jeannie, his wife, looking around her at all the Hiddens. “We knew they’d come out here to say something to you and we figured you might be in trouble.” Another man said, “We tried to tell them that we’d never had any trouble with any of your visitors or friends out here and that you were a good family in the area. But I knew they wouldn’t listen.” Terry reached out his hand to help me up and I took it.
“You came out here to check on us?” I asked. They nodded. Terry said, “Now this don’t mean that we haven’t ruled out some creature we don’t know attacking the cattle—but we don’t think it’s associated with you.” I felt like I was in a dream or fantasy. Some of them looked up as Penny landed in the yard. Sabitha curled her feet under her and the house sat down. They were here to help. “I appreciate all of you,” I said, trying to not sound as dumbfounded as I felt.
“We thought maybe you might know what was happening, though.” They nodded again. I shook my head. “I don’t have a clue what may be happening to your cattle, but I know it’s not any of us or anything I’ve ever heard of. Not that many cattle in this short of time.” I remembered the kids. “We are looking for some stray goats though. They won’t hurt you. They are slightly magical but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them.”
“Well, Hell,” someone called from the back. “Three goats?” It was Dan Thomas. He and his family raised goats too. “They tried to get into our pen last night with the other goats and fried themselves on the electric fence. They were dead. But the damnedest thing happened. They came back to life this morning! I said to Margie ‘Those are Demon Goats.’ She said, ‘No, they’re probably from the red-bearded guy up on Alderwood Lane.’ She heard about you from her church group. She said, ‘Demon Goats wouldn’t be that dumb.’ These were just plain old magical goats, she figured. They got right into an old pet carrier we had for Rufus before he passed. We have them in the truck.”
I was elated. Dan and Margie went to go get the goats. Someone asked, hopefully, as if they had done their homework on cryptids just to talk to me, “Do you think it could be a pack of Chupacabras?”
“It most definitely is not the work of a Chupacabra,” I said, and I took this time to educate them on chupas. I told them they don’t hunt in packs. They are loners. And they can only drink the blood of one cow at a time. “That pretty much fills them up. Fifty dead cows would be a waste of food for them… they’d never do it.” Someone started a sentence with, “Well, I heard,” and then recited a fake factoid about chupacabras they found on the internet. I let them say it, let everyone hear it, and then I corrected it. That’s what you have to do about false information. I don’t tell them to shut up, or call them names, or laugh at them, or embarrass them for what they don’t know. “You’ve never met a Chupacabra so you wouldn’t know the difference. They are very nice if you ever get to meet them.”
“I guess this is as good of an introduction as we might ever get,” said a voice behind me. “We are very nice and today you do get to meet chupacabras.” From the Babas’ house two adult chupacabras walked out the door and onto the deck. They wore bright colored shirts and jeans. They looked at me. “Thank you, Yukon, for the kind words you said about us. We came when we heard that you were taking care of three orphans.”
Someone in the crowd said, “Three orphans?” and looked at me with surprise and several others did the same. Their eyes got even softer when they thought of me as a father.
Baba Sola said to me, “That’s what we were doing? Looking for someone for the kids.”
“We hoped they might want to talk about coming back with us,” the chupacabra couple said.
I introduced them (Myrrha and Aliso) to all my neighbors! They all said hello and the conversations started and kept going and all I could do was step back and watch. Dan and Margie came back with the goats, which I gave to Bumble to take into the house. I told him to put down the old plastic swimming pool on the kitchen floor, try to keep the mess contained. He nodded. Terry said, “See it all worked out.” He winked at me. “Did you think we were coming for all the Hiddens you had so we could burn them at the stake?” I laughed, “Of course not. I wouldn’t believe that.” I slapped him on the back and went inside to grab a shirt.
It’s amazing how everyone, even me, can believe what they want to about their own Monsters. I had believed the worst of all of them even from the beginning, and here they were, laughing, talking with chupacabras, magical old ladies, a chatty dragon, and someone was petting the legs of Sabitha—why did I think that just because people in the past had acted out of fear that these people would do that? We may never solve the cattle deaths (though I would ask Penny to go on patrol if she would) but I learned something about my “monsters,” and it was a good lesson. I also had so many friends I could count on—magical Hiddens and friendly neighbors. Just when I needed them, they came.
The Babas had come out of their house with baked goods and drinks and carried them to the deck. I brought out my guitar knowing we could make up some good silly songs tonight. Looking around at all my friends I felt a bit more confident about the world I was sending the young chupacabras into—a world with more friends than I thought. The happy crowd talked so loud that no one heard the happy howls of joy as the kids called out– Angelfire! Skippy! Lunch!—hugged the necks of their three long-lost, beloved, resurrectable goats—we missed you!—and then, with glee, sucked out every drop of life they could, knowing there’d be so much more tomorrow.