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Night of the Clippies (Part One)

From Clotheslines to Killers!


The late October night sky was clear, full of stars with a gentle push of wind coming from the east. Margaret Braeburn, thoroughly entrenched in her sixties and sporting all the vivacious curves of a fire hydrant, strode outside carrying a huge laundry basket full of bed sheets. According to Margie, a nickname used only by her closest friends, the night air always seemed to make them smell fresher.

Her late husband, Ralph, died eleven years ago, but she barely missed a beat with the chores and tribulations of owning a thirty-acre farm; one she’d worked on every day for the last forty years. She was the type of person who’d trim her toenails with a pair of garden shears, was rough as a pair of work boots, straightforward, yet always generous.

The goats were always the last to get cozy at bedtime. Everything else on four legs or webbed feet had succumbed to a hard day of doing nothing in particular, all asleep in and around the faded red barn. Margaret took in a deep breath, savoring the upper New York state air of St Lawrence County, crisp and clean. She hated the Big Apple.

The night sky suddenly exploded into a meteor shower, a burst of tiny flaming lights. Shooting stars maybe? Margaret paid little attention. She was barely impressed by that “borealis thing” as she referred to it when she’d spotted natures’ lightshow on a family trip to Alaska.

The cotton haired woman draped the white nylon clothesline with queen-size bedroom sheets first, colored in subtle flamingo pink with wide celery green stripes. They were a Christmas gift from her LL Bean loving daughter, Jennifer, who lived with her snooty husband and three children in the affluent suburb of Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

There was a peculiar buzz in the air. Couldn’t be June bugs, Margaret postulated; those annoying insects wouldn’t be making a guest appearance for at least seven or eight months. She glared at the night sky, trying to pinpoint where the sound was coming from. Margaret’s dog, Slop, a German Sheppard/English Sheep Dog mix, managed to barrel through the doggie door and sat at attention next to her. She patted the dog’s head with her thoroughly callused hands. The chunkified pooch perked up at the high-pitched sound, offering up a deep, resonating growl before darting back inside.

“Ain’t nothin but dang horseflies or some supersonic mosquitoes, probably imported from China.” She’d read about those soap bar-sized wasps that could kill a man, livestock too.

The buzz seemed to be getting closer. Margaret clipped one corner of the fitted sheet with two clothespins then reached down for a couple more. Digging around, one suddenly nipped her on the middle finger.

“You damn little SOB.” She raised her hand staring right at the clothespin. It seemed to be pinching harder. Surprised, the rugged woman pried it off but noticed blood at the tip of her finger. “You ain’t got teeth, do ya?” She paused, guessing it must have been a stupid accident, that’s all.

Margaret wiped the blood on her worn jeans. She was about to clip another to the fitted sheet when she noticed something odd about one of the spring-type wooden clothespins, the only kind Margaret ever used. It seemed to have relocated on its own. She always clipped them two inches from the edge of each sheet. Anything less and a stiff breeze could blow ‘em right off. The hell she was gonna wash the same sheets twice in one day.

The seasoned citizen rumbled back inside to answer the phone. “Annoying telemarketers.” When she returned, the hearty woman noticed more clothespins lined up on the coated wire. In fact, the whole twenty-five foot stretch of clothesline was filled with them, standing at attention almost like slender wooden soldiers.

“What the dag frick is going on here?” yelled Margaret. She stood still, wondering if she was having a senior moment. Maybe she’d already clipped them on. That was a crock. Margaret was feisty, quick-witted, and sharp as a tack. No, something abnormal was going on. Maybe it was one of those stupid ass teens from down the street. After all, it was mischief night, the official night before Halloween where kids enjoyed draping toilet paper on neighbor’s trees, egging cars, and blowing up mailboxes with M-80s.

“All right you bunch of zit faces, the gig’s up,” she said loud and clear. “I gotta gun and I ain’t afraid to use it.”

Suddenly, she felt an excruciating pinch on the back of her neck.

“Ouch! You son of a bitch!” She reached around and clutched the perpetrator. “What the . . .” She took out her Bic lighter and examined the culprit more closely. There was blood around its . . . “Mouth?” It started to pulsate and glow.

Spooked, she quickly dropped it like it was a white-hot briquette. Armed with only a pair of worn moccasins, she stomped on it, repeatedly. How the hell does a clothespin bite? She was perplexed -- unless it was some sort of bizarre government experiment gone array, which she thought could be plausible.

Margaret heard the buzzing again. This time it sounded like a turbine engine. She felt a weird sensation wiggling under her foot. She stepped aside and peered down. The illuminated little object suddenly torpedoed upward, biting Margaret right square on the nose.

“Get the hell off me,” she cried in a nasal voice. She pried the clothespin off and threw it towards the woods. The strange buzzing stopped. The forest, usually bursting with the symphony of nature, went deathly silent. Margaret stood still like one of the pine trees in her yard, almost forgetting to breathe. The tip of her finger throbbed. A trickle of blood dripped from her injured nose.

All at once, they ravaged the woman, biting her all over her stumpy body. They attacked like a ferocious school of piranhas, relentless to the core. They darted in and out, biting Margaret repeatedly, now bloodied and wounded. She tried fending them off, but her motions were too slow. Decades of manual labor made her limbs sluggish and achy. She fell to the ground onto the worn grass. She couldn’t stop them, not now, nor for the next half hour. The clothespins began pulsating into a highlighter green glow as they absorbed her blood. In a flash, the cluster of clothespins vanished.

*********

The next morning, Bob Cortland, all-purpose electrician and horseshoe-tossing champion of Red Orchard, NY-- he’d won the MacinToss competition four straight years in a row, arrived at Margaret’s farmhouse. Usually she’d be out there to greet him on the front porch with a spare cup of Joe. Occasionally on good weather afternoons, the two would get together at the Rotten Core Pub, on the outskirts of town, consuming adult beverages and dining on burgers the size of shuffleboard disks.

Cortland stepped out of his truck carrying his toolbox and a jelly donut securely planted in his mouth. He walked up to the white trimmed painted screen door and knocked. His stout New Year’s resolution of not consuming donuts anymore had lasted a mere seventy-two hours. He loved jelly donuts.

“Margaret, you home?” Cortland called out, wiping the powdered sugar on his khaki pants. Of course she was; her fire red Ford F150 was parked in the driveway. No answer. He knocked again, calling out her name a bit louder. Slop trotted out from the kitchen to the screen door, his nails tatting on the hard oak wood surface. The dog began shifting back and forth nervously, barking up a storm.

“It’s okay Slop, it’s okay. Where’s the boss?” The dog made a sudden rush and thrust the screen door open, running around the house to the back yard. Cortland placed his beat up Sears Craftsman toolbox down on the front step and followed. He spotted the dog near the clothesline, sitting anxiously by Margaret’s lifeless body.

“Oh Christ, no,” said Cortland, a good friend of Margie’s going on twenty-three years. He rushed over, figuring it was a heart attack -- probably popped an artery yelling at some trespassers -- that or the pounds of succulent pork products she consumed on a weekly basis that had finally done her in. Then he saw the blood.

“What in God’s name?” Cortland wiped his hand across his suddenly dry mouth in horror. There were dozens of flesh wounds on her back, maybe hundreds of them. Cortland stood up and surveyed the woods. He trembled.

“Cops -- gotta call the cops.” The cell phone reception was genuinely horrendous where Margaret’s neck of the woods, but he tried anyway. The phone rang. A female voice answered, fading in and out with a snap, crackle, pop.

“Holly, it’s me Bob Cortland. Is Sheriff Taylor there? I gotta get a hold of him, pronto. Margaret Braeburn’s been attacked -- murdered!”

“Mean Margaret, dead?” replied Holly, no real friend to the surly woman.

“When, where?”

“I just found her body; face down at her house in the back yard. Something attacked her – there’s blood all over the place.”

“Stay right there Bob, I’ll call the sheriff right away; he’s down at the Devil’s Donut right now. Supposedly a fight broke out between customers, probably bikers again.”

“Just tell him to get up here ASAP!” Cortland hung up. He tried to avoid looking at Margaret’s dead body, but couldn’t. Stuff like this never happen in Red Orchard. An impulsive wave of fear suddenly blanketed the portly electrician. Maybe there’s a maniac killer on the prowl hiding in the dark woods. He raced back to his car and locked the doors.

He glanced at his watch again. “Come on, where are you!” Nineteen minutes later, the sheriff showed up, lights flashing.

Sheriff Taylor, still in solid shape for a man turning sixty-four, pulled up next to Cortland’s pickup and got out of his car. Cortland did too, still in shock, his legs weak and rubbery. “Hi Sheriff.”

“Mike to you, we’re friends remember?”

“I know, I know, sorry -- just doing the respect thing.” Bob took in a deep breath.

The sheriff zipped up his jacket; it was always chillier up in the hills. “Where is she?”

“She’s in the back yard, by the clothesline. I still can’t believe it.”

“You said Margaret was murdered? How do you know?” Sheriff Taylor turned away from Cortland and laid eyes on the body.

“Holy Grail.” The sheriff inched closer, inspecting not only the body, but also the surrounding grounds. “You didn’t touch anything, did you?”

“No, nothing, I swear.” Cortland took off his Cincinnati Reds baseball cap, wiping his brow. He pinned his rug-thick peppered gray hair as he put it back on. “What the hell could have done this?”

“It might have been some animal, but I don’t recognized this type of bite wound, not at all. Hold on.” The sheriff took out a pen and brushed aside a piece of Margaret’s tattered flannel shirt.

“Is that a clothespin? The two looked at each other, puzzled. “Lend me a hand.” Taylor and Cortland carefully turned the body over only to reveal Margaret’s half-eaten face. A handful more were still feasting on her bulbous midsection before rocketing away. Cortland feinted on cue; the sheriff not too far behind.

*********

At a secluded lake miles from the nearest anything, two men, retirees from Queens, New York, gently paddled along in their matte green Old Town fiberglass canoe. The pristine lake, still as ice, reflected the autumn leaves like a joyous fall postcard. From above, the roundish body of water almost made out the shape of a GMC Pacer. The two were former postal employees and childhood friends, having survived thirty years of banal mail delivery and the elements of the big city: rain, sleet, snow, heat, and abusive city folks. Both men and their wives enjoyed spending occasional long weekend retreats upstate, thriving on the peace and tranquility of Red Orchard before moving there permanently last year when both men finally called it quits. Not a hostile city slicker in sight.

The sun penetrating through the late afternoon clouds made temperatures near ideal. Occasionally they’d hit a cool spot where the temperature seemed to drop ten degrees. It made them shiver. The two took a break, coasting gently on the steel blue water as they devoured matching baloney sandwiches, complete with yellow mustard and yellow American cheese, just like in grade school. Thirsty, one of the men popped open a couple of chilled Wailing Wenches, a dark amber ale brewed locally in nearby Syracuse – definitely NOT like grade school.

“Man this is good stuff,” said Tom Arlet, a year older than his heavier friend Rick Alexander, slender and in respectable shape. “And to think you wanted to bring Pepsi.”

“You know I’m not real keen on drinking while fishing; I get buzzed and end up hooking my finger or something stupid. Remember last time?”

“It’s a prerequisite to fish and drink, and not necessarily in that order my friend,” answered Tom. “Why the hell else would be out here?”

“We like to fish, don’t we?” asked Rich.

“Of course we do, but when I’m catching nothing, which is most of the time lately, I like to kick back and enjoy a cervesa, as they say in Spanish.”

Tom tipped his hat, smiling. He baited his hook with a half cut night crawler and cast out his line. The red and white bobber splashed down on the water like the Apollo 13 spacecraft, creating a mild ripple.

Rich did the same, but managed to target a fallen protruding branch. He’d read in Field and Stream how big mouth bass like to hang out in the sunken debris. Now he was snagged.

“Shit.” He slammed down his son’s economy model Zebco 404 rod and reel combo – his high-end Shimano spinning reel was all screwed up, courtesy of his three-year-old grandson, Cliff. Exasperated, Tom handed his friend a beer. Rich took a sniff, savoring the fine scent like a vintage bottle of wine then took a healthy gulp. “Thank God for beer.”

“Ale,” corrected Tom. “We’re drinking ale.”

“What difference does it make, as long as it’s got the big A, right? A as in alcohol. And this stuff’s got almost eight percent, jeeze Louise I’m gonna be a drunken mess!”

“You sound like Sesame Street for God’s sake . . . A as in alcohol. And B is for bite! I think I’ve got one!”

There was a buzzing sound emanating from the trees.

“Hold on; you hear that?” asked Rick, who gave up trying to salvage his new Red Devil fishing lure by cutting the line, thoroughly entangled on the partially submerged branch. Cicadas, maybe? His friend was too preoccupied with his pending catch.

“Man o man this feels like a large mouth,” said Tom, hoping the eight-pound test would hold up. “Look at my pole for Christ sake; it’s bending like a U!”

Bob rested his paddle across the canoe and looked deep into the encompassing woods. He’d heard many a sound on his numerous vacations to upstate Red Orchard, but this was different, almost like a whining blender.

Bob continued to battle the fish, now close to the canoe. “He’s gone under the boat. Quick, hand me the net -- quickly before it breaks my freaking line!”

Rick reached behind his seat cushion and picked up the short handled aluminum, green lined net. “Here.”

Bob wanted to be the one to haul the mighty fresh-water leviathan aboard their vessel. The fish fought like crazy, twisting and twirling in the brisk water, creating a foamy chilled froth.

“I got you, you son a rat!” Bob hoisted the great fish in the net, proud as a peacock. That’s when he noticed the sound.

“What’s that noise?” He paused for a quick second. “Whatever.” The sun momentarily dissipated behind the clouds. Rick felt a queasy feeling in his gut.

Bob was still in fishing bliss, his beaming smile almost hurting his face. “This sucker’s gotta be over twenty inches!”

The clothespins jettison from the myriad of trees, hundreds and hundreds of them. They attacked the two men like flying barracudas. The feisty bass disappeared right before Bob’s eyes as they shredded it to pieces. “Hey, my fish!”

That’s when the two felt the painful bites. The sky above the canoe darkened as the swarm of clothespins attacked the two men. Rick tried to curl up in a ball, pushing his head between his knees for protection, but he was too doughy and exposed. They chomped at the easy target, blood now pouring from the multiple small wounds. He wailed in pain as they tore him to pieces.

Bob brandished the chewed up aluminum net like a weekend tennis player, swatting at anything, occasionally hitting the target. Dozens went for his bearded face, drawing blood quickly around his ears and eyes. He frantically waved the net but soon tired. He tried to reposition himself in the unstable canoe but lost his balance, spilling into the lake. Bob raised his tattered arms, desperately trying to swim freestyle to shore. More clothespins zeroed in on his broad back like seagulls descending upon a floating dead whale. He tired quickly before sinking below the surface like a dropped penny. In a matter of seconds, he was out of view in the murky water.

Rick was dead too, still balled up on the floor of the canoe. Blood mixed with the thin layer of omnipresent lake water, turning it a light red hue. The canoe floated aimlessly towards a half sunken sturdy log where it finally nestled in between outreaching branches like arms.

********

Near dinnertime and halfway out the door, Holly heard the phone ring. For a split second she thought of brushing it off, but she was a professional. Besides, her replacement was pulling into the parking lot. She trekked back inside, grabbing the phone on the forth ring.

“Red Orchard Police, how can I help you?”

‘Uh, hi.” The young man’s voice was nervous and squeaky. He’d never called the police for anything, ever.

“Yes, may I help you?” Holly’s stomach grumbled in hunger for the umpteenth time. God she hated dieting.

“Um, my friend and I are biking out here near Taylor Lake and we see a canoe all by itself on the water; kinda strange. There’s an empty car in the parking lot; it might belong to them, but there’s no one here.”

“Thank you, I’ll have the sheriff stop by and take a look. And your name sir?” The man abruptly hung up. He and his friend had just finished up a fat joint and were closing in on the munchies/paranoid stage; they weren’t about to divulge any more information.

Holly radioed the boss who’d just finished up a couple of slices of pizza and a Coke at Pepe Roni’s Italian restaurant. “What can I do for ya? The sheriff grimaced as he noticed a quarter-size sauce stain on his new jacket. He quickly wiped it off. “Crapola,” he replied with a mouthful of pepperoni and onion pizza. I’m on my way.”

Taylor, three miles away on the hilly back road, got there just as the sun was dissipating. He pulled into the parking lot, noticing the lone vehicle. The sheriff took out a thick yellow nylon rope from the trunk and followed the recycled plastic walkway that lead to the lake. The canoe had drifted free of the branches, now floating fifteen-plus feet from the end of the protruding dock. The sheriff was in no mood to get wet, having just gotten over a nasty cold. Hell, after reading about people contracting flesh-eating viruses from lakes, he wasn’t about to take any chances either.

He trekked back off the dock and found a thick branch. He broke it in half over his knee and tied the smaller piece to the rope as a weight. He sauntered back to the end of the dock but stopped momentarily, hearing a strange humming sound coming from the forest. The sheriff’s first toss clanked off the bow, gently moving the canoe into deeper water. “Rats.” The sheriff tried again, this time it landed just inside the bow of the craft.

“All right now.” He carefully reeled in the nylon rope, towing in the canoe. He heard buzzing again, this time only louder. The canoe was almost within reach. He spotted a couple of seat cushions, a fishing pole, cooler, and dark tinted water on the floor. Then a man’s body appeared, curled up -- mangled and bloodied.

“Oh God, not another.” The sheriff pulled the boat ashore through the tall grass and mud then paused, surveying the horrific scene. It was getting dark now. The buzzing sound grew louder. He grabbed the flashlight from his belt and shined it at the trees. Unnoticed, a clothespin, stained red, wriggled on the dead man’s lip, tearing off a small morsel before scurrying away.

Taylor marched back to his car and called the station. “Holly? Oh, hi Paula, I guess she finally went home.”

“Yeah, Holly just left -- said she was dying for a Baconador from Wendy’s.”

“So much for her diet. Look, this has been a horrible day and it just got worse. I need the medical examiner out here at Taylor Lake right away; there’s been another murder.”

The sheriff hung up and ran the license plate of the SUV. He followed it up, eventually contacting the spouses. Taylor learned two people were out there fishing.

He called back. “Paula, contact Deputy Stearns and tell him to bring his scuba equipment. We may have another dead body somewhere in the lake.”

********

That night, the Baldwin parents finally gave their children Brian and Maggie, age eleven and nine, permission to set up their very own tent, a Christmas gift from last year, and camp out in the back yard. It was fenced in so they felt at ease. The two children, dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirts, relocated their stuffed animal collection, books, and a Coleman lantern into the four-man bright red tent. Maggie snuggled into her rosy pink Hello Kitty sleeping bag with her three-foot stuffed animal dolphin, reading Gregor the Overlander. Brian snuck a box of salty Goldfish snacks and buried his head into The Zombie Survival Guide, his new favorite book – Goosebumps was so yesterday. He brought along an oversized bright yellow and blue beach towel for added warmth.

Mom and dad came outside near ten PM to check on the kids. “So far, so good,” both Brian and Maggie reported, signaling with a big thumbs up.

“We’ll leave the back door open if you need anything, okay?” said Mom. The children nodded and continued with their backyard adventure. They noshed and read, but then the yawns started coming, one after the other.

Brian’s glowing Timex watch beeped. The time had reached midnight, both children finally sound asleep. Mrs. Baldwin, a light sleeper to begin with, noticed a feint buzzing noise hovering just outside their partially open second floor bedroom window. Annoyed and in a sleepy stupor, she zombied over and shut it.

There were muffled tapping sounds all along the tent, slight at first but persistent. Maggie, still hugging her dolphin and inheritor of mom’s light sleeping habits, awoke. She could see the peculiar movements all around the tent, like someone poking their index finger haphazardly along the thin fabric. She heard the buzzing, deep at first before revving higher. Without her knowing, a clothespin managed to squeeze through a small crevasse near the zipper door. Her brother Brian had popped out to use the bathroom and didn’t quite zip up the screen all the way.

Maggie called for her brother, but he didn’t respond. Brian, like dad, slept like granite. The jabbing continued, all around the tent. Maggie burrowed deep inside her sleeping bag. Then she felt something nipping outside at her toes. It was moving, inching its way towards her. A spider, maybe? The clicking sound was getting closer to her face; she could sense it. Maggie continued to huddle under and didn’t move a muscle for what seemed like forever. She finally stuck her head out slowly like a shelled up turtle. Her dark brown eyes peeked out.

The clothespin darted straight for her. It bit down hard on her wavy brown hair just above her ear. Maggie screamed. Brian finally woke up. “What’s the problem -- I was sound asleep!” Then he noticed his sister crying.

Maggie was fighting with something. And her screams seemed to excite whatever was outside trying to get in. “What the heck is happening?” he exclaimed.

The clothespin ripped out a lock of hair. Maggie was bleeding. ”Sis!” The thing suddenly lunged at Brian. He lifted up his forearm to block the flying object, but it bit him just below the elbow. He cried out in pain. That’s when mom opened the back door.

She heard only the screams, not noticing the whining turbine noise in the sky. The clothespins flocked towards Mrs. Baldwin when Brian called out. “Mommy, get in, hurry!”

She ran into the tent and zipped it up. Mom saw the blood running down her daughter’s head. Brian was able to fight off the attacking object, somehow smothering it in the beach towel.

“You’re bleeding too? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, but I trapped it – whatever it is.” The object was glowing, fighting to escape.

“What’s going on?” called Dad, raising his voice. He saw the bizarre cloud of buzzing entities attacking the tent. “Oh my God, stay still, I’ll be right back.”

Mr. Baldwin didn’t know if it would work, but he scrambled to get the fire extinguisher tucked under the kitchen sink. He grabbed the thick, hand-knit wool blanket resting on the living room sofa to use as a shield.

“Stay put until I get there!” he yelled, trying to be heard over the deafening noise. He counted to himself – one, two, three. He sprayed the fire extinguisher in the air as he sprinted over. The cold, cloudlike mist temporarily confused the clothespins; a few even dropped from the air. The family burst out from the tent and huddled under the blanket. They scurried back into the house and locked the door.

Dad raced upstairs and downstairs, making sure every window was closed shut. He double-checked the chimney flew then peered out the back yard window. Mom took the children to the bathroom to clean up their wounds.

“I think we’re okay, Jen,” said Will. He picked up the phone and called the sheriff’s office. “What are those things?”

Brian went into the laundry room and found an empty peanut butter jar, managing to force the thing into the container. He sealed it shut and gazed at the snapping wooden object, the pulsating animated glow now fading.

Maggie turned on her cat-faced toy flashlight that she’d won at the town carnival two months ago. “It looks like one of mom’s clippies.”

“This is really crazy, but cool,” added Brian, forgetting about the minor wound on his arm already.

“Red Orchard Police, Deputy Thomas Monroe speaking.”

“Hello deputy? This is Will Baldwin at 1607 Fletcher Street. Sorry I’m calling so late, but our children were just attacked by something in our back yard.”

"Attacked? By what, a raccoon, feral cat?”

“They’re clippies Dad,” said Maggie as she tugged at her dad’s favorite white and blue striped terry cloth robe. He looked like a young Hugh Hefner -- the only thing missing was a pipe and surrounding Playboy bunnies.

“Not quite,” replied Mr. Baldwin. The kids chimed in loud and clear.

“They’re clippies – those things on the clothesline!” Brian held up a glass jar containing the lone specimen, pushing it near Dad’s face.

“I’m sorry deputy; they’re clippies.” Dad turned to his kids, not believing what he was saying.
“Could you please spell that for me,” asked the patient deputy.

“Uh, hold on for moment. “Kids, do I spell that with a YS or IES?”

The children looked at each other. “IES?”

“C-l-i-p-p-i-e-s. They kinda – well actually, they look like . . . clothespins.”

“You’re saying your children were attacked by clothespins, am I right?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Killer clothespins?”

“Apparently so,” replied Mr. Baldwin. “Look, I know this is about as strange as it gets, but --“

“Mr. Baldwin, prior to becoming a deputy I worked the nightshift at Walmart so I know strange, but killer clothespins? That’s off the charts. Give me fifteen-- twenty minutes; stay safe and don’t hang up any laundry, promise?”

“We promise.” Dad hung up the phone.

“So?” asked his wife.

“He’ll be over in about twenty minutes, but I’m fairly certain he thinks we’re all loony toons.”

The deputy hung up the phone and tipped his hat to Paula. “I’m off to the Baldwin house – got a killer clothespin situation, be right back.”

Paula offered up a puzzled look then smiled, batting her awning-like natural eyelashes. “Be safe, my hero.” The heavy-set deputy giggled as he left the building. He had a crush on her and was always so close to asking her out on a date, but continually chickened out again and again -- one of these days he thought.

The deputy got in his car and followed Cottonmouth Road, a nightmarish stretch of pavement with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. Flashes of light made the deputy shield his eyes with his hand. “Man that was --”

He suddenly slammed on the brakes, coming to an abrupt halt. His hat toppled off his head, striking the windshield. He almost hit the object.

Monroe gathered his wits and turned on the hazard lights before stepping out of the Ford Explorer with his flashlight. The screeching tire smoke mixed with the high beams, creating an eerie, smelly fog. He’d seen this before, a dead deer lying square on the double yellow lines. There was a lot of blood, probably a truck that clobbered the poor animal. He knew people that if the deer wasn’t dead too long, and it was nice and cold out (it preserve the meat), they’d take that sucker home and have a venison feast. As the deputy walked closer, he noticed movement, twitching was more like it all along the carcass. He pinpointed the flashlight beam on the midsection and inched closer, crouching down on one knee. No way.

“Oh this is messed up.” Hundreds of glowing clippies chewed on the carcass, each digging into the fresh meat. The deputy simply stared in disbelief at the feeding frenzy. He coughed.

All at once, the clippies stopped munching. The deputy continued to stand there like a statue, still pointing his flashlight at the deer. One particular clippie gnawing on the deer’s snout creaked its little wood frame and shot straight at the human, grazing the right side of the deputy’s face. Monroe felt a warm sensation. He raised the tip of his fingers and touched blood. Stunned, he dropped the flashlight and ran for the car.

All at once, half the clippies jettison from the dead animal and began their assault. Monroe waved his arms frantically trying to escape the swarm. He fell to his knees, trying desperately to crawl back to the car. More whistled through the dense, charcoal gray sky, a whirlwind of darting flying objects. He screamed as they pecked at his hands and lower legs. A few managed to dig under his official Red Orchard Police jacket. One latched onto his ear, left unprotected by his hat. A handful snapped at his blubbery love handles, left exposed by the undersized jacket. With every ounce of strength, the deputy finally pulled himself up, opened the door, and tumbled inside the car.

“Holy mother of Christ!” He quickly shut the door and started the car. He felt a gnawing sensation on the back of his neck. More were still attached to the jacket like sand spurs to beach sandals, all in a frenzied search of human flesh. Before speeding away, he stripped off his jacket and tossed it out the window. Monroe barehanded the ones snacking on his neck, rolled down the window and tossed them out too before speeding off.

The deputy finally pulled up the Baldwin’s driveway and slammed on the brakes, getting as close as possible to the front door. He paused for a moment, trying to regroup after the startling assault. His police issued attire protected a good portion of his portly body. Most of the wounds were on his hands, neck and ears. His gut would’ve been fine if it weren’t for the jacket being one size too small. The deputy glanced up at the star-filled sky, pronouncing it safe, hopefully. Monroe staggered to the front door still trying to catch his breath and rang the bell multiple times.

A man dressed in old jeans and a sweatshirt answered the door. “Mr. Baldwin?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not crazy after all.” The deputy stepped inside before collapsing on the carpeted floor.

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