Anywhere, USA: The Case of the Bloodsucking Beasts of the Night

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Strange Happenings at Silver Furrow National Park

Most of Silver Furrow is forest. The mountains are covered in forest, the valleys are covered in forest, and even the forest is encumbered by the amount of forest. There’s one part of the park, though, that inexplicably opens up into a long and narrow grassland, known as Meadow Hollow. Hedged on two sides by trees, this grassland is only about half a mile at its widest, and weaves its way about two miles up the mountain. It then abruptly ends at the river which cuts across the park, giving way to more forest on the other side. At the southern edge of this grassland sit a few manmade points of interest, the first of which is the entrance to Silver Furrow Campground Southeast. This is the closest official camping site to the town of Anywhere, though camping is technically allowed on any open spot in the park. Second is the visitor center: a big, illustrious building of very little consequence to the story. And third is the ranger station (technically ranger station 11): the base of operations for the rangers of the southeast sector of the park. Like most stations, it was a fairly simple operation, employing only six full-time rangers, now including Katherine Paige. It was a single-story brick building, with a fire watchtower next to it. There were several such towers in Silver Furrow, but normally they stood atop the highest peaks, rather than the bases. This one was specially placed, however, due to the unusually high frequency of fires that occur in the vicinity of Anywhere.

“Ooh—would you look at that,” Kate said, as she pulled up to the station. “Hopefully I get watchtower duty Monday.”

“I think you get stuck with watchtower duty, mom,” Elliot noted.

“Then as the rookie I’m probably a shoo-in,” she responded in glee. “Heh, ‘rookie.’ Listen to me using ranger talk already.”

“You’ll fit right in in no time, Officer Paige,” Mark said. “Or should I say, Officer Ranger Paige.”

“That’s Sir to you,” she replied. They both laughed.

All Jules had to say to that, was, “Whhhat?” But then she said more. “And why is there still no signal? Can we like—get a signal amplifier or something installed at the house?”

“Sure sweety,” said Kate, “it’s called a landline. Your father and I were considering dropping our cell carrier anyways; doesn’t do much good out here.”

“That’s—ugh…not at all what I said,” Jules objected. “How am I supposed to text without my cell phone?”

“Use email,” Mark suggested. “It’s just as fast.”

“Woah—hold the phone, literally. First you’re talking about landlines and now you want me to use a step up from the pony express? I don’t think Amy even, like, has an email address. Who does?”

“Everyone,” Elliot said, joining the conversation everyone thought he wasn’t even listening to.

The car was now parked, but they continued.

“Forget it,” Jules puffed. “Keep the phone service and I’ll just, like…sit on the roof if I have to.”

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Kate said. “If you want to text, you’ll probably need to get one of those…app things or whatever and use the Wi-Fi at the house.”

“And not on the roof,” Mark added. “I don’t think it’ll reach up there anyway. I hear the internet’s not too good around here for some reason. Something to do with…something.”

That really got Elliot involved.

“Wait—what was that?” he said. “What do you mean the internet’s not too good? If we’re streaming and facetiming and downloading and—and emailing all at the same time, we’re gonna need, like…at least 25 Mb/s to keep my game from lagging. That house needs to be a no buffer zone. Who’s the provider for this region anyways?”

Kate and Mark shrugged at each other, then looked back at the kids and said, “Can we talk about this later?”



Not the responses they were hoping for, but exactly the ones they had come to expect.

“Good,” Kate said. “Now let’s go meet some real, authentic people.” She reached for the door handle, but then turned back around, and, pointing at two paper bags full of trash on the floor, asked, “Uhh, what are those?”

“Trash,” answered Elliot.

“Yes, but why is it there?”

“You told us to clean out the pockets and pick all the trash off the floor and put it in these bags,” Jules explained.

“Yes, but…why is it still in the car?”

“Where else would it be?” questioned Elliot.

“In the house?” Kate posed in the form of a question, as she was starting to think she herself was missing something.

“Why would we take trash from the car and put it in the house?” Elliot countered, with the fourth question in a row.

“Yeah, we don’t even have a trash can yet,” Jules said, expounding on Elliot’s point.

Kate was at a loss for words. Coherent ones, at least.

“That’s…sounds…uh…Mark? What does that sound like?”

“Logic?” he guessed.

“It’s called thinking hard and working smart,” Jules said.

“More like overthinking it and not working at all,” Kate replied. “Just…take them to the dumpsters next to the station over there and meet us inside.” She opened the door and stepped out. The kids were just in the process of opening their doors too when she poked her head back in and added, “And make sure you separate the recycling.”

Elliot made a conscious decision in reaching for the bag that was nearer to his sister when they grabbed them, for he knew that it was the lighter of the two. Not that either of them were exceptionally burdensome, he just loved messing with her, like every good brother. They climbed out, and the four of them headed for the main entrance, but then split halfway there. The parents waved to the man leaning against the flagpole—who just nodded in return—and went inside, while the kids begrudgingly carried the bags over to the bins. The man watched them as they went, but they hardly noticed him. They hardly noticed his prickly, graying beard, or his short, black, disheveled hair; they barely registered his solid build, or the rolled-up sleeves of his flannel shirt; they paid no mind to the way he looked at them, with almost a sense of distrust in his eyes. That, or maybe it was skepticism. Of what, though, only his own mind could tell.

It was none of the kids’ concern at this point, though, for their mission was clear and at hand. The man went out of view as they rounded the corner and approached the bins; there was one for trash, one for paper, and one for bottles and cans. They threw open the lid to the paper bin, and started digging through the contents of their bags. All was normal and not very strange, until Elliot heard a faint laughing that seemed to be coming from nearby. Jules hadn’t heard it, and continued rummaging loudly, but Elliot laid a hand on her arm—along with uttering a well-placed “Shush”—to quiet her. She looked at him like, “What?” and he was all like, “Did you hear that?”

They remained silent for a moment, but after not hearing anything else, and after Jules looking at him like he was crazy and /or annoying, Elliot said, “Nevermind,” and they went about their business…until a few seconds later when there was another faint snicker. This time they both stopped.

“Okay—what was that?” Jules said, as if Elliot would know.

“I have no clue,” her clueless brother replied. “It sounds like someone laughing, doesn’t it?”

Then it came again. “Tee-he-he.”

It sounded tiny, but really close, and it appeared to be coming from one of the refuse bins.

“Is there a little kid in there?” Jules asked, pointing at the garbage bin. “Because if there is, and he’s about to jump out and scare us, I’m not ashamed to punch him in the face.”

After that there was a loud *thud* from inside the dumpster. Jules and Elliot jumped back and dropped their bags.

“Yoo-hoo,” came the voice. “Tee-he-he.”

“Woah. This is getting weird,” Jules observed.

Getting?” said Elliot. “It’s a talking dumpster!”

“Don’t be stupid. It’s not the dumpster talking; someone’s in there. Just open it up.”

“Are you crazy? What if—what if it’s a possum making that noise? I don’t know what the animals out here sound like.”

Jules gave him a contemptuous look. “…I’m gonna pretend you just said ‘person’ instead of ‘possum’ and also that you’re not acting like a total baby right now. Open it up.”

“You two, yoo-hoooo,” sang the dumpster.

“You heard it,” said Jules, egging her brother on. “Open it.”

But Elliot distanced himself further. “Look,” he told her, “if there is someone in there, then there’s clearly something psychologically wrong with them, and I really don’t want to deal with that right now.”

“Ugh, fine—I’ll do it,” Jules relented. “Out of the way.” She pushed her brother aside and took his place next to the dumpster.

“Yay,” said the tiny voice. “Tee-he.”

She reached out and put her hand on the lid, just to test it. When nothing happened, she put her other hand on it, as it was actually kind of heavy. Slowly she raised the lid up, her body leaning in to get more leverage, but her head leaning way back just in case. When the gap was a couple inches wide, she heard some rustling, and the little voice called out again, sinisterly singing, “Almooost theeeere.” If this was meant to be a deterrent, like all horror movies it only piqued the character’s interest, and Jules cracked it open a bit further. One-hundred-percent and without a doubt this was just some weird kid, she told herself, and nevermind concern for his health or wellbeing sitting in a rotting dumpster; she was determined to prove that some little punk didn’t scare her.

She opened the lid an arm’s length, and was about to push it all the way up, when suddenly she heard something shoot out of the dumpster and flutter right past her ear. She dropped the lid with a bang and swatted around her head, while also giving off a short shriek. “Nyyaah!”

Elliot laughed his head off, as he was too far away to have heard whatever she had, and he definitely didn’t see anything. “Who would’ve guessed?” he said, between laughs. “Flies!”

He laughed some more, and Jules gave him the look she does when she’s about to hit him somewhere—always somewhere different—but she never got the chance. The laughter abruptly ended when what sounded like an explosion blew the lid all the way open, and a gust of wind wooshed out. The kids ducked and covered their heads, exactly as you should never do during a nuclear explosion because there’s no way it will help. All that came of it was some bits of goo and rubbish dropping on them, and nothing more. Carefully they rose up and unshielded themselves to peek into the dumpster, but there was no one nor any thing in it. Elliot brushed the nasty slime off in disgust, but was wholly relieved when he said, “It was just a prank.”

Yes, it was a prank, but not just a prank, and definitely not by whom they expected. Exactly at the moment they started to relax again, they flinched, as the same voice from before appeared behind them and shouted, “Hey!”

They turned around slowly—Elliot with his hands up, half surrendering/half bracing to block an attack—as he said, “What—the—heck?” But when the kids finally faced their antagonist, Elliot observed—much more calmly than he had been, much more calmly than he should have, and much more calmly than Jules would have—“Oh, it’s just…a fairy?”

“Two, actually,” said the tiny flying person, maybe the size of a lab mouse (excluding the wings), hovering a few feet away.

Just then a second one appeared next to the first out of thin air. Just *poof* and it was there. Jules was too shocked to say anything, which meant she could dedicate more brainpower to simply looking. Unfortunately, to that end, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The creatures were magnificent. Their wings were just like those of a dragonfly, only larger, and they moved much slower than should have been required for flight. As they flapped back and forth, a sort of sparkly, opal-colored dust fell off of them, and sprinkled halfway to the ground before dissipating. The fairies themselves wore flowery gowns—one was of blue, the other green—and had bare feet. They were adorable as anything, but it was hard to tell whether they were male, female, both, or neither from a distance, as both had high-pitched voices and long hair.

They were obviously harmless.

“You’re the new family, aren’t you?” the blue fairy kindly asked.

Elliot was the only one in any state to answer, so he did. “Uh—uh yeah—uh…wow—uh—yeah, we are…Wow!” Luckily it was intelligible enough, and the two fairies laughed.

“Tee-he-he,” said the green fairy. “Good to meet you.”

Then Jules got a wind, and stammered, “You’re…you’re…buuu…” And then just like that it was gone again.

“Tee-he-he,” they both giggled.

“I think this one’s surprised,” the blue fairy noted.

Elliot leaned over and nudged his sister. “Dude—those are fairies,” he said, as if she couldn’t see for herself. “Say something.”

“The fact that they’re fairies is exactly why I’m not saying anything!” she replied…in her head. Out loud, though, all that came through was, “Eh-hehh…”

“Don’t mind her,” Elliot said, to the little creatures. “She’s just…I mean… This is just so incredible. You’re fairies!”

“We noticed,” said the blue one. “Tee-he-he.”

“Wh-wh-what are you doing here?” Jules finally managed to utter.

“Oh, us?” the green one responded. “We’re just greeting the new residents of Anywhere. Tourists come and go, but it’s not often that new faces move in for life.”

“I—pfft—I don’t about life,” Elliot laughed, still excitedly stumbling over his words. “B-but thanks—yeah.”

“So…so you knew we were coming?” Jules asked.

“Everyone knew,” said blue. “We could smell you coming a mile away. The park has been waiting for some fresh blood for a while now.”

“Oh—cool…Wait, what was that about blood?”

“Tee-he-he,” giggled green. “Oh we just mean the blood of the innocent which must be spilt to fertilize the sacred soils of Silver Furrow. And today the park has chosen you! Hoorayyy!”

The kids shot an uneasy look at each other. “Uhh…”

But the fairies assured them their misgivings were misplaced. “Don’t worry, human friends,” blue cheerily expressed, “you’ve got plenty of blood to share.”

“And though we shall still be shedding all of it,” green happily added, “know that your sacrifice will be considered a most generous offer to these hallowed grounds. And for that we thank you greatly.”

Jules and Elliot stared silently at the creatures for a second. The things they were saying and the way they were saying it sent very confusing signals.

“Is…is this still part of the prank?” Elliot nervously wondered.

“Of course!” blue exclaimed. “In the sense that we find it rip-roaringly funny. If you mean to ask if our words should be taken as jokes, then no: they are entirely serious…Tee-he.”

“But don’t think that means our greeting is any less sincere,” said the green fairy. “We are truly so very glad to have you here, so from the bottom of our hearts to yours, let us be the first to say: Welcome to Anywhere! Yayyy!”

The creatures applauded, then took each other by the hand and did a cute little dance in the air. They swung and twirled, dipped and shimmied, made a few loop-de-loops, and ended with blue executing a flawless handstand on green’s head, all without losing an inch of altitude. It was a friendly enough greeting for sure, and if they hadn’t just threatened the kids with blood sacrifice, they probably would have been pretty entertained by it…The blood sacrifice thing was really quite the hang-up for them, though.

“Uh…I don’t mean to underappreciate whatever that just was,” Jules said, once the fairies were done, “but can we walk it on back to the ‘fertilizing the soil with blood’?”

“Sure thing!” green joyously responded. “Now that we’ve greeted you, we’d be happy to let the furrows of silver run red with your blood! Let the sacrifice begin!”

Jules quickly tried to clarify herself, saying, “Actually, what I meant was…” but stopped short when the creature’s jaw unhinged like some horrifying tiny-human-snake-thing, distracting her from her point. “Uh…ulgh,” she disgustedly expressed instead.

But disgust soon turned to terror, as a set of razor-sharp teeth filled the fairy’s mouth and it gave a threatening hiss. Its wings then started flapping more vigorously, charging itself up before flying headlong at Jules’ face. As the creature went, a trail of opal dust fell away in its wake like some magical rainbow, creating a pretty stark juxtaposition to the bloodlust shooting from its eyes. There was no time to consider this, though, as Jules was forced to react quickly. She grabbed the bag of trash by her side and swung it up at the attacking fairy, which sent it spiraling back out of control. The blue one in turn then hissed as well, and prepared to make a similar charge, only with its sights fixed on the boy.

Jules was faster, though, and the blue fairy didn’t have time to dodge the glass bottle that came sailing through the air. It was a direct hit, and the bottle took the creature with it as it plummeted to the ground. Both fairies were now on their backsides, rubbing their heads and trying to get up. They both hissed once more, but the green one was subdued when another bottle came hurtling toward it and exploded over its body. That didn’t stop the blue one, though, now up and trying to get its wings started again. Jules looked at Elliot, and nodded down to the bag next to him. He understood, and nodded back in agreement. He reached in and pulled out a bottle. His aim was perfect, and the arc would have landed the bottle directly on target, had it not blown in the opposite direction immediately after leaving his hand.

To this Jules slapped herself in the face, since she was too far away to do it to him. “The glass bottles, Elliot.”


He reached in and grabbed another bottle, and Jules followed soon after. His first one missed, but a couple shards knocked the blue fairy off balance before it could take to the air. Jules thought she saw the green one make another movement, but her next shot made sure that wouldn’t happen again. Meanwhile Elliot missed for the second time, only dealing minor collateral damage. Jules couldn’t find another bottle, and dumped her bag out in desperation; she was out. Elliot did the same, and found he had only one bottle left. Luckily that was all he needed, but actually luck had nothing to do with it. Third time wasn’t the charm, it was just what really counted; once and twice were merely practice.

He had now honed his skill, and if it were a game (in the terms of which Elliot often thought of the world) he would be Bottle Thrower level ten—Apprentice. He gauged the wind speed and direction, the air pressure, the humidity, and the temperature; he gauged the degree of bend in his elbow, the amount of spin required from the flick of his wrist, and the exact time of release; he gauged the distance to target, and weight of the bottle; no need to account for the Coriolis Effect on this one. All of this he calculated in an instant, and executed in the next. There was absolutely no way he could possibly miss…That is, if he had been able to throw it at all.

But he froze mid-toss, when a new voice off to the side shouted, “Stop!” It was not a fairy voice, and it was not tiny. It was powerful, and human.

The kids both turned their heads to look, and saw a ranger standing at the corner of the building. He looked angry, but that’s not what had them worried. That feeling came from the presence of their mother standing right next to him. Just as they looked at her, she was in the process of bringing her hands down from her gasping mouth, bowing her eyes, and transforming into much more of a nightmare than some silly old flesh-eating fairies. Speaking of which, the kids looked back to where the little monsters had been laying on the ground, but when does trying to excuse yourself by blaming the supernatural ever work? The fairies had disappeared without a trace, and the kids were left looking like they had just thrown trash all over place—which they had—but now they were left looking like they had done it for no reason.

They looked back at Kate, and Elliot’s arm went limp. It fell to his side like a rock, and the bottle shattered at his feet. They looked down at the mess they had made, then back up at Kate, then back at the mess. The next time they looked up at Kate, she was fury-walking over to them, and already well underway. If they hadn’t been otherwise preoccupied, they may have noticed the man from the flagpole, too, standing way back behind the ranger, watching all this unfold. They were preoccupied, however, and a moment later he was gone.

Jules didn’t have a care to spare on the matter, though, as she backed into Elliot and pushed him in front of her to serve as a human shield against their mother. Kate reached for Elliot and he recoiled, as if he actually thought she was going to smack him. She didn’t, but instead tore the hat off his head and smacked his shoulder with it, just to prove her frustration.

“What—is—wrong—with—you!” she said, one word per hit. She then looked at Jules, smacked her on the shoulder too, and told her to “Get out here!”

Jules crept out from behind her brother, only glancing every now and then up at her mother, but mostly preferring the sight of the ground. Kate raised the hat again for another strike, and Jules braced for it, but instead she slammed the cap on the side of the garbage bin and placed it on her own head. Then, holding her hands out in front of her—fingers bent like claws—she shouted, “How could you do this to me?! Here—now—how?”

“But…” Jules feebly began.

“But nothing!” Kate screamed, interrupting her. “Is this—what—spite? Are you angry at me? Are you unhappy with the new town—the new life? I-I-I know you guys weren’t big on this whole moving thing, but I…I don’t get it.” She wiped a red-hot tear before it could spill over. “I don’t get it.”

“Mom, we…” Elliot tried to explain.

“You WHAT?!” she replied, before he could go on. “What did you think you were doing here, exactly? What did you think this would accomplish? You—you embarrass me in front of my new boss, before I even start my first DAY, and you think ‘Oh—she’ll get fired and have no choice but to take us back,’ is that it? Was that your plan? Just…ruin it as best you could without even giving it a chance? Hmm?”

“No, we…”

“Ah-bub!” Kate cut in. “Don’t speak a word. Don’t you dare even speak a WORD. Because I don’t want to hear it—I really don’t. Do you even hold in your minds the faintest conception—the smallest iota of an idea—of what this job means to me; let alone to us as a family? Getting in trouble at school is one thing, but this…I thought you were better than this, I really, really did. This is so far beyond anything I ever thought you guys could stoop to.”

“But it wasn’t us,” was Jules’ defense. “It wasn’t our…”

Kate held up her hand for silence. “Not a word,” she said. She turned her hand flat and held it out in front of Jules. “Phone, now!” Jules whimpered and relinquished the communicator, feeling as though a piece of her very soul had been ripped from her (she liked to embellish sometimes). “And don’t you even THINK about touching that GRS when we get back in the car, mister,” Kate said, to the boy whose meaning for existence had just been destroyed. “We’ll talk about this more later.”

She pocketed the phone, then turned back to the ranger with just as much—if not more—shame on her face than her children had. “I swear,” she pleadingly told him, “on any other day I would be telling you how much I love my kids, and how they’re the sweetest angels, and how they never do any wrong, but today I can only tell you one of those things with any real confidence, and say that I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am for this.”

The ranger propped up his hat and gave a good long thought, then said with a country-style kindliness, “Well Katherine, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my many years of meeting new people, it’s that first impressions ain’t worth a dime in a gold mine, so I try not to read a person too much off of ’em. I ain’t got kids myself, but if I know anything about ’em, it’s that they tend to act up from time to time, or so I hear; that don’t mean they’re all that bad, though. So as far as I’m concerned, if them rascals clean up this mess right here ’n now, I’ll forget it ever even happened.”

“Oh—don’t worry, Sir—they will definitely be cleaning it up NOW!” Kate yelled, having briefly turned back to them.

They silently acknowledged her and picked up their bags.

“But you really are too kind,” she continued, back to the ranger. “Too kind. I promise you they’ll be spending no less than the first month of their summer vacation making up for this. Maybe they can even do some community service here around the station or the park, if you’ve got stuff for them to do. What do you think?”

The ranger scratched his head and smiled. “Welp, first you can forget all that ‘Sir’ stuff right away. Long as my officers show respect, I don’t see why we wouldn’t call each other by our names. We are all just people, after all. Secondly, there’s endless ways a hard worker can help out ’round here. So far as any legalities are concerned, they end here for me, but if you want them fellers to do some community service, just bring ’em in with you on Monday and I’ll have a great big list of chores you can choose from.”

“I’ll do that, Sir…er, Emmet,” Kate replied, both grateful and relieved. “Thank you so much for being so understanding. Whatever you’ve got for them, they’re going to do it all; no need for any options.”

“Alright then—you’re the boss,” the ranger lightly joked. “I’ll give ’em everything we’ve got and they can keep on it till they’re done or tuckered out.”

“That’ll be perfect,” said Kate. “It’s better than they deserve, but it’s a start for now. Thank you again. If you weren’t my superior, I’d hug you right now… But since I don’t work here yet—I’m gonna do it anyways.” She then proceeded to hug him.

He gave her a quick pat on the back in return and she let go. “Heh, we’re not that laid back here,” he said, “but I’ll make an exception this one time. Sorry I couldn’t give you the full tour, but I get the feeling you’ll catch on quick enough. You go on now and work out with your kids whatever it is needs to be worked out, and I’ll see you all bright and early Monday morning. Oh—and don’t worry, I won’t give you watchtower duty on the first day.”


Kate and Emmet looked back at the kids; everything except the glass pieces were mostly cleaned up. “A-and don’t kill yourselves over pickin’ up every tiny piece of glass,” Emmet told them. “Most of it probably ain’t even yours, and if you’re walking over to a dumpster in bare feet then yer probably askin’ to step in something sharp.”

They took that as their cue to stop, and deposited whatever they had in their hands into the bins. Then they skulked over to their mother.

“Chins up,” Emmet said, to their further avoidance of eye contact. “Working here at the station is a better way to spend your summer than you might think.”

“Yeah,” Kate said, between her teeth, “we’re going to have fun, aren’t we? Now get moving.” She unlocked the car and they shuffled toward it. “See you Monday, Sir—ah-sorry, Emmet. Sorry again about all this.”

“No problems. See you Monday.”

Kate followed the kids to the car. They were already in, and she was just opening her door, when Mark strolled nonchalantly out of the ranger station.

“I go to the bathroom for two minutes and already everybody’s leaving?” he joked. “You weren’t planning on ditching me, were you?”

“I’ll explain in the car,” Kate answered him. “Actually, I’m not the one who needs to do some explaining,” and she shut the door.

“Uh-oh,” Mark said to himself, as he crossed the parking lot, “that doesn’t sound good.” Then he called out, loud enough to be heard through the sealed car, “Did I do something wrong?” Kate gave no response, but rolled the window down, so Mark asked again. “What did I do?”

“Just get in the car,” she sternly replied.

Mark lowered his head, thinking it was he who was in trouble. “Alright. See you around, Officer Brown,” he said, somberly waving to the ranger. Then he climbed in the car, accepting the fate he believed was destined for him.

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