“Scene 3” by R Scott Whitley
I’ve had countless conversations with R Scott Whitley about “the unknown.” Aliens, Georgio Tsoukalos’ hair, and Bigfoot are just some of the items that populate those conversations. We laugh, we poke fun at Ancient Astronaut Theory, and we poke fun at ourselves.
Reggie is the first writer I ever followed on Twitter. In a sense it was blackmail: a mutual friend had a Kickstarter project going and Reggie said he’d donate if he got a couple reviews of his book The Gathering. From that point on, I became an R Scott Whitley fan. I’ve read unpublished novels, and countless published short stories. He’s proven himself, time and again, to be a highly skilled writer. “Scene 3” is no different, and contains my favorite tonal shift since Groundhog Day. It’s also a story that will wreck you by the end.
I also nominate him for the best hair on Twitter. You can follow him on Twitter @_RScottWhitley_
Bigfoot sightings date back to Native American times, but the phenomena started gaining foot in the 1950’s. It really took off when Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin captured highly controversial film of the creature, a still of which is at the top of this blog post. Since then, Bigfoot has lived within the American conscience, and has been making asses out of people since Finding Bigfoot aired on Animal Planet.
And now… “Scene 3” by R Scott Whitley:
“Looks like goddamned rabbit fur,” a pudgy man in a Stetson said in a mock-whisper, “my grammy has like nine pelts that look exactly like that.”
He was shot several glances, some laughing, some hateful. That was pretty much what the Southeastern Bigfoot Enthusiasts was – some laughter and some contemptuous hate for those laughing. If you believed you were a nut. If you didn’t believe you were “one of them” who tried to hide the truth.
Kirby Griddle believed, but that wasn’t why he was here. Kirby Griddle knew that people would pay to see Bigfoot artifacts whether they believed or not. He had hair of different colors and textures. Blood, dry flecks of it, and stained cloths. Fingernails and toenails. Casts made of Bigfoot tracks. Pictures – some blurry, some close up.
He had anything that believers or doubters wanted to see… well, what they would pay to see.
DNA testing had been done on his samples. It was never by any known genetics group because they wouldn’t touch it. They had no reason to, if they did people would laugh when they were found wrong. If they passed on it, they were hiding something.
“Mr. Griddle,” the man in the stetson spoke up, “how is it that YOU have all of this? Why do you have so much when others have nothing?”
“Good to see you again, JR,” he said seeing the face in the crowd that always followed him. Every single event the same questions. “Well, I’m a tracker. I guess over the years I’ve just been better at finding this.”
“And over the past couple of months you must have really stepped up your game,” the man named JR said, crossing his arms. “You seem to have a much nicer truck than you had when you started. Business is good?”
“Well, you’ve come to all my events,” Kirby said with a laugh that was echoed by the audience. “No, seriously, I’ve been very lucky. I can’t put it all on my skill. Some of this is luck.”
“How do you find most of this stuff?” a woman asked off to the right. She was shortish with an ‘I Saw Bigfoot at Joe’s by the Bay’ t-shirt.
“Well,” Kirby said reaching down onto the table in front of him, “the fur is relatively easy… well… easy for a tracker… to find. He held up clumps of reddish brown, coarse hair. Lifting it to his nose he sniffed, “it smells sort of like takeout food that has sat outside for a few days.” He put the fur down on the table and picked up a huge brownish yellow thing that looked like a piece of wood, “toenails are harder.”
“You mean hard, like they are hard?” another lady off to the left asked. She had stringy gray hair. Kirby was pretty sure he’d seen her at these before too.
“They are hard like stone almost,” he said holding it up higher. People in the back craned their necks to see over the crowd. The events now were crowded and his table was one of the most crowded. Kirby was happy with that.
“That’s not a toenail,” he said.
“And how is it that you know that?” Kirby asked cocking his head to the side. “How is it that you know my things here aren’t real?”
“That could be from YOUR toe for all WE know!” JR barked out, a laugh forcing the words out.
“You could come take my shoe off if you want, friend,” Kirby said and folks laughed. “I’ll be glad to let you check it out, but I’ll warn you, a tracker’s feet can get awfully sweaty.”
JR waved him off and made his way back through the crowd and away from the table.
Kirby was always glad to see JR. While his friend in the Stetson thought he was making a case against him, all he was doing was reinforcing the beliefs of the enthusiasts. The people who wanted to believe would believe more.
“I found this toenail lodged in a rotting log just off the Appalachian Trail, a tuft of fur was caught with it. And a bit of blood.” He held up a little vile of brownish stuff. “Lots of sightings had been in the area. I spent nearly three weeks up there before I found it.”
“Is that the blood you sent off for testing?” a young guy asked from the back.
“This and several other samples,” Kirby said, “and I don’t want to be a total asshole, but that’s in my book, DVD, and iTunes download.” The crowd got quiet. “The one thing my buddy in the hat IS right about,” Kirby said with a smile, “this truck and my equipment ain’t cheap.”
A couple of folks laughed.
“You can come and touch, smell, feel…” he said gesturing to his table, “any of this stuff. You don’t have to buy anything. I’ve got a flinted stone over there that I could make the argument might have been made by a Sasquatch. I don’t have proof… but I’m working on that.”
Kirby then did his thing. He stood up and he showed his things. He showed them to regular folks who were curious. He showed them to Illuminati nuts who thought Bigfoot was part of something bigger. The hunters tended to smell the stuff more. Whispers about how it was like dog fur were always there. The toenails weren’t touched usually.
And the DVD’s flew off the shelf. The books sold. People would download the DVD on their smart phones.
And Kirby was making lots of money.
The Spike TV had approached him about a special.
Spike TV wanted a Bigfoot. They wanted it dead or alive, but they wanted a Bigfoot.
Kirby had a big decision to make. If he failed at how he produced a Bigfoot it would be his entire career. He would never be at one of these things again.
But if he did it right…
He would be forever famous.
It would be all in the presentation.
Kirby made the three hour drive from Boone, NC to his home in southern Union County, North Carolina, an area not terribly far outside of Charlotte, but far enough away that it was completely country. He lived far away from other people. His house was down a long gravel drive that circled hills that were more like small mountains than most people expected in the area. He lived on the side of a hill in a small, old home that had been modernized inside with a nice kitchen, and entertainment center with all modern equipment, hardwood floors throughout. Business was good. He had friends who would come to visit, but they weren’t encouraged to hang around. He had an on and off girlfriend who was more off than on.
It was part of his life to be a bit of a loner. He literally couldn’t afford to have others around.
But soon… soon…
His artifacts weren’t kept in his house. That wasn’t completely true. He had some things framed and on show in the house, hair that was professionally framed. A perfect footprint cast, the first he had ever done. He had pictures with important people in the Bigfoot world, a few celebrities.
This house. These pictures. This life… couldn’t be shown to the public.
Staring at the first cast he ever made, Kirby whispered to himself, “it will all have to end one day anyways. If you do this right you’ll be able to retire as an expert in the field.”
TV shows where people screamed in the forests, shows where they never found anything at all. They were on every single week, they found nothing, but they were back on, talking to people who hadn’t seen anything at all. Kirby could pick them out.
“I want that. I want that…”
He walked to the window and looked down at his shed down the hill. It was where he kept his artifacts. It was where he would have to make his decision.
Kirby walked out his door and went to his truck. He had a gun rack in the back with a very nice, highly polished rifle with a high tech scope on top. It was part of his show. That rifle was fired once a month to keep it in working order, but he never used it.
He pulled it down from the rack and loaded a round in.
Under the seat he pulled out a small revolver and put it in his jacket.
And grabbed his small black kit.
The one with the syringes.
He wanted the show.
He wanted to be an expert.
There was one sure way.
Something about that walk down the path to his shed made him nervous tonight. He guessed it was his decision. This was the end, and he wondered if it would know. Maybe the thing that had lost its will two months ago would act differently if it saw the end coming.
He’d seen its eyes.
It would know.
Approaching the shed, he listened for its breathing. He was loud and rattling like it might have fluid building up somewhere in his throat or maybe even his lungs, which was more of a reason to do what he was about to do.
The shed looked old, but like his house, Kirby had taken the grayed-wood, tin roof thing and sealed the inside. There was no light that would get out. The generator in the back could cool and heat the thing. It was a place that kept the thing from dying.
Kirby propped his gun just by the door and unlocked the two padlocks on the heavy wood door. Picking up his rifle and using the barrel to open the door, he looked inside the dark room. He still only heard breathing. It was asleep or dying or both.
Stepping in the room, he flipped the light on and looked across the room.
It smelled… acrid…
There, on the floor was his greatest artifact.
Chained with enormous links that were connected to the concrete floor, the enormous chains snaked around its hairy body, now only patchy, a mange-like fungus had given his skin a slightly paler appearance than it had had. Its fur was brown but was reddish in some areas. Its face was thinner even though Kirby had fed it every day for the past four months. The ‘experts’ said these creatures were vegetarian, but they were wrong and his wallet proved it. It ate six pounds of ground beef a day and bananas. The bananas were forced on it because the ground beef was expensive enough, bananas were pretty cheap, and after a few days, it ate them.
Kirby stood back and looked at the creature that had changed his life.
He always felt a tinge of guilt looking at it, but then he knew how much pain medication he injected in the thing. It couldn’t feel anything at all, so he shouldn’t care about what the thing felt like. When he first got the thing it would flinch when fur was jerked out, but once he started loading him with drugs, toenails would come off without it moving. Even when the two fingers were sawed off it didn’t move.
Except it always watched him. Always.
That’s why Kirby always made the most of any of the large removals. When he pulled the toenail off, he gathered tissue from the toe and it was his first submission for DNA testing – a test that came back negative! It came back as a chimpanzee, which was ridiculous and just spoke to the inexperience of the tester. It was neither here nor there because Kirby realized it brought him attention, gave him a name, and that gave him money.
When he took the fingers he realized that it was probably too much – how would he explain that he had FOUND two fingers of a thing he thought was a Sasquatch. He could only say “Appalachian Trail” so many times before people would start to doubt him.
One finger he still had on ice in the mini fridge under his work table, the other he had cleaned off and used just for the bone.
It took two weeks of antibiotics to get the thing over that. The antibiotics gave it the shits so he had come to simply hosing it off every two days.
He looked at it lying there, it’s hugeness just breathing, mouth swollen from when Kirby had pulled out its large right upper canine. That thing had probably made him thirty thousand dollars! He wondered if it was infected now though.
It opened its eyes and looked at him.
Kirby could see that something was in there.
“You ready to finally make me rich?” he said raising the rifle up looking through the scope. It’s eye was the only thing there, its left eye. It had hazel eyes, he’d never realized that. Liquid seeped from the corner of its eyes and even though Kirby knew it was from being near death, he saw it as a tear.
Kirby looked around the scope at the whole thing lying there, wheezing, likely slowly drowning in its blood.
It wouldn’t move, it couldn’t move. Huge chains held it’s thinning body down. Blood stained the floor where hair had been jerked out, where six toenails had been removed, where two fingers had been removed. The thing had raw skin where the chains had been for so long.
It looked a mess.
But it was a Bigfoot, and a dead Bigfoot – proof- would change his life.
He looked back through the scope at its eyes.
Kirby closed his eyes and put his finger to the trigger.
He remembered the animal walking up onto his property those months ago. Kirby had been outside, he was about to inject a dog he’d had for eighteen years with enough pain drugs to kill it, to put it out of its misery. The dog could no longer walk, its eyes were dead and only the body was there, suffering.
Kirby remembered the thing was standing over him and his dog before he realized it. It looked down on him, brow furrowed, skin shiny black, brown fur framing the non-human, but also non-primate face. When it roared at him, Kirby tried to defend himself. He defended himself with a syringe of pain medication, just enough to put the animal down to the ground.
One month later, Kirby had his show on the road, and his cash cow sat chained in his shed by the pond.
With his eyes closed Kirby squeezed on the trigger, but not hard enough to fire.
He opened his eyes and looked through the scope at the animal again.
It wasn’t an animal lying there.
The thing wasn’t an it. The thing was a HE.
It had spent two weeks begging to be free, struggling, begging, crying in a grunty, throaty sound that was something like a language. It wasn’t a bark, he had made sounds, sounds like a voice.
Kirby chose the money.
Looking down the scope into the hazel eyes of the intelligent thing lying in front of him, Kirby chose the money.
He fired and heard the thud as the shot struck the tortured thing, a thing that’s soul cried out when he killed it.
Kirby dropped his rifle.
Blood was pouring out of it’s head.
It’s body slumped in death.
Kirby dug in his coat pocket past the revolver to his phone. Not waiting, physically not able to wait, he dialed the number.
“Yeah, I’ve got what you asked for,” he said into the phone. He looked at the body. “I’ll do the show now.”