A Colonist’s Dream of Stalking Creatures

Sep 28  |  David Contara

They peek from behind the shady corners of the canyon’s cliffs. From the rims atop the gully, their metal heads poke and reflect flashes of sunlight. At night, they slink amidst tall grasses, ready to pounce under the cover of the creek’s burble. And yet, for many moons, they’ve waited and never struck.

Another day has passed, and the low evening sun casts a purple-pink mantle over the crops. From the farmhouse porch, I sip murky ale and squint at the clearing, where Eta hops and revels in the young weightlessness of her springy legs.

“Eta, come back!” I cry.

“Leave the girl be, Chi,” says Rho, setting down a dinner of wrinkled carrots and turnips.

“Someone’s ruffled the corn.”

Rho sighs. “It’s just the breeze.”

“They’re coming.”

“You’ve been saying that for a while.”

Eta trots across the yard and joins us. Sighting her mother’s somber gaze, she asks, “Is Papa dreaming again?”

Rho gestures at my glass. “Papa spends too much time emptying his mug.”

I swig another bitter gulp. “I worry about our family.”

“Is it the strangers you talk of?” asks Eta. “Who are they?”

“They owned these lands before us.”

Rho scoffs. “There was nothing but rocks before we came.”

“What do they look like?” insists Eta. “Do they crawl?”

I lower my eyes. “I don’t know. They lurk.”

“Papa’s never seen the creatures he rambles about,” says Rho, her voice weary. “Let’s have dinner.”


Night blows cold wind through the gully, howling the war cry of omnipotent forces lying in wait. Cradling my mug, I stand on the porch in the starry glow from the sky, fighting dizziness to remain alert.

Steps approach me from behind. “Is that how you protect our house?” asks Rho, snatching the mug. She empties it and tosses it into the yard.

“Drinking keeps me ready,” I mumble.

She stares in anger. “For what? What do you know of these creatures?”

I should gape but bow my head instead. “You’ve seen them.”

“No. I thought ale was doing the talking, but now… I sense them.”

“All I’ve seen are heads and shades,” I lie.

“What do they want? Our crops?”

A shriek pierces the night.

“Eta!” yelps Rho, rushing inside.

Faltering, I collect my mug from the yard.

Cornstalks rustle from across the clearing. Light beams emerge from the maize, followed by a group of bipeds in fluorescent-white suits and shiny globes covering their heads. They move their limbs rhythmically as they march toward the farmhouse.

I scuttle to the porch and find an ale jug in the corner.

A mother’s wail erupts from the house and flows into sobbing.

“It’s not our crops they want, Rho,” I say, shaking as I tilt the jug to fill my mug to the brim.

Through the front door, more bipeds appear with heavy footsteps, carrying Eta’s oval, writhing body by her eight spindly legs.

“It’s not our crops.”