Strange things in a strange land
I had again arrived at the beautifully haunted paradise that is Florida. The last time I was in this beautiful state, a ghost literally chased me away, though later out we did sort out our differences ( It was found out later that the ghost, a young girl, had feelings for me. I don’t know why but ghosts seem to have a penchant for the likes of me). So I had no problem coming here.
I walked a long way from the airport to a local restaurant. I loved walking, so a 15 mile walk is nothing for me and as for my luggage, my trusted backpack was all that I needed.
The place was crowded as usual. I seem to find no open place for me. On the left side, by the corner of the window, sat an old man, who surely had a military background. I saw he had the table to himself and as I was hungry, I decided to ask the man to give me some room on the table.
I went up to him and asked, as politely as I could, “ If I am not disturbing you in any fashion, can I have your attention please, sir?”
The old man looked at me and answered “ No problem, fire ahead.”
I gave him a picture of my plight, “ So you see” I continued “ I am really hungry and I need a place to eat some heavy food, which I observe only you can give me at this moment. So if I am not intruding in any way, may I share the table with you?”
The grand old pal answered heartily “ Come on, sit. You didn’t have to give such a long explanation to me, You could just ask the question. Now sit my boy.”
And I didn’t wait for the third invitation to come, I sat down and ordered my meal.
The old man looked at me for some moments and then asked “ I don’t know but I feel I have seen you somewhere”.
I laid down at my seat and answered “ It must have been on TV”.
He was surprised. “ Why? Are you a celebrity?” He asked.
“ Nope. Not exactly. I am not a celebrity but certainly I am a famous man. I am the youngest self made millionaire, according to Forbes magazine.”
His face was like a man who is seeing another man trying to make a fool of him, thinking of him as nothing but a mug.
“ I am not sure about that, how can I be sure that you are speaking the truth?” He asked.
I told him simply to google it. He did google it and was staring at his phone for 5 long minutes.
After reading my wikipedia page, he looked at me and said “ You surely don’t look like one. Nor do you look like a man who has solved a lot of international mysteries.”
“ I am a part time detective,” said I, flashing my teeth at him.
“ That’s good. So Your name is Syed, right?” he asked.
“ Nope, I am Arabi. My name is Arabi and what is yours?” asked I
“ Stratson James Field.” replied he
“ Military, I presume” said I
“ Yes, Colonel Stratson J Field is my name. So what is your business up here?”
“ Travelling, and your sunshine state is always a staple on my list.”
“ That I know. You are not the only one who comes here for that, the beauty of Florida is known all around the world. The evergreen lands, the long lasting sunshine, these are the beauty that attracts people here. But there is a darker side to the place too.”
“ Yes, I know about the darker side and for that have I come here again” said I.
Stratson looked at me with a weird look on his face. He asked “ Which darker side are you talking about?”
I looked him in the eye and replied “ I am not sure which dark side are YOU talking about, but I am talking about the paranormal side.”
Col. Stratson was startled by what I said. He didn’t say anything though. He merely remarked “A beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
The air was fresh and there was a sweet breeze blowing. I had not seen a finer day. It was still early morning, So I could still see the graceful morning of a city before it turned into an overturned beehive. I simply answered him “ Delightful it is.”
We both ate silently for some moments. After we finished our eating, he ordered two cups of coffee and then stared into the sunshine filled sky for some time.
“ I haven’t told this to anyone, not even my closest friends and family. Not even Ellie knows about it.” It seemed like he was saying these things to himself rather than me.
“ If you want to say something to me, I can listen. You can be assured that I can keep my secrets. I still have many up my backpack.” said I
He took a deep breath and said “ You see, I don’t think I have much life left to live. I am old and it might be just a few more months and I am gone. I have done many things in my life, nothing that I am ashamed of but yet I want somebody to carry on my story.” said he. I didn’t say anything. Just looked at him with expectation. He again took a deep breath and plunged into his tale. It ran like this
“ It was in 1962. The cold war between the USA and Russia was at its height. The nerves of people on both sides were like a live wire. At that time, something was brewing right here in Fort Myers. People started disappearing, cows were getting mutilated, many of these mutilation cases you may have read on the internet. The public was panicking. Fort Myers was never a populous county, so the disappearance of some 62 residents fairly took the country by storm.
And couple that with the cow mutilations, You get a very serious case in your hand.”
“ One second”. Interrupted I. “ Were only cows getting mutilated?” Asked I
“ No but most newspapers reported the phenomena as cow mutilation back in the days, so it comes out of habit, you might say” answered Stratson.
“ Carry on sir” replied I.
“ The media took the case with all its glory and presented it like it was the sign of the apocalypse. The US govt. blamed it on the Russians, the Russian govt. said it was done by the US govt. Itself. The top guns of each nation were busy throwing accusations at each other. The media presented that like a saturday live thriller.”
“ Now, the problem was that the US Govt. itself was tense. You see, they didn’t know who was behind this mass disappearance. Whoever or whatever was causing this mayhem was not giving the US govt. any good. They thought it could actually have been a Russian experiment or an agent appointed by Russia who was behind the matter. It also could have been someone who had no goodwill for the government. Though worse experiments were being conducted on both sides of the Atlantic, the govt. Decided to investigate the case.”
“Another question sir” I interrupted. “ Why should the killings, the disappearance, the cow mutilation and such things put the government to think that it was the Russians? Well, I can understand the media’s reasons behind it but why should the US govt think that it was something that was done by the Russians, why did the US govt decided to go with this theory in their minds? Those acts of disappearance and mutilation could easily have been done by any local.” I gave my objection.
He laughed and then said “ It’s been a long time since I have been questioned like this. The equipment that did the animal mutilations could only be supplied by a government. These equipment are always handled by officials, they never go to civilians. The US govt knew that none of their men were in it, so it had to be someone from outside and given the situation, and the time, it was natural that they suspected the Russians. Also the nature of the mutilations and the disappearances gave the impression of somebody or something highly skilled.” explained Stratson.
“ Continue sir. I hope I am not breaking the flow of your narration”. Said I
Col Stratson assured “ No, no. No problem at all. So where was I? Oh, there!”
“ The local police department was at a loss. They never faced a more difficult case than this. At last, after more than two months being wasted by the local police, the government decided to bring in the special force. This special force consisted of about 50 personnel, with the whole forensic department of the US military at our disposal. We had men from the marine, CIA, homeland security, all the top heads of the nation together. I was selected due to being the local guy, I am from here, as you know. Few knew the paths of Florida better than me.”
“So as soon as the government gave its heads up, we started an investigation.”
“ First of all, we racked up every bit of information we could muster, both from the guys who were investigating the matter before us and the eyewitnesses, those who saw the crime happening.”
“Wait a minute” said I “ So there were men who saw it happening?” I asked
“ Not exactly. They didn’t see anything happening but they just were able to give us a correct idea as to what the Problem might look like. Most of them heard their animals crying, went out to see what was making them do so, saw something scurrying away by the bushes. Most of them gave similar stories, heard the cries, went outside, saw something that can only be in the movies.”
“ Monsters, but as far as I knew, the officials never took these things seriously,” I said.
“ Yes, we never took them seriously but this case was different. We sat up night and day, getting facts separated from the fantasies. Yet it always came back to that.”
“ So you guys had the evidence that there was really a monster on the hunt?” I asked.
“ No. We had the evidence that pointed out it was an animal, a big, ferocious animal, but that didn’t mean it was a monster, it could have been something unknown to mankind but still within the horizon of science.”
“ Clear. Fire ahead sir.” said I
“ On the 4th day, we received a call from the local police , this time a dead man was found on a farm. And the nature of the death compelled them to give us a call. In only 20 minutes, we crossed a distance of almost 44 miles, time was everything in these cases.”
“ As we reached the place, each of us set out to do his respective jobs. No living man would have believed what we saw, only in the pits of hell, I think, can we see such horror, something this diabolical. I was an army man yet even my strong nerves shook when I saw the dead body,
It was cleaned to the very bone. It was just like …. Cleaned, the man had only bones to show.
I took the statements of the owner and the other people who were around. Couple of our boys had already taken the body to the forensic. We stayed around for a bit, cross checking the alibi provided by the owner and the other men.Yes, we knew it was done by something inhuman, yet it was better to be careful than to be sorry. The guy who called the police only had something important to say. He said that he saw something eating the dead man when he came here after hearing cries of help coming from a man. He saw something and it roared at him. He shot it in reply. Whatever the thing was, it ran away. We went to the exact position where he saw the thing and shot at him. We saw there was black liquid over the place. As black a black coloured car on a dark night, even more than that. We sent a sample of it to the forensics too.
On the 7th day, this information came from the forensic, whatever killed this man, had a hand in all the animal mutilation cases of the area. The Thing, as we started calling it, was not an animal known to science or us.There was no animal or parasite that ate the meat of its victim and also drank its blood in the animal kingdom. And also the Thing was radioactive, which led the US govt to send another whole group of 50 top minds of the nation to add to our team. And about the black liquid, it was blood, presumably of the Thing, and that too was radioactive.”
“ We were trying our best but the list of the missing people was only rising, so was the mutilation cases. Mind you, they were not like the other mutilation cases you have read about. They were not even mutilation, it was the media which termed the cases by that word. These cases, the cases we were handling, was committed most likely by an unknown kind of animal species, whereas the real mutilation cases were obviously done by the hands of humans or something with equal intelligence.”
“ It was our 14th day of the mission, 87th day since the disappearances and the mutilation started, the official number of the missing people went upto 111, but our assumption was that the real number was close to 200. The animal mutilation number was just too high for us to keep an account of.”
“ The media, you know, newspapers, radio, TV, were portraying this like it was some kind of Godzilla coming to life kind of situation. And also they were pointing very carefully at both the Russian govt and the US govt., that either it was done by the Russians or it was a failed experiment done by the US govt to create a creature of war, which now roamed around its own land.”
“One question, how did the media come to know that it was done by some kind of monster or something? As far as I know, you guys were in a top secret mission, isn’t it?” I asked.
“ They never got anything from us, but many of their reporters had been on the site of the killings and disappearances, and you know how the media always pounces on the sensational side of the story but this time somehow they got it right. And all the media was doing was exerting pressure on us.”
“ We decided to be innovative. We divided into 5 separate teams. Each of the team will look into the assigned area. And also we decided to bring in the irregulars, the animal hunters. Many did criticise us back then, saying why were we bringing the hunters? My answer was simple. We could have done the job, but time was something that we could not afford to lose, and these hunters were guys who knew every trick in the book when it came to capturing animals or killing them. Some were saying the hunters didn’t have any experience with creatures that we were facing, so didn’t we.”
“ So at last, we brought in these guys. They mostly hunted for sports but they had loads of experience behind them. About 6 of them we had in our team.”
“ We wasted no time. We sat together to form a plan. We had to capture the Thing, dead or alive. The problem was that it had great hiding skill, more than 2 weeks had elapsed yet we could not find a single clue that would lead us to it. It kept on killing but we could just not locate it.
Somehow or another, it was evading us.”
“ All of us tried to give a plan, a way to capture it or kill it but sometimes, as they say, the simplest way is the best way. One of our amateur hunters came up with an amazing plan, a plan simple and effective”
“The plan was like this. The oldest trick in a hunters book, lure the predator into the trap by setting a bait. We were to use cows as the bait. We would put them, about 2 dozen of them, all in a field, while we would be taking cover. You get the idea, a bit of a primitive plan but if we could get it right, an effective idea. The plan was to lure it. As the hunter said, a predator of such skill will only hunt at night.”
“ The cows were brought in, about 35 of them, to a field which shall remain unnamed, for reasons that are connected with another experiment, which I think you will get to know one day.
Cows were brought in, we selected our positions and took cover. It was night by that time, we all were in position. It was a silent night, even the falling of leaves were sounding like thunder. The moon was shining with all her might that night, it was almost as bright as day. 2 dozen of them were kept in the field and the rest were used as a way to bring the Thing in, you know just like they show in Tom & Jerry, how Tom uses cheese and places them in a line to get Jerry where he wants Jerry to be. We were sure that it would be here before long.”
“ Silence, silence, silence all around. We were using night vision cameras and heat sensors. The hunter said that using light could prevent the predator from coming, as they were creatures who were always wary. Suddenly, we heard a noise, something large was coming our way. The ground was shaking, we could feel it. It was coming towards the field with slow but large footsteps. Then the THING roared. Have you ever heard the roar of a lion? That is a puny squeak compared to the monstrous roar we had heard. We all were surprised, shocked and then it came out into the light. I still don’t believe what I saw that night, it still seems unbelievable. I don’t know how I can explain what it looked like to you, I don’t have the words.”
Colonel Stratson took a deep breath, it felt like he was trying to remember what happened that Night.
“ The cows were running but it took the Thing only a few moments to take the cows and… it both ate the cows and drank the blood of it. It was horrible, even us military men were taken back by that Thing, but we quickly regained our nerves and sent out the signal by radio to the other teams to come here. We blew the whistle and bang, about 30 of us went ahead to face the Thing, we were in our jeep. The plan was simple from here, we would spread in all directions and fire from all positions. Bang! Bang! Bang! Went to our guns. We saw that it wasn’t doing that much of a damage but it certainly did hurt the Thing.”
“ I was driving the jeep like a racer, the Thing was bent on destroying my jeep first, I was doing everything to keep the jeep off its feet but I knew if reinforcement doesn’t come earlier, my jeep will be crushed. It had already thrown two jeeps to tatters, and it was this close to smashing my jeep…”
“ At that very moment, the airboys came to our rescue. We had sent the signal to the other members of our team but as they were far away from us, they decided to call in the air force.
And man! Did they bring in the show! Missiles fired at the Thing, one by one they were just keeping on hitting it, hitting with all the blasts till it fell to the ground and then the last bomb hit. BANG!!! We were almost thrown away by the shockwaves but the job was done. The Thing was gone.”
Colonel Stratson was looking at the sky while telling his story, his eyes glinting as he remembered his younger days, that night of action, mystery, lights coming to his memory and for a second it looked like Colonel Stratson had turned into that very young man on that eventful night. Then suddenly he returned to present times. He looked at me and smiled, “ Just got lost in memory.” He said.
“ I understand why you guys were called in for this but the air force too? Doesn’t that seem a little bit too much for a single… THING, I mean why would the US govt send so many of their forces to investigate this matter and also send so many to kill one Thing? I don’t get it.” asked I.
“ I understand your question and the thing is very simple. The media had increased the importance of the matter, and also because the fear of the unknown is something that also increases the fear itself. So the US government decided to investigate the matter properly. And about that killing the Thing, the last thing that the US govt wanted was a real life monster known to the public. The truth is that the Thing couldn’t have done more damage than the bombs our government has but as we all know, the fear of the unknown is the worst fear known to mankind. A real life monster on US soil would create a public panic, the media would portray it as a Russian conspiracy, while some of them might even point the fingers at the US govt itself. The Thing might have ended up doing more damage than it physically could have done. That’s why the US government decided to finish it in one blow.”
“What version did the govt give the media?” asked I
“ The government very cleverly separated all the disappearances by attributing them to different killers and reasons. And as for the cow mutilations, the media itself did the job, by attributing it to the green man from Mars.” answered him.
“ So did you guys find out what the Thing was, how it came to be and when did it come?” I asked.
“ What our intel told us was this, the creature was a mutant born of radiation, a mutant, much like the Godzilla. So when the govt got to know this, it also played a big part in their sending such a big force and sending the air force to kill the Thing. How it came out of the radiation is not known to me but I do know this, it ain’t the only creature to come that way. Most of the mythical creature sightings that people are talking about are actually mutants, which is why the government is hiding them. Hence you don’t see there being much monster or such creature sightings in less developed countries, because they don’t have the nuclear waste. You see, that’s why only developed countries have that kind of sightings in their lands.”
“But why should the US govt try to hide these creatures, just because they were born by radiation?” asked I.
“ AH! There lies the money. The US govt knew that if these creatures were brought into the public eyes, somehow or another, the public would have known that these creatures of hell were brought on by radiation, which is a product of all the bombs our govt tested. The public distrust would have hampered the nuclear industry, the making of atom bombs would have been in jeopardy and the nuclear reactors would have been rejected by the public. Of course they didn’t want that to happen, so they decided to keep the matter silent” explained Stratson.
“ That means you are trying to say that the bigfoots, loch ness monsters, jersey devils actually exist?” asked I, surprised at getting to know these high level secrets.
“Not exactly. There could be creatures that look exactly like the aforementioned mythical creatures but I am not sure.” answered Stratson.
I took my sip of coffee, trying to gulp in the information given by Col Stratson. A question then struck my head and I asked…..
“ What was the name of your mission?”
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and said…….
“ Mission Florida”