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A Cryptozoologist’s Dream

This author is a recipient

of the Sigma Tau Delta Award

Sigma Tau Delta Awarde

Esther Windt

is an up-and-coming writer who loves writing science fiction, horror, short and flash fiction. Whenever you can’t find her out on a run, hanging out with her friends, or acting on the stage, she’s more than likely cooped up in her room writing something, and she loves it! Windt is a current first-year student at St. Ambrose University.


My first encounter with a cryptid was seeing a giant flying creature in my backyard. I was sitting there, making the world-famous Zachary James Mud Pie with a mixture of rocks, sticks, and, of course, mud. However, when I looked up at the telephone pole just above my backyard, I saw what could only be described as the largest bird I had ever seen perched up on the pole. It looked about the size of a human. We looked at one another before it took off and left me there with the mud in my hands dripping onto my legs. When I told my mom, she told me it was just a bird, but I knew just from looking at it that it must have been something more. Something the world had never seen before.

Hearing this, my mother decided it would be hilarious that whenever anyone would ask me what I wanted to do as an adult, she’d say, “He’s going to find really big birds.” I didn’t really mind the insult mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t sure what to call what I wanted to do, until in one of my high school classes I saw the term “Cryptozoologism”—the study of animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated. In layman’s terms, the study of cryptids. You know, your Moth Mans, or your Loch Ness Monsters. But I didn’t want to just study what everyone else was looking for. I wanted to find my own special little creature or cryptid. Like the one I found that day playing in the mud.

That’s why I’m here, in the bird-cawing, insect-chirping, leaf-rustling Amazon Rainforest. A lush five-point-five kilometers squared area is sure to house some secret elusive creature we’ve never even seen before. There’ve been reports from locals about hearing strange cries in the forest that don't match up to any other animal. Almost as if it is a human screaming out for help. But when they search through the forest, they find nothing except vines and moss. They probably just aren’t looking hard enough. I mean, think of the different ways a cryptid could hide in plain sight. That’s why I’d prefer a few extra eyes, but when I invited a few of my other cryptozoologists to come along, they said they were all busy. Yes, I’m sure, busy chasing down the same old creatures that everyone is. I’m not like them. I’ll find my own.

I step over roots and vines in the jungle forest. I try to keep my steps light in case I scare off any possible creatures, but it’s hard in these big black boots, and with the rattling of my backpack. I need the necessary supplies, after all, especially the camera. A quality, state-of-the-art camera to take pictures of the creature or its prints. I’ve found that people have a hard time believing in cryptids when it comes to photos or videos.

“Why, it must be photoshopped,” they try to tell us. It’s a really silly notion and one that I’m personally tired of hearing.

I take a look at my compass and see that I am still heading north. I try not to waver too far from that direction so as to not get entirely lost.

A couple of hours pass by. I’ve been heading north still with no sign of a cryptid. I’m nearing the center of the jungle itself. Sweat gathers in my pits and on my brow. I’m listening. The forest has grown quieter. All the chirping of insects is gone, and the cawing of the birds has disappeared. Even the leaves have stopped rustling in the forest. I reach around my backpack and begin to set up the camera. I make sure the lens cap is off and that the lenses themselves aren’t dirty. I make sure I’ve got plenty of film in the camera. I even make sure that the batteries are switched out with completely fresh ones, just in case.

I inch ever forwards, stepping over trees and vines and tightly holding onto the camera. At this point, I’m looking through the camera view, which isn’t a good idea, because I end up tripping over a large piece of wood and fall face-down onto the Amazon ground. The right side of my face gets covered in a thick layer of mush, mud, and a strange sticky red substance. The whole ground near my face is practically covered in it. A thick, red liquid pours out of something. I follow the flow of the liquid up until I see a strange face. It reminds me of looking straight at a horse’s head, except its eyes are right on the front of the skull like a human’s, and they’re staring right at me.

I almost scream before I end up covering my mouth and am able to stand up. I look over and see the piece of wood I tripped over is actually what appears to be the body of this horse-like creature lying down on the ground. It’s as if its body is composed of large pieces of the trees around us. Vines strewn about its body. Perfect camouflage. The face is the only part that is not made out of some wood or greenery. Instead, it’s leathered. The color is as white as my skin.

I quickly pick up my camera from where it dropped.

Then, I hear a simple word: “Don’t.” I stop and look at the creature. I could’ve sworn the word just came from it.

I bring the camera back up to my eyes and again comes a small, “Don’t.” I pause once again, this time being certain I saw the creature’s mouth move up and back down.

“Are you talking?” I ask very simply.

There’s the sound of chirping nearby, but all I end up hearing is the creature responding with a simple, “Yes.” I almost drop my camera again. Not only did I find a new cryptid, but I also found one capable of speaking English, my language. This is incredible! I almost feel like dancing, like doing a special jig, but I keep my feet planted and let my camera hang from my head.

“How can you talk?” I ask excitedly. The creature whose head has remained face-down now rears to look at me.

“The same way you can talk. My vocal cords and tongue move together in order to speak with you,” it explains.

“Well, I guess what I meant to ask is how can you speak English, and understand what I’m saying?” The creature looks down the path I’ve taken.

“When you’re hidden like I prefer to be, you hear people talk a lot, and you learn a lot from that over the years. I know other tongues, too,” it explains.

“How old are you?” I ask. The creature stops to think.

“I’m one hundred years old, I believe.”

“Fascinating,” I say. I take a step back. My goodness, I have lost myself. I’m having a conversation with a never-before-discovered cryptid, a new species. I can’t waste a moment like this!

I bring my camera back up to my face, and with the creature staring at me now, it begs me, “Please don’t take a picture.”

“Well, why not?” I ask.

“Well, why do you need to take a picture of me?” it asks plainly.

“Because you’re a new creature, and I need to document you,” I explain.

“Why do you need to document me?” it asks. I put my finger on my chin and think.

“Well, let me respond with another question,” I say. “Why shouldn’t I document you?”

The creature doesn’t break eye contact with me as it speaks. “I don’t want you to.”

“Why not?” I ask one more time. Hopefully, I can get something out of this. The creature looks at its body and then looks back at me.

“I don’t want to be known as a dying creature,” it finally says. This is what gets me to lay my camera down.

“Oh right. That blood must be yours, then. What happened?” I ask.

“I was walking through this forest when I tripped on a piece of vine, and unable to catch myself, I landed against a piece of tree wood that was jutting out,” he says, motioning a little ways away. “Then, I walked until I couldn’t walk anymore, and then you fell here, too.” He lays his head down again. That might explain the human screams of pain.

“It’s a pathetic death, I suppose you could say,” it says to itself almost.

“So, nothing killed you, or attacked you, you just…?” I begin questioning. Could such a majestic creature like this really be taken down by just pure accident, a nasty fall?

“Yes, I just was walking, and alive, but then I fell. I’ve already come to terms with it,” the creature explains.

“Here, come on, you’re not dead yet. Let’s get you some help. I can call someone, and maybe we can get someone to—” I begin to speak but am interrupted by the creature simply saying, “Don’t.” I stop and look at the creature looking at me before it rests its head down again.

“I want to die,” it simply says. This takes me aback for a moment. My blood turns cold at the sound of it.

“No, come on, don’t you have maybe a family or your other species to look for, to go back to? We can get you fixed up. Listen, it’s not like anyone believes us in my field, anyway, so I’m sure people wouldn’t even think you’re real,” I explain, desperate now to save this creature’s life.

“I have no family,” it explains. There’s a single bird cawing as it flies above the both of us.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“I don’t have anyone. I’ve wandered the Amazon for about sixty-five years now, and everyone I knew and lived with has died off,” it explains.

“So, you’re going extinct?” I ask with sympathy.

“Yes, I’m the last of my kind. My parents died around thirty or so years ago.”

“And you haven’t seen another of your kind?” I ask. It pauses. Analyzing the question in the brain. Trying to pull a memory out of a bucket. Then it does find something from that bucket.

“Now that you mention it, I remember about five years ago, I was roaming around in a small area, and when I looked up, she was there, staring up at me. I didn’t really know what to say, but there was a sound off in the distance that sounded like other people, so we both landed on the ground, disguising ourselves. Sure enough, a group of people quickly walked through, passed us by, and when I stood up, she was gone.” It pauses to look off somewhere in the distance as if it might be able to see her now but turns back to look at me.

“I went back there the next day to see her, but she was gone, and that was the last of my kind that I saw.” I look at this dying creature with a greater horror now. Not that it looks horrifying. On the contrary, it looks quite mystical, the wood that composes its body seems to be growing vegetation and plants, almost like the one whale or shark that allows fish to grow on it. But now the creature is lying in a puddle of its own blood. Its lush greens are overrun with a deep red.

“I’m sorry, it must’ve been lonely,” I say.

“Not necessarily. I had creatures like you to watch and learn from, so I am ready,” the creature says. It views us as creatures. Is that how every animal works?

“No, you can’t be ready to die, you just can’t!” I yell out. There’s a moment of silence between the creature and me.

All I’m able to hear in my ears is the soft sound of beeping from a vital signs monitor. When I look at the creature, it reminds me of how my own mother was sprawled out on the hospital bed. Her face was worn and sagged heavily. Her own face looked like a heavy mask that she had put on. Her lips were dry, blacked, and cracked. She was breathing through a machine. It made her breaths have more air in them, like a whistle, almost. Her eyes were open just as wide as she could get them while looking at me. Her head was bald, and her hands and arms lay at her sides. She took her limp arms, which I could only describe as soft flesh barely concealing the bones, and grabbed mine.

“Zachary,” she called me. She hadn’t called me that since I found the bird out in the backyard.

“I’m ready, my boy, my little bird-watcher.” I sniffled.

“Mom, that’s not what I do,” I explained.

“I know, I’m just teasing,” she said to me. “But do make sure when you do find one of those big birds or something else, name it after me why don’t ya?” She gave three small laughs.

“Are you ok?” the creature asks, interrupting my memory. I stare focused on the creature. Its breathing is becoming slower. It becomes heavier. I can feel it on my face, sweat beginning to pool up, even tears.

“It’s fine, you just reminded me of someone, I guess,” I say, wiping away the tears.

“Is this a pleasant reminder?” the creature asks. I give a small sigh, then look into the creature’s eyes. A blue. Just like hers.

“Yes,” I say. There’s no response from the creature at first.

Then simply just, “Thank you.” Then the breathing stops. For a brief moment, I bring my camera back up, then look at the eyes of the creature staring ahead as it lies on the ground. I snap the camera and begin walking back the way I came.

When I do eventually get back to the main facility where I work, I print off the photo, keeping it for myself. I put it in my room, and on the back I write:

Isabel James

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