I had been dreaming about enormous butterflies, big as ponies, and I had been riding them. One had just bucked me off when I woke with a start. Things seemed quiet – my wife was sleeping next to me; the lights were off; the dogs weren’t barking their heads off. I took a swig of water and was about to settle back down to sleep when I heard it – the same noise that must have woken me up in the first place. It was the sound of the lid of my trash can scraping and bumping on the ground.
I got out of bed, pulled on pants and a shirt, and grabbed the baseball bat. "What is it?" asked my wife groggily. "Some critter's in the trash again," I said, stepping into my sandals. For three nights running something had been rummaging the trash, leaving a mess all over my driveway. "Well, don't get bit," my wife said helpfully before rolling over.
I grabbed a flashlight and went out through the front door. I stole around the corner of the house, hoping to catch the culprit unawares. I toggled the flashlight on and jumped around the trash enclosure, bathing the narrow alley with the blinding light of the beam.
There were two of them – Neanderthals, if I had to guess; they had blockier skulls than the Homo Ergasters we got during the freeze last winter, and they were as tall as a regular person. They had shaggy hair all over their bodies, jutting jaws, and wore tattered hides that looked to have been taken from possums. They grunted with fear, caught in the act of rummaging through my big black plastic trash bin for leftovers, frozen in the beam of my flashlight.
"Go on! Shoo!" I shouted, slamming the bat on the slats of the fence. The light plus the noise was enough to scare the Neanderthals off. Screeching and howling, they ran out the other side of the trash enclosure and took off across my yard. I followed them as far as the curb, shining the flashlight down the road, watching their hunched shaggy forms disappear into the night.
"Goddamn hominids," I grunted, and went back to bed.( Read more... )