Deputy Nicholas Martin found himself repeatedly dialing up the air conditioning of his county government SUV. He placed his palm over a vent to verify cold air was coming out. The daytime temperatures had been high, and he had looked forward to a cool desert night; but it was hot. The air conditioning in the deputy’s personal truck did not work, so he appreciated being able to drive around in a cool vehicle. He was especially glad to be able to drive around during that hot night with the windows rolled up and keep the dust and bugs from the farm roads outside where they belonged.
The deputy was rarely in this part of the county. He found himself becoming anxious in the darkness, on an endless dirt road, surrounded by vast fields of cotton. On most nights, the sky was full of stars and he felt like he was with somebody or like someone was keeping an eye on him. It did not feel that way tonight. He felt as if he was in an abandoned warehouse, with the lights out, and did not know the direction of the doors.
The deputy tried to remember the name of the farmer who had called. He did not recall meeting him in all the years he had worked as a deputy. The records showed that Farmer Eric Thompson lived alone and was an older man. He probably worked hard all the time and kept to himself like most people in the county.
The deputy saw a single light beam in the distance among the cotton. After driving further down the dirt road, he saw a figure in the darkness. It stood with its back bent, crooked limbs, and the long shadows cast behind it from the SUV’s headlights made it look sinister. It was an older man, and he was signaling the deputy to stop. He held a flashlight and knew enough to keep it pointed down so as not to blind the deputy. The deputy slowed down and pulled up next to the man.
“Are you Mr. Eric Thompson?” the Deputy asked.
“Yes, sir,” the farmer replied simply. His face was apologetic, and he was no longer an evil figure menacing the deputy from the darkness. “I called about someone wreckin’ my crops. I can show you.” Before the deputy could reply, the farmer was walking down the dirt road ahead of him.
The deputy did not like the farmer taking the lead, so he waited in his SUV. He hoped the farmer would return after noticing he was not following, but he did not. He continued to walk away and was nearly out of sight; so, the deputy drove after him.
Farmer Thompson walked surprisingly fast. The deputy guessed that working alone all that time, he never had to wait for anyone and moved as fast as he could. Without any indication as to why, the farmer stopped walking and looked out into the cotton fields. The deputy parked his SUV, got out, and walked hurriedly to the farmer as if to catch him before he wandered off again.
“Where’s the trouble, Mr. Thompson?” the deputy asked trying to keep him in one place with the question.
“Look out there,” the farmer replied pointing with his flashlight. “Do you see how the cotton plants are smashed? Makes me so mad. I needed every one of ‘em to repay my loans and stay in the black this year.”
“It looks as if someone drove a steam roller over them,” the deputy said. “How far back does that path go?”
“All the way to the river,” the farmer answered.
“It’s an odd track,” the deputy said. “Could someone have drug a flat-bottom boat through your fields to the river? Maybe a jon boat?”
“Probably not,” the farmer replied. “See how the mounds and the plants are crushed in a direction away from the river? I don’t think anyone’d come from the river anyway. No one goes in there since WorldChem Co. built upriver. I’m surprised my cotton grows after all the chemicals they dump in there.”
“They don’t dump in the river,” the deputy said.
“Not while the government is looking they don’t,” the farmer answered. “The government can’t test for everything; especially not the new stuff.”
Deputy Martin moved his eyes over the long path of flattened cotton plants. It began beyond the reach of his flashlight’s beam. He turned to look behind them to see where it led. In the distance, he saw pecan trees. It looked like the track led to them. He did not want to go into the forest-like darkness of the pecan crop; he easily imagined himself lost among the identical trees.
“Do you know where this ends?” the deputy asked.
“Nope,” answered the farmer, “but they appear to lead to my crop of pecans.”
The deputy and the farmer followed the path to the pecan trees. They followed the track into the wood. As he had feared, everything looked the same in the dark – especially with the crop of pecan trees planted so evenly spaced. He was grateful to have the farmer as a guide and a track to follow back out.
To help himself calm, the deputy looked back at the farmer and said, “It’s easy to get lost in here, isn’t it?” When the deputy looked at the farmer, he saw the farmer frozen as if scared.
“Did you see that!” the farmer whispered loudly.
The deputy turned to look in the direction of the farmer’s frightened eyes. He aimed the beam of his flashlight around trying to spot what the farmer had seen. Every tree made a shadow which moved as the flashlight passed over it. “What did it look like?” the deputy asked.
“It looked like a big blob of water,” the farmer answered. “It was the size of a tractor. Translucent, but cloudy. Kind a’ brown.”
The deputy thought the farmer might be tired. “Let’s go back to my truck so I can write this down before I forget the details,” the deputy said.
The two men followed the track out of the trees and walked quickly through the cotton. Once they were back on the dirt road, they saw the vehicle. The farmer followed the deputy back to his government vehicle. The deputy invited the farmer to sit inside. He set up his computer and asked questions for the form he had to fill out. The farmer did not have his identification with him for the deputy to scan; so the deputy had to manually enter his full name, date of birth, and address.
It quickly became hot in the SUV. Wanting relief from the heat, the deputy turned the vehicle on. The headlights illuminated automatically. As he looked up and out of the windshield at the vast cotton fields wondering what he should include and exclude from the report, he saw a large brown figure cross the beams of the SUV’s headlights.
“Did you say you saw a big brown blob?” the deputy asked.
“Yes, sir,” the farmer answered. “Why?”
“I think I just saw it,” the deputy replied and, without warning, something slammed into the side of the SUV. The deputy saw the fields outside spin as the vehicle rolled. Neither he nor the farmer had buckled up: they tumbled around, hit the insides of the SUV, and knocked into each other.
When the SUV stopped rolling, the farmer let out a yelp. “My back ain’t gonna be right after that.” The deputy was glad the farmer was conscious. The SUV was on its side. The passenger door was against the ground. To get out, they would need to break the windshield or climb up and out through the driver’s door.
The deputy reached out for the radio receiver. He placed it near his mouth, pushed a button, and said, “Code one. Deputy needs assistance.” When the operator responded, the deputy was speechless. The creature had moved into the path of the SUV’s headlights. He saw it clearly. It looked like an enormous, shapeless, and muddy blob of water had not flattened after falling on the ground. It was clear from its appearance that there was something wrong with the water. It was impure. It was beyond contaminated. It was corrupt.
It appeared to the deputy that the monster was aware of the two men. It looked back at the deputy and studied him. It began to move toward the SUV. It seemed to flatten the ground as it moved slowly over it. It flowed deliberately. When it reached the hood, its dirty water began to sweep over it. The water went over the top. It poured down the sides. As it began to spill inside of the SUV through cracks, the deputy pushed the button on the radio and said, “Make that a code 10. Send everyone.”
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