Riverbank

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Riverbank

Barry K. Nelson

As I stood by the riverbank and stared down at the debris that had washed up on shore my mind went back to the events of this past night and the horror that I faced. It was an unexpected horror that had shaken me, my family, and friends from the tranquility of our lives. We never suspected that something like this could happen. Most certainly the movies. But never in real life. Several weeks ago, I heard the crazy stories about some kind of a thing living in the river. But I dismissed them as wild stories that were spread around by some crack addicted homeless people living under the bridges. When it was even reported that several of them ended up missing, I also dismissed that subject as not relevant to my life. Then the crazy stories started to increase. I had to step back and take notice when I started hearing them on the 6 O Clock news. I remember watching this one report about an entire barge being mysteriously sunk. The survivors mentioning some strange creature. My two sons were with me at that time. Josh, 13 and Bill, 10.

            I recall little Bill looking up to me with his big dark eyes and asking, "Dad. Are there really monsters in the river?" I looked down and told him No. Monsters only exist on TV and in the movies. Everybody knows that. But then everybody wasn't living in my neighborhood close to the river and heard that Ed Johnson, who lives three houses down from me took his boat out to do some fishing. Ed and his boat both vanished without a trace. Some kids fishing on the riverbank reported to the police that they saw Ed's boat being pulled under the water. Pulled under the water? I asked myself. My God. What the hell could do that? Ed's boat was no Matchbox toy in a bathtub. It wasn't the same size as the missing barges. But it was still pretty big. That was when I started paying closer attention to the crazy news stories.

            I heard that the people in several communities living close to the rivers were asked to evacuate. No such warning came to our area. So I just figured that life will go on. But I never expected the wall that surrounding the normalcy of our lives would be shattered until last night. It was 10:00 P.M. My wife, Doris had just put our two boys to bed after letting them stay up late to watch a science fiction movie. I was going into the kitchen to get a glass of milk when I heard the sound of a loud boom. At that same time the entire kitchen shook. Doris came running into the kitchen, saying exactly what I was thinking. That sounded like an explosion. And it was close. A second boom came with an equal force that shook the room. As well as the two of us. I saw the fear in my wife's wide eyes as she rushed up to me and asked, "What was that?" I had no answer for her. I just instructed her to wait in the house while I went outside to investigate.

            I charged from the house and ventured out into the front yard. I saw several of my neighbors running down the street. I moved out closer to the street when I saw Joe Granger who lived three houses down from me running with his wife, Donna. I didn't get the chance to ask him what was happening as his frantic words to me were, "Run! Run! It's coming!" Joe and Donna both passed me by. I was then startled by another loud boom mingled with the sharp crack of breaking lumber at my right. Then the street light went out. That was when I saw it. The huge dark shape, covered by thick overlapping scales as wide as manhole covers. And adorned with spikes that looked large enough to skewer an SUV. The thing had torn through Fred William's house next door to me. I tried to look up to see the full scope of its form. But all I could make out in the darkness as I looked up were the scales and long spines. Then in my mind the fear kicked in. Quickly followed by the urge to run.

            I bolted back to the house. Doris was waiting for me in the front doorway. "Grab the kids!" I ordered her. Then the entire house was filled with the sound of a loud roar that rattled the very walls. As well as myself.

            "What was that?" asked Doris.

            I didn't answer. I simply repeated my order for her to go get the kids.

            While Doris ran up the stairs I made a mad dash for my study. I reached the metal gun cabinet that was standing at the right side of my desk. I always kept the cabinet locked as a safety precaution because of the kids. As I reached into my pants pocket to get my keys to open the lock the lights suddenly went out. For a moment I froze. I felt as if I had dissolved into the darkness. The only part of me remaining was my rapidly beating heart. I felt myself trembling as I resumes my task of opening the gun cabinet. In the darkness my fingers made a clumsy effort to fit the right key into the lock. I was able to exhale in relief when the lock opened. I took out one of my twelve gauge shotguns and a box of shells.

            Doris and the kids came running into the room. I ordered them to follow me into the basement. At that time I thought that there was no safe place for us outside. I was always told that during a tornado the safest place to seek refuge in in your basement. But the only problem with that notion is that this tornado was stomping down the street while letting out a roar that nearly caused me to lose control of my bladder.

            I took Doris and the kids over to the washer and dryer. We all sat on the floor. As I loaded shells into my shotgun I listened to the sounds of what was going on outside. There were more booms of giant footsteps. More of the loud roaring. The sounds of people screaming. I even heard the sound of sirens. Sirens. That could mean that the police were outside. I took little comfort in the thought of any help coming. What could the police do against that thing? I asked myself. Then as I felt the cold, hard metal of the shotgun in my hands I asked myself what could I do with this paltry little weapon? A shotgun would be an insignificant pinprick against a towering beast that could demolish a house with a single footstep. I knew that this gun would be useless against that thing outside. But I had to give Doris and the kids a stronger sense of security seeing me here holding a weapon to help defend them. All I had against the thing outside this metallic piece of mind.

            I heard the sounds of another house being demolished outside. This one was close. The sharp crack of breaking lumber and the thud of falling masonry. Then I was startled by the sound of a woman screaming. A cold shudder rose up from the base of my spine to the back of my neck when I recognized the voice. It belonged to Terri Shields. Her and her husband Bob lived across the street from us. Her screams continued to ring out with a clear tone of agony. She sounded as if she were high in the air and being carried off. Through the commotion I heard a faint gasp coming from my wife's lips. I knew that her and I were sharing the same thoughts. Terri was our neighbor and our friend. I was dreading the thought of what might be happening to her outside. But all I could do was sit in the darkness of my basement and listen while hoping that the next screams would not be that of myself, my wife, of my two sons.

            We continued listening to Terri's screaming voice as it was drawing farther away, along with the boom of the monster's footsteps. Then it was drowned out by the sound of sirens. As I continued listening, I could feel Doris and the kids trembling next to me. I wondered if this nightmare was over. Or would the thing turn and come back to rip us out of our home and devour us? All we could do was wait in the darkness. I lost track of how long we waited there in the basement. I also lost track of when I fell asleep.

            My family and I awoke the next morning. We were all still alive. Surviving the frightening event that took place last night. That brought me to this point now as I'm standing near the river bank while looking over the debris scattered across the ground. I heard that whatever it was it caused widespread destruction across the city before it retreated back into the river. I feel that I'm taking a huge risk by standing this close to the river now. But I was compelled to come. That thing could be anywhere. It could be out there now. Sleeping at the bottom of the river. It could rise up at any time to vent its rage at what ever disturbed it's slumber. But now it doesn't matter. I put my house up for sale and my family is moving to a location on higher ground. So, if anyone is looking for a house by the river they can find several in the real estate listings. And they're all selling cheap.

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