Furrefrux

Getting home from work, I expected to find her out in our neighborhood raising hell with the rest of the kids, not shivering asleep beneath an avalanche of sweat-drenched blankets in our neighbor’s shed. The sleepwalking was normal. Her personal record was ending up in the tube slide at McCall Park across town, six months after graduating from her crib. What concerned me was the crippling sickness one of us gave the other.

The migraine I tried to ignore all day was now pulsating behind both eyes. The world’s volume was stuck on low, as if my ears produced cotton instead of wax. The swampy hue of mucus… You know what? I’ll stop before I describe something far more terrifying than that thirty foot roaring monstrosity.

I never use its name. It’s not appropriate. And it sounds too cute for what it is.

We slept through dinner, both passed out on the couch too debilitated to claw ourselves to our bedrooms. Then through the quake, announcing its arrival. The sirens finally woke me, reintroducing me to the terror that came with that dreaded sound.

It was screaming at us to follow town protocol and run for our lives to our assigned above-ground bunker, the concrete and steel Cubes strategically built all over town. For us, it was Cube AY10 four blocks away.

Like every child, she’d ask about the sirens she’d never heard sound. Their round shape like hundreds of watchful eyes, staring down at us from above every electrical pole. But the town agreed: lie until they graduate, when they can decide for themselves to stay or go.

Most figured it out. They’d hear stories at recess, stare at the gashes on the mountain faces from past attacks, or peak into a Cube and theorize of its purpose. Selfishly, I wanted her to piece it together on her own, because what parent wants to tell their child there really are monsters under their bed? 

As the sirens blared, I considered crawling to the basement like I had as a child, the last time one tore to the surface, years before the luxury of the Cubes. Not out of laziness, but really, an honest assessment of what I was capable of. Every movement triggered a near aneurysm. The room didn’t spin as much as it crashed. And the streets were now filled with once-sweet townspeople, breaking any moral code they once had to survive. What good would I be to her out there? What good would she be to me?

Its first roar shot through town like a sonic blast, shattering all that was shatterable, punching common sense back into me like a motivational defibrillator. I was out of the house, amidst the sea of fleeing chaos, as the roar’s echo traveled up the mountains; sleeping child and blanket tucked like a football under my arm as I made my way to AY10.

 

Each step hammered the molten nails deeper into my eyes as I pushed through people. A school bus flew overhead, crashing into St. Gabriel’s. The steeple fell into the naive crushing those who put their faith in God over their assigned Cubes. Bodies of people I loved, hated, and didn’t know pelted homes like a human meteor shower. 

 

This one was a swatter.

Through the fires and crowd I saw AY10 now just one block away, it’s bank vault door being pulled shut by my impatient neighbors. The drum beat of its steps lifted me off the ground. Each step faster. Closer. My third grade and favorite teacher, Mrs. Madigan, was trampled but, sadly, not to death. Before she could get back to her feet, its furry claw snatched her into the night.

I collapsed through the crack of the closing Cube door, joining the screaming and bleeding, drenched in sweat, with the hot poker in my head now traveling down my spinal cord. I turned to my daughter to lie and say we were safe, but there was no one to lie to besides a ball of blanket. She wasn’t there. She never was.  

I swear I scooped her up, feeling the weight of her in my arms as I ran. But I didn’t. That was a reality I made up in my debilitated state, in the fog of terror and bubonic infection. That thing digesting Mrs. Madigan was more real than my memory.

I lunged toward the closing door to make my escape, shattering my wrist against the cold concrete. The locking of the door was louder than my scream, since it was the assumed sound of my child’s death. I was now trapped in the terror of safety, while she was out there alone with the Furrefrux.

There. I said its name. It sounds too cuddly, right? And its origin isn’t much better. 

We stood crammed together in darkness, hyperventilating in rhythm as if in some apocalyptic Lamaze class, living for the shrinking window between the contractions of blood-curdling roars and explosions. Generations of attacks had proven there was no stopping it. All we could do was wait, let it do what it wanted, ascend the mountains, and pray someone out there knew its weakness.

As a child I listened as it decimated our town through the night and well into midday. This attack didn’t even last the length of a sitcom. But it was long enough for me to wage war through the five stages of grief, with enough time left over to circle back to bargaining.

A lifeless silence descended over the town. That’s when the true terror began. We spun the lock, pushed the door open, and scattered in all directions to see what, if anything, was left of our lives. We were like children running down the stairs on a macabre Christmas morning, holding our breaths to see what was left for us. Of us.


I found her curled up between the horns of the dead Furrefrux, on the pile of rubble where our neighbor’s shed once stood. She was sound asleep without a single scratch, and covered in its blood. Our house and every other on our side of the street was now a landfill of keepsakes and bodies, while the houses across were untouched. Our neighborhood, our town, was like a half-mowed lawn. Its destruction interrupted. Somehow stopped.

I slid down next to her, my back against its prickly fur, as ambulances and first responders began their rescues. I watched her cuddle a pulled fang as if it were a teddy bear, with tufts of fur fighting for space amongst dried Play-Doh under her tiny fingernails.

In the years since, she’s become more of an urban legend than those furry fucks. Sorry, I said its name too slow. Kids whisper stories of her as she passes, while braver ones come up and ask her how she stopped that thing, hoping for a new answer. But she always disappoints, reciting the same story: she dreamt of floating in space and a shooting star flying right at her. But just as it was about to consume her, she abruptly woke atop a mound of conquered fur.


Then she smiles, like her body remembers something her mind doesn’t.