My second-to-youngest daughter came in the house telling me that there was a huge line of ants out in the garage.
“Because there’s poop,” her younger sister says.
I groan inside. Cats. There’s the whole wide world and a litter box to boot. They have to do it on the garage floor?
I go out to clean it up before I go on my walk, and there is indeed a thick line of tiny ants. But they aren’t carrying away bits of poop for their fugus farm. It’s some hairball the cat has yakked up. Disgusting. So I get out the square-nosed shovel and scoop it up. But as I do its contents tumble and reveal themselves. There’s a spinal column of something significant with the last bit of ribs clinging to it. There’s hair, and I don’t think it’s the cat’s.
I fling the stuff into the brush and sweep the garage clean.
And then I start thinking.
What if a kid came out and found this long trail of ants. She follows it. To this lump up in the brush. There are two magpies about. One perched on a piece of scrub. The other pecking at the lump. And in the lump is not some animal bones. No, it’s a long segment of human spine. And there’s half-digested Levis or some nylon windbreaker. And the whole mess is dark, compacted, and damp.
There’s something out there that regurgitated this. Not a bear. Not a tiger. Those are too small. This thing has to be large. A dragon. No. Some ogre or troll. Something else. Something from the depths of the darkening woods. Something the villagers had forgotten. Maybe something that’s come through from some other place. But it’s here now. It’s close. And somebody died.