The Scavengers

Deep in the forest among the towering redwoods, is a village. The village is constructed from discarded items, cans, clothing, radios, boxes, wheels, and any other usable item that people deemed as trash.

Discarded produce is ground up and used as the richest compost to grow the largest and freshest fruits and vegetables anyone has ever laid eyes on, but only one or two people have ever laid eyes on them. The sewing, reaping and looking belong to the growers of the produce. The ones that find a useful purpose for discarded things are small ancient creatures. The creature has been called many things over the years, and are documented to exist through every generation.

Sometimes, people will throw away especially useful things, such as animals, or even people. The creatures will take the discarded gem and recycle it into one of them, so it will never again feel the pain from being thrown away. And the person that did the discarding? They will receive a visit over and over and will forever hear the pain and turmoil the discarded item felt. For some, it makes them quite mad. Sending them into a frenzy that leads them to taking their own life or even to being admitted into a home that is suited to handle them.

The creatures came out at night and rummaged through trash finding things they could use. Occasionally, they would happen across one of those discarded gems, such as a half-starved dog, hunting for food among the trash receptacles. The creatures knew him to live at the Thomas property and knew that old man Thomas was a mean drunk and had tossed the dog out and refused to feed him. They lured the dog back to their village with the promise of food and there they recycle him. The process of recycling can get quite messy, but in the end, there would be a new creature with a promise of immortality and worth.

When Beth moved into a house at the edge of the forest, she immediately drew the attention of the creatures. She had skin as soft and sweet as that of an apricot. Her green eyes shone brightly under her dark mahogany hair. They watched her in secret as she brushed her long hair in the twilight hours.

They knew that soon she would be tossed out as trash because she was living with a descendant of the mean old man Thomas. Over the years, young Levi caused a lot of pain to creatures of the woods. Removing a soft blue bird’s head for the sheer fun of it, but the creatures didn’t torment him with his wasteful behaviors because he was a child. However, they knew that one day he would grow to be a man and would discard something precious, as his father did to the family pets and to Levi’s own mother.

Levi brought Beth home upon his return from his military enlistment. For four years, the house sat empty and quiet. Levi wanted to return to his father’s property to repair it and make a home of it. He met Beth on his assignment in Texas. He brought her to the house a few times to visit, and she fell in love with the area of Blue Lake, California.

Levi worked nights as a security guard for a large company in San Francisco and was gone every night. Beth stayed awake at night and slept during the day with Levi.

Upon moving into the house, Beth begged Levi to allow her to raise chickens so that she could have fresh eggs. He told her she could but would have to build the chicken house herself. Since her waking hours were during the night, that is when she built. The creatures watched from afar as Beth worked by herself to build a chicken coop and reinforced it enough to keep out predators.

Shortly after sunrise, Levi would return home hungry for food and Beth. After eating his meal, he would grab Beth and bend her over the dining table, push aside her under garments and thrust himself inside her. Then, he showered and went to bed. Sometimes, Beth would want more of Levi, and if he was in a good mood, he would allow her to have more of him. If not, she would be rejected and asked to leave the room.

Once the chicken coop was built and the chickens were laying eggs, Beth sat with them. She loved to sing and would serenade the chickens with tunes from Elvis Presley.

The creatures were especially drawn to music because it was one thing that couldn’t be thrown away. No matter how hard one tried, a song would remain a part of a person’s soul.

One night, Beth was singing “I can’t help falling in love with you,” in the chicken coop. Her voice, while melodious, was filled with sorrow. The creatures ventured a little too close and she spotted them. Startled, Beth jumped up and cracked her head on the roof of the coop, falling to the ground unconscious.

The creatures rushed in to help her and get her safely in the house. When she awoke, she remembered the creatures and knew they helped her get in the house. From that night on, she looked for them, but never saw them. She would sit at the edge of the forest and sing, hoping they would come out and she could see them closer, but they never came.

One of her lonely nights at home, she wandered among the edge of the forest. She spotted a small house made of rock that was now crumbling from age. Checking the threshold for sturdiness, she entered the small room. Furniture was disintegrating in every corner, but anything else that could have been there looked to have been picked through. Making her way around the four walls, running her fingers along the slats, she imagined who would have lived here. She thought about a man and woman, happily married and welcoming their first child to the world. She imagined the husband bending down and kissing his wife on her sweaty forehead and promising he will build a larger house for the three of them, and maybe even more children in the future.

Every step she took, creaked the same, except one of her steps made a hollower creaking. She bent to inspect it and discovered a secret compartment in the floor. Inside the small space, she found a tattered, yellowed and crumbled piece of paper. Carefully opening it, she noticed there was writing inside. The light was poor, and the wind was heavy, so Beth tucked the paper into her pocket, so she could inspect it at home.

The writing was difficult to decipher because of the age and viability, but she was able to guess in most places and rewrite the message into the following:

11 November 1874

I’ve been watching the little creatures for weeks now. I first came upon them when I was humming a hymn the other night. It startled me when I saw tiny little eyes—that looked quite human—peering at me from the tree line. Never having seen a creature such as that, I became curious. I didn’t think they were a danger to me, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

The next night—a full moon—I thought I would have enough light to see them more clearly. I sat by the edge of the woods and began humming. Nothing happened, so I began singing and then I saw it. A little scurry, and then the tiny intelligent eyes.

I continued this ritual for several nights, and watched as they got closer and closer to me, until one of them let me touch it. They aren’t lovely, but they aren’t hideous beings. They are small, about a foot tall, the color of a cup of tea, with black hair. Their legs and arms are no bigger than the length of my hand, from wrist to fingertip.

Finally, I asked if I could follow them and see where they live. They just looked at me and blinked. I don’t think I’ve ever heard them speak or make a noise. Then, they turned around and began walking away. I took it as an invitation to follow, so I did. What I found was nothing short of extraordinary.

Their homes—well it was more like a village, really—were made of all sorts of discarded things. Wooden crates, wagon wheels, empty cans of food, clothing, and everything that I have ever seen discarded was there and being used as shelter, or some form of survival for them. The little one that I’ve been closest to, showed me where, I assume, he sleeps. It was a wooden crate, standing on its side, with a woman’s headscarf tied from one side to the other. He climbed in and showed me his hammock type bed. It looked quite cozy.

I followed them for many days and realized that they hunt for discarded things, and if something seems to have been wasted, they get quite angry about it. One man tossed a kitten out. I knew it was his wife’s pet, because I overheard them in the market when she asked him for it. Tom Wallace was hesitant but finally agreed to his wife, Simone. I don’t know what happened, but something made Tom toss the cat out. The little scavenger creature seemed to be quite angry, but they took the tiny cat back to their village and forbade me from following. Days after that, I watched as they returned to Tom Wallace’s house day after day.

Later, Tom was hospitalized for having a mental break down. Everyone said he couldn’t take the chattering from the little creatures in the woods, but I never heard them make a sound. I’ve been starting to hear more of these stories, and I’ve come to a conclusion.

The little creatures must be able to get in the minds of people that throw things of value away. They take the discarded things and do something with them, and then return to the person that wasted the item and chatter at them through their mind until they go mad. They do their scavenging and chattering at night. I’ve decided to call them the scavengers.

 

Beth was even more intrigued by the tiny creatures she saw. After sunrise, Levi returned and followed his ritual. When he was done with filling his need with Beth, she showed him the paper. He read it and then looked at her. She noticed something had sparked a fury in his eyes and she apologized. He screamed at her and commanded that she never mentions the creatures again, and then struck her hard across the cheek, sending her crashing to the floor.

Beth cried as Levi slept soundly in the bed they shared. Around dinner time, Levi gathered his belongings and said he had to go to work early. The sun was falling behind the trees and the fog was pouring in with the promise of night on the horizon. Beth rushed out to the yard to gather the clothing she hung on the line before they were soaked from the fog’s moisture. Hearing a noise, Beth squinted into the trees and saw one of the creatures watching her. Beth slowly walked to the tree line, expecting the creature to run away, but it stayed. She sat at the edge and tried to draw it to her, so she began singing “Are you lonesome tonight,” and then buried her face in her hands as she wept and said, “because I am.” When she lifted her face again, the creature was right in front of her.

The creature reached its little hand out and touched the tears streaming her face. Beth looked into the eyes and saw something familiar. They were eyes that reminded her of Levi, only much kinder. The creature motioned for her to follow. Beth obeyed and followed the scavenger through the trees until they came to a little cabin. Motioning for Beth to look in a window, Beth saw Levi in the arms of another woman. She watched as Levi kissed the woman and moved slowly and gently with her. She watched as he took such care to make the woman feel good.

“He doesn’t care for you. He is only capable of caring for himself. Just like his father was.” The scavenger never spoke a word, but the thoughts of her echoed in Beth’s head. A woman’s voice.

Beth ran back through the woods and into her house and fell onto her bed.

“I have no one.” Beth said.

“Come join us. You can be our family.” Beth looked up to see the tiny figure standing in front of her.

Agreeing, Beth took her hand and followed her out to the woods. The scavenger led Beth, going deeper until the redwoods were very thick. There in the middle of the trees Beth saw a soft yellow glow coming from warm lights lining their small village. The scavenger took Beth into the heart of the village and motioned for her to sit down. The scavenger then scurried into one of the small hut type buildings and Beth waited until she came out with another scavenger. This scavenger looked much older than the one that had been with Beth, and she could tell he had a lot of wisdom in his eyes. Beth watched as he climbed a stack of crates until he was face to face with her.

“Oh, my darling girl, I’m so sorry you had to feel this pain.” The words filled Beth’s head and sounded smooth, rich and sweet like a honey butter biscuit. Tears filled her eyes and the longing to be comforted ached inside her.

“You will never have to feel this pain again. We will never hurt you like this and you will always be treated with high worth here.” The scavenger reached out and collected her tears into a small vial. “All you have to do is say, ‘yes.’”

Beth took in a deep breath that rippled along her throat as she inhaled. “Yes,” she said.

The scavenger ran his thumbs over her eyebrows, took in a deep breath, and blew air into her eyes. After he was done blowing, Beth collapsed onto the wooden platform. The scavenger jumped down from his tower of crates and stood on Beth’s chest. He pushed his hand into her chest, reached far into her, and pulled out Beth’s heart.

The other scavengers gathered around to watch the ancient ceremony, as they have many times before. The scavenger laid the heart on the ground and began piling a bucket of the rich compost on top. After the heart was buried, he took the vial of tears and poured it on the soil. The compost lifted into the air and swirled like a mild twister, holding the heart in the eye. All the scavengers stood and watched as the spinning heart and soil formed another scavenger.

 

Levi returned home from work as always, but didn’t see Beth waiting for him in the kitchen. He shook his head, figuring she must be angry with him. He grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, and walked around the house looking to see if anything is missing as an indicator that she left him, but everything was as it should. Levi made his way to their bedroom to check her clothes and saw her laying in the bed, asleep.

Angry with her laziness, he nudged her to wake her, and realized her body is stiff and cold. “Beth?”

He touched her face and felt that it’s cold and stiff too, her life long gone. Levi dropped his bottle and panicked.

“Not again,” he said.

The memory of finding his mother in the same spot, on her bed, flooded his mind. His father had been arrested for her death and went crazy behind the bars of Alcatraz. Levi hoisted her body up over his shoulder and took her out back. He dropped her to the ground, so he could get a shovel from the shed. Her body fell to the ground like a ruck sack would if it were dropped.

Levi grabbed one of her ankles and drug her to the chicken coop. He lifted the coop and moved it to the side, and began digging. He figured if he buried her under the coop then it would be a little more hidden from the world. Beth didn’t have any family, really didn’t have any friends, and Levi made sure she stayed home so he wasn’t worried about anyone reporting her missing. It took hours to dig six feet into the earth. Finally, he pushed her into the hole and started shoveling the dirt in to fill it. Not wanting a large mound, Levi pushed the wheelbarrow and filled it with the extra dirt, and then moved the chicken coop back in its place, now over Beth’s grave.

Exhausted and dirty, Levi lay on the couch and slept.

The light of the full moon filled the living room, waking Levi. He rose and went to shower. He watched as the dirt colored water swirled down the drain, and suddenly he was overcome with emotion. He wasn’t sad about Beth, it was much deeper than that. He sat in the tub and sobbed.

Levi lay in bed for days, not reporting for work, and letting the chickens starve. At night, his head filled with thoughts from voices that weren’t his own. He tried to drown them out by drinking, but it only worked momentarily, because they came back every night.

One morning, a police officer came looking for Levi. His job had reported him missing. The officer knocked on the door, but no one answered. Smelling something awful, the officer noticed a chicken coop with dead chickens lain about, the side of the coop had been torn off from an animal most likely, but it was curious as to why it didn’t take the chickens. There in the middle of the coop was a whole that looked to have been dug out by small paws digging the dirt. The officer looked into the coop and into the hole and noticed a woman’s body.

The police excavated the woman and conducted a search of the house, finding Levi, who was mumbling things under his breath, but unable to look at the officers, or talk with them.

“Take him to the hospital for evaluation,” one officer told another.

The hospital’s evaluation found Levi to be in good physical health, but poor mental health. They referred him to Redwood Rehabilitation Center, nestled in the redwood forest outside the city of San Francisco. The Redwood Rehab Center is known for treating patients with severe schizophrenia and psychosis.

 

The Thomas house wasn’t on the market long before a family purchased it. The night after the family moved in, they sat out back on the porch looking at the spans of the night sky, speckled with stars. They listened to the creatures of the night howling and hooting at the big, bright full moon. If they listened really closely, they could hear a song floating through the trees.

“Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go. You have made my life complete, and I love you so…”

“Wonder where that music is coming from?” The man asked his wife.

“I don’t know, but it sounds beautiful, almost hypnotic.”

“Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled. For my darling I love you, and I always will.”

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