The Ranch (Part 5)
Updated: Sep 24
The family waited until first light before venturing out to try to seek the missing bull. Sherman peeked out of the ranch first. The cows acting their usual behavior. There was nothing on the horizon in either direction to give further pause. Sherman then stepped all the way out, with Terry close behind. They had agreed before leaving to stay on specific routes to avoid anything happening to each other. They followed the corral’s fence first, looking for an obvious sign of where the bull might have ventured off to. Sherman had started South, and Terry went North.
Sherman had almost completed the entire circle as he started up the straightaway, now heading north. He saw Terry on his horse, waving to him. Sherman took his horse to a gallop to see what Terry had found. Along the trees, not far from where Sherman had tracked the cow the previous day, was an eviscerated body of his prized bull. The bull had been torn in half and the pieces were ten yards apart. The insides of the bull had been pulled out, and were missing.
“What could have done this, dad?” Terry muttered.
“I don’t know, but we need to get the Sheriff out here to review the footage.”
With the family gathered inside of the small ranch, they waited for the Sheriff to return and review the footage. The Sheriff did not return, but one of his deputies did, not Justin Henley, but a new one. Sherman escorted the deputy around the property to gather the four cards from the cameras that had been installed. As a single unit, they watched as the deputy tried to review the footage from the night before. The family collectively held their breathes as the first chip was put into the small device.
“Hm.” The Deputy grunted as the first chip produced no image. He tried the same chip again, and restarted his small viewing device, but still no image came. He tried the second chip. There came a buzz from the device, and then a text appeared that read “Chip Malfunction.” The Deputy tried a third. This time, an image finally was produced.
“Thank God.” Amy let out. The Deputy scrolled through the images. He pulled up one that showed some movement from the what they could tell was the take from the South end facing North. They all waited, but they only observed the movement of their own cattle from the night before. They watched as the image displayed the circular movement and then eventually Sherman and Terry as they came out to observe the cows. The rest of the images showed nothing unusual and only started again when Sherman and Terry emerged this morning to look for the bull. The Deputy then switched out the chips to the last one, which displayed images from the East. The image showed nothing. They could not see the corral from there.
“That’s odd.” The Deputy stated.
“What?” Sherman asked, not seeing the oddity of the image.
“The cameras only record when there’s motion. I don’t see anything moving, not even a breeze.” The Deputy clicked his tongue hard against his teeth. “I’ll take these in and see if there is something I am missing. I’ll also let the Sheriff know there’s issues with the units on the north and west side.”
“Deputy, what about our bull?” Amy interjected as the Deputy had started to pack up.
“I’ll get pictures and add them to the evidence. We can also try to increase the rural patrols in the area to see if we can catch the vandals.”
Amy sucked air in hard, but Sherman stopped her words with a light hand on her back. The family watched with blank, stony faces as the deputy left them no better informed than when he had arrived.
“I need to get out there.” Sherman stated, more for his assurance than for his family’s knowledge.
“What are we going to do now?” Amy turned to Sherman. “What if the police don’t find anything?”
“They have to find something.” He retorted.
“And what if they don’t? What if they don’t see anything?”
“I don’t know!” His voice boomed in their house like a howitzer. “I don’t know! What I do know is I can’t stay in here and hide. I can’t let our animals suffer alone.”
Sherman went through his belated morning routine. As he was coming back around the side of the ranch in the early part of the afternoon, his phone began to ring. He took the phone from his belt and saw it was the Sheriff calling.
“Hello, Sheriff.” Sherman answered. “I’m really hoping you found something.”
“Not on the cameras, I did however, see your story in the Twilight Times.” Sherman swallowed hard. “Look, Mr. Green, I understand your family is new here, but do you know the reputation of the Twilight Times?”
Sherman wanted to swear, but swallowed the vile words down instead. “No, Sheriff, I don’t know about them.”
“They’re a tabloid, Mr. Green. I’m not going to say they don’t occasionally report on a good scoop, but your story is on the front page with a flying saucer that reads ‘Family Plagued by Alien Attacks’ and I don’t think that’s the attention you want on your ranch.”
Sherman tightened his fist into such a tight ball his nails threatened to break skin. “Sheriff, I’m sorry. My wife went to town to report the problems we’ve been having. I would not have allowed her to share our dilemma with such an organization.”
“It’s only going to embolden these people, and make it more difficult for us to help.” The Sheriff drew in breath. “I am being told the units on two parts of your property are destroyed. We cannot get them to operate, and the memory cards from those cameras were destroyed as well. We cannot tell yet how they were destroyed, but I am going to guess that it was not a coincidence.”
“You think that someone came out here, knew where the cameras were, and destroyed them before killing my cattle?”
“I’m not ruling it out, but I also acknowledge that only my Deputy Henley and you knew the locations of the cameras.”
“What are you trying to imply, Sheriff?” Sherman growled into the phone.
“I’m not implying anything Mr. Green, I’m not accusing anyone, yet. I will get new units out there, and we’ll see where this goes. You have a good day, Mr. Green.”
That night the family was introduced to more occurrences. The lights had returned. The cows moved away from the lights, which took to the center. The family watched with tenseness as three lights hovered around the center of the corral. They circled, rotating at a perfectly spaced formation and pace. The cows mooed and tried to stay as close to the fence as possible. The lights rotated faster and faster, and their yellowish glow transitioned to a blue. The lights sped up more. The blue balls then converged into one large ball. The massive glowing ball warped into an egg shape and, as quickly as the events started, the light faded. The cows went back to grazing, as if the lights had never been there.
The next morning, to investigate the scene, the entire family went out to the corral. As the cows gazed, they watched their humans with blank stares. In the field where the lights had circled, they found several dead bats, a variety of dead insects, but no explanation. The three spread out, seeking for other clues, any hints of what was happening in their lives.
“Dad! Mom!” Terry call. Both parents bolted to the stable. The heavy buzz of insects indicated to Sherman what he was coming up on. A rancid smell permeated from the stable. As they reached Terry, his terror was confirmed. In the stable was one of their prized family horses, mutilated. The other two horses bucked and cowered from the scene.
“Jesus.” Amy said, trying to smother the smell from her face.
The family spent the rest of the morning moving the body out of the stable. With the conclusion of work, Sherman went to immediately contacting the Sheriff’s Office again. In a few scant hours later, Deputy Justin Henley returned. He remarked how the family should not have moved the horse, but then went about collecting the chips from the perimeter fence. Once more, the family gathered to watch the small device and screen as the images from the night before were replayed. The Southern Device and Eastern device caught nothing, but Deputy Henley also noted, as his colleague had, that the device had recorded scenes while there was no movement. And again, the other two chips were faulty.
“I thought your department replaced the two down units.” Sherman stated after the failed attempt of the fourth chip.
“They did. I personally replaced the devices, too. I’ll go check them again.”
With no closure again, family was left to their own devices. They went through their daily tasks with a mechanical detachment, doing only what was necessary. Each member looking over their shoulder as part of every moment task that was to be completed. Late into the afternoon, just before supper, Sherman received another call from the Sheriff once more.
“Mr. Green, I need you to be honest with me. Are you sure no one else knows about these cameras?”
“That’s a hell of a way to start a conversation, Sheriff. Only your deputy and myself.”
Sherman heard the Sheriff snort and clear his throat over the phone. “The North and West units are destroyed. No indication how, again.”
“Maybe your deputies are being watched while they place them. I was not with your deputy the last time they were installed.”
“Maybe. Listen, I’ll keep the other two units there, but I cannot let this be a drain on our department.”
“A drain on your department? I’ve lost valuable cattle, Sheriff. I lost a healthy and equally valuable horse today as well. What are you doing to help us? What are you doing?!”
There was a long delay before the Sheriff responded. “Mr. Green, I’m going to be frank with you. What I see is a family that got in over their heads on land they can’t afford and are jumping on a hoax to make some fame and publicity, and this little antic of going to the papers reinforces that belief. My deputies will continue to monitor with the units we have out there. I will be sure to let you know if we identify anything. You have a nice day.” The Sheriff hung up without another word to Sherman.
“God damnit!” Sherman shouted into the heated void of his ranch.
The night settled in on the disturbed family. Out the windows, the sagebrush and cattle were like ghosts in the evening darkness. Amy sat up, alert in the darkness. Sherman had somehow tricked himself into a sleep. The lights had not returned yet, but something told Amy it would. Amy could only wonder how long it would take before the killings would go from animals to humans, to them. Even with most of her body under the covers, a chill pricked her skin up. They were not alone.
The house rumbled, then it was withdrawn, and the rumble returned with a cracking sound. The house shook. A thumping came that jolted the house and its occupants to a rhythm. Sherman reached for a nearby lamp, and the rumbling stopped as soon as the light came on.
“Dad!” Terry screamed from the other room. Amy and Sherman both bolted for their child. Sherman slammed into the door, but it remained locked. He pounded on the door with the ferocity of a bull. The door swung open and their path was blocked by Terry. “There’s something outside! I saw it, I saw it! It was at my window!”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know! It was massive, like a gorilla, and it stood at the window looking in. When the shaking stopped, it disappeared!” No accusation of childish nightmares or eye trickery was cast. Sherman bolted back and grabbed his rifle. Without care of his own wellbeing, he ran to the front door and cast himself out into the dark.
The wind whispered to him. Cows stirred from the commotion, but nothing else moved. Sherman moved around the ranch, seeking the intruder, invigorated finally to put a face to at least one occurrence, yet he could find no intruder. He looped around again, double checking himself, and still, nothing was amiss and no shadowy figures lurked waiting for him. Sherman went to his son’s window and inspected the area. The dirt had been disturbed. Something had moved and shifted the dirt about, but there was no distinguishable print he could identify, and no signs of tracks coming to or from the window. It was as if the intruder had teleported in and then teleported away once it was discovered.
The next morning, the family had discovered two more cows missing. One was eventually found, dead, and eviscerated. They did not find the other. Sherman had tried calling the Sheriff again, and this time, no deputy bothered to respond at all. The family was reassured that it was added to their case file. Over the next several days, the family lost more cattle, and more strange figures were seen in the fields at night, or near their windows. Their calls to the local law enforcement went unanswered, or worse, responded to “when an officer was available.” Amy had tried to go above, to state and federal agencies, but they referred her back to local law enforcement, or just vaguely mentioned they would investigate if resources cleared up. The accumulation of events were weighing in on the family. Long restless, and disturbing nights only gave way to dreaded hot days with more financial lost and a hovering threat of ruin for the family.