From what she could see, the creatures seemed to be about the size of chimpanzees, but looked much more human than ape. They would dart in and out, stabbing at him with their little spears. With each jab, Alec would let out a low moan and they would respond with a wild high-pitched yip. Soon their voices took on a cadence, building up to a crescendo of demonic shrieks and cackles somewhat reminiscent of the nightly songs of the coyotes. And then silence as one of them stepped forward.
The creature wore a loincloth, but no shoes, and its skin appeared leathery. Coarse, dark hair covered its arms and legs, and it had nappy dreadlocks that hung to its waist. Jasmine guessed it was a female from the look of her swollen belly and pendulous breasts. A jagged scar ran across her upper chest from shoulder to shoulder. The creature let out a sharp yip and was soon joined by another one, this one smaller, a juvenile. It raised its spear above its head. Jasmine could just make out the savage sneer on the young creatures face. Alec tried to push himself up.
“Jasmine, run, get help.” Alec’s voice was muddled. “Please Jasm…” His words ended abruptly as the spear flashed down, again and again.
A scream, shrill and piercing and full of loss and pain, escaped from between Jasmine’s chattering teeth.
The creatures, swift and sure in the darkness, scampered towards her, screeching and hissing. As they got closer, she could smell them, their pungent musk making her gag. Once again they started to sing, their voices reverberating in the stillness of the night.
Jasmine closed her eyes. Sobbed prayers poured out of her mouth. She whispered apologies to her parents, hoping that by some magic they would carry on the wind. She took a deep breath and prepared for the end.
The bellowing BOOM of a shotgun startled and scattered the creatures. Jasmine opened her eyes and could see the outline of someone racing towards her. She saw the second shot, a stab of flame leaping out of the barrel, before she heard the sharp report. Something landed next to her with a heavy thud. It was one of the creatures, its lifeless eyes staring back at her, its innards splattered all across the rocks.
Jasmine looked back towards the armed silhouette. She could barely make it out as her rescuer kicked one of the creatures in the chest, sending it flailing backwards. A dark hand reached down and grabbed her, pulling her to her feet.
“Come on, we’ve got to get out of here quick.” Jasmine was startled by the surprisingly soft and feminine voice.
“Alec,” Jasmine said, her eyes searching in the dim light for her boyfriend. “We’ve got to find Alec.”
Her rescuer grabbed her by the arm and started towards the road. Jasmine saw a truck parked next to their car, running with its headlights off. She heard the creatures scurrying around in the underbrush surrounding them.
“Forget it. He’s dead,” the woman said. “And we will be too if we don’t hurry up.”
One of the creatures suddenly appeared before them. The woman let go of Jasmine’s arm and swung her shotgun like baseball bat, the stock end of the gun hitting the creature’s head with a sickening thwump.
“Let’s go, NOW,” the woman shouted as she grabbed Jasmine’s arm again.
Pain lanced up from her ankle as she hobbled to the truck as fast as she could. As she hopped inside she was greeted with the soothing sounds of Joan Baez and the faint scent of patchouli incense. The woman jumped behind the wheel and slammed the truck into gear. Gravel launched into the night as the truck accelerated and raced from the shoulder of the road to the worn asphalt of the old highway.
When they were safely down the road, the woman clicked on the dome light and Jasmine got her first good look at her savior. Two long, silver-streaked braids framed a soft and delicate face that was just beginning to show signs of aging. Little creases encircled her gentle brown eyes and her smile radiated a motherly warmth. The woman grasped her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Jasmine’s mind flashed back to the way she swung her shotgun, crushing the creature’s skull. She pulled her hand away and recoiled in horror. She tried to look out the back window but saw nothing but her own scared reflection.
“We need to go back, we need to find Alec.”
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do for your friend.”
“What the fuck were those things?”
“Did you know that every Native American tribe has legends and stories about a race of little people? Not some, not most, but all of them? Every single tribe, did you know that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about those little demons that just sliced up your friend. Every tribe has a different name for them. Around here the Shoshone and Paiutes called them the Nimerigar, the People-Eaters.”
“What? Who are you? How do you know all this?”
“I used to teach anthropology at the University of Nevada. Folklore of indigenous cultures. I’m Gaia. Gaia Garcia.”
“We need to call the police,” Jasmine said.
Gaia stared at the long, straight Nevada highway stretching out in front of them.
“Calling the police won’t help,” she clicked off the dome light and turned up the radio, letting darkness and the voice of Joan Baez fill the cab of the truck. “The cops around here aren’t really big on helping with things they don’t understand.Trust me.”
Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Caleb Ekeroth