Little Red

mohawk haan crows close up

Sit down everybody and listen closely, for I have a story to tell. You all know about things that go bump in the night, the mystical and mysterious creatures of legend. You all know about werewolves, witches, and vampires. You’ve all heard about The Jersey Devil and El Chupacabra, but how many of you know about Little Red?…

My name is Rob and I’m documenting what I know about Little Red on my voice-recorder. Why am I speaking into this machine instead of writing this down? Let’s just say that it’s easier to speak it than it is to write it down.

This all happened a few years ago when I lived in an apartment complex called “The Redwood.” The Redwood was, well, I’m not going to mince words, the Redwood was a shithole plain and simple. It was an apartment complex in the “bad part of town,” and it of course had its share of less than desirable people.

There was Paula from 2263 who I found out was only a few years older than me, but if you were to look at her, you would think that she was in her late 60’s or early 70’s. A lifetime of bad decisions from drinking daily to smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day will do that to you. She had dingy, stringy black hair that was the worst dye job that you had ever seen on a woman. If Marilyn Manson had been a woman, this is what he would look like.

There was Linda from 2060 who had a string of failed marriages and had also made a bunch of bad decisions throughout her life and she ended up at The Redwood as well. I could always hear her coming while I was out and about in the complex because she had a bluetooth speaker that she wore attached to her belt loop and she would play the pop music that the Zoomers today find popular. Linda had short blonde hair and at first glance she looked sort of like a Q-Tip with her hairdo. She loved her whiskey, her weed, and her Lortabs though.

And then there was “The Troll.” I say that because I don’t even want to know her name. All I know is that she lives across from me in 2166. The first thing that I see when I go to leave for work is the Troll sitting out on her balcony every morning or every evening, depending on my work schedule. The Troll would sit out on her balcony and she would be blasting whatever horrible music that it was that she liked to listen to and usually she would be drinking and screaming at Jeff, her boyfriend. She would be so loud sometimes that her voice would carry over the entire complex. How else would I know that she hadn’t been properly laid in months and that she had chronic pain from an injury that she received in a car accident?

I remember the first time that I had any interaction with the Troll and it was one of the many times that she was screaming at Jeff about whatever. It was early August and I had the window to my apartment open, hoping to catch a little breeze to cool me off. The cheap, tiny air conditioner unit that was stuck in my window was dead. Again. And my apartment was an oven. I stared out the window at the Troll who happened to look in my direction at the same time. She screeched at me, “Mind your own fucking business!” Normally, that’s exactly what I do, but it was a hot afternoon and I had had enough and so I yelled back at her, “That’s what I’m trying to do, except you’re making your shit my fucking business! Go inside!” And it was “on” from there.

My war with the Troll never really escalated beyond sneers from her and smiles and waves from me and although she never tried to hide the fact that she didn’t like me, I just acted all the more nicer just to piss her off. It worked. Her daily yelling and screaming became so normal and so tiring that one day I couldn’t stand it anymore and so I turned her in to the apartment management and to my surprise, they actually did something about it for once. They called the cops on her.

While the police had corralled the Troll in her apartment with Jeff, I was standing out in the courtyard, having a cigarette. That’s when I first met Linda and Paula that I mentioned earlier. They were giggling like a couple of schoolgirls and I could smell the weed and the booze on them. It wafted and exuded out of their pores like a toxic fog.

Even though it was building management that had called the cops on the Troll, everybody in the complex just assumed it was me that did it. In a roundabout way, I guess they were right.

So there I was, having a cigarette and trying to cool off and relax when Linda and Paula came over to talk to me. Like I said earlier, both of them ended up at The Redwood due to poor life choices. Now that I think about it, what does that say about me? Nevermind. While I was standing there, listening to these two drunk, stoned women prattle on about the comings and goings in the complex, I noticed a young couple with a young child and a very large dog, walking through the complex. The dog’s name was “Bee.” I have no idea what it stands for or if it’s a shortened version of something else, I just know that I’ve heard the guy when he calls for the dog, he calls it “Bee.”

Paula noticed me looking at the couple and the dog, and she said, “Lots of pets in this complex. You got Bee over there, a mangy, yellow tabby cat named Rufus from 1839 that runs around here, pissing on everything like he owns it, and somewhere around here, there’s a three legged, one earred, half blind mongrel named Lucky. He looks good compared to his owner.”

“Sure are a lot of animals around here,” I agreed noncommittally. “I’m still waiting to wake up and see deer in the common area.”

“Oh for sure!” Linda cackled. “It’s only a matter of time before they come in.”

“Hey have you seen the chicken?” Paula butted in.

“Chicken?” I asked.

“Lord yes! There’s a chicken that hangs around here!” Linda piped up before Paula could get the chance to continue.

I started wondering about this chicken and where it was and where it had come from. I guess I got so caught up in my thoughts that I didn’t realize that Linda and Paula had started fighting with each other. All I know is that I had to jump in the middle of these two older ladies and pull them off of each other. Both of them had small clumps of each other’s hair in their hands.

I told them both goodnight and went back to my apartment, I don’t have time for that kind of bullshit and I don’t want any part of it. Besides, the police were still there dealing with Jeff and the Troll and the last thing that I needed was them turning their attention towards us.

I woke up early the next morning since I was on the morning shift at my job that day and when I went outside to go and get into my car, that’s when I saw it for the first time.

The chicken.

I didn’t know what to expect when I saw it, but it was somewhat disappointing. I guess I was hoping for a big, red rooster. This bird was a little, brownish colored hen. She was sitting on the landing of my building, next to my neighbor’s door. She had been sitting there, roosting from last night if I had to guess, and if she hadn’t stood up, done that head bobbing thing that chickens do, and flapped her wings, I would have stepped on her. That’s how close she had been to me.

I stopped and slowly backed up and went back inside my apartment. I had some bread in the fridge that I wanted to feed to her because to me, she looked hungry. I came back out and she was still there. I pulled pieces and chunks from the couple of slices of bread that I had and threw them towards her. She initially flapped and kind of ran away from them, but when she realized what they were, she came back and began pecking at them and eating them. I finished throwing the pieces of bread towards her and then I left and went to work.

If she was still around later when I got back, I would feed her some birdseed, I thought. If she’s still around when I get back, I’m going to give her a name. I’m going to call her, Little Red.

When I got home from work that afternoon, Little Red was down by the dog run. Pecking around, looking for worms I imagine. I tore open the bag of birdseed that I had picked up after I got off work and threw a couple of handfuls towards her. She immediately darted towards where I threw the seed and began pecking away.

I felt so happy that she was eating my birdseed and I knew that I was doing a good and kind thing. I kept sprinkling out little handfuls of seed and was working my way closer to her, I wanted to see if I could actually touch her.

So there I was, sprinkling and moving ever closer, and Little Red, the now unofficial mascot of The Redwood, was pecking and clucking at the seed. I finally ended up right next to her and I slowly leaned down and touched her.

She was soft and sort of silky and she didn’t seem the least bit scared of me. In fact, she cocked her head to the side and looked at me quizzically, as if trying to decide something. She made a couple of clucks and pecked at the ground while I had visions and fantasies of this chicken being the mascot and sort of “pet” for the apartment complex. Paula and Linda would “ooh and ahh” over my taming of the bird, and everybody would come around and want to see and pet my new friend.

I was talking softly to Little Red about this, about her status as the mascot for The Redwood and how everybody would want to pet her and feed her and how everybody would go looking for her after that day, telling each other and anybody who would listen about her, when it happened.

Although it’s been several years since it happened, I can see it in my mind’s eye plain as day as if it had happened yesterday.

I was talking to Little Red about all of these wonderful things that were going to happen for her here at The Redwood, when she cocked her head as if listening to me, and maybe she actually was, and then she opened her beak, clucked once, and then she flapped her wings and attacked me.

I was so startled by her change of behavior and demeanor that she totally caught me off-guard. I was too slow and had my hands full with birdseed in one and the bag of seed in the other that I wasn’t able to fend her off or defend myself.

The pain of her talons scratching my face was excruciating and when she went for my eyes, it was as if someone had poked me with a white-hot poker. I saw blazing white and felt warm liquid running down my face and I remember screaming and beating about my head, trying to get Little Red off of me, and that’s when everything went dark.

I woke up later in the hospital and to my shock and horror, everything was black. No hint of grey, no blurry images or smeared colors, but complete and absolute black.

I told you at the beginning that I was documenting this on my voice recorder because it was easier to say it than it was to write it down, and that’s because Little Red scratched both of my eyes out.

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Nothing Like A Good Old Fashioned Horror Story.

man lights legs silhouette
“I was sent by Triple A? I heard you have a flat tire? I’m here to help.”

For pretty much all of my life, I’ve been a fan of the “horror genre.” Books, movies, TV shows, you name it. Most of the fiction literature that I’ve read has been one form of horror or another.

Vampires. Were-wolves. Zombies. Aliens. Let’s not forget, at least when it comes to movies, guys in hockey masks, guys in blue coveralls, guys with knives strapped onto their hands.

Looking back on a lot of it, man, it was cheesy and hokey. Some of the films I used to watch, while they wouldn’t scare me, but maybe they would give me a sense of unease, of dread. Lately watching some of these films, I tend to find them somewhat silly and even boring.

I guess you grow up, you mature. Nothing wrong with any of this material, it definitely has a nostalgia factor to them. I can remember where I was when I first read or saw whatever it was. Good times.

I guess the horror literature and movies don’t do it so much for me anymore because of what can actually go on in the real world.

True crime is a horror genre in itself, the only difference is that the boogyman is real. I find this particular genre fascinating in and of itself as well. The how’s and possible why’s of what one individual or group of individuals did to another person or group. The why’s don’t bother me as much, they did what they did because they could and they wanted to, after all. Anything else is really just a label, a compartmentalization, a rationalization. A way for us the readers and viewers to say, “I could never do that.” Sure you could. Given the right circumstances and motivations, we are truly capable of anything.

There’s another boogeyman that’s real though too.

This one isn’t outside of us. It isn’t some other individual or group doing things to us, it’s in our own minds. It is us.

That boogeyman is very real. It’s all of our doubts and insecurities. It’s that nagging voice that tells you you can’t. It’s that thought that you aren’t good enough. It’s the voice of “why bother.” And it resides in all of us. It’s our inner critic, our slave driver, our own personal demon(s). It’s even that inner whisper of perfection.

If only you do X, Y, Z, in ABC order, then, and only then, will you find perfection. You’ll not fail. You’ll succeed beyond your wildest dreams. But…

People are going to be watching you. They are going to laugh when you fall down, they are going to jeer when you fail. And your failure will hang around your neck, like an albatross, cursing you for all eternity. So just give up. Laughter and pointing fingers, and the judgment that you surely will receive! Everyone will see you as that failure. You will wear that scarlet A. And you will be outcast. Shunned. Unforgiven and alone. A pariah.

Men and women will tell stories about you to their children to frighten them into obedience. “Don’t do that! Or you’ll end up like….And you don’t want that do you?”

Am I being outlandish? Sure I am. And yet I’m not. We all have our personal demons that whisper to us and tell us these frightening things. They tell us that we can’t succeed, that everyone is watching, waiting for us to fall down so they can laugh and judge. They tell us why bother. They tell us, don’t worry about it, do it tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. And yet, tomorrow never comes.

They tell us that what we have to offer is of no consequence. They tell us someone else has already said and done it before. They tell us there is too much competition and that the market is too saturated.

They tell us that we will never be good looking enough, athletic enough, strong enough, thin enough, young enough, rich enough, and smart enough, so why bother?

These demons in our minds, they will tell us a lot of things. And we’ll turn them into reality if we listen long enough and believe them.

But we don’t have to. We can choose to ignore them. We can choose to exorcise them and cast them out. We can choose to listen and believe in something else.

We can choose to accept that we are not perfect and never will be. We can choose to figure that we are good enough. We can always strive to do and be better, but while striving, we can be okay with where we are at and who we are. We can look back at who we were yesterday and see the progress that we have made today.

We can choose to see those demons for what they really are. Smoke and mirrors. Hokey guys with fake machetes and plastic masks, dripping fake blood.

We can choose something else.

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