Here Be Monsters (Tyler Cunningham)

BOOK: Here Be Monsters (Tyler Cunningham)
5.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Here Be Monsters


Jamie Sheffield




“Here Be Monsters”

© Jamie Sheffield, 2013


Front cover map reproduction of Carta Marina, a wall map of Scandinavia, by Olaus Magnus. The caption reads :
A Marine map and Description of the Northern Lands and of their Marvels, most carefully drawn up at Venice in the year 1539 through the generous assistance of the

Honourable Lord Hieronymo Quirino


Inset map courtesy of


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author /publisher.


Published by SmartPig through CreateSpace and KDP.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


ISBN-13: 978-1481113571

ISBN-10: 1481113577




To my wife Gail –

without your endless help and support,

book would have stayed forever in my head























































When I was a boy, we lived in New York City, in the middle of an orderly and boring gridlike neighborhood, within/abutting a squad of similar neighborhoods; but my dad had maps, lots of maps... they intrigued and seduced me. There were maps of wild places and vast oceans and endless forests and towering mountains and featureless deserts. Some of his oldest maps, from before satellites and airplanes, had empty spaces beyond which nobody had explored. These spaces sometimes had drawings of horrible beasts, and warnings that, "Here be Monsters". I loved the idea of living at the edge of the map, at the rim of uncharted and unknown territories; I promised myself that someday I would live at the edge of the civilized world; I do. The trouble with living at the edge of the map is that the uncharted and unknown territories scare me, and sometimes there are monsters living beyond the light of humanity. Without a good map, you can get lost in the wilderness beyond the edges of maps.





























Jacob and Sadie, 9/4/2012


There was a gentle glow coming on in the sky to my right as I drove north through the cold and empty beauty of the Adirondack Park. I would have pointed the impending dawn out to the girl in the back of my Element if she wasn’t unconscious and bleeding on the easy-to-clean floor. I crossed the northern border of the Park at the same time that the sun crept over the white pines on the side of road. I don't know if that first ray of morning caught her eye, but my passenger groaned, cleared her throat a bit to try and speak, then clacked her teeth hard together again to hold back whatever she was starting to say. I consulted the map in my head, determined that I wouldn’t make it to the house before she started acting up, thought about Murphy's Law and the prevalence of state troopers on backcountry roads for only a moment, and then pulled over to deal with Sadie Hostetler.

, my name is Tyler Cunningham. I'm a friend of your father, Jacob, and I'm taking you home, unless you'd


to go to a hospital." I spoke in the same low tone I use with the skittish dogs I walk at the shelter. I'd talked with Dorothy about this very moment, what I should say if I did manage to find Sadie, and how I should say it. Dorothy runs the animal shelter in Saranac Lake, and if I had friends, she would be one of them.

Based on a lifetime of reading everything within reach on every subject that caught my eye, my opening statement to Sadie should have been reassuring. It should have started to build some trust between us; it didn't.
I'd pulled over and opened the door to the back of the car, so when she hit me with her shoe, we didn't crash, but that was the only good news. She raked for my eyes with significant talons that I hadn't noticed when loading her into the car at a little before 5a.m. that morning. I grabbed her in a bear hug to try and still her; it didn't work. When she started trying to butt me with the back of her head, I pushed her away from me.

"STOP IT!" I yelled, in a much less sympathetic tone than Dorothy might have used in the same situation, but my ear hurt (
from the shoe
) and my cheek stung (
from her nails

"I'm not going to hurt you, we're only about 10 miles from your home, your family likely already has breakfast on the table, and that's where I'll take you if you will stop hitting and screaming."
We were actually closer to 9.2 road miles from Sadie's home, but I've found that people without maps (
and brains
) like mine don't want or need that level of exactitude.

"Who the fuck are you, what's going on, and why on Earth would you think that I want to go to my father's house?" she asked in a tone that I believed signaled anger and fear and frustration, but not imminent violence.

"My name is Tyler Cunningham, owner and operator of Smart Pig Thneedery. I'm bringing you back home at the request of Jacob Hostetler, your father. I'm not at all certain that you want to go home, but I'm very nearly certain that it's a better option than the place you were until a couple of hours ago." Again, 108 minutes is more precise than people generally look for in conversations.

"Your dad... father, asked for my help when he heard from a friend of yours,
Hannah, that you had gotten in some trouble, and subsequently disappeared, while on your Amish version of Walkabout... Rumspringa." This next bit wasn't true, but it was close enough for a girl that had my right ear ringing and blood running down my face and into the collar of a reasonably new shirt, "I owed him a favor, and he asked. Finding you in my world is the sort of thing I'm better at than he would be, or he would have done it himself."

"How did you find me?" she asked, now with some interest and a hint of trust in her voice... at least no open hostility.

"The same way I do everything else, I read and I research and I ask questions... I throw stones in the water, watch the ripples, and adjust my aim until something happens." I could tell that my answer didn't satisfy her, but also that she wasn't going to ask again, which worked just fine for me.

"What are you going to tell my father about how and where you found me?" she asked, noticing for the first time, perhaps, that she had on a too-big man's shirt (
mine, from the get-home-bag I keep in the car
) and a pair of panties that wouldn't be out of place in a dirty laundry-bag.

"He asked me to bring you home,
and that's what I plan to do. What you decide to tell Jacob about the last week of your Rumspringa is your business. Will those men in Placid know how and where to find you, if they decide to look?"

"N-no," she stammered, paling and clenching all over with the memory, "they only knew my first name, unless... my purse!"

"It was on your barstool when you vanished from the bar two nights ago. Your friend Hannah grabbed it and gave it to me when I talked to her yesterday. It's on the front seat, where you can ride now if you want. So we... you should be clear."

She nodded and looked up into my face from the back of my car, and giggled unexpectedly (
to me, at least
), "You're not what I expected."

"What did you expect, the Marines?"

"No, I had this fantasy that my father and uncles would come in whacking those guys with ax handles, or something. I didn't figure on a skinny guy who would cry because of a scratch from a girl."

"I'm tearing, not crying... and for your information, the scratch really hurts. It could get infected."

Sadie smiled and moved into the front seat. We headed down the road again through the thinning woods and into the farmland of far-northern New York, towards home.

Jacob's dog heard my car long before I got to their house, and they both were waiting by a pole-fence when I crunched into the circle in front of the Hostetler Home.
The Amish dress and the lack of pickup trucks in the farm's yard made me feel as though I was driving out of the present day (
where girls got snatched as playthings for monsters masquerading as boys
) and into something that Norman Rockwell (
or his father
) might have drawn.

Jacob nodded at Sadie and waved her up onto the porch where her mother Mary was waiting. He spoke to me only after the women had embraced and gone inside
with arms around each other, "You'll come inside for coffee."

It was a statement, not a question, and so even though I would have preferred a coke, or to be home in bed, I climbed the stairs into Jacob's house, nearly tripping on one that was taller than the others.
We sat at a heavy kitchen table made from slabs of maple wood that was probably chopped to clear the land for this farm a hundred years ago. A younger model of Sadie put steaming cups of black coffee in front of us and closed the door behind her as she left us alone in the hot and pleasantly yeasty kitchen.

Before I made the drive up here to meet Jacob two days earlier, I had (
as always
) done some research, in this case on the Amish, and particularly the Amish of Northern New York. Each small community has their own "Ordnung", or set of rules relating to the "Demut" (
) and "Gelassenheit" (
). Jacob was the leader of the community in Madrid Springs, which included eighteen families. His interpretation/ understanding of the rules was law in their valley. Coming to me, an outsider, for help with his daughter had cost him... might end up costing him the position of leadership he held in his community. I had asked him about it when we met on the 2nd, and he dismissed it with a wave, either assuming that I wouldn't understand because I was an outsider, or that I took it for granted that people took care of family, regardless of cost.

"Tyler Cunningham, I can never thank you in any meaningful way for what you have done for me and for my family."
While he was verbally sneaking up on what was, for him, an uncomfortable subject, I studied... him, his clothes, his kitchen (
most of the room was taken up by a wood-cooking stove and this huge table
), the faucets at his sink, gas and kerosene lanterns on the wall and overhead, and the lack of outlets along the walls. I was mapping this place and the way that it felt and smelled and sounded. I could feel my brain sucking it all in, and the maps that I have inside my head of people and places and ways of being, growing, extending. My interest in Jacob's world was the reason I had allowed myself to be roped into this mess in the first place; not the money he was going to awkwardly offer me in a minute or five.

"My friend Gregory Simmons told me that
you helped him a few years ago,” (
it was actually 17 months ago
) “and that you would help me, but in my rush and upset of the other day, we did not discuss your fee. We can pay any fair price that you name and will count ourselves blessed by God to do it."

"I'm not a detective.
I'm just a guy who does favors for friends with problems or situations that interest me." There was no upside that I could envision in telling him that his daughter didn't interest me nearly so much as the plumbing in their house, or the presence of a gas-powered tractor with wooden wheels on a farm with no trucks.

Jacob seemed flustered by a response different than what he had anticipated, "Is your coffee all right?" I hadn't touched the mug in front of me, while through some magic of timing or signals, as soon as he had finished his, the younger daughter had come in, refilled it, and left again without being asked or summoned.

"It smells wonderful, but I don't enjoy hot drinks." Jacob took this in, looked as though the words hadn't come together in a configuration that he was used to, and pressed ahead.

"I have paid my way in this world since I was 15."

"Gregory bought one of my photographs after the favor that I was able to do him." I suggested.

He seemed to understand this quid pro quo, and followed up on it, "I saw this photograph when I went to seek Gregory's help in the matter of Sadie, and it's a little... showy for my taste."

"Last spring I painted a series of watercolors 20 miles east of here... fields and barns and streams and sky. I used a soft color palette that might go nicely with both your beliefs and with the colors in your house. The last painting I sold in that series went for $500."

Jacob seemed relieved to have a number, and excused himself for a minute, returning with five $100 bills.
He put them in my hand with some ceremony, and intoned, "For the rest of my life, when I look at the painting, I will remember the service that you did me and my Sadie. Still though, I hope that you will call upon me if you ever have need. It would be a blessing to help you if it is within my power."

I told Jacob that I'd bring the painting around within the week. We talked for a few minutes more, about Rumspringa and having to explore the world in order to know it, and the possibility of beauty without the sting of evil.
We were talking about Sadie, but also about Jacob and about me. We shook hands and I walked out and down and into my car (
adjusting my stride to avoid tripping over the single uneven step on my way off of the porch

I left the Hostetler Farm at 8:14a.m., and headed south, headed home to Saranac Lake, NY.
I had expanded my world and maps a little, and seen but not learned (
) the lesson that a simple life in a simple place is not talisman against bad things or bad people. The next ten days would teach me this lesson once and for all, at great cost, and in ways that I couldn't imagine as I navigated my mental map of the world I had built. Everything would be new and unfamiliar, and for people like me, the unfamiliar (
even good, if unfamiliar
), is worse than an anticipated bad thing.

About halfway down to Saranac Lake, at 9:03, I celebrated the 29th anniversary of my birth, as always, in silence and with a hollow awareness of my movement through time and space.


BOOK: Here Be Monsters (Tyler Cunningham)
5.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Camelot's Blood by Sarah Zettel
Darwin's Island by Steve Jones
Love Over Matter by Maggie Bloom
Brimstone by Rosemary Clement-Moore
The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov
Fever 1 - Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper