Signal to Noise

by Gordon Bonnet

Tyler Vaughan is a wildlife biologist who spends his days ear-tagging elk and monitoring bear populations in the Oregon Cascades. . . until the day one of his remote cameras captures an image of a strange, thin, eyeless humanoid—right around the time that children start disappearing from the nearby town of Crooked Creek.

Tyler, his would-be girlfriend Rainey Carrington, and the skeptical, blustering Chief of Police Dale Blodgett, are reluctantly drawn into investigating a terrifying possibility—that their town is being visited by the specter of Slender Man, an evil entity long associated with kidnapping of children. The stakes only get higher when their inquiries turn them into targets. Will they be able to stop whoever is abducting the children of Crooked Creek, or will they be the next ones to disappear?

Excerpt:

He snorted, and double-clicked the icon for the memory card. A list of files came up. Judy walked over and leaned on the back of his chair, looking over his shoulder.

"Well, we got some action yesterday." He clicked on the first file, which was timestamped 09:13 06-16-2015, and got a blurry photograph of the back half of an elk.

She chuckled. "Wow. An elk ass. That’s calendar quality."

"They don’t have to be beautiful, just identifiable."

The next four, through that day, showed a variety of chipmunks, birds, and mule deer.

She pointed at the screen. "There’s a cluster from last night."

The timestamp on the last fifteen files ran from 21:48 to 21:59, and then abruptly stopped.

"So Lardass the bear killed the camera around ten o’clock." He clicked on the first of the files.

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The camera was equipped with a low-intensity infrared sensor, and switched over to taking thermal imaging photos after sunset. The first three were mostly dark, with vague green blurs that gave no information.

Number four was more interesting. It showed an orange blob, some distance from the camera, but clearly an animal of some size.

Five through eight were blurred, but showed that Lardass was getting closer. The infrared shots were usually harder to make out anyway, but the bear was moving at a good clip. There was no detail to go by.

Then he clicked on file number nine.

"Holy shit," Judy said, under her breath.

What was approaching the camera was clearly not a bear. It glowed yellow, red, and orange against the black background, but it was up on two legs. Its head was oval, not bullet-shaped, and its arms were too long and thin to be a bear’s.

"That’s a person," Tyler said.

"Or a Sasquatch." From her breathless tone, he couldn’t tell if she was serious or not.

He chose not to respond.

He clicked the next frame with a trembling hand. Ten was poorly resolved, but the creature was closer.

Eleven showed an outline that made it even more certain that whatever had destroyed the camera was not Lardass. The thing in the photograph was elongated, thin, resembling a scarecrow or a stick figure. Tyler was used to the way that infrared photographs distort appearances, but even so, he'd never seen an image of a human that tall. Or thin.

Could it really be… no, I’m not going to say it.

Twelve through fourteen were blurred red and orange smudges.

He double clicked file number fifteen.

"Jesus Christ!" he shouted.

If what was in front of the camera was not a bear, it was not Bigfoot, either. Long, thin arms, impossibly long even though foreshortened by the angle, reached out toward the camera. A narrow torso took up most of the bottom of the field. But at the top, glowing orange in its own warmth, was an oval head, tilted as if it were looking at the camera in mild puzzlement, trying to figure out how best to destroy it.

The face had no features at all. It was a smooth oval, yellow at the edges, orange in the center. No mouth, no nose, no eyes. It was looking into Tyler’s face, as if studying him through the monitor screen, but without any of the usual equipment humans would study something with.

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About the Author

I write speculative fiction -- my stories center around changing one or two of the rules and seeing what happens.  What if myths were based on something real?  What if there was a place that kept track of every possible outcome for every decision made by every human on Earth?  What if there was a universal junkyard -- where all the lost things go, including lost people?

My novels take perfectly ordinary people and place them in completely extraordinary circumstances.  I not only ask, "What if...?", I ask, "What if it happened to you?"


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