The Muck Monster
Last night it stormed and stormed and stormed. The rain poured, and the wind roared. Today, I woke up, looked out my window to find that my backyard was a mess. There were branches, sticks, and leaves all over the place. After breakfast, I put my big rubber boots on and started to clean up the sticks and everything thing else that blew into my yard. When I was almost done, I noticed a big, mushy mud puddle I hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t there when I started. Or was it? I couldn’t believe I had been outside working for almost an hour before I realized it was there, but once I saw it, all I wanted to do was jump in it and splash and stomp around. I told myself I’d wait. There were still lots of stuff to pick up, and I could play once I had got all my work done.
But I couldn’t.
I had to jump in the puddle. I HAD to. I tried to to focus on the debris, but the puddle was practically calling my name, so I told myself I’d make one big, glorious splash right in the middle, and the I’d get back to work.
I stretched my legs. I ran in a few small circles to warm up. I crouched down into a runners stance, and I bolted. When I was a few feet away from the puddle, I jumped as I high as I could. It all happened in slow motion. I watched my boots as they got closer and closer to the glistening puddle. Water splashed all around me. My feet began to sink into the muck. I tried to lift my foot, but it was like the mud was sucking my down. It WAS sucking me down. Before I knew it, I was up to my knees in the mud. The more I struggled, the faster I sank. When I was up to waist I was about to call for help when I felt a big hand grab my ankle. It pulled me down with one swift, strong jerk. I closed my eyes and held my breath.
When I opened them, I was in a cave. Roots were poking through the ceiling above me. Worms wiggled around and over my boots. A few torches lit everything with orange light. A giant rock sat upon a bed of dried roots and sticks. I don’t know how, but I could tell there was someone or something behind me. I slowly turned around and saw IT.
“It” was a massive mountain of mud. A muck monster. It was easily twice as tall as me and four times as wide. Its mouth was filled with pointy, jagged rocks. Its arms were two tree branches with pointy sticks for fingers.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” it said. The muck monsters voice sounded like burps. “I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am you are here. For centuries I have eaten only worms and grubs and bugs and the occasional mole, but this day, I feast on human!” It laughed, and its muddy body jiggled and bubbled.
It wrapped its wooden fingers around my waist and lifted me into the air. It stretched its mouth wide enough to eat me in one bite. I was so afraid I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen. Finally, I snapped out of it and yelled, “Wait”!
Amazingly, the muck monster stopped and lowered me to his eye level. “Yes?” he asked.
“You don’t want to eat me.”
“Oh, I’m sure I do.” He stopped and thought for a moment. “Yes. Yes, I do want to eat you.” He started to open his mouth again
“No,” I screamed. “Like this. You don’t want to eat me like this. Cold. Raw. Ew. You should, uh, cook me first. Right?”
It put me down and scratched its head, “I don’t know. I’ve never had a human before. Grubs are good raw, but worms are better hot. Are you more like a worm or a grub?”
“Oh, worm definitely,” I said and and nodded.
“Moles are quite good cooked, as well. I like it when their fur gets crispy.”
I tugged my hair, “This will crisp up nicely.”
The monster considered all these things for a moment and finally put me down. It then oozed its way to the stone and pulled out two of its “teeth”. It struck them together until sparks fell down onto the dried brush producing first a wisp of smoke and then a little fire.
“Once my stone is hot enough, I will cook you, then eat you, and then be very happy.”
I chose my words carefully. I could tell the fire wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t very bright in this cave. “Fair enough,” I said with a shrug, “but you’ll definitely want a hotter fit than that.”
“Yeah. I mean, c’mon. Look at me. I’m a lot bigger than a handful or stickful of worms, right?”
“And you want me to taste good, right?”
“Well, ideally, yes, but ...”
“Then why don’t you send me back up into my yard and get some sticks for you?”
The monster eyed me suspiciously, “How do I know you won’t run away?”
Okay, maybe it was a little smarter than I thought. I didn’t really have a plan B. “I promise?”
The muck monster stared at me, “Fine, but you better not run off.” With that, a hole opened up in the roof of the cave. It picked me up and tossed me back into my yard. I dusted myself off and laughed. I couldn’t believed it worked. I walked to my house to get a drink of water and clean up, but then I stopped and a dreadful thought shot through my head.
What if the muck monster catches someone else? What if it wises up the tiniest bit and actually eats them? I looked back at the puddle to the monsters cave. How could I live with myself knowing that a puddle like that could end up in anybody else’s backyard? Or front yard? Or park? Or, worst of all, playground? I knew I had to come up with something quickly because the sun was really starting to warm up the yard, and the puddle was shrinking.
That’s when I got my second-best idea of the day.
I grabbed a bunch of sticks and hopped back into the puddle. “Alright,” I yelled down into the mud, I’m ready.”
Before I knew it, the muck monster had pulled me down into its cave again. “Took you a very long time. I was beginning to think you broke your promise.”
I laughed a little, “ Hey, come on. You caught me fair and square.” I handed it the pile sticks, and it added some to the small fire. Smoke began to fill the cave. “Mind opening a window?” I coughed and pointed to the roof of the cave.”
“Right,” the monster nodded. It smiled; which was scarier than I like to admit, and added “I want to sear, you not smoke you.”
A hole opened and the smoke cleared. The little fire grew hotter and brighter.
“Better add some more,” I said, lifting the remaining sticks.
The muck monster creeped over to me. His movements were slower. His body wasn’t so jiggly or bubbly anymore. It took the last sticks and threw them on the fire. The flames grew. The sweat dripped down my forehead to my nose.
“Hot enough?” The muck monster strained.
“Not quite.” I walked over to it and pulled out his arms and threw one on the now raging fire.
“Ok, now hop on the rock.”
“Before I do, can I ask you a quick question?”
The muck monster tried to nod but realized it couldn’t. “Yes,” It said without really moving its mouth.
“Do you know what mud becomes once it dries out?”
The monster just looked at me. I couldn’t tell if it was thinking or just couldn’t move its mouth anymore.
“Dirt!” I screamed and bashed it with its arm. The monster crumbled into a heap of dirt and rocks and what looked like bits of bugs and worms and tiny bones. I threw its last arm into the fire and wiped the sweat off my face. My plan had worked. A little too well actually because the the walls and ceiling of the cave were starting to dry out, too. So much so that they were beginning to crumble just as the monster had.
I ran to the opening and jumped up, grabbing a sturdy-looking root. I pulled myself up and climbed as fast as I could as the hole itself started to crumble and close beneath me. I made it back up to the above ground world and laid on my back, appreciating the grass under me and the cloudless sky above me. After a few minutes I decided to get up and take a very, very long shower.