Don’t come any closer or I’ll swallow him whole!” warns the monster jacket.
You decide to obey rather than defy, so you wait and don’t move. The monster suddenly realizes this and laughs as the bulge in the monster’s belly you knew was the trapped little boy suddenly disappears.
“Ha! I can’t believe it! You really believed I wouldn’t do it!”
The monster collapses even as he laughs at simply pulling the wool over your eyes. It is now just a large overcoat busily taunting you. Yet you immediately realize the child somehow found a way to escape. Even as the cackling overcoat continues to taunt, you see the boy run to his mother and embrace her.
The park ranger comes over and picks up the over coat.
“Hey, park ranger, can you believe this guy?”
“Zip it, Oswald!” says the ranger to the mouthy overcoat. Then he turns to you.
“Thank you for your help today,” says the ranger.
“What?! That guy just got fooled by an overcoat, and you congratulate him?”
He gives you a brochure.
“Have you considered becoming a park ranger?”
Your hike in the Park could be a full time job. But for now focus on today.
You realize your efforts to find the lost child. He’s back with his mother. But there are still some loose strings to tie up. Why was he kidnapped in the first place? Are there other children like him who are still out there? Will the perpetrators be caught? What about those other jewels? What will they open once collected?
Something zips past you and hits the nearby marble of the park mansion. It’s a blow dart. The needle has stuck into the stone. Blue liquid oozes out of the vial of the needle from the blow dart and runs hissing down the wall.
Two more darts follow the first and also hit the wall behind you. You’re almost certain they’re aimed at you. But then you hear the marble stone begin to grunt and growl.
To your horror, the side of the mansion has formed a large humanoid figure. It pulls itself out of the wall, raises its arms in clenched fists, and bellows. It hungers.
“Holy cow, we’ve got trouble!” says the park ranger into his radio, “A marble animate, I repeat, a marble animate. Someone is targeting the mansion!”
The boy and his mother run back inside the mansion. The marble monster wants them, but the ranger gets its attention first. Other park rangers arrive on the scene and open fire with their guns. The marble animate doesn’t go down easily. It doesn’t need to move fast. The bullets hit their intended mark. They open into nets made from steel chains and their weight eventually begin to out weigh their target.
While the park rangers wonder what has happened, you see up in a nearby tree something white. He scratches his ears with his back feet and cleans his whiskers, checks his lab coat. You see him put a bamboo blow gun back inside his lab coat. Then he looks up and sees you. The white cat in a lab coat returns his gun to his coat and jumps down from the tree. He’s in no hurry. The cat casually walks behind the mansion and out of sight.
This is the crossroads where paths are woven,
Now is the place of a road newly chosen. **
–editor’s note: stay tuned, hikers!
Out here be monsters seen on your Hike in the Park.