“What the hell’s a cen-tau-rian?” Sheriff Eugene Mitchell asked.
Eula Mae Hutten shook her stubby index finger in the sheriff’s face and began scolding him. “Little Eugene, don’t use that kind of language around me. I’ve known you since you were knee high to a grasshopper. I’ll bend — ”
Holding up his palms, Sheriff Mitchell interrupted. “You know I don’t mean no disrespect, Mrs. Eula Mae, but I think you would agree I haven’t gotten a call like this in a while.”
Eula Mae looked at the sheriff with puzzled expression. “Don’t they train you boys? Lord, I need to sit down. My blood pressure — ” Mid-sentence, she threw her hands up in the air, wobbled back to her trailer, and sat down in a weather-faded resin chair.
Sheriff Mitchell walked over to Deputy Dayton Ezell who was navigating his flashlight beam across the hundreds of hoof prints covering Tipton’s Trailer Park. “This beats all. Last week she called fifteen times in thirty minutes insisting that she heard, heard mind you, a UFO in those woods yonder,” the sheriff said, and looked at his wrist watch. Imitating Eula Mae, he flung his hands up in the air and continued. “Tonight at four a.m., she claims she saw, not one, but fifteen cen-tau-rians stomping around out here. Dayton, what the hell is a cen-tau-rian!?”
Dayton looked down at the sheriff and corrected his pronunciation. “Centaur. Sir.”
The sheriff lacked stature but made up for it in intimidation. Trying to reach Dayton’s face by leaning forward onto the balls of his feet, the sheriff articulated, “What-ev-er!”
Dayton took a deep breath. “It’s half horse, half man, sir.”
Sheriff Mitchell looked at Eula Mae who was sitting just outside the illuminated perimeter of the light pole located at the end of her trailer. The weight of her body forced the legs of the resin chair to fold in on each other, and she was huffing and puffing as if she were going to have a heart attack. Looking back at Dayton, the sheriff asked, “They learn you that in college, boy?”
Suppressing his frustration with Sheriff Mitchell, Dayton gritted his teeth and said, “Yes, sir. They sure did.”
Scanning the turned up ground with his flashlight, Sheriff Mitchell looked at a group of five brothers standing outside their trailer, smoking and nervously glancing at the two policemen. “You don’t suppose one of those Tink boys snuck some meth in her supper, do you?” he asked.
Dayton turned his head opposite the Tink’s trailer and said, “Toby Tink said he saw ‘em too.”
As two policeman followed hoof prints into the woods that bordered the Tipton’s Trailer Park, Sheriff Mitchell said, “I’ll bet that’s not all he saw.”
Feeling that her blood pressure was back to normal, Eula Mae scowled, spun her head around, and studied the Tink clan. Toby, the youngest, had been the only one besides her who allegedly witnessed the night’s events.
With the Tinks hell-raising, Eula Mae didn’t get to bed until 9:45 p.m., and she didn’t fall asleep until 10:30 p.m. Throughout the night she woke with feelings of being watched. Finally, around 2:45 a.m.she turned from her side onto her back and strained her head to see out the window on the opposite wall. Human shapes were moving past the net curtain, which didn’t make sense because the bottom of the window was at least ten feet above the ground. Those damn Tinks are up to some perverse prank, she thought. Eula Mae got out of bed, wobbled down the hall, stuck her feet into her slippers, and opened the door.
“Good Lord, that ain’t the Tinks,” she said aloud, jerked the door shut, and chain-locked it. Someone knocked. She fell backwards, sank into her couch, and began phoning Sheriff Mitchell on the landline.
At 3:00 a.m. a cockroach crawled across Toby Tink’s face. He slapped it and some of its squashed guts flew into his mouth. He got up from the floor, walked to the kitchen sink, and stuck his mouth under the facet. When he lifted his head out of the sink, the tallest woman he had ever seen was staring at him through the window.
Stepping backwards, Toby’s first reaction was to wake his brothers and get his gun, but then he noticed that the woman wasn’t wearing a shirt. His eyes went straight for her breasts which were covered by hair that flowed down her chest into the darkness.
“Is this the land of Alabama?” she asked.
“Uh, no, It’s, uh, Mississippi,” Toby said.
“I am looking for a land in Alabama with living quarters much like your own, mortal boy,” she said, and the hair parted, exposing enormous breasts. Toby’s eyes widened at the sight of her massive nipples. He pointed in the direction of the Alabama state line, and with long, heavy breaths gasped. “Al-a-bam-a is tha’ ‘ay.”
“Thank you, mortal boy,” she said, and waved her hand at dark silhouettes moving in the background.
Toby jumped over his brothers who were lying all over the floor, and ran to open the door. Men and women on horses or men and women attached to horses were exiting the trailer park into the woods. He wanted to yell for his brothers to wake up, but he couldn’t produce a sound.
Without realizing it, he had walked down his front door steps and past Eula Mae Hutten’s trailer. She walked up next to him. Staring into the woods as the last horse-person disappeared, she said, “I counted fifteen. They’re centaurs. National News says there’s a group of ‘em living in a trailer park in Alabama. They’re promiscuous.” Toby turned to find out who was speaking. Eula Mae was standing beside him in her night gown.
“I’m quitin’ drugs,” he said.
At 3:30 a.m., Sheriff Eugene Mitchell and Deputy Dayton Ezell arrived at Tipton’s Trailer Park and, flashlights in hand, stepped out of their car.
James Guin ’s flash fiction stories appear in Free Flash Fiction, Dark Edifice Online Literary Magazine #4, The Story Shack, and Romance Flash. His stories “The Sun Fallen” and “BTT” are featured in The Flashing Type Issue #1: 50 stories from flashfiction.com anthology and may be purchased at amazon.com.
This piece was inspired by a July 11, 2005 Strange Horizons interview with Bruce Bethke, author of “Cyberpunk” and Headcrash.