THE THING is a short story I wrote back in the early 90s. Why is a short story being posted in a website dedicated to hiking? The simple explanation is that I conceived of the idea for the story while I was out walking with my son, James, one Sunday afternoon.
It was our habit to leave home mid to late morning, have a late breakfast or early lunch somewhere and then walk back home along the Shing Mun River.
Actually, the Shing Mun ‘River’ is more of a canal and in the 80’s and early 90’s it was quite heavily polluted. The Environmental Protection Agency eventually caught up with the factories in Tai Wai and introduced legislation that forced them clean up their act. Unfortunately, cleaning up their act simply meant moving their production and manufacturing facilities across the border to the Mainland where the regulations were not so stringent. However, it had the desired effect and the river soon showed signs of improvement.
It was on one particular Sunday when James and I went further up towards Tai Wai than we normally did. It was low tide and the stench was worse than normal, so we decided not to hang around. It was as we were walking along the riverside that I glanced over at the mud just in time to see an enormous bubble forming. It was a good foot in diameter and I watched as it burst, and the slime settle back into the mud.
The thought occurred to me that something very large might be surviving in the polluted slime to have caused such a large bubble. It was then that my fevered imagination came up with THE THING. And so, without further ado, I give to you:
The sun set in the western hills leaving the Shatin Valley aglow in its red aftermath, and as its light faded, the street lights came on, as did the lamps that stood on the promenades that ran along the Shing Mun River.
Up towards the beginning of the river where the storm drains from Tai Wai and the other estates fed into it, the toxic ooze and sludge bubbled in the light of the antique street lamps. One particular bubble grew larger and larger, until it was a good three feet in diameter before it burst. Then, as the ooze began to settle back into the fast filling crater caused by the explosion, a cross between a hand and a flipper reached upwards into the evening sky. The hand-like thing was followed by an arm-like thing and after an agreeable amount of time THE THING itself, emerged. It stood waist high in the ooze and looked about itself, reaching up one of the things that it used for a hand to wipe the slime off its one, enormous eyeball. Then it burped, and the stench of its breath made the normal pong of the river seem like rose scented bath water.
It looked towards the first foot bridge and saw dinner travelling along it in the form of three little boys on bicycles. It was not too keen on the bicycles having tried one before that had been dumped in the river by a drunken lover; the drunken lover though, had been quite tasty.
THE THING took a step forward and found that its feet-like things were stuck in the mud. It muttered a curse and wrenched them out, one after the other. Now it had to move fast because every time it took a step it started to sink back into the slime and ooze that it had come from. By the time it had got to the foot of the bridge the little boys were gone and it muttered another curse. Then it heard someone calling to it and turned its face upwards into the dim torch beam of a police constable.
“What are you doing down there?” Asked PC Wong, from the safety of the bridge.
All he could see was a slime coated figure floundering about in the mud. Must be another drunken lover, P.C. Wong thought to himself. They were forever bringing their lady friends down here, discovering that they wouldn’t put out, getting drunk and then throwing their bicycles in the river. How it made them feel any better he did not know, but it happened all the time. Then another thought occurred to him. This man might not be a drunken lover; he just might be a drunken illegal immigrant pretending to be a drunken lover.
“All right you,” said Wong, as sternly as he could. “Just paddle over there to those steps, and you’d better have an I.D. card on you.
THE THING did not have an I.D. card on it, and, in fact, was not even sure of what an I.D. card was. To the best of its knowledge it had never eaten an I.D. card before. It paddled over as instructed, not the slightest bit put out, it had never eaten a policeman before either and was looking forward to a new culinary experience.
Wong had come off the bridge and was standing at the top of the steps that led down to the river. He watched the dark figure floundering towards him and began to wish that the lighting was a bit better; he looked wistfully at his torch and cursed himself for not changing the batteries before starting his beat.
Then THE THING stood up in front of him and Wong realized that it was not another drunken lover. It was not even a drunken I.I. Although the thing in front of him was still largely covered in slime he could see that it had a face only an Inland Revenue Department, Income Tax Assessor could love.
“My God.” Said Wong.
BURRRP! Went THE THING.
And as its breath intoxicated the unfortunate P.C. it reached out one of its hand-like things and shovelled Constable of Police Wong, into its mouth.
When it had finished it smacked its lips and slowly made its way back to the toxic culvert that it called home, burping happily as it went. It decided that it might give the little boys a miss in the future, there was much more meat on P.C.s and though it was hard to tell from just the one experience, they did not appear to scream quite as much. It just hoped that they would be another one around tomorrow night.
But then it thought to itself, you know what they say about policemen: there’s never one around when you need one.
Thank you for visiting stewartgoeswalkies. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to leave a comment and if you would like to submit a story about a past experience it will be greatly appreciated. You can leave a comment below and I will send you my contact details.
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