Jenny has been an EMT in Polk County, Arkansas for over fifteen years. In that time, she has seen enough emergencies to fill a hospital many times over. Of all the things she has seen, it was a call about a woman in labor that turned out to the most terrifying of all.
“It was at the end of a long night when the call came in,” Jenny tells me. “Couple’s car broke down and the lady’s in labor.” Jenny and her partner, Dale, fired up the ambulance and sped down the old country roads with sirens wailing and lights blazing.
The dispatcher directed them north towards the sprawling Ouachita National Forest. “Those roads were only used if you was heading up to the park,” Jenny tells me. “And it was pretty late in the day to go out for camping.”
Dale guided the old ambulance down paved roads and then dirt roads until the headlights picked out a car by the side of the road. A figure stood beside it.
“So, the husband was outside waiting for us, smoking a cigarette,” Jenny recalls, “while his wife was in the car in labor, huffing and puffing.”
The man explained that they were out for a drive when his wife went into labor. Jenny registered the story’s holes, but the only thing that mattered was the care of her charge. She approached the car.
“Well, when I first laid eyes on her,” Jenny remembers, “I had a bit of a shock.”
The backseat where the woman lay was dark, but Jenny could see her eyes like two silver plates. She was thin as smoke but had a robust glow and her hair, white as lightning, spread out behind her face. “Help me,” she said to Jenny.
Jenny turned to the man and rechecked his appearance: he seemed normal, very much so. This woman in the backseat, however, gave Jenny a strange feeling, a mix of unearthly alarm and powerful serenity.
Dale gave Jenny a nudge and her reverie fled. They got to work. “It was kind of a blur after that,” Jenny tells me. “There are a few things I remember, but not a lot.”
The birth was long but the woman never complained; she never even screamed. Jenny asked where the couple was headed, but the mother only mentioned something vague about her father’s home in the mountains. “If they were heading into the woods, there’s no one living up there,” Jenny says. “There’s places up there with no trails, no people at all for hundreds of years.”
Jenny remembers the baby in it’s mother’s arms, but she can’t recall what it looked like or even its sex. What sticks out in Jenny’s memory the most, however, is the child’s eyes and how they got that way.
“The mother took this jar out of her pocket.” Jenny recalls. “I thought it was a rock at first.” The mother opened the jar and, using her fingers, rubbed the green ointment within into the eyes of her newborn.
“That baby looked all around after that and its eyes were just shining,” Jenny remembers. “That’s all I remember about it: those eyes.”
The next thing Jenny remembers is the couple getting into the car and driving away. But before they did, the mother touched Jenny’s hand and thanked her.
“That’s when it got weird. They just drove off with the baby,” Jenny tells me. “They should’ve gone with us to the hospital, but we didn’t even try to stop them.”
On the ride back, Dale and Jenny discussed the strange night’s events with growing unease. They didn’t remember much of what happened, but most of all they didn’t understand what had compelled them to ignore all their years of training.
When they returned to the garage, they called the dispatcher to get the details of the call. “Well, the dispatcher said we were crazy,” Jenny recalls, “and there wasn’t any call about a couple that night.”
Jenny and Dale did not know what to do except call it a night and hope they could figure it out in the morning. As they parted, Jenny suddenly clutched her left eye and screamed in pain.
“I was pretty exhausted and I guess I rubbed my eye,” Jenny says. “Well, when that lady touched me, I think she got some of that green goo on my hand and now I had it in my eye.”
A rinse under the sink took the pain away. Dale reluctantly let Jenny go home where she fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning seemed to come suddenly and Jenny awoke to a glorious sunny day. “The birds were chirping away and the sky was so blue and bright,” Jenny remembers, “and there were a lot of butterflies.”
As Jenny drove to work, she was astonished to see the air filled with all manner of insect. While she waited at a red light, a large locust fluttered by the window. “I thought it was my mind playing tricks,” Jenny says, “but I could’ve sworn it had a head and arms like a person and its legs were a bug’s.”
When Jenny got to work, she tried to talk to Dale about the previous night. To her surprise, Dale claimed no memory of the events Jenny described. “I thought I was going crazy,” Jenny tells me, “and things only got worse after that.”
Jenny and Dale headed out on their first call. Passing a large field, Jenny noticed a strange figure walking by the side of the road. “As we came up, I thought he needed help,” Jenny recalls. “I told Dale to slow down.”
Dale gave Jenny a puzzled look and pressed on the brake. As they came alongside the figure, Jenny saw the back of a man wearing a large, dusty black coat and a matching wide-brimmed hat. “And he was, oh, about ten feet tall,” Jenny adds.
Jenny told Dale to keep driving and, as they passed the man, Jenny saw his black eyes set in a chalky face, long jagged nose, and the tusk-like teeth jutting from his jaw. Jenny could tell that Dale had not seen what she had seen.
“It was just a tough day is all I can say,” Jenny tells me. “But I had to do my job while I thought I was going nuts.”
During her lunch break, Jenny went to a friend’s house for some comfort and advice. Jenny’s friend quickly led her out to the back deck so they could take in the sun but before she could even sit down, Jenny got up to leave.
“I looked out to her garden and I saw the weirdest thing,” Jenny recalls. Swarming over the grass and flowers were hundreds if not thousands of tiny red cones. They jostled and twisted, thronging like ants, and then Jenny realized that they were tiny red hats worn by tiny men, busily going about their unfathomable business. The sight made Jenny feel sick to her stomach.
Jenny called Dale. She told him she was sick and was going home early. She had one last stop, however, at the local Wal-Mart. “I had to get the cat some food,” Jenny tells me. “I thought it would be safe.”
Jenny kept her eyes on the tiled floor as she made her way through the light crowd of afternoon shoppers to the pet food aisle. In her haste, she had forgotten a cart, so she filled her arms with cat food cans and headed for the checkout.
“I was walking along with my head kinda down, looking at the floor,” Jenny remembers, “and that’s the only reason I even saw him.”
As Jenny took a shortcut down the shampoo aisle, she passed a curious set of feet. They appeared to be very large goat hooves and they were sticking out of a pair of tan slacks.
“I made it to the next aisle,” Jenny tells me, “before I choked and dropped all those damn cans.” As she bent over to pick them up, she noticed a fellow shopper kneeling to help. His face was lean and sharp and his hair was pulled back in a long ponytail. His eyes were like silvery pools, not unlike the eyes of the stranded mother and her unnatural child. He wore a blue collared shirt and tan slacks. His smile was so wide it threatened to slice his face in half. It was the goat-footed shopper and he stared with keen interest at Jenny.
“You can see me?” he said to Jenny. She nodded. He licked his lips with a long pink tongue, and then he said, “Let me ask you, do you see me with with both your eyes or is it just with one?” Although she felt the gathering danger, something about his eyes made Jenny answer against her will. “Just the left eye,” she told him.
Jenny saw a flash of teeth and then an unbearable pain closed around her left eye. The goat-footed shopper had vanished and Jenny lost consciousness from the pain.
“I woke up in the hospital,” Jenny tells me. “They said I had some kind of mini-stroke, but I know what happened.”
Jenny contends that her extraordinary sight, the sight she had gained from her encounter with the strange couple, had been forcefully removed by the goat-footed Wal-Mart shopper. It had been something she was, perhaps, never meant to have. In the end, the gift of seeing what did not want to be seen cost her the normal use of her left eye.
“In a way, I’m almost glad I don’t have to see those things anymore,” Jenny says. “I see enough bad things in my job that I don’t need the monsters, too.”