People Want a Mystery

So when I logged on to Facebook this morning, guess what I saw trending on the sidebar? Something along the lines of…

Man takes picture of the Jersey Devil!

You can probably already guess the ridiculous photo that is associated with it, but I’ll send you over to the original article. Go take a peek, I’ll wait.

Pretty silly, huh? Other than the fact that it looks like a thrown stuffed toy, there’s another way you can tell this was faked. Instead of sending the picture to a scientist, he sent it to a news agency. Now if you took a photo of some crazy thing in the woods at night, or even in the day like this photo, would your first instinct be to send it to the news? Of course not, unless you thought you might get some notoriety/money/attention from it. Most logical folks would send any picture they legitimately believed was a new species off to a university, perhaps even submit it to cryptozoologists who are used to vetting this kind of evidence. If it was a picture of a new potential insect or bird, it wouldn’t have first been sent to a news agency.

Yet it was trending on Facebook, so that means plenty of people found it interesting enough to share it. Why do we find these stories of monsters hiding in the woods so fascinating? Why do we eagerly go to look at what the supposed Jersey Devil looks like? Why do we hunt for Bigfoot footprints, long lost sea monsters, and vampiric squirrels even when we know it will more than likely be a waste of time and energy, or at least not live up to our grandiose expectations?

tufted-squirrel-featSeriously, the vampiric squirrel did not live up to expectations!

Perhaps in this increasingly understood world, where we can glimpse beautiful photos of Saturn’s rings (that you at first think must be Photoshopped because surely nature couldn’t produce something so perfect), where we can use pencil lead to wire circuitry, where we can carry a device to communicate around the world in our back pockets, people want a mystery. People want to look at their surroundings and see more than just trees or buildings around them, they want to see the potential for something different, something beyond the familiar. That isn’t to say that the world isn’t full of mysteries waiting to be solved, or locations that have never been explored, but it’s much easier to toss a homemade toy into the air and have a friend snap a picture than it is to become a deep sea explorer.

So like the famous hoaxes of the past, I’m sure this one will soon be debunked too. I just wish they had gone somewhere other than the news media first though, because this kind of press always makes cryptozoology look bad in the public eye.

For the Love of Tigers

Today is International Tiger Day, so I thought I needed to give a shout-out to some of my favorite animals. First and foremost, let’s get the adorable pictures out of the way.

Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe this cub.

Not enough cuteness for you? Then I recommend you head over to Mother Jones and check out their whole page dedicated to the beautiful creatures. Don’t worry, I’ll wait until you get back. Got to get the Aww! out of your system after all.

Now if you want to read more about Siberian tigers, I recommend checking out The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. I listened to this book on audio last year, checked out for free from my library, and I have to say it was an intense listen. For me at least, the audio book helped because listening to how the names were pronounced helped me to have more of a distinction for the characters. Check out a snippet of my review of the book:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tiger is revered, feared, compartmentalized, and idealized. There is a main story, but mixed throughout are backgrounds for the various people whose lives were affected, as well as fascinating tales of the various tigers that our main forest ranger has encountered.

I learned a lot about Russian history and its economy in this book, as well as all the temperamental relations that have existed in the past with her neighbors. The book is also peppered with adventurous tiger stories (besides the primary tale), even from a few survivors, and you learn how intelligent, territorial, and vengeful these animals are. These sections were by far my favorite parts of the book, and made for some entertaining discussions around the dinner table.

[…]

As frustrating as the structure was at times, listening to it in audiobook format made the Russian names, terms, and locales easier to understand and I didn’t feel daunted by the language as much as I think I would have been had I read this in paper/ebook format.

Overall a fascinating book about a beautiful but dangerous predator.

Another good source for information on not only the Siberian tiger but also the people of the Taiga is the documentary titled Happy People (available on Netflix), which walks you through a regular working day for people who live among the largest land man-eaters on the planet. You really get a good taste for the environment in Vaillant’s The Tiger, but it really hits home to see the reality of it. Not only do you see how they have to create makeshift traps in the woods but you also watch them make their own boats, all using the simple but reliable tools at their disposal.

Finally I’d like to leave you with some excellent places that work with tigers on a regular basis.

  • Big Cat Rescue in Florida. A wildlife conservatory for big cats that are rescued and given a happy home. The video and pictures they post on a regular basis will make your heart melt.
  • Noah’s Ark in Georgia. I have a special fondness for this non-profit located right around the corner from where I live. They take in all sorts of animals, not just tigers. Recently they took in a bunch of dogs that were removed from a puppy mill, got them cleaned up, gave them medical exams, and will soon be adopting them out. One of their biggest attractions though is their BLT trio – a bear, lion, and tiger who live in the same enclosure and are incidentally best friends.

Happy World Tiger Day everybody!

Drabble: Hugs

Prompt: Hugs

Course stone scratches against my back as the heavy arms come down on my shoulders. I stumble, losing my balance even as I stand lean against the rock wall behind me. The limbs are soft but I can feel the strength beneath the fur; powerful muscles shift just beneath the skin. Great claws knead lovingly into the wall. I manage a small smile and wrap my arms around the great cat’s flank. I can’t even put my arms together.

A deep rumble starts in his chest, soothing, rhythmic, and I instinctively relax. I lean my head against the tuft of fur on his chest, marveling at how soft it feels. Despite the fact that I am now trapped between at least five hundred solid pounds of love and a cold slab of rock, I feel safe. Then he turns his head around to rub the edge of his mouth against my forehead and the hot stink of his breath makes me wince. Wet saliva drips down my forehead, but I’m sorry to say I’ve grown accustomed to it.

I try to indicate I want to move again and try to duck under a limb, but he’ll have none of it. He drags his arm down, blocks my path, and gives a deep throated whine that might frighten someone who didn’t know him as well as me. He marks my head again with more determination, this time flipping my hair around into my face. He probably thinks I deserve it for trying to cut his hugs short.

I sigh as he begins to lap at my hair. If everyone knew the King of the Jungle was such a love bug, his title would be short lived.

Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less.
Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.

Drabble: Hidden between

Prompt: Hidden between

Hidden between the cracks and crevices, you can just make it out. It won’t stay still and it’s difficult to hold in sight for long, but you feel its presence and you know that it’s watching you. It can see you just as easily as you can see it. You tear the wall apart, dropping the pieces chunk by chunk to the floor, but still it eludes you. The more you excavate, the more it evades.

The wall is gone now, torn to rubble by your hands, by your eagerness and greed. No longer can you feel its presence, its warmth. The answers it once held are lost forever now. Instead of letting it exist just out of your reach, you wanted it for yourself. It had to be yours, didn’t it? You wanted to claim it for your own. You couldn’t leave it alone. Now no one else will ever even see it.

You stare down at your hands, realizing too late your folly. You apologize. You plead. You excuse. You didn’t know the wall was its only home. You didn’t know it would die without it. What a silly creature it must have been, you decide. Perhaps the world is better off without it. Honestly what use could an animal be if all it does is live inside the hidden spaces of the world.

Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less.
Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.