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The following audio recording is classified documentation for case (static) with The Enclosure, unauthorized access to this information will lead to immediate intervention. Progress further if proper clearance has been given.
Been a bit since I’ve done this, but man… what a week.
First: I’ve been working with Dr. Castillo for a couple of weeks now. She’s not bad by any means, but she’s…well the kind of ‘always chipper’ that comes off with a seething rage just below the surface? She always smiles with gritted teeth and is pretty passive-aggressive. I mean, passive-aggressive for it to be notable around these parts. But, I do really like her sarcastic wit. M-Most of our conversations are more like bickers, but we were able to finish up that research really quickly when she came on.
Very intelligent. Zero complaints about her skills.
But I guess neither of us wanted this work partnership thrusted upon us. But that’s how Todd runs things. We’re making it work, but I think we’re both a lil’ less than thrilled with the sudden change.
When there’s no work to do, she goes off and does her own thing in the lab of her computer. She keeps…looking at me but doesn’t say anything. It’s always brief glances, but never pleasant. I don’t think she hates me, but more like she really doesn’t like the situation that we’re in.
I-I mean I can’t blame her. She seems far more pleased with the job that she had before the sudden transfer, she wasn’t working as directly with the dangerous creatures previously. I don’t even think they gave her a pay raise for compensation…I don’t even think anyone in The Enclosure really gets ‘hazard pay’?
Anyways. Things got really nerve-wracking a few days ago when I had no projects, no anything to work on while on-shift, which never happens. I was desperate for something to do, so I actually went into town after work and just walked. Kinda aimless, mostly. But seeing and hearing everything in town was nice, more stimulating than the buzzing lab lights.
I did maybe four or five laps around the downtown roundabout in total. Not in a row, I stepped into different shops as I meandered so I didn’t look too weird lookin’ for somethin’ to do. It was late afternoon, so the heat was a bit much to just stand around outside, anyways.
Wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t so humid.
First shop I went into was Mrs. Wethington’s little bakery. Dr. Rahal loves that place, they’ve even swapped recipes apparently. I haven’t heard anyone use his first name so often ‘till I started to frequent that bakery: Amir. It’s weird to call him that, but he said it’s all right. As long as I’m not in his medical office for a checkup or whatever, he said he’s fine with a first name-basis relationship.
Anyways, I went to Mrs. Wethington’s bakery to pick up some snacks. She told me that the local charity Snipe Hunt tournament to support the local school was coming up in the next day or so, and she planned to bake a bunch of different things for it. Dr. Rahal… uh…Amir, planned on helping out with it. Not a lot of people in The Enclosure go out and actively participate in town events, but he loves to do so.
I’ve heard of the local charity Snipe Hunt tournaments the last few years but had never really asked about them, so I finally did. She explained that every year, the town comes together for the big Snipe Hunt where everyone meets up in the late evening with, uh, with bags and little noise makers for the hunt, but there’s food first since no one should Snipe Hunt on an empty stomach. Tournament group leaders will lead groups out and explain what the Snipe looks like. Eventually one person is left alone in the woods or fields that they’re searching and has to use the bag and sound maker that they’re given to defend themselves and make their way back. Only group leaders know who is to be left behind and they have to inform everyone else in the group for them to abandon the chosen person and return to the main event. The first duped person back wins a prize, and the last duped person back suffers a-a punishment that varies from year to year.
A rite of passage, she said.
I asked what these Snipes looked like, and she told me it changes every year.
“Depends on whatever the tournament group leaders are feeling that year,” she told me with a warm, almost excited smile.
When she’d realized I’d never been to one, she said that I ‘simply must!’ Sure, I’m not really one for community events like this, but Dr. Rahal always seems happier when he’s more involved…even for an employee of The Enclosure, he’s still pretty engaged with and welcomed by the townsfolk in Wichton.
So, I signed up, like an idiot.
Okay, not an idiot, but my luck proved itself.
So. I went to the event. Made my donation to the school, and I even tried to cook something to bring but I’m not- I’m not a bad cook, I-I can cook, I just don’t really like cooking. I prefer going out and supporting the restaurants and places in town and bringing the food home. But I did try, and I-I made some cookies, and they didn’t end up being too bad, they were well received, though I was told they could have done with a bit more, um… ‘Huh, I don’t know what’s missing, they’re still good though!’ is what they said. Probably ‘love’ or ‘a bit of this, a bit of that’. You know, the usual missing ingredients.
I was put into a team with Holly Darling as the leader, and while Holly is a great person- they have an amount of energy that I have no clue how to keep up with. So it was me, Holly, and a bunch of high schoolers. I’m not terrible with kids, but I’m not experienced with kids.
At least not kids with normal eyes that don’t just wander the sides of the road or knock on my door on and off for hours in the middle of the night. So I just fully let Holly take the lead. Followed with my burlap sack I was given and my flashlight in hand since it was startin’ to get dark. I walked behind the kids into the woods by the creek on the edge of the fields as Holly described the Snipe that we were looking for- a sort of rodent-esque creature with the markings of a skunk, but a build more like a small dog.
I couldn’t tell if they were just pulling this out of their ass or not, but the teens were all on high alert for it. One had a slide whistle, another had a sort of clicker that they used to click out various things to try and stir up any sign of this mysterious Snipe.
In my time at The Enclosure, I’ve never heard or read of a Snipe, so if it’s a real thing then it isn’t even on our radar. That doesn’t mean it’s not real, and that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, it just means I went into this thing totally unprepared.
As the search continued, I actually got pretty into it. Sure, I was going against a bunch of literal teenagers to catch something that I never did get an answer if it even exists- but I actually got pretty competitive. Whether it was to make up for my subpar cookies or because it was something to do, I don’t know, but I got so sucked into the search and trying to best these heckling jerks of kids that I didn’t even think twice when Holly whispered a bit louder than needed,
“Over there, the bushes, I see its tail!”
Ugh, I threw myself into that bush with the bag. I didn’t even think? I just grabbed and tried to catch whatever I could grab. What I caught was a bunch of leaves and twig that snuck behind my glasses and poked me in the eye…no living creature, no Snipe.
I didn’t even hear laughter, which is what I’d expected to hear. When I looked up they were all gone. I never even heard or saw them take off, absolutely zero sign of them. There one second, gone the next. And I realized…I was duped…I was the dupee. A dupee with a sore eye.
As soon as I realized my situation, I brushed myself off and with the utmost composure, started the trek back to the main event.
Survived my rite of passage, right? I’d be more part of things, right? Jumping into that damn bush would have to be worth something…but as I made my way towards the edge of the woods, I realized I was suddenly much farther from the treeline than I originally was.
At that point I couldn’t even see the tree line anymore, but I knew what direction I had to go, so I started back from where I came. I started to fidget with the burlap sack to keep my hands occupied as I walked, the sound of the cicadas and my own footsteps were all I could hear. I was more frustrated than anything, of course I was the one ditched. I thought they would pick one of the kids, let them have their laughs and go from there, but I guess they’d get better laughs if it was someone else they could focus on together, huh? Nothing brings a community together better than casting collective judgment.
As I walked back towards the treeline, I eventually heard the sound of something walking behind me. I could tell there was a good distance between me and the sound, but I don’t like surprises.
I turned around as quickly as I could and saw one of those three-eyed deer with perfectly symmetrical yet overgrown horns, and slightly humanoid hind legs. Not too uncommon in these parts, not usually much of a threat, but still unsettling to see up close. They took me a while to get used to, but this line of work desensitizes you pretty quick. Those in town know to avoid these deer, other creatures in the woods know to avoid them too, so I should have backed off sooner…
We locked eyes for what felt like hours, however long it actually was, I don’t know. I didn’t feel threatened at first, more like I was being analyzed.
But then I heard a voice in my head:
So I did. Not immediately, as I normally would have and definitely should have, but after one or two awkward steps away the deer bucked up and made like it was gonna charge. So then I took off. I don’t know if the deer got territorial or startled or what, but I didn’t have time to try and figure that out at the moment. I ended up dropping the bag and flashlight and just sprinted as fast as my legs would take me towards the treeline that had only just then started to come back into view. It was definitely dark, but my eyes had adjusted pretty quickly to take in what light they could from the moonlight.
No matter how fast I forced my legs, the sound of hooves against the dirt and leaves were never far behind. In fact, in mere moments it was right behind me. And then I felt something slam into my back…hard. I was sent flying forward and skidded across the ground.
I had never had a violent encounter with one of these deer before, but when the Snipe Hunt tournament leaders spoke about returning and surviving- well… what was it about that day that made it special for them to host it on? I mean the same time every year in the same part of the woods, in the same parts of the fields? What was making the deer more volatile instead of fleeing or just staring like they tended to? I’d seen them buck, but they’d never charged me.
I wasn’t wondering that then, of course. No, then I was scrambling back onto my feet. I’d even lost my glasses for a bit, but I found them again pretty quickly…when my hand slammed down on top of them in my rush up and definitely broke part of them.
Speaking of breaking, it definitely felt like the damn not-deer broke something when it bucked me, or at least cracked a few ribs- they do pack a good hit when angered. Looking back, I’m surprised it had stopped after hitting me just once…as if it had made its point.
So with my busted glasses in hand, I booked it past the tree line and took off into the fields. In the distance I could see the lights and the bonfire and the rest of the attendees, mostly the remaining chaperones and the parents of those kids who were out on the hunt at that point. Some kids, including those that had duped me in the woods, were near the fire. No one seemed to notice me at first.
I did what you’re never supposed to do and looked back over my shoulder as I ran to see if the deer was still there… it was, but it just stood by the treeline. It stood still as stone and many other of those multi-eyed, not-deer were standing next to it. It could have been a whole herd of them, all watching as I rushed back to the group.
All standing on more humanoid hind-legs. Watching. Watching as I ran back.
And the hurting… it hurt so much to run. And I did what you’re never supposed to do and looked back over my shoulder as I ran to see if the deer was still there…it was, but it just stood by the tree line. It stood still as stone, and many other of those multi-eyed, not-deer were standing next to it. It could have been a whole herd of them, all watching as I rushed back to the group.
All standing on their more humanoid hind legs. Watching. Watching as I ran back.
I heard some sort of banshee screech from the woods, echoing over the field, which caused me to hoof it faster.
But no one else at the party seemed to even react, had they not heard it too?
Sore eye, sore back, and sore lungs from the exertion.
I hate this flesh prison sometimes…
Eventually Holly called out my name, their voice was obviously loud but it was hard to hear over the sound of blood rushing behind my eardrums.
The fear is never dying, considering I know I’ll always come back, but that doesn’t mean that the pain of death doesn’t suck. When the whisper in my head tells me to run, I run. Who would be stupid enough to ignore that instinct?
Once back to the gathering, I was mostly relieved that the deer had stayed in the forest. But it didn’t pass my attention though while I wasn’t the first dupee back, I wasn’t the last one either. That caused a sense of relief, but to a much lesser extent.
I put back on my glasses which don’t fit too well anymore. One of the arms is hardly attached now, I’m gonna have to file for a better replacement pair than the spares that I’m wearing right now…but The Enclosure takes its sweet time actually getting people their replacement glasses and things like that…
It wasn’t until I started to get the various ‘congratulations’, and too-firm pats on my very tender back, and handshakes from people, that I really came back into the moment. I saw Dr. Rahal- Amir, over by the food tables with Mrs. Wethington, both smiling and laughing. When Holly came and congratulated me, saying they wish they’d recorded me leaping into the bush, I saw over their shoulder that Darius was there with his dads, talking to some of the other farmers in town about something or other. All smiling, all having a good time. I saw other people just enjoying the night, waiting for their kids to come home.
But with the way the deer had reacted to me, I-I could not help but wonder…why? I didn’t find myself too worried about the other kids, but I was worried about why the deer were acting rather uncharacteristically. They normally weren’t so hostile, especially not when it’s just a lone deer like it had been at first.
I mean usually the worst you get with an encounter is a…harsh staredown and a twisting in your stomach, but they…don’t normally attack like that. At least I’d never been attacked before and I’ve definitely seen them before. I even asked one of the other group leaders why they picked this time of year for the hunt. Was it the weather? Tradition?
The answer was, indeed, tradition. It had always been done this day of the year, sometimes would even cancel school for it the next day, so why change it? Why change what has worked for so long? ‘We don’t often change traditions’.
Point taken, I guess.
I ended up gravitating towards Darius and his circle. I didn’t necessarily join in on the conversation, I just stood nearby with my cup of hot apple cider from his family’s farm and listened.
They really hadn’t heard the scream. Or, if they did, they just weren’t acknowledging it. Either option was equally likely, and I didn’t like that. Darius eventually noticed me and came over to talk, which helped my nerves a bit.
Darius eventually noticed me and came over to talk, which helped my nerves a bit. He asked about my glasses, mentioned that my eye looked swollen, and I just told him that I fell on my way back. He asked if I was alright, and I was actually honest with him…a little shaken, a little sore, but alright. He offered to drive me home, but it wasn’t a long drive home and I didn’t have much energy to socialize anymore…and I really just wanted to melt in my bed and sleep- the pain in my back really wasn’t helping my frayed nerves.
I also really didn’t want to have to come back here to retrieve my run-down car later.
Darius said he understood, but if I changed my mind to just let him know. I smiled and thanked him and then finished my cider.
I ended up heading home before the last dupee returned. When I got home I was met with another one of those black-eyed children at my door. It was seated at my doorstep and stared at me the entire time I made my way from my car to the front door. It made its unintelligible whispers that eventually turned into some monotone requests for shelter, but I just avoided eye contact and went inside.
The taps on my door were louder than usual, that with the pain in my back and my ribs made it hard to sleep- and it was like that for days. Taps and pain, tossing and turning in bed to get comfortable, covering my head with my pillow to block out the sounds.
Apparently the loser of the Snipe Hunt just suffered some heckling from his peers, nothing too severe- at least in my book. Damn kid didn’t get bucked by a damn deer. Should be grateful.
And that leads to today. On my way home from some errands in town after work, I saw a singular deer in my yard. It was a normal deer: two eyes, asymmetrical antlers, much smaller than the ones in the woods that I saw a few nights back…but when I made eye contact with the deer in my yard, I heard that whisper again.
Don’t look back next time.
And then it took off, like some messenger just trying to leave after following orders, it pranced out into the fields and kept going until I couldn’t see it anymore.
The headaches still linger, I think any worsening was just from the run-in with the deer- or being run into by the deer, I guess.
Whatever had angered the deer that night, I couldn’t help but feel like there was almost a sense of warning to it. Not a territorial warning, but a warning of something else. That deer easily could have stomped me into the dirt and left me for dead if it had wanted, but it had just wanted me out.
Ugh, work has kicked back up again, and there’s some energy signature that keeps moving about the cornfields then they keep picking it up and saying that it’s much stronger than the usual bursts they see in those fields, and they want Dr. Castillo and I to look into it. Tomorrow is going to be a much longer day at the office, but I much prefer being busy than bored. I might have to see Amir again about the pain in my back, but it’s gotten better over time so I might not even worry too much about it.
I almost wish the deer had killed me, at least I could have come back close to fully-healed. What’s a few more scars anyway? It’s not like anyone ever sees them.
I’m gonna go take a hot bath to see if that helps my back any. I might see if I can find anything on what might be causing the heightened aggression from the not-dear, just ignore the tapping on my door while I can try, and get some reading done.
I’ll talk to you later.
This is Dr. Jared Hel, signing off- again.
“Jar of Rebuke” is written and produced by Casper Oliver, who is also the voice of Dr. Jared Hel.
Disembodied voice provided by Cecil Fox.
The intro is read by Vanessa Rosengrant, and credits are read by Ashlee Craft who has created the podcast’s official graphics.
Music was created by Luke Menniss (spelled M-E-N-N-I-S-S), who you can find and support on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Twitch.
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