Zoo Boo

By Colleen


This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. Copyright 2015.

Feedback can be sent to khall828@earthlink.net

Author’s Note: This is part of my At First Sight series, also found at the Academy.


A big, orange pumpkin rolled across the dirt, after being kicked by the baby, bringing laughter from the crowd.  The same gourd was then grabbed by the significant stem, raised into the air, and shaken like a bell calling folks to dinner.  Four stout legs ran off, kicking up dust from the very dry ground. The baby African elephant suddenly dropped her new toy, and went off to sniff another in the pile of about ten pumpkins of all different sizes.

The baby’s mother retrieved, and then discarded the gourd, after a quick examination with her dexterous trunk. Dropping it from a height above her head, the pumpkin broke into several pieces, again bringing a reaction from the gathered audience. Instead of playing with any of the pieces, Kahla shoved a big chunk into her mouth, and proceeded to completely consume the elephant sized snack.

The nine year old twins, watching from behind the fence, laughed out loud as the baby elephant ran around some more, just playing as any child does. The girl, Jordan, asked her taller mother what the baby’s name was.

Jamie Sheridan pulled a paper pamphlet from her back pocket, to look for an answer to her daughter’s question. “Her name is Zahara. She’s eight months old,” Jamie said, assuming that was next question to come from her inquisitive, animal loving daughter.

Halloween was just days away, and the Casey-Sheridan family was making their annual trip to the zoo’s holiday festivities.

All dressed in appropriate costumes, the twins and their younger brother had already played games, including pumpkin bowling and spider toss. They had climbed on hay piles, and made and ate smore’s and hot chocolate. The whole family attended the live animal show, where they saw and heard all about seasonal creatures, including an owl, a tarantula and a bat. Jordan’s twin, Noah, particularly enjoyed getting to touch a small corn snake. He had looked up at his blonde mother with hopeful eyes. Before he could even ask, Erin had given her one word answer. “No.” She certainly wasn’t against pets. There were horses, dogs and cats running around their ranch. Jordan had gotten a pygmy goat for her last birthday, which stayed in the barn. In Noah’s room, he had a small bird and a guinea pig. And there was a rather large aquarium in their mother’s office for everyone to enjoy. Both children were very responsible with their pets, and their parents were very lenient with the choices of animal friends, but Erin was going to be adamant, drawing the line at having a snake in the house. Undoubtedly, there were snakes somewhere on their large, wooded property, and while Erin respected the reptile’s right to live, there would never be one inside the house…by choice anyway.

Five year old Rory was all boy, loving cars, sports and super heroes. It was the latter, leading him to dress up as Batman this Halloween. He hustled forward to the next table, where volunteers were handing out treats. He gave the correct greeting and the proper response when his goodie bag grew heavier by a few pieces of candy. His sister calmly stepped up next and received her treats. Jordan had never been a pink girl or a Disney princess type; she had picked a multicolored cat costume. Noah came next, and the little Jedi smiled a big thank you. Uncle Jeremy had recently introduced his nephew to the Star Wars movies.

There had been a recent addition to the Casey Sheridan family. Erin placed the sleeping baby back into the stroller, adjusting the ears on the tiny puppy costume she wore for her first Halloween. At just three months old, everything was a first in her brand new life.

The fall, evening wind was picking up, and Mommy Erin wanted to put another blanket over baby McKenna. She looked up to address her wife, who was at the helm of the stroller on this family outing. “Is her other blanket back there in the diaper bag?” she asked.

Jamie rummaged around in the bottom of the stroller, finding extra clothes, diapers, pacifiers, and a little toy ghost that Rory had been playing with earlier. “No extra blanket, but look what I did find,” she said, holding up the tiny specter.

Erin let out an exasperated breath. “Rory,” she called out. The five year old was sitting on a nearby bench, eating yet another treat. “Sweetie, I told you no more candy tonight.”

“It’s not candy Mommy, its gum.”

Jamie chuckled at his misguided logic. Erin just shook her head and removed the goodie bag from her younger son’s grasp. “You can have more tomorrow,” she told him. The dark was quickly setting in, and everyone was tired, with the adults anxious to get their brood of four home…and into bed. “Did you see your sister’s special blanket?” she asked the boy.

He just nodded. Rory Michael Casey Sheridan was just a little jealous of the new baby, and tended to take her things, often hiding them around the house…or the yard…or the car. “What did you do with it?” Erin asked more sternly.

The youngster pointed a finger. “Back there.”

Jamie looked around and saw almost no one left in the immediate area, as the event was nearly over. If it had been just an ordinary blanket, they wouldn’t have really cared about leaving it behind, but this one had been part of a package from Erin’s beloved grandmother in Ireland. So she knew it was very special to Erin. “You take the kids back to the entrance and I’ll go back for the blanket,” she suggested. “But if he threw it in with the rhinos, I’m leaving it there.”

It was Erin’s turn to chuckle, as she gave her wife a peck on the lips. “You’re still my hero.”

Jamie winked, and turned to go on the hunt for the missing item.

“Okay kids,” Erin said, rounding up her youngsters. “We’re going back to the front to wait for mama.” Now having to push the stroller herself, Erin needed to make sure that her rambunctious five year old would stay safe. “Jordan, Noah please take Rory’s hands.” The tired boy easily complied, allowing his siblings to guide his way.

Jamie passed by the last trick or treat table they had stopped at, and gave a quick glance in and around the area, but found nothing. Trying to follow the same route they had taken, she searched behind rocks and trees, under benches…she even looked inside a trash can or two. The darkness was quickly deepening, making her task harder. “I’m gonna have to start carrying a flashlight when we go out at night,” she mumbled.

Jamie came to a wooden fence, and looked down into the gully separating her from the exhibit. Peering into the darkness across the way, she saw the dark silhouette of a huge animal walking silently across the dirt. The animal turned to a profile, and Jamie recognized the form of the horn on its face, instantly identifying it as a rhinoceros.  Remembering what she had said earlier, Jamie laughed, picturing the bulky animal with a delicate blanket draped over its back.

With no blanket found, Jamie decided to turn back to reunite with her family. She hoped that someone would find the item, and turn it in to the lost and found.

The silence was spooky. Not a bird or an insect made a sound. Jamie concentrated on her own footfalls as she made her way through the darkened zoo grounds.

But the quiet was soon shattered by the screech of a single simian. The monologue soon became a conversation as others joined in.

The chattering turned to squealing, which soon turned to screaming as something agitated the group of monkeys. Jamie made a quick left turn, away from the upset troop.

She walked into a particularly heavily forested area, doubling the impenetrable darkness. Jamie could hear something scurrying under the fallen leaves. An owl started calling from high in a tree. Suddenly, footsteps sounded behind her. Jamie looked back, but saw no one. She took off again, figuring it was just a keeper finishing up his day. But the sound of the footsteps continued, keeping pace with Jamie…and stopping when she stopped.

An irrational fear washed over her, and she began to run, off the designated path, jumping over boulders and dead limbs, soon ducking behind a tree.  The darkness was disorienting, and Jamie had lost her bearings, now not even knowing exactly where she was within the zoo. “From now on I’m tying that blanket to the stroller,” she said to herself.

Sniff. Sniff.

Something with a large nose had picked up her scent. And it seemed to be enjoying it. Jamie was afraid to look behind her, just praying that she hadn’t somehow gotten into one of the exhibits…one of the dangerous exhibits. But she had to know, not wanting to be a total coward. After an audible gulp, slowly, she started to turn her head.


Startled, by the beastly noise, Jamie’s head whipped around, banging into the tree at her side.

The lion was only three feet away, but behind a strong barrier. Jamie was in no danger from the animal. That was a very good thing, because her head was spinning, and she was struggling to stay on her feet. She moaned several times, finally losing the battle, and dropping to the ground.

*     *     *

Erin was starting to get worried. Jamie had been gone for more than half an hour. Her kids were tired, and getting grumpy. She had loaded them into the car and pulled up to the front gate to wait.

A security guard approached the parked vehicle, and offered assistance. Erin told him the story, and he immediately radioed others to begin a search of the large zoo grounds.

Another half an hour had passed, with still no sign of Jamie. Erin’s nerves were on edge, and her children were also a concern. She would not leave without her wife, but she couldn’t subject her kids to the same stress. Pulling out her cell phone, she made a quick call. “Mom, I need your help.”

“Of course Dear,” Danielle Casey said. “What do you need?”

“It’s a long story, but we’re in the zoo’s parking lot. I know it’s late, but can you come and get the kids, and take them back to your place for the night? I’ll explain more when you get here.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” Danielle said anxiously.

Little McKenna started crying, disturbing Rory, who had drifted off to sleep in his car seat. Erin picked up the baby, and began pacing. The motion served two purposes, hopefully to pacify the infant, and to dissipate some of her own uneasiness. She had removed her jacket, and draped it over the bundle to add another layer of warmth against the evening chill. It’s just a blanket, she thought, I should have told her to forget it. The infant soon quieted, and so did Rory. Erin had tried several times to call Jamie, but with no answer, her heart really started to pound with worry.

   *    *    *

Jamie’s eyes opened to the dark, as a misty rain began to fall on her face. Her head throbbed, and she reached up to feel a tender spot on her forehead. “Ow,” she muttered. “I need to get out of here.” Jamie shakily got to her feet, and began stumbling through the trees.

No matter how far she walked, or what direction she took, nothing resembling the zoo grounds ever came into view. No cement pathways, no benches, no fences ever appeared. There was no sign of civilization at all. “I’m in the freakin’ twilight zone,” she said, “or I’m dreaming.”

A howl suddenly sounded, far off in the distance. There are no wolves in our zoo, she thought. There are no wolves in our state. That was the scarier thought.

Jamie zipped up the front of her jacket, and pulled the collar higher up on her neck. The cold mist was quickly turning to a cold fog. “Maybe I just need to stop and wait for someone to find me,” she said.

A few more steps, and Jamie found a fallen tree and sat down. She crossed her arms and began rocking back and forth, half from the cold and half from nerves.

Jamie must have sat there for about twenty minutes, when she began to get drowsy.  She certainly didn’t want to fall asleep in this…place. She was used to spending time in the woods surrounding her ranch, often alone, but never at night…alone. But that forest was peaceful and serene. This one was definitely high on the creep scale. In fact, Jamie could swear she was beginning to see things creeping around. Dark shapes, some short, some tall, some on two legs, and some on four, were mingling within the thick fog. Sounds began to rise from the silence. Moans, growls, hisses and…whispers…human whispers.

Jamie became lightheaded. She brought her hands down beside her to steady herself. She felt something odd beneath her fingers. There were gouges in the wood, and she traced the four long grooves, where something had scratched with very sharp claws.

A terrifying howl pierced the night.

Jamie continued to rub the claw marks, while she chanted the mantra. “There are no such things as werewolves. There are no such things as werewolves. There are no such things as werewolves.”

Whatever it…they were, they loomed in the darkness, stalking, waiting for whatever reason to attack. Jamie could feel eyes on her. The creatures would ebb forward and then retreat. Repeating the action over and over again, they got a little closer each time. Jamie tried harder to make her eyes focus on the creatures. When one got very close, she was able to make out the fur covered body. She looked up, contemplating climbing the tree beside her, but there weren’t any low hanging branches. It probably wouldn’t be enough anyway. Those things seemed very powerful.

Jamie knew any moment that it…they were going to be on her. She had two choices, give up and probably die, or fight back. The five most beautiful faces in the world suddenly flashed into her mind. Jamie’s hands drew into fists as she readied for a fight. It may be futile, but she would not give up the chance to get back to her family. Some ancient power bubbled up inside her, and she rose to her six foot height, planting her feet firmly upon the ground. “Come and get some,” she snarled.

Something was suddenly running straight at her, crouched on all fours. It loped at top speed, hitting the ground silently. A killer for certain.

Jamie raised her only weapons, ready for a fight.

    *     *     *

“Why can’t you find my wife?” Erin was beyond exasperated after five hours.

“Ma’am, we have covered the entire zoo grounds, and there has been no sign of her. It is quite possible that in the dark, she wondered off the grounds and into the forest adjacent to the back of the zoo.”

“And are you searching there?”

“As best we can in the dark. Has she been sick or depressed?” the guard asked.

“No, of course not. Why would you ask that?”

“He’s thinking she disappeared on purpose.”

Erin turned abruptly. “What is that supposed to mean? And who are you?” she asked with a definite ire.

“I am Detective Burke,” the stout man declared, as he showed a shiny gold shield. Because of the unusual circumstances, the police had been called in. “It is a good opportunity to leave her problems behind.”

“We have no problems, Detective. We have a very happy family. And we are a very happy couple. There are no money issues. Her business is very successful. Our children are the most important thing in the world to both of us, and neither one of us would ever abandoned them. Jamie hates herself if she has to leave on business even for a few days. Trust me Detective, Jamie Sheridan is the most devoted family woman in the world.”

“I’m sure that’s your perception Ms. Casey. But in my business, you learn that everyone has their breaking point.”

“Not my wife,” Erin said, as her final adamant word on the subject.

Another hour inched by. Erin had been pacing for most of those hours, the anxiety climbing by the minute. She had been offered coffee, but refused, because her stomach was churning. She had reclaimed her jacket, when her mother took all of the children to her home, but the chill running up and down her back would not be defeated by any garment. She watched with distaste as the group of men, including the detective, stood around looking bored, almost annoyed. Erin always tried not to hate, but that’s the only way she could feel at the moment.

Erin wanted this to be over, as she had prayed for several times. She wanted to be at home in her warm bed, snuggled up against her wife, both of them safe and sound.

She did not want to face the new day, or any day in the future, without Jamie.

A tickling intuition made Erin turn toward a dark area beyond the parking lot. Her eyes strained to focus as she saw a shadow moving within the trees. The dark form finally coalesced into a tall human shape. Erin took off running just before Jamie appeared. The rancher was stumbling slightly, but Erin continued at full speed, only slowing down so she wouldn’t knock down her obviously weak spouse.

Burke climbed back into his car, and reached for his phone. “It’s me,” he soon said.

“You have a report?” the voice, on the other end of the phone, asked.

Burke grimaced, knowing his words would not be taken easily. “I had to let her go,” he said.

“She failed the test.”

The detective considered. “Not exactly. She showed courage and strength. But I realized that she is too devoted to her young family right now. She would never leave them for long periods of time.”

“But her family is as much in danger from this threat as any other.”

“Yes,” Burke agreed. “But I just don’t think it is the right time to approach Jamie Sheridan. We have recruited plenty of other hunters recently.”

“We have. But as you know, many of them may not survive for any length of time.”

“That’s not a very good recruitment slogan.”

“But it is the truth,” the mysterious man said. “The threat is growing. Our source assured us that she was a perfect candidate.”

“He also knew her fifteen years ago. She is obviously a different person now, in many ways. Perhaps in a few years, after people start dying, she will see the necessity of the movement.”

“Keep her at the top of your list. I will give Jamie Sheridan one year, then we will definitely try to initiate her into the organization.”

“Yes Sir.” Burke sat in his car, watching as Jamie clung to her wife. He could tell that the tall brunette was still somewhat disoriented from the drug they had given her, not to mention the head injury she had suffered. That incident was truly accidental and had almost ruined their test.

Reading her body language, Burke knew that the prolonged hug came from a very deep love, with a touch of guilt for causing her wife so much anxiety. He also knew from experience that that kind of love could work for, or against his organization.

Erin kept a hold on her wife as a she helped Jamie to the car, preparing to take her to the hospital to get checked. She wanted to hear the whole story of her disappearance, but at the moment she just wanted to be with her wife. “I love you so much,” Erin said.

“And I love you.” Jamie’s hand went to her pocket. She pulled out a piece of cloth. “Oh, I found the blanket…I guess.”

“You guess?”  Erin asked with concern as she ran her hand over Jamie’s head. “Well, thank you Sweetheart. I’m very sorry you had to go through all of this.”               

Jamie reached up and rubbed her stiff neck. “I am so tired,” she admitted. “And you won’t believe the dream I had.”

The End