The creature had come the night before, just after great shining lights appeared in the sky. Pablo had not seen it then, but he had heard it. Its sick sucking howls mixed with the terrified bleating of the goats. He was too afraid to go outside and had assured himself the lights were Federales helicopters looking for smugglers. They had spooked the herd, and the herd stomped in the mud, making the sucking sounds. It was enough to let him go back to sleep.
The next morning Pablo found three goat corpses drained of blood, looking already like dried carcasses that had been bleached in the desert sun. The other goats were pressed into the opposite side of the pen, far away from their fallen sisters. Pablo could not fool himself after seeing the mummified goats.
When the lights came again the next night, Pablo knew he must face them. He took his rifle, crossed himself with a prayer to St. Isidore, and ventured out into the cool, dark air. He kept low to the ground, staying in the shadows where the lights did not shine.
The herd was bleating wildly. Hooves and horns smashed against the fence as they tried futilely to escape. On the other side of the pen, the chupacabra prowled.
It was a horrid creature. Its skin bore scales, and spines poked out from its neck. If Pablo had not smelled its foul, lizard-like stink, he might have guessed it was a coyote with mange, but it was no coyote. It hissed and warbled like nothing of this world.
Whenever its eyes caught the light, they shined red. Pablo couldn’t bear to look at them.
The chupacabra lunged, hopping like a kangaroo, and grabbed one of the goats with its front claws. The goat screamed, like a woman’s scream. Then it gurgled and was dead. The chupacabra leaned over it and began to drink, slurping and sucking.
The sound was worse than Pablo could bear. He was afraid, but he had to make it stop. He lined up his eye along his rifle, took in a breath that reeked of scales and blood, and pulled the trigger.
When the bullet struck, the chupacabra gave a sharp yelp and fell to the ground. The goats jumped at the blast, but they calmed down, bleated softly, and stared at the dead chupacabra.
“I did it!” Pablo announced to himself. He had defended his herd, and he had a trophy. Maybe he could sell it to the university, gain some much-needed pesos for the farm. He could buy his sister a beautiful dress, or a milking cow, or perhaps even–
The lights above began to swirl and trip up Pablo’s wandering dreams. He stared as the lights spun and joined into a single beam. The beam moved across the farm and finally stopped directly on top of him. For a moment Pablo was blind, but then he could see the men.
Part of him wondered if they were angels, another part, demons. They were tall and gray-skinned, with huge black eyes that took up much of their egg-shaped faces. They had no noses and tiny gaping mouths.
Two of the men stared at him, and the third turned toward the chupacabra. It raised its long-fingered hands into the air and made a whispering sound. Pablo only shook his head.
One of the men walked toward Pablo. Pablo meant to run or at least bring up his gun, but he was frozen with fear.
It raised its hands, each finger bearing five knuckles. While Pablo whimpered, it wrapped its fingers around his head.
A voice spoke inside his brain, “What’d you kill our dog for?”
Pablo made a sound he could only describe as “burble.” Whatever the man was, he could speak into his mind. Pablo began to shout back but then stopped himself and thought, “It was killing my goats!”
The alien looked up with even wider eyes. He turned to one of the others. They made eye contact, but Pablo did not overhear any thoughts. Both aliens suddenly seemed very stiff.
It turned back to him. “Welp, shucks. Sorry about that. We didn’t know ya would mind.”
“Well,” Pablo thought, though he was not quite sure what to think, “you’re forgiven. A simple mistake. De nada.”
The alien released Pablo’s head, backed away bowing, and motioned to the others. They scooped up the fallen chupacabra and, in another flash of light, disappeared. The shining lights in the sky spun again and then shrank until they joined the stars.
Pablo stood alone in the night air for a moment, made a long, low hum of disbelief, and went back inside the farmhouse. He decided it had been a coyote with mange after all.
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