If I were going to create a monster, I’d dig for train tracks.
That probably gave you an urban image. Or an Old West one. Nope. The tracks I’m thinking of were in the Northeast, long-abandoned, over-spanned by a cracked concrete highway bridge about… oh, forty or fifty feet higher, I think. High enough for vertigo. High enough that jumping, or being pushed over the railing by the draft from a semi truck, would kill you. There weren’t many of those trucks, it didn’t get heavy traffic, but one when you’re small and in the middle of the bridge, was quite enough.
Picture gripping concrete, feeling the air pressure sway you on your feet. On the one side the rumbling roar of the fast-departing semi; on the other, empty air, hovering over rust-red tracks that lead off perpendicular into endless woods. Where do they go? Who knows. The only maps you’ve seen mark roads and some buildings, not the tracks. Ask the locals, you’ll get a shrug. Newcomers have no idea; old-timers only say no one uses them anymore.
Walk off the old bridge, away from the road, the broken-down antique store on one side, the raspberry-briared slope belonging to an old house on the other. The woods rise around you as you stumble and pick your way down to the old rails; tall, and too thin, the way none of the nearby forests are thin. Probably it was logged a few decades back. No one talks about that, either.
The woods and the rails and the overpass swallow any noises that might reach beyond them. A bad place to get in trouble, if anyone else came there and didn’t like you.
(No one else comes there. That you know of. Aren’t you lucky?)
Small weeds grow around and through the tracks; dandelions here, a tuft of grass there. Nothing tall. Nothing like tree seedlings. They keep their distance.
(Only years later, watching highway shoulders mowed, grass and weeds cut short so you can find wrecked cars, will that strike you as odd.)
Nobody knows you’re there. Nobody goes down there; why walk down to the tracks and back when the road goes over? Just to avoid a little noise?
(But there’s never enough room to feel safe from passing cars. And the trucks never slow.)
The hush of the tracks is a lure, disappearing into uncharted woods. Not so hard to imagine it deliberate. Meant to hook the odd. The quiet. The ones who won’t be missed.
Were I to craft a monster here, I would weave it of leaves and pale gray branches; long, reaching fingers of rusting steel, and a stride that staggers like highway roar vibrating down the rails. It would be born of loss and forgetfulness, dread and the bone-deep ache of climbing and descending and climbing again. It would breathe like the wind wet with November rain, heavy and chilling you to the bone. It would rise, and stalk-
And there would be nothing left but a dropped mitten.
Or maybe, just maybe, a cold and limping form, leaving twisted steel behind with a knot of yarn and yew and gill-over-the-ground tangled in fallen leaves. A silent form, stubbornly climbing back to the road, lips sealed.
(No one goes down there. You didn’t go down there, did you?)
Who knows if the rails will rest quiet this time. No one talks about it.
Maybe you’ll come back next time, and throw down more yew. From the bridge.