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Dear Anonymous Cryptid Photographer

William Hawkins


Item. A letter to the editor published in the Tampa Tribune in which an anonymous woman details an encounter with an unidentified creature which appeared in her backyard, crouched and made ‘woomp’ noises as it stole apples from her back porch. The letter queried if anyone was missing an orangutan. 
Some time later, the following letter was slipped under the door of the editorial department. The envelope was sealed in dried mud; the letter itself was damp and produced a strong odor. It was never published.

Dear Anonymous,

            You might remember me. I am the six-foot-five ape man who stole apples off your back porch. To quote Mr. Carlos Williams, they were delicious. It is so rare that we have apples this far south. You know what apples I mean. Plucked apples. Your daughter, I understand, brought them for you, all the way from Rochester. It was their smell that enticed me to your backyard. They smelled so—cold. Like winter, welling up in the soil. Winter returning. And the color red. How long since I smelled the color red? Not chemical red, no, but true red, blossomed red. Wild red. Such a wonder. I want you to know, I am not normally a thief. I do what I must to survive, of course, but I admit, I did not do this to survive. I stole them for my pleasure. I hope you forgive me. It was punishment enough, the violent flash of light from your cheap camera. And, too, to hear of you reporting my presence to the local law enforcement. Even the newspaper! I appreciate your attempt to stay anonymous, but they all know who you are. And now the woods are flooded with cryptid hunters: short, bald men stomping in their boots, flashing their cameras at twitchy bushes, filming themselves breathing in a field of palmettos. And everyone blames me for it. Not just my fellow skunk apes, but all the others, all the secret creatures cut out of the Good Book, the man apes, bloodsuckers and skinwalkers, the hoop snakes and devil monkeys and ghost deer, the lizard men, the bipedal frogs, the swamp is full of their grumbling. You are everywhere, my dear Anonymous—there is so little left for us. Wherever we go, we hear cars driving on the highway. We are packed in tight, trying desperately not to be noticed, and soon…soon I fear we will take to killing each other. One day you will find our bones, a cryptid ossuary, and the skeptics will eat crow. I have eaten crow. I have eaten anything that will fill my stomach. Anything. I am only surviving. In this new, known world, that’s all a skunk ape can do. But the apples. The apples were such a treat. Still. I’m sorry for scaring you. I truly am. I saw you, you know. Before I stole the apples. You were washing dishes at the sink. You looked so lonely in your kitchen window. I think I stole your apples to be kind. And I’m sorry for it.

God bless.


                                                                                    Your Anonymous Swamp Ape


William Hawkins has been published in Granta, TriQuarterly and ZYZZYVA. Originally from Louisiana, he currently lives in Los Angeles. His mother is often disappointed by the brevity of his biography, but there it is.

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