The Jersey Devil

The mountains are good. The sky is good. The lake water is good.

The creature has fed well this morning. Though it never weakens without food, it still hungers, and it remembers the tastes of things it liked Before. It clings with razor-sharp claws to a tree, surveying the valley to which its instincts have taken it.

Man is here. It can smell the human stink. But most of all it hates the stink of man and woman together. The scent is strong in the memory of man. Words, words it heard Before, when words were something it understood. It understands only one thing now: to smell is to remember. To remember is to hate. Destroy the scent, and the horrors of Before will recede, and the mountain and the sky and the lake will be good again.

There - the scent is strong. The creature leaps. The two humans at their camp. The blanket beneath them. Other fabrics, clothes, are off to one side. The scent is strong between them.

When there’s enough blood to drive the other scent from the air, the creature feels content, restless no more. Nearby it sees a strange thing, a sight that stirs faint memories of Before. But these are pleasant scenes, and good scents. The creature reaches out, plucking the rolled paper from its curious box, and places the stick in its mouth. The fragrance of it is intoxicating. Fire, fire… it must burn. But there is a burning fire not twenty yards from the remains of the humans, nestled in a ring of stones. The creature lopes over to it, reaches tentatively into the flames with its prize, pulls it away when the tip has ignited.

The creature takes a long drag of its cigarette, and exhales a cloud of smoke and a sigh of satisfaction.