Field notes from Lusha Valverde’s personal expedition
Do you remember our favorite tale Mother told us when we were young? The one of magnificent turtle creatures with scaly limbs and bulletproof shells that swim through the sand?
They live miles beneath the dust and dunes, she’d say. They eat the roots of plants, and that’s why none can grow there. They hid, long ago, when our ancestors journeyed down from the mountains and crossed the desert.
I always thought it was just a child’s tale.
I’ve been in the Wastes, continuing my research on silt mice, and I’ve found something. Attached are my most relevant field notes, and they need your eyes, your expertise. Read them with an open mind, as I’m sure you might think I’m losing mine.
Silt mice nest located. Underneath Brezhorn cactus on top of a sand dune five miles South of the road towards the City of Glass, situated West. Sand dune hides the base of the mountain in the distance. Current Brezhorn specimen: ten and a half feet tall, flaming red in color, knobby with segments of flat pads, purple spines three inches in length, estimated five years old.
Anticipated full moon tonight; it should glow bright orange, similar to the hue the mice emit. I am reminded of my mother’s warning of desert full moons; how they stir ancient creatures deep within the sand. Of course, there’s no evidence of that.
Thought I was losing my mind. Just re-measured, Brezhorn now ten feet tall; it sank. Wind speeds have been higher than normal for this time of year. Brezhorn pad closest to the ground shredded, chunks litter the sand. Unusual, as mice only do that when stressed.
THE DUNE IS GONE. HOLY SHIT. Disappeared overnight. How???
Tent faced West when I went to sleep last night, still faces the West this morning — staring right at my compass. But the base of the mountain is visible. The sand is just… flat. Completely settled, rippled by the night winds and frozen under the heat of the sun.
A windstorm wouldn’t do this. I’m a light sleeper. I should have woken up. Why didn’t I wake up?
Found tracks. Not mice; larger than any known desert animal. Approximately ten inches long, five and one eighth inches wide. Deep footprints; heavy animal. Drag marks indicate it is likely slow. It has claws.
Followed them for half of a mile. They disappeared directly into ripples on the surface of the sand. They were alluring, almost calling me. Of course, I followed. Mice still MIA.
I’m shaking. I found it. Two miles East, in the valley between two dunes. Located another Brezhorn with exact same measurements as original specimen. Confirmed shredded paddle at the bottom. Nest also confirmed.
What is going on? How did an entire nest of mice move two miles in one day with their home and source of food intact? It’s impossible. Improbable.
Mother’s creature is real. Alive. I saw it.
Sleep disturbed by loud rumbling, tent and entire world seemed to be vibrating. Exited tent in a daze to find the sand swelling beneath the cactus before it completely exploded. Brezhorn dislodged from the sand and flew upwards to reveal its attachment to a turtle with scaly skin, large clawed feet, and a shining gunmetal gray shell from which the cactus protruded, launched into the sky, roaring—
Only to be caught in the mouth by a much larger turtle with an aged and scarred shell and a hooked upper jaw. The beak sliced the cactus in two. By the time the carcass hit the ground, the two creatures disappeared completely beneath the sand. Only evidence: the ripples, painting the sand in the direction of the descending moon and the fragment of a scale still attached to the Brezhorn.
The scale is gray, almost iridescent in the moonlight. Thrice as thick as a fingernail. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. The turtle shouldn’t exist, let alone be actively a part of an ecosystem. Could it really be true? I’ve been staring at the ripples for hours. The sun is almost up. The desert is really quiet at night.