I’ll never forget the Easter of 1989.
I was 7, a little red-cheeked girl overly confident of my cuteness in an eggshell-blue church dress, frills and bows included.
The family Easter egg hunt was being held on an older relative’s farm. Ten dollars and a bag of candy was being offered as the prize to the winner, and my competitive spirit is never stronger than when money is at stake.
After listening to a long dissertation on safety from our parents, all the children were released to the hunt. We were told to stay within eyesight of the adults and to head back toward the porch when we noticed it getting dark.
I could immediately see that most of my cousins were as serious about winning as I was: bows were pulled off, dress pants were ruined, and more than a few punches landed. I quickly decided to leave the ruckus behind and head to the outer edge of the farm, because most of the younger kids would be too nervous to head for the property line.
“Not too far,” I heard my mother yell from the porch, and I gave her a thumbs-up to show her that I’d heard.
But listening and obeying have never been friends of mine, and within 30 minutes I was out of adult eyesight.
I had only found 16 eggs at that point and had determined beforehand that I would need to find at least 25 to win. I decided to push a little further. My dress shoes were dirty, my curls were sweaty, and I was getting so thirsty and tired that I figured that I only had a good 20 minutes left in me.
I stopped moving to plan my last searching spot, and just as I was about to turn around and backtrack for any eggs that I’d missed, I saw something sparkle in the corner of my vision. I gasped.
It was the biggest and most beautiful golden egg I had ever seen. My grandparents hadn’t mentioned hiding one special egg, but that’s obviously what this was.
I made my way to my prize, already mentally tasting my candy and spending my prize money. I faintly heard my mom calling my name, but I didn’t respond. I’d see her in a minute, and surprise her with this golden egg that would surely win me first place.
As I bent forward to grab the egg, I heard my dad’s voice in the distance as well. They sounded worried, and I’d call back just as soon as I –
The ground fell out from under me, sending me and my basket of eggs – including the beautiful one – plummeting underground.
My vision went black temporarily and I got the wind knocked out of me. Looking back now, I’d estimate that the fall was around 6 feet, but I was so stunned that I didn’t even start to cry.
As I stood up, I blinked rapidly and tried to see what was around me. The light from above broke the darkness a little, but it was still hard to see.
I had landed in some sort of den. Snake and chicken eggs covered the ground, some still whole but most broken. The cracked shells left scattered around my feet were covered in yolk and dirt and a reddish-brown mixture that I was scared was blood.
Now that I had my breath back, I started to yell. I yelled for my mom, my dad, my grandparents, and the names of any cousins I thought would be hunting for eggs anywhere in the area.
As I sucked in a giant breath to scream even louder, I heard a noise from the darkness ahead of me. I couldn’t tell if it was a gasp or a hiss or a cough, but it sounded like it came from something that was alive.
I let my breath out quietly, choosing not to scream, and wondering if I’d made a mistake alerting whatever was in the dark to my position.
Tears filled my eyes, and I wiped them away with dirt-caked hands. I glanced around the ground for anything I could use as a weapon, but I only saw mud and shells until I glanced ahead of me, in the direction of the noise I’d heard, and spotted my golden egg again.
It was just as hypnotizing underground, if not more so, because now it seemed to sit in spotlight in the darkness. It almost glowed and it definitely sparkled and I still wanted it more than anything I’d ever seen.
I shuffled as quietly as I could to the egg and grabbed it quickly. It felt warm in my hand, and I hugged it to my face, liking the comfort of something beautiful against my face in this cold and ugly place. As I held it there, I noticed that it almost seemed to hum, as if something were alive inside. I pulled it away and looked at it suspiciously, wondering what could be inside an egg that had obviously been dyed and decorated.
But I saw a glint in my peripheral vision: another golden egg ahead, this one slightly bigger and even brighter.
Throwing caution behind me, I ran to the next egg and grabbed it as well. Now I had two golden eggs, and my cousins wouldn’t have any, and –
There was another egg down the path, even bigger than the last.
This continued until I held five beautiful warm eggs in my arms. I had almost forgotten to be scared, because they all vibrated and seemed to be warming me up completely.
When I spotted the sixth egg up ahead, I didn’t hesitate, although I did wonder how many more of these eggs I’d be able to carry.
But when I got to the sixth egg it disappeared. One second it was ahead in my path, the next second it was gone. I looked around, totally confused, and saw it further along than it had been a moment before.
But when I reached it, it disappeared again, and once more appeared further along the path.
As I reached it this time, I began to feel frustrated. I felt like I was being teased, or being led…
It felt like I was being led into a trap.
And just as the thought hit me, just as I decided that the way I’d come was surely still better than the way I was going, something stepped out of the darkness.
I can’t find the words to accurately describe the creature, because I had never seen anything even remotely similar to it as a child and I still haven’t as an adult. I noticed that this thing was much taller than my dad, and he was over six feet tall. The creature was almost completely hairless, except for a few mangy tufts scattered at different spots on its disgusting body. Most of the hair was centered at the bottom of its back, I suppose in a gruesome facsimile of a tail. It walked in a permanent squat, bony knees nearly touching each other, and its feet were enormous.
Something grew from each side of its head, but one would be hard-pressed to call them ears. They hung down to pointy shoulders and laid there, long sinewy nauseating lobes.
The face was despicable and made me sick to look at. Most of the bottom of its head was covered in two enormous buck teeth, and its nose was just a blob of skin, more similar to a tumor than a human nose. I couldn’t see eyeballs, just empty sockets. And each cheek had 3 or 4 whiskers sprouting sideways, each over a foot long.
Its hands were holding something I couldn’t see well in the dark at first. But as my eyes focused I realized that it was a basket that looked like a rib cage.
The basket was made of bones, and it was full of eggs.
I dropped all my eggs at this point and began screaming so hard that I started to hyperventilate. As I screamed, as I stood there terrified and feeling that the world was a nightmare and that nothing would ever be all right again, I saw each of the golden eggs on the ground crack open.
And tiny infant versions of the monster began to crawl from each egg.
It was at this point that I passed out. I remember falling to the ground, landing on top of broken golden shells, and I remember hearing crunching as the giant thing, this horrible Easter Bunny from hell, began to hop toward me.
And then everything went black.
Almost three decades have passed since that Easter.
I never returned to that farm. Adults didn’t believe the terrified and hysterical girl that sobbed for days and tried to convince them that there was a monster that lived underground. They told me repeatedly that they found me asleep lying in a hole in the ground. I had been filthy, I had some cuts and bruises, and my clothes had been ruined, but otherwise I was all right.
My nightmares lasted for months and my parents tried to be patient when I woke up several times every night crying about the horrors below the family farm. But eventually they stopped coddling me and just started telling me I was wrong. I finally started to believe that maybe they were right: I had fallen into an abandoned well or mine or sinkhole and I had hit my head and dreamed everything. As I grew older, the incident slowly began to fade from my mind and become something that I looked back upon as a hallucination or nightmare. As an adult, I barely gave the incident another thought.
I stepped outside close to midnight to let our dog out. He stepped off the porch and immediately growled and came running back to the door and hurried inside.
I squinted out the door to figure out what had scared him, and what I saw turned my stomach over.
In the middle of our front porch was a pile of broken egg shells.
There must have been hundreds, all different sizes, and all covered in mud and plasma and blood.
The stack of shells reached my knees and smelled horrible.
Sitting at the top of the pile was one egg, big enough to be an ostrich egg.
It was sparkling, glittering, beautiful gold.
And it was humming.