Three nights into the camping trip, Vanessa’s troop finally realized she’d brought it with her. It had gotten out of its little cage somehow and was crawling around the fire circle, huge eyes flashing red in the glow of the embers. It sat in the warmth and groomed the fur on its arms, its human-like hands casting enormous shadows. It snatched a moth out of the air with unsettling speed and popped it between its fangs.
One of the girls punched Vanessa’s shoulder until she woke up. “It got loose,” she hissed. “How could you bring that thing here?”
The words folded themselves into Vanessa’s dreams. More memory than dream–no scary monsters or flying, or falling–more like reruns of past camping trips, troop meetings, school days. How could you, how could you, how could you. You’re a cow, a dog, an ugly-faced lunatic with sick hobbies. We don’t like you and wish you and your pet tarantulas and corn snakes and gargantuan cockroaches would die. They’re harmess, she tries to cry out, but in dreams her voice is always broken. She dreams of her other pets, the newer ones. The scorpion, the jellyfish tank, the rattlesnake.
She opened her eyes. The whole troop was standing over her, seven angry faces. “I’ll get her,” she said, wiggling out of her sleeping bag. “She won’t hurt anyone.” Her flashlight went into her pajama pants pocket, as well as a small net that she hoped not to have to use. “Probably.”
The little creature was licking its elbows when Vanessa sat down beside it. “You know you’re not supposed to do that,” she said. “It makes you more dangerous.”
The creature turned its face, a cross between a raccoon’s face and a pug’s, up to her and slowly blinked its huge amber eyes.
‘That’s where your venom is, remember?”
The creature slowly scratched at its tiny, round ear.
Vanessa laughed. “Come on, let’s go inside. You’ll get another graham cracker if you’re sweet.”
Slow and grippy like a chameleon, the creature climbed up Vanessa’s arm and onto her shoulder. She carried it back inside, the troop giving her a wide berth. “Are you sure you don’t want to pet her?” Vanessa asked.
“Say good night then.” She turned her shoulder to each of them. The little creature bared its fangs, an unnaturally low growl bubbling up from deep within it.
She slipped the creature back into its cage, locking it this time.