Some people spend years of their lives researching folklore and staked-out in remote locations to find concrete evidence confirming the existence of their favorite cryptids. I seem to be one of the lucky few who lives in the opposite of that pursuit: in going about my daily life, cryptids appear to be seeking me out.
Last month I shared with you the the story of the Callaway Cryptid, a wereopossum with an unusual predilection for strong-smelling soap. Over the past weekend, I became aware of another cryptid skulking around my own neighborhood, and this one doesn’t limit its nefarious activities to the safe cover of nightfall.
I’ve named him Sparky, and he is an uncommon variety of rodent-like cryptid. The ancient Norse spoke of Ratatoskr, a squirrel who carries messages up and down the world tree of Yggdrasil, sometimes gnawing on the tree itself, a destructive behavior that eventually allows for the further continued growth of the world tree. A surprisingly poetic bunch, those Vikings. I’m not saying that my Sparky is Ratatoskr, but I believe the myth of Ratatoskr grew from encounters with a creature of the same type as Sparky. In the same vein that Bigfoot is a particular sasquatch, but occasionally you hear people refer to any unidentifiable woodland mystery as “a Bigfoot,” I’m going to say that, being the most legendary of the species, Ratatoskr would probably be fine with lending his name to generally refer to his kind on the whole.
Sparky, then, is a rodentine cryptid hereby referred to as a Ratatoskr. I believe that the most readily identifiable feature of the Ratatoskr, allowing the casual observer to identify the cryptid from a distance is the tail. A Ratatoskr will look just like a regular squirrel, taking the form of whatever species is most common in its chosen habitat, except that the tail is not quite the same. Sometimes the Ratatoskr’s tail is a little too short. Other times it’s a little too long. It’s a crap shoot, really, so you just have to be wary of any squirrel with a tail that looks almost but not quite right. If the tail is bald, that is too much not right, and what you have is a rat. Better luck next time.
I have determined that Sparky should be so named because he seems to be of a subvariety that has a special relationship with electricity. It is not lost on me that this seems to be not wholly unlike Pikachu, who is also vaguely squirrel-like, has a not-quite normal tail, and has something to do with electricity, as confirmed by Wikipedia as I am not personally well-informed on matters of Pokemon. I hypothesize that Pikachu may be based on a Japanese variety of Ratatoskr, and while Pikachu is arguably more well-known that the Norse Ratatoskr, I’m sticking with calling the whole group Ratatoskr, and I’m not going to expand much more on their similarities because I don’t want to get into trouble with Nintendo. There are some giants you just don’t mess with.
Back to Sparky. I have said before that our electricity is squirrelly, but that may be truer than I knew. Now that I have strong evidence of Sparky’s presence in the neighborhood, it makes much more sense. You may also have a Ratatoskr like Sparky in your neighborhood if you commonly experience power outages from broken transformers on your power lines. The electric company has been thinly veiling the truth from us for years. When you ask the repair crews what went wrong, they will often report, “It’s nothing. Just an unlucky squirrel that crossed the contacts wrong. He won’t make that mistake again. Har-har-har. Anybody want any barbecued squirrel?”
What they’re not telling you is sometimes there isn’t any barbecued squirrel. At least, not from atop the telephone pole. Of course, sometimes there is. Squirrels are prone to mistakes just as people are. And that’s what makes it such a perfect cover up. Sometimes the squirrel is toast. Sometimes the squirrel is not actually a squirrel, but a conniving Ratatoskr feeding on the electricity.
And as the Norse legends suggest, sometimes Ratatoskr uses his destructive nature for good. As the gnawed sections of Yggdrasil heal and provide new growth, modern Ratatsokr like Sparky tend to direct their destruction in the same way, often shorting out only the transformers that needed to be replaced anyway. If it was a perfectly good transformer blown up, you almost certainly had a regular (okay, slightly dumber than regular) squirrel. But if it was an old transformer that was looking a little hazardous to begin with, you actually received a favor from a Ratatoskr. He’s a Chaotic Good sort of character, most of the time.
I think Sparky must be relatively young and therefore is still figuring out the best way to apply his skills. He’s also still working on his stealth, a necessary characteristic of any cryptid who wishes to maintain a little mystique and also survive in this terrifying world of trophy hunters and gun-toting conspiracy theorists. I only realized Sparky’s presence because he’s still a little sloppy.
Kalen and I have worked really hard on our backyard, which was nearly an overgrown jungle when we moved into this house six years ago. We’ve tilled and weeded, sown grass and planted decorative landscaping. We’ve replaced fencing and added a nice little sitting area on the patio. As is popular lately, we added some outdoor string lights for ambiance.
On Monday, I went out to check a hummingbird feeder, however, and when I looked at my feet I noticed something that did not belong. A lightbulb.
I looked back up in confusion and right in front of me, the lights strung across the fence were indeed missing one of their comrades. My jaw dropped and I made an indignant sort of scoffing noise, and then I noticed that the next two bulbs were also missing.
Now, this section of fence does separate our yard from the service alley, and there are all manner of people who regularly wander this alley, sometimes simply avoiding traffic, sometimes scavenging items from the trash bins, and other times peeking through fences just looking for trouble. Kalen was not convinced that our missing bulbs weren’t the work of a hooligan with wire cutters just snipping bulbs for chaos’ own sake, so we consulted our cameras to check both the alley and the back yard itself.
Sparky was sneaky enough not to trip the camera, but luckily our system takes a picture every three minutes even when it doesn’t sense motion. By scanning back through the last couple of days I was able to pinpoint when each bulb had been severed to within three minutes of the occurrence. As I scanned the backyard footage for clues, I gave Kalen the timestamps I found and he confirmed that, while our alley is a popular thoroughfare, no one was in the alley at any of the times our bulbs were freed from their electrical chain gang. I’ve included screenshots of the footage below and circled the relevant areas.
Because the camera was not triggered to record, the snapshots we got are not of the best quality, but as amateur cryptozoologists, I’m sure that’s not a great concern to you. I have circled the relevant portions of each set of pictures, and I do strongly recommend quickly moving the comparison slider back and forth to best see the subtle differences in each. You’ll notice that the time stamp for each set is only three minutes apart, so Sparky does quick work.
In these pictures, I’ve circled the doomed bulb in red. In scouring the images, I also noticed other subtle differences that I believe may actually be Sparky. These are circled in a lighter peach color. As a cryptid, it is not at all surprising that Sparky has exceptional camouflage, and it is only through such direct comparison that we are even able to spot him at all.
As you can see from these images, Sparky is active during the day, feeding on the low level electricity of the string lights (plugged in, but turned off) at approximately 9:30 a.m., 7:08 p.m. the same day, and finally shortly after 10 the following morning.
I also captured the following images that I believe show Sparky exhibiting new behavior which confirms the close relationship of the Ratatoskr to the common squirrel.
Sparky is pictured here on the ground, again well-camouflaged. Although the image is somewhat pixelated, I believe that Sparky is actually displaying agricultural tendencies similar to but more advanced than the common squirrel’s habit of gathering and burying nuts.
As we all learned as small children, the common squirrel gathers nuts in the autumn to ensure that she has a supply of food through the winter. Sparky, however, is seen here planting the bulbs he harvested from the string lights. He is not hoarding them for the winter, but instead planting in the spring to ensure a harvest in the future. Of course, we are inclined to laugh at Sparky’s attempt to plant light bulbs, which are not made of organic matter and of course will not grow into anything.
Or will they? We are already accepting that there are creatures we do not understand, creatures like Sparky. Is it so unbelievable that Sparky might have abilities beyond our understanding as well? Perhaps by planting these lightbulbs and regularly applying a portion of the energy he consumes from unprotected outdoor outlets and electrical transformers, he will grow a decorative lamppost, or a luminous bulb bush. And we only found two of the three bulbs, so maybe that third will take root and grow, because honestly, that sounds like it would be lovely in my garden.