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When you hear the incessant and familiar wailing of a baby, you know it's upset or sad about something, and it's your powerful human instinct to help others that sparks curiosity as to why the infant could be crying. Maybe it wants food or its mother, or it could be hurt. Whatever the case, if you're a typical human and hear a crying newborn, you want to know what's upsetting it. If only babies didn't communicate through babbling and bawling. However, this instinctive empathy and inquisitiveness can be fatal under the proper circumstances.

I used to live in the Bahamas, a place where you see birds bathing in luscious mangrove swamps, turquoise water enclosing the hundreds of islands, and white sand stretching across miles of beach under the baking heat of the sun. But at nightfall, the swamps and pine forests become mazes of shadows, the sea darkens into a sheet of blackness, and the beach becomes a whole new world. On Bahamian nights, if there is a full moon or no moon at all, something terrible awakens in the Atlantic, selecting a beach before crawling from the ocean and crouching on the edge of the water.

This creature, which has come to have the name "Tar Baby," is not a creepypasta and not a campfire story created for the sole intention of scaring children. It's a true legend of the Bahamas, so fear-inspiring that the few elders who have seen it are unwilling to acknowledge its existence, resulting in it becoming an esoteric tale. Although it's rare to stumble upon someone who knows of this cryptid, I was lucky enough to learn about it from a scholar of Bahamian history during my stay in the Caribbean.

Curious about the creature's name, which, until that moment, I believed to be a racial slur or a metaphor for a sticky situation, I asked about it. The scholar explained that the Tar Baby was a toddler-looking creature, an animal so black it blends with the night sky. As pitch-black as darkness itself.

"This creature," the scholar said with gloom, "waits on the beach, crying and screaming like a baby as it attempts to attract prey. If a curious beach-goer hears the sound and approaches, they're sure for a grisly surprise. For if the Tar Baby touches its victim with its adhesive skin, it succeeds in preparing dinner."

All these years later, I believe those words down to the last syllable. On a moonless, starless midnight in the midst of last summer, I was strolling on the beach when a piercing sniveling reached more ears. I wanted to go closer to the whimpering, my gut urging me to run to what could have been a child in need. But although I was skeptical of the Tar Baby story, something in my body more intuitive than my gut told me to stay away. So I continued down the beach, keeping close to the rustling palm trees and far from the whistling of the ocean winds. But after a mile of ambling, the unsettling crying wasn't any softer, and I knew it was following. That's when I darted for the road, resisting the compulsion to turn around with my body shivering and face tensing. And with the moaning and whining chasing me, my sandals flying off my feet as I ran and ran until the beach was out of sight. Only then did the squalling stop. I didn't believe the crying came from the abominable Tar Baby, but after months of contemplation, I was ready to accept the truth.

The week after that incident, the Nassau Guardian published a story on a "shark attack," wherein the article described how a drunk tourist must have stumbled into the water after dark, washing ashore with a mangled body. And in the blood splashing around the victim's disfigured corpse, the police found two chewed-up sandals, the picture of which sent my spine into a cold spasm. After I read my way past the gruesome description of the attack, the author stated the Royal Bahamas Defense Force was on a mission to find and kill the attacking animal, but I knew the real target of their hunt wasn't a bull shark.

Now that I live in Virginia, my one piece of advice to those visiting the Bahamas is to not dare to stroll the beach on a full or new moon, and if you do for whatever reason, sprint like mad if you hear that ghastly crying. Knowing the unmitigated incompetence and corruption of the Bahamian government, the Defense Force failed in killing the Tar Baby, and the so-called "shark attacks" will continue. People will keep hearing the weeping and howling, approaching it before finding themselves in the presence of an aquatic evil that poisons the air with the stench of a dead pig and an aura of death. But only when it stops crying and turns to look at its meal, will the victim understand that they're done. Heed my warning, and ignore your gut instinct on the beaches of the Bahamas, lest some nocturnal horror swims from the depths drags you into the waves, drowning your life away before stealing your flesh. If you're not careful enough in that tropical paradise, your curiosity and humanity may make you a clawed and sliced chunk of meat washed up in a puddle of red. There's something in those waters—I'm sure of it.

I was able to bribe these photos out of the Bahamian National Security Council's database:

Written by Lord Colbito
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