The Story of the Underbiters
The First Encounter
I've never met anyone else who knew of the Underbiters. For a time, I feared my mind was slipping. I must be seeing things; catching shadows in the corner of my eye. That was until the winter morning when I opened my sock drawer and caught one of the little creatures with a mouthful of my favourite blue and red striped socks.
We stared at each other for a while, neither knowing what to do. Twitch (as I've come to call him) was frozen in place, sock material still clamped tightly between his teeth, eyes darting back and forth. Eventually he looked directly at me and grinned with a sheepish, almost apologetic expression of "eh, what can you do?" before returning his focus back to the task of chewing on the soft cotton.
Tentatively I reached out and gently pushed the drawer closed. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I stared at the dresser for what seemed an eternity, stunned until I was spurred into action by the first rational thought that entered my mind.
Proof. I needed proof of their existence.
I hurried down the hall and into my office to grab my camera, fumbling with the lens cap in my excitement. After saying a small hallelujah that the battery was charged, I returned to the bedroom. Oh so slowly I inched the sock drawer open.
Gone. Nothing but socks.
In a desperate attempt to capture evidence of what just occurred, I snatched up the sock - my sanity reassured by the dampness where he had worn away the material with his teeth - and snapped a picture, knowing it proved nothing but feeling comforted by this nonetheless.
Yes, I told myself, it doesn't show him but look! You can see the hole. AND where he's gnawed the material thin.
But I knew it was just a hole in an old pair of socks. No one would believe my story. I needed something better.
I needed to draw him out.
That afternoon, my partner came home to find me sitting on the bed with my camera in my lap, the entire room littered with socks. He raised an eyebrow.
"I'm sorting them" I offered quickly.
He tilted his head, the other eyebrow now lifted.
"It's a process. I'm...having trouble deciding which ones to throw out."
He lifted the damaged red and blue striped sock from the floor. "How about this one?"
"No!" I replied too quickly, too loudly, causing him to lean slightly back from me in surprise. I laughed nervously, grinning in a way that probably matched Twitch's expression earlier. "Those are my favourites. I'll just fix those".
He carefully placed the sock back in its original spot, nodding politely as he took one last glance around. "Ok. I'll leave you to it".
Mercifully, he retreated from the room. This isn't too surprising. I suppose when you live with a woman who makes monsters, you come to accept certain eccentricities.
By the time night fell, I'd accepted defeat. The little creature wasn't going to return. As I gathered up the scattered socks, my mind tried to come up with a name for what I'd seen. I returned the last pair to the drawer, just as I decided on "The Underbiters".
Q: "I was wondering last night if any of the Underbiters enjoy music, and if so, what their preferences are...?"
A: The only one who has shown any interest (albeit short lived) was Dimly. I've spotted him absently swaying back and forth to both soft Jazz and songs from a Disney soundtrack (animated Robin Hood) before bolting after the next item to chase.
Q (about Gruff): "She must like blood? It's got that metallic undertone."
A: Actually, no. Even though Gruff likes the crunch of chicken bones, she won't touch them if they have any meat left on them. I've never seen any of the Underbiters consume meat or blood...at least not yet.
Q: "Do you pet them?"
A: No. I've only had physical contact with one of them (Curious Pete). The group tolerates me, but they are definitely not seeking human affection.
Q: "Are they found around the world?"
A: If you search, you'll find countless countries have folklore surrounding fairies, gremlins and the like. I have my suspicions that many of these tales were unknowingly inspired by the presence of Underbiters.
Q: "Does Gary (or any of the other little guys) have their colorings influenced by the environment or surroundings? I get the impression that maybe, their skin may change a bit depending on where they spend a lot of time eating, “playing” or sleeping."
A: A definite yes. Very astute observation! The Underbiters are the personification of the saying "You are what you eat" (and how you feel). Some examples:
- Gary is grey and murky with decayed teeth (like his food and exploration choices).
- Splink is almost neon green because he likes things involved with energy.
- Gruff is bright red which matches her bold and aggressive personality (plus she has a lot of iron in her blood).
- Not sure about Twitch, though I do (or did) have an awful lot of blue socks.
- Dimly's colours have both shadow and light blended together. I suppose it's due to the fact that he's always dashing from one spot to another. And his blue eyes? From staring up into the sky.
Q: "Do the Underbiters have a social hierarchy? Gruff is the Protector, Skelespun is the Scout, so what about the other guys and gals? Do they have a role in the group? Not sure but it seems like they may hang out together when they aren’t out doing their own mischievous activities; safety in numbers kind of deal."
A: I've never seen them all together at one time, but they are unofficially a united group (and I know there's a number of them scattered around the room when I'm watching tv). As for connections within the group, they are rather...distant from each other. For example, I don't think Dimly would notice for quite some time if everyone else left, but he would miss the close proximity of having similar creatures around. And Gary is a bit of a pessimist, so he expects he'll end up alone eventually (but he would never leave them).
Whatever role they take on is self-appointed, dictated by personality rather than a conscious decision. There is no leader but Gruff commands the most respect.
Q: "So, do the Underbiters realize you created them? If so, are they grateful at all, or are they completely uncaring and just intent on creating chaos in your sock drawer? (Sort of like the bad gremlins in the movie...)"
A: A bit of a Santa Claus question here. The Underbiters are unaffected that I create images and stories of them after I've discovered each one.
Q: "Do the underbiters like children? Are children able to see them and interact with them? Imaginary friends are so common in children or are they really underbiters in disguise?"
A: Since I've been able to see them, I imagine there might be others - including children - who can see them as well. But children have the nasty habit of wanting to touch and pet creatures, which the Underbiters loathe.
While an Underbiter is likely to live in a household with children (to take the blame when things break or go missing, and because households with kids tend to have more 'stuff'), they are unlikely to make friends or reveal themselves. Having said that, I could imagine Gruff taunting a child with a brief appearance as the child was being grounded for something the Underbiters were responsible for.
Q: "Since there appears to be only one female in the little clan inhabiting your premises, do you suppose this is a typical social setting among Underbiters? Or is Gruff perhaps the equivalent of a human supermodel, surrounded by adoring male fans?"
A: There are actually two girls. Yarp is the second one in this group (her bio still needs to be posted). As this is the first Underbiter group I have encountered, I can't be sure if the ratio of male to female is the norm.
While some Underbiters tend to gravitate to fellow members, I have yet to see favouritism or overt affection. Gruff has been around Pete a lot more since the pumpkin incident but that could be a protection - not affection - issue. Twitch can sometimes be seen following Yarp, but I think it's because Yarp makes...well...yarping noises (sound vs affection).
This of course raises an interesting question: where do baby Underbiters come from? I'll have to get back to you on that one.
Q: "I'm pretty sure I have one that lives in my fridge - I know I'm not eating everything that I put in there, but the food always seems to disappear - any studies being performed on the little fellas that wander the vast tundra of the big, cold box?"
A: I've had similar problems and am trying to figure out the best way to set up a camera inside the fridge. Will keep you updated!