Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2254462
A fateful hunting trip
|So, this happened around late November about ten years ago. Me and my best friend Josh had a final chance to go hunting in the Ouachita (pronounced WAH-shi-tah) National Forrest in Oklahoma before I left to see my relatives for Thanksgiving. We’d been hunting there a few times every fall since we were fourteen, sometimes with other friends but mostly just the two of us. His father owned a cabin that was located not too far from a great hunting area and believe me the land around it was filled with wildlife. Thing is, if that’s what you fancied, and we sure as shit did, you kind of had to skirt the law a little bit if you weren’t quite legal yet to hunt on your own. Look, I’ll tell you right now that most of what happened out there that particular year I won’t confirm or deny here. We were both pretty reckless back then. What with all the alcohol and the girls we knew, I guess you could say that we’d more than gambled already with the devil and knew how to lie our asses off about it. For the record though, I’ll just admit that shit happens when you’re young, horny, and thirsty, and not always the good shit. I guess that’s what you tend to remember the most though. There are plenty of good times I wish I could go back to, but that’s when I remember the last night of our trip and I forget all about the rest. One thing certainly did happen, and that was way more than enough for either of us. That’s why I’m here I guess, even if I don’t want to be. Anyway, this is what happened, at least what I can remember.|
Camping out at the cabin was one of our favorite things to do back then. You see there’s about two million acres down there in Ouachita stretching from Oklahoma down into Arkansas, and while most of it is in Arkansas, the land around the cabin we were at in Oklahoma was more than enough for the both of us. Ouachita is the French spelling of the Indian word Washita, which means good hunting grounds, and it sure as shit was for us. The area we were in was covered with all manner of Oak and pine trees to gawk at, and along with all the swimming and fishing during the summer, the hunting, the hiking, and everything else you can get away with out there, it can be an absolute fucking paradise.
I guess the thing I remember the most about that forest is how massive it really is. You got rolling hills to steep mountain terrain spread all throughout, so you could never really get bored. You could easily get lost though if you strayed too far away from the trails, so most folks just stuck to camping or hiking and whatever else they felt safe doing. Once the day ends though, no matter where you are, campsites tend to get even smaller. And when the night comes in, especially on a cloudless night, the sky will humble you like nothing else. But then again, so can the darkness I reckon. The dark is a real thing out there, far more than any city folk know. Once you’ve experienced darkness in a forest though, you’ll understand just how isolated and alone you really are in the universe. You and your campfire seem like a star in the void above you. Anyways, I guess you could say that most people out there just never seemed all that curious about the wilderness at night. I wasn’t, I was usually getting shitfaced or chowing down before crashing. Hell, me and Josh only stayed within the areas we really knew about back then anyways, which was mostly just around the cabin. I guess you could say that while we both fancied ourselves as hunters, we knew we were really just tourists. Like everyone else out there, we were far away from home.
Me and Josh had both just turned eighteen at the time and we were both pretty bummed after we’d had some bad luck hunting the prior week. Tired of his moping, Josh’s dad had decided to let him take some extra time off from work at his auto repair shop so that we could head out early for one last camping trip. I didn’t have a job back then and was surprised we would even get another few days out there, and since we were both going to have to spend a week with our families for Thanksgiving, we were itching to leave.
We were only supposed to be out there for four days and come back the following Monday. We left early on a cold Thursday morning, getting to the cabin around noon that day. We got ourselves settled in with what little food we’d brought and got to bed. We knew we’d end up hunting for the next few days anyway so we didn’t expect to go hungry.
Josh had brought his Winchester model 70 rifle that his dad had let him borrow, and I had my own model 70 that my dad had given me on my sixteenth birthday. I’d also brought along my compound bow that I’d been using for the last five years to hunt small game and deer with. It wasn’t in the best of shape, but it still got the job done. I’d only been hunting using a rifle for about two years at that time, but Josh had already been doing it since as long his dad could get him out in the woods. I still wasn’t the best shot with one, and sometimes I wouldn’t get anything, but Josh could hit a buck’s balls at over a hundred yards while spinning in a tornado. Anyways, he nearly always came home with more than I ever had, not that I’m complaining.
We did alright at first, I got a few squirrels the second day there but nothing to write home about. Josh however got a really nice doe on the third day. We got it back to the cabin and field dressed it, getting about thirty pounds of venison out of it. We’d planned on taking back as much as sixty pounds though so we weren’t done for the season quite yet. We put away most of it in the rotomold cooler my dad let us borrow for my truck to keep it nice and cold by the time we got back. Had a nice meal with what was left.
Not much happened the next day, just another squirrel for me, but my aim was still good with the bow so I was happy. On the final day we were there though, we had a chance to talk to another hunter named Mick who knew Josh from his dad. He was going on about some six-point buck he’d seen up near a tree line about thirty yards away from where our tree stands were already set up. He was primarily a bow hunter like myself, but he never even got a chance to draw on it before it disappeared. Since he had to get home, he thought he’d tell us about it and maybe we’d have a better luck with it the next day. We thought we’d at least give it a chance before we left, so we checked all our gear again that night and got ready for our next trip out.
When the late afternoon came around the next day, we got all of our gear together, climbed up into our tree stands, and began waiting. Hunting can be an awful lot about waiting. I mean a lot. But you still got to keep your eyes open no matter how tired you get. I had brought up a flask of whisky with me for moments such as these though, so I was prepared. I never really drank much while hunting, so I kept it to a bare minimum. I preferred beer anyway but I thought we were out. After about an hour of just watching the tree line, I gazed down towards the open field about forty yards in front of us. Barren yet again, rinse and repeat. On the last time I looked back across at Josh who was smiling and toasting me with a Budweiser in his hand.
We only had about an hour left of daylight so I kept hoping that Mick wasn’t just fucking with us. It had been a dry spell for me over the last two trips we’d gone on, so I was hoping to see the big buck before Josh even had a chance at it. We’d each set up our stands about thirty yards apart and about twenty feet off of the ground. We weren’t too far from the area most of the deer came into, but we’d never seen this particular buck before so it was a guess if it’d even be back again, if it even existed. The thing is, it was getting later, colder, and the daylight was waning. Deer don’t stay out grazing that late normally, at least none we’d encountered before.
After another uneventful hour of waiting, the light began leaking even further from the forest into the night. Hunting, even with a partner, can be quite lonesome and its almost always boring at some point. I’d crossed that bridge a few times that evening already, but I knew from experience that at least sometimes the wait was really worth it. So I continued to scan the field as well as the edge of the tree line across from us, still hoping and still waiting. There was nothing but a cool breeze though by this time, and the field below still appeared to be empty. Only the open prairie grass lit by the moon was keeping us company, and not much else.
Then things changed.
It began with silence. The forest was always alive around there in the early evening with the sounds of animals scurrying around, but suddenly there wasn’t even a breeze anymore. I immediately thought about a predator like a black bear and wondered if Josh had noticed it too. Predators can cause an area to fall silent while they hunt, even when they’re just moving through it. Before I knew it though, there was this horrid smell all around me, like something putrid and rotten. Field dressing game animals doesn’t really bother me, but this was rancid. I nearly threw up and my eyes watered. I don’t know about Josh, but at first I’d thought there was a skunk nearby. The thing is though, it didn’t really smell like a skunk, it smelled like death hung over. Like the carcass of a rotting animal that was dipped in feces and going back for seconds. It honestly reminded me of when I was eight and I’d found our neighbor’s German Shepperd lying in a ditch just outside our house. It looked like he’d been hit by a car and must have been dead for a while. That stench was devastating, and I’d thrown up all over the place. All I knew then was that I didn’t want to smell anything like it ever again. But now I had, and it was far worse.
I covered my nose and began breathing through my mouth. l carefully looked out of my stand to see if I could find anything causing the stench. I looked all around, and my eyes fell on the trees just past the open field we were above. In the darkness there I saw two golden lights in the distance. At first I thought they were flashlights from some other hunters but then they slowly moved up together. They stopped high up in the air, never drifting apart. Then they blinked and my breath stopped. Before I could even move I felt a deep vibration resonating all around me and I forgot all about the lights and the smell. Have you ever stood next to a semi-truck while its running? Imagine that but even lower and more powerful. The sound surrounded me, but I could tell that it was coming from below my stand. I could feel all of my bones humming along with it, making me even sicker than before. Something about it was primal, intimidating. I felt the tree I was on begin moving and I immediately pulled my rifle up not knowing what to do. I had nowhere to go.
I heard a gunshot to my right. I quickly looked out of my stand to see Josh pulling his rifle back in and signaling me with his flashlight. I started to signal back but whatever he’d shot at saw his light too and was now pissed off. I felt the tree I was on shake, as whatever it was let go of it and crashed to the ground. Then I heard its frustration as it roared.
This was no bear.
It sounded like a lion for Christ’s sake, and not a mountain lion either, something far bigger. I could hear it crashing its way towards Josh’s tree, but I couldn’t see anything yet because I was frozen and I was just too scared to turn my light towards it. It didn’t matter though, because the lights from the tree line across from us were now walking towards Josh as well, and the moonlight illuminating them hid no secrets.
Two impossible shapes appeared before me, and in the glare of the moon I could feel my whole world changing. I could see moonlight reflecting off of long snouts protruding from enormous heads, both with large pointed ears aiming upwards. There were rows of teeth ending in sharpened canines filling their maws, their jaws snapping back and forth at each other. They seemed to be communicating this way, but I can’t really be certain. Long hair covered them both from head to toe except on their faces. Their bodies were large and muscular, built for carnage, with long arms growing into hands with extended claws on each finger. Finally, they both stood about nine feet high, nearly half the way to the bottom of our tree stands. Each had two massive legs that were seemingly crooked and backwards at the knees, but appeared powerful, with immense feet. The golden eyes from the one walking across the field towards us were glowing from within. It had crimson irises that were burning into me. I felt marked with a hate I'd never known. These were alpha predators with no equal. They were the very definition of monsters.
And we were alone with them.
Two creatures that couldn’t exist were now making their way towards my best friend, and I felt petrified. I heard Josh screaming at them while fumbling with his gun, then yelling at me to do something. This broke me from my trance and I quickly raised my rifle at the closest one and took the best shot of my life. I hit the werewolf looking creature directly in its head, but it never even fazed it. It just continued on towards Josh’s tree as if nothing had happened.
Without thinking, I pulled out my compound bow and my lighter. Despite the absolute insanity of it, I quickly ripped apart my gun rag and tied it around the end of an arrow, poured some of my whisky on it, and lit the end. Hoping the flame wouldn’t go out, I brought up my bow, pulled the string back carefully, and took aim at the creature one more time. Praying feverishly, I let the burning arrow fly just as the creature climbed up reaching towards the bottom of Josh’s stand. It hit it high in the back as a greenish flame ignited and spread over it. The thing began howling in pain and anger, causing it to fall to the ground on all fours. Inspired, I immediately lit another arrow in the same manner and shot it at the second creature while it stared on in shock. My shot hit true again, setting its chest ablaze. A green inferno was now dancing between them, as howling erupted from both of the creatures. They struggled on the ground and rolled across each other. This must have forced the arrows even further into their bodies, as unearthly flames still raged across them. Their screaming tore into my ears even as they got up finally and ran frantically into the woods. A bright olive halo quickly faded away and this was the last I ever saw of them.
And then it was quiet again. For a moment I even thought we were safe. Then suddenly pairs of eyes began to shine all around us. Their collective light circled behind the trees like a wreath. There must have been over ten or more of these things. We were surrounded. But something was different; their eyes weren’t hateful, just curious. Instead of ripping us apart, they cocked their heads sideways, then back again. I then heard a collective chuff from all of them, and each pair of eyes simply blinked out one by one. And just as suddenly, we were all alone again in the silence of the woods.
We stayed in our tree stands until the sun came up, both of us crying occasionally but both of us mostly just silent and broken. We slowly watched the forest around us join with the sun again. It had been uneventful since the departure of the creatures. The birds were back, and with the sun rising, the cool air began warming. Thankfully, a fire hadn’t broken out from my handiwork, but at the time I only cared about going home. Around noon, with the sun up high, we both carefully climbed down from our stands. Josh hugged me but then remained quiet on the walk back to the cabin. We both were. When we finally reached the cabin we found the six-point buck’s head lying against our front door.
I can tell you right now, we didn’t exit that land for the better. We just survived, and I don’t know why. Fire doesn’t act like that, and it’s certainly not fucking green. I never shot an arrow like that before or after. It shouldn’t have worked, much less twice. Believe me, I looked and read everything I could find over the years about these things but found nothing at all that was similar. For Christ’s sake, these things shouldn’t even be real to begin with. I don’t know anything about silver bullets or anything else either and I don’t want to know. I got a feeling it wouldn’t matter if I knew anything anyway. Maybe they’d just crossed a line with their lineage that night. I don’t know, I suspect their judgement has its own rules, maybe we were just the tools of it then. The thing is I don’t ask why anymore, and I doubt Josh does either. I believe miracles are like reading a clock; not knowing how the gears work doesn’t change the time.
I don’t know whoever else used that cabin out there. Fact is, we haven’t been back since. I probably never will, and while I can’t speak for Josh now, I’m pretty certain he won’t either. We never discussed anything about that trip again. Hell, we haven’t talked for a while since his dad died and he moved away. He said he was moving for work, but never really looked me in the eyes when he said it. I ended up here in Chicago. Anyways, that was eight years ago. Small towns can make you run away sometimes, but so can other things.
I start to look around me now sometimes and wonder if I’m truly alone. I’ll be in my living room and I’ll hear a creak somewhere in the house and just stop and wait. I’ll listen to every sound I can hear, waiting impatiently for it again. Then, while I stare nervously at the front door of my house and then back upstairs at my kid’s rooms, I become terrified. Then I look into the living room. You see I know now that whenever I look at my gun cabinet, there’s nothing there to help me. It’s the old bow hanging above my fireplace that keeps my peace.