A Once In A Lifetime Hunting Trip
Everywhere there were trees for as far as the eye could see, which wasn’t very far because trees limited their view to ten or twenty feet, their thick branches hanging down like menacing arms just waiting to snatch them up from the forest floor. They were surrounded, and if Chrissie had been even a little bit claustrophobic, she would have been stark raving mad hours ago.
But she wasn’t and she wasn’t, although she still questioned her sanity for letting Wayne talk her into coming on this damn deer hunting trip. She checked her watch: five thirty, and that raised her spirits some because that meant the sun would be going down and this wasted day would soon be over.
~ ~ ~
Wayne and Chrissie were city folk, born and bred. Having lived their entire lives in the concrete jungle, their idea of the ‘great outdoors’ was going to the city park and seeing an occasional squirrel scurry up a tree, which was about the only place in the city where there were any trees.
One year earlier, Wayne had come home from his job as a computer technician in the Silicon Valley with a great idea. One of his pals at work had spent his vacation deer hunting in the Sierra mountains of Northern California, and he was successful, having bagged a four point, two hundred and twenty pound whitetail. He showed Wayne a few pictures of his kill, and that was all it took.
Wayne was hooked.
He told his wife that that was how they were going to spend their next vacation. Chrissie didn’t say a word, but Wayne was already aggrandizing his reasons:
“Just think, babe, all that fresh air. And the mountains! Neither one of us have ever been out of this city, and I know you’d love to see some wilderness too. Paul said that if they get an early snow up there the ski parks might even open. We might be able to go skiing, Chrissie! And…” on and on and on.
Chrissie listened to all of this, knowing the whole time that he didn’t really give a damn about fresh air, skiing, mountains, or on and on and on. The only reason he wanted to do this was so he could prove his machismo by shooting an innocent animal. He was a man, for the most part, but in many ways he was still a boy, waiting for the rest of his ‘man’ to come out. She sat there and smiled during the fifteen minutes it took Wayne to make his case, and when he was finished and asked her what she thought of the idea, she said, “I love it! Let’s do it!”
But in the back of her mind she knew it was just another of Wayne’s passing fancies, and he’d forget about the whole thing within a week.
Except he didn’t, and now
~ ~ ~
she was following her husband as he and the Indian hunting guide he’d hired quietly padded their way through the damp pine needles, occasionally stepping over a fallen tree or stopping to inspect some tracks on the deer trail (if this really is a deer trail, she thought). To say Chrissie wasn’t having a good time would be an understatement, and the only reason she was here was because his stupid fancy had taken root.
After five minutes the trio broke out of the canopy of the forest and came upon a large clearing the size of a football field. Waist high grass grew everywhere, and a little brook split the field in half. The guide, Jack, stopped and knelt down on one knee as he scanned the meadow. Wayne knelt down beside him while Chrissie stood back about ten feet.
“I think we should sit here and wait,” Jack whispered. “I’ve seen them come down to that creek around this time of day, and once they do, you’ll have a perfect shot.”
Wayne unshouldered his rifle, a brand new 300 Savage with a Leopold scope that he’d spent over $1,500 on. No sooner had he levered a shell into the chamber when the peaceful serenity of the forest was shredded by an ear piercing scream.
Six eyes instantly widened, and three heartbeats suddenly sped up.
“What the fuck was that?” Wayne asked, not bothering to whisper.
“Oh, shit,” Jack said. “I’d know that scream anywhere.”
“Well, what the hell was it?” Wayne demanded.
Chrissie was squatting down on her haunches, thinking that would somehow hide her from the scream in case it returned.
It did, this time twice as long, lasting for almost ten seconds.
Jack motioned for Chrissie to come closer to them, but she was already on her way, crawling on her hands and knees.
“It has many names,” Jack said at last. “The Sierra Banshee, The Freak of the forest, Abaloon, which is what my tribe calls it, but most people just call it The Wendigo.”
“So what is it?” Wayne asked for the third time.
“Nobody really knows, but legend has it that a young boy was lost in these woods a long time ago.”
Wayne looked at Chrissie, Chrissie at Jack, Jack at Wayne.
“And?” he asked the guide.
“That’s it,” he said. “Some people say they’ve seen it, but nobody’s ever gotten a picture of it. Or him.”
“You said you’d know that scream anywhere. So you’ve heard it before?” Wayne asked.
“Once,” Jack said, “when I was young. It’s something you never forget.”
Wayne wasn’t sure if he was angry, scared, or both, but his irritation was coming to the forefront.
“This is a joke, right?” he said. “This is your way of bringing city folks like us up here to scare us and take our money, then sending us on our way.”
Jack, who claimed to be from the Modoc Indian Tribe, shrugged his shoulders. “If that’s what you want to think. But tell me, have you ever heard anything like that before?”
Wayne didn’t answer, but Chrissie had something to say.
“I don’t like this, Wayne. I think we should go, whether it’s a hoax or not. It’s going to be getting dark soon, anyway.”
Once again that scream sliced through the hills, and a flock of birds suddenly took flight behind them. Even though it was hard to tell where the scream came from, it somehow seemed closer this time, or perhaps louder.
He looked at his wife, and he could see the pleading in her eyes. He turned to Jack, asking for an answer.
“It up to you,” he said, “but it will be getting dark soon.”
“Alright,” Wayne conceded, “we’ll go. But I’m not happy about this, Jack.”
The three of them stood up and began trekking back the way they came, Jack leading, Wayne bringing up the rear. This time they didn’t even try to be quiet. They went about 100 yards when they rounded a bend in the trail.
Jack suddenly stopped as Chrissie and Wayne came up beside him.
A small doe lay across the trail. Its throat had been ripped out, the blood still steaming while its dead eyes stared absently up at them.
“Jesus Christ,” Wayne said. “Where the hell did—”
It jumped down out of a tree, and it was on his back before he knew what hit him, driving him down to his hands and knees.
Wayne felt the jagged teeth tear into his neck and right shoulder, while the creature’s claws wrapped around his chest, raking and tearing into his skin.
Wayne screamed as he tried to throw the beast off his back. He rolled over, beating, punching, kicking, but it was useless.
Chrissie ran, her screams now echoing through the forest.
Jack, who wasn’t carrying a weapon, stood there watching as Wayne continued to try to wrestle the miscreation off of him, but blood was flying everywhere, slowly draining him of his energy.
It took another thirty seconds before Wayne’s body finally succumbed to the savage attack, and Jack watched silently as the last bit of life slowly left him.
His screams stopped.
His legs twitched once, twice, and then they were still.
Chrissie’s own screams were distant now.
The man/beast ceased its attack and rose to its feet, staring at the guide. Its twisted face was dripping with Wayne’s fresh blood.
Jack raised his nose in the air, relishing the sickening sweet scent of the creature.
Their eyes met and Jack nodded.
“Abaloon,” he said softly.
Then he turned around and started walking down the trail with a thin smile on his face.
It was nice to see his brother again.