The night comes calling.
They’ll never find me here. Even I had trouble finding the place and I’ve been here before. Oh, I grant you that was back when I was in my teens and I passed forty a few years ago. Uncle Dave showed me his hideaway just that once and I’ve never forgotten it. With Dave dead these last thirteen years, all memory of the place must have passed from any who knew of it. And there couldn’t be many of those for my uncle had told me that he kept it very much to himself.
The place was in a bit of a state when I found it but that was nothing surprising. Those long years were bound to take a toll and I was just pleased that it was still standing. Here was shelter and safety at least until the hue and cry died down. In time, I’d be able to return to walk among them and never be recognised. That drawing they’d made of me was quite ludicrous anyway - looked nothing like me.
I smiled to think of the relief they must feel at the apparent end of my killing spree. They hadn’t caught me but must be sure they’d scared me off once and for all. It was true they’d come close and it was just luck that showed me the entrance to the sewers in time. They must have looked into that fetid hole and reckoned I’d been desperate to use that escape. Now the place must be bolted down securely and my activities stopped forever, they’d reckon.
But that was without knowing me. I’d give them their pause to lull them into complacency but I’d be back. And next time I’d make doubly sure they never caught me. There’d be no more silly sketches from the descriptions of survivors. No prisoners would be my aim.
But, for now, I made myself a bed with the blankets I found in a cupboard. What food there was had long rotted and turned to dust but I had enough in my pack to keep me going for a while. After that, there were the traps that Uncle Dave had shown me how to use and his collection of guns in the locked cabinet. It wouldn’t take long to break into that.
It was all looking good and, that night, I fell into a deep, untroubled sleep. Until the moment I woke up, staring into the dark and wondering what had made that noise. Nothing big but a scratching, tearing sound, as though claws were being dragged across the walls outside. A bear? I got up and felt my way to the gun cabinet. In the dark, I couldn’t get it open and had to arm myself with a saucepan from the cupboard.
The noises continued and it seemed that at least one of the creatures was circling the cabin, seeking a way in. I kept quiet and, when the dawn came, the noises ceased. Inspecting outside in the morning light, I found no tracks. Perhaps it was something much smaller than a bear, a raccoon maybe, smelling the food and determined to break in to get it.
In the days that followed, the scare of that night faded into the daily tasks of finding firewood, fetching water from the creek and preparing traps for the surrounding woods. I jimmied the gun cabinet and had access to the guns, two rifles, one big enough to take down a moose, and a shotgun. To keep my secure feeling, I loaded each one and familiarised myself at night with the route to the cabinet and taking the guns down. I was ready if anything should happen.
And happen it did, a week after I had moved into the cabin. Again, I was awoken late at night by the scratching sounds. This time I could hear hoarse breathing too, breathing sounds that no raccoon could produce. This definitely came from something big.
I crept to the cabinet and took down the large rifle, waiting then in the dark for the creature to gain access. It continued all night but it never succeeded in getting into the cabin. I relaxed with the dawn.
After that, the thing came every night. I was getting no sleep and the constant need to be alert was wearing me down. Even in the daytime I went nowhere without a gun and I watched the woods from the porch, moose rifle on my knees. Several times I jerked awake as I sat there, wondering for how long I’d dozed.
Then came the night when, awake and crazed by the sounds, I grabbed the heaviest rifle, strode to the door, threw it open and started blasting off into the night. The blaze of my last shot showed me the thing, just as it disappeared into the trees. I jumped back into the cabin and slammed the door.
The thing was hairy, that was for sure. Standing upright like a man, it was much bigger than any bear I had ever heard of. And it looked back at me with hate in its eyes. I couldn’t help it - the word “sasquatch” crossed my mind and stuck. It haunted me every day after that.
It couldn’t go on. I was becoming crazy with lack of sleep and tension. Tonight I will wait by the door with all the guns and, when the noises start, I will emerge and shoot until the thing is riddled with holes. I need sleep, dammit, and it’s going to be me or the thing. Either way, one of us is not going to be standing when the sun comes up.
Ranger Jim Bone came down from the cabin to meet the Inspector as he emerged from the trees. “Morning, sir,” he called as he approached. “So you found the place okay?”
Chuck Hansen gestured with his thumb to the third man just stepping into view from the forest. “All thanks, to Bill here,” he said, “we only got lost a coupla times.”
Jim smiled. “Well we got a strange one here, sir. It’s Henry James Mangan, as we thought, but the strange thing is, he’s killed himself. And it’s the weirdest suicide I’ve ever seen. Not something you’d expect from a serial killer at all.”
“Oh yeah?” puffed Chuck as they toiled up the hill towards the cabin. “Seen many suicides, have you? Not to mention serial killers.”
“Nah sir,” laughed Jim, “but you’ll see what I mean when we get there. Weird dang business, I tell you.”
Chuck said no more and concentrated on getting his unfit frame to the top of the hill. When they arrived there, he waited a moment to catch his breath, then moved to where he could see uniformed figures standing in a circle. The door to the cabin was wide open and, on the porch just beyond the threshold lay the body of Henry James Mangan, his head in a pool of blood. To one side two rifles and a shotgun lay where they had fallen.
The coroner was turning the body over as Chuck arrived and now it was clear that most of Mangan’s face had gone, probably blown off by a point blank shotgun blast. Chuck bent over the body to speak to the coroner.
“You’re saying suicide, I hear?”
“Can’t see any other way,” answered the medical man. “The rangers tell me all the guns are empty and it was the final round from the shotgun that did this. Nothing else to be seen, just Mangan and the weapons and his face somewhere in the trees. Musta stuck the barrel under his chin and pulled the trigger.”
“Nasty,” agreed Chuck. "But what’s that in the pool of blood?” He pointed at some marks etched into the dried blood on the porch. “Looks like writing. Reckon this guy lived long enough to write something?”
He looked closer and suddenly it became clear. The letters S,A,S,Q were scrawled into the blood. They made no sense to Chuck until he heard the coroner muttering, “Sasq… Sasqua... Oh hell, it’s sasquatch!”
“Can’t be,” said Ranger Jim. “There’s no prints anywhere around the cabin and since when does sasquatch know how to use a gun? That’s not it at all but I know what it was.”
He looked confidently at Chuck and the coroner asked, “Well?”
“Seen it before on occasion,” answered the Ranger. “Happens to people sometimes in the back country. We call it cabin fever, can’t take the loneliness and go crazy, shooting up anything that moves, including themselves.”
Word Count: 1,433
For SCREAMS!!!, July 29 2020
Prompt: Cabin Fever