looked exactly like he did then, but a bit taller. The soft face with small
eyes and thin lips that always made him look younger than he actually was. Just
a little bit of 5 o’clock shadow that made him more grown up. Grinning, he
dropped his duffel bag and opened his arms wide.
How are you man!” Darren, his gritty voice so familiar, asked. I must of
looked stoned because I just could not believe what I was seeing. I squeaked
out a hello and I was quickly pulled into a hug. It’s weird to think but he
even SMELLED the same as he did back then – weed and pepperoni pizza. Darren
being Darren he rambled along about how long it’s been and how much I’ve
changed and I couldn’t help but think, You
died four years ago.
Darren and two friends would always go into a nearby forest for ‘camping trips’
between the ages of 12-15. They were just opportunities to get away from our parents,
smoke weed and eat a bunch of shit without adults telling us off. None of us
had much money, so our ‘camping equipment’ was two kiddie tents (stolen from
siblings or neighbour yards) and a box of matches that we would use to make our
own fire pit.
We weren’t totally stupid, we knew not to stray from paths and we
never went much more than a mile into the forest. There was a 1 mile marker and
before that, which ever way you wandered you came out to a main road. Past that
marker it was thick, unforgiving woodlands that was almost impossible to find
your way out of. Further than that was a disgusting swampland that stunk like
what we’d do? We’d be cocky assholes and dare each other to walk into the
woodlands. 5 minutes, then 10, then 30. The triumphant would come swaggering
out all ‘That wasn’t scary’, ‘only idiots could get lost’. You can probably
guess, we were idiots.
to a peculiar week of warm weather in mid-November, we decided it would be fun
to go ‘camping’. Covered in winter coats and snow boots and thick thermo-socks,
we got to the 1 mile marker and before setting up, one friend – Jimmy – said,
go deeper. I heard rangers were going around rounding up people. I ain’t going
home cos of some bitch forest security guard.”
we went past that 1 mile marker. I can’t be sure but I’d say we were 3 miles
deep past the marker. The woodlands was incredibly crowded. We had to climb
over a lot of huge ground-broken roots to finally find a flat clearing for out
tents. It really wasn’t too scary, just darker than the other area. We set up,
lit some blunts, and chowed down on a bunch of chips and 2 day old pizza.
Nothing happened until late in the night.
tents were small but we could fit two people in each. Jimmy and Marcus went in
one, Darren and I in the other. We soon fell asleep, probably about 11pm. My
phone buzzed at about 1am, which woke me up as it was under my face, with a
message from my dad (drunk texting to see if I’m alright). Delirious from sleep
I just touched it to turn the harsh screen light off.
Just before the light went
off I noticed the silhouette on the tent. It went off too fast to see what it
was properly, and with my brain still in night mode, I touched the found to get
light again. The silhouette didn’t shift but I saw it properly then. It
crouched down (I guess it noticed the light coming through the tent) and I saw
how long its legs were. Like 5 foot long sticks. Its arms were similar,
swinging as it crouched. It pressed its long finger onto the tent and it made
that horrid scraping noise.
I kept as
quiet as I could. If it was a ranger they would have started banging on the
tents and announcing themselves. I turned the light off again and turned to
face Darren. Outside the tent came the sound of leaves and sticks crush
underfoot. The person was sneaking around, the sound was so careful and quiet.
They didn’t want to be heard. I began to get those shakes you get when you’re
really cold or really anxious. I tried to whisper to Darren to wake up. Pretty
sure he had a pocket knife on his body somewhere, I thought it would come in
handy with this freak checking our tents out. I whisper through my teeth, “Darren, wake up”, but
the guy was a heavy sleeper.
almost pissed myself when I heard the zipper of the tent begin to pull. The
person was trying to open it. Carefully, though. They were trying hard to stay
quiet. They were gently tugging the zip but they wouldn’t figure out which way
it went (it went top to bottom to open). Finally the zip comes down and I kept
my eyes closed tight but I was shaking like a leaf. I opened my eyes a slit to
see what was there. A hand, black and thin, crept in. Extremely slowly this
hand did not twitch but hoovered further into the tent, over the feet of
Darren’s sleeping bag. Before I could nudge Darren to wake him up, this hand clenched
hold of Darren’s ankle and pulled him out the tent.
instantly began screaming, and so did I. I tried to grab hold of Darren before
he disappeared through the tent’s opening. He was pulled out so fast. The
tent rolled over but I finally managed to get out to see Darren getting dragged
into the woodlands beside the clearing. He was covering his face from the twigs
and shrubs he was pulled into, screaming and crying to help him. Jimmy and
Marcus’ faces appeared from their tent with worried looks. I yelled at them
that something had taken Darren and they looked at one another with hesitant
faces. They thought it was a joke.
grabbed my boots – forgetting my coat – and ran in the direction Darren was
dragged. Jumping over a small tree trunk and losing balance, I got hit in the
face with a branch. I panicked as a liquid sprayed on me from the leaves of the
branch. It stunk of copper, but I just rubbed my face and continued in a
straight line. I could hear Jimmy and Marcus following me, asking me to stop
and that it wasn’t funny. I sprinted as fast as I could, taking a beating from
the branches and roots that got thicker and thicker the further I went. I was
shouting Darren’s name, and soon Jimmy and Marcus did the same, but we got no
minutes of running through thick nature brought me to another clearing. Bigger
than were our tents were, with a large tree in the centre. There was a little
bit of moonlight to see it was a clearing but nothing else was clear. Jimmy
luckily grabbed his flashlight before he began following me. When he put the
light on me he and Marcus jumped, as the light showed the splashed of blood all
over me. My face, clothes, everything was covered in splatters. That’s what was
on the branches. I began to cry as I tried to rub the blood off me. Jimmy took
the light off me and with a worried look followed something on the ground.
is it?” Marcus asked. Jimmy pointed to the ground. A trail of blood ran
from the woodlands through the clearing and up the large tree in the centre. We
all followed the light as Jimmy moved it along the trail. It covered most of
the bark and curled around the trunk. We peaked around the tree and the blood
stopped on the trunk. Marcus looked further around the trunk when a droplet of
blood fell onto his forehead. And then another. And another. He looked up and
body, his eyes still open but blank, was slung over a thick branch. I told
Jimmy to keep the light on us as I tried to get him down. I pulled his arm and
his body came down, like a sack of bricks. I think we all knew he was dead
there and then but we just didn’t want it to be true. Darren landed on his
belly, and we saw that his back had been ripped to shreds. There
was no flesh there, his shirt had been ripped off clean. All his muscles and
organs were all mushed around. His spine was severed too. We all just cried.
There wasn’t much else we could do. After a long time sitting next to his body,
the sun was beginning to rise. We didn’t say much but we agreed we’d have to get
back to the tents and call someone. Our parents, the rangers, Darren’s parents.
Darren’s hair before I stood up. He was my best friend and I had to leave him
there. If I had just shook him awake when that thing was outside the tent
he probably would still be alive. As we began to leave the clearing the sound a
squelching came from behind. We all spun around and saw that thing, holding
Darren’s body. It was tall – maybe 7 foot – and thin, and all black. It’s eyes
were wide and sunken. I can’t remember much else as it quickly ran into the
woodlands with Darren’s body. Jimmy and Marcus had to restrain me from running
after it. They basically dragged me, kicking and screaming, back to the tents.
When we got there two rangers were there checking the tents out, and their
faces switched from annoyed to shocked when they saw us, covered in blood and
body was never found, his parents were distraught. He had a younger brother and
that kid was never the same. Went from fun and bouncy to just, there. He just
drifted day-to-day. Two years after his death, Darren’s family moved down south
and we never heard from them again. The rangers and police believed we didn’t
do anything but they didn’t believe our ‘monster story’.
likely a wolf. Shock can make you think crazy things, it’s not their
fault” One officer said behind our backs. Jimmy, Marcus and I stayed
friends but basically ended contact when we finished High School. We never
spoke about Darren again.
now, in the flesh, Darren was chatting away to me in the doorway of my dorm. I
asked him into my room. My roommate hadn’t arrived yet so I thought we could
get some privacy to talk. The way he spoke and acted… He was so comfortable
around me, like the last time I saw him was yesterday. He sat down on the bed
opposite mine and continued talking. I don’t know what he was talking about but
I stopped him and took some time to come up with what I wanted to ask him.
How are you here?” I asked.
do you mean?” He laughed. “I did good in high school, dumbass, just
shook my head, “No, Darren… Do you remember four years ago?”
was smiling, but his eyes went blank. “… Yes. We were in Freshman
you remember our camping trips?” I said. His smiled faded as he looked
around the room, as if trying to find an answer.
We’d smoke. And eat junk.”
I trailed off. What was I suppose to say? Oh dude you died lol don’t you remember? Man
what fun times.
one of those trips you were… Attacked, and your body was never found.”
gave me a totally blank look and grinned. The grin was a genuinely happy smile.
In a flash the grin dropped and he looked sullen.
moved away that summer. Never went on any camping trips.” He wouldn’t
looked at me now.
sat in silence for some time before he stood up and grabbed his bag. He was
breathing really quickly, his chest going up and down fast.
are you alright-”
have to go.” Darren muttered, looking at his feet. I stood but he quickly
shuffled to the door and left. The door swung shut behind him and by the time I
opened it and looked up and down the dorm’s halls, he was nowhere to be seen.
people were still moving in in the dorms.
“Hey did any of youse see
the guy that just left?” I asked the small crowd. A few stopped and shook
their heads at me. I feel like I’ve gone crazy. I have no explanation to what