Horror Fiction

Do Not Explore the Alaskan Wilderness

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Be sure to enjoy the full experience with his wonderful narration - available on YouTube or Podcast. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! He uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

My friends call me Ray, but I’m changing the names of everyone else involved. We lived in Texas until last year when we moved to Alaska. There isn’t much I can say about my job without giving away the company, but – needless to say – my time is spent outdoors. Two years ago, my wife (Hailey) was involved in a car accident, and we fell on some fairly hard times. We also have two kids, so when it seemed like we were being offered an opportunity to get back on track – I could hardly say no. While we didn’t expect to love it out here, we thought it would be bearable long enough to pay off some debts… but no amount of research could have prepared us for this place…


It took over a year for my wife to physically recover, but she still suffers from PTSD. Working from home and not traveling on interstates fit into our new lifestyle nicely, though there are plenty of downsides. The fact that an ocean now separates us from the rest of our family is what bothers me the most. The kids didn’t want to leave their friends, but luckily they haven’t hit their teen years yet, or the resistance would have been much worse; Jason is only ten and Jenny is seven. Surprisingly, they’ve adjusted better than we could have dreamed.

The strange day and night cycles aren’t split into six month cycles like we had always heard; there’s a couple of occasions where it’s one or the other, but it’s mostly just long summer days and winter nights. The kids were happy to discover what a novelty it all was to everyone back home; during the first two weeks, they practically lived on FaceTime. It made us feel like everything would be ok – which was a big deal considering how poorly Hailey and I were coping.

The overall stress was unbelievable; moving to a new city is a major undertaking, but this was a different league entirely. We failed to appreciate the fact that Alaska is very cold; obviously, we knew it was something to prepare for in terms of buying the necessary supplies, but those who have never experienced a true winter simply can’t grasp how drastically it changes your daily life. We couldn’t afford four entirely new wardrobes on top of new tires and the countless other items we didn’t consider. Thankfully, our families were able to help; I don’t know what we would have done without them.

Our house is far nicer than what we had in Texas which was another plus for the kids if not slightly ironic. Normally, it’s more expensive to live in the city than in the country, but that’s not true here. We got a great deal on our house thanks to my company, but everything else is nearly double the price. We almost sold our vehicles rather than pay to have them brought over, but thank goodness we didn’t. Had we understood my drastically higher salary was to cover basic living expenses – I’m not sure we would have moved.

Our only neighbor (Odette) lives across the road; she and her husband bought their home over forty years ago, but sadly, he passed away last spring. She doesn’t get out often, but she’s very kind. The day we moved in, she came over with a delicious casserole; there’s nothing like a free meal after a long, hard day – especially when that day involved your first glimpse at the grocery store’s outrageous pricing.

Odette accepted our invitation to stay for dinner; she may be in her late sixties, but she can keep up with the best of us. She has a thousand stories, and the kids would have listened all night if we let them. Once they were finally in bed, the rest of us had coffee in the den… That’s when Odette’s stories started to get a little weird.

The light-hearted tone in her voice suddenly turned very grave, and her gaze dropped to the floor. “When you bought this house, did Allan tell you about any of the local legends we have around here?” Her words ran together as she blurted them out.

“Uh… nope; none that I can remember.” I was certain because there had been almost no contact with the actual owner; I looked to Hailey for confirmation, and she was also shaking her head. The drastic change in our neighbor’s demeanor made us feel like she was about to deliver terrible news – like one of the previous owners slaughtered his family or a serial killer was loose in the area – something dangerous.

“I had a feeling…” she sipped her coffee and took a deep breath before continuing. “Did you know Alaska has its very own Bermuda Triangle?”

We most certainly had not – but she told us all about it. Something like five out of every thousand people go missing around here, and most of them happen in that area. I was surprised but not necessarily frightened. A vast amount of the state is uninhabited; it wasn’t a stretch to assume people might go out, lose their way, and succumb to wildlife or the elements.

It was like Odette could hear the thought forming; that’s when she explained the Kushtaka legends. Apparently, Kushtaka are Otter-men. I remember hearing a few Bigfoot stories in the past, but nothing we dreamed could be real. Even as we listened to her describe the eight-foot-tall shapeshifters, I couldn’t create a serious mental image of a giant, man-like otter walking around on two legs – at least, not in a malicious way.

Our neighbor went on to describe how they would sometimes take the appearance of a loved one to lure their victims into the woods. There’s no shortage of people willing to give firsthand accounts of their own experience, though witness testimony doesn’t mean much to me. It seemed like the Kushkata were Alaska’s version of cow-tipping; just because something is impossible doesn’t stop everyone and their brother from saying it happened.

Even though these creatures usually lure victims to their doom – Odette claimed they sometimes appear in human form to approach those who are lost or injured. They pretend to offer the victim aid, but in reality, they intend to lead them deeper into the forest where they will turn the human into one of their own. I’m still unclear as to what that process entails, but I admittedly didn’t try very hard to learn. Even now it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this.

When I asked Odette why she was telling us these things, she said it was because several years ago, her son (Cam) hired a Kentucky boy to work on his crew. From day one, they warned Kyle of the various dangers, but he thought they were “hazing the newbie”. When his aggravation began affecting his job performance, Odette invited the whole crew to a barbecue in hopes the boy would take her words more seriously… Unfortunately, he chose not to attend.

Then, at roughly 3:00pm the following Tuesday, Kyle signaled a bathroom break to his supervisor and stepped away; he was never seen again. No one expected him to actually vanish in the middle of a shift, but concerns grew rapidly when twenty minutes passed without his return. Initially, they hoped he was only trying to scare them for revenge; Cam and three others searched for him while the rest continued working. Formal searches were conducted over the following weeks, but there was simply no trace.

There’s nothing Odette could have done, but she clearly feels a deep remorse for his loss. Our hearts ached for the poor woman; Hailey and I found ourselves “believing” in the Kushtaka purely to ease her mind, but after she left, we began discussing it between ourselves. As someone who wasn’t raised with Otter-man lore, it was extremely difficult to take seriously, so what did we do? We turned to YouTube, and we discovered Alaska is known for many creepy cryptids, and Kushtaka stories are definitely among them.

The History channel has a great show called Missing in Alaska, and episode ten has what we were looking for. It told of a writer who came down to research the legend for a book, but he vanished, too! That’s insane! I won’t go through the whole video, but while it was enjoyable – it didn’t convince us Otter-men existed. We believed the locals truly believed in them, and that was good enough – we decided to humor the legend as a show of respect. Honestly, it encourages safer practices in the wilderness, and that can only be a good thing.


Overall, our strategy worked well, though I was admittedly nervous starting the new job when I learned some of our work would take us through the Triangle. My coworkers’ stories didn’t help, but after the first month passed without incident – things got easier. The days began to bleed together as life moved on in a beautifully mundane blur, and eventually, I forgot about the legends completely… until late February.

The job should have been simple; clear some land, do some digging, and get home before something gets frostbite. It was the same routine as any other day except for one thing – Jason’s birthday. He was disappointed I had to work and didn’t want to open his presents without me. We FaceTimed long enough for him to rip some paper, but the signal dropped. Luckily, Hailey had the foresight to give him the iPad first, and I felt less guilty about his decision to wait for the rest.

I worked like a machine; I didn’t even stop for lunch. My mind was laser focused on getting the job done and making it home. That evening, in the gray light of dusk, we packed up and made the short hike back to our trucks. It had been a long day, and no one lingered to chat. I was 5-10 minutes down the road when I realized my phone was back at the site. I had propped it up in a tree when talking to Jason and forgot to grab it when my hands were free again. If it had been anything else, I would have left it for the next day, but not my phone.

No thoughts of danger entered my mind; why would it? I was just going back to a place I knew well, and it would only take a moment to walk in, get my phone, and be back on the road. I drove as close to the site as safely possible and found myself running the rest of the way; I don’t understand why I felt so rushed. There was no doubt Jason had been fully engrossed in his new tablet all day – his other presents weren’t going anywhere – yet there I was – running through the wilderness like a total fool.

It was almost completely dark when I reached my phone. I hadn’t thought to grab a light so I’m not sure what I would have done if it had gotten dark first. As I stood there trying to turn on the phone’s flashlight, I heard what sounded like a fox crying out. A friend had recently found one trapped in an old hunter’s snare, and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving if the same thing happened again.

I rushed off with my light pointed at the ground ahead. It made me nervous to leave the trail, but the cries sounded close by. I continued straight for twenty yards without seeing any sign of the fox. No matter how far I walked, it always seemed like it would be past the next shrub, but it never appeared. I must have walked 50-60 yards when the noise was immediately cut off – like someone pressed stop – and it suddenly began to snow. The weather out here is completely unpredictable, but that instance was strange even by Alaskan standards.

The howling wind was the only sound in the forest, and I had to move quickly. It doesn’t take long for flurries to become full-on snowstorms, and I didn’t want to think about what that could mean for me. I turned back the way I came as the snowfall increased, and the light began reflecting back into my eyes. The temperature was dropping rapidly, and my truck was the only shelter for miles. I opened the phone’s compass to ensure I maintained a straight line, but no matter which direction I pointed – it wouldn’t spin.

Hoping to use GPS, I hunched down against a tree and turned off the light while trying to open Google Maps, but there was no signal – not even to send a text. To make matters worse, I only had 48% battery remaining, and I was now surrounded by solid, white walls of snow. It’s a miracle I didn’t lay down to die on the spot; if I weren’t a father, things might have gone differently… I don’t know. Forcing myself to leave the tree’s illusion of safety was extremely difficult; I was practically crawling when I continued my desperate search for the path.

The wind tore into me from the right; my beanie doubled as a face-mask, and thankfully, I developed a habit of putting my gloves in a coat pocket, or they’d be in the truck with my boots and earmuffs. The body loses the most heat through its ears and feet. The added layer of my coat’s thick hood helped protect my head, but I feared the worst for my numb toes. No expense is spared when it comes to the boots we wear out here. They’re knee-high, insulated, and clunky as hell – perfect for the job, but awful for the roads. Like most of the guys – I change into something lighter at the end of the day, and that’s why I was out there in a pair of regular Red Wings.

Even though my feet were too cold to feel it, I knew each step forward was filling my boots with more snow as their rims dipped beneath the surface. If nothing else, the sheer weight increase was enough to be sure. My mind was overrun with daydreams of a life on disability after losing my feet; I would become an alcoholic, Hailey would leave me, the kids would hate me, and I would move in with my parents. It was as clear as the air was white as I realized my hands were also going numb from clawing myself forward against the worst gusts of wind. I would have cried, but I’m fairly certain my tear ducts were frozen shut. My… ‘snow-balls’… were lodged somewhere between my lungs, but I’m trying to keep this PG.

I was on the verge of digging a hole behind the next tree I stumbled into when I froze in place at the sound of a familiar voice calling my name. It was faint over the storm – I thought I imagined it, but then I heard it again, slightly louder. It was my boss, Brian. I screamed so loud, my raw throat felt like it was cracking open, but I wasn’t going to waste my chance at survival.

My heart swelled with overwhelming relief when he answered my cries, and I pulled myself upright while impatiently waiting for rescue. The wind calmed slightly, allowing me to hear his footsteps; the sound was both beautiful and terrifying. He was approaching from my left – that meant I had been going the wrong way. My sense of relief was tainted with horror as my brain entertained several what if’s in the short seconds it took for Brian to come into view. A fierce gust of wind stopped him roughly thirty feet away, and he shouted, “follow me” before turning to lead us back.

The thought of reaching my truck – mostly the heater – pushed away the flood of worst-case-scenarios; there would be plenty of nightmares and therapy bills for those later. Staying low, I hurried forward to close the gap between myself and Brian, but he was picking up speed as well. That was fine with me, the faster we got out the better, but I was so focused on trying to catch up that I failed to notice we still hadn’t reached the path. Even worse, I was moving at a dangerous speed with only a dim light pointed ahead of my feet. Any misstep could have easily twisted my ankle or worse.

Eventually, common sense took control over mindless panic. “Brian, wait!” I shouted as loudly as my raw throat would allow, but he didn’t seem to hear me. I tried again and again as we continued to speed through denser foliage. My feet were getting tangled in vines, thorny branches were tearing my coat, and I knew something was wrong… I should have known much sooner. Finally, I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, and resumed moving as fast as I dared – fully aware I would not survive a fall.

My encounter with the… figure I called Brian played through my mind in a split-screen fashion alongside Odette’s warnings of Kushtaka taking on the appearance of friends to lure victims deeper into the forest. The only thing capable of pulling me from those thoughts was the horrifying sound of Brian’s voice calling out. “What are you doing? That’s the wrong way!”

I know it’s always a mistake to look back, but that’s exactly what I did. On the first glance I only saw an enormous, black shape dart past a tree and vanish from sight. My heart skipped at least three beats before I could force myself to move; the shape I saw was a minimum eight feet high, and there was a dark undertone in the voice that yelled, “come back, we’re trying to help you!”

It sounded so close when it spoke that I stumbled and couldn’t help casting a quick glance to my right. I didn’t think it was possible to feel more frightened than I already was, but the image of a giant, hairy, disfigured face was seared into my mind as I struggled to regain my footing. It was poking its enormous head from behind a tree; I can still see it clearly now, and there is little to no hope of forgetting in the future.

I’m not sure how long I ran, but it felt like an eternity. All I can say for certain is that I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and, eventually, I heard several voices calling my name from multiple directions in the distance. To say I was skeptical would be a vast understatement, but I didn’t know what to do. Every move felt fatal. What if they’re Kushtaka – or one of the several other cryptids I’ve heard about? What if they’re real people, but I run away? What if the first monster catches up while I’m standing here?

Hoping it was reasonable to assume monsters wouldn’t have flashlights – I decided to shout a tentative cry for help and run towards the first light I saw. Unfortunately, that cry turned into the high-pitched squeal of a teenage girl when a branch snapped directly behind me – in complete darkness. I surged forward – not sure if the snag at the bottom of my coat was real or imagined – and a dozen shouts rang out in reply. In seconds, spotlights were pointed in my direction, and the sound of weapons being prepared to fire was sweet, sweet music to my ears. I screamed, “it’s behind me” several times before collapsing, but I didn’t need to say more; everyone understood my meaning perfectly.

I was later told the Kushtaka probably left when it heard all the other people. As I thought, Hailey called Brian when I didn’t come home, and he took care of the rest. They all raced back to search for me; apparently there’s no point in wasting time with police in those weather conditions, and I’m grateful they didn’t. There’s no doubt I was close to the end.

After I collapsed, they zipped me into a sleeping bag Tommy had the foresight to bring from his truck, and basically carried me out of there like it was a body bag. I wasn’t too far off in the direction I was traveling, but I wouldn’t have found the trail. Even without the possible Kushtaka encounter or psychotic break – whichever you choose to believe – there’s no doubt I would have died out there if they hadn’t found me.

I had to spend a little time in the hospital because of the frostbite. It’s a very difficult healing process, but, miraculously, I’ve gotten to keep all my fingers and toes! I’m mostly ok now – but my sense of touch isn’t quite what it used to be in the worst places. There’s absolutely no circumstance that will ever get me to step foot into the wilderness alone again. In our original budget, we planned to live here for 4-5 years, but that increased with the unexpected living costs. I’m not sure if I can last that long…

Hailey and I have decided to call our families tomorrow in order to discuss possible options. If we could find jobs beforehand and arrange a place to stay while we look for a new house – it may be possible to leave sooner. We don’t plan to tell them about the Triangle – they would be deeply concerned for our mental health. We’re extremely unhappy, and I regularly work near dangerous wildlife; those are facts. I’m sure there are more, but those are enough.

I’m ashamed of how stupid it was to put myself in that situation at all, and it must be obvious to others. I can guarantee every person in our tiny town heard what happened that same day, but not one has questioned me about it. I don’t think I could say all of this if they did – not face-to-face – and I’m sure they know that, too, but writing it out like this… I don’t know, I kinda do feel a little better.


Well, that’s really all I have to say besides – thanks for doing what you do. Even if you don’t use this for your channel, I just appreciate that you took the time to read it. If I wasn’t trying to move away from this frozen wasteland, I would definitely be supporting you with more than likes and shares. Keep up the great work, and best wishes to you and your family!

Classics Translated

Chickamauga

Ambrose Bierce, first published in 1891; translated to modern English, otherwise left exactly the same.




Hi there readers! This one is really dark. A young boy is lost in the forest during the aftermath of a Civil War battle. I simply want to give fair warning to any who may wish to avoid gore and child endangerment. If either of these topics bother you, please Google a quick description this story before proceeding. Otherwise, thanks for being here, and I hope you know how amazing you are!

One sunny, autumn afternoon, a child strayed away from its home and entered the forest unnoticed. The boy came from a long line of adventurers and conquerors; he was happy for the chance to explore. From their earliest generations, his ancestors made their way over two continents, across the great sea, and into a third; war was their heritage.

The child was six-years-old and the son of a poor farmer. His father had been a soldier when he was a younger man; he fought against naked savages and followed his country’s flag south into civilized cities. He loved military books and still possessed a warrior’s spirit. The boy understood enough to make himself a wooden sword that he carried proudly – even if it was hardly identifiable to others. He often practiced with it in a sunny clearing while defeating invisible enemies, and this day, he found himself on the edge of a wide, shallow stream. The rapid waters blocked his advance against a foe that somehow flew across with ease, but the inspiring warrior would not be defeated. Instead, he found a place where the boulders were grouped close enough to jump across; then, he was finally able to defeat the enemy. With the battle won, protocol demanded returning to base, but like many great conquerors, he could not deny his lust for war.

Continuing from the creek, he suddenly found himself facing an even stronger enemy. A rabbit appeared on the path; it sat upright with its ears at attention, causing the child to scream and flee in an unknown direction. He yelled for his mother – crying and stumbling as his tender skin was torn by the cruel foliage. His little heart raced in terror; he was breathless, blind with tears, and lost in the forest! For more than an hour, he wandered through the tangled undergrowth until he was too tired to continue. A few yards from the stream, he laid down in a narrow space between two rocks and sobbed himself to sleep while still grasping his toy sword; it was no longer a weapon, but a companion. The birds sang merrily above his head, the squirrels ran from tree to tree, and somewhere far away was the sound of strange, muffled thunder. Back at the little plantation, men were hastily searching the fields, and a mother’s heart was breaking for her missing child.


Hours later, the boy woke at dusk and rose to his feet. He felt the evening chill in his bones, and he was frightened but no longer cried. After struggling through the undergrowth, he came to a more open area; on his right was the creek, and on his left was a gentle slope decorated with sporadic trees. A thin, ghostly mist spread along the water, and it scared him away. Instead of crossing back over the stream, he ran toward the dark, gloomy forest.

Suddenly, he saw a strange object moving ahead of him and mistook it for a large animal; he was not sure what kind, but thought it might be a bear. He had only seen pictures of them, and – being unaware of how dangerous they are – he vaguely wished to meet one. Then, something in the object’s shape or the way it moved told him it was not a bear after all, and his curiosity turned into fear. The boy remained still as it slowly came closer, and he grew braver when he saw the thing did not have long, menacing, rabbit ears. It is possible his mind was half-conscious of something familiar in the way it struggled along awkwardly, but before it was close enough to positively identify – he saw that others were following it.

There were many more approaching from both sides; the whole area was covered with them – all heading toward the stream. They were men, and they were crawling; some only used their hands as they dragged their legs along, and some only used their knees as their arms hung limply at their sides. Some tried to stand but fell back down; they did nothing the normal way, and the only thing they did have in common was the direction they traveled.

Some were alone while others were in pairs or small groups; they came through the gloom – occasionally pausing while others crept past. They came by the hundreds from as far as he could see, and the infinite forest was black behind them; the very ground seemed to be moving toward the creek. Occasionally, some men that paused would die, and some made strange hand gestures, grabbed their heads, or raised their palms to the sky like men do in church.

The child did not notice all of this, but it is what an adult would have observed; the boy only saw men crawling like babies. He was not frightened of them, but they were dressed in strange clothes. He walked among them freely, going from one to another and looking into their faces with childish curiosity. Each one was remarkably white, and many were streaked with red. Their color – and perhaps their disturbing behavior – reminded him of a clown he saw at the circus last summer, and he laughed as he watched them. These maimed and bleeding men crept along as ignorant of him as he was to their ghastly situation. To the boy, it was a merry spectacle. He had seen his father’s slaves do similar things while pretending to be horses for his amusement. Next, he approached one of the crawling men from behind, and jumped on his back.

The man fell flat to the ground, struggled to rise, and violently threw the small child to the ground. Then, he turned to show the boy his missing lower jaw; there was a great, red gap fringed with hanging shreds of flesh and splintered bone between his upper teeth and throat. His unnaturally shaped nose, absent chin, and fierce eyes made this man resemble a vulture covered in the blood of its food. He rose to his knees and shook his fist at the boy; terrified at last, the child ran to a nearby tree, climbed up, and looked at the situation more seriously. As he watched, the mass continued forward like a swarm of black beetles – dragging themselves slowly and painfully down the slope in absolute silence.

The haunted landscape began to brighten. Beyond the stream, a strange red light was shining, but the trees blocked out the view of its source. The eerie glow gave the creeping men monstrous shadows that imitated their movements on the grass, made the metal in their clothing sparkle, and tinted their faces with a red hue that highlighted their horrible injuries. The child instinctively turned toward the growing spectacle and moved down the slope with his mangled companions. He easily passed them in just a few moments, and – wooden sword still in hand – positioned himself in the lead where he solemnly directed the march; slowing to match their pace, he occasionally turned to ensure his soldiers did not fall behind. Surely, such a leader has never before had such followers.


As they marched closer to the water, they began to see various items scattered on the ground, but the boy did not think they were important. There were tightly rolled blankets bound with string, heavy knapsacks, broken rifles, and other things retreating troops often leave behind. The lowlands near the creek were trampled into mud by men and horses, and an older, more observant person would have noticed these footprints pointed in both directions; the ground had been passed over twice.

A few hours before – thousands of these desperate, wounded men and their more fortunate comrades had charged into the forest. They divided into battalions and swarmed past the sleeping child on every side; some had almost ran him over, but their loud noises did not wake him. They fought a battle very close to where he lay, yet he never heard the roar of their muskets or the captain shouting commands. He slept through it all, holding his little, wooden sword tight, but he was completely ignorant of the great struggle happening around him as countless sacrificed themselves for victory.

The fire beyond the tree-line on the other side of the creek was spreading, and the ground beneath its canopy of smoke glowed eerily. It turned the thin line of mist over the stream into golden vapors while the boulders gleamed with streaks of blood; those with less serious injuries had stained them when previously crossing, and the child crossed them eagerly as he continued toward the fire.

Standing on the opposite bank, he turned around to look at his marching companions. The stronger ones were already swimming across – pushing themselves to the limit with their faces plunged into the water. Three or four lay motionless and appeared to be headless; the boy’s eyes widened in wonder – even his naive ignorance could not accept such a situation. In reality, they had drowned; after drinking their fill – the men did not have enough strength to lift their heads out of the stream. Behind those, the open areas of the forest showed the child as many figures in his grim army as he started with, but not nearly as many were moving. He waved his cap for encouragement, and smiling, he pointed his weapon at a pillar of fire’s guiding light.

Confident of his forces, the boy entered the tree-line, easily passed through the red light, climbed a fence, and ran across a field – occasionally turning back to check his soldiers’ progress as he approached the burning ruins of a house. Everything was destroyed! Not one living thing could be seen, but he did not care about that. He enjoyed the spectacle and happily danced along with the wavering flames. He ran around collecting fuel, but every object was too heavy for him to throw, and the heat prevented him from getting closer. Frustrated, he flung his sword into the fire as an act of surrender to nature’s superior forces; his military career was finished.

When he turned away, he saw some buildings that looked oddly familiar – as if he had seen them in a dream. He was staring at them in wonder when the entire plantation and surrounding forest seemed to pivot. His little world spun, and he recognized the burning building as his own home!

For a moment, he stood frozen in shock at the realization, then he ran stumbling halfway around the ruin. There, easily seen by the light of the fire, was a dead woman; her white face was turned upward, her hands were clutching fistfuls of grass, her clothes were torn, and her long, dark hair was tangled with clotted blood. Most of her forehead was torn away, and her gray brain was protruding from a jagged hole in her temple that overflowed with frothy, crimson bubbles; it was the work of a shell.

The child moved his little hands in wild, uncertain gestures. He uttered a series of gibberish and indescribable cries that sounded like a cross between a chattering ape and a gobbling turkey; it was a startling, unholy sound. The boy, who was a deaf mute, stood motionless – his lips quivering as he looked down at the wreckage.

Horror Fiction

The Current Settlers (Pt. 8)

Part 8 of the Settlement Series!

The CreepyPasta

[upset] I knew it! I knew you’d come today of all days. Damnit, we gotta get you out of this forest!

… … One day a year – one! And it’s the day you show up! I knew it, I tell ya! Ugh, it’s too late… we’d never make it to the bridge; hurry up – come inside. [door slams/locks]

… … … What do you mean you have no clue how you got here?! You have your pack and everything!

… … … I’m not sure I understand how you could be compelled to pick it up, but we don’t have time to chat. There’s a horde of evil outside, and more are on the way. We don’t even know what half of those things are anymore. Based on what we do know – ignorance is probably a blessing, but we can speculate later.

[Trish] We need to open the floor, it’s our only chance.

… You’re right; there’ll be nowhere left to hide once it begins. We could make a hole under the bed… Once our friend is behind the barrier, it’ll be like every other year.

… … [walking to bedroom] We’ll have to explain later, but I’m sure you remember my telling you about converting the basement, yes?

… Good. Long story short – there’s also a few magical protections around it. We couldn’t have survived without them.

… … [defensive] I’ve been brutally honest about how dangerous this place is, I’m not sure why you look surprised.

… … It’s amazing yet frightening how many questions you have in the face of certain death. Stand back, please. Come on, Ethan, help me move this thing.

… … [bed slides across floor] You’re gonna be just fine, friend, we’ll get through this together. I’m surprised they haven’t smelled you, but maybe they’re too preoccupied… or lulling us into a false sense of security…

… … [wood creaking] I’m only planning for every possibility, but those guys aren’t exactly known for their patience. If they knew you were here – we wouldn’t be considered much of a threat. It’s more likely they’re too busy to notice. These rituals have been happening for centuries; they probably can’t remember the last time one was interrupted—

[wood cracking] Whoa, hold on, boy! Just because the bed will be covering it doesn’t mean we can rip the boards in half! It would be nice to lay them back in place afterwards. Once our pal is safely hidden, we’ll make it look like this room hasn’t been touched since those kids with the tie-dye van.

[Ethan] The ones who thought we were all acid hallucinations?

… Yep, but this time – we stay quiet and lay low; there shouldn’t be any problems. I bet we can even manage a few stories to help pass the time; how’s that sound?

… … Hah, I thought that part would be well received. [board set aside] Alright, it’s time.

… … Don’t worry, friend, Ethan will lower you nice and slow; he’s stronger than he looks. You’ll be on the ground and taking the grand tour before you know it.

… … … … [shout/echo] See? No problem at all. You two go ahead; we’ll get this mess cleaned up and be with you in a few.

… … [distant/fading voice] See, Trish? I told you it was best to keep the height a surprise.


Great news, family! We’re officially bunkered down, and the ritual has begun. Only something fairly extreme could stop them now, and we aren’t giving them anything but distance; tonight, we don’t exist!

… … Thank you, friend, I’m glad you like it! This is my real library; the original journals, every book, and all our downloaded entertainment are right here. I often worry they aren’t safe enough, but I fear no amount of precautions would make me feel differently.

… … … Oh my! I was so worried about the ritual I’ve been a terrible host! I’m ashamed of myself, truly I am. You haven’t had a chance to say more than two words since you got here; hell, I didn’t even ask how you’ve been since your last visit!

… … …Well, “gracious host” is probably a stretch, but it’s kind of you to say so – I do try – but no more about me; what’s the big news? You’re grinning ear-to-ear, and the curiosity is killing me.

… … You… I mean… I know you said you were going to email Mr. Somnium, but… Are you trying to tell me he actually responded? As in he read it?

… … … He wants to narrate it? For his actual channel? When?!

… … It’s already done?! Are you screwing with me, friend? Because this is a cruel joke to play on an old man no matter how long ago his heart stopped—

… … … [whisper] Sweet cricket… okay… don’t sugarcoat it; what did people think?

… … … Shut up! I’m not crying! You’re crying! Holy, sweet mother of all crickets… You even took pictures of the comments? You, my friend, hold the special power of restoring one’s faith in humanity.

… … … Shush, everyone; of course I want to hear it, but we need to be quiet – no unnecessary risks, remember?… But don’t worry, friend – you’ll be across that bridge before you know it!

… … Hell yea, I’m positive! And – once you’re home – would you have time to pass along a message to our Dark Family? It should be heart-felt, yet stoic – humble but not desperate; maybe I should draft a few key points. First impressions are every—

[Trish] You’re doing it again, dear.

… Oops… umm, enough of all that; we’re in for a long night. What would you like to hear about next? The Mountain Settlement, maybe? How about the Civil War or the Revolution?

… … … [disappointed] Really? Firsthand accounts of America’s entire history are at your disposal, but you want to know how Trish and I got here? You’re one strange cookie, my friend, but that’s the main reason we like you so much. Alrighty then, I aim to please! Hang tight while I find the right journal; we’ll need to go back to a couple weeks before we died.

… … … [shuffling books] Oh, yea, those are the Weapons; Those have been down here since the ordeal with the outlaws. It’s kinda nice not having anyone else to meddle in what we do with our own family heirlooms.

Ah, here we are, [wipes off dust] I only hope you aren’t too disappointed. When you get bored we’ll switch to a different journal; until then – sit back, relax, and try to ignore any strange noises. Now that the Ritual has begun, they can’t leave the circle… Well, they could, but they’d be forced to start over which would be extremely inconvenient.


April 5, 1696

It has been a hard day – the kind that makes me long for the years I could work without pain in my back. If not for the grandchildren, my fields would be empty this season. It seems like only yesterday I was teaching their fathers how to plant and plow, yet now, I ramble incessantly like the old men we mocked in our youth. Even when there is actual news to speak of, I somehow default to writing the same, dull drivel as always.

Bill Sanderson returned from a business trip two days ago, and today, his entire family is ill. The doctors were only notified when his children failed to attend class for a second morning; Ms. Harvard sent one of the students to the Sanderson home, and the lad went for help upon finding the family confined to their beds.

No one dares speak the words we all know to be true, but— [woman’s scream]


… … [exasperated] Damn, that one was loud.

… … [hesitant] Well, um… it sounds like they’ve brought out a sacrifice…

… … … I can understand why you might be upset, but we didn’t see a reason to worry you when there’s nothing we can do to help that poor soul.

… … I know it’s hard to hear; in the beginning, we wanted to help, too, but you gotta trust us. Our first time hearing it, we rushed into the middle of them like fools; they had some poor girl – must have been between 17-20 – and she—

[Trish] Maybe skip that part, dear.

… Right. The point is – they almost ate us, and if you go running out there, I’m not sure we could save you at all, but we’d try. The one thing I am certain of is that we would be consumed either way. [whining] Please don’t get us eaten before I can hear Mr. Somnium read Pappy Grant’s journal! Please!

… … Yes, exactly! The demon himself is smack in the middle of it all and growing more powerful as we speak! He’s surrounded by every evil thing this place has to offer; We can’t help them in the same way you can’t walk on the ceiling.

… … … [whining] Aw, why aren’t you understanding this, friend? Yes – killing the demon would mean an end to the sacrifices, and this place would finally stop attracting new monsters, but—

… … … [sigh] Yes; it would make it possible to deal with other creepies and crawlies as well, but—

… … … Because we can’t! Even if the demon wasn’t surrounded by his minions – we wouldn’t stand a chance!

… … … Tell me you did not just point to the Weapons. [louder] No, better yet – tell me what we did to make you hate us? Why are you trying to re-kill us?

[Trish] Volume, dear.

… … [softer] It’s a moot point, anyway. The girl is dead by now, let’s not dwell on what we can’t change. I’m sorry, but if y’all don’t mind, I’d like to continue read— [man screams]

… … [annoyed] Oh, Jiminy-friggin-Cricket! Yes, I heard it! [throws down journal]

… … [exasperated] Yes, I know it was a man that time.

… … I don’t know how many more.

… … I swear, I don’t know; they don’t hunt for a specific type or number of sacrifices, but if an opportunity presents itself in the months leading up to the ritual…

… … Yea, I’m afraid so; they’ll use as many as they find. There’s no maximum limit, and the more lives they take – the more powerful the ritual becomes.

… No, please! Don’t touch the Weapons!

[Ethan] Actually, I have an idea.

… An idea on how to calm our friend down?

[Ethan] Sort of!

… Nope; sit down and zip it.

[Ethan] but—

… Sit! [clap] Zip! [clap] We are survivors! Do you understand what that means? It means we survive! We keep going; we record the story! Just now – finally – that story is making it to the outside world. We can’t let it end here. If we can get the rest of it out there, real help will come! People who know what they’re doing – hell, maybe someone with a YouTube channel—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right. The point is – someone who isn’t us! We have two choices. We can go out there – become dinner – and let the world forget about that one random story, or we can be strategic; we can forfeit the battle to win the war and enjoy victory together – as a family. Then, when it’s time to deal with the other unfriendly inhabitants, maybe some of those Paranormal Investigators will visit! I don’t think I’d be comfortable with Ghost Hunters; I know you said it’s not the same kind of hunter but—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right, sorry. Can we please just go back to reading? If they had another— [man screams]

Well, that was obviously the same one as before— Wait a second, friend! You do realize those Weapons are useless in our hands, right? They wouldn’t work even if we could land a hit; that means you would have one shot with only a dagger to fall back on!

[Ethan] Seriously, I have a plan.

… Please, boy, I’m serious, too.

[Trish] It’s a good plan, dear.

… [heartbroken] Aw… you too? But… how do you already know what it is? Why are none of you concerned with—

[Trish] Dear…

Fine, fine, fine; go ahead, Ethan. Take your time and explain in as much detail as possible.

[Ethan] Since the entire horde of bad guys are confined to the ritual circle – no one is guarding the Demon’s Path. Those egg sacs have been incubating for ages; tonight will probably be enough to put a few more monsters into the world. Unless something happens to them…

… Ok, since we’re completely ignoring my strategic plan for victory – let’s hear it. How do you propose we bypass the fact they’ll smell our flesh-and-blood pal the moment we stick our heads out of the hole? You know – the one we hid under the bed that happens to be the only exit for someone incapable of passing through solid objects?

[Ethan] Um, actually only two of us need to go. Technically, they could burst the sacs with a regular crossbow. The only reason I never have before is because the demon would know it was one of us, and we never had a way to fight back until now. Don’t you see? This is why our friend was brought here! It’s fate! We could make a real difference! The demon will feel what happened and rush over in a blind rage; he’ll pass straight by the lake! Someone on the roof could probably get a clear shot…

… … Oh, and our friend is suddenly an archer now, eh? Hell, let’s pretend that part is true – you realize the demon won’t simply be strolling by, don’t you? Even our eyes can barely keep track! That’s a vital detail since a miss would mean we all suffer fates worse than second deaths! Dying the first time was bad enough, thank you very much!

[Ethan] I could do the aiming, and I remember the demon’s name well. You know I can make that shot; let me have revenge… Imagine if Jamestown could really expand; how long do you think it would be before they brought in some electric poles? Surely WiFi wouldn’t be far behind…

… Damn you, boy. Taunt me with sweet dreams all you want, but none of those things would matter if we weren’t around to enjoy them.

[Trish] We can destroy the eggs much faster than the demon can break their circle; we could be back before they need to shoot. If the worst happens – one of us will get our friend to bridge while the others stay behind… We can pack the journals now as well – then, our story will live on, and your plan will still work. What do you think?

… I think it’s horrible! It doesn’t change a thing about how it will end. Besides, have you noticed how long it’s been since— [woman screams] Oh, come on!

[Ethan] Please, we don’t have much time; you know full well they’ve barely gotten started. This has gone too far! Once the demon is dead, we’ll be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Most of them will run scared back to their dens, and some will move on to darker pastures entirely. While that’s happening, Trish can get our friend back to safety, and we’ll go after the hostages!

… I don’t like it.

[Trish] That’s a shame dear… Based on what mother saw, I could have used your help. Oh well, sit tight – we’ll return as quickly as possible; try not to worry.

… [grumble] You can be a cruel woman sometimes… Ethan, listen to me very carefully; don’t extend a single hair beyond the protection barrier until we’re finished, you got that? Then it’s straight into position; do not overestimate the amount of time it will take him to break the ritual’s circle! We’ll clear the path for you on the way out.

[Ethan] You got it, uncle!

… Alright, let’s get it over with. If it’s the last thing I do – I’ll fit in some “told you so’s” before going loudly into that dark, eternal night.


[Trish] We’ll stay underground as long as we can and come up by the path’s entrance.

… Are you going to explain what happened with Gale? I didn’t want to worry our friend anymore than you two already have, but she clearly saw something that shook you up.

[Trish] Last week, she was having a good day and said this year wasn’t like the others. The demon was angrier after the French settlement than we realized. In our grief over lost friends and enchanted arrows, we failed to realize that several of the sacs were destroyed as well. Rather than replacing them – he poured everything into what was left—

… We should be close, let’s go up… And they’re supposed to hatch tonight? Is that what you were saying?

[Trish] You’re right; we’re here… But no – those eggs hatched ages ago. However, the results were so promising – he tried something new. This time he divided everything equally between two sacs. They’re already massive, and when the 24 sacrifices are dead – there will be two more extremely dangerous monsters loose in our forest.

Twenty-four? How? It’s never been more than a dozen!.. And wow, this place really has gotten dismal. I remember when it was impossible to see more than a few yards into the tree-line, but now there’s hardly any green left in the forest!

[Trish] The bulk of the sacrifices are boy scouts; they weren’t camping here – their bus broke down. The repairs were going to take a few hours, so their troop leader suggested bringing the restless kids for a hike. The worst part is – they never told anyone what happened; no one knows they came here. When the repairs were complete, those who stayed with the bus drove down to retrieve the others; they had no clue what they were driving into… Of course, there are probably a few other sacrifices mixed in; surely they aren’t all with the scouts.

… [pouty] I just wanna go home and listen to my story… Geez, the ground is so hard and black it feels like concrete…

[Trish] If we can end the reign of terror, you’ll have eternity to enjoy all the stories you want, dear. Now, move your ass; my baby is practically alone back there. Is your crossbow ready? I think I see the first one ahead – look up and to the right. Mother said these were bright yellow instead of orange – that has to be one of them.

… Yea, that’s it; the other is on the ground to the left, do you see it? We should stand back; that gunk inside could still hurt us… Or we could turn around and go home now – no harm done.

[Trish] Wow, they really are massive!.. Wait – did you mean ‘no harm doneaside from tonight’s 24 sacrifices?

… [sigh] Are you ready? We shoot on three… One… I love you… Two… Three! [both shoot, sacs burst with liquid explosion]

… [ground shakes and rumbles with guttural roar] Go!


… [panicked] Can you feel that? The air is heavier; it’s like walking through deep water.

[Trish] Yes, and we need to go faster.

… No, darling; just me.

[Trish] What’s in that vial? Did you try brewing potions again?

… It’s just something I’ve been saving for an emergency. Don’t worry, if the worst happens, the enchantment will weaken overnight; you’ll be able to free yourself by morning. [cork pops]

[Trish] Alex, no; we don’t have time to argue; you don’t— [Trish sucked in/Alex corks bottle]

… It’s ok to be mad; I can handle that, but not losing you. I’m sure you’re frustrated that I can’t hear what you’re saying, but if it’s any consolation – I can feel your displeasure loud and clear. Hopefully, I’ll be back for you— [frightened] Oh no; the air is getting even heavier… [sweeps leaves aside] Ok, ok… Ok, hun, you’ll be safe here, and I’ll be right back… [covers bottle with the leaves]

[speeds away, muttering to self] Alright, ole boy, – she’s safe – totally, completely safe, yessir. Now, you’re gonna bottle up that loud-mouthed nephew and hope to hell the demon is satisfied with only one savory morsel… And that our friend skews towards flight rather than fight…

[gasp] There they are – thank Jiminy! They’re on the roof; all I need to do is drag— [earth shakes and rumbles with a roar like thunder] No, please no, not when I’m this close!


[Ethan] This is it! Remember – just like we practiced; don’t panic… keep your eyes closed… body relaxed… mind clear… and—

[confused] Hey, why is uncle— Shit! [shoots arrow] No!

[everyone screams, demon screeches, arrow thuds into tree]


… … [panicked] I’m not gonna make it… Oh, no! No, no, no! It only scratched the bastard!… Holy mother, he’s looking right at them! The arrow! It’s so close; I have get to it… [pulls arrow from trunk]

… [screaming] Oi! Hey, look at me, asshole! Yoo-hoo! [whistles]

Crap, he’s really coming! Even uglier than I remember… Looks like a tall Quasimodo caught leprosy and went into the final stages of liver failure… Oof! My throat… Jiminy, he’s a big mother… lucky I don’t need to… breathe… just need… arm… free… legs are already gone…

[strained] Boy! Catch! [arrow whizzes through air, thuds into roof]

[mutters to self] Thank goodness, it got through… Wow, everything is going all wonky… sorry, fam


[Ethan] Bastard! He’s absorbing Alex! We have to shoot before there’s nothing left! [pulls arrow free, Alex groans in the distance] Hold on, we’re coming! [bow-string tightens]

[Ethan whispers] Are you ready?… Now! [fires arrow] Say it!

[demon screeches in agony, drowning out all other voices]

[Ethan, yelling over the demon’s wails] Alex! Uncle!… Why isn’t he reforming?! Stay here, I need to get down there!


… … [voice confused, disembodied] Is it over?… Is this where the dead go when they die?… Or is this a black void unique to the demon’s victims? Maybe I’m being stored away until needed… At least Trish is safe, and I thinkyes! Before everything went dark, that bastard took an arrow in the neck! I remember hearing the start of his name before the sound was cut off by screaming. It’s too late for me, but surely my boy got our friend away from this place. The demon is still dangerous even in this condition. [Ethan calling in the distance]

… … … [voice slightly more focused] Was that Ethan calling for me? No, it was too close; maybe I’m hallucinating after all… [woosh]


[Ethan yelling over demon’s continued screams] Uncle, if you can hear me – I found your dirty bottle trick lying next to what was left of you. Hopefully, I got all of you, but… umm… it looks like I’m stuck… Alex, I can’t move my legs… [whimper] He’s… g-ot me… I g-guess this guy r-really doesn’t want to die… I’m gonna throw you while I can still move my arms— [shocked gasp, dagger stabs into demon’s foot]

[demon roars in guttural agony as the ground rumbles with the force of an earthquake]

[Ethan] Holy shit! You stabbed him! No; don’t pull it out! We need to go; get on my back! [leaves rustle in the wind as the group flees] Alex, where’s Trish— Oh, right, he can’t answer…

… … … [angry and frustrated] I can answer; you just can’t hear me! What the hell is happening out there?! I can’t see or sense anything! We better be headed away from the demon with our friend in tow, or I swear before the sweet cricket I will find a way to tan your hide! [bangs loudly on the bottle walls] Ugh, you best find a way to hear me, boy! Hello?!

[Ethan continues speaking] —Yes, I’m positive Alex is in this bottle; here, you can hang onto it. Oh, wait! [hears light tapping on glass] Do you hear that? This is fantastic; I must have gotten all of him! Hey, Uncle – tap once for yes and twice for no; do you understand? [single tap] Is Trish safe? [single tap] Whew, thank goodness. Uncle! You won’t believe it! Our friend came out of nowhere and stabbed that bastard in the foot, haha! I think this is really it! He was falling apart as we fled! I’m trying to get us to the bridge – then we can find a way to get you out of that bottle.

… … … What do you mean ‘find a way’? Open it!— Wait, what are you two saying out there? No, no, no! [frantically bangs on glass] No way, friend! You are not staying one second longer! We can check on the sacrifice hostages after you’re safe! Ethan, don’t you dare listen to that nonsense! Get your ass to the bridge! And open the damn bottle! [continues banging on glass]

[Ethan] Sorry, friend, but I can’t take you to the ritual circle; Alex would kill me. Just listen to him in there – he’s going nuts!… Whoa, what are you doing?! Sit still or we’re gonna— [everyone falls to the ground, glass bottle breaks]

… … … Holy Cricket, that’s better! Now – we were all human once – let’s talk about this like reasonable folk.

[ground shakes with loudest roar yet]

… …. [disbelief] It really happened… He’s gone… Even after everything… I just didn’t believe it… But, damn, can you feel it, too? The air is normal again! The looming sense of dread is— actually… it’s stronger than ever… Let’s get Trish before we do anything else…


… … [hysteric] How?! How is it empty?! It shouldn’t have weakened that fast! How is she gone?! [sobs/smashes bottle]

[Ethan] Wait… Calm down and focus for a second… Do you feel that? There’s another fight happening, and she’s definitely part of it… [demanding] I’m going now! Are you coming, friend? Or do you want to stay here and argue with Alex?… Great, let’s go!

… No, umm… [defeated] ugh, wait up. Damnit, Trish! Why’d she have to go over there alone!

… … I know, friend, you don’t need to remind me. I’m clearly surrounded with ‘kind souls’ but, you see, we are a family of survivors, and avoiding danger is the key to being a survivor. This expedition is in direct conflict with our mission statement; she’s breaking the prime directive – that’s not ok!

[Ethan, patronizing] There, there, uncle; we can have a court martial after we help her. For now, we need to hurry! We should find a vantage point before showing ourselves. If it looks too dangerous, one of us will rush our friend to the bridge while the other helps Trish. Fair enough?

… … It’s not like I have any choice in the matter! You three have been forcing my hand all night anyway, so come on! Let’s go before it’s too late!


… … [shock] Are… are you two seeing this? It’s absolute chaos down there… [children shouting war cries] and it looks like… is Trish leading a platoon of boy scouts?

[Ethan] Hell yea, she is! Look! Everyone must have fled; only the Walker is left! Geez, where did they get all those weapons? It’s been ages since I’ve seen a mob like that – some of them are actually carrying pitchforks!

… … Don’t stand there gawking, boy! That Walker isn’t going to wait by idly while they fill it with holes! Why would she do this?!

… … Friend, if we survive this ordeal – remind me to explain the definition of a rhetorical question.

[Ethan] It won’t fight outnumbered either; I think it’s waiting for— [hostages screaming in the distance]

… … … Yep, you saw it right, friend. It waited for one to come within reach and fled with him. It’s safe for you to come down with us now; [leaves crunch beneath feet] we need to get everyone back to the cabin and calmed down so we can discuss what story you’ll tell the police.

… … Well, of course I mean you; who else is gonna take them? Their last chaperone was just carried off by the Walker and none of us can cross the bridge. We can’t send a group of traumatized kids off on their own.

… … I have no clue what you’re supposed to tell them – we haven’t discussed it yet!

[Ethan, yells over chaos of frightened boy scouts] Trish! Over here!

[Trish] You’re all here! I’m so relieved! When I was able to free myself, you three were fleeing towards the bridge – so I came straight here.

… … [muttering] How considerate of you…

[Trish] What was that, husband? Did you say something?

… … [perky] I love you, and I’m delighted you’re safe…

[Trish] You’re such a dear. [whispers] Don’t let the children know we’re ghosts; I don’t think their fragile minds could handle it.

… … Fair enough; I suppose we’ll take the long way home, then.

[Trish] Actually, I’ve had a rather long night, and so has our friend. I think it’s best if we go ahead while you and Ethan bring the boys along behind us. We’ll make sure your path is clear, of course.

… … [monotone] Of course… Come on, Ethan, you heard the lady. Round ‘em up…


[Trish] —I can’t believe the demon was finally defeated! So, you went right up to the monster and stabbed him in the foot?!… You really are amazing, my friend, and I know you’ll understand why we had to make this little detour… We need to get any demon goop left behind into this jar. [unscrews lid] We’ll burn it in the fireplace, and then you can take the ashes with you… [closes lid] There, that’s all of it; we better get moving.

[Trish, nonchalant] Oh, you don’t remember what my brother-in-law learned from the Mountain Settlement? The ashes must be spread over salt water – never fresh. Do you see any salt water in our territory? Alex doesn’t want to think about it yet, but you and I know better than to wait, don’t we?… I knew I could count on you! I can never repay you for saving my boys, [cabin door creaks open] but you’ll always have a home with us. Although, I’m sure you’ll be hearing those words in abundance over the coming months. Those children are probably assumed dead; the news crews will be rolling in before lunch – I guarantee it! [distant chatter] Oh, shh, they’re almost here! I’ll put this in the fire and get the ashes into your bag discreetly. Once you’re safely across the bridge – I’ll let the boys know we have everything under control.

… … … [several pairs of footsteps file across the wood floor] That’s right, this way fella’s; y’all are safe now. You’ll be home with your families in no time. We’re just gonna have a little chat to make sure everyone is on the same page while we wait for the sun to rise; then, our friend is going to take you all to see some nice policemen! How does that sound?

… … [exasperated] Come on, guys. We’ve been at this for over an hour; I don’t think you understand what’s waiting for you on the other side of that bridge. Do you know what it means to be national news?

… … I didn’t think so; it means you can say goodbye to your privacy for a long time, my little friends. You boys have had multiple agencies searching for you across multiple states; you’re already national news, but with our story – people will leave you alone when the next tragedy strikes. With the truth – your names will be synonymous with this event for the rest of your lives. The story for this place is older and darker than you can fathom, and I promise – you boys don’t want this shadow looming over you forever… So, what’s it gonna be, kids? Were you lost and found? Or kidnapped and rescued?

… … That’s a great choice, guys! I knew you looked like a reasonable bunch; I got a sixth sense about these things. Now – how many people found you?

… … That’s right! Only our friend! You boys are gonna be just fine – chins up, now! Remember – you’re all traumatized children; don’t be afraid to cry if they ask uncomfortable questions. As for your chaperones – you got separated; how should you know what happened? They’ll come down here to poke around and look for the bodies, but it won’t trouble us any. There’s nothing left to find, and we’ll be settled in with our new stories!

… … [sarcastic] Haha; yuck it up. Yes, I only want to listen to my story; is that so much to ask?! I’m sure they’re desperate to go home, too!

[Ethan] He’s right guys, and look – there’s a hint of sunlight out there! How about it? Are you ready to finally get out of here?

… … See! I told you they were reasonable chaps. My friend, I eagerly await your next visit when we’ll have time to thank you properly. Until then, we wish you the safest travels, and don’t forget – you deserve every reward they give you!

[Ethan opens creaking door] Hey, everyone, come take a look at this… What the hell is that?!

… … [door softly clicks shut] Umm… ok, on second thought – let’s go ahead and wait for the sun to fully rise… Anyone up for a quick game of charades?

Horror Fiction

I Work for the National Park Service; It’s Hiding a Disturbing Secret (Pt. 2)

Part 1

🚨ATTENTION🚨
This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Be sure to enjoy the full experience with his wonderful narration. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! He uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

I hope this letter finds you well! It’s your friend from Washington again; I can’t thank you enough for reading my last letter. Seeing so many kind words of support and the requests for an update mean more than you can imagine. It gave me the courage to finally tell my wife everything, and while it was a difficult conversation, the relief that came with it made me feel twenty years younger. I’m sorry I can’t use real names, but where the internet is concerned – there’s really no such thing as too careful. Hopefully, I can make it up to the Swamp with some new information.


The first thing you should know is that Amy resigned; I miss her, but I’m glad she’s not in danger anymore. Do you remember how worried I was at the end of my last letter? For those who don’t – she had recurring nightmares where she was reliving her encounter with the creature; at first it was the same, but when the monster should have disappeared – it turned to face her. It even began walking towards her, getting a little closer each night until it was only a few feet away.

The nightmare she had next was so bad – her wife told Rick to trash anything left in her locker because no one was coming for it. There wasn’t much there – just some pictures and a few basics – but it felt wrong to throw them away.

I drove to Amy’s house after work – expecting to leave her box by the door – but when I got out of the car, her wife was waving to me. “Thanks for going to the trouble, can you stay for coffee?” She asked, already leading me inside.

The nightmare that finally made Amy quit gives me chills to write; this time, she was face-to-face with the creature – its mouth inches from her own – and it began whistling a sad, eerie tune she couldn’t identify. The sound made her feel safe and calm, but after waking – she realized it was more like hypnosis.

Is it an extension of the monster’s abilities, or the result of psychological trauma? Yes, she said the eyes looked the same as what we saw on camera, but I had also previously described the eye I saw; it’s easy for our minds to warp images into what we expect to see. I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time fixated on this, and I’m fairly comfortable with my personal conclusion; though, please keep in mind this is purely my theory.

The night she saw the creature standing over that little girl – her brain realized an important detail, and the nightmares were its way of relaying that information; now that it has – it’s finished. Those whistles seem to have a literal hypnotic effect, but if that’s true, who knows if it can hold sway over our dreams… I admit my judgment is biased. I hate thinking the creature could suddenly appear in my dreams – or that it could potentially regain control over my friend’s.


We didn’t have anyone to cover for Amy that first night, so Ranger Rick himself partnered with me for the shift. I don’t think he’s a bad guy; I was admittedly spiteful about the withheld information, but now that I understand more about what he does – it’s hard to blame him. He’s following orders, just like me; he needs a paycheck, just like me. The problems we have at night are also happening during the day; it’s not like they’re walking around in sunshine and daisies while we’re fighting monsters in the dark. The guests are also more active during their shift which makes it much harder to keep track of the people in your territory.

Apparently this kind of stuff has been happening for as long as anyone remembers, but never so blatantly as what we’ve been experiencing recently. The last few months specifically are making Rick’s mysterious bosses quite nervous, and frankly, the way he refers to them as “Management” makes me quite nervous… Ok, maybe it doesn’t sound as sinister when you read it, but it’s said with very Men in Black conspiratorial inflection.

Normally, there are entire decades where little to no activity happens – then, they’ll have a cluster of disappearances and accidents for a few months; the cycle was always the same… until now. This time, it’s not stopping, and no one knows what to do.

Even Rick isn’t sure if Management knows what the creature actually is, but the Rangers call it the Whistler; fair enough, I suppose. Most of the stories he shared were the same, but one was particularly chilling. This took place his rookie year, in the 90’s, when responding to reports of a black bear near the lodges. Back then, there were only a few cabins on each side of the lake; when this incident took place, one was occupied by a family of five, and a young couple was staying on the opposite bank.

The order came at the end of a dark, drizzly day, and the real storm was due to start any minute. There hadn’t been a Whistler sighting in eight years, and nothing about this report raised any flags when the senior Rangers passed it off to Rick. He drove a golf-cart to the lake and was greeted by the family waving from a window; they were afraid to come out. Rick joined them and listened with growing apprehension as the storm began in earnest.

It started with a large, black animal trying to open the metal trash cans; Mr. Gordon used his air-horn to scare the beast away, but instead of fleeing, it turned to face him – rising to its full height and glaring angrily. That’s when he saw it was no bear and yelled for his shotgun.

In the process of explaining how the creature fled before he could shoot, Mr. Gordon’s story was interrupted by frantic screaming outside. The young couple was racing towards them, waving their arms and begging for help; once safely indoors, they walked through each room, checking every window. When satisfied nothing had followed them – they were able to explain.

They had been eating dinner when the patio doors slid open, and they turned to see a hulking, black beast with bright, red eyes. The couple escaped through the front door and ran straight for the Park Ranger’s golf-cart. Both the family and the couple wanted to leave – Rick too, for that matter – but the weather made it easier said than done. The storm knocked out the phone line, and there was no response on the radio; even if everyone could somehow fit into the small cart it would be too dangerous to drive. The weather reports had only warned against heavy rain, but in a span of minutes it developed tree-bending gusts of wind; lightning streaked across the sky, cracks of thunder shook the walls, and there was a frightening threat of tornado activity as the temperature dropped drastically. Rick was out of his depth and terrified, but he couldn’t show it; he had to be In Charge.

In the 90’s, it wasn’t a big deal if a Ranger licensed to carry wanted to bring their handgun to work; Rick’s .38 and Gordon’s shotgun were the only real weapons the group had as they waited in the cabin’s living-room. They were trapped and had no clue where – or what – the creature was, but things weren’t exactly hopeless. The doors and shutters were locked, and soon, help would be sent to investigate why Rick didn’t check-in after the bear sighting.

At least, that’s what he told the others – leaving out the part where they might assume he was simply unable due to weather conditions. Regardless of rescue chances, they should be able to wait out the storm as long as nobody panicked; the larger a group is, the harder they are to control – especially for a single person. Rick asked the children to check the phone lines every few minutes as a distraction – quiet children make happy parents – but he knew it would be weeks until they were functional again.

The five adults were whispering amongst themselves for only a few minutes before the girls called out, “the phone is working!” Rick – assuming they were either mistaken or joking – simply said to make sure no one else used it.

The eight-year-old lifted the receiver once again – firmly stating, “you can’t be on this line”, and everyone fell into a stunned silence as a deep, menacing voice replied. No one is sure what it said, and the girl wouldn’t repeat it, but she dropped the phone, screaming while it was still talking. Rick rushed to hang it up – hoping he could use it after all – but the line was dead; after that, the girls were given coloring books, and the phone was unplugged.

An hour passed with no relief in sight; help wasn’t coming, but something else was. From the patio doors – beyond the nearly solid wall of rain – Mrs. Gordon was just able to make out a hulking, black figure. That’s when the whistling began; it was the warped Ring Around the Rosie tune, and it didn’t stop when the creature darted away. It was gone as quickly as it appeared – zipping between trees as it circled the cabin; they would catch glimpses of it – even closer – from a different window only to watch it vanish before their eyes yet again. All the while, they were moving as well, but they weren’t consciously aware of being herded. Finally – as they stood grouped near the sliding doors – the beast returned, face pressed to the glass.

For a brief but horrifying moment, no one moved; they were frozen in the face of an evil they didn’t know existed yesterday. Their paralysis was broken suddenly by the sound of shattering glass as the Whistler came inside and chaos erupted. Rick and Mr. Gordon tried taking aim, but the creature moved too fast in the crowded room; in seconds, the young woman was being carried through the shattered doors – out into the raging storm.

The poor girl’s boyfriend ran after her and leapt onto the Whistler‘s back with a proud – but ultimately useless – roar of angry defiance. With the couple in the way, no shots could be fired as the mortifying silhouette disappeared into the wall of rain. The parents could do nothing to shield their children from the screams that came next, but they ended quickly. The creature didn’t return, and when the storm finally passed three hours later – Rangers were sent to the occupied campgrounds to perform wellness checks.

When they found Rick, he and the family told them everything – all the way down to the Whistler’s red eyes, round, contracting mouth, and horrible smell – but the main point they stressed was the whistling. You’d think that would warrant an investigation right? Two people were dead, the creature they saw up-close clearly wasn’t human, but animals can’t whistle – especially not a song!

A big fuss was raised for the Gordons’ sake; they would be attending family therapy sessions for the next ten years because of that night. Management was terrified of the implications that might arise from the fact it all happened while a Park Ranger stood five feet away, but once those people left, that was the end of it. I don’t find that surprising – I would never want to think about that experience ever again!

Rick wasn’t willing to answer any of my questions. I’m not sure if he told me this story to warn me about the Whistler, Management, or secrecy, but I think it was intended as a friendly warning. Who knows what I could have learned if it would have taken longer to replace Amy. From that one night alone, I also heard a dozen examples of hikers being stalked on the trails and campers being tormented in the night. One story even sounded like the couple’s from Mississippi – the ones who basically played red light/green light with something invisible – but none of the other stories came close to that one on the lake.


Thankfully, I’ve only had one personal incident since my last letter; it happened to me and my new partner in that damn fog yesterday. Chris had to drop out of college to help care for his sick mother; he and his sister are doing their best, but he needs to get the hell away from the park before the choice is taken from him. It’s one thing for the older roughneck types like myself, but I hate seeing the young ones out there. I know that sounds hypocritical, but at least if I died, my family would mourn with a comfortable insurance payout; his family would have nothing but more debt on top of broken hearts.

I tried to warn Chris delicately at first, but nightmares and whistling didn’t phase him – nor did Tyler’s memorialized Facebook page. Nothing got through to this kid, so I decided to let nature take its course; most of us learned the hard way, but I didn’t expect him to get thrown straight into the deep end.

Five of our bigger lodges are rented out for a family reunion; they arrived over the weekend and planned to stay for ten days, but who knows what they’ll do now. After breakfast, a husband and wife left for a day of hiking, though they didn’t have a specific route or destination in mind; Jarred, the husband, simply told his brothers they would be back from exploring by dinner time. Both were experienced hikers who love to go camping and mountain climbing in their spare time; there was no doubt they were already dead.

When the sun had fully set and the couple’s food was hours cold, the family began to worry in earnest. As Chris and I passed by on patrol – all five cabins were lit up; in the windows, we saw multiple people pacing on their phones while teenagers hauled flashlights and various supplies out to a dozen men who were hunched over park maps.

Our radio crackled to life at the same time the family noticed us; we were told to wait with them at the lodges. Search & Rescue was on the way, and they didn’t want to lose anyone else – which is understandable, but difficult to manage. We stood in front of nearly forty people and said, “You can’t go looking for your family members because your scents will confuse the dogs.”

You know – because we couldn’t say, “They’re already dead, but we’d rather perform fake searches than admit the truth.”

Of course, that was far too easy for a night at the park; the whole bunch reluctantly agreed to stay near the cabins except for the ones who were already gone. Jarred’s two brothers set off fifteen minutes before we arrived, and now, three more wanted to bring those guys back. That didn’t leave much wiggle room for our options; we had to find those brothers or the other three would be sneaking off under our noses.

There are five trails in that area; four are very easy and used to navigate the park, and the other one is for people who specifically want the full hiking experience. Since the missing couple were avid hikers, the brothers chose to start there – which, yes, it was obviously the logical conclusion – but I couldn’t help feeling a strong resentment toward them as our flashlights illuminated the rocky, uneven terrain.

We set a fast pace – probably too fast – but I hoped the men were stopping periodically to search for tracks and call out the couple’s names; if they had, we would have found them relatively fast. Thirty minutes later, that theory was dead, and we were at a split path. Chris wanted to split up – rookies, am-I-right – but I shut that shit down fast. We took a closer look at the trail, and there were tracks on the left side that looked fresh – well, when compared to the other side; I’m not very good at that sort of thing, but I happened to be right on this occasion.

We walked for another five minutes before beginning to hear faint voices in the distance. Soon, we could understand their words – they were calling for Jarred and Emily; it was the brothers! We had been ready to collapse after the ridiculous pace we kept, but finding them gave us a second wind. I shouted their names as we ran, and I almost didn’t notice the wisps of fog at our feet. My heart dropped into my stomach like a lead weight, and I came to a dead stop – grabbing Chris as I did so. We fell to the ground in a tangle, but it didn’t matter – I ignored him and continued calling for the brothers while struggling back to my feet.

The rookie didn’t understand what was happening, but he followed me in silence as I crept around the next curve and saw huge clouds of pure white fog enveloping the trees. Roughly twenty feet ahead, the brothers were standing half-shrouded in it already. In my desperation to get them away, I said something horribly misleading. “We have very important news about your brother; please come with us!” I screamed so loud my voice cracked.

The shadowy figures turned their heads, and my eyes filled with tears of relief when they began walking towards us – away from that god-damn fog. Before they reached us, I began walking back. I had to keep us moving; we couldn’t stop to discuss anything while that stuff was spreading. I didn’t plan to stop at all until we were indoors, but not long after passing where the road split – the brothers didn’t leave me much of a choice; they refused to go any farther without an explanation.

No matter how desperate I was to get them away from there – I just couldn’t bring myself to get their hopes any higher. When “your mother needs you” didn’t work, I tried, “they were spotted near one of the mountain trails a few hours ago.” That one did the trick; they resumed walking, and I happily did the same.

Then Chris opened his mouth, and I’ve never wanted to punch someone so badly in my entire life. “You fellas go ahead, I’m gonna make sure Mrs. Robinson didn’t get lost in this fog.” He ran off, ignoring every word I said as he went.

Who the hell is Mrs. Robinson’, you ask? Oh, she’s the imaginary lady we need to check on when a particularly chatty guest doesn’t want to let us go. We don’t do it often, but you gotta remember we’re working night shifts; if someone is holding us for a random thirty minute conversation at 3am – you can bet it’s a freaking weird one. Hell some of them would probably fit in on this channel, but I’m not trying to drag you guys along on a tangent. The point is, I couldn’t let the fool run off alone, so I had to send the brothers ahead and chase after him.

One of the first things I ever said to you guys was ‘we’re just regular people” and that certainly hasn’t changed. I followed my partner because he was in danger, and I couldn’t leave him behind; that being said, I couldn’t walk into that fog, either. I stopped before reaching the low, wispy edges that fanned out from the wall, and I begged him to turn back; the last speck of his silhouette was fading, and I knew he was gone forever the moment it did. Then, there was a low, monstrous growl that felt like the sound itself was wind – blowing beneath my skin and through the bones.

Tears were already falling down my cheeks as I thought of his sick mother and how his sister would be all alone; the tiny speck left of Chris was magnified through my blurry vision, and even as it continued growing, I thought nothing of it until the screaming began. It wasn’t a death wail; it was the terrified scream of a man who saw something absolutely horrible, and it made me smile.

Soon, Chris was beyond the wall – still screaming – and the utter look of relief that crossed his face upon seeing me made him look six-years-old… however briefly. It was gone in the same instant, replaced by guilt and shame. He almost fell while trying to look back, and only then did I realize the big question – the one you guys probably asked immediately – ‘is something chasing him?!’

No, it wasn’t – not this time – but he might not be so lucky the next – or me either for that matter. We radioed the others that we were heading back, and Chris stared at his feet while trying to explain he would never have forgiven himself if they turned those brothers away, and it cost the hikers their lives. I already knew that – that’s why we all pull stupid stunts in the beginning – but I wanted to know what happened in the fog!

He only intended to walk straight for a few minutes, but it was less than sixty seconds when the ground suddenly disappeared along with everything below his knees. The fog was too thick to even see his outstretched hand, and that was enough to make him turn back, except – as he did – something heavy suddenly ran several steps towards him. Chris jumped, spinning around as he searched for the source, but there was only fog everywhere he looked; even worse – he lost his sense of direction; he had no clue which way he was originally facing.

Scared of going the wrong way, he stood in place and called to me, but I never heard him. While listening for a response, he took a few steps forward and noticed it was slightly easier to see; wanting to be out of the fog more than anything, he went a little further until the ground was visible again. That’s when he heard a crunching sound – like a dog with a bone – and the occasional meaty rip. Then he saw it – the Whistler sucked up an intestine like spaghetti, but the visible body parts weren’t gender specific; he doesn’t know if it was Jarred or Emily… and if this story ruins spaghetti for you, too – I sincerely apologize.

Chris backed away slowly at first, but then a whimper escaped his throat, and the creature stopped eating; my incredibly lucky-to-be-alive partner screamed and ran away without looking back. It was nothing short of a miracle that he happened to run in the right direction. I don’t understand why we couldn’t hear each other’s screams in the beginning but we could at the end… Of course, I don’t understand most of this stuff, but some things make even less sense than usual.

Eventually we passed the Search & Rescue teams on their way to secure the fog with their fancy automatic rifles – rifles I bet the family didn’t see. The wall didn’t begin to disperse until dawn, and by then there wasn’t even blood left in the grass. The family extended their stay indefinitely while the search continues, but Chris and I are being moved as far away as possible so we won’t be tempted to answer any of the guests’ persistent questions. I’m not complaining – even if I tried to warn them, they wouldn’t believe me. People like that would go straight to my boss claiming I tried to scare them away or something equally ridiculous; it’s safer and easier to avoid the spotlight.


Well, that’s all I have for now, I’m sorry there isn’t more, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to send this. As much as I love writing to you, I won’t be heartbroken if things are slow for a while. It might be cool to research other past incidents – maybe I could map the events out on a timeline to see if any unusual patterns or connections emerge!

Anyway, thanks again, everyone; you guys have really made this whole situation bearable. Sometimes, I wonder how many other people had their sanity saved by this channel; one of the other stories described it as coming home to a big house full of your friends, and that’s exactly what it feels like for me, too!

Horror Fiction

I Work for the National Park Service; Something Disturbing is Going On (Pt. 1)

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to YouTube, Podcast, & Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m (still) binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Nohope, Washington

Hello Mr. Dweller,

I work for the National Park Service in Washington and found your channel last week. The fact you created a safe place for people to share these stories is amazing, and I’m finally ready to tell mine. My family would worry themselves sick, and friends would never believe it – but maybe the good people here in the Swamp will. At this point, I’m frightened not only for the park guests, but for myself and my partner as well. It would be an honor – and truly appreciated – if you would consider reading this to your viewers.


I can’t risk saying the park name or personal details; we were specifically warned not to discuss this outside of work, but I’ll lose my mind if I don’t tell someone. I’m not a Ranger – my crew only works at night; we’re called “park attendants” because it sounds friendlier than security guards. We were hired to patrol from 6:00pm to 6:00am after a series of strange… incidents.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we’re from one of those fancy ex-military security firms – not even close. We’re just regular people – the kind hired when the mere presence of a body is enough to deter would-be vandals. Most of the others are like me – middle-aged men with large physiques – but there’s a few women and college kids, too.

On my first night, I reported to the visitor’s center where Ranger Rick introduced me to the other “attendants” and prepared us for the tour. We weren’t meant to cover the entire park – only campsites, lodges, and connecting trails – but it’s still a huge area. They wanted to make sure guests knew we were there; our purpose was to reassure them as much as it was to scare assholes or pick up trash.

Their advertisement made it sound like they wanted to keep pranksters away from campers – nothing implied danger. Rick said someone was walking around the sites and lodges – just out of view – at all hours of the night, whistling. Hikers hear it as well; despite numerous complaints, no one had ever caught a glimpse of the source… or so they claimed.

Do you see how easy it is to blame these occurrences on human mischief? There was nothing to indicate anything… unnatural. It wasn’t until speaking with guests that a hint of something sinister arose.


Rick’s tour ended by 9:00, and then we received our assignments. I’ve never been an anxious person, but walking those unfamiliar trails alone – in the dark – had me on edge. My route covered half the campsites – most of which were occupied – but the trails and vacant sites were pitch black on that starless night. Armed with only a reflective vest, flashlight, and pepper spray, my journey began.

The first path led to Campsite A, and walking beneath its canopy of trees was like entering a different world. Being out there has a way of making the impossible seem not only possible, but probable. There was absolutely no reason to feel that way, but my pace steadily increased from speed-walking to jogging.

It was the soft glow of firelight ahead that suddenly made me feel foolish; the change happened so fast it was like pressing a button. I stopped to listen for any sound that might justify my panic, but there were only insects to be heard. After turning a few slow circles with the flashlight, I attributed the incident to first-day jitters and resumed my route at a normal pace.

As Ranger Rick requested, I introduced myself to the campers; we couldn’t specifically ask if they experienced anything strange, but we provided opportunities to share concerns. The theory was that guests might witness something important yet deem it unworthy of reporting – especially if it required hiking back to the visitor’s center. More often than not, that theory was proven correct, and it’s obvious when someone wants to talk. They’re more hesitant to answer and can’t quite look you in the eye; they don’t want to see your expression change when you hear their wild claims.

The family of four who occupied Site A weren’t shy about anything; they were on vacation all the way from Mississippi, and the father – who dwarfed me in size – was quite vocal. The night before, they woke to footsteps at approximately 1:30; something on two legs was shuffling around their campsite.

Not wanting to spotlight himself in the dark clearing, Jim waited until the person was close before leaping out of the tent. He was armed with a Smith & Wesson .45 and his wife with a shotgun; they had waited to take action in hopes of letting the stranger get close enough to see his face, but – not only was there no retreat – there was no-body. At the very least, they expected to hear a frenzied escape or to catch a glimpse of the perpetrator’s back, yet the couple was met with nothing.

After several minutes passed in silence, they returned to their sleeping bags only to have the footsteps pick up exactly where they left off a few yards away. Jim described it as playing Red Light/Green Light with a ghost; had I known how preferable a simple haunting would sound only days later – I might have quit that very night.

Eventually, they left the tent open and alternated sleeping until dawn. When asked why they didn’t report it, Jim said he planned to do more than that if it happened again, but wouldn’t elaborate further. I felt confident for the family’s well-being knowing they were prepared, though it did nothing to quell the rising doubts for my own safety.

Forcing my feet onto the next long, winding trail was a challenge, but even more difficult was approaching the second group of campers; I was horrified by what they might say, but all was well on their end. In fact, Site E was the only other group to report anything unusual. Four college guys were studying away from their loud dormitories; that might sound like bullshit, but they had books everywhere. These weren’t rowdy frat-jerks; they seemed like genuinely good kids, and if nothing else, I have no doubt they believed what they said – it wasn’t made up for laughs.

I’m sure they had booze and who knows what else, but they were sober when we spoke. Those fellas told their story in clear, concise points; it was obvious they discussed it amongst themselves at great length. Their visit was normal until the night before when they woke to long, high-pitched whistles. Each time someone spoke, the noise stopped; when it didn’t happen again, they fell back to sleep. The third alarm occurred at 3:03 and stopped the moment they emerged from their tents – each convinced of the other’s guilt. When it happened again at 5:05, they gave up on resting and began the day.

After more coffee than one should ever consume, they hiked to the river for a day of exploring before finding a trail that circled back to camp. Unfortunately, they underestimated the distance of their final path and were still a full mile away when it grew dark. Your phone light might seem bright in the bedroom, but they’re infuriating in the woods.

The one who did most of the talking, Pete, was the first to hear anything strange; he stopped suddenly, signaling the others to follow suit. The sound of someone taking a few more steps before also coming to an abrupt halt was unmistakable. One of the boys called out a tentative “hello”, but before he could say more, Pete silenced him with a sharp tug on the arm. Pulling the others along, he listened intently for the sound of pursuit; it came almost instantly, and everyone heard it.

The faster they moved, the faster their pursuer moved, but as they grunted from painful cramps, and their breath became ragged – they noticed no similar sounds of exertion were coming from the rear; only that steady stride – gaining inch by inch. That’s when the other three realized what Pete had noticed before – whoever (or whatever) was chasing them didn’t need a flashlight.

Then, the whistling began – similar to a higher yet slower rendition of the London Bridge. None of those boys were in excellent shape, but Michael was a heavyset asthmatic. The shock caused him to gasp in surprise, triggering a full-blown attack. Pete’s voice shook as he described what it was like to drag his friend along with those heavy footsteps gaining close enough to smell rotting meat. It was at the last second – when the would-be assailant descended on them – that it vanished. They were at a complete loss to explain what happened, and I certainly didn’t have any suggestions. It’s hard to excuse yourself after a story like that, but I had to keep making the rounds.

I went by once more before the end of my shift, and they were packing. One of the tents had four long claw marks over the entrance, but they wouldn’t stop to discuss what happened. After a rushed apology, they were gone; I wasn’t far behind them, but I was only in time to see their van speed away. Had I caught them in the parking lot – outside of the scary forest – they might have shared what happened, but I’m just glad they got out safely… if only I could do the same.

It’s fine and dandy to scream at movie characters to run for it, but in real life – people need money. Most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs on a whim; I’m looking for new work, but I’m stuck here until I find it. That’s why I said “yessir, boss” when Rick asked if I’d be back for more.


In the warm light of day, I felt like the world’s biggest chump; I was ashamed of myself – of me, a grown ass man turning yellow as chicken piss over walking some park trails in the dark! Everything made so much more sense in the daytime; ‘I let first day jitters get under my skin, and got all worked up over some paranoid hillbillies and drunk college kids’, there was nothing else to it. Any asshole can go out into the woods and whistle while they terrorize innocent people!

That night, I was responsible for two of the lodging areas. We aren’t allowed to bother guests in their cabins – only to show our presence by patrolling the blessedly lit sidewalks. All of my earlier righteous anger powered me through the night’s first dark path, but I found myself stalling before the second; the next trail sent a shiver racing down my spine, and the temperature felt several degrees colder.

I walked another lap around the lodges hoping someone would call for assistance or provide a reason for further delay, but none came. There’s no way to explain what it was like to make myself enter that trail; it felt like waves of pure evil were wafting on the breeze, but I couldn’t very well hop on the radio and request an escort either. Teeth gritted, I concentrated on how ridiculous I would later feel, and that helped a lot. The air was a little lighter, and my heart was trying to crawl out from my clenched ass cheeks when I heard it; footsteps matching my stride – following me from somewhere on the left.

My immediate reaction was to speed up, but then I thought of those college boys and how the footsteps vanished when the moment came to face them. Stopping went against every instinct, but I forced myself to stand still; the whistler also came to a halt. It was still half a mile to the lake lodges – too far to run. After an internal pep talk, I turned and marched back the other way; fantasies of catching a crazed homeless person filled my mind, and I focused the flashlight on where it sounded like the bastard stopped.

I’d gotten so worked up, my only fear was what I might do to the guy for making me look foolish. When a stick snapped near the light’s beam, I crawled into the brush, swatting aside thorny vines and bramble as I searched. Finally, the light caught movement ahead, and I peeled back one last branch before screaming my throat raw. The area beyond was covered in blood, and the only visible part of my stalker was one horrible, glowing red eye lost in a clump of pitch-black fur; the rest of it remained hidden, and my legs carried me away without conscious instruction.

People Watching

There were no sounds of pursuit as I ran back to the first lodge area and waited for reinforcements under a street lamp. Thankfully, none of the blood was human, but there wasn’t so much as a bone shard left of the animal; who knows how many that thing has been killed! None of the local predators are known for that level of brutality; not even cats play with their food to such an extent. After describing the creature – my bosses claimed it was a bear! I’m far from an expert, but on my son’s life – that wasn’t the eye of any regular animal! I can’t get it out of my mind; every night I see it in my sleep like a brand on my soul.

Maybe this is karma; my wife loves the ghost and demon shows, but I had something smart to say for every overused line in the script. The retorts for “it still haunts my dreams” were particularly snappy, yet – here I am – lucky to sleep four hours a night. The next morning, they installed trail-cams and had a full surveillance system scheduled for the following week. It sounded great for investigative purposes, but they were little comfort to those of us in the war-zone.


The next few shifts were gloriously peaceful, but disaster was waiting around the corner; I suspect many details were omitted in the official version, but on my night off, one of the other attendants was killed. They say he died a hero, but Tyler was 21 – he wasn’t trying to be anyone’s hero! A couple reported their son missing only half an hour into his shift, and he radioed for help; while waiting for backup, he and the parents searched for the boy just off-trail. The dad found a toy in the brush about fifteen yards away and tried to run in that direction.

Worried the man would also become lost, Tyler had him wait with his wife and took it upon himself to chase after the kid. He was only 10-15 minutes ahead of the others when they finally arrived and began the official search. For forty minutes they called to the missing boy and Tyler before encountering a wall of fog. It was solid white beneath their flashlights except for a small shadow figure walking towards them; I can only imagine how terrifying that sight must have appeared.

When the child emerged, he was alone and unresponsive to questions; two attendants escorted him back to the trail while the rest remained to search for Tyler. By then, the actual Search & Rescue had arrived and taken control. Apparently it was too dangerous to enter the fog; instead, a perimeter was set and guarded until it was clear enough to proceed. It was the first time I’d heard of Search and Rescue carrying weapons or guarding anything, but nothing surprises me anymore. The weather didn’t clear until dawn, and by then, the only thing left of Tyler was DNA. If the lost kid ever provided information, no one deemed it necessary to tell me; I’m not sure he and Tyler even crossed paths that night.

Until then, I never told my wife exactly how dangerous the job could be, but hiding the death of a coworker proved too challenging. I hate that she thinks I’m living out some Stephen King story about killer mist, but it’s preferable to a whistling monster that might attack me anywhere at any time, right?

The next night we started working in pairs. I was partnered with Amy – she’s in her 30’s with a wife and two kids; we instantly clicked, but I would prefer a teammate with less to lose – or an asshole. That probably sounds horrible, but now, it’s not only my life at risk – it’s someone I care about; my stress limit was already maxed out.

I’m grateful to not be alone anymore, but there’s always a little awkwardness when you’re plunged into potentially life-threatening situations with a stranger. Of course, our initial responses were to finally discuss the insane things we’d experienced on our patrols, but can you imagine what that was like? Picture yourself walking down a dark, dense trail with only a flashlight and the person you met a few hours ago. The mood is already tense, yet now you begin to relive horrifying memories… Can you see where I’m going with this? I shared what happened with the red eye, and she shared her own moment of terror, but that was all for a while.

In truth, I expected Amy’s story to fall short of my own in terms of sheer fright, but it was quite the opposite. She was patrolling the route I had first, but it didn’t turn bad for her until after midnight. She had already spoken to the campers once, and the only report logged was a complaint of someone whistling on the trail we nicknamed Crow’s Foot.

It was actually her third lap when she heard screaming at Site B. She radioed the office while running and emerged from the trail’s end less than sixty seconds later – in time to see the back of something massive, fury, and black hulking over a small shape on the ground. The moment her light came near the creature, it vanished; she described it as someone donning an invisibility cloak… which is apparently a Harry Potter thing but self explanatory nonetheless.

When the light fell to the motionless form left behind, Amy saw it was a child, and ran to it instinctively – as I’m sure any parent would. It was a young girl, curled into the fetal position, her eyes squeezed shut. Nearby, her parents were calling; Amy drew a deep breath to answer, but something suddenly yanked off her feet. She tried to scream, but a wet, hairy hand covered her mouth. In her gasping attempts to receive oxygen, the smell and taste of spoiled meat assaulted her senses. Just as she thought she would lose consciousness – the parents appeared; the monster disappeared as it had before, and Amy fell hard to the ground.

A warped version of Ring Around the Rosie, was the only tune whistled to the Meyers family, but Amy didn’t hear it. Needless to say, those kinds of stories weren’t being shared with us lowly attendants, and it scared me to think what the others might have experienced. I thought about Tyler a lot that night, too.


Three days later, the fancy surveillance system was finally installed, and they asked us to watch for any trail-cams that may have been overlooked. We thought it was weird at first – wouldn’t you want as many eyes as possible out there? Then we realized they didn’t like the fact that just anyone could walk up, and pop out the SD card; it would be a nightmare if the wrong person saw something… unnatural. We were assigned to the last cluster of campsites – the area farthest from base; if any were forgotten, it was one of those.

We checked every spot along our route and found one at the very last campsite. The camera was in a tree, and with a little teamwork, we got it down no problem. As I turned back to the trail, Amy cut me off; she was digging in her bag and wore a devilish grin that made my stomach flutter with anxiety. When she pulled out one of those mini Chromebooks, I knew we were in trouble.

“Are you sure you want to see what’s on there?” I asked, knowing full-well I didn’t!

“I am” was her only answer at first, and I held my tongue; she was fully focused on her task. Of the numerous pictures taken, the last three were the only ones of interest. The first showed an image of the creature from behind; it walked on two legs and was carrying a deer carcass over its shoulder – the biggest buck I’ve ever seen!

The second was nothing but forest so we assumed the monster moved on; when Amy scrolled to the third, she dropped the computer, and we both screamed. It was that damn eye again, looking directly into the camera lens like it was doing a retinal scan! I closed the screen as I picked up the laptop, but the images were still clear in my mind.

Amy apologized meekly as she accepted the laptop and removed the SD card. She’s been having the same nightmare since her encounter with the creature. Every night, she returns to the moment she saw it standing over the little girl and forgets it’s only a dream. This time, when the light falls on the hulking monster, it doesn’t vanish; it turns to face her with its piercing red eyes glaring through knots of black, matted fur. It has less hair around its lips and chin; the mouth is easier to describe as a quarter-sized hole, but it expands and contracts in order to eat and whistle.

The first time she dreamed it, that was where it ended, but it goes a little farther each night. After Amy has time to comprehend its horrific features, it begins walking towards her; she wants to run, but her legs won’t move. That morning, she woke when the creature was only three feet away. She had hoped to see something different in real life, but I knew that eye had been enough to confirm her worst fear. I wish there was something I could do to help, but I’ve never felt so worthless in all my life.

We were a nervous wreck for the remainder of the shift, but we had a pretty slow night. Luckily we were able to leave the camera on Rick’s empty desk; had he been there, he would have known we looked the moment he saw our faces.


That brings us to what happened last night – the reason I finally decided to sit down and write this. We were working the lake lodges again, and it started as another slow shift, but at 1:15 our radios crackled to life. A thirteen-year-old girl went missing from Campsite D, and all employees were ordered to join the search. I’m sure we weren’t the only team thinking of Tyler; it was impossible not to – especially if you knew what was out there!

Even so, it’s still a missing kid – we hurried off in that direction, but we were far away; it was doubtful we’d arrive in time to do much. Because of our significant distance, we were extremely confused as to how a thick mist seemed to be forming all around us. It started low – crawling across the ground – and spread faster than a fog machine. We ran both ways, but within minutes, our trail ends were completely blocked by solid white walls of fog.

Venturing off-trail wasn’t an option; Amy and I felt certain that’s what it wanted us to do, anyway. Instead, we held hands and tried to distract ourselves with mundane conversation as a haunting rendition of Ring Around the Rosie filled our ears. It wasn’t coming from any one direction, but from everywhere; there were no forest sounds left – no birds or insects – just whistling.

Soon, we felt the ground shake with the creature’s heavy steps; we would die if we didn’t move, but we were equally certain of our doom if we tried to walk the trail. I froze under the pressure, and Amy pulled me into the bushes. Thanks to her, I’m alive to write this now; the creature didn’t appear from the direction its steps indicated, but the one in which I wanted to flee.

It passed us by without a glance – probably focused on the young girl thrown over its shoulder – and Amy lunged forward as if to intervene. It took all my strength to hold her back; the kid was already dead. The way her head hung against the creature’s back was… wrong. There was no reason for us to die with her.

It only walked a few yards further before leaving the trail and settling down to eat. The sounds we heard over the following half hour will play in my head for as long as I live. Bones were snapped, organs were squished and the monster made a horrible slurping sound when it drank her blood. When it was finally over, we heard it walk deeper into the forest, and the fog began to dissipate.

We crawled from our bushes, tears streaming down our faces; we were filthy but alive! Every second inside that fog felt like hours; we ran into Search & Rescue a few minutes later and explained what happened. They couldn’t say any of it to the young girl’s parents, and ultimately chose to let them think we’re still looking. It makes me sick to think of them sitting by the phone – praying it rings but dreading it at the same time; they deserve closure – they need to grieve. This one has me really upset; those poor parents will end up moving here just to keep searching, and it’ll be for nothing.

I’m also worried about Amy; thinking of how far her next dream might go is terrifying. Surely it can’t actually kill her – it’s not like Freddy Kruger possessed Bigfoot, right? I’m going to call her before tonight’s shift – just to check-in. After what we went through yesterday, I don’t know how I’ll force myself to go back tonight; I’ve never been this frightened in my entire life.


Well, Mr. Dweller, that catches you up with where I am now, but if anything new happens, I’ll be sure to send an update. Thanks again for letting me get this off my chest; you take care, we’re always rooting for ya!


Part 2

Horror Fiction

The Original Fools



My wonderful friend, Nightmare’s Edge has narrated this with a few extra dark additions you won’t find the written posts - I like to call it the Nightmare Cut! Here’s the link to it on YouTube, don’t forget to subscribe!



The CreepyPasta




⚠️TRIGGER WARNING⚠️
This story involves strong implications of sexual assault.
Fool Origins

Did you know April Fools dates back to the 1500’s? Its origins revolve around France switching to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to learn of the change still celebrated New Years according to the Julian calendar – meaning April 1st – which resulted in their mockery. In the 1800’s, it spread through Britain, and before you know it, here we are.

Those statements are true, but the French switching calendars has nothing to do with our April Fool’s day. It just sounds better than the truth – especially for a fun-filled holiday enjoyed by millions. Historians will never say different; look what happened to the guy who ruined Pluto. That being said, I think the CreepyPasta community would appreciate knowing what actually happened.

Approximately 10-20 years before France changed calendars, a small mountain village was suffering an especially cold, brutal winter. The only road leading in or out was impassable during the snowy months, and the closest city was several day’s journey. If they didn’t find a new food source, they would all starve before the ice melted. A meeting was called, and no suggestion was too outlandish, yet they adjourned with little hope.

The first to exit stopped suddenly, noticing a stringless marionette on the stoop. It wore a black, hooded robe; the face bore a cruel expression, and a tightly wound scroll in its lap. Upon closer inspection, they saw the note was tied with hair, and the writing was a deep crimson. The message itself:

I am the Chaos in Darkness and Commander of the Dead. On the First of every April, you will bring a boy aged between six and eight to the North Peak cave. The child will enter alone. Harvests will be bountiful, and winters comfortable. A wagon of wheat and corn waits in the stables. Payment must not be late. Failure to comply will incite my Wrath.

Obviously, no one believed it until they saw the food, and even then, most remained skeptical. “But how would anyone bring a wagon up the pass?” Believers argued.

“It was already here!” Skeptics shouted. Regardless, their hunger left little choice.

“There’s not one of us who isn’t half starved, no one could conceal this much for so long!” Believers insisted.

“Does it matter? That cave is a maze of dark tunnels and dangerous drops! What child do you propose we sacrifice?” Skeptics exclaimed. Despite a few noticeable hesitations, all agreed it simply could not be done, and life moved on.


The snow melted, spring came, crops were planted, and fish were caught. April 1st passed with little notice; a few doomsayers were anxious, but – as a whole – most had forgotten about the strange letter until the morning of the 2nd. A quarter of every farmer’s crops were destroyed, torn from the ground and trampled by something which left enormous, clawed footprints.

The villagers argued until the sun set and rose again, but were no closer to agreement. Farmers guarded their fields through the night, and on the morning of the 3rd, not one more crop was lost. Instead, half the river’s fish were dead, floating downstream, and the winds carried their rotten stench through the town square; still, no concessions were made.

The believers wouldn’t have a majority vote until fifteen of their new cattle were found slaughtered on the morning of the 4th. An angry mob hiked the treacherous path to the North Peak Cave; twenty feet beyond the entrance was a narrow tunnel, forcing them to advance single-file. At a cautious pace, they proceeded another thirty feet before reaching a sharp turn. Suddenly, the lead-man fell back, violently pushing past his fellows; as others saw around the corner, they too, screamed for retreat.

Haunted April

Once the regretful heroes returned, they described a humanoid, skeletal figure with the head of a horse and a sickle for an arm. An eerie orange glow illuminated the creature and the monstrous stone face it stood beneath. The carving’s mouth was ajar and producing the same strange light, but none dared cross the great chasm to investigate.

That’s when they suggested an orphan, and even the skeptics held their tongues. Thanks to the previous famine, many children were left homeless. Soon, a seven-year-old was discovered begging at a bakery; one man earned his trust by claiming to be an uncle, and the desperate boy gladly followed his new guardian. At the cave entrance, the little one was sent inside to wait while his “new uncle and friends gathered wood.”

As the men fled, a loud, gut-wrenching scream shook their resolve, but not enough to save the boy. His wails turned to muffled sobs and faded into the distance as the frightened villagers ran. Upon their return, no questions were asked, and no answers were offered; again, life moved on.


Each person doubled their efforts to conserve. Jars of preserves filled cellars, new crops were planted, and no more disasters befell the secluded mountain village. Men who traveled to the city for summer work returned with half their wages in grain, and in fall, special care was taken with the harvest.

Despite having more food than ever before, many were still traumatized by the previous winter. Those with the means to do so left town before the first snowfall, but most had nowhere to go. Each morning they feared disaster would strike, yet each night they slept in warm beds with full bellies.

“It must be the Demon’s promise!” They rejoiced; yet, as weeks turned to months, their happiness began to fade. Dreading another April sacrifice, many felt disappointed by the fair weather and prayed for misfortune – for any excuse to refuse the creature’s demands – but by February’s end, it was clear their prayers would go unanswered.

Every parent held their children a little closer at night. The torturous “what if’s” were endless; no mother could sleep – no father could rest – until the next child was chosen. They needed to see him, to know he was real and the burden would not fall on their own; if no boy met the age requirement, who would take his place? Someone would – of that there was no doubt; none were foolish enough to believe differently.

On March 3rd, the search began; every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister were looking for a boy between 6-8 to ensure their own family never saw the inside of North Peak cave. By the fifth day, tensions were running high. Children were hidden away, changing their appearance, and lying about age. Word had spread to every villager’s ear – even the homeless knew to flee, but the children had no way off the mountain.

It was March 10th when a suitable boy was found in the woods. He understood why they took him and tried to escape many times over the following weeks. Even so, tempers cooled with the relief, and lives mostly returned to normal until the morning of April 1st.

The sacrifice was thrown into the cave upon refusing to enter. His cry grew sharper with the soft thud of impact, and the guards listened closely at the entrance. Scuffling steps were heard, followed by a sharp gasp and shrill cry. At that sound, they knew it was safe to leave.

Filled with the knowledge their crops would flourish, farmers expanded their fields, and ranchers increased their livestock. A bustling summer led to an astonishingly successful harvest, and all openly praised the Dark Savior. Winter was now a time for rest and relaxation, not fighting for survival. When the roads filled with snow, life moved happily along.


Spoiled by their new way of life, the search for the next boy began immediately; no one wished to revisit the previous year’s panic. When January came and still no child was had, talks of searching the city began. Many were uneasy about involving the outside world; if authorities intervened, what might the captured man – or men – say? One doesn’t need to believe in demons to believe others believe. No matter how favorable the chances – comfortable winters were too valuable to risk.

On February 1st, a manhunt was organized to search the mountainside; villagers checked behind every tree and under every rock, but no child was compatible. After weeks of heated argument, the inevitable was finally accepted. A child from the lowest class would give their life for a greater cause; the few who spoke out were easily silenced and the law no longer applied to enemies of the Dark Savior.

In total, six children were thrown into North Peak cave. The seventh was meant to be a young boy named Vincent. His parents died that January, and his last relative was an ailing grandfather. Though the elderly man was small and frail, his mind remained sharp; his grandson turned six only the month before, and those were the days when each child’s birth was carefully documented. Their circumstance was dire, and they had neither the strength or resources to flee.

The grandfather made a desperate attempt to save the last of his family line. On April 1st, a small figure presented himself at the mountain’s base, and the Honor Guards escorted him to the top. It was no longer a treacherous climb but a proper trail – cleared and raked for easier travel. So long as the sacrifice walked willingly, there was no reason to crowd or hassle the doomed soul.

The seventh year was perhaps the easiest trek of all; the small procession journeyed at a slow but steady pace, and not once did the sacrifice attempt to run – which could almost be considered tradition. The guards could hardly believe when he entered the cave without so much as a look back. Their shock was likely the reason they lingered slightly longer than usual; they’d only begun to turn away when a furious shout echoed inside. “How dare you! I know your face, Felix Felonious!”

Hearing the wildly unpopular man’s name, those outside began to creep further. Next was the old man’s cry for help, and the men recognized it immediately; understanding what geezer attempted, they rushed forward, hoping rectify their mistake. Truly no fate could be worse than ending the generous agreement.

Except, when the Honor Guards entered, the only thing they saw was the village idiot bashing in the old man’s brains – no demon. Two men cautiously crossed the chasm – a risk they were happy to take under the circumstance. What few questions remained were answered with a grotesque figure crafted from human and animal remains; string and adhesive held it together, but barely. Though it was falling apart with age, the witness descriptions were a perfect match.

The guards holding Felix at the entrance had no trouble detaining him; the challenge was keeping him alive as they processed the true depths of his actions, and – as a result – their own. The village was in an uproar when they returned – even the women and children screamed for blood. The boy’s grandfather was dead, but his sacrifice was not in vain.

No more children were lost; although natural disasters and hard winters would come, the people were better prepared. They would never see a year quite so dire as the one permanently etched into their memories. They tried to hide the horrible secret, but – as it always does – word slowly spread to the city and beyond. The yearly tradition of embarrassing one another with elaborate pranks spread far and wide as each country adopted the fun-filled holiday.


The poor villager’s only solace for years of manipulation, was the horrible torture Felix endured after a full confession. It wasn’t hard to fool him; his worst fear had come to fruition, and he was desperate to see a way out. They could not change what was done, but they could damn sure learn from it.

Felix – more than anything – was a sick opportunist; a very lucky – yet disturbed – opportunist. His childhood was spent playing alone in the woods. By entering the forest from his backyard and mapping game trails, he eventually discovered a way down the mountain; it was purely by chance, and his own special secret. The path involved many narrow ledges and steep drops; he worried its use would be forbidden if his parents knew.

As Felix grew and became more adept at traversing the difficult terrain, he began climbing the mountain as well. At 16, he found a second way into the North Peak cave; it bypassed the dangerous dead-drop of the main entrance and allowed access to the spacious caverns beyond. Soon, he knew its tunnels as well as the forest.

When the village hovered on the brink of starvation, Felix almost revealed the way down, but if only a small amount of food were found – a deadly confrontation would ensue. The frozen trail was even more treacherous than normal; each step was tested before shifting his weight, and the caution paid off when he finally reached the bottom.

It was late, and the sun was setting. While preparing a fire, he noticed a figure approaching from the distance. It was two men with a wagon; when they were close enough to hail, Felix raised a hand in greeting and recognized his neighbor’s son. Luca began a city apprenticeship the previous summer, but was worried for his parents. Food donations were collected, and he swore to deliver every grain if he had to carry them up the mountain by hand; Luis, a fellow apprentice, offered to assist.

Felix happily shared village news while filling himself with corn but quickly realized his mistake. If he led Luca and Luis up the mountain, all would learn of his secret trail. He truly appreciated the young men, but not enough to spare their lives. After convincing them the wagon must be left behind, it was agreed three men could carry the sacks if they formed a chain up the steep slopes.

Not wanting the horses to suffer when their masters failed to return – Felix offered to tie them near the river, when in reality, he set them loose. Hiking up the mountain was far more difficult than coming down, but separating Luca from his friend proved little challenge.

Near the summit – light fading – they formed their final chain with Luis at the bottom. Luca was positioned at the top, and while his back was turned, Felix reached for the next sack; in the brief moment both held it, Felix pushed forward. Luis fell back with a panicked cry, and went silent when his head connected with the ground. Luca – unsuspecting of foul play – rushed to his friend’s side; as he knelt to help Luis, Felix snapped his neck from behind.

He worked well into the night – hauling each sack into his cellar one by one. When the food was safely stowed – Felix returned for the bodies. Once loaded onto a sled, they were hauled to the caverns. Too exhausted for the return hike home, he slept through the afternoon. Upon waking, he saw the bodies were preserved by the cold and filled his stomach. After packing enough for dinner, what remained was buried for later.

Upon finally returning home, three men stood at his door. They were talking amongst themselves, and one pointed to the stables; the others nodded and began walking in its direction. Quickening his pace, Felix called out a greeting. To his great relief, the gentlemen stopped, but when they turned – he recognized Luca’s father and uncle. The third was a farmer and friend of their family’s.

Baffled by their presence, Felix simply asked, “How did you know?”

Taking Felix’s unsocial reputation into consideration, the boy’s father thought he was referring to the town meeting; Francis – months away from learning of his son’s disappearance – replied “We happened to be in town when it was announced.”

There was an awkward silence as Felix carefully processed those words. If it was already announced to the village, killing his visitors wouldn’t help. His only hope was to dispute their claim, but first, he needed to know what that claim was. “Then why don’t you tell me?” He stated dryly.

Annoyed with his rude neighbor, Francis informed Felix he could attend tomorrow’s meeting at noon or stay home, and that most preferred the latter.

Finally understanding his mistake, Felix was flooded with noticeable relief. “I will most assuredly be in attendance; thank you gentlemen kindly for the visit!” He replied with a gleeful tip of the hat.

Mouths agape at the sudden change of character, Francis and company returned the gesture with slight nods before departing in silent confusion.

After tending to his own food stores, Felix loaded an old wagon with what remained. The idea to pretend it was a demon’s gift came in stages. He genuinely wanted to share it with the village – it would disrupt his daily life if they all starved – but he needed a way to do so without assuming any risk. Eventually, Francis would learn of Luca’s disappearance, and that it occurred while attempting to deliver a wagon of food.

Claiming it came from a demon simply amused him, but then he thought of the young boy in his stables’ loft. Had he returned only a few minutes later, he would be chained in a dungeon! Had the child been alive and called out upon hearing their voices, what then? How would he explain? He couldn’t… not those remarks from a child; not paired with those wounds. The thought alone was enough to turn Felix’s stomach.

It was the first time he had a boy in the village, but that year’s winter yielded so many orphans – he simply couldn’t resist. He’d been without company since a city-trip in June, and despite knowing he should at least use the cavern – his house was much closer. Normally, Felix couldn’t risk being with anyone for longer than a single night, but the comfort of his secluded home offered tempting scenarios. The warmth of another body in his own bed was a pleasure he’d never known and could not easily forget. To honor his lost companion, a shrine was built over his grave – deep in the caverns.

That’s when he realized the “demon” should be paid for its service, and cut an incision into his upper thigh. Using the blood as ink, he wrote a letter to the villagers explaining the terms; next, he exhumed a horse that was eaten the previous week, and – after making a few alterations to an old marionette – he was ready to prepare the cavern. With the horse’s skull, he began the hiked up the mountain yet again.

It only took a skeleton, sickle, string, adhesive, candles, and a few pieces of orange glass to create his demonic lair. He installed the animal’s head onto the human skeleton and placed his creation beneath the giant stone face he had slowly carved over the years. He never expected anyone else to see it, but the idea gave Felix immense satisfaction.

He delivered the food in the dead of night, and ensured he was last to arrive at the meeting. Placing the letter would carry the most risk, and he couldn’t fully relax until it was finished. There was still some concern the wagon would be discovered early, but when that didn’t happen, Felix began to feel invincible. He sat smiling quietly until the first battle between skeptic and believer began.

To maintain his normal character, he silently and indifferently listened from the back. When they finally located the food, Felix lined up with the rest, behaving as if his starvation hadn’t ended the night before; no one suspected a thing – at least – not from him. He was disappointed no one inspected the cave, but he left his creation up; knowing they’d check eventually, he performed regular maintenance as it continued to decompose. The look it created combined with the rotting stench only made it more convincing.

In his best estimations, Felix thought he might get one or two boys at most. He knew weather and harvests were beyond his control, but he felt his chances for the first were fair – if he could pull off a few destructive feats. Anticipating their reluctance to sacrifice a child, he chose April to allow extra time for preparation.

He was almost afraid to employ his smithing skills lest it cast suspicion, but the idea was too tempting to resist. Soon, a heavy pair of iron, monster-shaped shoes were strapped to his feet. They were tested only once before use – around the cave’s north entrance – but the rain washed them away overnight.

The hope was for their sight among the destroyed crops to prevent the need for further action. Felix understood his urges were wrong – he didn’t enjoy causing pain; he didn’t want to poison the river or slaughter those cattle, but they didn’t give him a choice. There were times in the past when fish were found floating; no one drank the water then, and he was confident they wouldn’t now.

The cattle were the easiest trick to manage, but the most difficult for his conscience. As a man who has known hunger, it was sacrilege to waste so much meat, but it was necessary to maintain every facet of the illusion. If prime cuts of beef were removed from even one carcass, suspicions would shift to the motives of man. Thankfully, it ended there, and he wasn’t forced to burn the silo.

When his fellows finally found the courage to suggest an orphan – as all knew they eventually must – Felix dared hope he could choose his favorite. It’s true there was no shortage since the famine, but only a handful were the right age. Three to be exact, and he preferred the red-head often found begging at the baker’s; his heart and stomach throbbed in unison as he led the others to him.

When little Edward went willingly with the men, Felix could hardly maintain the expected mournful disposition. He forced himself to walk home before beginning a hurried trek up the mountain, and arrived only seconds before the boy. There was no time for the black robe he acquired specially; instead, he approached quietly while the boy’s eyes were still adjusting to darkness.

In a state of disbelief, he placed a long, cold hand atop Edward’s shoulder, eliciting a shrill cry of terror from the boy and a warm shiver of anticipation from himself . Frightened the villagers would suffer a change-of-heart, Felix quickly clamped his hand over the boy’s mouth, and only muffled sobs could be heard.

It wasn’t his intention to frighten the boy; he genuinely hoped they would become friends. Pulling Edward into a hug, he whispered in his ear, “It is only me, Felix, the iron-worker; you remember me, don’t you? I bought you bread once.”

At that, the child eased his struggles, and turned to see the familiar face. Edward asked for his uncle, but upon learning the truth – hot, fresh tears flowed freely. Felix held him as the boy’s body convulsed with violent, and his own convulsed for entirely different reasons. He vowed to be all the child would ever need – a father, brother, friend… and more – so convincingly he even fooled himself.

He’d often fantasized about that first meeting, but when the moment came he lost all words and the truth – as Felix had come to see it, anyway – spilled from his mouth. “Single men are not allowed to adopt, but I fooled the villagers.” He proudly boasted to the now beaming child.

Infused with confidence, he held little Eddie close and carried him across the dangerous chasm with practiced ease. The boy giggled in delight at the fake Demon and excitedly agreed to never leave the caves. “Just for now.” Felix promised; “Besides, it’ll take you a few weeks to learn your way around the tunnels and to your cave.” He added nonchalantly, hands roaming freely.

He was patient at first; the boy’s mere presence was exciting, and – once past the admittedly poor introduction – their conversations were fulfilling in a way he never knew was missing. Felix was unshakable in his conviction; ‘Edward would never be like the poor boy from his stables’, he thought. ‘He could control himself now’, he decided and this child was likely his last chance for a special friend. Kidnapping was too risky, and when the upcoming winter was filled with hardship, there would be no more sacrifices.

The 16th century man could never fathom how basic psychology would aid in his plan, but it was the reason for his success. Due to the paranoia created during that first, deadly winter, and the appearance of a “demon”, villagers essentially created a self-fulfilling prophecy by taking extra care in everyday life.

Felix dared not hope for his luck to hold, but the more people came to believe in the Demon, the more he caught himself fantasizing a world of ‘what if’s’. For instance, what if they greeted new arrivals as a family? They would share the same story, and elicit a good scream for the growing legend; it would be the children’s parting gift to the cold world that shunned them so cruelly. Then, they could drink and be merry; the nights would be for play and the days for resting!

Felix could see it no other way. Thus every year, a new boy joined their merry band; even those ripped from parents arms decided to stay. Great fun was shared, and their love for one another was second only to their Father’s. That’s what Felix believed, and you can too, if you’d prefer a happy ending.

If you want the truth – the only thing those boys saw in that cave was a wild, naked man surrounded by the dead little children who came before – their bodies bruised and broken, but their faces carved into wide, eternal smiles; then life moved on.

Horror Fiction

I Found Something Disturbing in Aokigahara Forest

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast,and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m (still) binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

⚠️TRIGGER WARNING⚠️

This story contains much talk of suicide.

Hello Dweller of Swamps,

It’s strange to finally write this after months of meticulously crafting the perfect letter with which to grab your attention, but sadly those hours were in vain. It’s impossible to express the entirety of what happened without including some rather embarrassing details, but I can’t keep this to myself any longer. Hopefully, you can see past my mistakes and consider reading this to your viewers. There is no defense for my intentions, but I would like to conclude this preface by saying that I am a different person now.


My name is Parker, and I’m a 21-year-old manic depressive, bipolar, college dropout; I’m also a snob and all around asshole. This isn’t a cry for help – it’s an explanation. You see, I’ve been coming to The Swamp since 2018; it’s one of few pleasures in my pathetic life. Any tale where someone suffers more than myself is a treat, but here… I don’t know, there’s something special about the atmosphere; I’ve nearly convinced myself I’m visiting a real place. Did I cross a line from loyal fan to obsessive psycho? Probably, but listen to my whole story before passing judgment.

Eventually, listening wasn’t enough anymore; I wanted to “keep the show going daily” – to hear my words shared with everyone here in the Swamp! The problem? I was a boring nobody, and apparently, so was my family; there wasn’t a single haunting or stalker among us. Finally, I decided to create a work of fiction, but they were dull; even if you read them, they’d be immediately forgotten. No, if I was going to lie, it was going to be something memorable!

After trashing a dozen more drafts, the entire world stopped. My sister died, and I experienced real pain. The previous depressions were nothing compared to the new torments of daily life. Leslie was walking to her car after work when some shitbag just… grabbed her, but that’s not the story I’m here to tell; it’s only the catalyst.

I’ve always wanted to die; not in a ‘I can’t take it anymore’ dramatic way; in a ‘this is pointless and I don’t wanna’ passive way. After Leslie, it became the bad kind. Wanting justice kept me going at first, but when the shitbag went down shooting, that was gone too.

There’s a calmness that comes with the decision to die; the pain finally stops because it doesn’t matter anymore. It felt like my mind was clear for the first time, and I understood exactly what I wanted to do. Opening a new doc, my fingers danced over the keys as words practically wrote themselves. In minutes, three perfect paragraphs introduced myself as a adventurous hiking enthusiast; I explained my love for this channel and lifelong desire to visit Aokigahara – Japan’s Suicide Forest. It was far from finished, but a beautiful beginning.

Next, I bought a plane ticket (round-trip to support my claims), got a passport, and packed my bags. The plan was nearly flawless; I would write of my daring adventures, and when the audience was captivated with my unbelievable discoveries, I would deliver the clincher – the “returning tomorrow, will update soon!” Of course, that was never going to happen. Later, when my body was discovered… Well, you get the idea.

There was a chance details about my true personality would surface, but most people want the mystery; they’ll overlook a few discrepancies if the story is good enough, and I thought mine was. I researched the area to ensure no claims contradicted the legends too much and found the subject fascinating. In 2003, a record breaking 105 bodies were discovered; in 2010, over 200 suicide attempts were made! Due to the drastic increases, they won’t release the numbers anymore.

In the year 864, Mount Fuji erupted and where the lava flowed, Aokigahara eventually grew. Halfway up the mountain, one can see the forest from high above the treetops; that breathtaking view is the reason it was named, Jukai, or Sea of Trees. Unfortunately, the surrounding villages were poor and starving; it was common for families to abandon their elderly in the woods and call it mercy. Many of them committed suicide rather than face weeks of starvation and exposure.

This brings us to the Onryo – vengeful spirits capable of causing physical harm. Many claim these malevolent beings are responsible for most – if not all – of the forest’s deaths and disappearances; even experienced hikers tend to lose their way. Now, the public trail ends with ‘No Trespassing’ notices and warning signs. Those who are determined to die simply venture forth and do it;. if they’re unsure, they tie a ribbon in the trees to guide their possible return.

Sometimes, locals volunteer to perform suicide checks and know what it means to find one of those trails. In case you’re wondering, I took camping gear, but only to support future claims. We can skip the swank hotel, weird toilets, and actual trauma of public transportation. I’d rather jump to where fantasy and reality diverged.


Once I learned what it’s like to travel in a crowded city – I knew multiple trips were out of the question. Instead, I took everything on the first day. Finding reception at the bottom of the mountain seemed preferable to another round trip. Plus, it fit my narrative better – “I was just camping, but things were so scary I came down to send this!” At least, that’s what I told myself.

It wouldn’t matter why I went back afterwards – people always make dumb decisions in those situations. Let everyone speculate I forgot something, or maybe I was forced. The important thing was to steer them away from suicide. I didn’t care what went in its place – Onryo, Yakuza, Aliens – pick your poison!

From the moment I arrived, things were more difficult than anticipated. The insects were drawn to me like they smelled a foreign delicacy in my blood, and the weight of my gear increased with every step. When the trail split in two, I stopped for a much needed break. The signposts were in Japanese, but a passing elderly couple spoke English well enough to help. They exchanged worried glances after noticing my tent; I insisted my interests lay only in camping, but it’s doubtful they believed me.

I’m still in awe of the forest’s beauty; it’s amazing what nature can do when the trees aren’t cut every 10-20 years! If you leave the trail – even before the forbidden zone – it’s practically guaranteed you’ll get lost. I stopped for a few more breaks along the way and reached the end in roughly two hours. A small barrier with numerous warnings offered no challenge in preventing my entry, but that’s what marks the point of no return for so many.

My first glimpse revealed tattered ribbons of all colors and sizes blowing in the breeze. I worried my line would be too easily seen if it started within view of the trail but then noticed a uniquely shaped tree in the distance. Halfway there, a blue, uncut ribbon could be seen stretching into the dense foliage ahead; it inspired a combination of fear, curiosity, and regret. Turning back, I found a new landmark to the right; when sure no others were nearby, I started my own red lifeline.

It was a solid hour before I found a suitable place for the tent. It was the lightest available, but as the clouds gathered overhead, the choice felt regrettable. Not checking the weather is a perfect example of the basic things I overlook in laziness. I set up between two huge trees and hoped heavy rocks would help against the wind; there was nothing to do against flooding except hope it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t until resting inside that I heard the sporadic patter of raindrops and realized the trees blocked most of it. Luckily it never rained hard enough to be more than a nuisance, but the soothing sounds lulled me to sleep. Nightmares are a common theme in the forest’s legend, but that’s true for most haunted places. Regardless, bad dreams are ineffective threats against those of us intimately familiar with night terrors… as long we realize we’re sleeping.

One moment I was resting comfortably; the next – footsteps were crunching in the distance. I rose to look outside, fully expecting a deer or bear. My ears couldn’t discern how many legs it walked on – just that it was heavy. The sound stopped instantly when I unzipped the flap; taking a few cautious steps forward, I scanned my surroundings. It was then I realized Aokigahara was a serial killer’s paradise, but it was too late for new worries. Besides, I was there to die; if someone wanted to help – why complain?

I turned and felt urine stream down my leg. Standing not five feet behind my tent was the elderly couple from before… except now they looked like zombies! They weren’t ghostly apparitions but solid bodies! Their faces were chalk-white and peeling; the woman’s neck had a jagged red slash, and her husband was missing a portion of his skull.

With a sickly, rotten smile, the man – in perfect English – asked, “Are you sure you’re only here to camp? Is there anything you’d like to talk about? We’re wonderful listeners.” As he spoke, they advanced from both sides, and I stumbled backwards.

“Oh don’t be frightened dear,” his wife added, “We only want to help; we have a grandson your age! Or we did… until he left us to rot, the sorry, selfish bastard!” Her voice became deeper with every word until it no longer resembled a human’s.

I retreated faster and soon fell flat onto my back. Twisted roots and rocks jabbed painfully into my skin, but there was no time to stop for the stars dancing in my vision. The couple’s approach grew louder with each step, and their cold, iron grips would come any second. I flailed, desperately propelling myself backwards, but my clothes snagged in several places. Finally, when I thought my heart would fail from pure terror, I jolted awake to a loud clap of thunder.

Outside in the cool, fresh air, I noticed my clothes were soaked in sweat. Once changed, I started a fire and wondered at the possibility of staying awake for the rest of my life; having one of those dreams at night was something to avoid. A phantom-pain lingered from the imaginary fall, but as a lifelong hypochondriac, I’ve learned to ignore most aches and ailments.

In a blatant act of rebellion, my brain showed me awful things waiting in the forest – creeping closer by the minute. I didn’t care about the story anymore, but I was trapped. If I fled in the dark – every branch would be fingers, every animal would be demons, and every cold breeze would be the Reaper’s breath.

Shadows darted about in the corner of my eye, but I was paralyzed. The trance was only broken when a figure suddenly lunged into the clearing; I turned my head in time to catch a glimpse of a pale, angry woman before she vanished. Taking advantage of my regained mobility – I dove into the tent. I felt a cold certainty that’s what They wanted, but my anxiety grew in tandem with the darkness; staying outside wasn’t an option. I felt naked and exposed; countless eyes were watching, waiting… but for what? The whispers hinted suicide, but I wasn’t ready to admit I heard them yet.

Things were almost calm during the first hour; writing seemed like a good distraction, but it was difficult to focus. It wasn’t until accidentally dozing that I heard real footsteps – several. The firelight cast tall, exaggerated shadows onto the tent, and they grew taller with every step. There were at least six, maybe more; I thought they would force their way inside, but they circled me like vultures! Round and round they went, slowly, never stopping or talking, but – occasionally – they showed me things.

I could hear, smell, and feel everything; most husbands granted their wives quick, painless deaths before committing suicide, but sometimes they tried to survive out there. Either way, death always came, and the men were always furious when it did. Their rage and hate poured into the land, strengthening its curse with every fresh infusion of fury.

What’s interesting is how the same children who left them on the mountain were in turn abandoned by their own offspring years later. The Onryo never forgot, and their sons were greeted accordingly. The practice of abandoning the weak may have ended, but its victims remain – and they hate us, all of us.

The visions continued until all meaning of time was lost; my head ached and my eyes grew heavier with each passing minute. I had drifted off for only a moment when the sound of tearing fabric startled me. Inches from my ear, a long, black fingernail poked through a small hole, and I screamed in surprise. The finger was immediately replaced by a glazed, blue eye. Gripped by panic, I leapt away from the tear, covered it with my pack, and sobbed as the circling footsteps resumed. I stayed that way until dawn, when all fell gloriously silent.


There were no retreating footsteps into the forest; they vanished mid-stride as if never there. I opened the flap wide enough for a peek but saw nothing. The gray light of morning filled me with renewed determination; it was imperative to finish my business before sunset, but I was no longer sure what that entailed. Not wanting to trust any decision made under duress, I reassessed my situation from the beginning.

The real doubts began with my letter to you, Mr. Dweller. It was nothing compared to the nightmare of reality. After much soul searching, the file went into the trash bin where it belonged. When I decided to visit Aokigahara, no part of me expected to witness any form of supernatural activity; now that I had – it would practically be criminal not to share it with the Swamp, right?

Admitting I might want to live was too scary; that would mean returning to my miserable existence of everyday life. It was easier to postpone the suicide rather than cancel, but my priority was getting the hell out of that forest. My gear was packed in ten minutes, and leaving the tent behind was an easy decision; no matter how long I lived, there would be no more camping in my future.

Following my red line back to its starting point, I remembered the stranger’s blue ribbon. My intention was only to take a few pictures – for the story – but then it was clearly older than I first assumed. The chances of finding a corpse at the other end were extremely high. Seeing a corpse wouldn’t bother me half as much as a living person would. I could be like the YouTubers and claim it was to give closure to a grieving family – or that it was the right thing to do – but I was chasing a story.

After twenty minutes, the sound of rushing water alerted me to a stream beyond the cliff-side, and the terrain was much better for walking. The forest’s beauty, made it easy to forget the previous night’s terror and the morbidity of my current objective. Lost in another fantasy, I wandered past the ribbon and into an old campsite. A gray tent was flattened beneath a large tree limb, and personal effects were scattered throughout the area.

Initially, I worried a person was inside the tent when it was crushed, but that wasn’t the case. After a brief inspection of the belongings, I noticed a yellow ribbon leading further into the woods. The dead woman was at the end of a much shorter hike. She’d been there long enough for the rope to eat through her decomposing neck; the noose still hung from the tree, but her head and body lay separately on the ground. Taking a picture was horrible, but no one would believe me without evidence.

Her icy, dead stare gave me chills; I couldn’t look directly at her – only through the camera. With my finger over the button, I took a few more steps and waited for the auto-zoom. When the shot came into focus, I screamed and fell hard on my ass.

The woman’s face was back to normal – her lips slightly parted; in no way could she be described as smiling. Yet, when the picture came into focus, that’s exactly what she was doing. Her terrifying grin stretched ear-to-ear, her lips were blood-red, and her eyes were suddenly aware and full of hatred. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her or she might make that face again, but I desperately needed to see that picture.

After several minutes spent blindly running my hands over the ground, I finally found it. The sad, broken remains of my phone only displayed the soft glow of nothingness; we can fast forward past my tantrum. Without a phone, there was no way to judge time, but I knew it was early enough to be safely locked in my hotel room before nightfall.

When retracing my steps through the ruined campsite, I heard a strange, gargled cry – like someone was drowning – and instinctively ran towards the sound. Looking down from the cliff’s edge, I froze at the sight below. It wasn’t water flowing through the stream but blood and bone! Skulls littered the banks, and spines stretched far beyond my sight. My head began to spin, and I sank to my knees knowing another vision would soon assault my senses.

Skeletal Stream

Countless people jumped from that very spot, and countless more were all but pushed. I watched them in an endless loop; so many people – just like me – were surrounded by a horde of ghoulish figures taunting and poking them until they fell. Death wasn’t always instant – some only suffered broken bones; those begged for help until their heads sank below the surface. They were the same gargled cries which led me there in the first place.

I only returned to my senses when leaned forward, hovering at the tipping point. It was my own doing, but not my conscious doing; it required all my willpower to carefully lean back and avoid panicked movements. When there was a comfortable distance between myself and the cliff, thunder boomed overhead, and the sky was quickly growing dark. That’s when I remembered my laptop; it had a clock, but with a little luck – my phone would appear on the Wi-Fi options!

At first, I assumed it must be on American time – because why else would it say 5:15pm? The battery was over half full, but the power died when I opened the Wi-Fi settings. When pressing the power button, the light blinked and died. If it was almost 6:00, that meant I missed the sun’s entire journey across the sky while I was… what? What could account for so much time?

The answer hit me, and I almost lost the little food in my stomach. It hadn’t felt long at the river, but my muscles were weirdly stiff when I returned to my senses. As if confirming my worst fear, the bottom of the sun dipped just behind the mountain’s back and a long shadow fell across the land. That’s when the whispers returned, but it was hard to distinguish the outside voices from my own while crying in the dirt. “Kill yourself now; forget the story. You can’t spend another night out here.” No matter who said it – truer words were never thought.

After repacking the computer and finding my flashlight, panic finally consumed me; I ran without looking back. The headless woman would be there; there’s no way to prove it, but she would. A painful stitch in my side soon forced me to a stop. The flashlight wouldn’t have enough battery to last all night, but if I didn’t turn it on until it was pitch black – it should have enough power to make it to the public trail. The plan was to walk until the light dimmed, then start a fire next to the path.

If nothing else, having a plan granted me several minutes reassurance. I genuinely saw myself making it out of there and being a better person for it – like one of those life-changing experiences you see in a movie where the main character is an entirely different person at the end. All I needed to do was walk back to the blue ribbon; even I couldn’t get lost in the short space between it and the public trail!

The ribbon was gone; I followed it when fleeing the river, but it wasn’t there anymore. As if answering my screams of frustration, a violent wind blew, and a wall of dirt hit my skin like a thousand needles. Underneath the howling wind and crunching leaves there was another sound – whispers – floating to my ears off the cold breeze. They were secrets and knowledge, questions and answers, promises and threats – all for my ears alone! When the trees were calm once again, I opened my eyes in time to watch the last blue tatters fall to the ground.

Instead of being consumed by terror, I felt relieved… The whispers were pleased, and so was I, but immediately upon that realization, was the now familiar feeling of waking from a trance; those feelings hadn’t been my own, and the appropriate response of panic began in earnest. Thinking the trail must be close, I used the flashlight and kept moving in the same direction.

Fun fact: Walking in a straight line is impossible without a guide; you’ll always make a circle. Feel free to Google it; I didn’t believe it either, but it’s an interesting read.

I pointed the flashlight into the cluster of trees and took three deep breaths before proceeding. The light bounced with my unsteady movements, and the whispers begged me to look for their faces – to follow them home – but if they were trying to lure me right – I needed to go left; that’s when the old couple returned.

The moment the light fell on their rotting faces, I came to an abrupt halt, and they laughed at my fear. “You think he’ll wet his pants again?” The man asked his wife.

“Oh, hush, that doesn’t count! That was a dream… wasn’t it?” The woman teased.

“No telling, he was soaked clean through afterwards, who knows what fluids came from where.” The husband answered, and they both laughed.

My eyes only glanced away for a second, and my head never moved an inch, yet they halved the distance between us. Despite every conscious effort to avoid it, I yelped and fell once again. Standing no more than five feet away, they cackled maniacally while the whispers in my head turned to screams, “there’s only one way to end it!” They warned.

Consumed by panic, I struggled to my feet and ran around them while (hopefully) staying on course. When their wild, mocking laughter was gone, I slowed to catch my breath. Turning the flashlight off at that moment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but every second of battery power was precious. In the dark, my breaths were loud and jagged; it felt like the sound would carry for miles.

As my heart began to slow, a soft whisper spoke into my ear, so closely I felt breath on my neck. “Come play with me.” It was a child’s voice that time, and before a chill ran the length of my spine, small fingers brushed the tips of my own! I frantically fumbled with the flashlight, nearly dropping it before finding the switch. It was on for only a brief instant, and immediately began to dim. As the beam slowly faded, faces began to appear between the trees, watching and smiling.

A whimper escaped my lips as I banged the flashlight against my palm – causing it to flare back to life for short spurts, only to immediately dim again. The pale faces in the forest blinked in and out of existence with the light – appearing closer with every flash, and the whispers promised, “soon!”

My entire system shut down; I collapsed and between loud, wracking sobs – apologized for every horrible thing done to the spirits in life or after. Somewhere in the corner of my desperate brain, I remembered the only paragraph involving “how to appease” an Onryo. They want justice; for many reasons – that wasn’t feasible here, not in the traditional sense, but I promised to share their story with as many others as possible. Then, I repeated it a second time; part of me hoped if I kept talking, I wouldn’t feel hands reaching from the darkness.

The words did nothing to appease the Onryo, but something appreciated the sentiment. The next time the light roared to life, it stayed on. Most of the faces were gone, and the ones that remained were beyond the beam’s reach. Rising unsteadily to my feet, I was surprised to see the clouds had parted; the moon and stars were shining brightly.

I wasn’t foolish enough to let my guard down; there was still a heavy tension in the air, but it was possible to breathe again. Forcing myself to move slowly, I turned in a circle, hoping to see anything familiar. On my third pass, I finally saw it; the end of a blue ribbon tied around a tree. The rest was torn away, but that one beautiful scrap remained; I ran to it – the possibility it would vanish was too real.

Halfway there, a cold, steel hand clamped around my ankle, and I face-planted, hard. If not for the mouth full of dirt and leaves, my scream would have surely woken the dead – though, to be fair, most were already awake. As I tried to rollover, a heavy weight fell onto me; it felt like a knee was pressing into the center of my back with two hands on my shoulders. My terror was complete; I couldn’t move or think. No air was getting through, and my vision was going black, but everything was just… blank.

I thought the distant voices were hallucinations until whatever held me down suddenly vanished with the appearance of multiple flashlights. Fortunately, the hotel manager was always suspicious of my reasons for camping at Aokigahara; when I hadn’t returned that day, he reported me as missing. The officials refused to start the search until morning, but the manager said he had a “bad feeling”; he’s friends with a few of the locals who volunteer there, and convinced them to come immediately.

So yea, I definitely owe that guy my life. There’s a lot I’ll never know about what happened out there, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What you believe is up to you, but I have a theory.

Suicide was viewed differently in Japanese culture; in the Feudal Era, the act of Seppuku was an honorable way to take one’s own life. It was most often carried out with a short blade to the abdomen – ensuring an especially agonizing death by disembowelment. There were a variety of reasons – usually to restore lost honor or to prove one’s loyalty, but the important thing is – it wasn’t the shameful, cowardly act most Americans view it as. They had a special name and honored traditions to show it was not for the weak.

Many poor souls were happy to die; they saw it as putting extra food in their children’s mouths and freeing their caretakers from an unnecessary burden. They expected their sacrifice to be honored and remembered – not forgotten on the mountain with their rotting corpses! So, I promised to remember – to pass their story on to all who would hear it. I think that’s why some decided to let me leave; not out of kindness or mercy, but a desperation to be known. I’m not sure if that conveys the profound life lessons I learned, but if nothing else, please try to be less judgmental towards others; not everyone is raised with the same ideals or opportunities, but we all bleed.


Anyway, that’s my story. Even if you don’t use it for the channel, I don’t care; the fact you saw it is plenty. Most importantly – thanks for all the shitty nights you’ve gotten me through. Whether you knew it or not, I think you might have saved a few lives when you started this channel. It’s not just that you provide quality entertainment; it’s that you include us – all of us – in every episode. You created a second home where all your friends are welcomed like family. I hope you knew that.

PS: Sorry again for being such a dick before.

Horror Fiction

The National Park Service is Hiding Something

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast, and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

I’ve been a fan for a long time and knew you had to hear this! Last week, my cousin from Alabama disappeared. We weren’t close, but his brother went missing last year, and his parents couldn’t handle going through his things. Mom and I flew out to help and found some crazy stuff on his computer. He posted two audio recordings to the Park’s website – both of which were immediately removed – but the files were still on his laptop. Honestly… I don’t know which is more disturbing, but I can tell you one thing, Nate was no actor. I’ve transcribed everything in hopes you might read it. Thanks for the amazing work you do, keep it up!


[feedback] Whoa, hold on. [tap, tap] Okay, it’s working now. [clears throat]

[hesitant] Hello, my name is Nate; I’m twenty-six and I’ve been a Park Ranger in Alabama for almost a year. If you’re hearing this, I’m either dead or missing… [light cigarette] hopefully, dead. I recorded this message three days ago, but didn’t make it back in time to cancel the upload. This is a confession, a warning, and a farewell. Please, don’t look for me.

I was the black sheep in my family. There’s no excuse or trauma to blame; my parents were great, my older brother, Eric, wasn’t a bully. I’m just… a lazy klutz, if I’m being honest – and why not – there’s no reason to lie. Most people won’t believe a word of it anyway – hell, I barely do.

It’s important you understand I’m not a paranoid loon locked in a basement; my world revolves around logic and facts. I never believed in Santa or thought a monster was under the bed – not once. This is so you understand I’m not exaggerating; I don’t scream “ghost” when a door slams, and I don’t see things from the corner of my eye.

Each denial you’re about to have – I had; each question you’re about to ask – I asked. I’m going to start at the beginning, but even then, it may not be enough. That’s okay; you can believe me later. If you ever find yourself lost in the woods, something you learn here just might save your life.

It began in April of ‘21; my drinking was out of control, and I was on thin ice with my boss and girlfriend. It felt like I was past the point of no return, idly waiting for the end. Looking back, it sounds pathetic – I should have stopped drinking; I could have apologized to Jen when it mattered, we would have— [sigh] well… shoulda, coulda, woulda, am-I-right?

Let’s put aside the lies I told in order to continue drinking and focus on the key details. As you can see, I’m a straight shooter; I’m not here to bullshit, so I’ll admit – I deserved to get fired. Bartending is a horrible career for a budding alcoholic, and I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner. Unfortunately, Drunk Nate couldn’t understand that, and he made a scene…

Normally, if someone breaks a window and steals a $600 bottle of scotch – police are contacted; when you live in Nowhere, AL – parents are called, and money is exchanged. Unfortunately, it was the last straw for Jen; my stuff was packed and waiting when I finally stumbled home. Not that I remember – that’s just what I learned upon waking in my childhood room.

These events were what led to my exceedingly fragile sobriety. If I didn’t want to spend life asking “Do you want fries with that?” I had to work with my brother; no one else would take me. Park Ranger life suited Eric; he was made for the outdoors. Me – not so much, but it meant a place to live for the summer. They like having staff on site for the busy season, though people with families are generally displeased with the idea.

A few white lies and blatant acts of nepotism later – I was starting my first day on the job. I was exactly fourteen days sober when Eric gave me the grand tour – and I do mean grand; we barely covered our territory before quitting time. The whole first week was dedicated to learning my way around; he didn’t start easing me into the weird stuff until the second week, and that, friends, is where this story really begins.


Happy Trails

Remember, at this point – I’m still a barely-functioning alcoholic desperately resisting temptation every second, and I didn’t play it off well. Eric saw me struggling and did his best to help; he tried to distract me with shoptalk – I was expected to know a few basics – but even he was bored. It didn’t seem unreasonable to think he would stretch a few details to get my attention.

Until then, my lessons consisted of which hikes and berries were dangerous; now, it was what to do when someone goes missing. Not “if” mind you – “when”. How often do you think people disappear in a state park? Not lost – missing – as in never seen again? Because I thought two per year was an extreme guess, but it was insanely naïve.

Last year – in our park alone – 138 people vanished. It was hard to wrap my head around that number; how could so many disappear in one place without being all over the news? Well, a couple things contribute to this, but the answers are far from satisfying.

Our statistics are nothing compared to the bigger parks – which would make sense if those places were getting the expected attention, but they’re not. Some of their numbers are triple ours, yet there’s hardly a word to be found! There’s a surprising amount of reasons people won’t report a disappearance, but those with active warrants or lacking citizenship are the most common. Personally, I’d prefer jail or deportation, but [light cigarette] to each their own. The point is – even if we ignore those – there’s more than enough to justify an investigation. You’ll learn the rest as we go; I have much to say and precious little time.

Eric saw my skepticism and showed me the Lost & Found cabin. Some of the stuff in there dates back to the ‘70’s; that’s fifty years of missing people’s crap! Inside, he went to the more recent finds and opened a bin labeled “D. Hill 7/19”. It contained reports from the Dylan Hill disappearance. That July, a family of four drove up from Montgomery for a week of camping; their son was nine and the girl, six. They checked in on a Sunday morning and chose the campsite closest to the welcome center; families always do because it feels safer.

On the third day, Mike Hill rushed into the office – frantic – saying his son disappeared. He and his wife were adamant Dylan vanished; he wasn’t abducted, he didn’t wander off – he vanished. Sherri was preparing lunch while Mike watched the kids. They were never out of sight until Dylan ducked behind the tree-line of a particularly dense area. Even before his sister caught up – Mike was on his feet. When interviewed, he said it was the darkness of the thicket that initially bothered him. There were dense patches everywhere, but none so dark as where his son entered.

Over the next weeks, Park Rangers assisted with Search & Rescue operations while doing their best to comfort the grieving family, but they knew it was too late; the ones who seem to vanish into thin air are never found.

You probably think what I thought – that the parents were responsible and coached their daughter to lie, right? It’s technically possible, but the kid was six; I read the transcript from her interviews, and kids aren’t that good at lying. Even if one could keep a straight face – they couldn’t handle a convoluted story, especially not for several weeks under intense pressure.

When asked if she or her brother had met anyone else at the park, she claimed someone with “backwards arms” and “long feet” stood outside their tent the night before. Eventually, it was determined she saw a man, but her imagination invented a monster after losing Dylan.

It seemed like a reasonable explanation until I heard similar reports from other guests. It’s not always a kid, and there aren’t always creature sightings, but when there are, it’s always with the same description. People from all over have described an emaciated animal with long, canine-like feet, no hair, and strangely bent arms – or possibly wings, but I’m jumping ahead a little.

I didn’t believe a word about monsters; I thought it was a gag for newbs. My first personal experience was two weeks later when a woman went missing. It was June 5th, and I had just moved into a staff cabin the week before. Being sober was still a bitch, but there were whole hours I didn’t think about drinking. Having my own place helped immensely, but Bethany Anderson almost pushed me clear off the wagon.

This is what made me understand lives were resting in my hands; if I missed a sign or clue… [shudder] I wasn’t built for that kind of pressure. My focus should have been on her, but it was on a rabid monkey relentlessly clawing my back. That’s also the day I found an AA group; if nothing else, it worked for fear of returning.

Beth and her boyfriend were camping for a long weekend, but they got separated on a hike. Grady claimed they were only apart for a few minutes, but when he walked back to join her – she was gone. The trail didn’t diverge at any point, and everyone she knew agreed that she wasn’t the type to wander off. Her partner believed a tall, deformed man took her. There were several times on the first night when they heard rustling nearby; they assumed it was an animal, but each time they tried to discern the source, it stopped – like someone didn’t want to be found.

That night, Grady crept out of their tent to relieve his bladder and saw a dark shape standing several feet away. It was so thin, he thought it was a tree – especially with the awkward angles of the protruding limbs. Then, it bent drastically near the base and leapt into the trees. The man possessed enough sense not to investigate. When he later relayed the events to Beth, she disregarded it as a dream.

After enjoying a normal morning, she convinced Grady to go on that fateful hike. He hasn’t meant to walk ahead. She was next to him moments before, and thinking she stopped for a photo – he turned back right away; unfortunately, it was already too late.

Obviously, the police thought his entire story was fabricated. If there was any way he could have known about those other cases, I’d think the same – but these people were from Florida! They weren’t locals who happened to know a few stories, and they damn sure didn’t hear in on the news!

It was a miserable two weeks before Search & Rescue left, and four more before the Anderson family flew home. I’ll never forget the sound of the mother’s wails; I heard it in my sleep – and not in a metaphorical way – her cabin was close enough to literally hear it. That’s when I got serious about my training. Maybe there was nothing I could’ve done, but if there was a chance to help the next one, then yea, I was ready to get off my ass.

Cue the training montage; I worked harder than I’d ever worked in my miserable life! The funny part is that’s what got me past the worst drinking urges. I don’t think the cravings will ever fully stop, but I experience entire days without temptation.

By August, I felt like a real Ranger; I was trusted to work without supervision, and my co-workers no longer saw me as Eric’s screw-up little brother – I was part of the team! Life was too good, I should’ve known disaster was coming.


[light cigarette] On Friday, August 13th, everything went to shit; I think the date was coincidental considering how often it happens, but you never know. It was my last two weeks living at the park, and if I didn’t find an apartment soon – I’d be back with my parents which is obviously not ideal.

There’s a kitchen in the welcome center where we have lunch, and that day, I ate with Eric and Teri; she’s a been a lifer and could fill a book with all the strange shit she’s seen. The main reason I didn’t have an apartment yet was laziness; the research alone is a long, tedious process. I avoided it by asking if anyone knew of a good place to rent, and surprisingly, Teri did.

It was a small house only ten minutes away, but the landlord was leaving town the next morning and wouldn’t return for three weeks. Instead of living with my parents for a week like a reasonable person, I was an impatient asshole. The world would end if I didn’t immediately get those keys, and – as usual – Eric went out of his way to help. He was scheduled in the welcome center with Teri, but she agreed to cover for him.

When we finished the last task, I was an hour ahead of schedule, but before I could feel too relieved, our radios crackled to life; there were multiple reports of a bear near Campsite C. They wanted us to investigate, and if that was my worst delay – everything would have been fine.

We drove to the location figuring the animal was long gone but couldn’t risk tourists crowding one for a selfie. After scanning the area, we left the trail and advanced slowly; we only needed to ensure it wasn’t loafing nearby. It made sense to spread out, but there was no more than 15-20 feet between us; plus, I glanced over often to match his pace, and it was never difficult to see him.

Not until he vanished, that is… I still don’t understand how it happened. How can he be there one second, and gone the next?! I called his name, but there was no answer. Bear forgotten, I walked to the last place I saw my brother. I had always felt safe at work – like Rangers were off limits to the misfortunes that fall upon our guests. We’re only here to restore order afterwards – a maintenance crew, if you will – but when my eyes fell upon the void left by Eric’s absence, that illusion crumbled.

It was foolish not to radio for backup. I ran blindly into the forest without caution nor care. It’s a wonder I didn’t disappear as well, but I felt like my only hope was to find him immediately – before a report solidified the event as real. Deeper and deeper I barreled through the woods, ripping my clothes and scraping my arms in the process. I mistook my shock for reason and continued screaming for my brother.

I’m not sure how long it took to reach the clearing with the strange snowman rock, but seeing it was like waking from a trance. I had no clue where I was; the full weight of my situation sank in, and my stomach lurched painfully. Eric was likely dead, our ATV was abandoned at Camp C, and I would return alone, beaten, and without an explanation for… anything. Even if other Rangers believed me – I’ve seen firsthand how badly the police need closed cases.

That’s when I learned the radio was dead, and my phone was in the ATV. When something genuinely terrifying happens – the resulting fear is so intense that the possibility it could grow worse is unimaginable. It can always be worse; that much, I guarantee.

Wandering aimlessly is the worst thing you can do when lost. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stay put while your world is ending. I tried retracing my steps, but nothing looked familiar. Eventually, I rounded a curve to see my path blocked by what I thought to be another strange rock formation. It was big, and trees grew around it to form an almost hidden alcove; had I approached from a different angle, it would’ve been invisible.

Unhappy Trails

There was an almost… hypnotic quality; it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t place what. I was so consumed with identifying this foreign, yet familiar shape, I didn’t realize my feet were taking me closer. My knees went weak as I saw only part of the formation was rock; the rest was… flesh. The realization only came as its top half suddenly stood to its full, breathtaking height. Before, it was merely crouching behind the boulder; now, it was staring into the depths of my very soul… I could feel it inside of me.

My limited reserve of composure evaporated as I fled into the forest once again. The urge to look back was intense, but I resisted. With a loud, guttural roar came the clear sound of flapping wings; the image of that thing soaring above was enough to keep me going well beyond my normal limit. I didn’t notice the familiar surroundings until I emerged onto a trail near E Camp.

I was quickly spotted by a fellow Ranger who informed me it was almost 7:00! That’s when I noticed how low the sun had sunk, and how close I was to being lost out there in the dark. Eric was still missing obviously, and search efforts were already underway. I was forced to recount my story to the police before speaking with friends. Despite what they suspected, the evidence was only circumstantial, and I was asked not to leave town. Mr. Davis, my boss, believed me and was kind enough to let me keep the cabin while I wait for the other place.

My parents were an absolute wreck and also allowed a cabin while the search continued; everyone put in an extra show of effort just for them. Watching Mom suffer is the hardest part of this madness; if she loses me too… I can’t think about that. None of this concerns them anyway. The parts you – whoever ‘you’ are – need to know happened after I finally made it home that night; well, Saturday morning, technically.

The unexpected knock at my door was timid but frightening. It froze me in place while I imagined that creature waiting on the other side; had Teri not called out, I wouldn’t have moved. It had started to rain, and flashes of lightning lit the sky; I invited her in and fetched a clean towel. She dried off while the coffee brewed, and we talked for hours as the storm raged outside. Not only did I recount my story, but she told me much more about the disappearances than Eric had. I’m not sure if he knew or not; it’s possible he didn’t want to scare me more than necessary.

Maybe it’s a testament to my selfishness that I only cared about research when it concerned my own brother, but it never occurred to me before that moment. Teri showed me more subreddits, YouTube channels, and podcasts than I could count as she explained something people refer to as the “Missing 411”. I’m going to do my best to pass that knowledge on to you, though there’s not enough time to read every piece of evidence I’ve uncovered over the last several months. The best I can do is point you in the right direction, but hopefully anyone who hears this will decide to stay the hell away.

If one types “Missing 411” into Google, a plethora of films and documentaries appear; a cursory glance leads one to believe these are fictional horror stories. If you skim a few articles, it starts sounding like some grand-scale human trafficking ring, but if you’re willing to take a deep dive something much more sinister rises to the surface.

To put it simply, monsters – or some prefer “Cryptids” – are real; if you can’t accept that basic fact by now, there’s no point in listening to the rest. You can’t look at the Missing 411 as a whole; that’s a rookie mistake full of false leads and deadly misconceptions. Yes, as records of the missing are gathered from across the globe, there are many commonalities, but this is not a singular mystery with a singular answer; it is a collection of thousands, probably millions!

Every case must be considered individually to determine what’s at fault; it’s common for large forests and mountain ranges to house multiple creatures. Whether this be Skinwalkers, Wendigo, Dogmen, or – as in our case – Vetti, it’s vital to prepare for the right creature. Please understand those are just a few examples; it would be impossible to list all the known Cryptids. That’s why the best course of action is to avoid them completely.

[alarm clock] Damn, I’m almost out of time; I must tell you about the Vetti before it’s too late. Teri and the other lifers were only able to identify it two years ago when she found one of the missing. She was alone in a remote area of the park when it happened. Some kids left their trash behind, and a chip bag was tangled in the bushes just off-trail. When she retrieved it, she noticed a candy wrapper a little further in – so she got that, too. Then she saw a water bottle, and it wasn’t until the following soda can that she realized how far away the litter had taken her.

Realizing her mistake, she turned back to see Jason Fuller – a Ranger who disappeared six years prior – blocking her path; he was injured and filthy, yet not a day older. Teri struggled to avoid the word “zombie”, but that’s exactly what it sounded like until she relayed their brief conversation. He claimed to have escaped captivity and asked her to return with him so they might help the “other hostages”. Teri said pure malice exuded from him in waves. Too frightened to refuse, she asked him to lead the way.

The thing wearing Jason’s skin gave a sick, evil grin and walked past her. She held her breath as his rotting stench wafted in her face, and the moment his back was turned, she fled. The sound she describes coming from him was eerily reminiscent of what I’d heard only hours before. She was barely able to make it to her ATV before he was on her heels.

She reported the incident at base-camp, and the old-timers filled her in just like she did for me – except she had provided a missing link in their information. Knowing what hunts you can be the difference in life and death. That night, twenty-seven men went into the forest; only sixteen returned, but Teri was told she wouldn’t see Jason again.

There are hundreds of Cryptids with information available, but we got stuck with a rare one. Most monsters are born as what they are, but Vetti are created. They begin as humans; when someone suffers unimaginable anguish – the type bred from years of brutal torture or a life of enslavement – they become consumed with fury and hatred. When they are finally granted the sweet release of death, their souls are doomed to wander the Earth as vengeful spirits. They know nothing but the desire to share their endless pain with others, and that pain is like catnip to Harpies. Yes, Harpies are real, but I don’t have time to make this a double creature-feature; you can research those for yourself.

Information on what the Harpies do after locating the spirit is vague, but whether it merges with or transforms the spirit – the end result is a Vetti. These things exist purely to cause misery; they should be avoided at all costs. Destroying one is extremely difficult, but barring a few exceptions they normally hunt alone. Their bloodlust isn’t the most dangerous aspect of these creatures; they can do much worse than kill. No one is sure of the commonality between victims, but on rare occasions – such as with Jason Fuller – the corpses are possessed.

I know my brother is dead; that’s not why I keep studying and searching. I need to confirm Eric’s body isn’t being used, and to put whatever I do find out of its misery. If I die in the process, so be it, but I’m taking that thing with me. If I can take it down with hollow points, I’ll let fire take care of the rest. I have a shovel, two cans of gasoline, plenty of ammunition, and a few blades for good measure. If I don’t make it back, I’m sorry; I wish I had been a better son and brother.


Posted one hour later:

Sorry to worry anyone who heard that… unusual message before; I was rehearsing for a play! Everything is fantastic here. Please come for a visit, and let me show you around our beautiful park. Remember, ask for Nate!

Horror Fiction

The Dying Settlement (Pt. 6)

Pt. 6 of the Settlement series. Now a CreepyPasta

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

It’s about time! Where have you been? Get inside, you can explain by the fire. Trish! Ethan! Look who’s still breathing!

… … Of course we knew you didn’t die here – we’d have heard about that immediately – but it’s a dangerous world out there…

… … … Hey, that’s not true! Those YouTube downloads were the last things on my mind… if you didn’t have time or something – it’s no big deal…

… … … … Sure, you can dump them right here on the table – let me clear a spot!

… … … … Sweet Cricket, you filled them all? What?!… That Dark Somnium fella has over 800 videos?!

… … I’m beyond words.

… … Oh, please, no; don’t apologize, I was only having a little fun! We know you have a life out there, and we wouldn’t want you missing a minute on our account. We’re happy for any time we have together, and I mean – look at this – another one of them big battery things too? You spoil us!

… … … At least winter is almost over; storms are one thing, but I think I’ve had enough snow for this season.

… … Maybe you’re right, Trish. I probably am just bitter about that thing with the snowman.

… … … … Nothing, friend, it was just a stupid ordeal with a horse and some pumpkins, nevermind all that.

… … … Anywho, we best get to business before the night starts slipping away. Last time, we read Nicky’s entries from 1752 – and eventually, I would like to show you his writings from the War – but for now, we’ll jump to 1801.

… … … Because those don’t take place here; I thought you wanted to learn about ghosts and the Demon.

… … Alright then – tonight, we read about the seventh bunch that tried to hang their hats in our humble abode. Even though the war ended in ‘83 – the aftermath weighed heavily on the country. You’d be hard pressed to find a family who didn’t lose someone in the Revolution.

Travelers passed through often; most could be steered around the Cursed Woods with warnings of bandits, but the occasional fool would disappear. In 1801, a French colony passed through Jamestown, but there was a language barrier in communications. They managed a few trades but failed to understand the warnings about Dirge Lake. To make a long story short – they settled right in once they found the houses.

The best account of their brief stay is in Joshua’s journal. He’s Nicky’s son; the man was smart – like his father – but he didn’t take to school quite the same way.

… That’s really all you need to know for now; let’s get started.


March 30, 1801

These people will bring disaster upon us, that is certain. While I find it difficult to imagine the horrors of which Father spoke – he was the most intelligent, level-headed man I ever knew. If further proof is necessary – there are the lovely homes which stood untouched for decades! For such things to go unused – there is no doubt something must be horribly amiss. Yet, these people have moved in as if all were built for their use!

Our predecessors should have burned every last one to the ground. Now that I am the Sheriff – it is my responsibility, but I cannot act alone. Leah wishes for me to deputize her brother… though, he is more likely to shoot friend than foe; Larry has less sense than a headless goat…

I intend to deputize men, but I shall decide who after speaking with Mark. A perk of being the Mayor’s cousin is knowing which issues to press. If he helps to disperse the settlers – he will have the people’s good graces by default!

Today, I traveled alone to avoid an inconvenient misconception, though it seems to be unavoidable. They feigned complete ignorance at my words, yet understood we wished them gone. Clearly, our reasons were misjudged… but I cannot express “Demons will eat thee” in French… I can barely manage it in English! Even so, they would think me a madman; such matters require personal experience to appreciate.

Their mayor – or whatever their term for the position – made earnest attempts at bribery, but I dared not reinforce the skewed context of our unwelcome. There is a preacher among them… it may be beneficial to include Father Caleb in our next venture. He might yet convince them we harbor no malicious intent; that alone would be considerable progress.

One cannot help but pity the small, desperate bunch. They have clearly faced much adversity and wish to live in peace… but that is not the place to do so. The war has left too many ghost towns across the country. Instead of approaching such a place with due caution, they assume it was abandoned during battle. If only they understood our language… perhaps then…

Alas, such thoughts will drive me mad in earnest. It was a long day, and tomorrow will likely be longer. Nothing more can be done this night; it is time I retire.


March 31, 1801

Wallace has taken ill again; the doctor is on the way. My pacing drives poor Leah to the brink of insanity; this journal may be the only thing capable of keeping me still. Tomorrow, my son’s eighth birthday will be his third spent sick in bed. My heart breaks anew with each inquiry as to why he must suffer these spells; he is unaware that I, too, have screamed that very question to the skies.

I must not dwell on sorrows or I may falter in my duties. For my family and town – I must trust Doctor Eli to his profession and focus upon my own. If a settler succumbs to the Demon – more than one child’s life will be at stake.

Our family buried the Shaman’s special weapons when the war began. The location is known to few, and it requires much effort to access, but Mark and I have done so. Each item was individually wrapped with great care and mesmerizing to behold. Even the arrows are decorated with intricate carvings and seem to exude a faint glow. It is no wonder such precautions were taken in their concealment.

Afterwards, we asked John Baker, Melvin Barclay, and Douglas Smith to serve as deputies while Dirge Lake remains inhabited. Together, the five of us – along with Father Caleb – paid our new neighbors a visit. If not for the sparse livestock roaming about, we might have believed the place already abandoned; instead, it appeared as if they hid at first sight of our approach. Under closer inspection – stirring movements could be seen behind curtains as they watched from the shadows.

We offered gifts – I fed a curious dog – but no one would speak with us. The hike would be a simple matter if not for the river, but without a bridge, it is terribly inconvenient. When we could wait not one minute closer to nightfall, we resigned to leave a message among the gifts. If they are able to translate our words – they will know themselves welcome among us. For now, that is all we can do.

Damn, where is that Doctor? What else is there to write?… Ah!

I was rather surprised by the land itself; I expected the ‘beautifully gloomy’ forest as described by Father, but it was not so. The trees – though impossibly large – were long dead, and the lake was simply putrid… it would be shocking to find life in those waters. Then there was that smell – so terrible our clothes required burning! How desperately I wish to convey that stench through ink and paper! Like rotten eggs and molded cheese cooked in a chamber pot!

Finally! The Doctor has arrived!


… One minute, friend; let Trish fix you a drink while I find the next relevant entry.

… … … We’ve come across new supplies since your last visit; don’t be shy – go have a look. You’re welcome to anything that strikes your fancy.

… … … … …

… Excellent timing; I’m glad you found refreshments; we’re ready to continue when you are.

… … … Yea, Wallace was a sad story. They’d probably know what to do for him nowadays, but nobody had a clue back then. Sometimes the kid was fine; sometimes he was sick for weeks. Josh and Leah took him to the best doctors in the country – which was hard as hell – but the kid didn’t make it to sixteen…

… … … Unfortunately, his story was common for those times… but for the years he did live – he lived well.

… … … Funny you should ask; that’s what we’re about to find out! When Josh and those boys were standing around holding their wankers, I was screaming some sense into them. More than a handful of those assholes understood English just fine, but they thought they were being set-up to pay protection money.

… … Sure did – they used another word for it, but that’s what it boiled down to. If only they would have listened for a minute…

… … … Well, we couldn’t understand most of what they said. Being a ghost doesn’t make you multilingual… but they were frightened. There were only a few dozen of them and most of those were women and children.

… … Settle down – you have more questions than a virgin on prom night – and less patience too!


April 8, 1801

It has finally happened. Tensions grew thicker each day until we were suffocating under the weight of wonder and speculation. A pathetic excuse of a man wandered into town this afternoon. If not for his wife and children – he may have been turned away; that’s how great our fury was at the sound of his English words. The previously feigned ignorance served to avoid unpleasant conversation; though, I fear they are paying an unexpectedly high price.

Lucien and his family fled without telling a soul; surely they are assumed dead. If his words can be believed – life has been unkind to our neighbors. Food is scarce; no vegetation grows, the lake is too toxic to support life, and the wells have run dry. Hunting provides their only resources, but soon, that too will be exhausted. Even more troubling – as their desperation increases, they will travel deeper into the Cursed Woods.

I cannot fathom how one experiences the horrors of last night and abandons his fellows, but when discussing plans to cross the river at dawn – Lucien made clear his refusal to accompany us! Instead of filling these pages with my disgust for cowards, I will detail the events which caused our new friend to flee. I am unsure as to the accuracy of his claims, but I will record the account as he relayed it.

The family moved into a secluded farmhouse while the others clustered around the lake. Lucien planned to fill the outlying homes with his children and thereby retain ownership of all future crops; unfortunately, it also ensured no one would hear them scream.

They were on edge for some days before fleeing; heavy footsteps traversed the porch at all hours, yet no one was there when checked. On multiple occasions, the children saw grotesque figures looking into the windows only to disappear when approached. Last night – after a bit too much to drink – the eldest sons were sent to investigate a sighting with rifles; moments later, the first cry was heard.

The following wails of terror blended together with gunshots in a concert of chaos. Lucien and another son – Lucas – rushed to lend aid. Pausing on the porch, they saw one of the boys being dragged into the brush. He screamed until his head disappeared – at which point he was abruptly silenced…

Lucas hurried forward, but seeing no sign of the other son, Lucien dragged him back. Barring the door over his family’s protests, the man knew both boys were lost. For the remainder of the night, the family stayed awake, weeping and waiting for dawn.

Only after they were safely away did Lucien turn back to inspect the place he last saw his eldest child. Following a trail of blood, he saw shredded clothing and skin littered across the forest floor. He felt compelled to continue despite the trees rapidly closing in around him; with each step, the foliage grew denser, and his feet tangled deeper into the weeds. Finally, the sight of something hanging from a low branch stole his attention.

When only a few, short feet remained between Lucien and the object – his stomach violently purged itself. If there was any suspicion of the culprit being a wild animal – such delusions were shattered at the sight of the young lad’s head swinging in the breeze. Why anyone – monster or otherwise – would do such a heinous thing is beyond my understanding.

It is unknown how long the father stood there, but when he attempted to leave, his feet were held in place. Weeds wound tightly around his ankles, and thorns bit into his skin as they continued to grow! Lucien had no desire to see more. A blade made quick work of the issue, but without the knife, things may have ended poorly.

Once released from the woodland’s clutches, Lucien followed the bloody trail back to freedom but not without difficulty. He felt as if a thousand eyes were watching – relishing his anguish. Overcome with a dark certainty it would mean death – he never turned back. He ignored temptation by concentrating on the cold, wet sweat drenching his clothes.

I was raised with knowledge of the Cursed Woods and how – one day – brave warriors would defeat the Demon with tools acquired by our ancestors. I never wished to count myself among their numbers, but I fear the matter is beyond my control. This train of events was set in motion long ago, and there is little I can do to alter its track.

This evening, we gathered for a town meeting; we cannot ignore what is happening across the river. Too many lives are at risk to ‘sit back and wait’ as so many before us chose to do. The cycle must stop! Tomorrow we will finalize our strategies and make necessary preparations; Friday, we shall return to Dirge Lake.


April 9, 1801

Everything is prepared for our departure at first light; In the event I fail to return, I wish to leave a detailed record of our intentions. Those of us who will cross the river were given the Demon’s true name. Though I cannot commit it to paper, I can confirm my predecessors did not exaggerate its complexity. Our alphabet simply does not contain letters capable of producing the necessary sounds.

Lucien has agreed to join us… I will not dwell on the man’s aversion to common decency, but instead, on the possibility of his brethren’s assistance. The meeting began at noon and ended almost five hours later; I could fill these pages with the protests alone if time permitted. When we adjourned – it was with a total of seven volunteers. I was personally disheartened, but Father Caleb insists it is a holy number and sign from God.

Most men have taken comfort in those words, so I do not speak out… but they are meaningless. We are mere mortals embarking on a fool’s quest to slay a Demon; although it sounds like a fanciful theater play, it is a deadly serious matter! I would not be put at ease by 100 men, but seven are too few to even make the attempt!

Mark, Lucien, Father Caleb, and my three deputies enjoyed dinner with their families while I attempted to do the same. Afterwards, we met here to refine tomorrow’s plan – which was surprisingly straightforward compared to the circus of our previous gathering.

We read of our ancestor’s mistakes, hoping for guidance toward success, or rather, away from total failure. Part of me fears my body will refuse to rise from bed; the dread I feel is almost unbearable. We are hopeful more men will join us upon reaching the lake, but we cannot depend on uncertainties – especially where Lucien is involved.

We held a mock archery contest to determine who would carry the bow, and sadly, the “honor” is thine own. Mark cannot wield the dagger for his hands shook violently at the mere suggestion. Douglas shall carry it in his stead, and the others will form a perimeter while I loose the arrows.

In theory, it does not sound terribly difficult – but once face-to-face with the Demon – within a dark forest – our true mettle will be weighed. Personally, I expect each man to promptly wet his underclothes – myself included. The most difficult part will be living long enough to make the shot; time for a second round would cost dearly. When Timothy Cooke hit the creature, two men were killed before his arrow could fly… and the demon is sure to be stronger all these years later!

My deepest regret is the pain this causes Leah; I detest seeing my family sick with worry. If someone were capable of taking my place, I would gladly allow it, but there is no alternative. In case the worst should happen – I have prepared a series of letters; with luck, I anticipate burning them upon my return.

It is odd to think these few, short paragraphs are capable of sharing my sentiments long after I am gone from this world… it sounds absurd, does it not? I long to know how far into the future these words might speak, to know who’s ears they might reach, or on whose tongue they might dance.

Perhaps I should retire now, before my mind cracks from philosophical strain; I will need every moment’s rest for tomorrow’s endeavors.


… … How ya doing over there, friend? Need anything before the next part? You won’t want to stop after this, trust me!

… … … There really isn’t time to tell you about the snowman thing.

… … … Shush, Ethan! You watch yourself or I’ll have you back to kicking potatoes!

… Haha, nothing, just an old ghost joke. Way back – potatoes grew all over this place; when we were learning our spooky ways, we used ‘em for practice. You know… by kicking them. We made a game out of it – fun times.

… … … You never fail to impress, friend! Those are good instincts warning you about Lucien; his story did sound fishy, didn’t it? Almost as if some important bits were left out…

… … … Well, if you’re ready to proceed, maybe you’ll find out, eh?

… … … Okey dokey, then, here we go!


April 11, 1801

As I sit with quill poised, I cannot decide how to begin. So much has happened… it seems strange to sit calmly, writing at my desk after watching good men perish. It has left me feeling that I, too, was meant to die; what right have I to survive?!

Yes, believing we stood any chance against a Demon was idiocy, but believing we would receive help from the settlers was utter lunacy. They remained hidden until Lucien made himself known; then we were promptly greeted by an angry mob.

They did not assume the family dead – in fact, they were unaware of any absence. A day without Lucien’s presence was considered a blessing, but many mourned the loss of his boys; I can only assume they did not inherit their father’s character. Our hearts broke for the elder son’s fiancé; I regret she could not learn of the news in a more delicate setting.

We were taken into the church where our plans were discussed at length, but none volunteered to assist. The gathering was not a total failure; we did learn our friend’s true reasons for returning and of the settlers’ recent struggles.

Lucien wished to return to his people and live in a house near the lake; he never intended to venture into the forest – only to acquire safe passage home. Had he received the expected welcome – his immediate desertion would have followed; he is clearly despised by all. Having nowhere to go, he was forced to stay in our company.

Pierre DuPont attended University in New York and speaks English fluently; it was he who spoke for his people when they shared their own tribulations. Most suffer from horrible nightmares, but were too embarrassed to come forth until prompted. It is possible the disappearing livestock and work accidents were natural occurrences, but when considered with other matters – one tends to wonder.

People of all ages were displaying unusual behavior; some were withdrawn and sullen while others were loud and violent. Knowing the possible dangers they faced – we shared all we know. At mention of Mister Long, a portly woman rushed forward with a small child.

Maria Dubois is six and began speaking to her imaginary friend on her third night in the home. At first, he was kind, and they played innocent children’s games. As things progressed, the girl’s parents noticed increasingly peculiar activities; on several occasions, their daughter was discovered muttering gibberish while standing in the corner of her room. When asked, she said it was a game; she repeated every word Mister Long said , exactly as he said it. The poor child believed she was learning Latin.

Two nights ago, Maria murdered her father in his sleep, and she has not spoken a word since. Mrs. Dubois woke to see her husband gasp his last breath and her daughter holding a blood-stained knife. There was no time for thought; she was forced to process the scene in an instant as the child moved closer – blade raised to strike.

Mrs. Dubois acted quickly and decisively – I genuinely admire the woman. She subdued Maria by throwing a quilt over the child’s head and using a pillow for a shield! The girl was tied in a soft bundle until morning; once released, she remained in the stupefied state we were currently witnessing. I may suffer a naturally cynical perspective, but Mrs. Dubois was hopelessly blinded by her motherly perspective.

Behind Maria’s gleaming, brown eyes, there was an old soul. When all attention returned to our group, the facade slipped from her face. The lost, frightened girl was gone, and what remained could hardly be described as human. For a short instant, her eyes were yellow and askew – paired with the sudden paleness of her complexion, it was enough to render me speechless.

How does a man stand before his peers to proclaim a six-year-old possessed? I would appear mad – pointing, screaming, “Monster” at a small girl! Perhaps that was its hope – to provoke a hasty response. Moreover, the mask of innocence was restored as quickly as it vanished, and there was little chance it would slip again.

Nine people were lost in the forest before further search attempts were forbidden, and a child was recently dragged into the water. Earlier sightings of the lake monster describe it as gray in color, yet now several witnesses claim its tentacles were distinctly purple. Was it always so? Or is there more than one? Perhaps the same beast changed colors over the years; we cannot be certain.

It is hard to believe so much has happened in so few days. I felt compelled to ask why they stayed after surviving such horrific circumstances; they simply have nowhere else to go. After two years of roaming the countryside and falling victim to the perils of such a life – they simply wished to stop. They attempted to settle other lands, but were forced to leave in each instance.

The hour grows late, and my eyes struggle to remain open, but I dare not leave this account untold; death stalks in every shadow – of that you can be certain. Even my own home no longer feels safe; I see danger in every face, hear deceit in every voice – where does it end? Will life ever feel normal again?

I was speaking aloud again… Leah woke and came to calm me; Now, it is time to finish this account and hurry to bed; I must rise with the sun once again.

Conversing with the Frenchmen lasted longer than expected; it was almost 2:00 when we entered the forest. We seven men were a pitiful sight amongst the vast expanse of wilderness. The twisted, giant trees towered over us with bark as hard as stone; it seems death did nothing to still their growth. The further we hiked, the denser they grew – many wrapped tightly beneath sharp, thorn-infested vines – but we pushed forward.

We wandered with little direction until locating signs of a recent struggle. Blood stained the bark of two trees, and the surrounding brush was trampled. I personally lack tracking skills, but Mr. Baker is a marvel to behold. He believes three men fought a beast of immense size. The tracks it left behind are breathtaking; it walks on two legs and the footprints resemble that of a wolf… only they are far too large. A cold breeze chilled us to the core as we stood in awe of the sight.

John also found a discarded rifle; the barrel was bent upwards almost ninety degrees… I cannot imagine the force such an act required. It was apparent two men fled in separate directions, but – unwilling to divide our own force – we chose the path with better visibility.

The trail told the story of a man consumed with panic; he ran through the forest with little regard for direction and fell often as a result. Smears of blood stained the ground where his worst spills occurred, and scraps of clothing were tangled among the brambles. Eventually, we found a shoe with the owner’s foot still inside.

I imagined several reasons to suggest turning back, but – in each instance – I held my tongue. Did everyone know our true destination? Did they each fear it in the back of their minds, too frightened to voice the thought aloud? Or was it only myself? With each furtive glance to the sun’s position, I knew with growing certainty we awaited the Demon’s path; where we ventured before made little difference.

We knew it the moment we saw it. The temperature suddenly dropped, and all sounds of the forest ceased in an instant. A strong, cold wind blew, yet no leaves rustled; all remained still and silent despite the prominent gusts. It created a wholly unnatural effect I shall not soon forget.

I notched my first arrow, but each shot must be taken with consideration to ammunition retrieval; it is unlikely we will receive more. The right opportunity is worth a loss, but unless reasonably certain of a favorable outcome, I must refrain from action.

It is impossible to say how long we stood without speaking, merely staring at that cursed path, but eventually we forced ourselves to act. We traversed the trail in a single-file line with Father Caleb in the lead. He recited prayers for the majority of our hike and continued to do so even as the Demon carried him into the night.

After roughly twenty paces, a tall, dark mass leapt across the path and into the trees. We halted in place, rifles raised, and the Father continued praying, bible raised to the sky in defiance. When the black shadow suddenly descended upon us, several shots were fired; over it all, Caleb’s words grew louder, bolder, but they did not save him. Before he was carried out of sight, a final bullet ended his suffering. As the beast disappeared over the horizon, we were driven to our knees from an ear-splitting roar of fury. I suppose it prefers fresh meat…

Then there were six.

It shames me to admit my first thought was to discredit the Father’s “holy number” theory, but I held my tongue. There was no doubt the Demon would return; meanwhile, it was vital to cover maximum distance. Night came faster than expected; one moment the light began to fade, and the next it was pitch black. We lit torches without pausing, afraid to lose even those seconds. Walking in two lines of three, we could hardly illuminate the ground before us, but we could not turn back or all we lost would be in vain.

I do not know how long we continued that way – hunched forward, squinting into the darkness – but soon we were frozen in place by the sound of heavy footfalls. I did not realize my breath was held until my lungs begged for air; by then, the creature was coming to a stop just above us. My gaze was fixed onto the ground, but Melvin dared to look into the face of evil. The guttural sound to escape his throat was the sad, pitiful cry of a dying babe; the tension alone was enough to drive a man insane. Even before he ran, I knew he would be the next to die. Mr. Barclay was not granted the sweet escape of a quick death; instead, he died screaming in agony.

Then there were five.

Only after the death wails subsided was I consumed with guilt for my inaction. What short distance was between us when it crouched motionless above our heads? How long did it remain so before taking yet another life?

Blame is a dangerous path to tread; it led me down a rabbit hole of madness wherein I cursed every ancestor that walked blithely away – leaving that nightmare to grow stronger for others to fight in their stead! The distraction cost yet another man his life as I failed to see Mark straying from the path. He drifted closer to the tree-line until something dropped onto his head with inhuman speed.

It took a moment for my eyes to accept the sight, but eventually I understood it was a hand. An impossibly long arm was reaching out of the darkness, and its disproportionately sized hand was grabbing the top of Mark’s head. The world froze in that moment; were I an artist, I could paint the scene to the last detail. I lived a lifetime in that split-second – envisioning ways to save my cousin. While most ideas were immediately dismissed, there was one, small hope available.

I raised the bow, but before my shot could align with the oddly yellow-tinted arm, it happened. With a quick twist of the wrist, Mark’s head was plucked from his shoulders like a petal from its flower. There was a horrifying moment where his body remained upright, and just as it began to fall, a second hand caught it. In lieu of screams, we were serenaded with the crunching of bones as the Demon ate on the run.

Then there were four.

We had no choice but to hurry onward. I expected to find strange trees and a stone altar – as previously described – though, reality was different than imagined. Moments after losing Mark, a bright, orange glow became visible in the distance; one could argue that dying beforehand was a kindness.

Every man was warned on multiple occasions – “do not touch the trees” – but human nature will forever be ingrained with the desire to do the opposite of what they are told. As we drew closer, the lights grew brighter; at their source, it was like day again. Perhaps those monstrous, sac-like things were once the size of melons – long ago – but now they are the size of pigs, possibly larger!

They pulsated, and a thick, white ooze seeped from each one, creating an acidic moat around the clearing. The only way in or out was the path upon which we tread. Douglas’ face went slack as he approached the nearest tree; I reached for him, but it was too late. The thing burst at the first hint of contact, and Mr. Smith was consumed by the foul slime. A pungent odor permeated our senses as we strained to guard our ears from his final cries.

Then there were three.

We thought the dagger disintegrated, but we found it nearby, undamaged; John took it up as we continued toward the circle’s center. The altar was no longer made of stone but iron, and it was decorated with pear-inlay carvings; we believe something is written in a foreign alphabet. Fearing Lucien would cause irreparable damage with his moronic actions, we bade him to stand back and keep a watchful eye upon the path.

John and I studied the altar – discussing how best to proceed – and thought if brute force failed to destroy the sturdy structure, we might deface the special characters. No sooner than the words passed my lips did a soft thud draw our attention; Lucien was on the ground, and a foul, black substance – I could not tell if it was liquid or gas – was forcing itself into his mouth. His face turned purple and his throat bulged into grotesque lumps as his jaw was stretched far past its breaking point.

As the last of it vanished down our cowardly friend’s throat, he rose to his feet in disturbing, spasmodic movements. When he faced us, his head turned sideways ninety degrees with a reverberating pop. Instead of falling dead, he continued forward!

What does one call a corpse capable of walking? I would hope need for such a term never arose… but I will say the Not-Dead, or better yet, the Undead – yes, that has a ring. Alas, we lost our last chance to defeat the Demon; now that it possessed a body, we could only hope to kill the man.

Black sludge dribbled from his gaping maw as he drew closer. John shouted a primal battle cry as he charged with the dagger, and it broke the spell of paralysis holding me in place. Whether that spell was real or imagined, we may never know, but my aim was true; I knew the moment my fingers released the string.

John froze three yards away as the arrow whizzed past and pierced its target’s chest, but I did not stop; the second sunk deep into Lucien’s gut as he fell to his knees, and I held the third ready to fire. Foul, black blood seeped into the ground as deep, maniacal laughter echoed around us. In a forest, it should not be possible for sound to carry in such a way, but many impossible things occur in those woods.

I did not intend to leave until Lucien’s empty husk lay upon the ground, but the acidic substance in the moat began churning like angry ocean tides – bubbling and splashing over the sides. We watched with growing horror as it began to flood the clearing. We would be trapped if we did not make haste.

Then there were two.

By some miracle we made it out of that damn forest, but two arrows were lost. Now I, too, will leave it for the next generation; let them spite me as I did those before! I do not care; no force will entice me back to those woods!

We found the settlers ready to depart. Moving so many across the river was no small feat, but with that task – we were able to find much assistance from our brethren…

Unfortunately, the nightmare was not yet finished. The Elders spoke with each person before allowing them to enter our township… and aye, an imposter was found. I fail to grasp these otherworldly concepts with the same ease as others, but – to put it simply – a seven-year-old boy, Nathan Bishop, bore no reflection!

It was just as Father wrote of Aunt Florence so long ago. The Bishop’s refused to believe their son was gone, and a rather violent altercation ensued as parents were separated from child. After his vehement denials failed, the boy’s true nature came to light. Helpless as the babe he pretended to be, his face contorted into a grimace of pure hatred, and he spat vile curses until his last breath.

The Elders wished to stress it was not merely a case of possession; an evil spirit assumed the identity of young Nathan. It is unclear what fate the real child met, but the parents recalled an odd incident from days prior.

Moments after seeing the boy in bed, Nathan walked through the front door. Mrs. Bishop hurried to discover who occupied her son’s room, but found it empty; unable to explain the event – it was dismissed. It is fortunate he was revealed before more lives were lost; I have seen enough death to last a lifetime.

Though… it is only now that I remember the other child, Maria… I wonder what has become of her. Surely the Elders have taken appropriate action; I will make inquiries tomorrow.

This is the most I have ever written; my hand aches with cramps and I am glad to be finished. Now, I will sleep for a week!


Close your jaw there, friend; I bet you didn’t expect the man to write through the night, did ya? Well, he surely did, and he didn’t write again for damn near three weeks because of it. I know the writing cramps he referred to, but I don’t know why he’s complaining; it’s a wonderfully satisfying sensation!

… … I can’t swear by it because I wasn’t there, but the Demon doesn’t typically jump in skin suits willy-nilly; I think he did something to prime Lucien up while he was stuck out there in the woods.

… … … You bet your britches those folks moved! They were ready to tuck tail before the posse arrived, but then Lucien showed up – getting everyone all hot and bothered talking that Demon Slayer nonsense! They assumed they could stay put if someone cleared out the unwanted neighbors; ain’t that a hoot?

… … … Maria actually did make it to Jamestown, but I’ll have to tell you about her another day. If you want all the bells and whistles there’s no time for it tonight.

… … … Folks mostly did fine once they got to know each other; they weren’t a bad bunch. You got to remember, hard times breed hard people. Most fall in line once they settle in enough to develop a routine.

… … … Sure, routines are great! They provide structure and order to an otherwise chaotic world.

… … … Unfortunately, Josh developed a taste for alcohol after this encounter, and later – when they lost Wallace – he succumbed to it entirely. Leah grew to hate his company and moved to Pennsylvania to be with their daughter.

… … … Well, that’s what you get with real life; every ending can’t be a fairytale. Unless… would you like it to be? I could—

… … Ok, I was only kidding; I’ll read it as I see it, scout’s honor.

… … … I suppose it’s that time again; you be safe out there. We’ll be here, watching all these wonderful downloads! Thanks again by the way – you just… wow, you have no idea.

… … … … Absolutely, I hope you come back soon; next time we’re gonna be reading about the last settlement!

… … … Haha, well, calling it a settlement is a stretch… it’s actually a desperate band of outlaws, but they made one hell of a final stand.

… … … There you go again with twenty questions; we can get to all that next time, I promise.

… … … Bye, have a good one!


Part 7

Horror Fiction

The Cursed Settlement (Pt. 5)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Now a CreepyPasta
Dirge Lake

Hullo! Looks like these flurries will be another blizzard soon. Come on, let’s get you to the cabin before you freeze over. When this storm blew in, I knew you must be on the way. We’re thrilled to have you back with us so close to Christmas!

… It’s no trouble at all; the neighbors have been restless the last couple days. Figured I ought to play it safe, so I grabbed an umbrella and hit the trail. I’m glad you made good time; thanks to those thunderheads it’s gonna be full dark out here soon.

———————-

… … … …. Brrr! We’re home, family!

… … Here ya go, Ethan! Good job with the fire, you earned yourself first use of our newfangled portable battery. It’s the dawn of a new day with this long-lasting puppy!

… … Thanks again, friend! You discovered something that actually motivates the boy; we never thought we’d see the day. Here’s the one you left with us last time. So, is the person who invented these things super famous?

… … How can you not even know their name?!

… … … Alright… Trish is right, we better get started. I can’t keep talking through sun-up. Get yourself settled while I set the scene. If you wanna hear the daily drivels of Jamestown life, we can go back when we finish the good stuff. For now, I suspect you’d prefer to hear the juicy bits.

… … What can I say, stories are my sixth… well… seventh sense? Besides, it’s adorable how you breathers are fascinated by death. You got all the time in the world to be dead later – go out there and live! Visit a library, get hot water from a faucet, buy food for weeks at a time; the possibilities are endless!

… … Whoops got excited again, sorry… anyway! We’re going to skip all the way to 1752 tonight. Such a long time passed; our descendants stopped believing in the boogiemen. With each generation, the population increased, and more land was needed. Eventually, the stories came to be known as tales concocted to prevent children from playing near the river.

… … Yep, you guessed it! Our genius legacies decided to expand to Dirge Lake. They built a bridge and everything.

… … No, their bridge was later destroyed. The one there today was built in the early 1900’s by the government. Locals fought it every step of the way, but you know how it is with infrastructure.

… … Ethan, if you don’t want to hear it, put in your headphones.

… Sorry, he’s just touchy because he was one of the geniuses. To be fair, it wasn’t his fault; his father was to blame. The boy is descended from James, but great nephew is a mouthful. He was only eighteen when that mess happened; he didn’t know any better. It’s harder to accept this… lifestyle at that age.

… It’s kind of you to be concerned, but don’t worry; look, he’s already lost in Spider-Man.

… Haha! No, the boy is far too lazy to write. We’ll be reading my own great grandson’s journal. Nicky was a chip off the ole block; that boy done me right proud… you know – once he got over his skepticism. He was only twenty-one himself, but he was lucky enough to make it out alive.

… … The weird part is, me and Trish had a front row seat for the whole ride.

… Believe me, we tried our best to stop them, but there’s only so much we could do. Sometimes, kids gotta learn the hard way.

… … You don’t just die and pop up the next second as we are now! Goodness no, it took almost twenty years just to poke stuff. I don’t think anyone could hear us for nearly a century – even then it was barely above a whisper. Appear in human form? With substance? Converse for extended periods? Psh, you’re talking more than two hundred for this swagger.

… … Well, if we had gotten mixed up with the demon and its blood sacrifices, sure, we probably coulda sped things up a bit – but being dead is no reason to drag other people down.

… … Hmm… maybe you’re right… I think laziness does run in the family!

… … We had the hang of things well enough to help a few, but even now we don’t go near the demon’s nest.

… … We’re drifting to the mumbos and jumbos again; all that will come out in the story natural-like. I’ll fill in some missing blanks as we go, but Nicholas did a fine job, especially for a young-un!

Now, you’d think so much time passed that it would take a minute for things to kick off – but nope! They were being watched from the first tree down to the last person out, you better believe that!


April 12, 1752

After nearly a year, we are finally moved to our new homes. I cannot help but laugh at how this space was avoided for silly superstition! Though, I do wonder if the water was once genuinely clear… it would be fascinating to discover the true cause of such a transformation. Regardless, it is teeming with fish; you can hear them splashing about at all hours.

As for reports of the land’s deterioration – it is honestly not so bad. The soil is more suited to farming across the river, but that hardly means it is uninhabitable. With a little extra care and irrigation, our crops will grow. Since the removal of dead trees and shrubbery, Dirge Lake is uniquely picturesque; very unlike that of traditional scenery.

We are surrounded by a forest of large, twisted trees whose branches reach out in strange curvatures, bending at odd angles. I have never seen their like. Thick, gray moss hangs down in sheets, accenting the greenery in a somehow beautiful, gloomy way.

I cannot express how wonderful it feels to sit in my own home, writing my own memoirs. Silence is a glorious thing I have rarely experienced in such entirety. When I am ready to start a family, I must add additional rooms to retain a private space.

Hopefully, by that time, these strange notions will cease; I believe the old stories have affected me in a small way. The moment I began this entry, an odd sensation overcame me. It is as if someone stands looking over my shoulder. I expected the feeling to fade, but it grows worse. There is a tickle at the back of my neck, and a chill down my spine.

At least I have the comfort of knowing I am not alone in my paranoia; Ethan thought he heard a man call from the forest, and my sister claimed to see a disfigured face in the window. Father would enjoy a hearty laugh if he read these words, but it is worth noting how easily the power of suggestion can manipulate one’s senses. I am sure others follow our example but keep the matters private.

If dangerous wildlife is nearby, it will not take long to dispatch; the farmhouse is no longer secluded from neighbors. In case of attack, help is not far away, but I do not believe such an event will truly take place. Much time was spent in the area during preparations, and nothing was seen to justify such concerns.

Damn! Clumsy oaf! One careless slip, and now there is a strike across the page!

Alas, that is enough foolishness for one night; I am eager to retire. Tomorrow will be a long, hard day. The Hampton’s crop restorations begin at sunrise. I volunteered because farming is vital for the community, and not at all for reason to be near Kenneth’s lovely daughter… although, if I were ready to begin courting, she would make me a lucky man indeed.


April 13, 1752

It was a mistake to indulge such nonsense last night. These wild ideas of monsters and demons have taken root in my brain, and now they blossom into pure madness! I’ll not have it; there are no such things as ghosts or spirits! Do you hear the insanity of those words?

One must take stock and look at the situation as a whole – outside one’s single, small-minded existence. Which is more likely? That a silly wives tale rings true? Or that – being aware of such tales – my mind warps situations to fit the narrative? Any who chooses the former clearly has no respect for science. We are no longer in the dark ages; one must adapt to the modern world, or it will leave them behind.

I digress, I should not become flustered over such trivial mishaps. If nothing else, these anecdotes may amuse my grandchildren some day; I must admit, from the comfort of home, the situation does seem humorous. Even the boys at the lake had a scare when placing the fish traps, but their incident is easily explained; in the process of stealing supper, alligators destroyed their nets. My experience was more confounding.

Alice fetched us from the field when lunch was ready. She and her mother prepared enough food to feed the volunteers, and tables were set outside to accommodate our large number. While preparing my plate, I heard Mrs. Hampton calling for her youngest, Florence. The child was assumed to be in her room, and as a gentleman, I offered my assistance.

After ascending the stairs, I turned right and followed the long hallway to the open door on the left. Florence’s room was brightly decorated with flowers, and the child stood at her window, seeming not to notice my presence. She turned when I spoke and came a few steps closer. When I relayed her mother’s message, she inched forward a little more.

Thinking it a game – I extended my arm, asking if I might escort her as a proper lady, but she did not find the offer charming as envisioned. No matter what I tried, there was no further reaction; she merely stood there, expressionless.

My stomach begged for the delicious smells wafting through the open window. Losing patience in my hunger, I resigned to the knowledge she would soon grow bored and follow. Upon returning, I informed Alice of my less than successful efforts, but she appeared confused and gestured toward the stables. I nearly choked when I saw Florence riding atop her father’s shoulders.

I believe, if nothing else, my fellows would describe me as a sane, reasonable, man; one who is not easily shaken or deceived. Yet… I cannot explain how this happened, and no matter how I replay the scene – I do not understand where I am mistaken. You must picture it precisely as I state, for I wish others to appreciate the magnitude of this riddle.

From leaving the child’s room to seeing her at the stables, few minutes passed. We dined in clear view of the home; never was it out of sight. The barn was at my back, with forty yards of open field between structures. I would have considered it an impossible task to move from one to the other without my seeing – yet it happened.

I am simply baffled. Even more that the child played her part so well; that alone is a worthy feat, but the sheer logistics behind getting her to the stables are on another level entirely. Florence did not act alone! The plotting was Kenneth’s doing – of that, I am sure.

It is not that I am a poor sport. The illusion was artfully done and masterfully executed; there is no denying that; I simply wish to know how – but they will not reveal their methods. In fact, they will not admit to trickery at all! They insist I saw a different child; the notion is absurd! Even if multiple ten-year-olds were roaming about – one could hardly mistake her golden curls and blue eyes!

Damn if this is not my own doing for showing interest in the details. Had I remained aloof, their bragging would be endless; now it is more fun to leave me in ignorance. Perhaps sleep will bring clarity: it is a theory worth testing.


Whew, and I thought I was long winded! I forgot how philosophical that kid used to be. Anyhow, no matter; I just wanted to make a quick notation for the sake of accuracy. Do you know what a doppelgänger is?

… … I had a feeling. There’re quite a few misconceptions about them, but just keep in mind they are not in any way, a ghost. They’re two completely different breeds.

… … Eh, think of them as low-level demons. They used to be human, but when passing to the other side – they landed in the unpleasant place. On rare occasions – one finds its way home but needs a new “identity” to be free. Okay, back to it.

… … Sigh… see Trish, give one little tidbit and now it’s twenty questions. Settle down, friend, we got all night.


April 14, 1752

It was another day of strange occurrences. If tomorrow is not better, we may have to reevaluate our position. While I do not relish the notion, I must admit the necessity. Ken Hampton may be a crafty devil, but I cannot believe he would force the stresses of this night upon his family by choice… honestly, I no longer know what to believe.

At dusk, all others departed, but I dallied in the stables. Florence’s soft voice startled me from thought as she extended her family’s invitation to supper. I accepted gratefully if not suspiciously, but is that surprising after the ruckus of last night?

It was not likely I would fall for the same trick twice! I kept the child in sight, watching for any sign of co-conspirators. As we left the barn, someone hiding in the trees shouted a gargled cry for help, but unwilling to traipse through the forest, I quickened our pace.

While impressed with Florence’s feigned fright, I am almost certain it was Donald’s voice. Even if slurred speech concealed his identity; the girl’s brother was supposedly on a hunting venture and not expected to return for several days. A likely story indeed. If that were not enough, Mrs. Hampton shrieked an ear-splitting scream at the sight of us.

She was descending the steps with Mr. Hampton close at heel when we entered through the foyer. Penelope’s cry shook me, sewing doubts in my previous perceptions. Without speaking, the couple rushed upstairs. When they returned, I could see the loss of color from their pale faces… I cannot conceive how one fakes such emotional response.

Perhaps what began in jest

Blast! How have I ruined yet another page! The damned pen has a mind of its own! No more of this; I have no opinion on the matters! I simply state the facts as they occurred; let others determine what lies in truth! Now, be gone whatever foul force foils my hard work!

The Hampton’s claimed to see Florence in her room only seconds before, but they could not argue with the sight of her before their eyes. The lost, confused looks they wore were admittedly familiar, but it is a hard concept to accept. At Kenneth’s suggestion, we all sat to dine, recounting each event in precise detail.

Mr. Hampton explained they were dressing for supper when Florence appeared in the doorway. She reported my acceptance of the evening invitation, and Penelope instructed her daughter to likewise prepare. She watched as the child ran into her own room. When the parents passed her door moments later, the girl was brushing her hair.

Not wishing her to dally, they paused in the hall. They insist they did not continue down the stairwell until Florence trailed behind; then, seconds later, they saw her in my own company. I have never been so utterly at loss for explanation; I feel as though all I once believed has been called into question.

Ethan continues facing challenges at the lake. Not only have they lost more nets, but a horse was taken. Its cries were heard through the village as it was dragged from shore. When the first men arrived, they saw the beast’s head disappear beneath the choppy waters. It seems as if our next priority will be hunting the alligators before a child is lost.

I grow increasingly wary as I ponder these circumstances. Once again it instills the sense I am not alone. Twice now I have glanced over my shoulder, expecting to find a visitor. It is overwhelming how strong the sensation grows. I believe I am at my limit; it is time to retire in preparation for another early start.


April 15, 1752

It was a somber day; good men have died. Late in the night, the Hampton’s woke to the sound of agonizing screams and frantic banging. Kenneth quickly recognized the familiar voice begging entry and rushed to unbar the door. He gasped at the bloody sight crumpled before him as he struggled to drag Judd Crawley inside.

Once across the threshold, the injured man fought assistance, demanding every entry point be secured. Ken humored Mr. Crawley, latching the door before further examination. A dark, crimson trail marked their passage through the home, but it was already too late.

With aid from Penelope and a newly lit fire, they were able to see the horrifying extent of Judd’s injuries. Had the man survived, it would have been without his left arm or leg, but he soon lapsed into unconsciousness, dying minutes later. His shoulder remained attached by only a few bundled nerves, his knee twisted at a nauseating angle, and puncture wounds bore deep into his thigh, exposing the muscle and tendons beneath.

Mr. Crawley never said what attacked him, and I am beyond speculation (lest another page be marred), but most assume a bear. Mrs. Hampton is terribly distraught Florence witnessed the gruesome sight. The curious child was caught spying from the balcony, poking her head between the bannisters. Alice ran to her sister, but the girl was already gone. My considerate, future wife found the little one pretending to sleep soundly in bed and considered her work finished.

Worried for Donald’s safety after multiple nights alone in the dangerous forest, we have formed a search party which will depart at first light. It is vital I rest soon, but there is more I must write while memory is fresh. Unfortunately, Judd’s was not the only death suffered.

This evening, I was told of the Johnson family’s tragedy. What they have endured these last days is unimaginable… even more so that it was kept secret. Not that I blame them; I myself had much the same instinct. Although, it is doubtful I have the fortitude to remain silent if faced with true adversity. Their tale is so unusual, I wish to record it precisely as told.

Edmund and Grace Johnson are a young couple with a frail six-year-old son. Benjamin has always been sickly and therefore does not play about with other children. As they have since been unable to conceive, the boy is without siblings and prone to loneliness. None were surprised when he developed an imaginary friend; it is a common enough thing. The parents were merely pleased at the sound of their son’s laughter.

The boy developed this “friendship” during the first night in his new home. By the next noonday meal, he was insisting a plate be prepared for Mister Long. At first the parents found it endearing and encouraged the boy’s imagination. They asked questions about his new companion, finding the answers odd but harmless.

Over the course of that day, they learned Mister Long is 842 years-old and wears a black dress which covers his feet. He is bald with stark, white skin, a crooked nose, and uneven, yellow eyes. The imagery is admittedly disturbing, but stranger still is what happened next.

After putting the child to bed, Edmund and Grace sat at the kitchen table, discussing the odd descriptions of Mister Long. During this conversation, Mr. Johnson stated the price of a dog worth distracting the boy from such hideous ideas. The moment those words were spoken, Benjamin’s shrill cry rang through the house.

The parents rushed to his aid, confused and terrified. As they burst through the door, a dark mass seemed to disappear through the wall, and items in the adjoining room could be heard crashing to the floor. Grace held her son as Edmund searched the home, but nothing was found.

They waited until the following morning to question the child. He was incapable of expressing what transpired but understood why. Somehow, Benjamin was aware of the dog jest. He repeated Edmund’s words verbatim, claiming Mister Long perceived it as a threat. I have personally been inside the Johnson home, and I can bear witness the rooms are situated far apart.

Their son relayed progressively sinister messages until the Johnson’s terror came to a climax just before dawn. Once again, they woke to the sound of Benjamin’s desperate screams. As they charged in, a solid, black form could be seen enveloping their son’s body, choking off his agonized wails.

The mortified parents lunged forward, but an invisible force propelled them backwards. They watched, paralyzed, as the malignant mass warped into an almost humanoid shape, and black, wispy tendrils forced Benjamin’s lips apart, opening his mouth far past its human limit. The snap of his jaw echoed in the small room, earning fresh shrieks of agony from the helpless parents.

As the form slowly forced itself into the boy, his throat tripled in size. In a last act of desperation, Edmund screamed into the cold darkness, offering his own body in exchange.

The black mass left the child like that of a snake leaving its den. Faster than human eyes could track, it flew across the room, forcing itself into Mr. Johnson. Grace watched in horror as her husband’s body turned into a purple, bulging nightmare.

With a sudden realization she was no longer held in place, the determined mother acted without hesitation. Returning with Edmund’s rifle, she pulled the trigger before the possessed man could rise to his feet. The stench of sulfur filled the room as Grace carried her son away from the carnage.

Mrs. Johnson has moved back to Jamestown Proper to be with her mother and says the boy has no memory of the tragic events – something she considers a blessing, no doubt. I do not pretend to know what plagued the small family; I only document the facts in hopes of one day reviewing these pages as a true man of science. Perhaps then I will understand what piece this puzzle misses. For now, all I can do is rest in preparation for tomorrow’s search.


It is definitely time for a break.

… … No way, Mister Long is not a doppelgänger or demon; we think he’s a strangely powerful ghost, but it’s hard to be sure. He was here long before the first settlement, and I doubt anyone ever finds a way to get rid of him. Who knows what kinda tricks he’s picked up since this story.

… … Haha, it’s not a dress, it’s a cloak. The kid didn’t know what to call it, and Nicky was a bit too shook up to think anything of the detail.

… … Actually, the advice came from yours truly; we felt really bad for that poor kid. We weren’t very good at communicating yet but putting all our energy into yelling instructions got the job done… sorta.

… … It was honestly the only way to save Benji, and it was still Ed and Grace’s decision. We only gave them ideas, the choice to act was all their own. Trust me, most parents would have done the same; I know we would.

… … … Hell, we also stalked the shit out of every man intent on searching the woods. You know well as us that Donald fella is long dead; there was no point watching more die on a hopeless mission. It’s surprising what you can do to someone’s food if you hover round the kitchen long enough.

… … Those answers will come in due time; you’ll find out more soon enough. So… umm… while we’re on a break anyway, I couldn’t help noticing the bulge in your pack there…

… … … … … Thank the cricket I don’t need to breathe; I think we’re about to find out if ghosts have tears. The Stand, IT, and Needful Things are my favorites! It’s like you knew!

… … … They did?! My family is the best!

… … Hey, that means you too, ya know! I’m speaking for all of us when I say you’re every bit a member! If you’ll have us, that is…

… … No wonder you were so eager to get back before Christmas! You sly thing!

… … Okay, I know, I know; I’m doing it again. Though, in my defense I think you only hindered the process by distracting me. I don’t know how you expect me to sit here reading this drivel while those babies are waiting.

… … That’s not my fault! You shoulda told me to mind my own damn business!

… Fine, at least let me hold them.

… Well, what are you waiting for? Sit your ass down so we can get to it.


April 16, 1752

I want nothing more to do with this vile place. I will need a few days for planning and preparations, but by this time next week I shall be far away from here. I woke an hour before dawn, feeling nauseated but determined to participate in the search for Alice’s brother. If the worst happened, she would need a reliable friend close by to ensure no dishonorable fiends try gaining advantage of her grievous state.

By some strange coincidence, four members of our search party also fell ill. In the end, only five of us entered the woods. To collect more men would only delay us longer, and if Donald lay injured, each passing hour further decreased his chance of survival. With all of us armed, our numbers should have been sufficient, but I never dreamed… in all my wildest imaginings… I could never have conceived such possibilities.

It was a clear, sunny day when we entered the forest, but an hour into our hike – dark, foreboding clouds rolled across the sky. Joe Harper and Travis Miller decided they would pursue a secondary trail to speed the search. I am as sure they are dead as I am of the cowards’ intent to return home, but they were never seen again.

Kenneth, Ethan, and I marched two miles deeper into the foreboding woods. I still do not understand how it could become so dark during the brightest part of day. Had I not known better, I would have believed it the middle of night!

While stopped to prepare our torches, a torrential downpour broke loose from the skies; not even the forest’s thick canopy could protect us from the rain. Finally, after much struggling, we managed to keep one flame lit under the protection of two men’s coats. Stumbling along awkwardly, we became lost, unable to tell which way was home with our limited vision.

We were not fools, we knew it better to stand in place than wander about aimlessly, and that is precisely what we did. For hours we searched our small area until finally, the torch-light reflected off a shiny, metal object tangled in the branches above. Ethan retrieved the item with great difficulty, and we were crestfallen to see it was unmistakably Donald’s pocket watch.

It was impossible not to connect his treasured keepsake’s location with that of the old stories. A tree-hopping demon seemed less of a drunkard’s ramblings as we failed to locate any signs of a climber upon the bark. Even if Donald found need to conceal himself, there were at least three nearby trees with limbs better suited to a man’s reach.

As we followed the new trail, rain continued to fall in sheets of cold, fat droplets, soaking every layer we wore and chilling us to the bone. We huddled together, seeking the warmth of our meager flame, but it felt as if ice formed on our very souls. That is when we heard something enormous barreling through the forest, approaching at inhuman speed.

I do not know how to describe the cacophony of noises as giant limbs snapped beneath a heavy weight, and thousands of leaves crackled in unison as they fell to paint the forest floor; all the while thunder boomed overhead as lightning illuminated our surroundings in brief flashes of eerie blue light. I did not see Kenneth die, but I heard his screams long enough to know it was not a quick death.

We ran blindly through the maze of trees until I tripped, falling hard into a tangle of roots and losing our only meager source of light. Ethan stopped to help me up, and we saw it was Donald’s mutilated corpse over which I fell. My cousin was quick to regain his composure, dragging me by the arm until I resumed independent function. I do not know if I could have stopped were the situation reversed, so complete was my terror; selfish bastard I am, I thought of nothing but survival.

I did not know where we were or if we ran in the right direction, I only thought to flee the sounds of pursuit that gained on us with every step. My brain could not accept when the giant beast sprung forward, blocking our escape entirely. I was frozen, mouth agape, struggling to take in the gruesome sight before me with the blessedly small light of day remaining.

That creature! It is exactly as described down to the last, disturbing detail. Lesser men may remove their own eyes at such a sight, but I cannot let Ethan’s sacrifice be in vain. I only live thanks to the bravery of my dear cousin – who without thought or care for his own life, threw me from the demon’s path as he advanced on the evil beast. Judging by the sickening squelch that sounded with the rifle blast, I can safely assume the brave man’s one shot aimed true.

My heart broke into pieces at the horrible noises to follow, but I could not look back, lest I be next. One moment I was crashing through the forest, drowning in misery, and the next – I was home, standing in bright, warm sunshine. Somehow, I found my way to the other side of Dirge Lake, near Jean Kirby’s home, and not a drop of rain had fallen. If I had not tripped, forcing us to waste precious time… Ethan would be here now.

I reported the horrible experience as we gathered in the Hampton home for the final time. I will never forget the look on Alice’s face as I broke the tragic news. Upon relaying the last, gruesome details, several others came forward with their own unexplained experiences.

Theresa Harper left her home to fetch a pail of water from the lake when a single, sharp cry rang out. Her husband followed her tracks to the water’s edge, but no prints existed to indicate where she next went. In the grand scheme of things, it is not surprising she was never found.

Bonnie McEntire complained her daughter talked to the empty corner of her bedroom on a nightly basis, and she was not the only one.

Simon Clovers, the man who witnessed the horse die at the lake, admitted to seeing tentacles wrapped around the animal’s head as it was pulled under.

As Dan Freeman recounted his experience of seeing a deer walk on its hind legs, Phillip Matthews said he too witnessed such a sight. Panic broke out as several people began talking in unison, but Uncle Nelson quickly remedied the chaos by reminding all that we stood in Mrs. Hampton’s den on the night she lost her husband and son.

Needless to say, we are ready to admit our folly, and will leave this place tomorrow. Personally, I will take great pleasure in watching the bridge burn once the last man is across. Then I shall make very serious considerations into the type of man I wish to be and do whatever necessary to become that vision. If I am lucky, perhaps I will have half Ethan’s bravery and integrity.


Aw, it’s ok, friend. Do you need a tissue? Look, if it makes you feel any better, Trish babies the absolute shit out of that boy. I know we like to joke, but honest, we’re all quite happy here together.

… … … Scout’s honor. I mean come on, just look at him! He’s so lost in whatever he’s watching, he doesn’t give a single fig about how he got here. Now perk up, it’s time for the last entry.


April 19, 1752

I refuse to let that place drive me mad! Now that survivors are safely back in Jamestown, I have decided to go east – to college, where I will become a man of science. When properly educated, I will unravel these mysteries; until then, I can only record the events in preparation of that later date. Perhaps by then, the elders will trust me enough to reveal the demon’s name. If the legends are true, I must admit there is no reason to divulge the information at present.

The day after I returned from the Cursed Woods, all of Jamestown assisted in our move. Our dead were transported so they may be buried with their families, and every wagon was overloaded with the children of desperate parents. Most could not afford to leave all possessions behind, but they could not take chances knowing what happened to the Johnson boy and now poor Florence.

Alice was in her room when she heard her mother’s pained scream. She discovered her sister wielding a kitchen knife with proficiency beyond that of a small child. I know she will likely never forgive herself, but her quick actions saved Penelope’s life. Her mother’s wounded shoulder bled freely but was not lethal.

Somehow, amidst the chaos, Alice noticed her sister had no reflection in a mirror. She describes her actions as help from a guardian angel, for she does not understand how she knew that to mean Florence was beyond saving. Grabbing a nearby fire poker, she put an end to the being posing as her sister, and now her mother will make a full recovery… physically speaking, of course.

I personally escorted the grieving women across the bridge to safety, but it will be a long road to recovery after their heavy losses. Throughout the days ahead, I came to learn more horrific tales of those lost due to our ignorance. Just as my forefathers warned, we slaughtered our own the moment we expressed our plans to escape. Part of me still suspects the events of the last week are a nightmare, but with each passing day, my hopes of waking fade.

Clyde Parker shot his wife and children in their sleep and witnesses report seeing him enter the forest, but he has not been seen since. Jim Williams lost his hand when Mrs. Williams woke him with a hatchet. He killed her as their children screamed, and he has not spoken a word since. If not for his eldest son, we would not know what transpired.

Each family now has a similar tale. All told, twenty-six souls were lost because we believed our intellect superior to those before us. The number would surely be higher had our neighbors not so graciously assisted our retreat. I believe my time away will be good for mind and soul; it is my greatest wish to return as a man who is capable of providing Alice with the life she deserves.


I know Nicky got off to a rough start, but none of us are half as smart as we think at twenty-one. Hell, he wised up faster than most, and he did go on to be quite the man of science.

… … … I’m glad you agree; people tend to forget how hard it is to believe this stuff when you weren’t raised with it.

… … Course he did! The Cooke men always win their lady’s heart! Hmph, as if you had to ask.

… … I tell you what, the hardest part of the whole ordeal was making him mess up the journal. Broke my heart to see those beautiful pages stained with stray ink, but it was for the greater good.

… … Hmm, I guess the info on doppelgängers was a little sparser than I remembered… must have confused it with the next part, my bad. It’s okay, we’ll get there.

… … … One more thing before you go, can I ask you something? I’ve seen it referenced in movies, but don’t quite understand… are you familiar with the YouTube? I think that’s how you say it… one of these phones has a picture—

… Oh, good, so you’ve heard of it!

… … … … … … … Well, that sounds neat as hell! Golly, I wish we could get internet here! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Our lives are infinitely more entertaining since you came along… but there’s so much we miss out on.

… … … Sure, we have plenty of extra phones we’ll never use, why? You need one? We have a wide assortment to choose from.

… Yea, most are new, but—

… … … … Ethan! Bring every phone, now! Our best friend is going to fill them with YouTube downloads! Move your ass!

… … … I don’t know… I… think… this is what it feels like to be speechless… what do you recommend?

… … … … … You mean… there’s entire channels dedicated to people reading scary stories?!

… That sounds a little too good to be true…

… … Who’s your favorite? You clearly have excellent taste.

… … Dark Somnium? Okay, he sounds like a winner. Did you know Somnium is Latin for dream? I like the clever ones, yes, load me up with all his best!

… … What do you mean it’s not just stories and sound effects?

… … How can it also be a community?

… … Dark Family? My, that does sound like a dream, doesn’t it?

… … Aww, but I won’t be able to talk with them… ah, well. Maybe someday. I’m just excited to hear new stories.

… … I know I said it last time but spare me one last sappy moment. I truly wish you the happiest of holidays, my own, special Dark Family. As always, we shall eagerly await your next visit.


Part 6