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; 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

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

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!


Horror Fiction

The Growing Settlements (Pt. 3)

Part 3 of The Settlement Settlement series.

Now a CreepyPasta

Beautifully narrated by The Dark Somnium: YouTube, Podcast, Spotify
The Cursed Woods (1677)

Hello there! Look what the cat dragged… oh my! Are you alright?! Hurry, get inside!

… You need to get here earlier if you’re gonna pay regular visits! Just because you’re safe inside doesn’t mean you can be roaming around outside all willy-nilly. Judging by the mud on your clothes, am I right to assume those scratches are from a fall?

… Thank Jiminy! We won’t have to deal with another infection. Trish can help you get cleaned up. We find a surprising amount of first aid kits and have to keep everything. I can’t stand to let the forest get cluttered. Having a demon for a neighbor is no reason to neglect lawn care.

… That’s right, I did promise to read from my journal, didn’t I? I’m happy to oblige, but I warn you, there’s more than usual; we won’t be able to finish it tonight. Unlike my predecessors, I have a fondness for talking… as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Hush now, Ethan! I hear you snickering over there. You just enjoy that iPhone before it dies.

… Huh? No, he can’t use it in the traditional sense, but that one has a bunch of movies downloaded. We love movies! If we woulda seen one of those back in my day, there’d have been a witch hunt for the ages! Anyway, I can see you’re ready to get started, but let me catch you up first.

My father didn’t enjoy his title, but he was the head honcho for over twenty years. I never had the burden myself, thank the good cricket, but my brother, Timothy, did. The position wasn’t guaranteed through blood – that barely got your name in the hat. You had to be respected by the community, and that wasn’t earned lightly. When it became clear Uncle Snake’s sons wouldn’t fit the bill, Tim proved himself capable.

Dad taught us to read and write. My brothers hated it, but my sister and I wanted to read everything. There were precious few books in Jamestown back then. Paper and writing tools weren’t exactly common either, but I’d write in the dirt just to have something new to read.

… Sure, we had a school, but not like you think. Surviving was the most important thing to learn. What’s safe to eat and drink, hunting, farming, and the like.

… No, I never got bit by the travel bug. Too many people decided to go exploring and never came back. Who knows if they settled somewhere or died… either is likely. Plus, Trish was in Jamestown. I asked Ms. Patricia Mayfield to dance when she was sixteen and haven’t been able to calm my racing heart since!

… Hell’s bells, woman! I’m trying to be romantic! Can’t you let me set the mood for our friend? Atmosphere is a key component to good storytelling!

… As I was saying, my heart raced until the day we died. Now – obviously – the racing is metaphorical, but it’s there all the same. We were married next spring and started our own little family.

… Yes, thanks for getting me back on track. A few months after I was born, another group of settlers came looking for the third group! They’re the first thing I wrote about, in fact.

When father died in ‘77, I found a hidden stash of new journals. I don’t know where or when he collected them all, but I was so happy I could hardly stand it. They were better than gold, and I wanted to fill every one of them. Course I couldn’t, but I made sure they stayed in the family. Now we have journals full of our history, and I can’t tell ya how happy I am to have someone to share it with.

… Aww shucks, don’t thank me. Really, I should be thanking you! Well, I’ve probably wasted enough time rambling. I wrote my first entry the night I found the books so we should be ready to get started.


January 30, 1677

I cannot believe I am writing in my very own journal! There are only a few worn pages remaining in the one father continued, and the whole thing is ready to fall apart. It seems a better idea to begin my writings on crisp, new pages. A trunk full of books may be the most magnificent scent in all this world. If not for the burden of family, I would surely never leave my desk again.

I wish I could begin this book with an account of what happened to the second settlement, but sadly my knowledge lacks the ability to do it justice. It is most unfortunate that Father never found time to write of them, for now only their descendants remain. Eventually, I may be able to collect information from the relatives, but it will be difficult to confirm the accuracy.

For that reason, I believe it best to first document the fourth settlement. There are still survivors who can give me first-hand accounts, and no more time should be wasted in recording their story.

They came in 1645; this time only eighty people survived the voyage. The ship was attacked by pirates six weeks before they arrived. Twenty-nine people died in the fight, but the assailants retreated when they lost too many of their own.

When the travel-weary colonists found the third settlement abandoned, they sent scouting parties to search the surrounding areas. Our people were extremely uneasy when the new arrivals came into Jamestown. This was only two years after my uncle’s incident; the men lost to that venture had families who still grieved.

The scouts explained they were looking for the lost colony; many of the newcomers were their kin. Someone from the previous group was able to get a letter detailing how wonderful their new home was onto a merchant ship. Of all the times for correspondence to make it across the ocean… alas, as a result, more came to join them. Funding, travel, and many other factors culminated in a delayed arrival.

Father and those who had relatives in the new group accompanied the scouts back to Dirge Lake; it was hoped a fourth settlement could be prevented if the warnings came from their own. Father once told me he could see the difference in the lake from his previous visit. The green film now covered the water’s surface, and the grass grew in sparse patches. He tried to stress these facts in his warnings, but most decided to stay.

Peter Evans was too old for the hike, but his younger sister, Pamela, was the first family he had seen since the death of his children. Her husband was killed by the pirates, but her son and his family were well. Pamela returned with Peter that evening, citing herself too old and heartbroken to face the trials of resettling – demon or not. Her son would not be swayed.

Ethel Kingston was too frail to make the hike, but her eldest daughter, Sally, went in her stead. Ethel’s niece had died in childbirth, and her husband was killed by the pirates. The baby, having no other family, was given to Sally.

The only others to come to Jamestown that night were the newly widowed Emma Granger and her daughter, Anna. Mrs. Granger hoped to be taken in by her brother-in-law, but he was a victim of the lake monster.

There were no other family reunions; the remaining were given the bad news of their loved one’s demise. Once sure no others could be convinced, father got our people across the river before nightfall. They say everyone watched for their return in great anticipation, letting out a collective sigh of disappointment at the sight of the small group. The Grangers were taken in by the Richardson family until a home could be built. In preparation for the future arrivals, new land was cleared, and homes were built over the next several months.

It also served to keep minds occupied. They no longer feared solely for others. Now they also had to worry the demon would choose another escape tool. Meanwhile, the fourth settlement, excited to be on dry land, wasted no time in restoring the village.

My, how quickly the time flies as these pages fill! I should end this here. It would be unfortunate to have Patricia cross with me on my first night as a writer. Perhaps I shall try my hand at a love poem once I gain some confidence with the pen.


I swear to you, I remember the moment I wrote that line; I was thinking to myself, ‘I wish there was a way to convey a wink through the written word.’

… Ethan, I don’t care if the battery died, don’t interrupt story time! You should know better; we knew people who were hanged for less! Sorry bout that, friend; it’s almost torture having a drawer full of phone chargers but no electricity.

… Yes indeed, I did tell you the power was out on your first visit, and technically that’s the truth. It’s been out for three years since the ole generator went kaput.

… Why are you rifling through your bag? You looking for something?

… What’s a battery… brick?

… It does what?!

… You sure you don’t mind? Wow, Ethan! Thank our kind friend for restoring the movie magic!

… That should keep him nice and quiet.


January 31, 1677

I may not have long tonight. Trish was not pleased with my absence at the children’s bedtime nor my lateness to our own. If I do not want to bunk with the boys, I will need to retire much earlier. I thought of this journal all day, and how Father not only documented the events that happened but sought new information as well.

I have indulged fantasies of meeting the Shaman in the Great Mountains, but I do not dare make the journey myself. I could petition Tim to send a small party. It is truly the wisest strategy; sooner or later, the demon will escape, and when it does, we will likely be the first to fall. If not in our lifetime, our children’s.

Yes, I will go to him first thing in the morning. Now, back to the fourth colony. They had a fraction of the work previous settlements endured. The forest had less time to grow back, leaving smaller trees to clear, and many homes only needed repairs before they could be moved into and cleaned.

The earliest complaints were in the second month. In the dead of night, Matthew Brown and his wife, Harriet, woke to fast, heavy banging at the front door. Matthew dressed and rushed downstairs, nearly tripping on the steps in his haste. He could not fathom a reason someone would be so far out as his farm, but the knocking stopped as he reached the landing. A sick feeling in his stomach made him retrieve his rifle before slowly approaching a window.

Pressing his back against the wall, he turned his neck to peer outside. There was nothing near the door. Moving to the other side, he saw only darkness. Matthew maneuvered to the opposite window, stepping in front of it and almost losing his stomach when a face stared back. He screamed, and his reflection with him.

Harriet came to stand by the window, startling him anew. Feeling foolish, Matthew steeled himself and unbolted the door. Lantern held high, he stepped outside. They heard someone calling for help from the forest, but said it sounded “unnatural” as if a child who did not know our language were trying to use the word.

Unsure what to do, Matthew called out, asking what was wrong. The voice went silent for a moment, then in the same, odd cadence, replied “Hello” twice more. Harriet ran indoors, trying to pull her husband along, but he was rooted in place.

He called out again, asking their name. After another pause, the voice choked out, “help, hello, something wrong” while growing deeper with each word. Not waiting to hear more, Matthew joined his wife and locked the doors. Nothing else happened that night, and no one believed their tale in the morning.

Harriet says they believed the village was haunted by the ghosts of the dead. After she came to Jamestown, she shared her experiences with the elders. They believe, as Kawani had warned, another evil entity has been attracted to the demon’s power. They will not tell me what this new creature is; claiming to speak or write the name would only increase its strength. Whatever it is, they act as if they are familiar with its kind.

I hope to learn more on this matter. Though, I wonder how many of these abominations can coexist… is there no chance one might kill another?

Tarnation’s, the time! Damn my fool brain, I shall bunk with the boys yet!


February 1, 1677

Once again, I found myself thinking of this moment all day. I have fantastic news! Tim has agreed to my request! I am not comfortable with our brother, James, leading the expedition, but I know he stands the greatest chance of success. My conscience can rest easier knowing he chooses this dangerous path freely, with excitement.

They will leave as soon as the weather turns warm, and the journey will be long, difficult, and dangerous. I will not let myself dwell on possible negative outcomes, but the venture will take months with optimistic estimations, years at worst. If we are lucky, they may return with valuable information before a fifth colony tries to settle Dirge Lake.

Returning to matters of the fourth settlement, I spoke with Tim’s spiritual advisor regarding Harriet Brown’s claim. Like the elders, he became angry, refusing to speak on the matter. Whatever it is – he too, fears it more than the ghosts, lake monster, and demon combined. If these creatures came to the demon, drawn by it, does that mean they are not likewise confined? Perhaps I should desist further attempts to identify it.

Instead, I’ll continue with the colony’s next tragedy. It was a few weeks after the happenings at the farm when four hunters walked into the Cursed Woods, and none returned. When a search party was formed, they only found scraps of bloodied clothing.

The men were a heavy loss to the small community. Every person has a part to play, and storing food for the winter is a key element to survival. Desperate to find reason in the chaos, they blamed a bear for the deaths. Pamela Mayfield’s son was one of the deceased hunters. A single good thing I can write concerning this incident is that her daughter-in-law and grandchildren joined her in Jamestown.

The following month is when Matthew Brown disappeared. His wife said they had only begun letting down their guard when their new dog leapt from its blanket, barking savagely. Seconds later, loud, desperate banging shook the door in its frame. The farmer retrieved his rifle while Harriet soothed the dog. It continued to growl low in its throat, hair and tail standing erect.

“Who goes there?!” Matthew shouted. The knocking stopped, but there was no answer.

The hound let out a slight whimper but remained on guard. Harriet was trying to pull her husband away when a series of sharp bangs came from the kitchen. Matthew rushed through the house to see the shutters flapping wildly. After securing them in place, a crash, guttural scream, and more furious barking sounded simultaneously.

He returned to see the door standing open, his wife frozen in shock, and the dog missing. He ran outside, calling its name. This snapped Harriet from her stupor, and she begged Matthew to return. He refused, stating they could not afford to lose the expensive hound. Its future puppies would be too important to their livelihood.

She watched in horror as her husband ran into the forest, rifle in one hand, lantern in the other, calling for a dog that would turn out to be hiding in the bushes aside the house. Harriet discovered it whimpering after it was too late to recall Matthew. She and her pet were the last ones to escape before things became truly perilous.

The elders insisted on personally inspecting each new resident for signs of possession, but it was a small price to pay. Some have told me they would have traded their souls for shelter across the river if that were the price. Most expressed relief with their interrogations, finding comfort in how seriously the matter was considered.

I do not know much of the world outside, but I have learned enough to understand I would live nowhere else. Alas, I once again retire. I must wake with the dawn tomorrow. There are weeks remaining in winter, yet our own food stores run low. I will need to forage before another blizzard snows us in.


I tell ya, you can’t appreciate today’s luxuries without understanding what it was like having mouths to feed before grocery stores. Now that’s something, ain’t it? Grocery stores? Boy, would I love to go into one! Just for the experience. No, wait, better yet, fast food! That would be a treat!

… I know you’re ready to hear more, but I thought you might need a break. Besides, the fire has gotten a little low. The movies are spoiling that boy. If it gets any darker in here something really is liable to come down the chimney – and it won’t be Santa. Last time it took us weeks to get rid of the smell and stains.

… Well never mind all the how’s and what’s. Hold yer hopping horses while me and the potato sack throw some more logs on. Won’t take but a minute, then I just need to check a little something outside.

… … … There we are. Sorry about all the commotion out there. Got a little dicey for a second, but it’s fine now. Trish’s mother popped by – she’s having one of her spells again, but I don’t expect she’ll be back tonight.

… Oh, that’s too long of a story to get into tonight, but if you ever see a tall woman with wild, fire-red hair and a missing eye – run away. She has good days and bad, but you don’t want to get close enough to find out which she’s having. Here, let’s get back to the story.


February 3, 1677

I missed one night of writing, but it feels like weeks. Yesterday, I departed before the sun was fully risen. Game is scarce in the winter, but I could not return without meat. There is no greater shame for a man than failing to feed his family. I procured enough food to carry us safely through the last snows, but I had no energy remaining for the journal. I was barely able to remove my shoes before collapsing into slumber.

When I am finished telling of the fourth settlement, I do not know what I will have to write about. The everyday life in Jamestown is hardly of any interest. My eyes grow heavy at the mere thought of discussing crops or chronicling births and deaths, but what else is there?

After Harriet Brown fled, the small village remained quiet for nearly a week until the next occurrence. Shortly after nightfall, Ronald and Janice Burns knocked on every door in search of their missing daughter. A thorough inspection of the village revealed Julia’s last known whereabouts to be the stables, but it could not be determined where she next went. Puzzled over her disappearance, heated words were exchanged regarding the next course of action.

Her parents were adamant she would never stray far, especially alone, but the forest was the only place not yet searched. Many agreed to a morning search, but only Ronald’s two closest friends agreed to immediate action.

The three men ventured into the dense, dark woods. Thorny brambles tugged at their legs as they called for Julia. The torches were difficult to maneuver through the low hanging vines and limbs, but they refused to turn back. Hoping the young girl could not have traveled far, they planned to go only a little further before turning to circle the settlement’s perimeter.

They came to a sudden halt when the loud snap of a broken branch sounded to their left. Standing back-to-back, two men held their torches high while the third aimed his rifle in the direction of the noise. There was only silence as they waited. Ronald called for Julia, but no answer came. They walked a few yards more until the treetops overhead began to shake violently, despite the fact no wind blew.

Coming to another stop, they could only stare up in horror as a giant, black shadow moved from tree to tree above them, circling the three men. David Sullivan dropped his rifle to the ground and fled in terror. The thing in the trees stopped quickly, turning away to chase David like a cat with a mouse.

Greg Jones and Ronald stood frozen in terror; the trees following their friend’s trail shook as the beast chased him down. He was out of sight when David’s death wails were heard, but that did not make it easier to hear. After the screams fell silent, the two men woke from their trance.

No moon or stars could be seen from beneath the forest canopy, but they feared the torch would reveal their location. Light held low, hearts thudding, they retreated away from the place their friend was killed. They could see hardly a foot away, but they did not pause, focusing only on the next step ahead.

The sound of their heavy breaths broke the silence, adding another unsettling layer to the atmosphere. Greg has always claimed he felt the thing’s eyes before he heard it return. They were barely fifty yards from salvation when a shadow streaked by their right, then across their path.

Mr. Jones says its outline was visible for hardly a second, but he is certain it was almost seven feet tall, and its head and back were disproportionate to the rest of its body. The sight cost him a moment’s hesitation, but Ronald sprung forward. As it had with David, the beast shot through the trees, giving chase.

The screams were heard by all in the village. Greg escaped as his friend died in agony. Nothing more could be done for the dead; all efforts of a morning search were called off. Janice had to be physically restrained to prevent her from entering the forest. Her mind has never been quite right since, but considering the terrible events of the following morning, that should not come as surprise.

Damn, yet again I have stayed at this desk too long. The rest will have to wait.


Holy smokes folks, we got a live one! Assume positions!

… … … … … … Whew, Trish, it’s clear! You can bring our friend out now.

… I am terribly sorry for the rude interruption. It’s been a long time since my mother-in-law was so riled up. I think she’s just curious about you, but don’t worry, I don’t plan on doing any introductions.

… That’s kind of you to say, but I feel just awful about this mess. You went paler than a bucket of white paint when that door flew open. Most can’t get inside at all, but we tend to be persistent in this family. Don’t you worry though, I promise, this time I’m sure she won’t be back tonight… probably not for a while.

… Haha, you and your specific questions. Hey, it’s getting pretty late, we better get back to it or we won’t even have time to finish the next entry.


February 4, 1677

Today, I visited James to discuss his travel preparations. He believes they will be ready to leave a few days earlier than estimated if the weather continues to warm. I am both worried and excited about the upcoming expedition, but I fear for my brother’s life most. I cannot imagine how I will cope with the anxiety for such an extended period.

Last night, I had a frightfully vivid nightmare. Like my predecessors, I believe dwelling on these morbid topics are affecting my mind. It was so real; I can almost still smell the blood. In my dream, I was part of the fourth settlement. Three men and I were deep in the Cursed Woods, hunting. I have never seen them, yet I knew them in the moment. After a long day, we packed our meat and began the hike home.

We walked for hours as day faded to dusk, long after we should have returned. There was only one trail where we hunted, we could not understand how we became lost. Then an argument erupted; two wished to turn back in search of familiar surroundings, myself and the other were determined to continue forward. Eventually, exhausted and frustrated, we split up.

If I were truly in such circumstances, I have no doubt I would retrace my steps to familiar territory, yet in the dream, the idea was unthinkable. It grew darker by the minute, and we could not afford further delay. I thought of my family’s worry if I were forced to camp overnight and walked faster.

Eventually, we saw a soft, orange glow ahead. In my mind, I knew we should run away, but my feet carried me against my wishes. I assume the same was true for my companion; he walked alongside me, equally entranced by the mysterious lights growing brighter at our approach.

The path we walked opened into a small, dead clearing. Not one blade of grass grew within the circle; only a stone altar stood in the otherwise empty clearing. The source of the light seemed to be dozens of glowing… I do not know how to convey… orbs or sacs hanging in the surrounding trees. They were the size of watermelons, but soft, and oozing thick liquid. They writhed as if something moved inside; my innards tangled at the sight.

I saw my partner walk forward, hand outstretched, mouth open. I wanted to scream for him to stop, but I only watched. I still feel the bile that rose in the back of my throat when he touched one only for it to burst. A foul, yellow liquid covered the man, and I could hear the sizzle of his skin beneath his screams of agony. I covered my eyes but could not look away as the substance reduced him to a puddle. Long as I live, I may never lose the image of it.

There was a slight rustle in the tree directly above, and before I could move, it dropped from the branches, landing behind me. I felt the vibrations in the ground and heard the crunch of leaves as it landed. I willed my feet to flee but lost all control of bodily functions.

I was helpless as I felt hot, putrid breath on the back of my neck. A single claw lightly touched my head, traced down to my shoulders, and around my throat before stopping. With barely a pause, two rough, bony hands squeezed my head until I thought my skull would shatter. The pressure was so intense, my vision blacked out. The last thing I heard before waking, drenched with sweat, was “You are too weak.”

It seems foolish to be so disturbed by a mere dream, but I do not have it in me to write more this night. At least Trish should be pleased.


February 6, 1677

A short break is exactly what I needed. I feel refreshed and eager to write again. The morning after Ronald and David were killed, the village woke to a stable boy frantically ringing a bell, shouting for the doctor.

When the boy was calm enough to communicate, they learned the body of Janice Burns was in the loft, concealed beneath the hay. Two men were dead, and she never left the stables. Her clothes were ripped, and she bore the marks of being strangled, but she was not sexually violated. The already divided community became hostile, some trading blows amidst the arguments. I cannot imagine their position. In a place with so much evil, how is one know when it is truly the work of man?

A few days later, Jeffery Morris returned home to find his wife missing. This time they left no stone unturned in the search. She was found in the church house, her body left lying on a pew in much the same condition as Janice. The only difference was the skin beneath her nails. Knowing the murderer was marked, each man was inspected.

When Marcus Dean’s arms bore deep, red scratches, he claimed it happened while clearing thorn bushes from his land. When his story fell apart, he wept, begging forgiveness, claiming evil spirits forced his hand. Several witnesses say the man showed no signs of remorse before caught, but even guilty, I do not know if he deserved his fate.

The man was already disliked in the community; he had no family and few he could call friend. The two factions of believers and non-believers were both crazed with fear and anger. It is difficult to get clear answers regarding how the decision was made – I believe all parties feel guilt for their actions – but it was decided Marcus would be the test to prove if monsters are real.

Fearing the lake monster least, as it is theoretically confined to the water, they tied Mr. Dean’s hands and feet. Putting him on a small raft, they gave him a makeshift paddle, stating he would go free if he made it to the other side.

No one spoke as the man awkwardly rowed. The only sound was the splash of his oar and a slight shuffle as repositioned himself. He could only row on one side for a few strokes before he began turning, and each time he changed sides, he almost lost the paddle.

He was near the center when something large splashed in the water behind him. His head snapped sharply to the side, looking for the source, but the water went still before anything more happened. Rowing faster, the raft rocked side to side with his clumsy, panicked movements.

In mid-stroke, Marcus’ paddle froze. He could be seen struggling to pull it from the water, but it appeared stuck. Another splash sounded as the oar was ripped from his grip. The resulting waves pushed Dean away, and the crowd gasped as pale, grayish-blue tentacles shot from the water, wrapping the screaming man and pulling him under. He never resurfaced. It was a long time before anyone moved, but when they did, they returned to their homes silently.

As my forefather once wrote, I do believe the demon understands when the people have decided to leave. They gathered in the morning and agreed they could be ready to go in two days. With Marcus deceased, they did not believe themselves to be in immediate danger so long as they avoided the lake and forest. That assumption cost them dearly. Like so many before them, brother was turned against sister, husband against wife, and no one was safe.

Helen Atkins smothered her baby before disappearing into the forest. John Newman was stabbed to death by his wife, and their son vanished in the chaos. Eric Smith, only seven at the time, hid in a closet as his father murdered his sister and mother before his footsteps could be heard leaving the house. Each survivor holds a similar tale.

When the sun rose on the second day, seventeen people lived. They did not pause to bury the dead; they left Dirge Lake with what possessions were already prepared and did not look back. When the wagons rode into Jamestown, they were welcomed and guided to the homes built in their anticipation. Some of our men returned for the livestock left behind, but since that day, no one has crossed the river.

There is no telling what may live there after so many years, but I hope James will return with new knowledge before we find out. Discovering how and why some are affected and some are not, is almost as vital as destroying the demon. Why do some seem to sleepwalk into the forest while others suffer from delusions? Some have experienced both. Is it the work of more than one creature? Or do the results depend on the victim? These questions burn within me, but I am helpless to discover the answers.


March 11, 1677

Finally, I can write something more interesting than the daily drivel! James and a small contingent of men have left for the Great Mountains! The long wait for his return officially begins! I already feel as if I will crawl out of my skin with worry, but it cannot be helped. If his expedition is successful, it could save countless lives in the future. I should not get my hopes up, but my imagination runs rampant, and I am at its mercy.


That entry babbles on a bit longer, but the relevant parts are over. Next time we can skip ahead to when the fifth group arrives. Boy, did those folks give me a run for my money! But we don’t have time to get into it now. The suns coming up and we shouldn’t press our luck any—

… Hold on there, friend! Let me clean my ears out before you repeat yourself. It sounded like you said you brought presents? Thank you gifts?

… Aw, shucks, you shouldn’t have! I noticed your pack was a little bulgy this time, but you know me – always respecting others’ privacy. Bless my oddly corporeal soul, I am on pins and needles! What is it?

… Oh my word! Those are Stephen King books! Real ones! Ones where the battery doesn’t die! Yes, please, let me give ‘em a good whiff!

… Really?! You bet! You feel free to bring me any books you were gonna donate. In fact, do you need cash? We have lots just sitting in a dresser. You could update your digital library and donate the old ones!

… That’s just silly, Trish. I’m not scaring our best friend. Look, that’s the face of… err… umm… hey, I know! Let’s get you on the trail! Can’t risk anything happening to you, can we pal? I Thank ya kindly and will anxiously await your next visit. Come back real soon, now! Real, real soon!


Part 4

Horror Fiction

The New Settlements (Pt. 2)

Part 2 of The First Settlement

Now a CreepyPasta

Beautifully narrated by The Dark Somnium: YouTube, Podcast, & Spotify

Looky here! Trish! Ethan! Our friend is back!

Shame it had to be another cold, stormy night like this. Just once I’d like to enjoy some company under the warm sun, but I guess that’s not how this place works. … Goodness, where are my manners? Come on in here before something catches your scent. I’ll let you get settled while we fetch the firewood.

… So, tell me, what brings you back to our humble neck-of-the-woods? Curiosity got the better of you is my guess. You probably want to hear more about this place, am I right?

… Ahh, no. Sly-Fox had little patience for writing. What you heard was his only entry in Pappy Grant’s journal, but don’t be disappointed. We have more to read thanks to one of his grandsons.

Sly-Fox died in 1611, and his sixth grandson, Wise-Owl, was born in 1617. Jamestown was a growing village, and while a majority were Cherokee, the population grew more diverse with every failed attempt to settle the Cursed Woods. After experiencing so much grief and terror, they had no concerns for trivial matters of skin color or culture. Shared loss brought shared acceptance.

As Wise-Owl grew, he began to travel, yearning to see the world. With his lighter skin, he found himself accepted in most white settlements if he dressed differently and used the name Samuel Cooke. At the age of twenty, he married his wife, Sarah, and started a family.

His father died six years later, and the eldest son, Striking-Snake, became Chief. The brothers were opposites, but mostly worked well together. The older prided himself on brute strength and speed, while the younger was known for intelligence and resourcefulness.

Samuel began writing when his brother decided to master the Cursed Woods. They tried to discourage the stubborn man, but he was all antsy to prove himself. I think you’ll enjoy the story, though. At the very least, it’ll answer a few of the questions rattling around in that skull of yours.


November 2nd, 1643

It is a good thing I continue this journal. Its knowledge must not be trusted to oral history alone. If only it were possible to duplicate these words for more to read; all people should know these texts and heed their warning. I often wonder how many cursed places exist in the world but fear I would not like the answer.

I care deeply for my brother, but the man is a fool! Since the first settlement in 1565, two more attempts have been made to inhabit that cursed place across the river. All met violent ends; it is as if the evil grows stronger with each life it takes. I do not understand why Snake believes he is destined to conquer the abominations. He thinks he will build a bridge to expand Jamestown after the land is cleansed; it is lunacy.

My brother has taken five of his best men into those woods this day. I have a cold dread in my gut that not all will return. One of the men is a highly respected Shaman. If he returns from this ill-conceived venture, I hope he will allow me to record some of his knowledge here. He may be able to provide useful insight into what those things are.

One-hundred and three Spaniards built the second village in 1612, but only fourteen survived to see Jamestown. My father warned them to no avail until they threatened his life. Nothing happened for three months, but then two children disappeared, and the search party was never seen again. A few came to us after that. Most believed the monster could be killed, but survivors eventually fled with attitudes properly adjusted.

In 1635, a British colony of ninety-one souls arrived. I accompanied my father on his visit, bearing gifts, seeking friendship to earn their trust. We hoped to be taken in earnest when we begged them to build elsewhere. We offered the help of our people to ease the burden of relocation, but they would not hear it. They called us superstitious savages and bid us a rude farewell.

They lasted almost a year before the final nineteen came to Jamestown. The men shared their horrors in great detail, and over the next few days, I will leave record of it here. Perhaps, together with my great grandfather’s accounts, these words will not be taken so lightly. I only hope my brother’s tale will not end the same. Some think I am foolish to waste my time with these endeavors, but I shall prove them wrong.


November 3rd, 1643

My brother’s group returned intact. I am grateful for their safety but fear a lucky venture has filled them with unfounded confidence. This morning, he departed with ten men. Their intentions are to stay until the demon is vanquished. I shall be restless with worry. First, I must tell of my conversation with the Shaman, Kawani. I stole him away upon their return and believe his knowledge vital. I began by showing him the passage of old man Herbert’s words from so long ago. He was able to expand upon the information more than I dared hope.

The statements regarding the spirits of the deceased are accurate enough, though there are exceptions. While one alone cannot cause physical harm, they grow stronger under certain circumstances – such as gathering in groups or feeding on a demon’s energy. Kawani is certain the entity of the Cursed Woods is a demon, for the spiritual activity surrounding the area suggests it is very old and powerful. He says he can destroy it if he is able to see its face and learn its name.

His confidence was unwavering. I asked if the demon were killed, would the ghosts be gone as well, but the answer was less encouraging. Perhaps some would finally be able to pass on, but each spirit would be a unique case. Plus, there will still be the matter of the thing in the lake. The demon is the most vile and deadly entity; therefore, it must be destroyed first. If it remains, more sinister creatures will be drawn by its power. Kawani was called away before we could speak further. I hope he survives long enough to learn more.

One day I hope to record details of the second settlement, but for now I will begin where memories are freshest. The third colony named the area Mallard Lake, though it is now known as Dirge Lake. Perhaps our warnings instilled some caution, for they lived six months without incident. The survivor I speak to most often, Peter Evans, says they rarely found need to enter the Cursed Woods. Instead, their trouble began in the lake.

On a cloudy, summer day, three boats of six people rowed to the center of the lake and began fishing as usual. They waited quietly, hooks in the water, until there was a loud thwack as something collided with the middle boat. Its passengers gripped their seats, rocking from the impact as water splashed over the sides. One man shouted, jumping to his feet, when something slimy touched his hand.

“It was only a fish, sit down before you put us all in the water.” Peter shouted.

At the same instant, the boat was struck again, and the man fell overboard. He came to the surface sputtering, yelling something about his leg, but the words were cut off as he was suddenly pulled under.

The man’s brother, who was in the lead boat, dove into the water. The others watched with bated breath as seconds ticked by. Finally, the second man broke the surface, gasping and pleading for help. Others reached to him as he desperately swam for safety. They pulled him up, and a pasty, gray-blue tentacle slapped the side of the boat, barely missing its target.

“Get to shore!” Several screamed in unison. Fishing gear was left to fall where it may as they scrambled to rowing position. The lead boat was hit hard before the first paddle touched water. The resulting waves spread across the lake as three more sickly, pale tentacles came out of the water to wrap around the boat. The monster pulled it apart easily as a child’s toy. Two men were pulled under as the rest were rescued.

The remaining fifteen made it safely ashore. Survivors from the lead boat claimed they saw more than tentacles. They say the monster had a large, round head, several beady eyes, teeth like a saw, and a long, thick body; it’s as if a snake with octopus tentacles had a spider’s head. To the men’s credit, they did not try to hunt it, they merely stopped using the lake.

Nothing more happened for several weeks. Just as life resumed a sense of normalcy, disaster struck in the night.

Blast, Sarah calls for me. I must end this here for tonight.


… Of course, this is a fine spot to take a break. We’ll stoke the fire, and I’m sure you remember where the bathroom is. Don’t forget to leave those curtains closed!

… Well, judging by how loud they are now, I take it you ignored them just fine! Great job, you’re a natural! I tell ya, I have always been an excellent judge of people, and you, my friend, are damn good people. Oh! I just remembered!

Trish, where are the supplies those hikers left behind last week? … Excellent, Ethan, why don’t you be polite and pour our guest a drink? Good lad!

I hope you like wine. We can’t partake ourselves, but it looks like a fine year. I believe the owner intended to propose judging by the fancy ring hidden in his socks. Baby, show our friend that beautiful rock on your finger. Yep, you have no idea how hard it is to get nice things out here.

So, how’s the drink?

… Wonderful! You’re welcome to keep the bottle; someone should enjoy it.

… Anyway, if you’re ready, we’ll continue our story. Things are about to get interesting, much more interesting than all these questions about hikers.


November 5, 1643

I did not have a chance to write yesterday for I went to Dirge Lake myself and only returned this afternoon. I could not withstand another moment wondering. I arrived before the sun reached its highest point, finding Tom and Little-Hawk at their temporary camp. I was relieved to see it set beyond the forest borders but could not rest easy so close to a demon’s lair.

Unwilling to go further, I waited for Snake’s return. His face was full of disappointment when they came for the noon meal. I noted only seven were present but did not have to wait for explanation. They lost Echo the night before, which explained the silence of Tom and Little-Hawk.

At dusk, they discovered a path believed to be the very one searched for by our great grandfather. Kawani believes the demon itself waits at the end, in the Heart of the forest. They entered the trail single file with Echo at the rear. After forty yards, a thick fog seeped through the forest and wound between each man, restricting their sight even further.

The Shaman stood at the lead with Snake and called a halt to the procession. Though I have yet to learn the exact methods of his technique, Kawani performed some kind of ritual involving the burning of certain herbs as offering to kinder spirits. The fog cleared, leaving only blood splatters where Echo once stood. He died without a sound. Knowing the path would not be there in the light of day, they left colorful markings before retreating to camp.

Both Tom and Little Hawk refused to enter the woods again. They returned to Jamestown with me earlier today. I do not think it will be long before the others realize they should have followed. The eight who remain plan to traverse the trail while tied together. I think it will only serve as a greater hindrance, but they will not listen to reason.

I was only able to speak with Kawani briefly, but he informed me he’s had disturbing dreams since entering the Cursed Woods. He believes the demon is seeking a vessel so it may travel beyond its territory. He is certain that land is more prison than home. I do not know if I find this information comforting or terrifying, for I see no way humanity could survive such a thing roaming about freely.

The Shaman is still unable to identify the creature in the lake. His inability to label it seems to trouble him deeply, but the demon remains priority. He believes once he has seen its face, he will be able to call upon his ancestors to learn its name.

I shall write about the third settlement before I retire for the evening. It seems I was about to tell of the night Peter Evans’ wife, Judith, perished. Life has a way of carrying on that makes us forget our past traumas. The incident at the lake was buried in the back of their mind, nearly forgotten as Peter lay in bed with his wife all those years ago.

Peter and Judith were almost asleep when a loud creak sounded in the hallway. Thinking it one of the children, Peter walked quietly to the door, opening it suddenly to catch the sneak red-handed, but no one was there. The hall stood empty, and no sounds of retreat betrayed a child’s escape.

Puzzled, he returned to bed. The moment his feet left the floor, two loud knocks banged against the door. Judith let out a short gasp of surprise. Peter ripped it open in anger, but once again, the hall stood empty. Furious, he donned his robe and marched downstairs. Each child slept, doors and windows were locked, and the home was once again silent. More confused than ever, he returned to the bedroom.

He saw Judith crouched in the corner, pointing at the closet and muttering of something inside. Peter approached it with caution, stomach churning with venomous butterflies. As he reached for the knob, the door rattled on its hinges, and his heart tried to flee his chest.

He only hesitated a moment; he ran from the room but was back in seconds. He turned the knob slowly, standing to the side with the mallet raised over his head. The door swung open, hinges creaking loudly, scaring Peter enough to swing the weapon. The weight carried him through the hanging clothes and into the closest floor. After a few moments of flailing in panic, he realized the closest was empty.

Judith rose to her feet, leaning on the wall for support as her shaky legs carried her to the closet. She paused by the window, gripping its ledge for support. “What’s happening, Peter? Are these the ghosts those primitive people warned us of?” Her voice quivered with fright. She turned, looking out the window, and screamed loud enough to wake their neighbors. She ran from the room, terrified.

Peter only saw a glimpse of the corpse in the window before she disappeared. He says it was a child, soaked as if fallen into a lake. Her long, black hair draped over her face, and the dark bruises of large hands were prominent on her neck. He only stood frozen an instant but was returned to reality when Judith’s screams were cut off with a sickening series of dull thuds.

Swallowing the hard lump forming in his throat, Peter forced his legs to carry him downstairs. Judith lay in the floor, neck broken. In her haste to flee, she tripped on the steps. The children were woken by her screams and discovered the sight moments behind their father.

I fear that is all I can withstand this night. Writing of such morbid things is giving me unpleasant dreams. It does not help I must live each moment wondering of my brother’s fate.


November 6, 1643

Two more of Snake’s expedition returned this afternoon. I am pleased to report my brother still lived at the time of their departure, but three more are dead. Now only Snake and Kawani remain to slay a demon older than recorded history. Bear-Trapper has reported all he can, but it is not much. To learn more, I must once again go myself. I have not yet found the courage to inform Sarah.

The seven men returned to the area with the mysterious path, but none of their markings remained. They could not distinguish where the trail once existed. Forced to wait for dusk when the path is revealed, Kawani prepared himself with incense and incantations. When they later embarked on the hidden trail, they used a length of rope to ensure none could be separated.

As I predicted, it only served to cost more men their lives. Had they not been lashed together; two additional men would not have been carried through the tree-tops by a ravenous demon. They were lucky the fourth man was able to cut the rope before more were lost.

Snake and Kawani wanted to press forward, but the other two refused. In the end, all returned to camp, though Snake would not come home. He insists he and the Shaman are still capable of killing the demon. The man has never been able to concede defeat. For our mother’s sake, I must try to save him. Regarding the third settlement, I will finish their tale this night, for I do not know if I will live past tomorrow.

There were some who believed Peter murdered Judith, for no similar deaths occurred immediately after, but nothing could be proven. Roughly two weeks later, Reverend Michael delivered an unusual Sunday sermon regarding the book of Revelations. The calm in his voice accented the horror of his words as he explained the end times were upon us. The congregation listened in stunned silence as the speech finally concluded; at which point he merrily announced the afternoon picnic behind the church.

Normally, everyone would attend, enjoying the chance to socialize, but not that week. Many felt disturbed by the Reverend’s words and simply wished to go home. Though it started on a sour note, it soon turned into a lovely afternoon. The clouds covered the sun, and a cool breeze blew as families ate and laughed.

After eating, when the tables stood empty and punch bowls were drained, children played while adults gossiped. The children were the first to get sick. The only two doctors fell sick shortly after. The Reverend poisoned himself as well as his congregation, leaving the survivors no way to seek justice for the fifty-six lives taken.

With less than thirty people remaining, chaos ensued as several men argued to be heard. Many did not wish to settle in a “village of heathens” as they called us, but others only wished to bury their dead before fleeing. By working together on the shared goal, the unpleasant digging was completed before nightfall. Those who wished to stay ignored any words of caution, believing the only monster to be lying dead in an unmarked grave.

Those who wished to come to Jamestown locked themselves indoors, waiting for sunrise. Most accounts of this final night are similar in detail. Peter’s is the only unique experience, for he lost his children at the picnic. Suicidal and drunk, he fell unconscious early in the night and did not rise until morning. He says he considered living a fate worse than anything they could have inflicted at that point.

Harold Jenkins was twelve when this night transpired. He lived alone with his father after the poisoning of his mother and sister. They barricaded the bedroom door and window, but as the hours passed, they grew tired and began to doze. Harold remembers dreams of walking corpses breaking into their house, killing his parents. He tried to protect his sister as they huddled together behind his bed.

Harold only had his father’s rifle and little ammo. His sister begged him to shoot her before the monsters could take her. Even though he is no longer a child, it is still unnerving to hear him speak of her urgency. He only describes it as a dream now, as an adult; at the time, he insisted the vision was real. He claimed to feel hot tears fall onto his arm as she pulled at the gun to prevent him from wasting more ammunition.

Finally, as the undead closed in and skeletal hands reached for his sister, he shot her in the chest. She was blown backwards, slamming into the floor. He tried to turn the gun on himself when a pair of hands wrapped around the barrel, pulling it away. Before he could react, a sharp, intense pain bloomed across his face. When his vision refocused, the horde of undead were gone. Only a rifle and Harold’s father, mortally wounded, remained. He died begging the boy to stay awake at any cost.

Others lost loved ones to the forest, such as the Kingston family. They were one of few remaining couples, and two of their four children still lived. The two older children attended the picnic with friends, but the others returned home due to a sick baby. After putting the children to sleep, Ethel and Bill stayed awake in the den.

Late into the night, Ethel was stirred from snoozing by the sound of light footsteps. Seeing Bill fast asleep, she granted him a swift kick on her way to check the children. She met the four-year-old in the hallway, just outside her door. When she questioned the child’s actions there was no answer. Lifting the child into her arms, Mrs. Kingston returned her to bed, making sure the baby still slept before leaving.

Entering the den, she saw Bill’s empty chair. Assuming he woke, she began to explain the happenings with their daughter. When the also empty room was in her full view, she called for her husband; again, there was no answer. She continued searching but was overcome with a dreadful certainty upon discovering the front door ajar. She saw his bare footprints leading away from the house. She prepared to follow but stopped at the sight of her daughter once again in the hallway.

Ethel spent the remainder of the night holding her daughter with one eye always on the baby. Bill Kingston was never seen again, but his wife and daughters survived the night.

When the sun rose on the next day, nineteen people emerged from their homes with sleepless, drooping eyes. Carrying little more than the clothes on their backs, they crossed the river to Jamestown. They were welcomed without question, free to speak in their own time. Eventually, they all talk, for keeping such darkness inside is poison to the soul. If nothing else, they speak to hear others confirm they are not crazy, to know they are not alone.

That concludes the story of the third settlement. I must sleep now, for tomorrow feels as if it will be a long, trying day.


… I agree, friend! I think ole Sammy is begging for trouble! That wine sure has loosened you up; if I didn’t know better, I’d think you was having fun.

… Aw, come on Trish, I’m just messing around. Maybe the alcohol is contagious. It makes sense, don’t it? We can feed— er, I mean, feel, yea that’s the word — their emotions, can’t we? So why can’t that include a good buzz?!

… Hold on a second, friend, it isn’t like that at all. Not feed like ‘taking in for sustenance’ more like ‘emphatically influences our emotions in a very literal way’, can you see the difference? Don’t get inside your head about it, we can’t help it any more than you can help converting oxygen to carbon dioxide, but we don’t go judging you. We aren’t like those guys who go around blaming their heinous actions on the victim’s fear and anger, nope, not this family.

… That’s okay, we know you didn’t mean nothing by it, it’s just a sensitive issue for us. Now, let’s forget about all the technical mumbo jumbo and get back to that Shaman fella. I think we have just enough time for one more journal entry.


November 9th, 1643

I write this to record what transpired in the Cursed Woods on the evening of November seventh through the early morning hours of November eighth. I have much work to do as the new Chief and will no longer have time for these personal indulgences. It is no matter; I have lost all passion for the written word anyhow. The only reason I bother with this conclusion at all is to detail the last knowledge imparted by Kawani.

I traveled alone, for others believed Snake already dead. I knew I would not be able to live with myself if I did not try to bring him home. I left in the early morning hours, but the closer I came to my destination, the more intensely I felt eyes upon me. I told myself it was imagination. I felt as if I were being watched because I expected to feel it. It is a common complaint through the journal.

I was surprised to find both men in camp, sharpening spears. Brother said he was expecting me, but I should dash any hope of swaying his decision. He was confident his warrior’s prowess combined with Kawani’s medicine would triumph now that the ‘distractions’ were gone. We have known those dead men since childhood, it boiled my blood to hear them labeled as distractions. Not that it matters now.

Snake excused himself for meditation before I could give him a piece of my mind. Finding myself alone with Kawani, I implored the Shaman to share all he learned. He was eager to do so, for his dreams had grown worse since we last spoke. He too tried every effort to convince my brother to abandon his quest, but the man will not hear it.

Kawani believed the demon’s possession of Striking-Snake to be unavoidable. In fact, it had likely already begun. His dreams showed the demon wearing my brother’s skin as it returned to Jamestown in his place. Our little village would not satisfy it, nothing would. The Shaman has seen its bottomless pit of hunger, and it would consume the world.

Most importantly, he wants us to know there are Shaman stronger than he in the great mountains far to the west. The dreams also showed him the demon’s true appearance. He believes another Shaman may be able to tell us its name. I did not have the heart to tell him there would be no others foolish enough to attempt such a quest, but I will record the description all the same.

The demon is almost seven feet tall, with a drastically humped back. Its skin has a sickly yellow tint with oozing pockmarks. The head is elongated, the eyes are bulbous and glowing, taking up half its nose-less face. Its mouth is the width of its head, appearing as if its jaw would fall off if not for the jagged sinew stretching between its lips, connecting the sides of its gaping, black, vortex-like mouth. Its elbows bend the wrong way, and it has the long feet of a hound.

Only love for my brother held me there after hearing this description. I still shudder at the image and look forward to immediately forgetting it upon closing this journal for the last time. We talked of what I must do if the worst were to happen. I would be Jamestown’s last hope should Kawani fail in his duties. What kind of world do we live in where a man is driven to hope a Shaman kills his brother, so he does not have to?

Snake did not return until just before dusk. I entered the Cursed Woods with them, agreeing to go as far as the demon’s path but not one step upon it. The air was thick with tension, and I felt suffocated by the silence. As often as I imagined the quiet described during the search for Ester Jones, never had I come close to understanding the totality of it. I know it sounds an odd phrase, but the silence was deafening. That is the only way to convey the sensation. It instills a deep unease, as if activating a primal alert system within us.

The feeling of being watched was no longer a mere sensation one could pass off as paranoia. It became indisputable fact the longer we walked beneath the canopy of trees. I could feel those giant, glowing eyes boring into me, prodding at my soul the way one does a pig before slaughter. The scrutiny reached a climax as we came into view of the demon’s path. My brother did not even pause to say goodbye. Kawani barely spared a glance back, maintaining his focus on Snake.

I watched them traverse the path until the fog concealed them from me. I waited; eyes locked on the trail for any sign of their return. I have no way of knowing how much time passed, only that there was no moon that night. When the sun fell behind the horizon I was left in total darkness. It occurred to me then that Kawani may not have factored in dangers from other entities while the demon was occupied with him. There were moments I thought I would die of sheer fright, but although slowly, time continued moving forward.

I heard faint footsteps before I saw the soft glow of the torch. After what felt like hours later, Striking Snake’s face became visible as he drew closer. My heart found new life as it resumed its maximum speed. This would be the moment of truth. Without speaking, I followed him out of the Cursed Woods. Only once returned to the relative safety of the campfire did I dare speak.

Being casual as possible I asked if Mary and I could have the pleasure of hosting a celebration in his honor. He heartily agreed, showing signs of his old, boisterous self for the first time since father died. He clapped me on the back, nearly knocking me over in his excitement, and we began packing for home. He said there was no point waiting for morning now that the dangers were gone.

Though he expressed deep regret at the loss of Kawani, he would not go into further details, only that he died a hero. Before we could extinguish the fire, I realized my wedding band was no longer on my finger. Anxious to be on our way, we searched for it on hands and knees. Situating myself behind Snake, I steeled myself as I cut my brother’s dead throat with the Shaman’s ceremonial dagger.

Thick, black ooze poured onto the ground. The demon barked a dark, sinister laugh as its blood soaked into the earth. When I stepped back, it turned to face me with my brother’s glassy eyes until the husk fell to the ground, empty. I stared at his corpse well into the daylight hours, still unable to move. Eventually, thoughts of Sarah and the children spurred me into action. I do not have the luxury of wallowing in pain or pity, I have others I must care for. I must make sure no one ever gives the demon a chance to escape again.


… Nope, sorry. That’s really all he wrote. Wasn’t that enough? Besides, it’s getting light out. It’s about time to hit the trail, trust me. If you spend too much time around here, you’ll start losing your marbles. I like ya far too much to see that happen. Tell ya what, next time you drop in, I’ll read ya my own journal, how’s that?

… Why sure I did! You don’t become a spirit without being alive at some point.

… Okay, you got me. Yes, Samuel was my father, I took up the pen in my thirties.

… Well, I can’t tell ya why without explaining a whole mess of other stuff first. If you want to hear this story proper-like, it’s gonna take a few visits. You can’t just cram centuries worth of history into a couple nights of storytelling.

… That’s right, you come back anytime. We aren’t going anywhere; I can promise you that much. Now, are you sure you’re sober enough to make it alone? It’s really no trouble, it would do the boy good to get out more.

… Alright, I won’t pester you about it, I’m no nag. You just be safe out there. Remember, sometimes they really are out to get ya.


Part 3

Horror Fiction

The First Settlement (Pt. 1)

Now a CreepyPasta. 

Beautifully narrated by The Dark Somnium: YouTube, Podcast, & Spotify

For full effect, please wear something comfortable, and imagine yourself lost in a dark forest. I think you’ll find a cabin just ahead.

Welcome, friend. Come on in, it’s storming out there. We’ve lost power, but it’s dry and warm inside. Grab a blanket and join us by the fire before you freeze, we got plenty of room. It’s not safe to be wandering around in the dark. Not out here where the closest town is five miles away. You won’t see any cell towers, I can promise you that. No WiFi out in these woods either. Folks in town like to call it a lake, but make no mistake, this here is all swampland. If you get lost, you’re likely to end up as gator bait… or worse.

Never you mind though, you’ll be safe here. Long as we have this fire, we can ride the storm out til morning. I’m Alex, and that pretty thing in the green sweater is my wife, Trish. Our nephew, Ethan, is the shy fella staring at his feet like he wasn’t raised with manners. Personally, I think he was dropped on his head before he had that wiry mop of curls to cushion his fall. Now, what did you say your name was?

Great, nice to meet ya. I won’t ask how you came to be out here all alone on a night like this. It’s none of my business, but I hope you won’t take offense to an old soul’s ramblings. I was just about to educate the young one on some local history when we heard your knock. I’m not embarrassed to say I nearly jumped out of my skin, but you’re not one of them. I could tell soon as I saw you.

Tell me, do you believe in ghosts? You know, spirits? Ah, that’s ok, what better time to learn? Nobody knows how it started. Before Columbus sailed across the ocean, the Indians already knew to stay away. Not even Braves ventured into these woods, afraid of Bad Medicine as they called it. The first white settlement – no, not Roanoke – the first settlement. Few people heard of it, no historians ever came, that’s for sure. Unlike Roanoke, there was no one to come looking for these folks. You know what? Let me start from the beginning, we have plenty of time.

The year was 1565, decades before Roanoke. Peasants weren’t allowed to hunt, all game was property of the Nobles. When times grew hard, desperate men – mostly outlaws and laborers – decided to take their chances on the ocean. They heard sailor’s tales of paradise where the land is open and fertile. A single, stolen ship carrying men, women, and children fled Europe in the dead of night, never to return.

The journey was treacherous, and many perished along the way. The dead were thrown overboard with little ceremony until food rations ran low. In the end, fifty-eight survivors made it to the New World. Desperate to be away from the smell of death, they went ashore as a group. The sandy beach was empty, and the surrounding woods were vast. Their leader was a large man named James Smith. He and First Mate Grant Cooke led their people into the forest. They cleared land and built a settlement near the lake; it really was a lake back then. The water was clean and clear; not green and smelly like it is now.

Nothing strange happened in the first year, almost like something waited until they were trapped. Letting them get nice and cozy while they scrapped the boat for parts; while they built their homes and planted their crops. They had no need for law or politics, but James held the final word on all decisions. Until the 13th month, those usually amounted to where to plant this or build that. Then a little girl, Ester Jones, vanished. Her disappearance was the first of many terrors to befall the community. I can tell you their whole story, you see, Pappy Grant kept a journal.


June 13, 1566

As we sat to supper, loud, desperate knocking sounded at the door. I instructed Martha and the children to continue eating as I rose to greet our late visitor. Knowing only ill tidings come at such a time, I relinquished my meal to the hounds. Indeed, I was met with the despairing sobs of Widow Jones. Her girl, Ester, failed to return from picking berries. The young ones never ventured far, but even so, they always stayed together.

I made quick work of speaking with the children as James gathered men. We ventured into the forest with one hour of light remaining to us. Unable to burden the women with our true findings, we blamed wolves as the culprits. I will record our true findings here in case – God help us all – a true account is useful to future generations.

The children confirmed their location in the west woods, past old man Herbert’s farm. They departed together, but Ester returned alone to retrieve a lost ribbon. The dogs delivered us directly to the berry patches at which time they turned circles, whimpering. Ignoring all calls to heel, they tucked tails and ran home. Our best hunting dogs, known to challenge bears, behaved as if whipped!

It was then we felt the weight of the silence. No birds sang, no insects stirred, and no winds blew. From the safety of my home it seems foolish to say, but it felt as if we were being watched. James summoned our best tracker, William Reed, to determine Ester’s trail.

In minutes he discovered the lost ribbon, but as he retraced the child’s steps he became visibly distraught. After confirming his findings with the Owens brothers, he reported the following:

“The children came down the path, scattering in front of the bushes. Ester is the oldest among them, making hers easily discernible from the others. You can see where she turns back, and this is where she kneels to search. Here are markings left by her hands and knees, but that is where her trail ends. It is as if she is standing before us, invisible.” William waved his arm through the space as if to prove she truly was not there.

Joshua Owens confirmed the analysis adding, “There are those capable of disguising a trail, but it is impossible to erase one. Maybe a giant bird came and scooped her up.” He said the last in jest, but looked up as he spoke. “What… is… that?”

Following his line of sight, I became aware of a white and red object caught in a tangle of limbs above us. William set to work climbing, and in minutes was directly below it. He crossed himself, nearly falling when he released his grip to do so. We watched, breath held, as Reed untangled the item.

Once brought for further inspection we could not deny it was cloth torn from the child’s dress. More disturbing than its location was the dark crimson stain which covered the white material. If she climbed, footprints would lead to the tree, and its bark would show signs.

Suddenly William ran to the next tree, studying its branches. Understanding his logic, we searched high in surrounding treetops until Horace Wright discovered the child’s location. As he spoke, he stumbled forward, losing his supper in a violent reaction to the grotesque sight awaiting us.

There, tangled in the branches were the remains of little Ester. Out of respect to the deceased’s mother, I shall not describe the horrible manner in which she surely perished. I suspected large cats, for they often hide their prey in this manner, but Reed was quick to rule it out. Again, easily visible tracks would remain. I developed a terrible coldness in my bones that still has not left me. I fear it never will.

We debated how to proceed as the last light faded. Anything short of bringing the child home for proper burial would be a disgrace, yet for her poor mother to see this fate… how little remained… she has already lost so much. I found myself imploring the men to spare Mrs. Jones this additional pain, suggesting we bury the child beneath the very tree in which she was found. I truly believed it kinder to carry home a tale of instant, painless death.

It took little convincing and was a relief to us all. Widow Jones is a kind, caring woman and our hearts ache for her loss. I am forever shamed to have failed her daughter in both life and death. With torches freshly lit, William climbed the tree easily as the first. Upon reaching the remains, a deep, guttural roar emanated from the darkness. It sounded like no beast I have heard before, causing every hair on my body to stand erect. James ordered William out of the tree at once.

Descending quickly, clutching Ester’s small, shredded shoe, Reed jumped the last four feet. Another roar followed, this time from above, closer and angrier. It was accompanied by the sound of branches cracking under the weight of something heavy. It required all my resilience to stand fast as we braced for the unknown terror to attack.

We held our torches high, but the light would not reach more than a foot away. Dancing flames should have illuminated the clearing, but the darkness was almost tangible. Even more strange was the temperature. The warm, summer night bit into us with a harsh, winter wind.

No man spoke, we merely huddled together, staring into the impenetrable darkness, waiting. How to describe the sound of that beast as it stole Ester from us a second time… alas, I cannot. I can only tell you of the shame we felt as we stood in place, for the monster went without haste, mocking our cowardice. It is my greatest shame, mortally wounding to my heart and pride.

When all fell silent once again, James commanded we return to the village at once. We eagerly agreed, ready to leave that horrid place. As we approached the path home, William surged to the front, insisting we were entering the wrong trail. I spoke harshly, anxious to be on our way, walking with my torch aloft to show no other path existed.

Reed led us to the place he believed our true path to be, but nothing was there. He walked between the two locations, listing the ways he could tell the difference. If he was correct, the path we walked daily was overgrown with weeds as if unused for years. It was a twisted root which several men recalled stumbling over that convinced us.

It was a slow journey as we struggled through the thickets, but we made it home safely thanks to Reed’s keen eyes and knowledge. I cannot stop wondering where the other trail would have taken us had he been less observant. Unfortunately, we were only able to return Ester’s shoe to Mrs. Jones. May she find comfort knowing the child is with her father in a better place.

Until tonight, our greatest fear was being discovered by outsiders. Should the Crown ever learn of our Paradise, he will surely want it for his own. We are prepared to defend ourselves to the last man should the occasion call for it. Alas, I believe we can rest easy in that regard. After what I have witnessed this night, I am certain whatever plagues us is no mortal man. We are resolved to explore the strange path in full tomorrow. I shall record my findings here upon our return.


What’s that, friend? Of course, the bathroom is down the hall, second door to the right. You go on ahead, we need to add a few logs to the fire anyhow. Oh, and if you hear a tapping at the window, just ignore it. Best not to pay them any attention, but whatever you do, don’t open the curtains.

…There, perfect timing! The fire is… oh my! Are you alright? I say, you are pale as all get out! Here, sit down, I think we’re in for a long night. I guess you peeked… I tried to warn you, but they say seeing is believing. There, there. I know it can be upsetting, but you really are safe in here. We don’t have a vehicle, but if you like, I can walk you to town come sunrise. Until then, maybe it’s best I continue the story.


June 15, 1566,

I write in the early morning hours, before the sun has yet risen. May God have mercy on my soul. By my hand James is dead. What have I done? It should have been me! I will never be half the man he was. Martha, if you or the children should one day read these words, I shudder to know what you will think of me, but I must keep going to ensure a record of what has happened here survives. Whatever evil is in these woods has made me murder my closest friend, I must do all I can to prevent others from the suffering similar fates.

At dawn we armed ourselves with every available weapon, intent to traverse the strange, new path. To our astonishment, the trail had vanished. The foliage was so dense, it would have taken several men most of the day to recreate what we saw the previous night. We explored where possible, venturing further than ever before, but found nothing. Wishing to be well away before nightfall, we returned home to find the women gathered and waiting for us.

They were terribly panicked, all speaking at once. After learning what transpired, I cannot say I blame them. We have taken the safety of our homes for granted, we have forgotten these are strange lands of which we know nothing.

As instructed, the women remained in the village, keeping the children close at hand. Martha invited Mrs. Jones to join her in our home, not wishing her to be alone at such a time. It required much persuasion. Mrs. Jones preferred to grieve in solitude, but in the end, agreed for Martha’s sake.

Shortly after morning chores were complete, Nathaniel, our youngest, cried out. Martha discovered him by the staircase, pointing at Mrs. Jones. The woman was attempting to unlatch the door but panicked and clumsily. Martha tried to intervene, blocking her way, but was roughly pushed aside.

Mrs. Jones began screaming, “She’s out there! They lied to us, look, see for yourself! My girl is alive, move! We must go get her! She cannot swim!”

Martha regained her feet and ran to the window, unsure what to expect. At the same moment she laid eyes on the ghost of Ester Jones floating above the lake, Mrs. Jones freed the last lock. My wife was left to watch helplessly as Mrs. Jones ran to her daughter.

Martha called after her in vain, continuing to give chase even after Mrs. Jones disappeared beneath the water, never to emerge. I shall thank God each day she did not enter those murky depths herself. I have no doubt she would be lost as well.

Several others report strange tappings at the windows and voices calling from the forest, but no sightings upon investigation. Thankfully no one else was lost, for we now fear each incident as deadly. It was then James recalled the Gypsy ancestry of old man Herbert. None of us know his true name, but his knowledge has been invaluable since fleeing our homeland. Whatever shame exists in his past is of no consequence here. Now, it seems, his knowledge may save us once again. We absorbed his every word, which in summation:

“If the legends are based in fact, I fear we may have something far worse than mere ghosts among us. You see, spirits are souls of the departed. They are what remain of those who perish but cannot pass to the other side. They can be a nuisance, but they cannot physically harm us. Malevolent ghosts may attempt trickery, such as what befell Mrs. Jones; but had she not run into the lake, she would still be among us now. As for the forest, I am certain we are dealing with something far more insidious than a spirit. It may even hold dominion over the ghouls, I do not know for certain. I do know whatever stalks those woods is something much worse… possibly a demon. Either way we do not possess the tools or skills to defeat it.”

The remaining light of day was spent fortifying our homes. We burned sage as the Gypsies do to combat evil spirits, but I have seen no evident results. Nothing else of note happened until nightfall, after we locked ourselves indoors. It was agreed no one would leave the safety of their home until morning, but that is the precaution which became our undoing.

Hours passed without incident until the shutters rattled violently as if someone were trying to gain entry. We first checked the children, finding them huddled together under the blankets. Without opening the curtains, I barred the window with the wardrobe. With the heavy oak furniture in place, the noises stopped at once, leaving a pause of silence before a devastating crash sounded from downstairs. I bade Martha to bar the door behind me as I ran toward the sound.

I descended the stairs with pistol drawn, foolish man that I am. Mr. Herbert warned our mortal weapons could do no harm to spirits and little if any to a demon of substance, but I was a weak coward. I thought only of protecting my family upstairs, disregarding all warnings of the spirit’s trickery.

My first sight upon reaching the bottom step was a ghastly image. A corpse reached through the glassless window, shutters torn asunder, attempting to unbar the door. He was pale white, but not transparent. His face and arm bore deep, wide gashes, the worst being across his throat. It caused his head to tilt at an odd angle as if it would fall off any moment. When the thing saw me, he abandoned his effort with the door in favor of clambering through the small opening. I did not think. I did not hesitate. I fired my one shot straight into his center.

I was surprised when the ghoul fell backwards, into the dirt. Fearing the injury as deception, I approached slowly, cautiously, wasting precious seconds as the best man I ever knew lay dying. The full weight of my folly crushed me as I rushed to his side, but he would hear no words of apology. With his dying breath, he tried to absolve me of my crime, blaming his death upon the devil’s trickery. Let his last words serve as further warning, so others may avoid repeating our deadly mistake.

“I never looked outside until I heard the crash. I saw a dead man. His head nearly severed, standing before your open window. When he attempted entry, I shouted a warning, but feared you would not hear. I should have known better. Should have listened to the old man. It fooled us, my friend. I followed, thinking it the demon of substance due its actions, but I fear that was its intent all along. I lost sight of it only a moment, yet when I peered inside, I saw you lying on the stairs, unconscious. The monster no longer in sight, I feared the worst for Martha and the children. I am sorry my friend. I’m afraid I have failed you. No! You will not let evil win by sewing doubt into your heart. Come sunrise, you must assume leadership. Tell them I died at the hands of malevolent forces beyond our control, nothing more. You must swear it.”

The fool was as stubborn in death as ever in life. I will honor his wishes as I must, but once our people are free of this curse, I shall insist another man be chosen to lead. I do not deserve the honor or respect, but I shall not break my word. Martha and the children were able to find sleep when nothing more occurred after my return. I feel as if I have seen too many horrors to ever enjoy sleep again. Sunrise is only an hour away, at which time the village will wake and I will be forced to feign shock and ignorance upon “discovering” our true leader’s corpse.


So, you see, friend, as long as you ignore them, you’re perfectly safe! I know it can be a lot to process, especially if you’ve spent your life believing this kind of stuff only happens in movies, but you’re handling it better than most. Why, I’ve seen people run right out the front door into death’s arms after hearing less! I knew I had a good feeling about you.

How many, you ask? Oh, don’t worry yourself with the minor details, I sure don’t. Who knows where my visitors come from or why? You shouldn’t be surprised if you find your own memories a little… fuzzy… while you’re here. I find it’s best not to force it, there’s still so much we don’t know about these strange woods. You just keep ignoring those sounds outside, nothing is really coming down the chimney, not with that fire roaring. They tend to get more desperate as dawn approaches, but they’re harmless long as you don’t pay them no mind.

Time can work a little differently here, especially on a stormy night like this, but I think we have enough time to finish our story. You can tell this is where Pappy Grant starts losing his marbles a little bit, but you really can’t blame the man.


June 17, 1566

It has been days since I last wrote of the events which plague us. When we fled our homeland, never did we dream it possible to find ourselves in worse positions than we started. I rue the day I set sight upon these cursed shores. This is our last night sleeping on these hellish grounds, and I will never step foot upon its soil thereafter.

I made the burial of our dead the highest priority, refusing to discuss matters of business until all were at rest. James was not the only casualty of that horrid night – three women, two men, and one child met similarly violent ends. All were blamed on the demon of the forest, but I fear I am not the only man who succumbed to ghoulish trickery. I am mortified to find myself grateful James’ wife and child died before our voyage, for I know my facade would crumble before them. Oh how the people begged me to take his place! It sickens me how they mistook my reluctance for modesty! I am no man, I am as much monster as the things that stalk our nights.

For only after nightfall do we suffer their torments. Had Martha not seen the ghost of Ester Jones with her own eyes, I would discount the incident as a grieving woman’s delusion. Aside from the feeling of being watched, which I freely admit is possibly paranoia, there have been no occurrences in the daytime. Perhaps the sage held some effectiveness after all, but that is merely guesswork.

I took no chances in learning this. No, the moment burials were complete, I set about moving all the women and children into the church-house under guard of a dozen men. I told them if anyone tried to leave they were to be held by force if necessary. I was determined not another soul would be lost. It comes as no surprise I should fail that endeavor as well!

Old Herbert says these otherworldly beings are most often confined to the land on which they reside. He believes we have invaded something’s territory. Whether we woke something which slept or it lured us here we do not know; but if we leave, it should not follow. Many legends make note of natural boundaries, such as rivers or mountains. I conceived a plan! I would not battle the devil, that is a fool’s game, and I was done playing the fool! Let it have this piece of land, we hope to never see it again!

I commissioned William Reed and Joshua Owens to travel into the south forest with provisions for three nights. Their mission was to find new land, beyond the forest, past the river we have never crossed. They would be well past the river before nightfall, a position many envied. They should return tomorrow to lead us to our new encampment. We have salvaged all we can and are prepared to travel in the morning. How terrible it will be to tell Joshua his brother has died.

I was so sure of my ability to protect them, so cautious! All slept in the church-house that night, crammed together over every square inch. We slept in shifts, always keeping eight men on guard. I slept soundly as eight of our best men, Martin Owens among them, vanished silently into the night. We followed their tracks far as we dared, but knew them lost to the forest. I cannot fathom what false visions could lead eight men placidly to their demise, but find myself preferring ignorance.

Another day passed without incident as we continued dismantling our homes. We built wagons to increase our supply capacity, knowing there will be no chance to return later, but we only have enough men to pull two. With Reed and Owens away, forty souls remained under my care. None openly blamed me for our losses, for none wished to wear the burden of leadership, but I could feel their disappointment as another day slowly faded to night.

We decreased the number on guard to four, having each man tied to a man who slept. The hope was, if a man on guard became entranced by deceit, he would rouse the sleeping man in his attempt to leave. I was to take watch before sunrise, believing it to be the most dangerous. Instead, we all woke to smoke and flame engulfing the church-house.

The doors were barred from the outside. Panic ensued as men tried to break through to no avail. The dry wood burned like kindling as smoke filled our lungs. Mothers threw children through the small windows, but few were able to follow. Thankfully, Betty Davenport kept her wits about her. As others lay gasping and crying, she ran to the wagons, retrieving two axes and a mallet. Enlisting the help of Susan Collins and her son, Timothy, they were able to open one of the doors. It was too late for many, Herbert is dead and his knowledge with him, but twenty-two of us survived thanks to their bravery.

James’ ability to put our people wholly first in his heart was a defining trait of his leadership, but I found myself unable to meet the same standard. Amidst the chaos, I was consumed by worry for only my family, useless to the others. How much shame can one man carry?

We discovered a single, small set of footprints leading to the forest though we are unable to determine their owner. Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition, but knowing which hand the devil used to do his deed is irrelevant. Had we not needed to bury our dead we would have fled across the river this day. As it is, we are a broken people, but we keep moving for sake of the surviving children.

Mine is the only intact family, and I can feel the unspoken resentment brewing in my grief-stricken fellows. I do not blame them, but I fear it is not by luck we are spared. I fear I have become a special project for the evil in this place. Nothing I do will stop it. We will lose more tonight. They understand we mean to leave, and they want to keep us. If Reed and Owens do not return, I will take those who remain beyond the river anyway.

We have decided not to sleep this night. We have filled every available container with water and barricaded ourselves indoors, spread among the remaining houses. Hopefully we will be less dangerous to one another. At the very least we should not be taken by surprise.


June 19, 1566

This will be my final entry, damn these records. I write only to report William and Joshua returned. We were not alone in this New World. All this time a primitive tribe of dark-colored men lived just beyond our borders. The ten of us who survived the night were met with fear and reverence as if we were some otherworldly beings descending upon them. Imagine! Perhaps it for the best they fear us, for they speak not a word of English. With great difficulty we attempt to understand each other by acting out charades. Whatever they think of us, they have fed us and provided shelter so I am grateful beyond words.

I have burned down every timber in that wretched village, but the flames died before reaching the demon’s forest. Martha and Elizabeth are dead. I was miserably accurate in my premonitions. Of course, the blame is solely and completely of mine alone for I fell asleep against all efforts. I woke to Martha strangling Nathaniel, Elizabeth already lost. She insisted the undead were risen, attacking the children. I tried to tear Nate from her grasp, but she had a grip of steel. I tried reason, but her eyes were rolled backward and I could see the life slipping from my son.

I killed her. I had to kill my wife. I revived Nathaniel just barely, though he will wear the marks on his neck for some weeks to come. Of course, that is nothing of the mental anguish he will suffer as a result of his father killing his mother as she tried to strangle him after murdering his sister. Perhaps his recovery would be best served by my absence.

I will destroy that evil place if it is the last thing I do upon this earth. I believe answers lie beyond that missing trail, so that is where I shall go.


August 30, 1574

My name is Sly-Fox but it used to be Nathaniel Cooke, and today my tribe recognizes me as a man. I have received my father’s journal, which he left in the care of Chief Hawk-Eyes. My father returned to the Cursed Woods daily despite our tribe’s insistent warnings, and it proved to be his end.

That forest is full of Bad Medicines. All know death awaits those who seek its power. Father was determined to see them destroyed, but the place drove him mad. He left every dawn and returned every dusk for two weeks before he disappeared forever.

Chief Hawk-Eyes adopted me as a son, and I am happy traveling with the Cherokee. Maybe I will write of my life one day as father did, but now is the time to count coup and earn my place among the hunters.


Yep, those last dozen settled with the Cherokee and life went on. Sly-Fox grew to be a respected man of their tribe and had a family of his own. Over the decades as more white men came, he grew worrisome in his old age. He tasked his sons to return him and their people to that first place they fled beyond the river.

As the country grew, many tried to settle this area by the lake, but none stayed. With each new sacrifice, the land was poisoned, turning the soil infertile and the lake putrid. When survivors fled to Jamestown, they were welcomed without question. As wars for territory savaged the countryside around them, they remained just out of its reach, always in the grips of their own, private war.

So that’s how our little town was founded! I can even point to where they built the first house if you like. Though, let me tell you, it was over a century before they allowed a bridge across the river. They worried something terrible might decide to use it, but nothing has so far. Anyway, I think the storm is finally over if you’re ready to hit the trail…

You know, I was starting to think you weren’t going to ask why we live here instead of in town. Most people start wondering pretty early in the night, before they get a chance to know us. Not everyone is kind as you are, they don’t understand not all spirits are bad. Why, if it weren’t for the likes of us, there wouldn’t be so many to make it to Jamestown in the first place. Now come on, let’s get you out of here before the next rains come. I can’t cross the river with you, but I can see you to the bridge. I’ll show you some… huh? Are you sure? It be no trouble t’all. Well, alright then, if you insist.

It’s been a pleasure, y’all come back now, ya here!


Part 2