Composed by Want2Believe
Panoramic view of the mountains of northern California.
The camera zooms in on a lone white pick-up truck slowly traversing and old dirt road underneath the autumn trees.
Underneath the speckled layer of dirt, a faded “Park Ranger” decal can be seen. It takes another 15 minutes for the ranger to come up to her destination, a small clearing at the end of the road. As the truck’s engine comes to a halt, an eerie silence engulfs the forest. She steps out of the truck, her hand on her gun, as her breath can be seen in the cool Monday morning air. She begins walking towards the single tent she expected to find. There is no one in sight as she approaches the entrance, still zipped, she sees a hole on the adjacent side. As she looks down into the empty tent, she takes a step back as she notices something on the ground. She pulls her radio up to her mouth and depresses the call button, but hesitates…
The previous Friday:
Bill and Megan walk out of their local Starbucks, Megan holding a pumpkin spice latte as Bill takes a drink of his nonfat, no foam, vanilla latte with skim milk. “I’m not a fan of this,” Bill says to Megan. Megan says with a disgusted look on her face, “Then why did you order it? You said the same thing last time you got one?” “Don’t start with me already or it’s going to be a long weekend.”
Bill and Megan have been dating for just over 5 years now but have recently hit a rough patch. Megan, a petite blonde with a bit of a cocky attitude, has been stressed during her final year of med school. The tall, rugged Bill, who is a few years older, was recently promoted at a local tech company. He was very deserving of this recent change in position, but the added stress has begun to wear on him as well. Neither could believe they were able to get a long weekend off.
As they both get settled in their Prius, Meghan asks, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Bill replies, “Well it’s certainly not going to hurt,” as he chuckles under his breath. Megan, again a bit annoyed, goes on, “Todd and Sean said it really helped their relationship. After Todd cheated on him with that football coach, I assumed they were over but they went away for a weekend and Sean claims they reconnected.” Bill looks over to Megan, knowing she was irritated with his last comment says sincerely, “Yeah dear, I really think it’ll be good for us to get away. No family to bother us. No cell service for work to bother us. This won’t be like the drunken camping trip with friends. Just you and me.”
A few hours into the drive they come up to a gas station with a small ranger station nearby. Bill pulls in and says to Megan, “I’m just going to fill up now so we don’t have to stop on the way home. Why don’t you head over and see if they have a map of local trails or what camp ground we should go to?” Megan retorts, “Didn’t you look that up already? (grumbles) I have to do everything. Hopefully they have something.” Bill bites his lip as forcefully thrusts the nozzle into the gas tank.
Wondering what is taking her so long, Bill walks over to the ranger station and finds Megan skimming through some pamphlets. Bill inquires, “Why didn’t you just ask her for help?” Megan quickly snaps back, “I don’t need her help.” “Well I’m going to ask,” Bill says as he walks over to the woman at the desk. “Hi there good lookin!” Bill says as the woman looks up from her computer screen. She is a taller Brunette with short hair, about the same age as Megan. Starring at her chest, Bill sees the “Park Ranger” embroidered on her shirt. “You’re a park ranger?” Bill says with a chuckle. “Yes sir, I am. How can I help you today?” she sternly replies.
Bill feeling a bit emasculated goes on, “We are just looking for some maps of the area. We’re hoping to find a pretty isolated spot.” The ranger replies, “Well you picked a pretty busy weekend…” as Megan glares angrily at Bill, “but if you are willing to travel a bit further there is one area that doesn’t see many recreational visitors.” “Perfect!” Bill quickly says towards Megan. “It’s called Bluff Creek,” as the ranger points it out on the map. Megan with a concerned look on her face asks, “Why don’t many people head to that spot?”
With a bit of hesitation, the park ranger replies, “A lot of local legends, rumors, whatever you want to call them.” Megan goes on, “About?” The woman again hesitating, “people claim to have seen things in those parts of the woods.” Megan and Bill both look at each other and laugh. “Seriously? (laughing) You don’t believe in that kind of stuff, do you?” “It’s not about what I believe, I’ve never seen anything myself. I’ve only been stationed on the west coast for a few months now. It’s about what you believe,” the ranger says. Megan and Bill again laugh to one another as Bill looks down at the nameplate and says, “Well Rachel, thank you very much for your help. If we don’t stop back in Sunday afternoon, you better come looking for us.” Bill takes Megan by the hand as they leave the ranger station laughing. Bill jokes, “Can you believe these country people, they’ll believe anything.”
They make their way up to the campsite a few hours later and get settled. While Bill sets up the tent, Megan sets up all their cookware. “This is pretty isolated, isn’t it?” Megan says to Bill. “Sure is, we need to enjoy it,” Bill says as they retire to bed so they can get an early start in the morning. Still laughing about their earlier encounter with the park ranger, they go to bed happy for the first time in a long time.
The next morning Megan wakes up and sees the tent is open. Her heart starts racing wondering where Bill is. She quickly jumps out of the tent to see Bill walking towards here. “Don’t do that to me!” she exclaims. “Do what?” Bill asks. “Disappear like that!” Megan says as Bill and her get back into the tent. Bill replies, “I was just going to the bathroom, relax dear.” As they are getting ready for their hike, Megan hears something off in the distance, “Did you hear that?” “Hear what?” Bill replies. Megan goes on, “I’m not sure, it sounded like…” They both hear it this time. Bill says, “Hmmm just sounds like some hikers are swinging a stick at a tree, probably bored waiting on their girlfriends.” They both shrug it off and set out on their hike with one another.
A few hours have gone by as they walk along the adjacent creek when Megan asks, “Do you smell that? It’s getting stronger? You showered before we left, right?” she says with a giggle. “Yes dear,” Bill says with a smile. The smell continues to become more pungent, almost following them through the forest. Eventually they come up to a small prairie. In the opening, Bill spots something lying in the grass. Just lying, not moving. As they come closer, Bill proclaims, “Well I think we found the smell,” as they come up on a deer carcass. “Why would it have smelled for so long, we probably hiked another half mile?” Megan asks. “How do I know, but what else could it have been?” Bill asks. “Oh my god, look at its neck? It’s broken,” Megan says frantically. “How would you know?” Bill says. “Ummm, I’m a medical doctor, Bill. Literally, this is what I do.” “The coyotes probably got it,” Bill suggests. “Oh really, Bill? A coyote? A coyote broke this deer’s kneck?” Knowing defeat, Bill says “Oh… well at least it didn’t suffer.” Megan, not amused with his joke starts to walk away. “Really? You’re mad at me for that?” Bill asks with annoyance in his voice as he jogs over to catch up.
They continue their hike as the trails narrow. With a concerned voice, Bill says, “Be careful, dear.” Megan, still a bit annoyed replies, “Worry about your…” Suddenly, Megan rolls her ankle and slides down a small hill next to the trail. Bill takes off after her and checks to make sure she is ok. “Are you ok? Are you ok?” Bill asks as he brushes of her clothes. “Yeah, I’m fine. Wow, I haven’t seen you move that quick in years.” “Well I was worried, “ Bill proclaims. Megan surprised by his concern, turns away with a smirk, “Ya know, we’ve never done it in the woods before.” Bill surprised by this comments can hardly come up with words, “Seriously?” Megan gives him an inviting look…
A few minutes later, Megan suddenly pulls away, “What was that?” “Oh not this again,” Bill says in a frustrated manner. “Seriously Bill, stop! Something just rolled by me.” “It was probably an acorn, come on,” Bill continues. Megan abruptly stands up, “This was not an acorn, Bill. An acorn doesn’t make a thud sound.” Out of nowhere they both hear another thud as a large rock lands near them and rolls by. They both look at each other as Megan says, “We can finish back at the tent.” Bill presses, “Megan come on, it probably just rolled down the same hill you did.” “No means no Bill, if you stop I’ll do that thing you’ve been asking me to do back at camp.” They head back to camp as Bill as a hop in his step.
It’s starting to get dark as there is a crisp in the air when they enter the small clearing of their camp. The entire site is in shambles. All of the cookware is thrown along the ground, their sleeping bags are along a fallen tree, the tent is on its side. They both look at each other in horror. They start picking up all of their gear when Megan freezes. “What’s wrong?” Bill asks. “Look!” Megan says as she points to the ground. Bill walks over to find a single large footprint in the mud where a jug of water had been spilt. This was no ordinary footprint.
Bill goes on to say, “The park ranger must be messing with us, all part of the “legends. That footprint is a foot and a half long. There is no way.” Megan pleads, “Bill, we have to leave. Right now. Let’s go.” Bill while laughing to himself says, “Megan, stop. We can’t leave now, it’s like an hour drive on this back road, it’s already dark. We’ll just leave first thing in the morning. “Promise?” Megan asks. “Yes dear, it’s all a prank. Let’s just finish cleaning up and enjoy our last night,” Bill says trying to comfort her. They finish picking up their gear and retire to the tent as it begins to gently rain.
“So remember what you said earlier if we came back to the tent?” Bill cautiously inquires. “Are you freakin serious right now, Bill?” Megan asks in disbelief. Bill continues, “Oh come o…” as a blood curdling howl is heard. While starting to cry, Megan asks, “Bill what was that?” Bill, for the first time truly stunned, “Uh, I’m not sure. I’ve never heard anything like that.” Another howl can be heard in the distance, this one almost more of a hoot. A piece of wood can be heard cracking.
Bill starts to get up as Megan asks, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to go check it out,” Bill responds sternly. “And do what?” Megan presses. “Protect you,” Bill says with a matter-of-fact tone. Megan, who is surprisingly turned on by this, gives in and let’s Bill take a look outside. He zips of the tent on his way out so the cold air doesn’t get in. “Do you see anything?” Megan asks. “No not a thing,” Bill replies as Megan sees the flashlight pointing in various different directions. She begins to breath more calmly.
Suddenly she hears a crack followed by a thud as the flashlight seems to fall to the ground, now irradiating the tent through a thin layer of fog. “Bill?” she calls out? “Bill? Bill, are you ok?” she asks. With no response she is now immersed in fear as the shadow of a figure can be seen from the light of the dropped flashlight. “Bill is that you?” she calls. The figure grows larger and larger as it appears to be moving towards the tent. Megan buries her head in the small camp pillow hoping Bill is just trying to scare her. She opens her eyes to see nothing but the silhouette of a single, large hand on the side of the tent.
Rachel takes her finger off of the call button on her radio and takes a deep breath as she looks at the myriad of large footprints scattered around the tent. She notices the flicker of a flashlight off to the side. She walks over and finds him. The man she spoke with the other day at the ranger station. His lifeless body lying on the ground, his neck clearly broken. “Where is the girl?” she asks herself, shocked at what she is seeing. She brings her hand up to her mouth and radios in, “Base, do you copy? Over.” The radio breaks the silence with a crackling, “Go ahead, over.” “Rachel here, we have another one, I didn’t want2believe(TM).”