Night In A Tree Stand

December 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM

The estimated reading time for this post is 25 minutes, 47 seconds

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I am not a person who is scared easily. I don’t let fear control me. I have had bullets wiz by my head. I have had rocket-propelled grenades explode less than ten yards from me. I know what it is like to jump from an airplane under gunfire. I know what it’s like to live as if this was my last day on earth, yet I was never afraid.

I can only remember one time in my life where I could not control fear. One time where I truly felt uncontrollable fear. The fear that makes you cry and tremble. The fear that makes you lose control. No one but my best friend ever believed what I had experienced was true. My family didn’t believe me. My now wife didn’t believe me. I don’t know if you would even believe me. I don’t care. I’m past the point of not telling my story for fear that I won’t be believed.

Please understand that I grew up in the middle of nowhere. The closest people to me where my grand parents who lived just down the road from us and my best friend John’s family who lived right next door. There were several other homes in the area within walking distance, but far enough apart that you really couldn’t call them next-door neighbors. I learned to hunt, fish, shoot, and survived in the woods at an early age. My father had grown up in the country, moved to attend college, and met my mother. My mother was the opposite of my father. She grew up in the city. She taught me art, science, and how to cook. I had the best of both worlds growing up.

I played multiple sports in high school but decided to join the Army Reserve after I graduated. I graduated with honors from basic training and AIT and enrolled in a local college afterwards with plans to study computer engineering. At college I entered ROTC. I graduated from college and completed BOLC (basic officer leaders’ course) for the army. I returned home only to be deployed to Iraq where I served for a year.

As a second lieutenant in Iraq, I was in charge of a platoon of soldiers. We were good at what we did and command took notice, putting us on missions and patrols that were most likely to see action. I loved it but after a year the adrenaline had worn off and the being shot at and seeing things explode feet from you began to fatigue my men and me. In the end, because we were good at what we did, we all went home, bruised, battered, and tired but alive to our loved ones.

I had managed to keep up on my computer engineering skills while in Iraq and had landed a job with a company two hours from where I grew up. I came home in August and the job wasn’t going to start till mid January of the following year so I had some time to relax and unwind. I was still living with my parents until the job started and fall meant one thing. Hunting season. Specifically bow season, which was something I missed the last two years because of my training and deployment.

I eagerly unpacked my hunting clothes and gear from the attic where my mother had stored them and woke up early one September morning to head into the woods to scout for a hunting spot for that upcoming season. As I walked out the front door with my backpack full of gear on, I noticed John and his father standing in their backyard around the pen in which they kept chickens. John was bigger than me. He wasn’t college educated, but he was good with his hands and worked in construction. He was living with his parents while he was building his own house in his free time on some land he bought a few miles away.

“Morning,” I said as I lumbered with my gear to where they were standing.
“What’s up, brother,” John replied with a half smile?

“Just heading out to do some scouting for bow season.”

I could see the pen door was open and they were both looking at it inquisitively. John’s dad was slowing moving it back and forth and playing with the latch as if to test the door itself.

“I don’t know,” John’s dad said puzzled. “The latch is too high for a raccoon unless they climbed the wire fence and opened it.”

“I’ve seen them do some crafty things and they are smart,” replied John to his dad before turning to me. “It’s the second time in two weeks someone or something has gotten into the coupe. Took a chicken last week and two last night. It might the damn town kids who ride their ATVs on the paths back in the woods all the time or it might be raccoons. Either way we’re going to have to lock the pen with a pad lock
now.”

“Town kids must be getting bored if they’re stealing chickens,” I stated with a sarcastic smirk.

The local kids from the nearest town always played pranks or committed some minor act of vandalism or theft. Usually the result was broken mailboxes or some type of penis shaped graffiti on a house or garage door. Nothing was so serious that it couldn’t be fixed or cleaned up.

Before I left to head into the woods John had told me to scout out crow hill. He mentioned there had been a lot of deer activity up in that area and that he would have put his tree stand there except he got an offer from his girlfriend’s dad to hunt their family farm. Crow hill was a densely wooded hill about three quarters of a mile from our houses. One half of the hill was covered in a thick pine forest where murders of crows would occasionally hang out in noisy groups. The pines abruptly came to an end and opened up into a hardwood forest with fairly thick underbrush on the other half of the hill.

The leaves had just started to fall and the smell of the woods and crisp air excited me. The dust and sand of Iraq paled in comparison to the crunch of leaves under my boots and cool air of my home. I had already seen several deer and deer signs by the time I reached the top of crow hill. As I came over the crest of the hill a loud snort like a blast of air rang out. My senses heightened as I quickly scanned the area. Over the top of the underbrush I saw it. There it goes! There it goes! I thought to myself excitedly as I watched two pair of very large deer antlers glide over the top of the underbrush and disappear into the pine forest.

I walked to the border of the pine forest where the deer had run. It was a meeting of two worlds. The hard wood forest had leaves but the sun shine was bright and lit up the forest floor while the pine forest’s trees blocked out almost all light leaving the forest floor dark and mysterious. It was a little creepy to me but I didn’t care. There were deer tracks, antler rubs, droppings, and deer beds on the ground all around me. This was the spot.

I turned in circles as I scanned for the perfect tree to attach my ladder stand to. Something to my left caught my eye as I spun. 10 yards away was a section of ground that looked like it had been purposely cleared of leaves in a circular fashion. Something was lying in the middle of the circle. With curiosity peaked, I walked over. What the hell? I was thinking out loud as my eyes tried to recognize what I was looking at. It was a house cat’s body. But it had been dismembered. The limbs were strewn around in no organized fashion and it was missing its head. Only skin and bones were left. The cat had been there a while by the looks of it, but what confused me more than the position and condition of the cat were the odd markings around the body. Lines and circles surrounded the cat in an odd fashion. Damn kids, I thought to myself. The town kids had probably come across a cat that was probably killed by a coyote or bobcat and decided to make its corpse look spooky by drawing weird incoherent symbols in the dirt around its body. The empty beer bottle just outside the circle confirmed my theory. As much as the sight bothered me the thought of deer hunting pushed any concern for the dead cat out of my mind. I brushed off the find and began looking for a tree again.

I picked a large tree that was centered perfectly between the pine forest and the hill’s edge I had just walked up. There was a bit of a clearing that ran from the tree to the hill’s edge. I pulled my large bowie knife out of my backpack and began to clean out the clearing and around the base of the tree. I cut away as many small shrubs and branches as I could to make a clear path for me to walk. As I was almost finished the flapping of the wings and the familiar squawking of a murder of crows flying overhead into the pine forest could be heard. Something had kicked them up. The hum and hiss of an ATV engine soon followed. It grew louder and passed. That’s probably what scared them. I’m probably close to one of the paths that run behind the house. I made my way through the underbrush in the direction of where I heard the ATV. Only 20 yards from the tree I chose, I ran into a dirt ATV path. I cleared out a walkway from the tree to the path, marked it and my chosen tree with a ribbon, and followed the path back until I began to recognize the woods behind my house. It was the perfect set up. There was an easy path to follow and I wouldn’t have to worry about scaring any deer on my way to and from the tree stand.

The next day John and I took his four-wheeler up to the tree I had marked off and we setup my ladder stand. I had since forgotten about the cat I had found the previous day. The seat and platform were about 25 feet off the ground, which was the perfect height. I could see everything from the ATV path behind me to the edge of the hill in front of me. I felt good about this spot and I was ready to start hunting the beginning of bow season in the coming weeks.

When bow season finally arrived a few weeks after I had everything set up and I spent my days and evenings in the woods. I saw plenty of deer and even a few bucks that I considered shooters. I was holding out for those two bucks I had seen when I crossed over the hill that first day when scouting though. One of those two monsters is what I was after. I always took my cell phone with me. It was kept on silent incase of an emergency. Strangely enough, because we lived near radio towers, I got good reception from my tree stand and would take pictures of the beautiful scenery around me or send texts to John mocking him about the size of the deer I was going to shoot compared to anything he was going to get on his girlfriend’s farm. Angry Birds also help to pass the time when all the animals in the forest wanted to be still.

The day, or night rather, that I felt real fear for the first time ever was on October 23rd. It was a cool day and overcast. It was perfect for hunting. I had some errands to run in the morning and had promised to help my father with some housework in the afternoon, which left only the evening for hunting. I was fine with that. It meant I got to hunt the twilight hour, or as hunters know it, the magic hour. It’s that last hour before sunset where everything seems to get brighter before it becomes pitch black and all the animals are on the move.

I was on my way back from running my errands when I pulled into the driveway and saw my father talking to one of our neighbors from down the road Mr. Dawson.

“How are you, Mr. Dawson?” I asked as I stepped out of my car.

“Oh just fine. You’re looking good and healthy and I’m glad to see you home from that hell hole across the pond,” he said with a smile. His black lab was with him obviously out for an evening walk.

“Jake was talking about someone taking his rabbits out of their pen,” my dad started “and I mentioned that John’s family recently had some chickens taken.”

Dawson chimed in immediately. “I know it was them damn town kids because my lab went nuts last night barking up a storm. I threw on the floodlight and the rabbit pen was wide open. I opened my back door and could hear those shits running up through the woods.”

“What the hell is wrong with kids in the town these days,” I stated with disapproval.
“I guess you’ll have to pad lock you pens and cages like John and his dad did.”

“Well that’s the thing,” Mr. Dawson started, “The rabbit pen is chained and locked. Whoever did this broke it clean off probably with a bolt cutter. Now I have to run into the hardware store and get a new chain and lock.”
That evening with my backpack strapped to my back and my bow and arrows in hand I headed out into the cool crisp woods. As I was stepping into the woods I could hear John’s familiar voice call out to me.

“Hey,” he shouted in a proud tone from his back porch. “Got my deer this morning! When you get back from dicking around in the woods you want to come over and have a beer?”

“Yea, I’ll be over. Right after I bag that monster that’s up by my tree stand,” I taunted back!

It was a good 25-30 min walk to my tree stand. I was tired when I got to the stand but my adrenaline kept me going. Like a ninja I made my way through the brush to the tree, ascended the ladder and pulled my backpack and bow up after me with a rope without making a sound. With my butt planted in the seat of my stand and my bow on its hook, I felt completely at peace. Beautiful nature surrounded me even on this overcast day. It was unimaginably better than the war torn streets of Iraq. I pulled my phone from my backpack to check the time. 5:03pm. Perfect timing. The magic hour was going to start early because of the overcast day and excitement was flowing through my veins.

Everything was perfect. The wind was in my face so deer coming over the hill or out of the pine forest wouldn’t be able to smell me. Smaller animals were scampering across the ground headed to their burrows or nests for the night and the faint hooting of an owl that had just awoken could be heard in the distance.

5:55pm. I put my phone away and let my eyes adjust to the dimming light. My adrenaline had kicked in harder as the thought of one of those two large bucks coming into shooting range raced through my mind like wild fire. I knew I would be walking home in the dark so I brought a flashlight to guide my way. I double-checked to make sure I had packed it when I heard the crunching of leaves.

My eyes opened wide and my ears perked up as I tried to quickly find the direction of the sound source. It wasn’t a small animal. It was the distinct rhythmic sound of something heavier walking among the leaves.

There! There it is! The noise is coming from over the hill’s edge. I slowly pulled a pair of small binoculars from my backpack to see if I could get a better glimpse of what was coming over the hill. I can see it! It’s a deer. My mind was racing. I couldn’t tell if it was a buck or a doe but I could definitely see the grayish brown coloring of the fur of the distorted figure through the brush’s branches. 10 more yards and I would have a clear view and a long shot at whatever it was. I strung the binoculars around my neck and got ready to stand up.

It stopped. As if it didn’t want to come into the clearing at the edge of the hill. The light was dimming fast and I as afraid I would not get a shot at a trophy buck if that is what it was. The deer moved left into the brush. My heart sank to my feet. I began to relax and accept the fact that it wasn’t going to come close enough for me to get a shot until I realized it was moving closer but through he brush on the left side of the clearing. I stood up and put my left hand on my bow. I only had about 20 minutes of light left and I wanted to make sure I made a clean shot. I could hear the deer 30 yards in front of me in the brush on the left side of the clearing. It was definitely in range of a clean shot. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was going to step out in the clearing.

My heart was pounding. I could feel my body begin to sweat in excited anticipation. The excitement racing through my body stopped my senses from realizing the forest had fallen silent. I began to remove my bow from the hook when the deer began to move out into the clearing.

What the fuck is that? From behind the bush appeared an arm. Long, black, leathery, and with less than five fingers. It stretched out and planted its palm on the ground. A shock went up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. My body began to shake. My left hand fell to my side and my legs gave out underneath the weight of my body causing me to silently thump back into my seat. I grab my binoculars and slowly lifted them back up to my face. I didn’t want to make any jerk movements. I didn’t want whatever it was to know where I was. Was this a person?

I watched through my binoculars as the rest of the body of this thing emerged from behind the bushes. Its skin was leathery and its legs were very long. It looked human like but it wasn’t human. It moved in a crouching fashion. I could see something in its left hand. It was holding something brown. The light was fading and I struggled to make my eyes adjust. It was a rabbit. Not a wild rabbit. One like Mr. Dawson kept and raised. I could feel fear gripping me no matter how hard I fought it. I trained to fight and to hunt. I didn’t know what this thing was or how I would be able to confront it. I sure as hell couldn’t leave my tree stand now. That’s when I smelled it. I had smelled it once before in Iraq. Burning flesh. The smell nauseated me. The air reeked with this creature’s presence.

My binoculars were fixated to my face. What is it doing? The creature meticulously cleared out the leaves around its feet in a circle. I watched in horror as it raised the rabbit above its head. Its eyes… Its eyes were yellow with no clear center or pupil. Its mouth contorted into a half smile bearing a mouth full of deformed teeth. Its lower jaw unhinged and sank loosely below as it placed the rabbit’s head in its mouth. Faster than a mousetrap, its bottom jaw shut and it jerked its head violently backwards ripping the rabbit’s head from its body. The snapping of bone sent a shiver up my spine. It grabbed the rabbit’s back legs and held the lifeless body upside down. I watched in horror as blood flowed from the animal’s corpse and splashed on the cleared ground. It shook the body up and down as if trying to empty it of every last bit of blood. Like a smoker with bad lungs it seemed to giggle in a wheezing airy fashion.

My eyes welled with water. I couldn’t fight it anymore. I was gripped with fear. I was crying. The military officer who had been shot at, almost blown up, jumped out of airplanes was crying. It was almost dark and I could just make out what this thing was doing. I slowly put the binoculars down and concentrated on not breathing hard or crying out loud in fear.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

I looked back at the creature. Each snap threw another shock of fear up my spine. It was dismembering the rabbit.

SNAP.

The cracking of the bones made my body shiver. I watched as it purposefully placed each of the rabbit’s body parts within the circle and drew random forms in the dirt around the dead body with its long boney fingers. It lifted its hand and extended one of its fingers. I bit my lip almost to the point of bleeding to keep from making any sound as it scooped the entrails from the rabbit’s chest cavity and placed them in its mouth.

As the last bit of light left the sky I realized I would be stuck in the tree stand unless this thing left. I should text John to come get me. No… What if it sees the glow from my phone’s screen? What if he gets here and it kills him? My mind was racing faster than ever. I didn’t once notice the wind change. To my horror, in the last bit of light the creature suddenly stopped what it was doing and became still. Tears were rolling down my cheek. My hair was on end. My hands were shaking and I could feel my body sweat. I didn’t want to move.

Suddenly, like a dog it raised its head and began jerking it up and down. Shit! The wind has changed. It can smell me. It sniffed the air in three different directions with mighty snorts. All of a sudden it dropped low to the ground as if it were about to pounce. The wind was at my back. It knew I was there. Maybe not my exact location, but this thing knew I was there. The light completely faded as I watch it sneak back into the brush on the left side of the clearing.

My heart pounded hard enough to cause a sharp pain in my chest. I wanted to cry aloud. I wanted to get my phone and call my friend, my parents, anyone who might be able to save me. There was no noise. The air was like a vacuum around me. I sat shaking in my stand.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

Shit. It’s coming toward me from the left. My ladder is on the left. God, what if it finds the ladder? I need to cut it down.

The crunching was getting louder. The creature was close enough I could hear its incoherent rambling. It sounded like an old man struggling to breath, fighting for his last breath. I reached into my backpack as fast and as quiet as I could and pulled out my knife. I stood up and turned to face the tree. It was dark. I couldn’t see anything. I felt the bark of the tree above me desperately trying to find the cord that was holding the ladder to the tree.

*Ting*

It’s on the ladder. It’s coming up the fucking ladder. Where is the cord? God, please!! Here!

I pulled hard. The knife cut through the chord with a snap of breaking bones. I pushed the ladder away from the tree. I could feel its weight on the ladder. With a boom that echoed throughout the forest the ladder crashed to the ground with the weight of the creature.

It let out a scream that pierced my ears and echoed everywhere. I covered my ears to shield myself from the horrific sound. I had never heard anything so horrible. The squeal of a hundred pigs mixed with a low roar pierced the night sky. I couldn’t see it. I knew I pissed it off. I heard it scramble to its feet.

I grabbed the tree to keep my balance. It’s shaking the tree. It’s trying to climb the tree. I could hear its fingers grasp the bark sinking its nails into the tree’s flesh. There was only 20ft between this thing and me. I grabbed my bow, pulled back, aimed straight down, and released on of my arrows directly below my stand. The arrow smacked the ground and the creature let out a scream louder than the previous. Pig’s screams… Thousands of pigs screaming pierced the air.

At this point I couldn’t hold back my fear. My breathing was audible and I was pouting like a small child. My pounding heart was about to break my sternum. My eyes were full of tears. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t see through the darkness anyway.

I somehow fumbled another arrow from my quiver on to my bow. God, save me please! “FUCK OFF,” I shouted and released the arrow in the same exact spot as the previous. Again the arrow smacked into the ground followed by a bellowing squeal. The tree stopped shaking. I could hear it on the ground. Its fingers digging into the leaves and dirt as it tore up the ground beneath it. The tearing came from beneath me. I struggled to put another arrow on my bowstring. The noise began to surround me as I fumbled along. It was to my right. Now to my left. Now below me. Now behind me. The tearing was everywhere. No… are there more of these things?! I’m going to die. Did it call others?

I pulled back my bow with my third arrow. The noise was everywhere. It sounded to my left. I guessed and shot in the dark. The ear shattering noise and screams continued. I had one arrow left. I struggled to prep my last arrow. The noise surrounded me as if thousands of these things had encircled me. The squealing had intensified to the point where my ears were ringing. I drew back my bow and fired the last of my arrows directly beneath my stand.

The squealing roar became unbearable as if I had hit it. I was out of arrows. I dropped my bow and slumped back in my seat. The noise was so intense I didn’t even hear the bow hit the ground. I picked up my knife and held it tight to my chest. I could feel my body crashing from the immense adrenaline rush.

Silence. I didn’t notice the silence. My ears stopped ringing. Was it gone? The woods were still. All I could hear was the beating of my heart as it slowly came down from its frantic pace. The woods were silent and motionless. Whatever it was disappeared or was standing perfectly still. I could feel the last of my tears roll down my cheek. I couldn’t smell it anymore. I couldn’t smell anything. My nose was stuffed from my crying. I was still shaking and my body was exhausted. I should text or call someone to get me. No… If I pull out my phone the screen light will give me away if that thing is still here.

I had no idea what time it was. Absolute darkness engulfed me. The only thing that kept me from falling asleep from exhaustion was the thought of that thing being out there somewhere, watching me in the dark. Minutes passed. Hours passed. I was so tired but I dare not fall asleep. A crunch of leaves every now and then caused me to grip my knife tightly. The woods remained silent otherwise. No creatures moving about. No owls hooting. No bats screeching among the treetops.

Light… The first light peering over the horizon broke an eternity of darkness. I was able to start making out shapes and images. I looked down and saw my bow lying on the ground next to the ladder. The hair on my neck stood up again. My heart began to pound. My breathing became quick. All around the bottom of the tree I was in were symbols drawn in the dirt. The leaves were cleared for 10 feet in a circle around the tree. All these weird symbols were drawn in the dirt where the leaves once laid.

It was now or never. I grabbed my phone and texted John. He was the only one close enough that had a four-wheeler. It was day and I didn’t see the creature, but there was no way I was going to stay in the woods another second and I wasn’t going to get down incase it was lying in wait under the brush.

Me – John… I’m still at my tree stand. I need help.

I waited. It was 7am. Please God let him be up.

John – Dude it’s 7am. What the fuck you still doing in your tree stand?

He’s up! Tears of joy began to well in my eyes as I fumbled quickly to reply.

Me- Come get me. Please hurry!!

John- Ok. Ok. I’m OMW.

I put my phone down. I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept all night. The familiar rumble of John’s ATV began to fill the air a few minutes later. What adrenaline I had left coursed through my veins. When John was close enough I could see him coming from the stand, I grabbed my backpack and jumped. 20 feet straight down I descended. I hit the ground hard with a very audible thump. My left leg gave out from beneath me and I could feel the pain stream through my body as my ankle twisted. I spent no time lying on the ground. I fought through the pain, picked myself up, grabbed my bow, and hobbled as fast as I could towards the ATV trail. The fear from the night before returned as I was running towards the trail. Now was the time I was most vulnerable. Now was the time the creature would strike. It was the perfect opportunity. The smell… The smell returned. The scent of burning flesh filled the air.

John pulled up to the clear cut that lead to my stand as I reached the ATV trail and jumped quickly on the back of his four-wheeler.

“Did you just jump from the stand,” he said with a shocked voice? “And what smells like hell up here?”

“Fucking drive! NOW!”

“Ok! Ok!”

John spun the four-wheeler around and headed off towards our house. The feeling of fear wouldn’t leave me. I slumped forward onto John’s back out of exhaustion. I didn’t have the strength to hold myself up. I only had enough strength to hang onto his jacket to keep from falling off. The motor of the four-wheeler covered my sobs of relief.

“Are you ok,” John asked loudly as he navigated the trail.

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. I was too exhausted from the fear that had gripped me the entire night prior. The motor cut off and I looked up. We were outside my house. I hadn’t stopped sobbing. I rolled off the back of the four-wheeler and laid in my yard sobbing. It’s all I could do. Everything went black.

I sat up rapidly and scanned my surroundings in a panic. My mother and father were there along with John telling me to calm down. The familiar softness of our couch on my body and smell of my mother’s cooking filled the air. I was home. My ankle was wrapped with a bag of ice resting upon it. They gave me water to drink and questioned me about what had happened that night. I told them everything. As my story ended I could see the disbelief in their eyes. My parents apologized to me for not checking up on where I was. They though I had come home and gone out with friends or over to John’s for a drink. John apologized the same and said he assumed I had come home tired and went to sleep. They tired to rationalize what I saw. They said it must have been an emaciated bear with mange. I knew better. I knew what I saw. What I went through.

I didn’t hunt the rest of the season and refused to enter the woods. John a few days later had kindly gone to my stand to retrieve it for me without prompt. He brought it over to my garage and met me with a puzzled look in his eye.

“So I found your stand,” he started with an unbelieving tone in his voice, “and it was on the ground. It’s been beat up and the safety cables are busted off like someone had ripped it from the tree. Found your ladder too.” He pointed to the white marks on bottom rungs of the ladder. “Those look like claw marks to me. Found three of your arrows. You hit something because they are covered in some type of blood. Don’t know what kind but it smells like hell.” He handed me my arrows covered in a reddish black gooey crust. “Also, the tree your stand was in… Bottom half of it has been stripped of bark and is smeared in what looks and smells like animal blood. All of those markings in the ground you talked about. Yea, those are there too.” He slumped down on the edge of his four-wheeler as if in complete disbelief. “I believe you

We didn’t talk about it for a long time. We felt as if it were best to forget, never revisit, or pursue. I eventually moved out of my parent’s house to an apartment when my job started. The following summer John called me with some interesting news. The missing animals continued infrequently through out the spring. Mr. Dawson had become overly frustrated with whoever was stealing his rabbits. He setup a security cam to watch the pen and had purchased an industrial chain and lock to keep them out. One night his lab went nuts barking at something outside in the direction of the rabbit pen. Figuring he had them on camera, and to teach them a lesson, he let his lab out to possibly scare them away. The dog ran out the open door and in the darkness seemed to be struggling with something. When Mr. Dawson turned on the floodlight the chains on the rabbit pen were busted off and his dog was gone. Someone also destroyed his camera before it could capture the perpetrator on video.

While I felt for Mr. Dawson, the strange part of our phone conversation had yet to come. The construction company John had worked for had secured a contract to build a new housing development on the side of crow hill, namely the side with the pines on it, as it was closest to the nearest road. It was to be an upper-middle class housing development. John was part of the clearing crew who would go up and clear out the trees and underbrush of the designated area where the housing development would be built.

John mentioned that he was clearing a small bottom where they were going to build a retention pond for irrigation when they came across something disturbing. The bottom was nestled at the base of crow hill and a neighboring hill. It was devoid of large trees but rampant with small shrubs and heavy underbrush. As he and his crew cleared the bottom they found what appeared to be pathways of bent grass and branches. They didn’t look natural and were littered in small animal bones. As they cleared more and more they came across what looked like a nest in the middle of the thicket. The grass and branches were bent over top of a bed of long grass like a make shift dome. The outer part of the nest was void of grass and contained strange markings in the dirt. In the middle on the supposed bed of grass they found several strange items like broken locks, broken chains, blood covered shreds of clothing, and a dog collar strapped through the top of what looked like a canine skull.

John told me the tags had Mr. Dawson’s name and address on them. He had returned them to Mr. Dawson but didn’t have the heart to tell him where he found them or in what condition. I could hear the slight trembling in John’s throat. I knew he now believed me for sure.

I went home several months later to see my parents. Our neighbor’s animals had stopped disappearing. The housing development was about half way finished. I was watching the news late that first night home. One of the headlines was “Police on lookout for animal kidnapper.” Apparently several family pets had disappeared over the last few months in the next county over.

Credit: Tom