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No one hears much about the little town of Saint Pauls, North Carolina. It’s located in the southern part of North Carolina, literally two hours away from the South Carolina border. It’s a quiet town located right off of the interstate 95. When you get off the Saint Pauls exit the first thing you see in front of you is the ABC liquor store. You turn to your right, there’s a Days Inn Hotel, owned by the Patel family. I graduated with their son; he was Valedictorian of his class. Beside the Days Inn is a McDonalds; it stays busy with visitors that often stop there during long trips. Across the street is the Burger King which has the worst service you’ll ever get. I ordered chicken strips from there and got raw chicken twice; something about their atmosphere just reeks of laziness.
But I’m getting off the point. You turn to your right on a little road called Odom Drive that’s right past the McDonalds. There’s an empty field to your right and a neighborhood to your left. You turn into the neighborhood and there’s a little yellow house that looks in shambles to the left. That’s mine; I live there with my younger brother and our parents. We’ve lived there practically my whole life. But back to that road you’re on, before you turn into my yard, you’ll notice to the right, across from my house, is woods. Those woods have been a source of stress for me all of the time I’ve lived there. They aren’t so bad during the day but I get the feeling in the pit of my stomach that something watches me from them. I’m not so terrified that I’ve never entered. I have actually journeyed through them, but again, only during the day.
My journey usually allows me to clearly see the house through the tree lines or the little treehouse my neighbor built for his kids. I remember once journeying in with that neighbor and his kids when I was perhaps 12. That was the first time I ever saw the swamp. Dirty green colored water that was opaque and mud like. It was the farthest I’d ever journeyed into those woods. I felt as if I’d been invasive or something, like I’d found something not meant to be seen by the human eye. Maybe that makes me sound like I fear nature but in fact I find nature very beautiful. However, something about that swamp seemed bottomless. I believe a deep dark old danger lived in those woods. I was in its natural habitat and invaded its personal space. After this, I never journeyed any farther than the edge of those woods.
I have always believed in supernatural things. Even as a child I had a sense about “not playing with fire,” as one would say. My parents often warned me that the woods had very wild animals. We even supposedly had an alligator come from the swamp and try to cross that busy road between McDonalds and Burger King. I recall bats being popular visitors at dusk and dawn, and snakes were common visitors to our yard. One night my dad and I went out looking at fireflies. It was the first time I had ever seen them in real life and not on television. I thought it was cool, but the fireflies were in the edge of the woods and the sun had sunk quite significantly in the sky. I remember this feeling of something coming from the back of the woods edging towards us. Something was dark and determined. I tugged my dad’s shirt and insisted we go back in. He seemed disappointed that my timid side had shown but he obliged.
My parents seemed to strongly support the belief that I had a very overactive imagination. I am an artist after all, so they weren’t wrong. I remember having a nightmare the night we saw the fireflies. In it, we had stayed watching fireflies and I had ignored that gut wrenching feeling in my chest. Something large that I couldn’t see came running through the trees tearing after my father and I. We ran for the house. We ran for our lives. I collapsed as my foot caught something in its path. I struggled to fight the overwhelmingly heavy defeat when the form collapsed onto me and I heard the sounds of heavy breathing in my ears. The pressure of teeth shot through my ears in a horrid pain. I finally jolted awake.
There were many times I had vivid nightmares. My artistic mind led me to dreams that were just so much more real and detailed than most people. As I aged, though, I simply got used to those types of things. It was rare that I didn’t have nightmares. Maybe my parents were right and I did have a very overactive imagination.
Time passed pretty quickly, and eventually I was in college. I remember very clearly being a college senior, ready to get out of school and start my life. I think most people have that blind excitement of not knowing what is to come, at least I know I did.
It was spring, and the flowers had finally started coming out. I hadn’t actually had a nightmare in a few weeks. This is where things started to get strange though. I remember one night I had gone to bed pretty early, around 10, to get a lengthy good night’s rest. I remember kicking my blanket half off of me because it was hot. I had always been very warm blooded for some reason, so I slept better when it was cooler. But this night I decided that the temperature mattered not a lot because there was a lot to be done the next day. Eventually the exhaustion succumbed to sleep.
I remember running. Running frantically before tripping. I turned to face what looked like a rabid wolf. It was growling, ferocious, and edging closer, slowly and ominously. Its eyes had a film over them, making it appear blind, but yet it looked right into my soul. It was then that its head contorted upside down, still bearing into my soul as the deformed beast edged closer. I jolted awake. I looked at the clock which read 3 a.m. I collapsed back into my pillows and stared at the ceiling.
The next night I anxiously went to bed. I closed my eyes, and dreamless sleep awaited. But relief was short lived when I woke up again at 3 a.m. I sat up having this ominous feeling return to my chest. I gasped in the hot North Carolinian air. I looked at my window. The blinds were closed except one that appeared to be drooping open. This wasn’t abnormal as I occasionally peeked through them. This night, however, I decided it was in my best interest to close them. I had just got to the window when a shadow darted across and the blind closed on its own. Terror arose as I returned to the shelter of my bed. The next morning I grabbed the tape and taped them shut.
I remember the third day was hot and I had been finishing up with my class. My mother called to inform me that my grandfather was ill and she needed me to come get her from the rest home where he was residing. I drove to the rest home and we visited for a little while. I remember sitting in the rest home waiting on my mother to help my grandfather eat. I had pulled up my laptop to work on a paper when a dog entered the room. Its eyes were glazed over just like the beast in my dream, making my heart sink, but its kind presence was undeniable, so I reached down to pet it. The dog gently rested its head in my lap. It looked at me, and I felt as though it actually may be trying to warn me about something. My mother emerged from the room and we left for home.
My driveway in the backyard resides next to a hill. Being as we don’t own that land we have no permission to touch it because it’s owned by the town. Therefore, there are overgrown weeds that make it impossible to see over. On many occasion my dad would grumble that there could be bums right next to us ready to rob us and we’d never know. Nonetheless, it was overgrown and no one could do much so complaining got us nowhere.
My mother was frustrated about the complications with my grandfather’s illness and I recall I letting her drive home. Driving somehow channeled that anger. I won’t say it soothed it, but by the time we got home and got out the car I knew she’d be alright. That’s how it always worked. She had been extremely stressed and I just let her vent.
We finally arrived home. I remember us talking, but not what about. It isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things. Just that we had both exited the car and were continuing the conversation. The car lights were fading slowly out. The conversation was cut abruptly short when the sound of rustling filled my ears. I turned to face its source, the hill. To my surprise my mother too was very attentively staring. I watched as the moonlight hit what appeared to be brown fur. It descended from the hill. It was then that the sounds of heavy breathing raised to our ears. My mother, who had always said I had a very overactive imagination, the same woman who usually said “pay it no mind”, now said, “What is that?” I heard the creature charging toward us and remember only one thing. My voice yelling “RUN MOM!”
We ran into the safety of our house, quickly closing the door behind us. My dad and younger brother greeted us, noticing our obvious terror. They grabbed flashlights, shining them out into the yard while remaining safely behind the glass door we had just run through. My brother muttered, “I think I see a dog… or something… furry…” My dad nodded, “Sounds like it’s just a coyote.” My mother retorted, “Why would it come to the car though? I’ve never seen a coyote come to the car.” My brother shrugged, “Maybe it’s rabid.”
I remember a sense of relief. Relief, that for once, I wasn’t over exaggerating. That maybe if I was right this time, I had been right the other times I sensed an ominous presence. In which case…. was this thing following me long before? Was it what I saw in my dream? I had a lot of unanswered questions and sleep had been much harder to obtain.
The next day I left for the weekend to go on a trip. My return was met with findings of my younger brother and father. They had been cleaning the yard that weekend. When they got to my mother’s car, they found something they had not expected. By the back tire was an animal hind leg, stripped of nearly all its meat to the bone. In fact, the only hint that it was even an animal was the paw. Upon further inspection, the leg appeared to belong to a larger racoon. We decided to see if perhaps there was any trace of this beast on the hill. All we saw were possible racoon tracks, and what looked like a bigger animal’s paw print.
I never saw the beast again after this. My brother came home telling stories about the adjoining neighborhood. A wild animal the size of a great dane had been seen across the neighborhoods and was aimlessly eating squirrels and other small animals. One of my brother’s friends that lived on the street told of his personal encounter. He had taken the trash out after dusk when the beast approached him. He owned a german shepherd who leapt to defend him. The beast easily grabbed the german shepherd and tossed him into a nearby wall, wounding the dog. However, my brother’s friend had already entered the house and avoided conflict.
I’ve never seen the beast again. I don’t know if it still lurks in our swamp. Sometimes I think I may hear it lurking in the swamp, but I’ve never dared to let curiosity get the better of me. I do what I’ve always done, go into the house and never leave after dark. The dark is full fears beyond comprehension. Fear that summoned a beast that terrorizes the little town of Saint Pauls.
Credit To – Elysia Bloom