There was a time when I was younger that I didn’t let the people around me know that I smoked cigarettes. My best friends and I would acquire some packs from older friends, and sneak off into the woods just behind the corner store where we’d hang out while we smoked a few. Dumb, I know. We felt cool at the time, though. Little did I know, it was far from cool. As a matter of fact, to this day, I wish I was a better role model. Maybe then, things would be different. Much different.
On one fateful afternoon, after school, my friend Dalton and I met up with Jake, another friend of mine at the corner store. It was my eighteenth birthday the week prior, so I bought them each a pack of smokes with my newly acquired I.D. Per usual, we strolled into the thickly wooded area just behind the store, laughing and joking the whole way out. We would usually stop at this barely noticeable crossroads about half way through the woods. A stone marked the center and we would sit around it and just shoot the shit for hours.
But that day felt a little different.
We talked about going to this little cavern further out, just before the town line. There, we would be totally out of sight and not have to stress about anyone walking their dogs by us too much. “It’s pretty cool,” Dalton stated, “Nobody goes in there because it kinda smells like sulfur.”
We ducked out of sight and into the cavern. We set a flashlight down for some light and pulled out our new packs of cigs. I packed mine against my palm for a moment, but Dalton and Jake tore theirs open and dug right in. Jake looked at me with this goofy expression while putting a cigarette between his lips. “What?” I asked him. “Why do you smack your hand with your pack like that?” He scoffed lightheartedly. “To pack the tobacco so it stays lit longer. That’s how my grandfather did it, at least.” “That’s a myth.” Dalton stated plainly. I shook my head and opened my pack up as well.
This is when shit hit the fan.
After lighting up my smoke, we started to hear a strange tapping noise from just down the cave tunnel. It wasn’t too far out, but our light wasn’t powerful enough to reach all the way down the cavern walls. We all stared down into the darkness for a moment, before just writing it off as a small bat or something. We chatted it up through a couple of cigarettes before deciding we’d better get home before dinner time. However, as we stood up to go, the tapping noise returned, this time as more of a smacking. Much louder too. We stopped and stared again. This time though, we shined the light and noticed something. The dim light of our little flash actually touched upon a silhouette a little ways down. Its movement resembled that of someone doing something rather familiar; packing cigarettes. “Who is that?” Dalton whispered. I just shook my head. “We should go,” Jake suggested. We turned to go again. Our efforts were again interrupted by the sound, but this time it was coming from just outside the cave mouth. We could see the light up ahead, but no strange silhouette this time. “What the hell dude”, I seethed. “Who is this guy.” We continued to the cave mouth anyway. We stepped outside into the afternoon sun, and braced ourselves for what might be some homeless creep. We sighed in relief, however, as we were not greeted by the figure from the cave. Our comfort was short lived.
Suddenly a gust of wind swept up from around our feet as leaves launched upward. We became encapsulated in fall colors and brisk air. “GAAAH” I heard Dalton and Jake cry out in unison, as I swung around to observe what was happening. That’s when I saw him.
Or, saw “it” rather.
A tall human-like being, standing at about eight feet tall was holding Dalton and Jake by the backs of their hoodies; next to them, laid a large, ornate, wooden box. They were kicking, and writhing but could not seem to break free of his grasp. “Come on, let them go!” I shouted. Of course, he did not. I keep saying “he” but I don’t really know how to address what this thing was. Atop his head was a cowboy hat, and he wore a black button up shirt, with a tan vest over it.
But it was his face that caught most of my attention.
It appeared humanoid enough, but his nose was absent from the equation. Two slits were in its place. Chills shot up my spine, crawling up my neck like little spiders marching to my brain. I had to think quick. Unfortunately, when I think on my toes, I tend to make mistakes. I lunged forward as fast as I could and grabbed Dalton and Jake by the fronts of their sweathsirts. “I said let them go!” I screamed, attempting to pull back in hopes that I could break them free. In return, all I got was a loud shriek from this thing’s mouth. My hands broke free as I lurched backwards in shock at the noise. That’s when the sound started.
All around me I could hear the same tapping/smacking sound from earlier. It was as if hundreds of people were packing their cigarettes around us. I looked around, gasping and breathing heavily in fear. There wasn’t a single other person around, so where was this sound coming from? “You’ve made your decisions.” A loud voice arose from somewhere. My eyes darted back to the strange being holding my friends. They stopped writhing, both now looking up at their captor. “You shall not divert from your patterns of habit. If you forget, you will regret.”
Then it happened.
In one fluid motion, the being opened up a hatch on top of the wood box and threw my friends in. It then proceeded to shut the box, lift it with one hand, and then slam it against its massive palm over and over like a fresh pack of smokes. The volume of my friends’ cries was only matched by the booming voice of their attacker.
“ALWAYS. PACK. YOUR. CIGARETTES.”
I screamed, voice cracking and face contorted in dismay. Everything went silent. Dalton and Jake’s mangled bodies fell out of the box with a thud. The creature stood there with it’s unchanging expression, though it was more than likely pleased with the outcome. My friends were now dead, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
“Do not stray from your routines. In the next life, these poor souls would be wise to follow your lead. Thank you for packing.”
Without another word, the supernatural outlaw dragged his box into the cave, the sound of loose bones rattling within, and then vanished into the darkness.
CREDIT: Mike Maxim