I’m in the engineers union, but I don’t have a degree in anything. I go to job sites all over the state and mark elevations for excavation. I hike around placing a GPS marker on the ground, push a button and the little screen on top tells me a few numbers I have to write down. I chart the data on topographical maps from a tablet. It’s not hard, and it pays well.
I had driven up the 101 to a job site out on the peninsula. Recent legislation had allowed several hundred acres of old-growth within the Olympic national park to be sold and cleared to build a gigantic lodge for a corporate retreat. I was working with the crews that were clearing the land to build the two lane road up to the site of the lodge. For six months, I’d work with the crews as they bulldozed their way into a dense and ancient forest. I felt bad about it, every day was hard, but I had bills to pay.
The excavators had cleared 21 miles by October, and they would be paving until November if the rain held off. By this time I was bunking most nights in a trailer at the job site with two younger guys from the surveying crew. This trailer was parked at mile 19.8, deep in the forest. I would test sites until the late afternoon and would hike until twilight under massive, mossy pines, amongst ferns that grew enormous. It was a timeless place, and peaceful, until the revving of diesel engines came to life. We made a fire each night and cooked in the coals, drank beers from a cooler filled with cold creekwater. There was no cell service there, and our only line out was CB. None of this bothered me at the time, I loved it.
On October 30th the rain had halted everything. A paved section of road had washed out around mile 13, and we were radioed to stay put. The three of us had bored of playing cards by flashlight, and were telling stories and passing a bottle of James around in the dark when gradually the rain falling on the roof of the trailer grew too loud to hear each other without shouting.We finished the bottle, and then it got cold.
In efforts to conserve fuel we had agreed only to run the heater while we slept. It was my turn to start the generator, and even when drunk I’m not one to shirk responsibility. So they bedded down and I waited for the rain to ebb, drunkenly swaying by the door in my rain gear, but it did not abate.There was a shudder in the floor and a truck alarm rang out through the din. The two other surveyors bolted upright in their sleeping bags and I looked from one of their shocked faces to the other in the light of my headlamp. Then we felt another shudder and the floor began to slant. The trailer had slid, possibly a few feet, there was a clatter of something solid hitting against the rear wall, and there was a thrum of running water beneath the floor. The rain lashed in sheets against the roof for a long moment and one of them yelled “What do we do?”
A sudden cracking sound, not quite thunder but loud enough to be, followed by a great thudding felt through the floor, percussive, though some distance away. Then cracks like gunshots rang through the torrent and the unmistakable ‘whoomp’ sound of trees falling all around in the roaring darkness.
I remember a crash, and an instant heaving of weightlessness. I remember shivering, hunched like a shrimp. I struggled to lean on my side and felt a weight shifted, called out, to no answer. The rain was quieter and dripped from somewhere, water ran along the floor, but I didn’t open my eyes. I don’t know why. I came to shivering violently, pinned by a weight across my upper back. My headlamp shone weakly upon branches that had punched through the wall and a slurry of wet earth had come in through the front window. The door was missing. All was silent, and this forest was never quiet.
I took a few aching breaths and struggled to rise, letting out a cry. Then I heard a grunt from somewhere nearby. Fear shot through me and I held my breath, my shivering ceased. There was a soft sound, and adrenaline thrummed the blood in my ears. Then a silhouette of a man leaned into the doorway. When I looked him in the face my headlamp shone back from his eyes, white discs that shifted, regarding me. Then a shout from my left and the man disappeared from the door. I called out, but there was no answer. The woods were silent. The wind still, the morning birds quiet.
I pushed up and felt a great, soft weight shift from across my shoulders, sliding down to the middle of my back, and used my arm strength to tug myself out from under it. Once free I looked behind me to see I’d been pinned by a cot with bent legs, a green sleeping bag on top of it. I touched the sleeping bag and felt a foot and ankle inside, shining my light up to see the low trunk of a mossy pine had crashed through the ceiling, bisecting the cot. Then I heard my name spoken behind me.I turned my head and saw Ruiz, the younger surveyor, looking into the doorway. He was wide eyed and there was mud on his face. He looked very short, only his head and shoulders were in view. Then he hoisted himself up to stand in the door and saw that he was his usual size, the trailer sat aslant and the door was a few feet higher off the ground.
“What was that?” he asked, pulling me to my feet. I didn’t know what he meant. I felt the blood rushing into my legs in a flood of prickles and I was too weak to stand. I crawled to the doorway and pulled myself up, looking out at the scene. A mighty young spruce had fallen across my field of vision, and a slurry of black soil and clay mud had erased the graded gravel path of the would-be highway. But that wasn’t why I was startled. The door of the trailer was four feet off the ground.
I turned to Ruiz, “Where did he go?”Ruiz stared, comprehending, but silent. I gestured at the door, “He must have been 12 feet tall, you had to have seen him?”He shook his head, “That wasn’t a guy, that was something weird.”
We left it at that. One pickup was buried past the wheel wells in mud from the landslide, so much that the doors couldn’t be opened. Our other truck was on it’s side a ways downhill. It looked smashed, and clods still clattered down all around it, threatening to slip further.
Ruiz walked back to the half-buried pickup and dropped the tailgate, slid down the truck bed and pressed his face to the rear window. “We can dig this one out, the windshield isn’t broke. Or we could bust in a window and get to the CB.”I felt exhausted, “Yeah” I said distractedly, “Are you okay?”He looked at me blankly. I stammered out “They know we’re up here, they’re coming for us. Why don’t you sit down?”
He climbed out of the truck bed and blinked his glassy eyes at me. “…Martin got smashed by a tree in his bed…” then he took a sobbing breath, “I’ll make a fire.”I reached out to him and he turned, looking me in the eyes, then he looked past me and his mouth opened. A spinning rock the size of a football hit him in the crown of his forehead, caving it in. He stood for a moment, jawing and gasping wet sounds before he collapsed. I stepped back from him and my right shoulder exploded as if hit by a cannon ball, the stone that rolled away from me was the size of my head. I screamed in agony, unable to catch a breath. I turned and saw him, It, as it emerged, lumbering oddly from around the side of a downed tree.
It was not a man, but it was like a man. He was 12 feet, as wide as a car, and covered in black hair that went gray about his mantle. I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing, no notion of what I was looking at could be rationalized. His eyes were wet, reflective globes of hate, deeply set and cold. One massive hand grabbed a large rock from the roots of an upturned tree and lobbed it at me. The stone whooshed past my face, ricocheted off the tailgate, smashing through the rear window. I turned to see see huge white teeth, lips curled back like it was smiling.
I threw myself into the truck bed, saw the tailgate dent inward at the impact of another stone. And rolled through the smashed glass of the rear window, My face hit a confetti of tempered, tinted glass on hard upholstery. I swung my legs in and felt cuts rake along my calves, then rolled over the center console onto the floorboard beneath the passenger seat. My shoulder throbbed and I felt grinding, sharp angles scratching my bones, excruciating.I began to weep, expecting the impact of better-aimed stones, or a massive, dark hand to snake through the window, grasping at me. But a moment passed and my perception went inward, aware of the pain in my shattered shoulder.
Then there was a high cooing sound, and it rung out hanging in the air. Then it was answered by what sounded like a screaming woman. The sound was like ice in my throbbing veins, and all was silent for minutes. I breathed quietly from my mouth.Then the truck shook violently, but only for a moment. I cowered lower, whimpering in pain, terrified. I could smell something, a mammalian musk.
Suddenly there were strange sounds all around, chattering voices enunciated with clicks and pops, and a low, tuneless humming. They were dragging metal, tossing debris. I dared not look.
When the sounds of diesel engines rumbled through the trees, I was glad for them. I was in a sort of euphoric shock when they towed the pickup from the mud and found me. I stood up and walked a few steps, saw that my right hand was hanging about seven inches lower than my left. I looked at the ground and saw gigantic footprints with splayed toes pressed deep into the waterlogged earth. Then I passed out.
The body of Martin was missing a leg and an arm, wrenched from their sockets without the use of any cutting tools. The body of Ruiz was never found, though his blood and brain matter were abundant at the scene. I gave statements from the hospital explaining what I saw, and the local police took me very seriously at first, but then a clean-cut man in a polo shirt came and explained that I was concussed, dehydrated, had smashed all the bones in my shoulder and a couple ribs, and was more than likely hallucinating when I saw a hungry autumn black bear come to scavenge the bodies of my friends. He said I shouldn’t waste anyone’s time with my delusions.
And so I don’t, but I stay the fuck out of the woods.
Credit : Justin Pogue
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