27 Jan Hunting Grounds
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"Hunting Grounds"Written by
Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
I don’t really know how to start something like this, writing journal entries isn’t something I’d say I’m used to. Anyways, the doctors said it might help to get something down on paper so, it’s worth a try. I’ve been in this hospital for a few days now and, I haven’t really been able to do anything apart from write. They told me I had a near death experience, and say the traumatizing event triggered the memories and visions I’m now plagued with. After seeing the things I saw, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget them; I remember it all so vividly, every sound, every conversation, every feeling of terror, as if I’m still stuck in that nightmare. The events replay over and over again in my head without any end and, I haven’t been able to sleep. So, I’m writing down everything that happened, while it’s still clear in my mind. I’ll start from the beginning…
Everything happened about a few days ago when I was invited to go on a camping trip with my friends, Matt and Alex. Nothing over the top of course, we just wanted to spend a day or two in the wilderness, and I really just wanted to take a break from my busy work schedule. Matt suggested we check out the forest that surrounded the hunting cabin his family owned considering it was relatively close by and fairly easy to get to. Alex and I agreed, the idea seemed as good as any, and within the next day we all arrived at the property in Matt’s pickup. We didn’t waste any time and, after making sure everything was in check, we gathered our gear out of Matt’s truck and headed out towards the tree line, following a small path through the tall grass and up to the forest’s edge.
As we followed one another into the forest Matt took the lead, picking up a stick to walk with and humming the catchy tune of some infomercial. We headed north for about an hour or so, Alex cracked a few jokes which we laughed at but there wasn’t all that much conversation among us. It was still reasonably early in the morning and we mostly concentrated on walking without tripping over fallen branches and simply taking in the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. After a few hours, we stopped to rest and snack once or twice but continued our steady march into the wilderness shortly after. It wasn’t until later in the day when we came across something, out of the ordinary from the repetitive branches and foliage of the forest.
A worn path cut across our route, overgrown by tall grass and vegetation. It was barely visible, and we would’ve passed it if not for the break in the trees. We didn’t have a solid plan as to where we were going to set up camp for the night so, seeing as we weren’t in any immediate rush, we ended up following it. The path headed straight for quite a ways before it took a sharp turn to the right, reviling a clearing in the trees and an old, run down warehouse of sorts. We looked around for any sign or form of advertisement, but there either wasn’t any, or it had long since been swallowed up by the forest. I asked Matt if he knew about the building, but he denied it, just as surprised as me and Alex. I couldn’t blame him either, in retrospect Matt’s hunting cabin was barely used and the idea of there being some old abandoned building close to his property really didn’t surprise us that much.
I looked at my watch, it was 6PM and beginning to get dark. Matt must have noticed the time too and suggested we camp in the building for the night. I agreed, deciding sleeping on the flat warehouse floor would be more comfortable than the uneven forest floor. That and quite honestly, I was too tired to bother putting up a tent. Alex was less reluctant, being somewhat apprehensive about the whole idea, but soon caved after Matt told him he could sleep outside alone if he really wanted to. We walking up to the entrance and tried what was left of two battered doors that marked the building’s entry. They were already slightly open but stiff from being untouched for so long and we had to wrestle with their rusted hinges to gain entry.
The inside of the building was a barren shell of an old factory, broken and boarded windows, weathered paint, completely empty save for a few boxes and cobwebs here and there. We decided to set up a makeshift camp in the center of the main room and move the spare boxes around to sit on. We had been talking and joking around for a while, eating what food we brought with, when we heard a distant clash echo throughout the building. Our heads all glanced to the left where the sound seemed to have originated.
“You guys hear that?” Alex asked.
I shook my head, still listening, and Matt was about to say something when another clash echoed again, more faint, but unmistakably noticeable. Upon inspection, a small hallway branched off of the main room ending in a thick iron door with a small viewing window built into its center. The three of us headed towards the door after Matt and I each grabbed a flashlight from my bag, and waited, peering through the scratched window at a staircase leading down into complete darkness.
“Basement maybe?” Matt guessed, staring at the door.
A few silent moments passed before Alex stepped in, “Well whatever it was, it’s gone now, probably nothing lets g–”
Another clang cut him off pulling our attention back to the window. Again, no movement was visible in the darkness.
An unsettling silence fell over us…
“Let’s check it out” Matt said, already tugging on the handle, the hinges screeching loudly as the ancient door opened.
“Are you crazy!?” Alex exclaimed.
“Relax,” I said, “It’s probably just an animal, a raccoon maybe.”
“What, are you scared?” Matt teased jokingly. He laughed when Alex flipped him off and walked back towards the main room,
“Whatever, I’m going to bed, see you idiots in the morning.”
With that Matt began to slip through the door, “You coming or not?” he said, starting down the stairs. With nothing better to do, I placed a loose brick on the floor as a door stop and descended the stairs with him. When we reached the bottom, the air was, somewhat heavy, a musty odor hung around us that I could taste in the back of my throat.
As my eyes slowly adjusted to the absence of light, I could make out various pipes and vents that ran the length of the walls and ceilings. I shown my flashlight around us and found that we were in a small rectangular room about 15 feet wide. Three or four tunnels branched out of the walls in various directions and I aimed my light down the nearest one but saw nothing as the tunnel only stretched farther onward, seeming to go on forever.
“Which way do you think it came from?” Matt asked, staring into the darkness of the front tunnel.
“I don’t know man, does it even matter anymore?” I said flatly.
“What, you scared of the dark too?”
“No it’s just–”
“C’mon lets see what’s down here,” Matt called out before ducking down the passageway and disappearing in the darkness, the only thing visible being his own flashlight bobbing up and down. Being an idiot, I followed after him, keeping my eyes on the jumping light through the labyrinth of tunnels.
“Matt let’s just go back, this is getting ridiculous!” I called after him.
His words echoed down back to me, “Hey man I think I heard something over here…”
I saw the light dart to the left, likely another turn in the tunnel, and caught up only to find that his light was nowhere to be seen. I jogged forward a little more hoping to hear his footsteps or something just to point me in his direction. But there was nothing.
“Matt?” I called, “Matt you still there?” my voice bounced uselessly off the walls of the tunnel. I reassured myself it was probably just another one of his idiotic pranks, he always messed with me and Alex, but, something didn’t feel right about it. The feeling of dread grew in the pit of my stomach as I rounded yet another corner just to find more darkness, no light, and no familiar jump scare from Matt just, more tunnels.
Suddenly, the tunnel was filled with a bloodcurdling scream that seemed to come from everywhere around me, stopping me right in my tracks. But just as quickly as it started, it ended, as if cut short by an invisible force. I hesitantly called out to Matt again but there was no answer, only the occasional drip of water from the ceiling. It was at this moment, in this silence, when I heard it.
I aimed my flashlight down the tunnel thinking it might be Matt running towards me. But as the sound grew louder, it seemed closer to something, running on all fours. Whatever it was, was coming towards me, and getting closer. Without waiting any longer, I dropped my flashlight on the ground and darted into the next passageway, hiding myself in the darkness. Moments passed and as the sounds grew louder I could hear whatever it was, panting and wheezing, seemingly more in pain then from exhaustion.
The flashlight on the ground illuminated the figure now at the mouth of the tunnel. I struggled to stay silent as I gazed at a horrid creature now only a few yards away from me. It was on all fours, its back twisted and bent at a grotesque angle to compensate for its longer back legs. Its skin was pale, bruised and battered, wrapped tight around its skeletal figure. Bones strained and cracked as it bent down to examine the light and it was now that I could see its face. What few strands of hair it had hung wet from its head and swayed as it breathed heavily through its crooked mouth. Unblinking eyes sunk back in its skull, and a glow hung in its pupils like that of a dog’s at night as it continued to study the alien instrument. It cocked its head slightly and the light illuminated more of its facial construction. You need to understand that this thing, was once human.
My heart raced and blood pounded in my ears so loud I prayed that it wouldn’t hear me, prayed those glowing orbs wouldn’t shift in my direction. Without warning it snapped its head upwards with such force an audible snap could be heard from within its neck. It listened for a moment, then let out an inhuman shriek that pierced my ears and echoed down tunnels in every direction, its neck and chest heaving to produce the disturbing noise. I shuddered as a faint echo of another shriek reverberated off the walls followed by another…and another…and another.
There was more than one.
The echoes were coming from everywhere, I couldn’t pinpoint where they were. The deformed being let out another shriek before taking off down the tunnel, leaving me more terrified than ever. I stayed in that corner for what seemed like hours, too petrified to move just listening, every so often hearing one of them howl far off down another tunnel. It was as if they were searching for me…Hunting me.
I had to get out of there, I had to escape. The thought of what these things would do to me if I was found chilled me to the bone. So I did the only thing I could do. I grabbed the flashlight, and ran. Finding my way back was useless, I was completely lost, all I could do was run and pray for an exit of some sort. I kept my eyes forward as I ran quietly down the tunnel, constantly terrified that I would hear the ragged breathed and footfalls of one behind me at any moment. I was about to turn the next corner when my legs snagged on something in front of me and I fell headfirst into a puddle on the ground. In the dim light I could see the outline of a crumpled mass. My mind told myself not to look but, curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed my flashlight, shinning it down to my feet.
I immediately wished I hadn’t.
At my feet lay the body of…Matt. What was left of his mutilated corps was torn open, practically ripping him in two. His organs lay scattered around him and thick blood coated the wall and floor. I shook violently but dared not scream, fear overpowering the sickening sight of my dead friend sprawled on the ground in a heap of blood. Looking away, I got up and sprinted down the tunnels as quietly as I could, turning the flashlight off so as not to attract any more of those, things, I didn’t want to end up like Matt.
I ran for as long as I could even after my legs burned but, eventually, I had to stop. I doubled over, sore and exhausted, covered in sweat and consumed with fear. I heaved as bile rose in my throat delayed from before. My shirt and pants were covered in Matt’s blood and I breathed heavy, trying to regain what ounce of strength I had, shaking as I rose to my feet.
A slight crack sounded from my right…
My hair stood on end and I tried to turn my flash light on but it refused to work.
Another crack sounded, slightly closer…
I panicked and hit the top of the light repeatedly until finally it sparked to life illuminating a thing composed of the stuff of nightmare. Glowing pupils constricted as its eyes widened, lips curled back into a snarl revealing teeth stained with blood and rotted with decay. I inched back in fear as it shifted closer towards me, its shoulder cracking with each stride as if dislocated. My mind screamed at my legs to move, to run, get to out of there as fast as possible, but it wasn’t until the thing threw its head back and screamed to its other pack members that I was released from my terrified trance. I sprinted down the tunnel, fueled with adrenalin. Its head snapped back to me when it saw my movement. It snarled and bounded on all fours with inhuman speed.
I sprinted as fast I could, taking rights and lefts in the disorienting tunnels but its enraged screams were always right behind me. I couldn’t outrun it, I needed to hide or find something to defend myself with, even if fighting was useless. My eyes turned to the wall where rusted pipes ran its length and connected to the ground. In a desperate attempt I grabbed the nearest one and pulled with all my might hoping it would come off the wall with ease. My heart dropped as it moved only slightly and my arms burned as I pulled ruthlessly on the rusted pipe, the shrieks and screams of it, and now others, growing closer and closer.
Finally it came free just in time as the creature crashed around the corner. It lunged at me, arms outstretched and clawing the air. I braced myself and swung with what energy I had left, feeling it collide with the creature’s jaw. A sickening crunch echoed in the tunnel, and the being shrieking in pain and confusion. In blind furry it swatted me away with its arm, knocking me back against the wall so hard I saw stars. It moaned again, its head bent to the left at an absurd angle from where the pipe had collided, before collapsing on the ground. Movement caught my eye behind it, more of these, people, streamed around the corner, their pale bodies crashing into themselves, shrieking all the while. I turned and ran as best I could, clutching my now mangled arm from where I had been hit, only turning back to see them feeding on their fallen comrade. It’s screams of agony went unnoticed as it was now nothing more than food in their minds. It wasn’t long however, before they began to climb over each other to continue the chase, their wild eyes locked on me.
My vision blurred and blood pounded in my head as I ducked past another archway in the tunnel. I had long surpassed my athletic limits and was running on fear alone. I could hear their shrieks and cries just down the tunnel as they raced towards me, limbs and bone clashing as each one tried desperately to get the first bite.
I turned yet another corner and my heart stopped. A sliver of light illuminated the end of the tunnel, a drain pipe, just large enough for a child. There were only moments, seconds even, between me and the mass of deformed bodies that hurtled down the tunnel. There was no time to decide, I bolted for the opening and dived through the narrow space, crawling as fast as I could. It didn’t matter how much the hard pavement scratched and tore at my knees and arms, I was so close to escape but I knew they were right behind me clawing savagely for my legs, enraged by the instinct to feed.
Just as I was nearing the end of the opening, fingers dug into my ankle, bolts of pain shot up my leg and I screamed in agony. I felt something snap in my ankle as it snarled and drove its nails deeper into my skin. I yelled in anguish, struggling as I was pulled back down the pipe. With a last ditch effort I kicked as hard as I could with my free leg feeling it connect with something hard. It shrieked in more in anger than pain, only tightening its steel grip on my leg. I brought my foot down again and again desperately trying to free myself until it finally let go. I looked back to see a bloody tangle of arms and figures, savagely fighting to reach me as I pulled myself along the last remaining inches and fell…
This is where my memory begins to fade…
I remember hitting cold water and seeing the night sky. Too tired to do anything but lay in the water, I remember looking up to see glowing eyes staring back at me through the narrow opening before I welcomed rest, and blacked out…
I was found washed up on the side of a river half dead and suffering from hypothermia. My left ankle was broken and my right forearm completely shattered. I awoke later in the emergency room, doctors told me I was lucky to be alive and before long, police authorities came to question me. I told them everything but, my story was dismissed as a result of stress and shock. As I said before, I can’t sleep, every odd sound sends me into a state of panic, and I can’t deal with reliving every event of that day when I close my eyes. But the worst part, that terrorizes me even more, is that Alex is still there…and that door…
That door is still open.
Credit To – AStoryTeller