Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
I have to be brief, for I don’t really know how long I have until it finds me.
My name is Daniel Lockwood, I’m a 20 year old British citizen and I’ve been living in China for the last 18 months. My Mother’s name is Deborah Lockwood. I am typing this on an Ipad. It’s around 10.45pm on Tuesday 30th April 2013. I am unsure of my exact location, but I am somewhere in the mountains south of Beijing, on the border of Hebei province, close to a small village named Shidu.
My fingers are trembling as I quietly tap away at the touch screen and tears are flowing heavily from my eyes, creating a satisfying patter sound as they slam against the smooth surface of the tablet. A cigarette is hanging loosely from my lips. This space is tight and unwelcoming, not the kind of tomb I had hoped for.
Please forgive any spelling mistakes or nonsensical ramblings, my vision is slightly blurred and my mind abundant with unimaginable horrors. Isn’t it funny, that even in death the brain is concerned with such trivial things as grammar?
Anyway… This is my legacy. If you are reading this, I hope to God that you are warm and safe, within the confines of a locked room or in a heavily populated area. I hope that your friends and family are close by or that your pet cat is cuddled up on your lap. The tale I’m about to tell is not for the faint hearted, nor is it fabricated or exaggerated. It’s the telling of a desperate man’s final hour in existence, one filled with horror, fear and experiences he wouldn’t wish upon his worst enemy. The purpose of this final entry is to reveal the truth, to let it be documented that there are still things in this world that we don’t understand, that we’ve not discovered. There are still things in this world that haven’t emerged from the darkness to reveal their twisted and unholy faces. But I’m not scared anymore.
If you are reading this, I am surely dead.
Around 11 hours ago, myself and 4 others embarked on a ‘mini-adventure’ outside of the familiar and into the wild. I won’t waste time on back stories and the like, all you really need to know is that the 5 of us were intrepid travellers, a close group of friends who thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and frequently enjoyed treks and hikes together. Of this 5, only I remain, and soon my life will too come to a grizzly end.
This particular escapade landed us in Shidu, a small and rural village far on the outskirts of Beijing municipality, China. Shidu is famous for its beautiful scenery, adventure activities and serenity. It’s also famous for its rich and colourful folklore, an area of Asia that often attracts crypto-zoologists from around the globe.
If you live in a foreign country for long enough, and take enough of an interest in its traditions, you will reach further and further into the foundations of its culture, learning about the food and history and mannerisms. You will eventually and undoubtedly come across an aspect of that culture that is often a very defining and unique feature – Fairytales and stories about beasts and boogies that hide in the forests or under your bed. Goblins and ghouls that will suck your soul out through your mouth, or drag you kicking and screaming through the earth until you reach the burning core of hell. You’ll learn about graveyards and rituals, superstitions and spells, curses and ghosts. All of these things add a certain charm and elegance to a culture and Chinese culture is brimming with such legends.
I have taken that step from reality into the realm of legends. No longer am I skeptical of the shadows in my cupboard or the creaks from the attic. I now believe that people have been possessed or abducted or probed or haunted or eaten or defiled in horrifying ways by horrifying things. These things I now know to be true. But I’m not scared anymore. I just hope that there is a God who can offer me some form of peace after this ordeal comes to its inevitable end…
We departed from Beijing’s city centre at around 11am, excited and well prepared for a couple of days in the mountains, armed with snacks, cameras and a sense of adventure. As the concrete jungle behind us slowly faded away into the thick layer of smog that frequently engulfed the city, the 5 of us enjoyed a long and comfortable ride through the Chinese countryside, passing large open fields and seas of rotten wooden shacks, which became less recurrent as we entered the sloping valleys and canyons that twisted through south-western Beijing.
The first port of call was a brief stop at the guest house, where we could stretch our legs, wash up and offload any unnecessary baggage. I’m not going to attempt to make this into a cliché horror story by providing falsifying claims of unsettling landlords or shaky warnings from deformed locals, because none of that happened. It was an ordinary guest house within the confines of ordinary mountains, inhabited by ordinary folk living ordinary lives. There was nothing extraordinary about this place just yet.
After a quick shower, a bite to eat and a cigarette, we hopped back onto the bus and started the brief journey to the beginning of the hike, which would take us through the most rural and unexplored section of this particular mountain range. At 5.20pm, we arrived. The driver, a stern but pleasant local man, told us to call him roughly 30 minutes before we wanted to be picked up. We responded by informing him that we should have completed the hike by about 9pm.
I guess he’s getting pretty worried by now.
We purposefully chose to start the hike slightly later than usual, to avoid swarms of other tourists, but admittedly not as late as we did. The sun was already waning in the sky, foreboding the fading light that would soon be devoured by darkness. The last few drips and drabs of sightseers were funneling out of the narrow opening ahead, shooting us concerned looks as we shambled past them on our way up. We had traversed tough terrain in the late evening before, so we didn’t give much thought to the implications of a night hike.
The first hour or so of the hike was relatively undemanding, lightly inclining slopes and steps, paralleled with rows of stone carvings and badly translated signs. All of the stalls and markets that accompanied the first section of the trail were deserted now, save for the one or two remaining locals gathering their cheap tat and trinkets, ready to sell on the next day. We only passed a handful of others, who shot us yet more disconcerting looks as we strolled past them in the fading sunlight. Areas of the mountain had already been swallowed up by shifting shadows, other sections were relishing in the last few minutes of luminosity.
The trail gradually became more demanding as equally spaced steps became less and less frequent. After about an hour and a half of trekking, we came across a tattered notice board which informed us of our current position and distance from the peak, not too far away.
The only sounds that filled the evening air were our voices as we discussed the next day’s activities – water rafting and horseback riding. Gaps in conversation would bring a dead silence. There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the trees, not a cricket chirping, not a bird tweeting. Just silence. Even the sounds of our heavy footsteps seemed to be drowned away by the enormity of the mountain.
Close to the peak, we came across a small, traditionally crafted pagoda. The path split in two here, one lead straight ahead, further up the mountain and towards the peak. I remember from the map that this was also the exit route, which eventually wound down and intercepted the entry path close to the bottom. The other path strayed off to our right. This route, dutifully named ‘cloud road’, was steep and led to a large raised viewing platform about 200 meters above.
We spent a few moments deliberating whether or not to take the minor detour to catch a glimpse of the setting sun from one of the mountains few viewing platforms. Sarah and Thomas, the couple of the group, decided that they would have a rest at the pagoda. The rest of us, assuming that they just wanted some alone time, sighed and began to make our way up to the platform.
It wasn’t much of a detour, perhaps 10 minutes each away, but a tiring walk nonetheless. Neither of us really spoke much on the way up, the path was too uneven to focus on conversation, but the top of the platform rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the landscape. The mountains stretched on for as far as the eye could see. Even in the waning light, I could see far into the distance. The rolling hills seemed to carry on forever and signs of early summer blossomed and cascaded over the slopes. We spent 5 or so minutes catching our breath at the rest stop. I enjoyed a celebratory cigarette, resting against the lone fir that occupied the platform, appreciating the spectacular view that lay before me.
I found myself unable to take my eyes away from the scene. The hills seemed to twist and ripple around me, not in a sinister way, but in a magnificent display of beauty. It wasn’t until my friend Jay nudged me that I awoke from my day dream, crushed the cigarette butt into the ground and turned on my heels to begin the descent back down to the pagoda.
The sun was hanging very low in the sky now, disappearing behind a large set of mountains to the west as we fumbled our way down. Gradually, the pagoda emerged from behind the shrubbery and into view. Sarah and Thomas were no longer perched on one of its colourful beams as they had been before. My first thought was that they were probably responding to a call of nature in a nearby bush, or that they had gone on ahead without us.
Then Clare saw it. Then she screamed. Then we all saw it.
A human scalp, sprouting long, blood-matted blonde hair lay on the ground towards the back of the pagoda. Folds of tattered skin were hanging loosely from the main bulk of the flesh. It looked like a piece of road kill and as though it had been clumsily removed using a blunt instrument, or perhaps a giant animal’s claw. It was clearly identifiable as being from Sarah’s head. The rest of her was nowhere to be seen. Long streaks of crimson had stained the wooden floor of the pagoda, and lead away into the foliage just past it. My eyes shifted from the gory mess in front of me to the left, where a detached jaw lay clumsily on the soil. Velvety tendons protruded from the thing. Whatever had ripped it from its owner did so quickly and with almighty strength.
I began to taste acid on the back of my tongue as mouthfuls of thick hot vomit made its way out of my stomach and up my esophagus. I could barely distinguish between the sounds of my friends screaming and the throbbing retches that accompanied the stream of bile that flowed from my mouth. My stomach had emptied itself onto the earth before me, stinging my nose and eyes as it did so. Somebody grabbed me by the shoulder and was yelling maniacal and undecipherable words at me. My legs instinctively began to carry me away from the nightmarish scene and along the unexplored path ahead.
The sounds of heavy breathing and clumsy footsteps rang through the trees and bounced off the rock faces surrounding us. Dusk was settling in and the first few stars began winking in the void above me. We sprinted for several minutes, plummeting through thick shrubs as we lost all sense of direction, fuelled solely by adrenaline.
The path was tight here, barely enough space for two people to stand side by side. I glanced over my shoulder to see that the others weren’t far behind me. Their panic stricken faces only served to heighten my own desperate fear. Another 20 seconds of sprinting led me to take a sharp left turn around a protruding rock, after which I stopped dead in my tracks.
Fear is a horribly difficult emotion to describe. It does things to the human body that can traced back to the earliest species of man. It forces hair follicles to stand on end in an attempt to make our forms seem more menacing. It commands a fight or flight instinct, designed to secure our continued existence when confronted with something potentially life threatening. Fear can also paralyze the human body, a reaction to frightening stimuli that is less understood by those who study it.
This latter reaction, being paralyzed, is the unfortunate response my body decided to commit to when confronted with the terror ahead. The path in front was again long and narrow. It was lined with brooding trees, most of which hung delicately over the lane. Roughly 100 meters along the trail stood, or rather ‘hunched’, a figure. I immediately came to the conclusion that it was not human. It was far too tall, perhaps close to 8 foot, even with its drooping posture. Its arms and legs were massively out of proportion to its body, stretching almost to the floor. I couldn’t quite make out any defining features; it was far too dark to pick up on anything other than its overall size and shape. One thing I did notice, however, was that it was clutching something in its right hand. This ‘something’ was dripping a thick liquid, which was pooling in the earth below.
I assumed that the others had witnessed the same horrific sight as I had; I could sense them standing close behind me. Even in this situation, the closeness of others provided the slightest amount of comfort. I’m not really sure how long we were standing there. It could have been as much as several minutes. I can’t say for sure how I knew it, but I was certain that I was staring into whatever it had instead of eyes. Dark voids occupied the space, a shade of such complete blackness, it was unnatural.
It dropped whatever it had clasped in its claws, extending its slender fingers so that they scraped the ground below. The object, which I now assumed to be a chunk of flesh, splattered onto the soil. The thing began creaking and moaning as it shifted slightly.
Then it began running straight towards us. Life swept back through my limbs as I launched myself in the opposite direction, pushing past the others in a selfishly desperate attempt to put myself ahead of them. The thing was screeching now, a blood-curdling sound that quickly intensified as it grew nearer. I had been running for a few seconds when I heard a different kind of scream. I can only assume that it had mounted Jay, for the most unnerving shriek, obviously that of a male, stung my ears, quickly followed by a loud thud. His screams were soon cut off by a sharp snapping sound that echoed through the night. It certainly was not the sound of a branch breaking.
Tears blurred my vision, making it difficult to navigate the uneven path. Frequent glances over my shoulder confirmed that Clare was not far behind me. Looking past Clare, I could see the thing, sitting atop Jay’s chest and greedily gnawing on his face. One prolonged look treated me to a view of the thing pulling Jay’s eyeball out of its socket with its teeth. The optical nerve stretched to a surprising length, before eventually snapping and bouncing back and forth like a child’s play thing. It slurped the sensory organ into its gaping maw and swallowed it down whole, sending it down into its abyssal stomach.
I turned again, making eye contact with Clare, whose face was a mess of colours as her makeup was sent sprawling across it in a mixture of sweat and tears. My stomach lurched again when I noticed that the thing was no longer in view. Jay’s mangled corpse still lay awkwardly on the floor. I screamed at Clare.
“IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE”
Clare immediately swung her head around in an attempt to confirm my claims. As she did so, her foot caught on a stray root that had defiantly pushed its way through the rock floor. I tumbled to a halt, only catching a short glimpse of her rag-doll like form as she toppled over the edge of the steep bank on her left. I could do nothing but stand and listen to her muffled yelps as she crashed down through the foliage. The drop was at least 20 meters and strewn with ragged rocks and tangled trees.
I made a necessary and self preserving decision right then, to carry on without her. If she managed to survive the fall, then surely the thing would get her anyway. I pelted my way back down, past the pagoda and the scalp and the jaw. I fell down a couple of times, quite seriously hurting myself.
I ran until I could physically run no more, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. My chest and head were pounding violently and for the first time since the start of the ordeal, I had a few seconds to reflect on the reality of what had happened. 3 out of 4 of my friends were certainly dead, the fourth’s fate as yet unknown. This thing was fast and likely had super-human sensory abilities. Was there just one of them? Or had a whole clan of monsters evolved in this untouched region of China. The thought of a group of the things made me whimper audibly.
I screamed quietly as my phone vibrated against my leg. I quickly fumbled it out of my pocket, so as to silence the damned device and use it to call for help, now that I had a chance. Clare was calling me. I answered it immediately and put the phone to my ear. She was sobbing painfully. Through the weeping, I could hear her saying,
“Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? Why?”
“It’s here. It’s here now. It’s just standing there. Watching me. Just standing there. Right in front of me”
A screech, a scream and a sickening squelching noise bellowed through the speakers. I scrambled along the ground and into a crevasse in the side of the mountain, behind a bush, and buried my face into my knees. Indescribable sounds continued to stream out of the mobile phone, which I had placed on the ground in front of me. A brief moment of silence followed, eventually broken by the sniffing, creaking sounds of the thing. It handled the device for a few seconds before screeching, dropping it and galloping off into the night.
I threw the phone away from me and rustled through my backpack for a cigarette and my Ipad.
I’ve spent the last 30 minutes chain smoking and immortalizing my last words. It’s almost time, I can feel it. I’m not scared anymore, because I know it will be all over soon. Anybody reading this might think it insane of me to just sit and wait for death as opposed to attempting escape. I don’t really know why I’m not currently cascading through the night; it just feels right that I sit here and wait. I’m not scared anymore.
It’s here now. I heard its silent footsteps a few moments ago. Now it’s standing about half a meter away from me, on the other side of this bush. I can see its pale, scaly, thin legs through the shrubbery. I can see its crimson-stained claws hanging freely by its side, almost touching the floor. I can hear its controlled breathing and croaking. I can smell its thick musk and the drying blood around its face. It’s my turn now, and I’m not scared.
Credit To – Reece Ayers