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Perching In the Trees

Estimated reading time — 10 minutes

My brother and I were always the best of friends. We were only a year apart, with him being older, and we spent nearly all of our time together. We grew up in a house pretty far from the rest of the town so we didn’t spend much time with other kids. The only times that we were separated from each other was during school but we would always play during recess and he would always give me a warm pat on the back during when our classes would pass in the hall. This carried on from grade school all the way to high school. Jason would skip his 5th period class to have lunch with me and some friends every so often, and when we got back from school he would give me help with my class work so we could spend the rest of the night playing video games and watching TV until our mom got home.

She would make us a small snack and an hour later dad would come back from work and the 4 of us would sit down at the dinner table. Even during dinner he was always making us smile, he liked to make people happy; I guess you could say that was just what he did naturally. When we weren’t inside playing games, we would occasionally go into the forest behind our house. Our father had taught both Jason and I how to handle ourselves out there in the forest and by the time Jason was in middle school he was an expert. The two of us would head out exploring and be back in time for dinner just as the sun was setting. We had even spent the night out there with dad in a tent big enough for the three of us.

Things were really great out there, family life was always perfect no matter how bad our personal lives would get. The fragile life we held onto broke away one night when mom didn’t come home. Jason and I were playing some games as usual when he pointed out to me that mom was late. She had been late before but never this late, she came home around 8 and it was already 8:45. Jason got a little worried and called her work, they told him that she had left at 7:30. Jason was a little uneasy and I could feel his worry even though he dared not show me it. Jason waited until dad returned home before telling him the news; he called her work as well and hung up when they gave him the same information.

Dad called his brother at the local station and we managed to wrangle up 5 squad cars to go down every road in town, that night it rained like a fountain and the roads were slick to drive on which made all of us drive even slower than usual. That’s probably the only reason that they spotted it. Dad’s brother called him on his cell and told him to get to Irving pass. We slowly drove up to the scene with three cop cars flashing there lights while others set up police tape. My dad got out of the car and told us to stay inside, we Jason was never one to listen and got took me with him. We watched as the officers parted for my father. He ran down the small ravine and standing from atop the road we saw our mothers car smashed directly into the trees below.

Claw marks were torn into the side of the car where paint was stripped clean off. The windshield was smashed and blood was on the hood of the car. Dad saw us standing there and told us to get back into the car. We did and we watched him talk to one of the officers. They gave him a raincoat and after they had set up a perimeter they called in the most of the station and more cop cars came down there.

All of the men got out with flashlights and guns and dad made us get into the car of officer Velasquez. He drove us home and stayed with us the whole night answering all of our questions. Apparently mom crashed her car into a tree and they believe a wild bear dragged her off. Dad and all those men went searching for her in the woods and found nothing. He came home defeated but hopeful and the three of us went to bed in the same bed believing that our mother was still alive. Weeks went by, the police stopped looking and eventually even my uncle left my dad to search by himself.

After 2 months my dad stopped looking too. It was the talk of the town for a while, a few people came by to give their condolences and we had even held an empty coffin funeral for our mother. When she was gone Jason and I took her role as chef, we made a terrible dinner every night and we didn’t get much better but our dad appreciated the help. After my brother graduated from school he went to work with my dad at the factory and I was stuck at home cooking for the both of them.

From then on the family never spent much time together and the dinners were always silent. Jason would try to get us to laugh but his jokes and funny stories would fall on deaf ears. He as well as I could feel the missing piece from our lives. During the weekends Jason would stay home with me and we would play games like we used to but in complete silence. Dad was either working extra shifts or drinking at the bar. On one particular night he was out drinking and we had no clue when he would be home. He had left us during the middle of the day and Jason wanted to keep things lively.

He told me to get my coat boots on; this always meant we were going for a hike. We packed a few things like food and water and after locking up we headed out. We took the same route that we always did; it had been awhile since we walked through the forest so for me everything seemed new. We stopped occasionally and sat down on a nearby log or rock we could find and we just listened to the sounds of the forest. We took in the sweet smell of the flower fields not too far from where we were and the sun blanketed through the canopy of trees.

I kept behind him and stared at his feet to follow close behind, he gave me some lessons on what fungus was edible and what plants were safe to eat. These were things that I already knew but I guess that he was trying to strike a conversation with me. Jason and I hadn’t talked since mom went missing and trying to do it now was just as awkward as it could have been. Jason finally sat me down next to him during one of our stops and he put his hand over me.

“I… I know that things aren’t like they used to be. I know that dad isn’t the same and that me and you don’t talk and hang out as much as we used to and I know that…” He stopped and started to tear up “I know that you think I don’t love you anymore, but it’s not true. I still love you and I still want to be the older brother you remember but you have to help me here, I don’t know what to do.” He put his face into his hands and I watched in silence as he cried. I had never seen Jason like this before in my life, he never exposed himself to me before, never showed a sign of weakness and for all these years I thought of him as some stone warrior but seeing him cry next to me lowered my own defense and I hugged him.

We just sat there, holding one another as we both cried in silence. The sun was just beginning to set and the whole scenario seemed to be like a novel. Then we both heard it, a loud scratching noise. It echoed through the forest in one violent sweep and it sounded like a moose scraping its antlers along the bark of a tree. Jason got up quickly and recovered that tough exterior he always carried. He told me to get my things and we started heading back to our house. Before we could even take two steps away from where we were sitting we heard it again, a loud scratching sound but this time it came from a few feet in front of us. I got behind Jason as he peaked around a tree. He didn’t see any moose or bear stalking around so we continued on our way very cautiously. We passed a few trees and spotted one with three gaping claw marks. They dug at least 3 inches deep and were in the shape of talons. We both stared at the marks knowing that no bird of this size existed in this forest, or the world.

Our pace picked up when we saw a shadow pass above us, when we looked up we saw nothing. Jason grabbed my arm and pulled me along until I started to walk on my own. We didn’t look above us but we could hear the tree branches breaking and every so often the shadow would pass over us. We were nowhere near the house and because of how long it had been since we were here we had forgotten the way back. Every so often we would pass trees with talon marks on them and each time we passed one our pace would pick up. We were sweating from all of the running and were getting nowhere. Whenever we would stop to look up the tree crackling would stop and silence would take over the forest. We started to run again and when we did we saw the shadow, it was much larger than before and a strong wind followed it.

My brother stopped running and pulled out his pocketknife, he tore a tree branch from the stem and began to sharpen the tip. During all of this I pressed my back to a nearby tree and watched above us. There were only a few inches of sun left on the distant horizon and the few beams that were left poured into the forest broken by the trees. As the last light faded we could feel a cold wind shuffle through the air as we shivered to its touch. He threw me the branch and kept his knife out in one hand while his lighter burnt in the other. We were no longer running, we were stalking carefully trying to make little noise as we watched above our heads. The winds would sometimes come from behind us, at which point we would turn and see nothing other than the leaves on the ground picking up as if something had flown by. We would feel the wind again on the opposite side that we had turned to and when we turned back around there was nothing, again.

Whatever this thing was it enjoyed toying with us. By this point the light was completely gone and only a few rare times would we receive light from the moon which was covered by clouds, only when they had completely moved did we get a few precious seconds of light that allowed us to see beyond a few feet. The strong winds stopped but were replaced by something much worse; the sounds of feet crunching through the leaves. We heard it constantly, circling around us just beyond our sight. Occasionally Jason would scream out to it, and then the crunching would stop. A few seconds would pass and it would start again. When the crunching stopped completely we were surprised to hear nothing, it was the deathly silence that made us more nervous. Before this we had known where the creature was in relation to us, now there were absolutely no hints.

A strong wind came from in front of us and extinguished the small lighter flame in Jason’s hand. This wind had also pushed the clouds along just far enough to bring in the light of the moon. What we shined in the darkness was more terrifying than what our minds could have ever created. Perching itself on a tall branch a few trees away from us was what seemed to be a giant cocoon. This was no cocoon, what we thought was the shell started to part. It opened and we came to understand that it was two giant wings spreading apart. Beneath the wings were two glowing yellow eyes that were buried deep into the head of a sickly looking creature. Its entire body was hairless and its arms were very thin and bent like that of a T-Rex. Its legs were massive and had talons at the end of each toe, it gripped onto the upper tree branch like a monkey, it even had the thumb. The oddest part about the thing was that its nose and mouth formed together to make a skin like beak in the center of its face.

We watched as its head darted around like it was twitching, its neck contorted and stretched as its entire body shook and shuffled in the trees. When the moonlight vanished we were back in the darkness with only the two glowing eyes staring at us, when they vanished we panicked. I could hear my brother scraping the ignition to his lighter, it clicked repeatedly and I saw a spark but no flame. When the flame finally came up it was standing right before Jason with its wings stretched out over him. I plunged the sharpened branch into its fat belly as it let out a cry. Jason grabbed my arm and we pushed through the creature as we heard its cries of pain. We ran now, faster than ever and in the far off distance we could see our house lights. We ran, screaming as loud as we could, trying our best not to trip. The light in Jason’s hand barely stayed lit and we heard the sound of flapping right behind us.

We were only about 100 yards from the house when we heard our father yelling, we could see his flashlight and our hearts filled with hope. When he was finally close enough to make out the features of his face me and Jason stopped running, we waited for dad to come get us and for this nightmare to be over. Seeing him was our salvation. Then I saw a look of terror on my father’s face, I soon after heard Jason scream and watched as he was lifted off the ground. Dad fired his gun at the thing but it did nothing. I felt Jason’s blood trickle down the back of my neck and when I looked up I collapsed. I saw only the silhouette of Jason and that creature, as they both grew further and further from me. It must have been a good five minutes before the screaming stopped. My father clutched a blanket around me and brought me back into the house.

After he had locked the doors he called uncle Jimmy and got the entire police force down to our house. When they arrived at the scene they thought he was crazy, he shouted about the creature that took Jason and they all stood there spooked by it all. None of them believed him until I took them into the forest the next morning and showed them the talon marks upon the trees. They called an animal expert out and he agreed that there was nothing of this size in the wildlife. Upon further investigation they found that all the tree branches above 15 feet had been snapped like twigs, they had even found a few more grip marks on where it had perched. The evidence piled up until the final piece of data was discovered, a few torn pieces of Jason’s shirt were found near where he was snatched and next to it was a single feather. DNA analysis revealed that whatever creature this came from was neither bird nor human, it was a whole new species altogether. The size of the feather indicated that the creature must have been taller than 6 feet.

Jason was never found, my father looked for him every day in the deepest parts of the forest but he never found a single trace of him. Nobody in our town ever questioned our sanity, not a single person claimed it to be a hoax. In fact, it’s been twenty years since Jason went missing. My father died a few years back, and I left that place a long time ago. My father died knowing that my mother wasn’t dragged from her car by a bear, he died knowing that wet roads weren’t what caused her to crash. He died knowing that it was that thing that killed her and took her away, but he never knew what happened of Jason.

I’ve been hearing rumors though, rumors that somewhere deep in the mountains near my hometown a man discovered a cave. The cave was littered with human bones, nearly a hundred of them. The police were called in but were never able to identify bones, as they were all nearly shattered into pieces, including the teeth. There was one peculiar thing though about the cave, when they went further into it they found what seemed to be three empty eggs. Then again, these are just rumors, and for everyone’s sake I hope they aren’t true.

Credit To – Brandon Puff

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