Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
As a child, I was always fascinated with the woods. While the beautiful pines scattered the land, captivating me with their size and showing me a picture of strength and resilience, the dark brush intrigued me with the unknown happenings of its solemn, mysterious, and unrevealing insides. I had been intimidated all my life by those woods because of that brush; although, until now, my uneasiness had been unsubstantiated.
I cannot seem to understand how I had known that there was actually something to be afraid of in those dark woods, but something inside of me had been warning me all my life of the monster that I had been afraid. If only I had listened to that feeling, I might be able to sleep soundly at night.
My name is Shane Walker, and I live in a rural town in Southeast Texas called Jonesville. I can see that some people could have trouble with that fact because of stereotypes assuming that people from Texas are uneducated and that there are no woods in Texas, but I beg to differ. Southeast Texas is home to a place known as the Big Thicket, which is a coniferous forest, incredibly humid and hot in the summer, while damp and frigid in the winter. The brush is so thick in this area that moving through it is difficult without a machete.
As I digress, I grew up in a modern family of five, including myself, my dad, my mom, and two sisters. My parents were always very protective of my siblings and I, as both insisted, “The world’s changed since when I was little. Y’all can’t wander around anymore without us worrying about you getting snatched up by somebody,” so I was only allowed to go to friends’ houses whose parents my family trusted. I spent my schooldays in the town’s elementary school with a small class (even for our “quaint” town) of twelve kids, so my “friends circle” was fairly limited, and even when I graduated to junior high, and into a bigger school, my circle did not expand due to awkwardness and shyness.
Through junior high I was only able to keep one close friend who I hung out with every weekend possible. This friend, named Deven Daniels, lived in a small house with his grandma – a house surrounded by woods that captivated me every time I came over. One day in the eighth grade, after growing bored with playing Black Ops, I finally gave in to the natural childlike temptation to explore those woods, so Deven and I planned our expeditions to clear out parts of the woods to build a clubhouse, in which we would have a wide variety of adventures.
We started off with a single machete and a rake, which to most people in our area was not seen as a problem, as they believed twelve and thirteen-year-olds could handle themselves with machetes to a certain extent, and I began hacking away at the brush (as I was a bigger, and therefore stronger boy), and Deven used the rake to start raking away the debris I was making. This kept us busy for a couple days, as I formed a boundary by hacking a circle clear around a large oak. After forming the boundary, we contemplated our endeavor. Looking at our hard work, we decided that enough had been done to form a clubhouse, for the brush surrounding the round clearing we had made formed something similar to walls for us, and the shade of the oak provided cover from the unmerciful sun.If only we had built walls and a roof to protect us from the outside world, that fateful account with that predator would not have occurred.
It was in those woods that my friend and I spent many nights after we had cleared out our section. I always felt that we should have had more protection, so every time we went to spend the night outside, I insisted we pitch a tent. My friend obliged every time, and we always brought out his old blue tent that was found in his closet, and in this tent, we unknowingly met with the creature that would soon come to haunt my nightmares.
One night, Deven and I were lying in the tent texting people, exchanging ghost stories, talking about things that had happened in our lives recently, and eating Cheeto Puffs, when I heard an unusual rustling outside.
“Dude, you hear that?” I asked my friend.
“No, what are you talking about?” Deven replied.
“I just heard something in the woods. It sounded kinda big,” I stated.
“Oh, no. Maybe it’s the Killer Coyote! Or the Hash Slinging Slasher! Dude we’re gonna die!” he sarcastically retorted, mocking me for my fear of the woods and the dark.
“Shut up, Dev, I’m serious. I heard something running around out there, and I’m gettin’ pretty freaked out.”
“Don’t worry, Shane, you’re just overreacting. It’s probably just the wind, or maybe it’s that stupid ‘coon that keeps scattering our trash around up at the house.”
“Okay, but it sounded big. Just be a little quieter so we don’t attract it, just in case it is something.”
“Alright, wuss,” Deven said, ending the conversation as I had no appropriate response to his insult other than rolling my eyes.
The night continued on like all other nights, with us conversing and jokingly insulting each other occasionally, when suddenly, I heard another unusual rustling in the woods, this time more distinguished, and by the look of terror on Deven’s face, I inferred that he had heard the noise as well.
“See what I mean now?” I whispered to the frightened preteen.
“Yeah. Be quiet. It might hear us,” he replied in a squeaky, frightened whisper.
The two of us sat, scared and listening intently, as the wind blew through the pines surrounding us. As minutes passed, I heard slight rustlings in the bushes, and it sounded like whatever was out there was coming closer to us. My feeling of slight discomfort burst into agonizing terror as I suddenly realized the only thing standing between me and whatever was out there was a thin blue piece of fabric. My breaths grew more frantic and exaggerated as I sat in the tent with absolute dread growing in the pit of my stomach, but soon, the sounds ceased, and as they did, my panic started to cease as well. After about half an hour of quiet, I let out a large breath of air and smirked at my friend.
“Ha, you were so freaked, man. ‘Maybe it was the Hash Slinging Slasher’” I mocked, making my voice slightly higher to match his whenever I let out the words, “’Hash Slinging Slasher.’”
“Shut up, you were scared, too,” he grumpily retorted.
“Yeah, but not as scared as —Do you think it was somebody playing a prank?”
“I sure ho–“ Deven started to say, interrupted, as if on cue, by a loud scraping noise that seemed to come from the oak tree directly beside the tent. I looked directly at my friend and saw his face grow pale with the expression of terror I had previously seen only minutes before. The feeling in my stomach came back to me all at once, a feeling I can only describe as agony. As the volume of the noise increased, that horrible feeling of absolute terror grew as well, and as my anguish became more powerful, a short, loud shriek managed to escape my lips, and to my alarm and confusion, the scraping noise suddenly ceased. As I sat against the blue canvas of the tent, I intently listened for any more disturbances. The woods were quiet once again, except for the sound of the brush and trees flowing with the wind and a faint, recognizable sound that I could not quite place. It sounded near, but in a sense, far away. Everything else in the world vanished as I focused on that sound. The steady, rhythmic sound, so familiar, yet, I could not quite place it. I pondered what the sound was, and how I could not seem to realize what it was, no matter how hard I tried. Soon, the sound went away, and all was quiet.
The rest of the night was relatively calm. The wind flowed through the trees the rest of the night, and there were no further disturbances. Terrified, my friend and I laid down for the rest of the night, unable to sleep and too scared to run back to the house. The morning eventually came after what seemed like an eternity, and Deven and I realized that we had made it through that terrible night alive. After grabbing our essential items (clothes, blankets, etc.), we looked back at our broken clubhouse one last time and noticed two distinct things: claw and chew marks going into the large oak that was meant to have provided sanctuary for us and footprints of whatever that beast was.
As I took a closer look at the footprints, I noticed where the creature had gone during that traumatizing experience for Deven and I – the bushes facing our north side which led to the oak. After departing from the oak, the large, canine-like prints led to the south side of the tent, right by where I had been laying, and slowly I began to notice something…
The familiar noise I had heard the previous night was the slow and rhythmic sound of a large beast breathing.
The creature had been inches from my face.
Credit To – Troy Moore