07 Sep Willow Lake
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"Willow Lake"Written by
Estimated reading time — 16 minutes
So, three friends and I decided we were going to camp out in this 30 acre sanctuary down the street from my neighborhood. It’s paralleled by railroad tracks and a road on one side, and then a small road on the other said. There’s a lot of forest and trails, but also these big sand dunes and a huge lake that is pretty deep. So deep we can’t see the bottom. And in Florida there’s always shit to worry about like mosquitoes at night and spider webs along the wooded paths. Snakes thankfully left us alone.
Now understand when I say three friends I mean two friends and sort of my friend’s Uncle. So that’s Brandon, Dalton, and Mike. Brandon is cool when it comes to nature and a survivalist guy. Dalton’s my best friend and he’s funny but can get freaked out as easily as me. Then there’s Mike, the horrible uncle with the shit-eating grin that you’d never let your kids hang out with. He’s awesome.
We settled on three nights, so we got ourselves a big tent and brought two coolers worth of shit out there. The sun’s high up in the sky and there’s no clouds anywhere to be seen. It was a lovely day in autumn which meant it wasn’t nearly as hot as Florida sounds like. As we unload our truck at the front of the trail (we kinda had to hide the truck because there are no trespassing signs in a few places, but I see people out here occasionally so I think it more or less was a dumping warning) we notice that there are absolutely no foot prints this time. I thought that was odd but Mike just drew a dick in the sand.
So as we’re walking out there, Brandon is explaining that this area used to be home to the Ais tribe that was fond of east Florida. It was interesting to listen to because apparently they built both mounds and thatched huts and stuff like that. Mike asked us if we’d ever heard of a Banshee. To this I sort of facepalmed and Dalton laughed. Mike even chuckled and said he’d keep it for the night.
We lugged our shit some ways, passing a few retention ponds and an open area towards the railroad crossing and had a drainage ditch on the other side. The trail ran down pretty far until it turned into a huge scrublands area that then turned into another scrubland cut off by huge trees. You know, the kind of huge tree that’s so thick you can’t tell if it’s just now popping out of the ground or not. I always thought the place was cool but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel being here overnight.
We passed the big trees and it opened up into a shaded place with pine leaves forming their own little hills and then the huge sand dunes hugged by the Floridian forest. Then just touching the right tip of the place was this body of water we nicknamed Willow Lake. Most of the place was either sand, or little scrubbery pushing up out of it and right along the banks of the lake was a downed telephone line god knows how old.
We decided to lug our shit up the side of the dunes, because they turned into some secluded trails. We found the opportune location, too. It was a huge open area of sand with a patch of tree jutting up on the outskirts from the left side of the entrance, and then all wood on the right side spare for a small path that seemed barely beaten. This is where we would set up shop.
Within the hour we had the huge tent up and Brandon went off with Dalton to collect some firewood. Florida’s really bad on that part, so we’d use palm fronds to get the fire going and use actual wood to keep it burning. Good thing to know in Florida, because the skeeters hate thick smoke.
Since I was at the camp site with just Uncle Mike, he’d brought some Gin and popped it open. I’d never had alcohol in my life and I was just now eighteen, so I knew he’d try to have me drink some. Sure enough, “here ya go Rob!”
I told him no naturally, but my own curiosity was getting to me. I knew Dalton would jump at the chance to drink some Gin or Mountain Busch, and I knew Brandon would side with me. I told him to wait until the others returned, that way I’d at least have someone to agree with.
That’s when we heard it the first time. A wail that sounded like it came from at the base of the dunes. It was so close the hairs on the back of my neck were livid for seconds. Mike just laughed and cupped his hands “Will you sillynannies stop playing in the sand?”
Just as he had said that, Dalton stepped out of the woods, firewood in arms, and into the camp site to ask what all of that was. Mike and I asked him where Brandon was and he thumbed over his shoulder that he was still carrying some palm fronds with him.
“You mean you weren’t the ones who just made that wailing down there?” Mike asked him, folding his arms together.
“Mike, I’m being completely serious right now. You’d know if I was fucking with you.”
Mike sighed deeply and told him to bring Brandon back to the camp. He turned to me. “Rob, you’re comin’ with me.”
I looked awkward and asked him why, since I wasn’t used to being entirely alone with the guy.
“Because if this turns out to be Dirty Mike and the boys, I need someone to trip so I can get away.”
So I went with him. We walked down the sand dunes, having to pick our feet up because of the sand. And when we got to the bottom, we did a scan of the area. Honestly, the only thing that had changed was the position of the sun and the brightness of the horizon. It was now dusk, barely dark but getting there.
I turned to Uncle Mike who was rather puzzled himself and asked him what he thought it was. He just said it had to be a tyrannosaurus in heat. Now I couldn’t help but laugh. Mike was definitely the comic relief of us, but even so he looked concerned. He said he brought the machete for woodcutting but told me it was inside the tent near the back if I needed it.
We shrugged the whole thing off after that and swapped some stories around the campfire. Thankfully, the mosquitoes were nowhere to be found. Brandon continued to tell us more about the location, and how the Ais were also hunter-gatherers. That meant they didn’t farm or grow anything, but they hunted animals and gathered resources to survive. Dalton told us about some of the spooky stories he’d read on /x/ late at night and for the most part, some of what he told us was genuinely spooky. Mike even contributed by telling us more about the Banshees, and how they wailed and the person would always die nearby, but that sounded rather vague. Mike opened his mouth and screamed horrifyingly after the silence settled in, and Brandon was shaking his ass off. Of course we all laughed at him and told him the Banshee was gonna get him. Yeah, the rest of the night consisted of Mike fucking with Brandon. There was even one moment in the tent where Mike told him, “Calm down Brandy. Banshee’s only show up when there’s a flash of light.” After a few seconds, Mike lightly held down the button on the flashlight and Brandon screamed “FUCK”.
The next day we woke up and went about our business of taking a piss off in the woods or going down to the lake just to enjoy the morning breeze, but I noticed something odd. Upon walking down the reclusive hill, there was something amiss in the dunes themselves. I saw our footprints, which were hugely distorted due to the sand, and then I saw what appeared to be deep impressions like something on all fours had bolted up the hill- or down it. They were just so perfect that it couldn’t be real.
I’m paranoid about these things, so I constantly had my eyes glued to the trails that we came from and others we hadn’t checked out yet. Which I knew if we were, I’d be bringing Brandon or all of them along. I really didn’t feel like going alone after the wail yesterday.
I sat on the downed telephone pole to wash my face off from the water, and that’s when I noticed it. Mike’s bottle of gin, still half filled like he left it, just dropped in the sand in front of me. I blinked blankly, figuring Mike must’ve wandered out last night or early in the morning and drunkenly left it here.
I went back up to our spot where Dalton brought more wood to and asked Uncle Mike about his bottle. He tilted his head and asked me where I found it. I told him down by the lake. He told me to stop fucking with him.
“You didn’t get up early in the morning and take it down there?” He told me no, but I raised my eyebrows at him. “So you weren’t hammered?”
I sounded like an idiot sure, but knowing Mike he could be hatching some kind of prank on us as we spoke. Bottom line was he said he didn’t move it, so I just gave him the gin and sat down at the camp.
It was pretty lazy for the rest of the morning. All we did was eat some of our canned stuff and decided which trails we’d go down. Naturally, since the place we were at is connected to an actual nature park, we thought we’d try seeing if we could reach it. So we chose the path going around the side of Willow Lake. Mike stayed behind and made some phone calls while we went out there, since animals could’ve gotten into our shit if we just left it.
This little dirt road had the retention ditch adjacent to it, with big tilapia swimming freely and at least a twelve foot stumble if someone tripped. And boy, it was far. By two P.M. we’d probably walked at least three miles or so, and I could barely believe that myself. The place was supposed to be thirty acres, and the fact that this trail rarely curved or made a turn bothered me at how far we’d gotten from the sand dunes.
The only thing we had here were jagged trees, and overlying canopy of Spanish moss, and the just barely audible noise of the highway. So we weren’t entirely that far from civilization. Our big problem now was that the path split into three. They all looked the same, spare for the center being riddled with pine needles. So we went down the mid-path, figuring less sand meant easier walking.
The wail again, from yesterday. As soon as I heard it in front of us, I teared up. Consider myself a pussy, but I knew it wasn’t Mike screwing with us. There was no way he could’ve been ahead at this rate. Brandon was giving us worried looks but he brought out his six inch knife, and Dalton told me to lie low. We were all speaking so softly that it was almost surreal.
Brandon, though easily spooked, seemed so calm here. He slowly went ahead, minding where he put his footsteps because the pine needles didn’t actually make too much of a noise. So while he slowly progressed twenty yards ahead of us (and also remember that the trail is pretty isolated in the forest at this point), Dalton and I covered our six. We noticed something really strange just lying off to the edge of the pine needled path.
I wanted to say no. I wanted to deny every ounce of it. But there was no denying the fact that an unopened can of Mountain Busch was right here, far from our camp. The damn thing still had precipitation on it.
I told Dalton I was really fucking scared right now, and he nodded and nudged me towards Brandon. We decided we’d head back to the camp and tell Mike about it.
Something entered our peripheral vision, a blurring mix of gray and white, ran from one side of the path from the other. One thing I remember definitively were three boney fingers on each hand passing through the bush and leaving nearly no trace that it was there.
I’ve never seen Brandon hop to his feet and sprint as quick as he did, but we were all on our feet. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen my own two feet work like they did. We forgot taking the can back and just ran as fast as we possibly could back to the Lake. And we didn’t stop there, we ran up the sand dunes, nearly collapsing because of the thick sand, and shouted for Mike.
Mike wasn’t there. Are you fucking kidding me, I thought. We shouted for Mike for several minutes, looking all around. Brandon checked the cooler and did a count of our stuff while Dalton kept pacing back and forward, calling Mike on his phone.
“What are you sissies screaming about?” Mike answered the phone. We found out he had walked back to the truck to go to the 7-11 down the road, but he told us he was pulling back up. He asked us if we were really gonna pussy out of our only time together over break, and we decided we would just meet him at the front and tell him what happened. Fuck staying behind at the camp, none of us were man enough to do it after what we just witnessed.
We made our way back past the two large trees and down the long trail until we found Mike walking up with a bag of potato chips and some water. He thought our expressions were hilarious, but asked us what was going on.
Once we told him, he was almost in disbelief. Mike asked us if we took his machete, and I answered no for him. He told us we should consider knowing where it is if we seriously saw something.
The rest of the day consisted of us staying near the tent, not really going anywhere alone anymore. We had all stepped down near the Lake because Dalton and I started goofing around. We were wrestling, causing a huge dust cloud from rolling down the dunes. Mike loved it, because I was being so desperate to kick Dalton’s ass yet I wasn’t built like he was. And Mike, seeing another opportunity to fuck with Brandon, did the banshee cry yet again.
Only this time, off in the distance, the same wail from before answered him. We all said “what the fuck!?” at nearly the same instant. This was when Mike stood up and scanned the perimeter, making his own checks of everything.
“See Rob, this is why you need to get your concealed weapons permit.” He said, walking down to help us up. When I asked him why, he answered “You really think I’m allowed to carry a gun?”
We weren’t very talkative the rest of the night. We sat around the campfire paranoid, tried roasting some marshmallows and playing some music from our cell phones but it was hard to shake the feeling that we were under surveillance. You know, like there could be big red eyes somewhere just watching, waiting.
Mike kept his machete by his legs, and Brandon had taken his own knife and carved the end of this long stick to make a spear. This is how spooked we really were. There was something out here and we were alone.
“Look guys, if you really wanna just get the fuck out of here, we can. I’ll just drive us back to Rob’s place.”
At that point, we were all ready to get up and go, so there were no objections. Some camping trip this turned out to be.
Mike stood up and lit a cigarette for a few moments, then muttered profanities to himself. He turned to us with a half-grin half-frown. “You guys are gonna hate me… I think I dropped my car keys.”
Of course we all gawked and asked him if he was serious or if he was fucking with us. Because of course, Mike’s been known to do that. But he was serious. He fanned out his pockets and checked all over camp, using his cell phone as a light.
So that’s really it. We were fucking stuck here unless we wanted to walk the whole way back to my house. And frankly, we were tired and our hearts were still pounding from earlier. We just wanted to dig in and hold until daylight. We’d cut this trip short, making it two days instead of three.
So we all huddled like frightened animals in the middle of the tent. That primal fear kicked in of being exposed, or being towards the outside of the tent. Mike slept next to his machete, keeping his shoulder on it. Brandon and I couldn’t sleep, and Dalton drank some of Mike’s gin to try and keep him sleeping. Brandon was petrified and told me not to close my eyes. His paranoia made it harder on my own, and we kept ourselves up for as long as I can remember. We heard the mosquitoes on the outside of the tent, we heard some splashing down near the Lake, and we heard a train horn eerily pass by.
It must’ve been three hours before we finally started settling in. I was about to bury myself in my sleeping bag when my ears sprang alert. There was a thumping of sand being thrown around. It was getting closer, and more to our ground level.
I dared not sit up, but I started to tear up once more. That thing was bolting up the hill and into our camp site, just like it probably did the night before.
I held my breath as the thing’s heavy exhalation passed on my side of the tent. Its footfalls weren’t too powerful, the thing appeared like it was trying to sneak around. It also slowed down now that it was on even terrain.
Now I couldn’t help it. I turned slowly and silently to see Brandon’s eyes completely open, staring straight at me. He was shitting bricks so bad but I wasn’t gonna call him out on anything. This was horrifying and I really thought about the possibility that this monster could kill us with those long boney fingers.
While it sulked around the camp and went through our cooler, I nodded towards Mike’s machete. Brandon tried to take it, but Mike was too heavy. So we had to wake everyone up. I brought a hand out and suggested prodding Mike with his stick, so we did. Mike quietly groaned but we covered his mouth. Before he could object, we heard the cooler spill and all the shit pour out. The thing outside grunted and its heavy breathing panicked for a moment before subsiding. The thing’s fingers were tapping on the insides, and it lapped up the water like a big dog would.
Mike wanted to whisper but we frantically shook our heads against the idea. So instead of talking, he mouthed stuff to us. It was hard to understand him, but he reluctantly spoke. “Wake up Dalton. Sit up slowly.”
We all remained silent, for the night around us had as well. We were almost terrified that it heard him. I couldn’t stop shaking, as if I got the chills. But we were reassured that the thing was still there because it started digging in the sand for some reason, and the sand smashed against the outside of our tent, like we were being pelted with tiny pebbles.
We pushed on Dalton’s shoulder, and he muttered “what”.
Mike sat up and held the machete ready, because the thing outside stopped digging in the sand. We clasped our hands over his mouth and whispered into his ear to sit up slowly, which he did with uneasiness.
The thing was casting a shadow over our tent, now. It was just taller than Mike, who was prime in that category here. Like a grizzly bear or something, it stood to full height to observe the tent. It had to be at least ten feet away, right against the heavy forest. And since we were all on our knees inside the tent, we weren’t even half of its height. Uncle Mike raised the blade, his own tattooed hands shaking.
The monster moved its legs and stalked towards our tent. It extended an arm to poke the tent, running its delicate fingers across the fibers. Its breathing pushed in on the tent, and out. The shadow gradually turned and its hands ran over the entrance, particularly along the zipperline.
I was literally holding Dalton’s hand, in a completely maternal instinct. This was real. This was a real nightmare, a story you’d read or a movie you’d watch. And I was in the middle of it. My heart was pounding so hard that I could not only hear it, but feel it in every ounce of my body. He could feel it too as he squeezed my hand. Even Brandon who was sitting by himself was literally losing his shit in the calmest way imaginable. Because if we weren’t calm, I thought we’d be dead.
The fingers finally found the zipper. It fiddled and experimented with it, and the thing looked like it had difficulty understanding. It pulled out on the tent, moving us a few inches. Then it pulled up, started unzipping the tent.
It was halfway unzipped when Mike struck. He lunged out at it, swiping the thing across its arm and the monster letting out a shrill that could boil blood. We all screamed, seeing the thing roll around in the sand with Mike grunting to stay on it. They knocked over the ashpile and the partially burnt bonfire and dust was in the air, everywhere. It was horrible because we didn’t know what to do. We were fucking sitting here watching my best friend’s Uncle fight off a creature with his blade, and we weren’t sure who was winning.
I don’t even remember much of the fighting, I just recall being petrified at the skeletal humanoid monster that in the middle of this fight had glowing yellow eyes and snarled like something neither from Hell nor Earth.
Brandon took both Dalton and I by the arms and ushered us down the hill. Dalton didn’t want to leave Mike, but Brandon said tough shit and told him we were going to dig in. I reminded him that this thing was six feet tall and fast, but it didn’t matter to us anyway. We were in the sand dunes in pitch black, and there was absolutely nothing keeping it from bolting down the dunes and ripping us apart!
We saw them hurdling down the hill, Mike literally punching the fucking thing now with his fists. He didn’t even have the big knife in his hands anymore until I noticed it was protruding from the creature’s gut. And what’s worse is the thing was digging its claws into his shoulder. It looked damaging, like someone dragging a dissection tool across the skin. In their struggle, the thing must’ve rocked back and forth because his neck was pretty diced.
Now with Mike bleeding from his neck we really knew we had to do something or else he could die… or we could all die. So Mike, groaning from his pain, finally kicks the thing off of him and stands up. He’s literally dripping blood down his shoulders. The creature on the other hand just sits there, its body churning inwards and outwards, catching its breath and recuperating.
We all hauled ass, fuck everything back at the camp. The sand made it difficult to sprint, and that made things even scarier. The thing could lunge and snatch any of us at the rate that we were going. It was like trudging through heavy snow! Thank god for Brandon’s heritage, he told us how the Mohawk Indians ran. He suggested that he we ran their way or stick to the side of the path once we got back on it, and it would keep us from sinking into the dune.
We were at the bottom when it wailed and we heard it charging after us. I was already flying for all I knew from the adrenaline pouring into my veins. The sound of breaking glass shocked me but I didn’t stop running. I ran faster than any of them.
I passed the two big trees and got out of the scrubbery, and I passed the second large lake and I reached the truck. I had covered the distance so fast that my chest was about to explode from pain. My asthma was acting up and I started having trouble breathing. I didn’t even bring an inhaler because I hadn’t used it in so long.
I found Mike’s keys on the ground next to the car tires and just grabbed them. I couldn’t do anything right now with my heart pounding and my lungs in anguish. I didn’t even realize I left anybody behind in the dust and frankly the only thought on my mind was the horrible creature.
A few moments later, Dalton and Brandon came hauling Mike over and put him in the back seat of the truck. I gave them the keys and without them asking me if I was alright, got in the truck and Dalton took the wheel.
We turned on the truck and its engine revved up. The headlights came on and the yellow eyes reflected, while it continued crawling for us. Dalton shouted the Lord’s name and put his foot down on the pad. We ran the thing over, causing a huge thump. After that we backed all the way out of the trail and without paying any mind, we sped off down the roadways to the nearest hospital.
Mike was in I.C.U. for days until they managed to save him. As for us, well we told our folks what had happened and they thought we were all dropping acid. They wouldn’t let us see each other or Mike for months until some hiker got killed out in the place we were at. The whole city was in panic over this fiasco and nobody wanted to leave their homes.
No other killing happened. The police did a huge sweep of the nature park and although they did find the remains and everything we reported, they found no creature. Not even the blood. The Mayor’s response was to completely seal off the nature park and the thirty acres beside it and the city made it illegal and punishable by fine to enter anywhere around it.
I finally got to ask Mike what the fuck happened only a few months back. He had told me the breaking glass was his bottle of gin, with his last sip he had been saving, against the thing’s face. Said he cut it up pretty badly.
I’ve never set foot in the forest down here ever since.
Credit To – Rob Allen
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