With a gaze fixed at the base of the dim green hill ahead, the dry warm air of the night took rest around his presence as his vision adjusted to the lack of sunlight. The pulsating flash of a few lighting bugs patrolling the steeply rolling hillside added a nostalgic touch to the atmosphere.
After a few moments of peripheral scanning, he let out a quiet extended yawn, and turned around. The entrance to the bordering forest stared him down like a Goliath; a slight pang of nervousness ran up his spine and into his chest, yet he knew better than to hesitate.
He walked forward along a beaten dirt path, and peered into the complex patterns of wooden pillars shrouded by a network of treetops that blocked out any and all possibility of pervading moonlight.
He continued along the path through the woods, relying on the texture of the ground below for direction; eyes gradually adjusting along the way. The faint sound of talking could be made out in the distance. The destination must be near.
After a few more minutes of keeping pace he noticed the light of a small bonfire radiating through the forest, the voices grew louder and entire words could be almost made out. The closing distance revealed a clearing. Illuminating their gathering ever so slightly with the pale glow of a full moon.
He finds two of his companions seated on a log by the fire, and the third accompanied by his fiance taking rest on a fairly ratty looking blanket perpendicular to the left side of the log. He was greeted warmly with hello’s upon arrival.
After greetings, handshakes and brief preface chattering, he took a seat on the log to the left of his two friends. He was offered a can of beer but knowing he would have to drive later that night he politely declined.
A pipe was passed to him. “This cannabis or tobacco?” He asked.
“Both” Replied Conner who was sitting on the far right end of the log.
Appearing quite satisfied with this answer he drew a blue lighter from his pocket and took a long gradual pull. He held it in as he stared upward at the night sky, and slowly exhaled through his nose.
Many of the details of the night that were previously bouncing around his mind like a pinball machine quieted. He felt his bodily tensions ease as his consciousness became absorbed in the conversation around him, and the seemingly animated tendrils of flame that danced and flickered about from the fire pit.
The conversation which had previously been about alternative politics took a sudden change to urban legends and local myths; “how stereotypical for a camping trip?” He thought to his own amusement.
For almost an hour they babbled on about things like The Wendigo, unsolved murders, supposed gateways to hell, haunted landmarks, conspiracy theories, and UFO sightings. They tossed around all the timeless nightmare fuel that teenagers and young adults have been using to scare each other into fits of paranoia and fight or flight mode as long as firesides have existed.
As much as he loved hearing these old tales again, none of them were able to get much of a hold on our protagonist. It felt more like a trip down memory lane than anything. At least until Isaac’s fiance Patricia abruptly took over the conversation, seeming almost pressured by something unseen.
She wore a faint look of unmistakable malice on her face as she began to nervously spin them all a yarn that none of them had heard thus far.
She began by asking everyone if they noticed a path that diverges to the right about halfway through the woods. We all nodded. He hadn’t thought of it until now but he had noticed it. He recalled the image of it to the forefront of his mind from earlier and remembered that it was blocked off about a foot in with barbed wire and caution tape. Obviously anyone could just walk around it but the point was obviously to signify that entry was a no-no.
She asked us if any of us had ever tread past it. Seth who was sitting to the right of him, on the middle section of the log, Looked up and said that he had walked down it for about ten minutes once out of boredom, but that the path seemed to go on for much longer. He than seemed a little unnerved when he explained to us why he had turned around.
According to his recount by this point he had suddenly been overcome by stomach pains, a pounding headache, and an extreme sense of impending doom and sadness as he walked, not only that his field of vision began to feel limited, and he began to notice abrupt movements from the corners of his vision that danced through both sides of the treeline. Not usually being one for superstition, he chalked it off as coincidence and decided to head home and rest, but by the time he had made it back to the main trail he felt completely fine.
He said this was quite disturbing, but since he coulden’t explain it he had kept it to himself until now. Patricia didn’t seem surprised by this addition and began to continue. She goes on to explain that there used to be another campsite down that path, about 8 times larger than the one we currently sat at.
“About 20 years ago, when I was about 8, I remember my family used to take me and my brothers camping at the old site. But the summer after my 9th birthday we stopped going. I always asked my family why but would always brush it off, avoiding the subject like the plague. Around the same time a couple that was close friends of the family, as well as a group of college kids from outside of the area, and a couple local drunks all went missing. It wasn’t until I was older that I made the connection. It also wasn’t public knowledge, the newspaper published very little on anything besides the last time they were seen in the village, but after prying several locals for answers I found out that all of them had went up to the campground shortly before they vanished.” She said blatantly displaying visible discomfort by this point.
She explains how she was obsessed with this ordeal in her younger years, and wanted to learn as much as possible about what might have happened. For three years her free time was spent in the local library studying the history behind the area, or in the local bar trying to extract information from locals and drifters who felt more comfortable to share than usual.
Most of the time it would just be trivial spins on what she already knew if anything, but one night a local outcast whom one rarely ever saw at the bar gave her something to work with. He told her that he had been with the two drunks that disappeared a few weeks before the others.
He had no credibility for this statement, but since she had seen them the three of them walking through town drunk together on multiple occasions she had no reason not to believe him. He said they were walking up there to camp out after a long night of drinking. He said the whole walk in he felt something was wrong but that the other two assured him he was being paranoid. He said they had just been there the day before and he had no reason to think anything of it. When they got in he said they saw a cabin which had not been there the day before. Cabins don’t just magically appear, and there’s no way someone could have built it in a day, besides that it looked aged as if it had been there for years.
His friends who were far more intoxicated went to go investigate, but he decided to turn around and walk back to his car where he could sleep off the alcohol. After doing so he awoke the following morning and drove into town to get breakfast at the same inn where they had been drinking the night prior.
He thought nothing of what happened until three days went by without hearing from his friends. He went to file a report with the local police station, but for some reason they wouldn’t let him leave until he promised not to talk about the ordeal.
He said this was the first time he had talked about it with anyone. That it rests heavy in his mind like an inescapable plague. He lacked closure for the death of his two closest friends. Unsatisfied that he’ll never acquire answers which he desperately doesn’t want to have in the first place. The police seemed just as scared as he was. He was no longer scared at this point however. Just melancholy, angry, and confused.
He explained to Patricia that he coulden’t deal with it any longer. That he was gonna go investigate the cabin for answers that night after he had left the bar, and should he not return than so be it, as it was better than living with the weight of the curiosity and remorse.
They left the bar at the same time, she asked him if he wanted to follow, but he declined and said that he had to go it alone. That was the last time he was ever seen alive. His head was found impaled on a bloody tree branch outside the trail entrance.
His body never turned up, police collected the head and that alone was buried. He had no family around or money to pay for a cemetary plot so they buried his head near right where it sat on the trail entrance.
Rumors spread and the following deaths came quickly. First the family disappeared as they had taken the whole ordeal for wives tails. Shortly after a group of college kids bent on exploring paranormal activity and haunted areas went missing.
Suddenly everyone around the bonfire appeared rather shook. Not a word was said, they put out the fire and walked back to their cars. All of us or so we thought.
The next day everyone tried meeting up but nobody could get a hold of Seth. We returned to the parking lot outside the trail and his car was still there. We wondered if he had drank too much and slept in his car.
They opened it too find his head wrapped up in the blanket that Isaac and Patricia were sitting on the night before. Patricia turned and abruptly vomited on the ground.
They all tried to file a report with the police station but just as Patricias story went; the newspaper would not publish anything about it. We don’t go to that campsite anymore; even the small one.
Isaac and Patricia moved out of town shortly afterwards. Conner and I never hear from them aside from a postcard once or twice a year. We never really talk about it either; we just keep our distance and beg anyone who thinks about camping on that accursed mountain not to go.