Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Horror in the Woods of Santa Cruz

 In 1909, a man disappeared on a mission within the forests of Santa Cruz. Years later, his journal was found. No government records exist of this expedition, so the following entries are unverifiable. Here are its contents:

Entry 1, December 9th, 1909

My name is James Booth. My partner and I, Roland, were sent by President Roosevelt to explore the woods surrounding a sleepy little town called "Santa Cruz," right on the coast of central California. As is expected of those who work in our department, I am keeping this journal in the case that we fail our mission. If you find these, my partner and I are likely dead. I hope I kept sufficient notes.

Entry 2, December 10th, 1909

We made camp near the edge of the forest. Interesting place. On the look out for anything out of the ordinary. So far just seen a few deer. Roland said he saw a bobcat, but I think his eyes were playing tricks on him. It's raining, but the fire keeps us warm. 

Entry 3, December 11th, 1909

Roland shot a bobcat today. I think he wanted to prove to me that they exist. He's always been a crack shot with his Winchester Repeater. I prefer my six shot revolver, but to each his own. We are fairly deep into the forest now. We move slowly. Our goal is to comb the entirety of the forests surrounding Santa Cruz, so we don't want to move too far into the woods. The fire burns brightly. Roland's eyes look icier than usual. He says he isn't afraid of the dark, but I don't believe him.

Entry 4, December 12th, 1909

Still no activity. The President wasn't specific with his orders. He told us to explore, and report on what we found. My superiors were unable to provide me with any more details, other than that this is extremely important to the President. Seeing as he chose Roland and I, it must be something big. We've both seen war. But I am unsure if we are prepared for whatever this is.

Entry 5, December 13th, 1909

The days grow shorter. Sometimes I feel like we are going in circles.

Entry 6, December 14th, 1909

It is unseasonably cold, at least for what we expected of this region. Luckily Roland had the foresight to pack heavier clothes, else we would have had to retreat from the woods. I managed to bring down a deer today. We ate well. After the meal, I should have felt satisfied. However, I couldn't help but feel as though I were being watched.

Entry 7, December 15th, 1909

Roland woke up with some kind of rash on his right arm. He scratches at it every few minutes. We packed some ointments but they don't seem to help. Today we found a small hut nestled between two trees. It looks abandoned; webs lace it top to bottom. We tried to requisition the structure and use it for shelter, but, curiously, the inside was too cold to bear. Rather than question this, we moved on. The hairs on my neck stood up as we walked away.

Entry 8, December 16th, 1909

Found another hut. This one looks recently lived-in. Roland took it apart in order to use it for firewood. He trapped a few squirrels. It's not gourmet, but it'll do.

 Entry 9, December 17th, 1909

It's been a week and a day since our journey started. Roland's rash is getting worse. I may have to send him back into town to get it looked at. I've worked alone before, but on a job like this I'd prefer not to. So far still no sign of whatever it is we are supposed to be looking out for. I know that this mission was supposed to be discreet, but I can't help but feel we could have used more manpower, if not for the help, then for the comfort of company. 

 Entry 10, December 18th, 1909

Roland collapsed today while scouting the edges of our camp. His rash is getting worse, and I think he has a fever. Made him some soup using water from a nearby stream, and some squirrel meat. I crushed some herbs and placed them in it as well. He ate slowly, but I think I saw some life return to his eyes.

Entry 11, December 19th, 1909

I woke up to find Roland gone. He left a note. It says "gone back to town to get medicine, will return by the 25th." I am alone.

Entry 12, December 20th, 1909 

I forge ahead, leaving conspicuous markers so that Roland can find me upon his return. He is great at tracking. I see shadowy figures in the corners of my eyes, but I tell myself they can't be real. I am staring at the fire as I write this. The darkness absorbs the flames.

Entry 13, December 21st, 1909

A beautiful day. Nothing major to report. The sun shined vigorously through the canopy, and I managed to bring down another deer with my revolver. Around dusk I thought I saw Roland off in the distance, moving through the brush, and I shouted to him. No reply. 

Entry 14, December 22nd, 1909

I woke up drenched in sweat. In my dream, a shadowy figure with glowing, bloody eyes stared down at me, a devilish grin on its face. It felt real. Is this what we were sent for? I decide to fortify the camp I am in, instead of moving on. It is foggy.

Entry 15, December 23rd, 1909

I barely slept. Usually I am not one to be afraid of anything, but that nightmare kept me up. But it shouldn't have. I am a war hero. I've brought down some of the most dangerous people in this country and others with my wits and reflexes. So why do I tremble?

Entry 16, December 24th, 1909

I remain in the fortified camp, only leaving to gather firewood. Tomorrow, with luck, Roland will return.

Entry 17, December 25th, 1909

Christmas. The only gift I wanted was the return of my partner, but Roland never shows.  

Entry 18, December 26th, 1909

I decide to leave my fortified camp and search for Roland. I comb the forests for what feels like hours. I finally find his body several miles away, in the direction of town, or at least I think. He's pinned to a tree, a branch protruding from his chest. His ice blue eyes peer out into the expanse of redwoods, seeing nothing. He grips his rifle tightly, as if ready to fire. I close his eyes, and bury him, first burning the body as per our orders. I take the rifle. As I am about to leave, I notice a blood red "X," outlined in a form of ashy black chalk, drawn on the tree where Roland was once pinned. I resolve to find whoever did this.

Entry 19, December 27th, 1909

I followed a trail I found leading from the scene of Roland's demise. It led me to a dark, nearly inky portion of the woods. Black streams flow through the hills, and several still, reflective ponds dot the forested landscape. I find more of the webbed huts we came across when we began our journey. I make camp in an easily defensible position, against a rocky outcrop and the sheer side of a hill, looking out onto a grassy meadow. If anyone comes for me, I'll be ready. 

Entry 20, December 28th, 1909

Nobody came in the night. With my partner dead, and my situation growing worse by the day, it might be time to call in some backup. We were provided with rudimentary flares in the case of severe emergency. They are meant to alert a few men stationed in the nearby town that our mission has gone terribly wrong. Then, they are supposed to launch a rescue effort of some sort. I used a flare. I am unsure if I made the right decision, me and Roland were trained for stuff like this, these rescuers might be going to their deaths.

Entry 21, December 29th, 1909

I managed to sleep for a couple of hours. My thoughts are muddled. No sign of my saviors yet. I remain in my camp against the rocky outcrop.

Entry 22, December 30th, 1909

In my dream I saw the horrific shadowy figure once more. It grinned at me, almost in a loving manner. I tried to draw my pistol but my hands were paralyzed. I woke up just as it reached out to touch me, blood dripping from its ashen claw like appendages. The rocks bordering my camp are covered in red X's.

Entry 23, December 31st, 1909

New Year's Eve. On the edge of the meadow that feeds into my camp, I saw several figures, or so I thought. They stood there, motionless. I fired my pistol in the air as a warning, but they remained still. I fired at them, and they remained still. One of them appears to be smiling.

Entry 24, January 1st, 1910

A new year. Wish I had something to celebrate. The figures are gone. I thought they had returned, but to my joy, the three figures who emerged from the forest next wore military uniforms, American flags patched on their soldiers. My rescuers. Their leader, a Sergeant in rank by the looks of it, gave me the rundown. He warned Washington that the flares were used, and said that more help is on the way. When I asked him why we couldn't leave now, he stared at me, a blank expression on his face. He told me, "it's a miracle we were even able to get to you, the forests are infested, all we can do now is hold out as long as we can." These men seem far more informed about the situation than me and Roland were. Why were we sent?

Entry 25, January 2nd, 1910

The Sergeant's men establish a perimeter to our camp, setting up makeshift barriers and foxholes by which to shoot out from. I tell the Sergeant my story, and he only grimaces and nods, as if he knew this would happen. When I ask him what his men are preparing for, he only shakes his head and says, "those who call this forest home." He refuses to answer more questions. To pass the time, I clean my revolver, and Roland's rifle. The two watchers, as I call them, don't talk to me, but I help them build fortifications regardless. Hours pass like days.

Entry 26, January 3rd, 1910

I woke up to the sound of gunshots. The two watchers fired several rounds into the forest. I joined them, but I couldn't see what they were shooting at. One of them even threw a grenade. A desperate expression colored both of their faces. When I ask what it is they saw, they merely glance at me, and return to scanning the meadow. The Sergeant asks me about the red X's drawn on the rocks. I have no explanation, and neither does he. 

Entry 27, January 4th, 1910

A horrific day. Several pale, bedraggled figures emerged from the forest. They were just people, but they looked rabid, their clothes tattered. Could they be the ones who live in the huts? They walked, arm's entwined, in a parallel line, towards our camp. They approached at a deliberate pace, never speeding up, even when the four of us started firing at them. I swear one of them was looking me right in the eye. I took down that one, and at least five others. My comrades killed the rest. Their ashen, sinewy bodies lace the meadow, infecting it. Our ammo reserves are low.

Entry 28, January 5th, 1910

The bodies disappeared in the night. The watchers have no answers. Neither did the Sergeant. Our food supplies were running low, so I decided to form a small hunting party composed of myself and one of the watchers. We didn't go far, always kept the camp within our line of sight. The watcher lent me a spare knife, and together we collected several squirrels and a raccoon. It was better than nothing. 

Entry 29, January 6th, 1910

Had nightmares again. This time the shadowy figure was peering down at me from atop a tree branch, overlooking our camp. When I awoke, there was nothing there. The other three men had the same dream. We decided to break camp. Still on the move as I write this, have to concentrate.

Entry 30, January 7th, 1910

It's been nearly a month and I'm still in this godforsaken forest. The Sergeant and his men are with me, but I might as well be alone. We made camp after hours of non-stop traveling. These forests didn't look too expansive on the maps, we should have found an exit by now. It seems whatever haunts these woods doesn't want us to escape. It is toying with us.

Entry 31, January 8th, 1910

We left our makeshift camp, moving swiftly. We came upon the site of Roland's death. The red X is still there, making it easy to see where he was impaled several days earlier. I noticed tracks in the dirt, circling the tree. There were people here within the past few days. Staring at the X makes me uneasy.

Entry 32, January 9th, 1910

One of the watchers developed the same rash that afflicted Roland. I told the Sergeant, and he shook his head, dejected. To my surprise, he pulled his pistol out and shot the man in the back of the head, just like that. We burned his body. The three of us continue on; the remaining watcher looked untroubled by what occurred to his compatriot.

Entry 33, January 10th, 1910

The shadowy figure. It's real. It's all real. It appeared on the edge of our camp, its face contorted and ghastly. The eyes glowed red, its mouth curved inward, causing the face to look much like the X we had seen on the tree and rocky outcrop. Stringy hair-like appendages sprout from its head, and human skulls adorned its shoulders and chest. Its teeth were jagged, blood seeped from its claw-like hands. If it had legs, we couldn't tell, it was too dark. We ran into the night, and found a small abandoned shack, no larger than your average bedroom. It has two shattered windows, each facing the inky expanse of redwoods; the watcher and I peer from the right one, the Sergeant from the left. We wait. Shadows dance in the moonlight. 

Entry 34, January 11th, 1910

There is a small, grassy area surrounding the shack. The shadowy figure emerged from the forest, and stood there on the grass. It continued to grin, in a way that made my spine tingle. The watcher took a few shots at it. The figure recoiled, for a moment, but otherwise looked unharmed. It took one step forward. Then it waited, and took another step, making deliberate and drawn out movements with its spindly legs. It's eyes were locked on mine. I fired, partly as a reflex. The bullet caught the being straight in the head, whipping it backwards and causing it to stumble backwards a foot. It recovered within moments, and chuckled, in a way that sounded more like a gurgle than anything human. It continued making deliberate steps, stopping about five feet from the shack. It outstretched its arms, like a priest would do in church, and looked up to the sky. Then, it waited.

Entry 35, January 12th, 1910

We watched the figure for hours, but it didn't move. Our eyes grew tired. Decided to take turns watching, I slept a few hours, then watched, then slept, etc. The figure never moved. We did spot activity in the woods, however. The figure was summoning the ashen forest dwellers we encountered earlier. They encircled the house. I can't see a way out.

Entry 36, January 13th, 1910

Last night I passed out. When I awoke, I saw the Sergeant and Watcher lying face first on the rotting, moss covered floor. A disgusting mixture of crimson blood, pinkish gore, and slimy mucus decorated their bodies. I prodded them. No response. I looked out the windows. The figure, and it's minions, were gone. That's when I noticed the blood on my blackened hands. Had I...had I killed these men? The thought, strangely enough, did not disturb me in the least. I grinned, slightly, as I pondered what could have led to this absurd turn of events. Then I remembered my dream. The figure, it spoke to me. I still remember the words. We are one. And we are. I feel complete. Satisfied. No more fear.

Entry 37, January 14th, 1910

The man I was before is dead. All that matters now is tending to my children. I am alive. These woods...are mine.


Here, the entries stop for several decades. Flipping to the end of the timeworn journal, we found one last entry, written not in ink, but in some unknown, sickly smelling substance. The writing is disheveled in form; almost illegible:

Entry 38, August 20th, 1965

Found you again. How quickly time passes. New subjects come. I smile.




The End...

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