Now it’s personal.
Last night, my partner Mark and I got a call to respond to an injury related to an animal bite at a camp ground in a rather remote area, north of Minneapolis. The dispatcher couldn’t provide any further information but said she heard a dog barking it’s head off in the background, so we treated it as low-risk call. Per usual, we beat the responding police officer to the scene. He must have been asleep in a parking garage somewhere.
It was strange. Usually when we show up, there are bystanders or relations of the victim standing around or waving us in, but there wasn’t anyone in sight. We found the right campsite (it was the only one occupied) and got out to assess the situation. Two cars parked in in the gravel area, two tents set up, a campfire burning with camp chairs set up around it…no people. Hell, there wasn’t even a cricket chirping. Mark called out for the victim, but we got no response. There was a dog leash attached to the bumper of on of the cars, but no dog… or snap for that matter, just a frayed end. On the ground in front of one of the camp chairs was an open cell phone.
Thats when I noticed the tracks. In the dirt next to the campfire were what appeared to be a persons bare footprints… if that person wore a size 20 shoe and had … talons. I pulled out my flashlight and looked closer. As soon as I illuminated the grass I found the blood. It takes an awful lot of liquid to saturate ground, and this ground looked like a maroon swamp. Mark and I looked at one another, turned and hauled ass back to the ambulance. He isn’t nearly as fast as I am and, I’m ashamed to say, I wasn’t waiting for him either. As I rounded the driver’s side, I heard a rush of wind, then a startled gasp from Mark… and then he was screaming, high pitched and piercing. Before I could get back around the side of the bus, the volume of his scream was changing, moving back toward the wood line to the east. Still, I was moving…
I can still see his face in my mind. His eyes were locked to mine, terrified, pleading. His face was distorted in pain and fear. He was draped over the shoulder of… some … thing, trying with all his might to wrest himself from it’s grasp. The thing was the shape of a man, but half again as tall, pale skinned and hairless. It must have been immeasurably strong to run carrying Mark like that. It made no sound at all as it rushed toward the trees. Just before it entered the trees, it turned and looked at me. That face… those eyes… My skin crawled and I felt a wave of pure malice wash over me… Then it was gone. That was the last time I ever saw Mark Smith alive.
I’ll tell you right now, I locked my self in that ambulance, put out an OH FUCK call on the radio and hunkered down to wait for the cavalry to come rescue me. They found Mark early the next morning in a small clearing in the woods about a mile from the campsite. Rather, they found what was left of him… Mostly his head was intact. That was about it. The rest had been… chewed on… like a drumstick.
Mark was my friend. We drank beer and chased girls together off duty. Hell, I used to date his sister and for a while it looked like we were going to be brothers in law. Mark deserved better than that. I have seen men die in the chaos of combat. I have never seen anything that approaches the level of horror and helplessness I saw on his face. It hasn’t been that long since I wore the uniform. I still have the skills, still have some gear. I can get the rest, they pay me pretty good here.
Whatever that thing was, it better have it’s affairs in order. It won’t be the first thing I’ve killed, or the last, but it’s going to be the next…