She could only remember the numbers ringing in her ears.
It was the last thing she heard after waking up in the hospital 3 days after the attack. Casey Hotts was a Sophomore at Keiser University studying journalism in Miami, where she was investigating the ongoing disappearances in the California wilderness.
A documentary had surfaced on the internet regarding an urban legend only known to locals in the area as "the behemoth." The footage in question was shrouded in mystery: a group of kids wanted to "debunk" the myth of the creature only for it to turn into a crime scene when local news outlets reported the murder of Benjamin Henderson, and the convicted suspect was now on the run;
It was the reason for her expedition. Having the original footage not taken down despite what had unfolded over the summer made it all the more strange. She watched the whole thing, taking notes and analyzing every bit of detail as she followed the timestamps and slowly put together the pieces.
The documentary began as found footage from Matt's friend, claiming that he was returning from Jersey and hadn't been in contact with his friends in a while. Through the rest of it, it went from a wild goose chase with former friends to something...
She could only remember so much as of the critical condition she was in. If anything, she was lucky to be alive. Her parents were coming back from their trip to Hawaii when they learned that their daughter was hospitalized after almost being killed by a fugitive.
Despite her encounter with the individual, the only thing she could recall from it was the noise. The noise was all that remained of her experience in the forest. The loud, blaring, incomprehensible gibberish that rang in her ears.
"Nine." "Seven." "Eight." "One." "Four." "Zero." "Two."
She didn't know what it meant at first, but then after recalibrating via her notes and journal entries, she made a parallel to that of previous recorded disappearances localized throughout the area.
Nine year old Katherine Hubbens goes missing from her home after she hears strange noises coming from the woods across from their family's backyard. Her sister Abby is reported as saying that Katherine heard their mother calling to them from the trees, "but wrong. All echoey".
The only evidence she had to back her findings were the almost illegible archives of newspapers from late 70's to early 90's, and any digitized copies of whatever was left from outdated news sources.
The events surrounding the documentary however, were not validated. In the footage, there were various references to unfamiliar accounts of the same creature depicted throughout the media.
Though no evidence of said accounts were ever found. In her notes, Casey had listed the following details of what each witness had relayed to the viewer at the corresponding timestamp:
- “Red neck days like, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ days-” 19th Century? (12:24)
- Boy and girl playing near the woods, girl goes missing. (12:35)
- Family hears daughter’s voice in the woods following the event. (13:08)
- Boy encounters the creature, chased home, creature abducts mom. (13:16 - 13:56)
- Boy attempts revenge, disappears. (14:20)
Conclusion: Unknown 1800’s Account
- 1980’s unknown witness - Freddy Anderson (Missing) (1:23:20 - 1:23:23)
- Group of teens on camping trip go missing (1:23:37)
- Witness disappears after help arrives (1:23:55)
Conclusion: Unknown 1980’s Account, Canadian Wilderness
She was at her wits end. Her summer vacation was wasted on a manhunt for the truth, only for it to bite her in the ass. She felt the stitches on her side as she brushed against the surgeon’s handiwork: the nylon woven into where the carnage was performed.
She dropped her head back onto her pillow with a soft thud. She couldn’t help but feel disappointed with herself. She practically put her life on the line for this, if it hadn’t been for the lack of her consciousness.
She wouldn’t be here if she'd properly planned the whole thing. She wouldn’t be here lying on her hospital bed if it weren’t for… him. That deranged psychopath that’s still on the loose god knows where.
She didn’t know what to expect. She didn’t actually think she’d find anything. But after what she had witnessed however many hours ago it had been, she wish she didn’t. She could feel the weariness overpowering her as her eyes began to squint.
The fatigue from her voyage was slowly overcoming her system. She could feel it, her clenched fist beginning to lose it’s grip; eventually shutting her eyes to fall into a deep sleep.
The sounds of medical equipment being performed outside her room and voices that trailed along with it: doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, it all began to fade away until she couldn’t hear anything anymore.
She couldn’t remember the last time she shut her eyes for more than fifteen minutes. She barely slept the past week or so with her research. Her roommates had been concerned with her summer routine for the time being, and had suggested doing something together before it ended.
Being the quiet, antisocial person she was, she refused. It had only been a month since school had ended, and she planned to spend her time wisely. She became intrigued with the ongoing disappearances within California, and it’s connection to an internet meme people were now calling “Sirenhead.”
That’s what started the whole thing. That was the reason for the documentary; the sirenhead. As cryptic as it was, there was a sense of doubt that seemed to cross the public eye after what had been announced on the news.
Of course people didn’t believe in it, it was bullshit! The whole thing was nothing but a piece of artwork created by Trevor Henderson (not related to the late Benjamin Henderson), and people had become infatuated with it: making games, memes, fan-made content; the next big trend of 2020.
Having the murder being connected to a fictional creature was all the more controversial. Yes, at the time, the artwork inspired by “the behemoth,” or at least what the locals in California have called it, was basically their take on national folklore like Bigfoot or Loch Ness.
There wasn’t a single person in the area at that time that didn’t know what Sirenhead was. After the miscellaneous accounts and stories inspired by the monster, people had come to a mixed understanding. For one, it was something stupid people had conjured up on the Internet and nothing more.
But the other side of the story had remained untold. This was when Casey came into play.
What was later relayed to the police became the resurgence of a cold case that was reopened shortly after her consultation. To the media, it was the backlash of everyone and their mother within local residents and plenty of hot takes. After all, no one believed something so fictitious as a 40 ft. tall humanoid-creature whatever it was roaming the countryside in plain sight.
To this day, the memory remained etched into her mind.
— — — —
It had been almost a year since the footage was published. Casey had been planning this trip for months. The footage. The kids. What happened afterwards.
It was 5:15 AM on Friday, June 4th. She was getting a ride to the airport from a close friend of hers after booking her tickets to California the week before. She was staying at a nearby hotel for the week while exploring the rural area.
By the time her ride arrived, she had the essentials packed and ready to go: food, water, first aid, and her prized possession Canon Powershot. She wanted to capture everything on the scene, not wanting to leave any stone unturned of what happened there.
She considered herself more of a photojournalist than what she initially thought to be. She remembered when she was 12; carrying her camera with her everywhere she went, how she took pictures of all the plants and bugs in her backyard, pretending to be an explorer in the amazon rainforest.
Her parents took great interest in her fascination of photography. When they went to Animal Kingdom in Disney World, she used up all the film in her father’s camera that they bought one for her as a souvenir, eventually replacing it with a new one on her birthday.
The memories seemed to take her away until she reached the airport and made her departing flight, landing in Cali. Taking a cab to Hampton Inn where she booked her room on the 3rd floor, she settled in and unpacked her necessities: food, clothes, everything she needed.
She would set off to explore the following day, taking the time to look into any recent news and other background information. The search for the individual in question was still underway, this she knew. It was her being able to access where she needed to go that Casey was concerned about.
Taking a glance at the news channel in her hotel room, she learned that the woods near the neighborhood had been sectioned off for police investigation. Recently there was an assault at a park that left an innocent bystander severely injured, leaving police to believe this was Matthew’s doing.
The only evidence that was presented to back their claim at the scene of the crime was a symbol crudely etched on the victim’s neck: a line with two triangles on each side, pointing in opposite directions with the other placed just above the one below it on the other side.
It didn’t take her a second glance to realize what this was supposed to be. She knew what it was, but most importantly she knew what the suspect was referring to. It was obvious.
Turning off the TV, she spent the rest of the day doing recon on the investigation, asking any patrons at the hotel anything that they knew. Usually she’d be left with confused looks and hairy eyeballs. Sure, there’d be people here who were sensitive to what was going on near the town but, she didn’t expect a closed community.
Returning to her room later that night, after exploring the rest of the hotel and gathering what she could, she found something lying on the coffee table near her bed:
It was Polaroid, no more than a vintage photograph, yes, but the contents of the photo was… unnerving.
It reminded her of one of those “liminal spaces” where it was a living room of a log cabin that appeared to be taken late at night; the kinds of things people would only see in youtube videos.
“Familiar places with unnerving music” kind of videos. Casey could make out a sliding door on the left in front of a worn-lumpy couch, with a wool rug in the middle of the setup. A small cabinet with framed photographs of what she could only assume to be relatives of the photographer.
Aside from the miscellaneous other designs in the room she could barely make out, the thing that caught her attention was a veiny, skinny arm covered in black. It wasn’t fur or an article of clothing; it was skin.
A cartoon glove attached to the arm followed by a massive head devoid of features except for the jarring human-like teeth that grimaced at the light, massive eyes and what looked like a cat ear that hid behind the wall where the creature was partially revealing itself.
At the bottom right corner, she found a date. 2016. The day and month were scribbled off with permanent marker so she couldn’t make it out. Turning it over on the back was the word “delirium”.
Her first thought was “is someone following me?” She wasn’t bright, but she wasn’t stupid either. She took a good look at the photograph, believing it to be nothing but photoshop.
Maybe it belonged to the person that previously rented the room left this behind, having been found by housekeeping or a cleaning maid.
No… it wasn’t possible. Whatever the case, she slid the photo in her backpack and changed to go to bed. It had been a long flight down, and she had been on her feet for far too long. She needed rest. She wouldn’t be ready for the journey ahead if she didn’t get at least 8-9 hours of decent sleep.
The polaroid photo was the only thing she could think of.
What the hell was that thing? She thought. She had so many questions and she just got here. Whatever the case, it would be no different than the other things she would find.
And maybe get a little more of what she had asked for…
— — — —
Late that night, Christine, Jacob and Matt all huddled together in the room they shared. Christine, the oldest of the trio firmed her grip on the two boys, determined to keep them quiet from the thing that was lurking outside the hall.
Matt’s older cousin was known to be over-protective at times. But aside from tonight, she had every right to be. He and his mother went on a summer trip to New Jersey for a week’s visit with their relatives.
He always looked forward to the stories his Uncle Tim and relatives they shared. It never got old as time went by. Each time they returned to visit felt like something new. The myths surrounding the small town of Newt Creek had turned into something more but fiction.
Like that one time they went on a hiking trip deep into the woods where they and Tim shared stories of monsters and creatures that dwelt within, giving incredible backstories and how the town had become the epicenter of all of it.
He even went as far as to joking about how the property they settled in was buried on top of an ancient burial ground long before they were even born. Sure, it was just a story. But that all changed soon after the events of that night.
Neither of them remembered what happened the next morning. They told everyone what happened but to be met with disbelief, saying how they’d been listening to one too many tall tales.
But they all knew what they saw that night. And what was worse was it wouldn’t be the first time either. Christine always kept her polaroid camera with her despite having a perfectly reliable phone with her at all times.
Jacob and Matt were fascinated with the photos that she took. She knew this would be the best way to make their memories worth while: her pictures.
On those nights, however, she used her reels on the things they saw the progressing week. The things they swore they had imagined and everything they had witnessed; terrifying them out of their wits.
Neither of them understood why this happened every night. There was no logical explanation for any of it. There was just no mistaking their little adventures they endured every day, coupled with the bond they shared, making the experience altogether one to remember.
When it was time to leave, the weekend of their departure, Matt gave his two cousins the biggest hug he could muster. Tears in his eyes, he didn’t want to leave them. He was scared of what would happen to them.
He didn’t want them to perish from the fears they had witnessed in the night. But just like he, Christine and Jacob didn’t know any better either. They didn’t understand just as much as he did. And they had every reason to be uncertain and afraid.
Afterwards, things seemed to slip away from them. Everything went back to normal for what it seemed. Not too long after they came back, they discovered that a house fire had killed his two cousins two days after they left.
They were the only reported casualties from news reports and other media. The report confirmed from local authorities that the fire was from a burst gas pipe, causing the house to erupt in flames.
The family had been torn apart by an unfortunate accident, and thus resulted in Matt taking a toll on his well-being. His two cousins… gone. Christine and her beautiful brown-wavy hair, her perfect smile, and Jacob, everything about the two he ever cherished and cared about…
Nothing made sense to him anymore. He forgot everything that was happening around him, as he began to overthink the unanswered questions that he left hidden away at the back of his mind: What really happened that night? What were those things? Why did we have to suffer?
The things the three saw last week: the cartoon cat, the long horse, the man with the upside-down head, and the numerous other creatures and monsters that seemed to haunt them every night in different shapes, forms and horrors.
There was no connection between them and anything that they could think of. He remembered after the “cat” attack that first night of their visit, they searched every corner of their house looking for answers.
…and they found nothing.
The same followed for the rest of their encounters: different creature, different story, but no evidence remained at the scene of the crime.
Jacob, the smart one of the trio, at the time theorized that, the stories Tim was making up for the tradition was loosely inspired by ancient history within the town that no one knew about or even remembered.
While plausible, connecting the reference he made about the ancient burial ground to what Jake commented, it didn’t seem to fit. That wouldn’t explain why the things they had seen that night would come for them.
Or even why anything had to associate or relate to them at all.
The time following, Uncle Tim and Matt’s relatives were rarely heard from again. Usually it was just a brief text message or email but aside from that, nothing. Their loss was just too much. Delilah didn’t blame them but she couldn’t do anything to help.
She kept insisting that they stay over for the summer but to no correspondence or hasty replies. It was like as if everything began to fall on deaf ears for everyone now. Their world just came crashing down. Hard.
Within that window, Matt was arrested after loosing control of himself, causing a public episode, being hospitalized and further traumatic experiences that made him a changed man.
He had completely forgotten about his friends that lived nearby because of the dilemma that he had on his plate. He wasn’t going to let this go, he needed to find answers.
And when he turned 18 two years later, he went back to Jersey where their house had burnt down only to find a brand new establishment, leaving no trace of remnants behind, and a cryptic symbol engraved on a tree within it’s backyard:
A single line, followed by 2 triangles; one on top of the other on the opposite side with both pointing inward. It resembled a siren. To him, it had to be a callback to one of the creatures in Tim’s stories, but he didn’t remember. Not too long after his experience, his memories began to blur:
Details began to mix and collide with others, he began to find it difficult to recall what he accurately remembered and couldn’t. It drove him insane. His mother had to move out because of his nature, leaving him on his own.
He didn’t care. He didn’t even seem to acknowledge the changes in his surroundings. He was only focused on getting closure. He needed to know what happened that night. He needed to know why.
Why him? Why his family? Why any of this at all???
Unfortunately, there was no comeuppance for him. Until when he came back from Jersey for the third time in a row that his old friend Ben texted him with several videos of himself documenting the legends of “sirenhead.”
And the rest was history.
— — — —
That week was nearing it’s end and Casey had found multiple polaroids of the same area with multiple different creatures and oddities that stuck out like color in a black & white photo:
A heavily deformed cartoon-looking cat. A horse with a neck that seemed to stretch and twist forever. A man with an unexplainably upside-down head that lurked in the distance. But there was no reassurance of the sirenhead from the news and the behemoth from the legends the locals told.
She hadn’t even used her camera yet because of it. She didn’t even find anything except for the photos she seemed to have found almost everywhere she went. She went through the neighborhoods and into the archives of police reports, town records, anything she could find to get her hands on. But nothing.
Frustrated, she plucks up courage to trek into the woods. The last place she expected to find anything. Even if it meant risking her life in the process, se was ready for anything now. She was determined to find something.
A good 15 minutes later, she stumbled across what looked like to be someone injured.
They were stranded in a clear distance, but weren’t moving. The man was hunched over, appearing to be holding his leg. He must have twisted it or something, Casey figured.
Trudging down the slope to aid the pedestrian, she jumped back in horror to find his neck slit and blood coating his shirt and jacket. As the body fell limp, she hesitantly reached out to touch the corpse to examine the blood;
It was fresh. This man was murdered just recently. But by how far she was in the woods and away from the town, there wasn’t anybody in sight. …or at least that’s what she thought.
Suddenly there was a rustle in the shrubs behind her. She turned around to face her attacker, ready to make a dash back up the hill when Matthew came around ready to strike.
…but a squirrel came out instead, hopping away in the opposite direction. Relieved, Casey decided to snap a photo of the little rascal for scaring her before she could move on.
She snapped a picture, then felt a cracking blow to the head, rendering her unconscious.
It was Matthew.
She felt the warmth of blood trickling down her forehead as the figure on top of her began beating her face into a pulp. He appeared to be wearing summer attire: a blue hoodie, worn out white sneakers, boxer shorts, and a modified baseball cap that left the same crude symbol she saw before covering the logo.
He wore a bandana and shades to mask his face, never speaking the entire time of the assault.
She then felt an agonizing sharp pain in her side, as she screamed at the result of a sharp twig lodged into her side. Matt didn’t use knives or weapons of any kind by the looks of it;
He used the forest. He used whatever he could find for his arsenal. He made tree bark into stakes, he used twigs and pebbles/rocks for slingshots, and whatever he could do to make it all the more lethal.
He tried to muffle her voice to snuff out any cry for help, but she managed to get a good kick in to knock him back, making him stumble onto the ground; dropping a photo album and his disguise, revealing a hideous face.
Matthew was no more. He was pale, and had appeared to have lost a few pounds. His eyes drooped with exhaustion, revealing stretch marks and heavy banks under his eyes. Scruffy beard and bloody teeth and mouth, he winced in pain.
His grimace turned into a smirk, realizing how smart this girl was.
He didn’t speak the whole time he was with her. The twig still lodged in her side, she began to loose her vision, remaining her eyes locked on to the individual that was once Matt.
She could barely make out the words on the album that had dropped on the ground. She could only make out “Memories-“ but that was it.
Her vacation was ruined. The last thing she could remember was the figure drawing closer to her, seemingly to take back the polaroids she found everywhere earlier in the week.
…and most disturbingly, the sirens that blared in the distance. Matthew stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes widening in fright. It was the behemoth. After all this time, the thing they were both looking for… had found them.
As the footsteps drew near, Casey’s eyes began to shut, but her ears remained open for as long as they could before the ringing took over.
"NINE.” “SEVEN.” “EIGHT.” “ONE.” “FOUR.” “ZERO.” “TWO.”
With each thud of the behemoth coming closer and closer, the gibberish the sirens ran out of it’s “head” began to get louder, and louder, and louder.
Matthew turned his head back to Casey one last time before darting off further into the woods; leaving behind the photo album behind.
The footsteps seemed to be getting softer and softer as if it had just passed her. Did it? Did she just imagine the whole thing? No… she couldn’t have. She was just taken by surprise-
After that, she blacked out completely and was left for dead. If it weren’t for later witnesses who arrived just before she succumbed to her injuries, she would’ve died there.
But she didn’t.
She told her story. She told everything she could later to the police and the media later that day when she woke up again in the hospital, remembering everything about the encounter. She described Matt’s features, the photo album they recovered, and how the photos might have been connected in the first place to her unknowledge.
While she didn’t get all the answers she was looking for, she did get the closure she needed. Matt was indeed alive, but far from the person he used to be.
The memories that betrayed him turned him into something he wasn’t. Someone he couldn’t be. It would be another 3 days until Casey was released from the hospital and return home with her parents.
She would never forget that day.
The memory remained etched into her mind. As for the behemoth, that was something she chose to ignore for now. She didn’t have any answers as to what that was. She didn’t know if it really was the same creature as the locals had been telling for centuries this whole time.
She really didn’t know.
…what she did know, however, was that Matthew was still out there.
The maniac that she would later call “Mad Matty.” The boy who’s life was ruined by the monsters that lurked beneath the town.
And the memories that betrayed him as much as it betrayed her. The police never found him after her interrogation, and to this day, he remained missing. If he was ever found, he were to be wanted for murder and to be sentenced for 15 years in prison.
If they ever found him. Deep in the confines of the woods, where some speculate his home is… Mad Matty: the boy who lived amongst the rumors and the myths that created the town.
He became a monster of his own making. He was something much worse than the sirenhead that haunted him and his life. Mad Matty had stuck again. And this was his signature appearance.