This is my resolve, my greatest mistake and something which will haunt my memories till the day I die. Very little people will ever experience what I am about to describe and even less will survive to recall it. But the national park of Spring Pine is haunted by some creature, a monster you would only hear about in fairytales or conjure up in nightmares. But rather than ramble about how little sleep I’m getting or how paranoid my brain has decayed, I’m going to write all my experiences down so that someone, anyone, who is next to take the nightshift will be prepared.
My name is Robin and I was 19 when I was hired to be a nightshift guard at Spring Pine National Park. I had graduated school and found a college which I was accepted into, after many sleepless nights and studying. My parents were worried I wouldn’t have enough income since they couldn’t send me off with too much, so they suggested I look for a job near my college I could do which wouldn’t clash with my college timetable. I had taken many morning and afternoon classes and studied in the evenings which meant I had to look for nightshift jobs. I wasn’t entirely thrilled to be working anywhere so late into the night but the pay was good and the job was in a team. At least, I wouldn’t be alone.
The job was to monitor the security cameras which bordered the tall barbed-fences around the area and report any hunter trying to sneak in. It looked good and gave me decent time to sleep after the shift before my classes started, not to mention I didn’t have to do much so I could squeeze some extra studying on uneventful nights. I signed up and sent my resume before doing some more research into the national park itself; it contained many rare species of elk, deer, birds and a huge list of flora. Unless protected, hunters and lumberjacks would hunt and chop down the wildlife for their high value, which was why the security was to important. I checked any police records to see if any hunters were caught sneaking into Spring Pine, only a couple in the past 10 years. As much as this rested any worries I had, something had caught my eye: anomaly reports.
Some campers had been caught to scream and beg to be let out deep in the night. The national park allowed campers to stay nights, however, due to the decreased amount of rangers and gate checks at night, all gates were closed until the morning. Something about keeping hunters camping and smuggling animals out at night. The screaming campers would claim to see something in the wood, however, due to the inconsistent descriptions from witness to witness, the government couldn’t connect any of them and therefore no action was taken. Some described a beast which looked like a 10-foot tall bear, others claimed it was a pale sprinting humanoid. Anyone who entered the park would be informed to leave before 7pm since this was when the gates closed before being re-opened at 6am. My shift would start at 12am and end at 5:50am, I wasn’t expected to open or close the gates but rather just keep an eye on the borders till the bigger security crew took over. What was even better for me was that if I did expect someone was trying to sneak in or out I wouldn’t even have to leave my security office, I would have to radio to the only security ranger and my job would be done. I rested easy for a month before I got my call back.
Both very happy and shocked, I was accepted. Turned out the group applying was very short and weren’t as well qualified as me, not entirely sure what that meant. Perhaps it was because I was fluent in English? Not sure. So when I came for the tour visit I was accompanied by another college girl, she was about my age but a little shorter. We were introduced; she greeted me as Harley with a tip of her cap. She was naturally tanned and looked to be quite athletic, she wore army boots, black jeans, a mossy green sports shirt and a plaid jacket tied around her waist. Her personality was friendly, loud and daring. Honestly, she was an all around outdoors adventure girl, we became friends quickly.
The park ranger took us for a day long walk around Spring Pine, making sure to take a stop at every gate at the north fence, where the main gate was and where Harley was suppose to be guarding. He gave her the main security card which could only open a small door through her office, right next to the main gate. The park ranger instructed her on correct procedures if someone tried to get in or out and who to call. I didn’t listen too much since it did not concern me, instead I looked into the forest. The trees were large and close together, only distanced at rivers, fields, walking paths and a large lake in the centre. There weren’t as many bushes and the forest floor was covered in grass, moss and occasional fern patches. The distance singing of birds and river flow was relaxing paired with footsteps on gravel made the hike incredibly pleasant and enjoyable.
I hadn’t seen as many animals but I would spot birds and the occasional squirrel in the trees. No 10-feet tall bears or pale humanoids, wonderful. After Harley’s instructions were given we were led to my security cabin. It wasn’t big, only a storage room, bathroom and camera room. He gave me instructions on what to do if I saw anyone trying to climb the fence, was injured or radioed for help. He gave me a key card which would open the side door in Harley’s station in case of emergencies. All employees were required to wear an arm band with the Spring Pine logo, so after a tour of the cabin we were given the armbands and timetables. Harley and I exchanged numbers and we parted. Our job would start in a week.
My first shift was mostly uneventful; I had arrived with a backpack of snacks, an animal book for local wildlife and a notepad, in case there was something important I had to remember. I was wearing a plain striped shirt, a hoodie, jeans, trekking boots and my employee armband. Waiting by the front gate at 11:46 pm, I was checking my phone to see Harley was on her way. The forest was quiet and I saw some late evening rangers leaving, they didn’t say much but were polite. At around 11:54 a young adult joined me in waiting at the front gate. He introduced himself, “Hey there, you’re the new security guard, right?” Taken aback slightly from the sudden introduction I put my phone in my pocket and spoke.
“Oh, yeah. My name’s Robin. I’m suppose to be in the cabin not too far from here,” I responded while also noticing he had a ranger armband.
“Yeah I know, I’m suppose to escort you there before heading to the watchtower. My name’s Andrew.” He was slightly taller than me, his brown hair was noticeably messy but he looked well mannered. He looked a couple years older than me. That night, he wore a navy blue jacket, white shirt, dark grey jeans and trekking boots. “So, nervous?” He was friendly but spoke quietly, unlike Harley.
“Why should I be?” I asked, curiously. “I’m not scared of the dark.” Which was true, I usually wouldn’t be paranoid if I couldn’t see. I tended to be rational and knew there was nothing to be scared of.
“Ah well, some campers get spooked when they stay the night.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, I read about that. Isn’t it usually just wolves or bears that fright them?”
“Well, you could think of it like that. I had to deal with them once, this couple. They were practically begging to be let out, they even left everything behind just to run to the gate. They weren’t injured apart from a couple scratches but they claimed they saw some ghost creature crawling on all fours. Heavy emphasis on its eyes, something about gold. Not sure, they rambled like crazies.” As he was telling the story I looked into the wood. Could there really be something like that out there? “Don’t worry though, we checked their campsite in the morning and nothing was stolen or broken, probably some snowy owl got the better of them.” His voice was calm and collected.
“Right, well, I wouldn’t worry about that, we will be in buildings anyway.” Still the thought hung in my head. I quickly forgot it with the arrival of the only other member of the night crew.
“Making friends without me?” Harley arrived, wearing similar clothes from last time, just a different shirt and her armband. Harley and Andrew became friends quickly and the final park ranger escorted the security guard from the cabin. He handed me the only key for the building and left. We waved Harley goodbye as Andrew walked me to the cabin, it wasn’t too far into the wood. We walked at a brisk pace as not to keep the building empty for too long, it took us around 10 minutes. I could no longer see the lights from the gate anymore as we approached the cabin.
“Well, just use the handheld radios to talk to us. I won’t take long to reach the watchtower but I have my radio with me.” I unlocked the door and before stepping inside I waved him goodbye, we exchanged polite smiles and he disappeared into the darkness, holding his torch and carrying his bag.
The night passed quietly and uneventful. I locked the cabin when I got in and checked that everything was in order and place. I signed the attendance list and waited by the cameras. Radioing once in a while to check on the others; it was just the three of us in the great expanse of wilderness. Once in a while I would spot a fox or deer wander a little close to the fence. All I had to do if they got too close was activate the buzzer near the camera to scare the animal off. It did the trick every time but aside from that I spent most of the evening doodling on the notepad, eating snacks and noodles (the cabin had a boiler) and checking my phone. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Though I got quite tired near the end I was able to stay awake through the whole shift. At 5:48 Andrew arrived at my cabin and escorted me to the front gate. We all had a friendly exchange as the morning shift employees arrived. I added Andrew’s number and we were on our way home.
The week passed like this, everything was fine. Why couldn’t it stay that way? By this time I was taking some textbooks and notebooks with me, since the nights were so uneventful I decided I might as well make use of the time and study. Harley had the same idea but instead brought her portable gaming console and played it for practically the whole shift since she didn’t have to monitor anything and responded to my radio checks. Andrew didn’t have much to do but survey the woods from the tower once in a while and answer my radio checks. He was still in college and also used the time to study. We had become familiar with each other and text during the day time. Harley was a biology student and Andrew was a physics student, all of us were just here because of the convenience in timetables and easy requirements. The night was going smoothly until something caught my attention.
Near the fence to the southwest of the park I spotted a deer, it looked fully grown. I activated the buzzer and looked back at my notes. It was about 20 seconds later did I look up and notice the deer didn’t move. I looked a little closer at it, it was now did some odd details come to my attention. Looking closer I noticed its antlers looked slightly twisted and its eyes reflected a gold instead of the usual white the camera would pick up from deer. Thinking this deer must’ve been too curious I buzzed again. It didn’t move. I radioed to the others, this usually didn’t happen.
“Yes, Robin?” Andrew, didn’t take long to respond.
“What’s up?” Harley connected after a short while. “Sorry, you caught me at a bad time, hard level.”
I rolled my eyes before continuing.
“I’ve got a deer at the southwest that won’t respond to the buzzer.”
“Probably just dumb.” Harley brushed it aside like she did with most of her problems.
“Well, it could be old. I wouldn’t worry about it, it’ll leave after a while.” That was logical, thanks Andrew.
“Right, yeah. It’s probably old, that’s why its horns are crooked.” I spoke once again before radioing off.
I waited and watched to see what the deer would do. It’s eyes still reflecting that eery gold hue. Could this have been what those campers saw? I would admit the gold did seem unnatural. After about 20 minutes the deer turned and disappeared into the woods without the need of a buzzer. Andrew was right it must’ve been old because the way it moved looked like it had a slight limp. After that the night continued as usual, Andrew and I studied while Harvey reached the next few levels of her game. The sun rose and Andrew was right on time in walking me out. He inquired about the deer and I told him what I saw, he agreed with my conclusion. Nothing of interest happened for the next few weeks.
However, during one night shift, Andrew radioed in during 3:42am.
“Robin, I thought we agreed you would stop using the buzzer if the animal didn’t move after the third buzz?” His voice was confused but not annoyed, for as long as I knew him he was a patient guy.
“Yeah? I did agree to that,” I replied, probably sounding even more confused. “Why?” I waited for a response, by now I had put down my pen and closed my notebook.
“Then why do I hear the buzzer going off for the 9th time?” My mind practically tripped over itself. I hadn’t activate any buzzer this shift. I looked back at the monitors. Could they be motion detecting? No they’ve never been like that. I couldn’t see anything either, just empty woodland. I picked up the radio.
“I’m not activating any buzzer. Are you sure you’re hearing one?” I checked if there was anything on the controls, nothing. Why was it going off? Was the system broken? No one informed me of it. I opened the manual and had a recheck of how the buzzers worked.
“Yeah, I’m sure I can hear it, it’s relatively loud,” he spoke back, a tone of concern. “Is something broken?”
I skimmed through and found that if the buzzers are being overused they will be automatically disconnected after the 20th buzz. Makes sense, there would be no use for activating the buzzer so many times in a row. I laid the manual on my desk and replied.
“Maybe, how many times has it gone off?” Since there was a system disabling for the occasion I assumed it wasn’t as uncommon as I thought, my logical thoughts were suddenly shattered once his reply returned.
“About 26 times now… close to thirty for sure.” My mind was in a flurry, I re-read the manual. What’s going on?
“That’s impossible… it’s suppose to be disabled after the 20th buzz. Do you know where it’s coming from?” I was concerned, this doesn’t make sense. I flipped through the manual, there wasn’t anything I could find, as I waited for his response.
“It feels like the far north fence, that’s odd…” He trailed off.
“What’s going on?” Harley joined in, probably from noticing the sudden activity of the radio.
“Andrew hears the buzzer going off though I’m not activating it. It should’ve stopped by now but for some reason it keeps on going.” I was still waiting for Andrew’s reply.
“It… sounds closer than where I think the gate should be…” he continued.
“What?” Harley questioned. I was too deep in thought, trying to piece it together. As I waited to hear more I took out my notepad and jotted it down: ‘Andrew hears the buzzers going off near the watchtower. 3:44 am’.
“I’m not sure, it just sounds closer than I think it should.” He carried the same tone of tension as I did.
“Well, maybe the system malfunctioned. I wouldn’t worry about it.” Harley, in contrast, was much more laid back. “We can check it in the morning.”
There was an empty silence. I wondered if I, too, could hear the buzzer going off. So I got up and walked to the storage room, since it was the only room with a window and cracked it open. The lock was a little rusty but with enough effort it gave way. I opened it enough to stick my head through and listened intently. Surely enough far in the distance I could hear the faintest alarm. If I hadn’t known it was the buzzer I would’ve assumed it was a car alarm. I looked around, the lights from the storage room were just enough to illuminate a few feet ahead of me and cascade on the trees close by. I didn’t see anything but the deep shadows surrounding and expanding beyond. I slipped back in and shut the window, making sure to lock it. I turned off the storage room lights and returned to the security room. Nothing. We all stayed silent for the rest of the night, until Andrew spoke again.
“Hey, I think it’s done. I can’t hear it anymore.” He still sounded slightly concerned.
“See? Problem solved itself. It probably ran out of batteries or something, I dunno.” Harley didn’t seem to care all too much, probably still focusing on her game.
“Let’s check in the morning. I’ll report it,” I offered.
“Yeah, okay…” Something about the way he said it made me feel like it wasn’t completely convinced that would be enough. I checked the cameras for an hour before continuing my studying. Everything Harley was saying made sense, still something felt off. The morning came.
Before leaving to go to our homes/dorms, we all explored the woods between Andrew’s watchtower and the gate. The sun was up and illuminated the forest in a natural glow. Birds sang gently as some early joggers passed by. We were all quite tired but were determined to find the source. After walking around for 20 minutes we couldn’t find anything. Nothing was unnatural or out of the ordinary. We all agreed it must’ve been a system malfunction and left. Nothing like that occurred for a few days.
I was studying as usual in the security room, once in a while checking the monitors for intruders, nothing. The time went by, dragging on in the later hours like usual. I checked on the others once in a while, Andrew was also studying while looking out once in a while, making sure to pay close attention to the north of the watchtower. Harley was still focusing on her game, I believed she mentioned getting a new one since the job gave her extra time to finish levels much faster. Suddenly, at 2:23am I saw on the north gate, a camper had run to the fence. He looked terrified and panicked as soon as he saw the fence ahead of him. I instantly dropped my pen and radioed to the others.
“Um guys? There’s a camper panicking at the north fence. He doesn’t look injured but he’s looking around.” I didn’t have to wait long for a response from both of them.
“Can you see any animals?” Harley quickly chimed.
“Is there anyone else?” Andrew also inquired. Both sounding serious and shocked, this was the first time me and Harley would encounter scared campers. I waited and looked at the monitor, straining my eyes. He continued to scream, the camera didn’t pick up audio but I could see he was mouthing: ‘Help me’ and something else. His expression was disturbing, he looked like he had just seen a nightmare.
“No, doesn’t look like anyone else is there. Andrew, should you pick him up?” This was the instructions given should someone need aid. After a moment he replied.
“Yes, of course I’m packing some items. I’m going in -- just a sec.” He sounded far away from the radio, he was doing something else across the room.
“Should I go? I think I’m closer,” Harley offered, it was clear her full focus was on the situation and not her game.
“No, no I should go. I’ll take him to the front gate so you should be there. Robin, could you call the emergency number?” I checked a couple drawers before finding the contact list, my hands a little more clumsy than normal due to the desperation. Something about the look the camper gave was clear he thought his life was on the line. I dialled the emergency number and the woman on the other end confirmed an ambulance was on the way. I put the phone down and Andrew radioed in.
“Yes, of course… you’re taking the radio with you, right?” I began, clearly my worried tone was getting through.
“Yes, yes I’m leaving the watchtower now, locking it.” He spoke quickly as if he was rushing, I could hear a click and his hurried footsteps down the stairs of the watchtower. “I’ve got my torch, some pepper spray, a horn, an army knife and a first aid kit in case this is an animal attack.” The footsteps were on gravel now as I heard him running quickly. I checked the monitors again. The camper didn’t move from his spot but was clearly agitated, he was breathing heavily. At first, I thought he had calmed down until I noticed he seemed to be looking at something in the trees. I strained closer to see in the monitor, was there an animal? I looked closer, was there anything there? That’s when I saw it. Two golden eyes were illuminated between the trees, I didn’t understand. The deer? How could that have scared him? I continued to look at the monitor, my eyes glued as I held the radio in one hand. I couldn’t see enough that I could make out the shape of the deer or its crooked antlers but it was clear the golden eyes shone through the darkness. Staring back at the camper.
I activated the radio and spoke while still staring at the monitor.
“Andrew, I think there is an animal near him.”
“What? What kind?” I could here his boots hitting the ground quickly as he was making his way to the north gate. “Have you tried scaring it away with the buzzer?” Wait, that made sense. I was too focused in trying to see the creature I didn’t think to try and scare it away. As quickly as I could identify the button, I activated the buzzer and watched as the man jumped slightly from the sudden sound and the creature’s attention turned to me. Its golden eyes directly orientated to the camera and back to the man, as if it was figuring something out. Suddenly the golden eyes disappeared into the shadows as he man clutched the fence tightly. The sound of the radio nearly made me fall over in my seat. “Robin? What does it look like? I’m near the fence.” I shook my head as I thought once again. Quickly responding,
“I… I’m not sure but I think it’s the deer from earlier. It wasn’t scared by the buzzer but left. I could only see the golden eyes of it but that’s it. I think the camper is alone. He looks frightened; you shouldn’t run at him.” Speaking quickly, I made sure the get the point out.
“I understand. I’m reaching the north fence. At which camera do you see him?” he continued. I checked the camera.
“Camera 4 North,” I reported and waited. Still staring at the screen. The man was frozen in place by fear and most likely exhaustion. It wasn’t long before I could see Andrew, his jacket made it easy to tell it was him. He calmly approached the man and spoke. I couldn’t tell what it was but the man seemed to calm down and stumbled towards him. Andrew offered his shoulder to lean on as they began towards the front gate. I followed them on the monitors while also checking behind them in case something was following them. Andrew kept looking over his shoulder and looking around with his torch, was he seeing something I wasn’t? I continued looking at their surroundings and behind them, nothing. Maybe Andrew heard something. After a moment when Andrew stopped and scanned the wood with his torched he paused. It looked like he froze in place too. Did he spot something? I almost radioed in but Andrew spoke first before moving quickly towards the main gate.
“Oh my God, Robin did you see that?” His tone was panicked and I looked back at the monitors, whatever he saw was outside the field of vision of the camera.
“N-no, what is it? What did you see?” I responded confused but with an underlying fear creep in my voice.
“It… it looked like a person, but pale and… no it couldn’t be…. I saw it for just a moment but there is no way I’m looking back. We’re nearly there.” I scanned the screens, looking for a pale figure. Where was it? He sounded shaken and panicked, so unlike him.
“I don’t see anything… can you describe it ag-” I was cut off by his voice.
“Goddamn it, Robin, stop; that isn’t funny!” His yelling caught me off guard. “I’m scared enough as I am, you didn’t have to activate the buzzers without a warning!” My mind raced.
“I didn’t. I swear I didn’t. Are you sure it’s the buzzer?” Just as I finished the question I saw something. Very briefly the camera picked up someone running through the trees. I thought it was male but it seemed very tall and its body was twisted and moved naturally, like a limp. Before I could see anymore it disappeared into the trees and I lost sight of it. “Holy crap.” I radioed. “Whatever it was, I just saw it.” Now I understood the need for Andrew’s panic, it moved quickly but I could see enough to tell I would be terrified of it. Luckily, Andrew and the camper had reached Harley’s office. I sighed and checked the monitors for any sign of the creature, nothing. Harley and Andrew radioed in to say the camper didn’t look badly injured but his behaviour was erratic and paranoid. An ambulance arrived and took him away before the our shift was over.
“The shit happened back there?” I heard Harley speaking over the radio, her tone was concerned but also aggressive.
“Look, I’m still trying to figure it out… I’m not the only one who saw it. Right, right? Robin you saw, you said you did!” He sounded desperate, I wonder if he was sure about what he saw. I decided not to lie though, it would be logical to make sure they knew exactly what I did.
“Yeah, I saw something on the cameras following you. It was difficult to tell but it looked like a really tall, pale human. But… it wasn’t human. I’m sure. It looked all mangled and twisted and limped quickly after you. Like it was trying to be human.” I wasn’t sure what I meant by that last part but I let my thoughts wander. Something about that thought made me think. “Guys, I-I think we should meet up after our shift and check the woods. I think I’ve got an idea.” It was 5:21 am and near the end of our shift.
“Wait, so this isn’t some crappy prank you’re trying to pull?” Harley finally spoke again.
“I know what I saw, I’m not going back to the watchtower after that. I’m staying here.” I could hear him pull out a chair and sit. Harley didn’t protest so they sat there in silence. As they did I looked around the office, checking for something. Maybe the last guard left notes or anything that would give me the answers I wanted. My blood went cold as I heard something outside the cabin.
Slow, irregular footsteps approached and began circling around the building. I could barely move as I heard it. I slowly backed away from the door, my steps slow and quiet against the wooden planks. Holding my breath I turned off my radio; it would cut off my communication but in this situation I was damn ready to pay it. My lips quivered as I felt it tapping the outer wall of the cabin. Making a ‘tick tick tick’ sound ring through the building. I stepped back and lowered myself to the floor, praying the floorboards not give out and make a sound. I could feel my eyes welling up from the fear -- that thing was right outside the cabin. Separated by a wall and empty space.
After folding in on myself I slowly opened the bottom cabinet, below the desk. A small space I had discovered I could fit in one boring night. It made a creaking sound. Fuck. The footsteps stopped right outside the door. I wasted no time in stepping into the empty cabinet and curling in, shutting the door both as quickly as I could but still making a creaking sound. It was complete darkness. Nothing to see but a whole hell of a lot to hear. The creature made a creaking sound; it was contorted slightly and I could tell it was mimicked by vocal cords. Its repeating sounds. Some dots began to connect in my head as I hid in the cupboard. It continued to ‘creak’ outside the cabin as I could hear it tapping the edge of the door, following its frame.
Tears rolled down my eyes as I begged. Please, please let me have locked the door, please, please. I hear the door shake slightly. Please, please, please. The tears dropping from my chin and soaking into my hoodie. The door handle shook before starting to turn. Then a painful ‘click’ of the handle. The door opened with a dreading creak. I clutched my knees and prayed. I bit my lip just to keep me from whimpering in fear and held my breath. The hand holding the radio began to shake but I refused to make any sound. I heard bare, uneven footsteps walk into the cabin. It had to be limping. It didn’t move much from the centre of the room. I breathed in very, very slowly. I didn’t even dare to open my eyes in case it could feel the wind being brushed from my eyelashes. My heart skipped a beat as I heard an sharp, sudden sound. It rung in my head and caused me to tense up harder, my lip finally bleeding from the pressure. I forced myself not to take a sudden breath in fear it would hear me. It was the alarm of the buzzer.
I stayed there, hearing its breath. Feeling it tapping the wall and repeating that ‘creak’. It was trying to draw me out using sounds it had heard. What the hell was this thing? After 10 minutes of pure agony I could hear it starting to walk out. Its bare feet causing the floorboards to creek under its weight. I may not have seen it but this creature was large. My eyes were blurred from the tears and my lip began to sting since my adrenaline was cooling down. I could hear the footsteps hit gravel and then disappear outside. Still, I refused to move from my hiding place. What if it was hiding just outside, waiting for me leave before attacking? I checked my watch, 5:36, I made sure to take a mental note. Even after a long while of silence I couldn’t bring myself to even take a deep breath. Until I heard a knocking from the door, crap it was back. I held my breath as I felt my heart race again.
The door opened and I heard boots on the planks. “What happened? Robin, are you there? Why was the door unlocked?” It was the voice of Andrew or was it just a mimicked voice of Andrew? I reached into my pocket slowly and took out my phone. I texted to him while still remaining silent. He sounded like he headed to the storage room to look for me.
‘Is that you?’ I texted and waited.
‘Yes? I’m at the cabin where are you?’ I finally took a deep breath and burst out of the cabinet.
“Holy shit! I can’t believe I’m still alive!” I was shaking from the sudden release of fear. Andrew rushed into the room and looked at me confused.
“What? What happened? Are you okay? Why didn’t you respond?” He pat me on the shoulder while spurting out question after question. I slowed down my breathing. Finally, standing up straight and taking my bag, I walked out of the cabin and looked around. “Robin? Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Andrew grew slightly irritated but mostly concerned as he followed me.
“You’re not going to believe it,” I spoke quietly as I looked around, expecting something to look back at me. The sun’s early light was piercing through the trees but I still couldn’t see anything beyond the trees. As we walked to the front gate I told Andrew everything. Shocked and terrified was the only way I could describe his face. Still, he stayed silent as we continued. I felt as if something was watching us. Something just out of sight, something that would disappear the moment you turned to look at it.
As I recalled the whole experience he looked around, was he feeling watched too? “Do you feel it?” I whispered quietly to Andrew. He turned to me, a paranoid look in his eyes. He nodded quickly and we ran to the front gate. I didn’t look back. I didn’t need to, to know that whatever was watching us wasn’t following. We reached Harley, slightly out of breath and checking behind us. Once we were sure we were safe I closed the office door and turned to them. Andrew might have been more understanding of my behaviour but even Harley wasn’t questioning how I was acting.
We sat down, talking and discussing what we had seen and encountered. How it could mimic sounds, possibly change the way it looked and was terrorising campers and even the guards. Since nothing like this occurred to any other shifts of guards or rangers, we assumed the creature only came out at night. Spending most of the morning and noon talking, we finally came to the conclusion it is trying to mimic a human to draw us out of hiding to either kill or capture. It leaves no trail behind and disappears by morning.
Its only defining feature is that its eyes reflect gold and it limps, most likely because its victims are injured and cannot walk properly causing the creature to mimic the movement. We agreed that we shouldn’t tell any of the other guards about it, since we would be risking our jobs and we couldn’t just pass this burden onto another group of unsuspecting victims. After some more debate on how to go about it, we agreed that over the day we would formulate our own plan for the creature, meet up tomorrow evening and over the night experiment.
In the decent break in-between my morning classes and afternoon ones, I decided to go shopping for equipment. I didn’t have a gun permit so I knew that wasn’t a form of defence I could use. Instead I bought a bat and a decent camping knife which I could explain I needed because of my job. I then purchased several wireless outdoor security cameras and a map of the park. Over the day I noted down the areas I could see with the fence cameras and places we have seen the creature. I pinpointed spots near the front gate, my cabin, and the watchtower. Arriving to work extra early gave me two hours of sunlight left to place the cameras, I did so in trees near the front gate, facing the staircase of the watchtower, outside my cabin and a tree near a popular campsite.
No one questioned my actions when they saw my armband and assumed it was just for security. Connecting them all to my laptop I made sure they were working and headed to the front gate waiting for the sun to set and for the others to arrive. Harley was the next to arrive, her look had lost its friendly charm and was now replaced by someone who wasn’t getting enough sleep. She told me her dad is a rural climber and hunter who had a lot of kits she thought was useful. In her bag were knives, a hunting sniper, a small bear trap, rope, an axe and two flare guns. She gave me a flare gun and told me to use it if our communication wasn’t working. Andrew arrived next with an electronic device and some kind of gun. He told me not to worry where he got it from and explained that it was a tracking device. It acted like an implant, he could use with the gun object and he could track the creature with a device. We felt prepared and a sense of dread loomed over us as we looked off into the wood.
“Hey, are you guys the night crew?” The question sank into my stomach like stones. Slowly, we all turned our heads and looked at the source. She was a short, sweet-looking girl wearing a pink sweater and dark green overalls, her hair up in two pony tails. Though she looked young it was clear to tell she was about my age. We all looked at each other, trying to conceal our panic.
“Yeah…” Harley spoke, both quietly and worryingly. She zipped up her bag concealing the dangerous items inside. I saw Sofia’s eyes briefly glance at the bag before talking.
“Oh, that’s great! I’m here to join you. My name’s Sofia, my application was accepted a little late but that’s cause I moved in a week ago!” Her voice was contrastingly lively and bubbly. It felt like something gripped my throat as I succumbed to the fact that we would have to deal with her and the creature. “What’s wrong?” I opened my mouth to talk but Andrew spoke next, I could see he had already put away the tracking device.
“Nothing, it’s just we weren’t expecting anyone new. Which station are you at?” He was trying and failing horribly to ignore the tension in the room, I nearly felt bad for him.
“I’m joining someone at the security office to monitor cameras.” She began fiddling with her invoice.
“Oh then, that’s me. I’m Robin, that's Andrew and this is Harley,” I finally spoke; it wasn’t easy since it felt like my throat was closing up. After giving her a radio, we exchanged concealed panicked looks. What are we going to do with her? Why of all nights did she arrive now? Should we tell her? Would she believe us? We decided, silently, to not tell her about anything and I’d text them about it when we were stationed. Sofia followed me like a puppy as Andrew was walking me to the cabin, she was completely oblivious to the horrible feeling in the air. She was slightly behind us, her torch spinning around as her arms swung merrily at her sides. This caused the shadows to twist and turn unnaturally deepening the pit in my stomach. Andrew and I looked at each other. He whispered quietly.
“You’re going to deal with her, right?” He spoke under his breath; even in the silence of the woods, I felt someone else could here it. I nodded and turned to look at Sofia. She was still looking around at the trees. It didn’t feel like anything was watching us but I knew the way she was flashing the torch all over the place was bound to catch the creature’s attention. Still, she walked across the gravel and gave me a friendly smile when she finally did look at me, it felt almost faked or forced.
Andrew dropped us off at the cabin and I could see his pace picked up now that he was alone. We quickly waved goodbye as I saw him taking something out of his bag, maybe a knife.
“Wow, this place is so cozy,” Sofia evaluated as she stepped into the cabin and looked around. She checked every room and then the monitors.
“Yeah, well I advise we just stay in the security room and only visit the bathroom when we need it,” I quickly replied while putting my bag down slowly. As to not make sound from the items inside. “So, we just have to check the monitors if anyone tries to sneak in or if any animal gets too close.” I spent the first hour explaining how the job worked and checked texts from Harley and Andrew. We agreed I’d tell her about the creature when she settled in and then we could try to hunt off or scare away the creature, if it did approach. I pulled out my personal camera monitor. It could only display one screen and I’d have to switch in between the cameras. Sofia hadn’t brought much with her, just snacks and her torch. I was about to speak when I got a text notification. I opened my phone, it was from Andrew.
‘I think I hear it outside. It’s making a creaking sound.’ Deciding to tell Sofia later I switched the hand held monitor to check the base of the watchtower. Sure enough, I saw the creature, it looked even more twisted than last time, as if its spine was folding in on itself trying to shrink into a more human height. The sight of it cracking its posture rose a sickening feeling in my stomach. I replied while also looking at Sofia, she seemed to be fixed on the monitors and eating a snack.
‘Yeah it’s at the base of the stairs. Do you have a weapon?’ The creature continued to contort itself till I would almost mistaken it for a tall man with some kind of back issue.
‘Damn it. Yeah I have a knife.’
‘Don’t do anything. I don’t think it’s trying to climb the stairs.’ I continued to monitor the creature.
“Hey, Sofia?” I finally remembered what the text distracted me from.
“Yeah?” It sounded like her cheek was full of something.
“Would you believe me if I told you there’s a creature in the forest?” Sofia stopped chewing and turned to look at me.
“Why?” Her joyful tone melted away.
“Well, at night this pale creature comes looking for campers and us night guards. Me and others have this plan to deal with it but w-” She cut me off my slamming her snack bag onto the desk.
“I know what you’re trying, Robin.” She stood up from the chair and looked at me with a hurtful expression.
“What?” I didn’t have the words.
“Don’t think I didn’t notice the weapons you and the others were carrying. And the ‘You’re going to deal with her, right?’ comment! You guys are just trying to find the right opportunity to kidnap me. I know about the night guards going missing here. It’s cause of you, isn’t it?” She picked up her bag and I tried to get up.
“It’s not like that, just listen to me. I’m not lying, that thing is dangerous.” I slowly walked towards her. She pulled out a small pocket knife.
“And to think, you were going to lure me to some ‘safe hiding spot in the woods’ to hide from a creature. Get away from me.” She threatened with her knife and walked towards the door. Before I could say anything she opened it and ran off into he dark. She slipped on her bag and used the torch to guide her through the trees. I watched her from inside the cabin, resenting to yell. I closed the door, locking it and grabbing the radio. I also noticed that Sofia’s radio was gone, she most likely took it in her bag. I called in to the others and informed them of Sofia being out alone. They both cursed and we panicked as we thought about what to do.
I checked the cameras and the creature had disappeared from the base of the watchtower. I bit my lip and took my bag. Determined to find Sofia before something else did. I checked the camera outside the cabin, nothing. Taking and deep breath and turning on the torch I walked out, looking around wearily before stepping outside. I jogged into the woods, the radio still hanging on my bag. I had mounted the flare gun on my belt, holding the torch in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. It felt horrible running through the wood while I knew the creature was somewhere out there. My paranoia sent my heart racing as I felt my breath catch at every sound around me. In the distance, I heard a scream as I received a text.
‘I’m going out too.’ Andrew informed. I continued to run towards the sound of the scream. Hoping dearly it was Sofia just panicking at some animal.
That’s when I felt it. That paralysing spike that struck through my whole body. Something was watching me. I spun around and aimed the torch at all degrees. My heart reaching my throat. I paused, the light finally hitting something. Two golden eyes looked back, just above eye level. My hand trembled as I stood there. Frozen in place by fear. The creature had found me, this time with nowhere to hide. We stayed there, for what felt like five minutes was most likely one. Until it made a screaming sound, like a corrupted version of Sofia’s. I turned and sprinted using the torch to light the ground. I could hear the footsteps of the creature behind me. My eyes welled as I saw the trees passing by, my legs running on fear.
I hated that I could hear it; it was catching up. No longer screaming. I knew I couldn’t outrun it and I had no idea of where I was going so I decided to confront the creature. I turned around and swung my bat as hard as I could. It just missed the creature but caused it to jump back. If I waited a second longer to turn around I was terrified to think what it would’ve done if it caught me. I finally got a proper look at the creature. It looked like a twisted, taller version of Andrew. Mimicking his jacket, jeans, shirt and boots. But its face was contorted and inhuman. Its eyes looked brown but reflected gold from the torch’s light. Its hands were long, sharp and crooked, making it look like a nightmare version of Andrew. My hand trembled as I readied to swing again. The tears in my eyes welling up, slightly blurring my vision. The radio in my pocket emitted static noise before Andrew’s voice spoke through it.
“Robin? Robin where are you? Are you okay?” My stomach felt completely twisted as I saw the face of the creature crack its jaw back and forth, looking more and more human each time it was replaced. It opened its mouth and twitched slightly as it spoke:
“RObiN? WheRE Are yOu? ARe YOu okAy?” It tried to echo back. Its back cracked slightly as its height decreased again.
“WhEre arE you? RobiN? Are you okay? Where are you?”
My lip whimpered as I heard it continue to correct the mimic, sounding more and more like Andrew. Its facial features also twisted around to look more and more human. “Get away from me, you freak!” I screamed and swung again for it. I felt a crunching sound as the bat hit, as if the bones were moving around inside of it and were delicate. It let out a scream as I felt something shove me away. I fell onto my back as the force was too much for me. I took the flare gun from my belt and tried to aim at it. My hand shaking from the desperation. “Eat shit, bitch,” I spoke under my breath as I fired the flare into its face. It let out another horrible scream as it grabbed its eye and backed away, running into the darkness, the flare scorching its face.
As I waited there in the dark, replacing the flare in the gun, my last bullet. I finally got up and felt the pain in my side from the fall. I coughed and picked up my items. I took the radio and called in.
“Harley? What happened, I think I scared it off.” As soon as I finished I got a response.
“Oh God, thank God, you’re okay! I was so scared because it sounds like Andrew’s radio is broken, he won’t text me back and I can’t get anything back from Sofia except for some panic earlier. What if it got them!? You need to come to the office right now!” she begged; I could hear she was on the verge of tears. I got up and started towards in a direction, looking for the fence. I eventually found it and followed it to the main gate. Harley came out and gave me a big hug, I confirmed it was her when she told me an old joke from text. We waited there, in the office trying desperately to get contact from the others. I checked my cameras over and over. Nothing. We continued till the sun rose and even then. Nothing. Resentfully, we agree to go looking for them once the morning shift arrived.
I walked through the forest alone, me and Harley agreed it was better to split up. I looked around and called out for Andrew and Sofia, hoping against all odds that by some miracle they might have gotten away.
“Robin?” I heard a soft, whimpering voice approach me. I turned and saw Sofia with tears in her eyes. “Robin!” She walked over to me hugged me. I hugged her back as the questions rose.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, it’s just-- I saw the creature. It was about to attack me before Andrew arrived and tried to fight it off. I was too scared, Robin, I was too scared and just ran away. It got him.” The tears rose in her eyes and she cried more.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, Sofia. Just take a deep breath. Look, you can just walk out of this park and you never have to come back again. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you earlier or I scared you. I should’ve told you about the creature as soon as you arrived but I just didn’t trust you to take it seriously.” She nodded and walked away, heading straight for the gate. As I walked back with her and saw her turn the street down the road I heard Harley walk up to me from the park.
“You’re not going to believe it! I mean it was good but it was bad too.” I turned around. What Harley said next has haunted me since. “I just met Andrew! He told me the creature got Sofia but he was okay! He left and I don’t think he is coming back.”
Since then I continued to work at the park. I never saw the creature again. It got out and now walks through the streets, hiding as anyone and anywhere. I talk to minimal people, only trusting the people I knew before that job. Both Andrew and Sofia disappeared without a trace. The police couldn’t find them, they just vanished. I’m convinced now that my stubbornness to tell Sofia the truth too late was what led to this. Anyone around me could be the creature. I jump at every sound in the night, every unexpected person around the corners and every bush shake or branch creak. My mind's been haunted from that day on as I continue to pray that maybe one day I’ll see those golden eyes on the security cameras again.
Written by L.W.Wanderer