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before you read this i want you to know it’s a true story. this really happened to me. one time me and my friends were out hunting in a big forest in our home country in australia and i saw a huge monster it had arms and legs like a human but it defiantly was not a human. it was what i would consider the very most fritening moment of my life. i told my friends that i seen a monster and they did not belive it until they heard it raw from the forest depths. then we split up to look for it because we had guns and could easily fight it

- - -

“Wait. Michael, this is the best you can do?” In my hands I grasped a page of smudged and scribbled writing, barely legible, and barely readable. I didn’t need to read past the first two paragraphs to know it was garbage. “This is 11th Grade English buddy. Your writing should be leagues better than this.” I tried to continue the story, but decided not to over fear of losing all respect for the daft young man that stood in front of me.

“Oh come on Sir!" he whined, "This is English Studies. This is the class we elected so we didn’t have to put in any effort.” He tried to weasel his way out of doing work, like he always did. Every day. I was fucking sick of it. Come to think of it, I didn’t have a whole lot of respect left for the boy anyways.

“Michael, I don’t care if this is Standard English, Advanced English, Extension English or English Studies. So long as I am your teacher, you will put in the correct amount of effort. Now take this story back to your desk, throw it out, and rewrite me something that isn’t absent of character development and a decent plot.”

“I don’t give a fuck sir!”

“Excuse me Michael but that language is-”

“I’m only going to be a mechanic when I leave this school anyway! Why do I need to be able to write stories good?”

“Michael, please shut the hell up and sit down!” I yelled.

“Wow sir, I thought you were almost going to tell me to shut the fuck up!” Michael gleamed as the students around him chuckled.

“Michael, that language is not-“

“Because we all know that my father would love to hear how I am getting verbally abused by my English teacher,” he interrupted. “That would be quite the scene at the Parent-Teacher interviews tonight.” The class went quiet. Michael's father was just as much of a loose cannon; and had a well-earnt reputation for having violent outbursts.

I swallowed my pride and put on a fake smile just for the shit of a kid that stood in front of me. “I am sure your father and I will have a lovely conversation about your progress in class and your attitude towards learning. Now I will reinstate the fact that your story deserves a place in the bin more so than a mouldy apple. So sit down, write a decent story, and be quiet for some time.”

Michael, obviously disappointed at the fact that he could not intimidate me, did exactly as I asked of him.

"Remember our writing tools Michael; please be C.A.R.E.F.U.L." I motioned to a massive poster, prominent on the wall beside the white board. It was an acrostic poem I had created for the class.

Concise (make your point clear)
Articulate (express ideas without unneccesary ramble)
Realistic (in relation to the actions of characters)
Emotive (make the reader care about your characters)
Foolproof (dig no plot holes - ensure plot comes full circle)
Unhackneyed (be original)
Literate (make sure spelling and grammar is correct)

I was proud of it, but it seemed my class paid no attention to it.

And that is a regular lesson in 11th Grade English Studies at Bowral High School. Granted, English Studies was a non-ATAR subject so there were no exams, and everyone who elected the subject was either planning to drop out, too lazy to do work, or generally stupid.

I was supposed to be teaching Advanced and Extension English, but it was my first year working here and the staff weren’t too keen on letting a newcomer take the reins over a well-performing class. So; I got stuck with the daft kids where every lesson was comparable to teaching a primary school class as opposed to a bunch of young adults. It disappointed me greatly, but I had some semblance of hope that I could at least get through to my students parents at the upcoming Parent-Teacher Interviews that evening.

---

All the interviews went well, and I met a range of parents and personalities. Some parents took their children’s learning more seriously than I do, and some parents were less enthusiastic about their children’s learning than their children were. However, there was a last-minute booking which made me stay later than I had anticipated; Max McInnis. Michael’s father. Whilst I hate to admit it, I was a little nervous. His reputation preceded him; and I didn’t want to ruin my first year in a new job by fighting with the parents of my students. Eventually I convinced myself all would be well, and that Max couldn't possibly be the monster that my fellow colleagues had described.

I was reviewing Michael’s homework when his father entered. The man paced like a predator; each step was methodical and meaningful. His clothes were well worn, but tattered to a degree that almost made them fashionable. His head consisted of thick dark hair that slicked back over his scalp and hung to his shoulders. His hair continued down onto his face in the form of a beard, which concealed all but the menacing eyes that fixated on me as if I was his prey. His chiselled nose that twitched ever so slightly as if he had picked up on the scent of my aftershave and freshly dry-cleaned clothes.

With a big smile on his face, he extended his paw-like hand to shake mine and said; “G’day Mr. Tyrell!” The man spoke in such a kind and gentle voice it took me by surprise. I met his hand with mine and we shook cordially.

I always tell my students to not judge a book by its cover. Somewhat it seems as if I failed to follow my own advice. The man’s personality was the exact opposite of what his physical appearance displayed. He was friendly, happy, and just an absolute joy to be around. When questioned about his sons reprimand-able behaviour, he seemed disappointed.

“I am sorry buddy. His mum passed a few years ago and I am working constantly on my farm, I just don’t see him that much. He used to be a good kid with a lot of potential, but I have left him on his own for too long. I guess he grieves in his own way. I don’t know where his respect has gone, and I don’t know where his motivation has gone. But I will find it, and I will bring it back to him,” Max sighed to himself, as if he knew his attempts would only be in futility.

“He just needs to think about his future; and how his present actions and attitudes could impact him outside of this school,” I said. “Actually I grew up on a farm myself. Worked with my family on one until I saved enough money to go to university.”

Max’s eyes seemed to lighten up. “Where abouts did you live?”

“A small cattle farm in the Riverina. Nothing too big, but there’s a bit of money to be made out of Angus beef.”

“You do much hunting?” Max asked, his interest growing, his attitude rising once again the happy man I met only moments before.

“Not since I moved here,” I replied. “So much land out here to hunt on but it’s all privately owned. I don’t know anyone who owns property though.”

“You know me,” he said, smugly. “I’d be glad to take you out hunting. Michael will be furious but honestly, I couldn’t give a shit. Damn it’d probably help the little rascal pull his head in!”

I laughed nervously. It didn’t seem to be a good idea to fraternize with the parents of my students. “I couldn’t impose on you.”

“Bullshit! You aren’t imposing, I go out hunting every weekend anyway. You’re new in town! You got to make friends and have fun, work can be bloody stressful at times can’t it? You need a release, you can’t pass it up.”

I sat there silently for a few seconds, pondering whether to take him up on his offer. I had been in town for a few months now, and it was hard to find time to make friends outside of work. Ultimately I decided it was a good idea. What was the worst that could happen? “What day is good for you?”

“Tomorrow night,” Max replied. “I was hoping to go out and find some meat tomorrow evening. Would be a lot more exciting with some company.”

“That’s good,” I said. “Where abouts do you go hunting? Where do you want me to meet you?”

“We have a little spot just outside of Belanglo State Forest,” Max said.

I felt a shudder of dread run up my spine. The kind that makes you queasy and send tingles through your face and hands. I had to readjust my position in the chair just to feel comfortable enough to continue the conversation.

“Is that good with you?” Max asked, obviously seeing that I was a bit shaken.

“No, it’s fine,” I said. “Just a bit of an ironic place to go hunting.”

“All that shit happened years ago mate!” Max barked, his voice raised a little and he was visibly frustrated. “Don’t tell me you are scared of a fucking incarcerated serial killer!” His voice raised a little more this time, almost aggressive this time.

“No,” I stuttered. I was taken aback by his sudden change of tone. Maybe I deserved it, digging up old wounds that the town has obviously tried to bury and forget. “That was immature of me. I-I’m happy to come out.”

Max smiled, and he returned to his happy and bubbly self. “That’s great mate!” He followed up with a little more small-talk and information on where to meet and what time. I was kind of excited, but also a little nervous.

The thing is, Belanglo State Forest is the site of a number of grisly serial murders committed by Australia’s most prolific serial killer; Ivan Milat.

Ivan Milat was the inspiration for the frankly terrible film; ‘Wolf Creek’. In real life he was the killer of seven backpackers between the years between 1989 and 1993. He would pick them up, kill them, and bury their mutilated corpses in Belanglo State Forest. It is theorized that he hunted a number of his victims through the forest as if they were animals.

In prison he cut off his own little finger with a plastic knife with the intent of mailing it to the high court. He was, and still is, a terrifying individual.

Ivan Milat is in prison, but it's no doubt that his legacy still remains here. They can lock away the killer, but they can't shelter the community from what he has already done. It’s obvious that the town still laments their infamy.

So yes, I felt a little uncomfortable with going to the place in which seven or more people were murdered to spill even more blood. Even if it was just the blood of some animals. Nevertheless, come Saturday evening, I cleaned my rifle, sighted it in and took off to Belanglo State Forest.

---

I pulled my car off the road, parking close to the tree line; out of sight. We’d organised to meet at the entrance to the state forest, where I assumed we would then travel to Max’s nearby farmland. I hadn’t been parked for long before Max creeped up behind me, parking his car directly behind mine.

“Let’s go and kill something!” He yelled excitedly from the window of his blue Ford F250. The spotlights shone brightly into the darkness, showing the sign as clear as it would be during the day. It read; ‘WELCOME TO BELANGLO STATE FOREST’. In a smaller additional sign underneath the official welcome, the words read; ‘PLEASE BE CAREFUL’. The words seemed to burn their way into my eyelids, and each time the bright glare of Max’s high beams flickered into my pupils, and I closed my eyes, I could still see the words.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL

Ironic.

I was spooked by a sudden bump as my car door was flung open by a figure from outside.

It was Max.

“Well what are you waiting for mate? The sunrise?” He laughed. “Get your weapon out and we will make our way in to find some game!”

“Wait,” I said. “Isn’t hunting in the state forest illegal?”

“That just makes it exciting!” Max said, gladly. “But worse things have happened in here! Let’s go!”

I was a little uneasy about breaking the law, but Belanglo was a massive forest, and the chances of a ranger or the authorities finding us were slim to none. Plus, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t shot in a national forest before. I did grow up in rural NSW. We trekked further into the bush, not saying much to each other as we keenly looked for something to shoot. Moonlight shone through the treetops in patches, illuminating the shrub. It was darkly beautiful. If I had been alone, it may have even been scary.

“Where the fuck are you going?” Max called from behind me. Somehow in my wanderlust I had continued on despite Max stopping. “I had a fox in my scope you fool. I was about to pull the trigger before you stepped into my sights!”

“I’m sorry, I didn-“

“We’ll out here you need to be a lot more careful! Bad situational awareness can cost you your life out here,” Max huffed as he stormed past me and headed further into the thicket.

I was unnerved by Max's hostility, but I tried not to think too much about it. My creative mind tends to wander, and I would just incessantly get myself worked up over it. Maybe he had some kind of disagreement with his friends or they got distracted by a personal emergency or something? There were plenty of reasons my over-inquisitiveness could have upset him.

“It’s nights like this,” Max began, “the full moon usually means our odds of finding anything go down.”

“That’s disappointing,” I sighed. “But you’d think that the full moon wouldn’t affect the conditions much in here, especially when the canopy blocks out most of the moonlight.”

Max grunted, “I think things would be a lot different if that moonlight was shining down on us. It’s just a shame I spent all afternoon cleaning and sighting in my rifle to come out here and find nothing.”

I laughed, “Well even if we don’t find something, we can come out another night.”

“Depends if you make it back,” Max muttered coldly under his breath. Again, Max's hostility was off-putting. He didn’t seem like the same person I met the night before. It freaked me out a little. It wasn’t even just his demeanour anymore, it was the whole situation. The atmosphere felt primal, aggressive. Here were two grown men who weren’t getting along very well, in a dark forest, with loaded guns, where people had previously been murdered. It was just a bad combination. It made me feel uneasy, and I quickly found myself brainstorming excuses to leave.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and pretended to look at a message, “You know what Max? I am hopeless.”

“Well that’s right,” he chuckled.

“I forgot that I made plans with my partner tonight! We were supposed to be seeing a movie at ten this evening.”

“Looks like he’s going to be disappointed, you can’t go back now.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked, agitated.

BANG!

Max fired his gun into the woods. I couldn't see his intended target, but I knew he had hit something.

"Because we just got our first kill!” Max laughed. "This is the moment we have been waiting for mate! Come on!"

Mood swings again? Max had immediately switched back to his outgoing and cheerful self. I trudged quietly over to the corpse that sat at Max's feet; a kangaroo. My own country's national emblem was dead at my feet in the decomposing leaf litter, that it would now become a part of.

"I’ve been wanting a nice juicy leg I can take home to my pups!" Max said cheerfully as he unsheathed his knife and started sawing the leg off of the kangaroo. Warm blood gushed from the wound and spilt onto the cold ground, steaming as it did. The dead creature twitched with nerves as Max twisted and pulled, eventually dislocating the leg from its socket and removing the hunk of flesh completely before casually swinging it over his shoulder.

Amidst the red mess on the ground, a pink organism was writhing. Slowly it crawled from the pouch and made itself visible on the cold ground. A baby kangaroo, so young it was absent of fur. I held back tears as I saw it sniff and scratch at its mother's fur, trying to gain the attention it would now never receive.

WHACK

Max swung his foot into the creature, sending it hurtling into a nearby log.

"What the hell!?” I turned my head away at the sight.

"Isn't that lovely?" He laughed. Max walked over to the baby joey and stomped it into the dirt, dragging it along the ground with his foot after every stomp, as if trying to clean mud off the bottom of his boots. It tore the fragile carcass to pieces.

Max could go on by himself, I was giving up the hunt with this sadistic monster. I was going home. “Max? That was too far! Why would you do that?” I asked. He stared at me for a second and kept trudging onwards, without a word. “Excuse me Max?” I asked again, this time a little louder. No response. “Max!” I yelled. That caught his attention.

He stopped in his tracks, and stood motionless for a few seconds, before he slowly turned around to face me. His face was blank of all expression, like a corpse. He breathed heavily, and the corners of his mouth moved ever so slightly upwards; forming a smile. The same fake smile he had shown me at the Parent-Teacher Interviews. Then he spoke.

“Who is Max?” he asked, cordially.

Startled, my mind started to race. Surely this was a joke? “You are Michael’s father,” I said calmly, acting as if it was all a prank, some sick joke to scare me, teach me some sort of lesson for giving his son a hard time in school.

His crooked smile contorted in disgust, barely visible through his thick beard. “And who the fuck is Michael?” He asked.

“Alright, I don’t know what game you are playing, but I think it’s high time I went home!” I was now scared, there was something wrong, the temperature, the atmosphere, the unknown man standing in front of me. It was all off, as if there was something out of place. I turned and made my way back the way we came, secretly flipping the safety switch off on my weapon.

“Please be careful,” the man said. I turned my head to get a glimpse of him. He stood in the exact same position in the shrub, unmoving, staring at me as I made my way out of sight.

“What the fuck?” I whispered to myself as I made my way through the forest. I whispered it over and over again. I don’t understand how I was fooled, how I didn’t notice something was inhuman from the beginning; the way his personality was the exact opposite of what all the teachers described him as; the way he showed complete and utter disregard for his son, describing him as if he was a weight on his shoulders and nothing more; the way how father and son looked so impossibly different from one another; the late booking to the interviews, as if to maintain his ruse as the boy’s father, knowing most teachers who could identify him would have left; his strength, as if there was no holding back; and his fucking personality, the skill to manipulate me so well into leading me out here.

This guy wasn’t a parent.

He was a psychopath.

Suddenly, the cracking of leaf litter could be heard ahead of me, followed by a loud puffing sound. Similar to the panting of a dog. I aimed my gun into the brush, my flashlight illuminating what was only an empty space.

Again, the crunch was heard. This time from behind me. The breathing was louder, closer, and I could feel its warm, dog-like breath steaming down my neck. “Please be careful,” it said, in a husky voice.

I turned to face my enemy before being thrown hard into the ground, dropping my weapon into the shrub. I didn’t even think twice about it. I just got up and ran.

The man chased me, as if I was an animal - hunting me throughout the forest as if I was his prey. He had enough clearance to stop and shoot me if he wanted to; but he was toying with me. Playing mind games, like most serial killers do. I almost got the feeling he was leading me somewhere, trying to round me up into an area where he could live out his sick fantasy, execute his MO. Soon enough my fears were confirmed as I crashed through the foliage and into a clearing.

At that point, the pursuer stopped. The moonlight lit open the clearing to such a degree I could see through it plain as day. The man stayed out of the moonlight, catching his breath, almost afraid to enter the clearing.

The horror that sat adjacent to me stopped me in my tracks.

Strewn around the clearing was a red, graphic mess of flesh and bone; something that was once human. Limbs were separated from the body and sitting half-eaten and contorted into unnatural shapes; intestines were splayed over the single tree that stood in the centre of the clearing like a spilt tin of spaghetti. A mangled torso consisting of merely a ribcage and skin sat upright against the trunk of the tree, with the head strangely intact and untouched.

It was Michael.

A loud bang erupted from the gun behind me, and a sudden pain jolted through my knee. My kneecap exploded from the front of my leg, and blood sprayed across the grass in front of me. The hollow-point round came fresh from a 30.06, and the bottom half of my leg held on to my thigh by nothing but skin and tendons. I fell to the ground, screaming. Steam rose up from the chilly grass as my warm blood gushed out onto it. I screamed again hoping that somebody; anybody would come and save me. But nobody would come. The forest was dead quiet between every scream I forced out. It was only a matter of time before I would be too. For now, it was just my severed leg and I sitting in a red mess.

I turned my head slightly to face my killer as I lost control of my bladder. ‘Max’ stepped slowly into the opening. Just as the moonlight met his figure for the first time that evening, he dropped to his knees. A vicious scream left his mouth, piercing my ears and becoming more distorted and inhuman the longer it dragged on for. His body seemed to twist and grow; morphing into a monstrous shape. His buttoned flannel stretched and tore at the seams as the buttons popped off like shrapnel from a frag grenade. His muscles pulsated as they grew. His jeans and shoes shredded into ribbons and fell to the ground like confetti as his massive bulk outgrew the human-sized clothes. Tendons visibly tightened with each pulse as his naked body gained more and more mass. His body hair grew in a matter of seconds, becoming thick and matted like that of a wild creature, engulfing the entirety of his form.

Its skull seemed to twitch around, cracking and crunching, deforming grotesquely as it did so. The lower face and jaw seemed to grow and stretch outwards before settling into a horrid feature that could only be described as the snout of a dog. Its eyes shifted further apart from each other, irises growing exponentially until the eyeball became a black void. One by one the beast’s teeth began to come loose, falling into in a chunky bloody mess on the cold earth as canines and incisors burst from the gums in their stead. The hands contorted awkwardly as the bones seemed to outgrow the skin, bursting through the fingertips in a meaty mess, forming abominable clawed features. Joints snapped and popped as its knees and ankles simultaneously bent in the opposite directions, adopting a canine-like stance. Once its transformation was complete, it looked towards the sky and screamed.

As it made its way towards me, I only wished that I hadn’t been so daft. If only I hadn’t come out here.                                                                                         If only I had been more careful.

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