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I met the Pelted Man.

When I met The Pelted Man, I was on a school camping trip. The name of the lake has slipped my mind, but we were camping there for 2 days and three nights. My cabin was on a hill, which had bunk beds all across the walls. Three, I believe, six beds in total. The campsite was the highest budget, but it was a school tradition to go there every year, and our class was following it.

“Alright campers, for our next activity, we’re gonna be getting firewood.” Our instructor said, a tall man with glasses and a goatee. “..Why?” Terry, my friend, asked, puzzled. “Er.. marshmallows. Also, you kids have to do these certain wilderness tasks on every wilderness camping trip it seems, pretty sure it’s in the constitution or something.” A few students muttered to each other in agreement; that did sound like something that would be in there.

“Okay, four to a group, we’ll meet back here in 40 minutes.. You guys need chaperones?” He asked, scratching his goatee. Sarah, a girl from my grade, spoke up nervously. “Wouldn’t that be safe..?” “Yeah, probably, but we don’t have the budget for that. You’ll be fine.” The instructor said, absentmindedly. “Alright, scram, get some firewood.” He chewed on his gum, turning around.

With that, my group of four departed, down the path where we’d seen some branches on a walk earlier. It was me, Terry, Bryce (another one of my friends), and Ethan. Now, I wasn’t particularly friends with Ethan. I didn’t even like him. He seemed to only exist to make other people’s lives harder, and that wouldn’t be different here. “So, Bryce.. Have you heard about the legend of The Pelted Man?” Ethan said, gripping onto Bryce’s shoulders as we walked. Bryce flinched for a second, before turning to look at Ethan.

“No.. what’s that?” He asked, cautiously curious. I didn’t want to give Ethan attention, but the name made me curious. I kept an open ear as I walked, listening to what Ethan was saying. “They say The Pelted Man has the power to control wolves.. He lives in these woods, he’s apparently lived in them for centuries. He owns them, basically. We’re just visiting them.” He waved his hands in a stereotypically spooky way. “Yeah, right.” I said, speaking up. “And what, he’s gonna come kill us tonight while we’re all sleeping? This isn’t an 80’s horror movie, Ethan.”

Terry gasped in mock shock. “Wait.. what if this IS an 80’s horror movie?” He clapped his hands to his face, and dramatically fainted into my arms. “Oh no!” I laughed, catching him and shoving him back to his feet. Bryce giggled slightly, covering his mouth. “Right, Ethan.. Why exactly are you telling us this? Is that all there is to the story? Not a particularly good one, if that’s so.” I put my hands on my hips. Ethan pushed his glasses back up to his face.. And they fell back down, which promptly led him to just readjusting them, embarassed.

“Oh, there’s more to the story, Andy.” Ethan grinned, running ahead of us a bit before turning around, grabbing a stick off the ground. “Apparently, he’s a werewolf.” The three of us stared blankly at him, thoroughly underwhelmed. “Yeah, uh.. Werewolves aren't that scary anymore, man. They’re just furries but less colorful.” Terry reached down to pick up some sticks off the ground, keeping them underneath his arm. “Not that I’d know anything about furries.”

“You aren’t letting me finish!” Ethan said, running back over to us carrying sticks. “Okay, okay.. Continue.” This was the problem with Ethan. He always wanted to be the center of attention, even when nobody else cared. “Right.. So, you know about werewolf skin?” He said. “Werewolf skin?” Bryce asked, raising an eyebrow. We’d gotten to the place where we’d seen lots of sticks earlier, a pretty patch of trees where plenty of branches laid on the ground, knocked off by nature or something. I walked ahead a little bit, and started gathering some.

“Yes, Werewolf Skin. According to some legends, werewolves actually transform by getting into the skin of a werewolf, and fusing with it on a full moon. Werewolf skin can like, increase your lifespan by 30 years if you’re wearing it.” Terry nudged me as Ethan talked, looking like he was about to burst out laughing. “Holy shit, dude.. It really is fursuits.” I couldn’t hold it in, and burst out laughing, dropping the sticks I was holding. Ethan stopped talking and stared at the two of us, a hurt expression on his face. “..You guys don’t even care, do you. You just wanna make fun of me.”

“No, no! Keep going! We care!” I said, a wide grin on my face as I tried to suppress the laughter. Ethan clutched the sticks he was carrying and stormed off into the woods, leaving the three of us in the spot as Terry and I laughed. Bryce walked over to us, awkwardly smiling, a forced one. “That.. was kind of mean. He was just trying to tell us a scary story to set the mood.” “It’s fine, he’ll get over it. Besides, he was just trying to scare us, and it didn’t work.” I glanced over to where Ethan had left, and continued picking up sticks, satisfied. “Yeah, but.. Nevermind.” Bryce said, pursing his lips.

Looking back on it, I wish we’d been nicer to Ethan. He didn’t deserve how rude we were, he was probably just trying to make friends. But we were kids, and judgemental kids at that. We just assumed he was trying to bully us, when in reality, we were probably the bullies.

But Ethan didn’t come back that night.

By 9:40, the counselors and teachers had gathered everyone outside of our cabins, to declare that Ethan was missing. “You three.” Mrs Price, our teacher, called Me, Bryce, and Terry over, to talk to us in private. “You went out with Ethan, you were the last ones to see him. Why didn’t he come back with you?” A chill went through our trio, we knew we couldn’t really tell her. Obviously, looking back on it, we should’ve just told her.

But, as mentioned before.. We were kind of the bullies, and we subconsciously realized it, and, fearing that we’d get in trouble for telling the truth, our thoughts went to lies. “We were getting sticks, and Ethan walked off in this one clearing!” I blurted out, followed by Terry’s panicked continuation; “He went deeper into the woods to get sticks, he told us that he’d meet us back at the camp!”  Mrs Price stared at us for a moment before placing her palm to her head in frustration, sighing. “Kids, we put you in groups specifically so you wouldn’t split up.”

“..Oh.” We said, after a moment of awkward silence. “It’s alright, It’s alright.. We should’ve explained it better. Just.. go back to your cabins, we’ll find your friend. Stay safe.” We nodded and ran back to our cabins, eager to be out of this awkward situation. “I can’t believe Ethan ditched us, man.” Terry said, as we walked back. “Total attention stealer. He’s probably just hanging out by some pond with frogs or something.” Bryce, who’d stayed silent, suddenly spoke up, snapping at us. “You guys are being awful! What if he got hurt, and it’s our fault? Why didn’t we tell her what actually happened??”

“What, so he can just come back in a few hours and get pity points as some kind of victim? That’s what he wants us to do, Bryce. It’s just another plea for attention.” I crossed my arms, rolling my eyes. “But what if it isn’t? What if he’s actually hurt??” Bryce pleaded, panic in his voice. I sighed, as Terry kept walking ahead of us. “Listen, we’ll wait a couple hours, if he still isn’t back by then.. We’ll look for him. The three of us.” “You promise?” Bryce asked, breathing heavily from stress. “..Sure.”

Ethan didn’t come back that night, and, around 11, the three of us snuck out as I'd promised Bryce, to find our acquaintance. We retraced our steps, being careful so the teachers and counselors wouldn’t see us. Once we got far enough away from the campsite I got out my phone and turned the flashlight on, shining it around. “Okay, stay close.” I said, pointing it forward. “Where do you think he could’ve gone?” Terry asked, glancing around. “You guys remember which way he went?”

“I think he went.. That way.” I said, after a moment of glancing around. We kept walking and before long, got to the patch of trees where Ethan had run off. “Ethan?” I yelled, shining my light around. “Listen, we’re sorry.. Are you here?” No response. Bryce turned on his phone flashlight too, followed by Terry. “Okay, well.. Maybe he’s further ahead. No need to get worried.” I said, glancing at Bryce, who was very much worried.

We kept pushing on, going past the patch of trees and into the thicker, less explored woods. “Ethan! Where are you? You’re kinda causing a scene!” Terry yelled, walking toward some trees. I ran ahead a little, searching around for any sign of Ethan. I wasn’t searching as well as I should have, and I should’ve stayed with the group. But I was tired, and just wanted to get this over with.

A stick snapped ahead of me, as I froze. “Terry? Was that you?” It wasn’t Bryce, he was right behind me. Leaves rustled, as I waved my light around, getting a little frightened now. “Ethan?” Bryce yelled, voice shaky. I took a few steps forward and stopped as I stepped on something that wasn’t the ground. I slowly looked down, hand trembling, to see skin laid there, torn patches of it ripped cleanly off of something. It was laid out in a bunch on the ground, like something had peeled it off and discarded it. I screamed, almost dropping my phone and backing up. “S-SKIN! SKIN!” “What??” Bryce gasped, glancing at the skin before horror filled his face.

“W-who’s skin is that??” Bryce asked, hyperventilating. “I-I don’t- I don’t know-” I stammered, unable to take my eyes away from it. My mind instantly made the connection, however. That was Ethan’s skin. Something had peeled off his skin. We stared at it in horrified silence, until our shock was interrupted by a low, low growl, from behind us.

Standing there between the trees, engulfed in shadow, was a massive, drooling wolf, on its hind legs. It stood at least 14 feet tall, with a hunched back of tattered fur patterns. I tried to comprehend what I was looking at, as it stared at the two of us with amber eyes, something’s flesh stuck to its black, warped jaw. He looked like a wolf man, made of dozens of different pelts from other wolves. I understood now. The werewolf skin. It was wearing so many werewolf skins, to the point where it barely even resembled a human.

Then, that was it. The Pelted Man turned away from us, lumbering back into the woods. It had no interest in us, already having fed on Ethan shortly before. Terry found the two of us five minutes later, standing there in shock and terror. Despite how many times he asked us what happened, neither of us ever told him. We were too scared, unable to process what we’d just seen. We went back to our cabins, and the next day, the trip ended early.

Ethan never got found, and our school never went on a trip to that camp again. I haven’t told a soul about what I saw back there, and from what I know, neither has Bryce. Until now, that is. I had to get this off my chest. I had to tell somebody.

As far as I know, The Pelted Man is still in those woods, where it’s always been. It was there before we came there, and it’ll be there long after. I have no plans to ever go back there, not to risk myself being devoured by this thing. This Wolfing monstrosity. Whatever it is, I still remember those gleaming amber eyes, staring at me from the darkness. And as I stare back, I remember Ethan’s words.

He owns the woods, we’re just visiting them.