By: J. J. Cheesman
Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, for those who celebrate it, and it will be the first one that I don’t have a turkey that I personally shot myself. You see, that is usually my tradition. For about eight years now, my buddy Peter and I would go out to his dad’s cabin a few weeks before Thanksgiving and we’d bag us a couple of birds before the Holiday. His dad’s property was deep in the backwoods outside of our little rural town, and to get to the cabin you had to drive down a dirt road with thick brush on either side. The road is only wide enough for a single vehicle, and the woods made it impossible to turn around or let someone pass until you were at the very end, so if two cars met out there, somebody was having a bad day.
I became acquainted with Peter when I first began working at the Department of Transportation. He and I shared an office together. Even though I was the new guy, Peter had no quarrels with immediately striking up a conversation, and we made fast friends. It wasn’t long before he asked me if I hunted. I told him I didn’t but I had always wanted to. That’s when he told me about his dad’s cabin.
So, I got acquainted with using a bow, took a hunter safety course, and soon enough I was out there in those woods while Peter explained all the hunting basics and showed me all the signs to look for when hunting turkey. I bought my own ground blind, which is basically just a camouflaged tent with flaps for shooting out of, and Peter showed me exactly where to put it for the best results. It was the second day of hunting that I bagged my first bird, and I’ve made time for every turkey season ever since.
Last week on Monday I called up Peter, and I asked him when he wanted to meet at the cabin.
“I won’t be able to make it this time friend. The wife wants to go to Tennessee to spend time with her folks this year. They got a pretty big place so we’ll be staying there for about two weeks.” Peter sounded disappointed, and I could tell he wasn’t enthused about going out of state.
“But don’t worry about me being there brother, you can still use the property.”
“Are you sure?” I asked him.
“Yeah, I’ll just let dad know you’re coming, you might meet him out there too. He was saying he might be out there this weekend.”
Fast forward to Friday morning and I was bumbling down the old dirt road that led to the cabin in my pickup. The first snow of the year had fallen the night before, and a light powder covered every branch and bush on the way. Once I reached the end of the road I looked around for any sign of Peter’s dad, but his truck wasn’t anywhere around so I figured he’d decided he wasn’t coming. The Cabin’s electricity ran off of a generator placed in a shed built behind the cabin, so that’s where I headed when I first stepped out into the crisp autumn air. I checked to see the generator had plenty of gas, turned the choke valve, and hit the ignition switch. With an initial bang, the generator rumbled to life, and I headed back to the truck to start bringing my things into the cabin. Once I got everything moved in, I wasted no time in going back out into the cold and heading out into the woods to place my ground blind.
The woods on the land that Peter’s father owned extended for nearly sixty acres, but to be fair, I’ve only seen as far as about fifteen. If you were to walk five minutes into the woods from the back of the cabin, you would find yourself at the bottom of a valley rife with fallen trees whose roots could not withstand their weight on the incline of the slope, and foliage that had grown plentiful where the break in the tree line allowed for plenty of sunlight. It was within the valley that the turkeys would nest in the fall, and it was a couple hundred feet away from there that I set up my blind. Once I made sure it was secured to the ground, I walked back the way I came, dropping food pellets as I went, in the hope that if the birds made their rounds, they would find them.
I made it back, and entered in through the back door of the cabin. Once in, I spent some time lighting the fireplace and unpacking my gear. I made sure all my arrows were sharp and double checked the sight on my bow. The fire cracked and grew hot as I worked, making the cabin cozy and inviting.
When I finished, I packed up my bow and arrows in their case, and made sure I had my beef jerky and the latest novel I had been reading. I would likely be spending a long time out in that blind waiting for a turkey to walk by, so a snack and some reading material were essential. Once I had everything together and slung over my back, I grabbed a stool and headed out of the back door and into the cold air once more.
The roughly beaten path to my blind had changed slightly and it wasn’t until I was half way there that I realized what was different. The food pellets I had laid were gone. My heart began to race and I surveyed my surroundings. The turkey’s taking food so soon after it was dropped was simply unheard of, I thought for sure there still had to be one pecking around near my location. For a moment, I was very quiet, but I didn’t hear or see any movement. Once I was sure my prey was nowhere to be seen, I walked on toward my blind again, but I moved cautiously.
My senses were now heightened. The discovery of the missing food had made me excited, and now my ears were sharp, listening for any sounds other than my own. Once inside the blind, I sat the stool down and opened the window flaps. I sat down on the stool, but made no move to pull out my bow just yet. I just sat, listening, waiting. Without the sound of my own footsteps polluting my ears, the only thing I could hear was my own breathing. There was no wind or animals moving in the brush. It was perfectly still air.
Finally, I put down my bow case and unzipped it. I pulled out two arrow shafts first, fitting them with brand new golden-colored expandable broad heads that I had bought just the day before. Once the arrows were finished, I pulled out my compound bow next, and nocked one of the arrows, letting it sit on the arrow rest. I waited, and waited, and after a while of no movement, I sat my bow next to me and pulled out my novel, but I was so anxious I kept looking up from it through the window of the blind expecting to see a bird trotting in my direction, one never came. Minutes passed, and minutes turned to hours. Soon it was dark, and I had to pack up and head back to the cabin for the day.
That night I laid in bed, and every time I was about to fall asleep I thought I heard the warble of a turkey from just outside. My eyes would flick open, and I would wait and listen. Once I decided I was hearing things, I would finally start to doze off, but then I would hear it again and would be wide awake. At some point I finally did fall asleep for good, and I woke up in the early hours of the morning.
I got out of bed and made a pot of coffee, the only thing Peter’s dad kept stocked in the cabin besides canned beans. Snow had begun to fall outside, and I watched it absent-mindedly as I waited for the coffee to brew. Once it was finished I filled up my thermos, and headed back out to the blind. This time I was more sure of myself, more relaxed. With my bow once again nocked and ready, I pulled out my book and begun reading, and only took breaks in between pages to take a sip of coffee.
I was so enthralled with my book, I almost didn’t notice a low sound that was coming from the direction of the valley. It was a warble.
I dropped my book and readied my bow at the window. The snow fall had gotten a bit heavier, and every time I thought my prey was walking just out of the corner of my vision, it was just the snow playing tricks with my eyes. The warbling call that rang out into the forest was low but consistent, one would come after another, with and interval of about 8 seconds in between.
It wasn’t right. It was somehow… artificial. Mechanical and unnatural.
An uncontrollable shiver ran down my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. All of a sudden I didn’t want to be there in that blind anymore. I wanted to be in the safety of the cabin covered in the warm glow of the fire.
Then, the warbling stopped. Everything was quiet once more. I realized I had been breathing very hard, and my heart was beating rapidly. I let out a nervous laugh, and felt my heart beat begin to slow. You’re being silly, I told myself. You were spooked by Thanksgiving dinner.
I lowered my bow and decided that I would creep into the valley to see if I would get lucky and get a good shot there without disturbing my prey. Once that day ended, I would be heading back home, so I had nothing to lose.
I stepped out of my blind, one arrow nocked and ready, and crept slowly toward the valley. Before I even made it sixty feet further into the wood, I noticed movement not far ahead through the falling snow. I knelt down real low and slowly inched forward to see what it was. That uncontrollable shiver returned to my spine once more. There was a clicking noise, mixed in with a wet smacking sound. As I drew closer, I recognized the movement ahead was what appeared to be a naked man hunched over.
His skin was marble-white, and his body was completely devoid of hair. I wanted to call out to him, ask him if he was okay, but my instinct told me to keep quiet. I didn’t know what was causing that clicking sound that I was hearing, but I recognized those wet smacks well enough. He was eating.
The man stopped all at once with his meal, and he lifted up his head. He then let out a sound that made my blood run cold. The warbling from before, coming at 8 second intervals, it was coming from him. That’s when a wind blew, sending an odor into my nostrils that smelled of death and decay. I was so focused on the strange man, I hadn’t noticed what lay on the ground all around him. Dozens of torn apart and ravaged turkey carcasses.
A shocking truth became strikingly apparent to me in that moment. This thing was not something that could be called human by any stretch of the imagination. It was somehow able to mimic the sound of the turkeys, use their calls to lure them to his location, and eat them alive. I decided then that my best course of action was to back away slow and leave. Once I was home I would call Peter and notify the police. I took a step backward, and my foot touched down on a branch, sending a cracking sound echoing out into the air.
The creature stopped its call, and snapped its head back toward my direction. I saw its face in clear and broad daylight, and god I wish I hadn’t. Its mouth was terrifying mesh of several pincers that clicked together. Two horn like protrusions sprouted out from its forehead, but worst of all was its eyes. Its eyes were wide and unwavering. The outer parts of the eyes were white, they had a brown iris, and black pupils. Jesus, they were human.
The creature stood, and readied itself. My reflexes caused my body to move on its own accord. I lifted my bow, drew back the arrow.
“Stay back!” I shouted at the top of my lungs.
The creature stopped for only a moment at my words, then he charged at me. I loosed the arrow, and the tip of the expandable broad head found its mark in the creature’s shoulder. It reeled back and screamed an agonizing wail, and even its scream was human. The scream was somehow familiar. It was hoarse and croaky, like the shout of someone who smoked far too much.
I wasted little time in turning around and bolting toward the direction of the cabin. As I ran I prayed under my breath, please don’t let it catch me, PLEASE. All while my feet thudded against the powdered floor of the forest I could hear my own voice shouting from somewhere behind me.
“Stay back! Stay back! Stay back! Stay back!” The creature shouted over and over.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was copying my voice perfectly.
“Stay back! Stay back! Stay back!” It continued.
At the sound of its mockery, I was filled with a primal fear that sent adrenaline rushing through my veins. My feet pounded the ground faster and fast, and when I broke through the tree line I didn’t stop until I made it to my truck. I jumped into the cab, threw my keys into the ignition and floored the pedal in panic. My pickup barely budged in the rising snow. I hit the switch that activated the four-wheel-drive and hit the gas again and this time my truck began to move. I drove the whole way off that property checking the rear-view mirror, expecting that thing to be behind me, but I never saw it again.
Once home, I couldn’t stop shaking. My first thought was to call Peter, but I remembered he was in Tennessee, and it wouldn’t help anything to worry him. I went into the kitchen and poured a stiff whiskey. I took a long gulp, and let the amber fluid burn my throat. The warm sensation helped calm me a little, and the thought occurred to me to get a hold of Peter’s dad. Peter said he was thinking about heading out there, and it would be bad if he ran into that thing.
That’s when a memory came flooding into my mind, and I knew it was too late for Peter’s dad. A memory where Peter, his dad and I all sat around the fire at the cabin. Peter’s dad stood from his chair, and walked into the kitchen. He stubbed his toe on a leg of one of the chairs placed around the table, and he cried out. Peter’s dad lived a hard life, and his scream was hoarse and croaky, like the shout of someone who smoked far too much.