Despite the party going on inside Inceheath Stately home, Kathy Sanders wasn't having much fun. She was stood outside, smoking, debating whether or not to simply go home. It was 10pm and the sky was black as pitch, the only illuminations on the front driveway coming from the home, and several muted lights, embedded around the edges of the car-park.
At 18 years old, blonde curly hair, a thin frame and wearing a dark green chiffon belted dress which she had bought cheap for the occasion, she wasn't going to splash out she'd thought, as the party was thrown to celebrate the owners 50th wedding anniversary. Mr and Mrs Wells who lived there had sent out a hundred invites into the local village which was beyond a vast expanse of woods which fronted the stately home. It was different from other homes in that its gardens and grounds were spread out behind it. The front, beyond the gravelled car-park, woods spread for several miles in all directions. The village was accessed by two long pathways that wound through the trees to the left and the right of the home. There was no gated entrance. The Well's could have had some of the woods cut down and had gardens built, but they had chosen to keep it the way it was.
Kathy's mother had recieved one of the invites but decided against it and gave it to her daughter who thought it might not be so bad, considering she had recently had a car bought for her as a birthday gift by her father, and the trip to the home was only a three mile drive. That drive however, took her through deep woods on a narrow road, a test even for experienced drivers, but when she had arrived two hours ago it was still daylight and although she had intended to drive home when it wasn't too dark, she had got talking to people and wasn't aware that dusk had crept up on the village and thrown its blackening veil over the country.
The thing was though, although she had thought going to the party alone wouldn't be too bad as she was fairly good at talking to people, it turned out not to be the case. She spoke to a few locals who were ok but quickly moved on. She found herself feeling rather self-concious, especially when she avoided alcohol all night because she was driving.
Then there was Colin, a stranger who had turned up alone, who had been trying to chat her up, sometimes following her around. She hoped he had got the message that she wasn't interested, but Kathy was too polite, and couldn't really speak her mind, so she gave the message by avoiding him, and moving around trying to speak to other people, but then it dawned on her that this wasn't the best party she had ever been to.
She didn't really know anyone, and she had some lonely creep trying to shadow her, so on the steps outside she made the decision that once she had finished the cigarette, she was off home, guessing that nobody would miss her, except maybe Colin.
"They're bad for you, you know" came a voice behind her. 'Colin' she thought, as he came into her view. 47 years old, balding, slightly rotund in a light brown suit.
"Smokes" he said as he lit one up, smoke billowing around his face.
"Yep," she said, "Bad habit".
"Are you staying long?" he asked.
"Nope, after this I'm going home. Home to see my boyfriend". She could see the disappointment on his face. She didn't have a boyfriend.
Just then, somewhere above in the darkness, the clouds unleashed rain, and Kathy didn't bother to finish the cigarette and flicked it away.
"Right, I'm going home, nice to meet you". She then dashed across to her crimson alizarin renault megane and got into the driver's seat, rain hammering the car. She fired the engine and reversed from the parking space, and as she stopped to turn the steering wheel, she saw Colin in the rear-view mirror dashing down the steps, waving to her.
You've got to be kidding me, she thought, stepping on the accelerator, and as she drove the vehicle towards the path leading from the home, she saw Colin running towards a car.
'Don't follow me', she muttered, 'you may be a nice guy but I don't fancy you now leave me alone'.
The car was swallowed wholesale by the woods, her headlights lighting up the narrow pathway ahead. The stately home had vanished from the rear-view mirror, and now she had to call on all her driving skills as she wound through the trees, the path curving and sloping here and there, coarse, rough, and growing more and more sleek and wet as the rain came down.
Then, in the mirror, she saw what she didn't want to see, headlights, flashing, with the car horn resounding through the trees.
"Go away", she said aloud, "Fuck off!".
Her mother had always been a stickler for not swearing, and had ensured her daughter never uttered anything even remotely rude, but behind her back, amongst friends, amongst influences, she sometimes stretched to the odd cavalier word, but Colin had made her swear, perhaps fuelled by fear.
He's trying to collar me in the woods where nobody can see him, she thought.
He almost caught up to her, their bumpers a metre apart, Colin hammering on the horn.
The windscreen wipers did their best to clear the view, but they had to work hard, and she rounded another bend and stepped on the accelerator. It was a gamble, she was going way too fast along this type of road. Should a vehicle emerge in front, then there was a high chance of a collision, but she didn't want to be dragged into the woods by a desperate weirdo, one whose headlights appeared further back in the distance, who still blared his horn, no doubt annoying the animals within the woods trying to sleep, and probably annoying the nocturnal creatures as well.
Another bend emerged in the headlights and she didn't brake as she swerved, the back wheels skidding, the left side door coming dangerously close to a tree, but she regained control and drove even faster, the pathway bumpy and unforgiving, growing more and more sodden as the rain decided to grow stronger, the wipers trying, but failing to give a clear view. Another bend emerged, and Kathy braked, the back wheels skidding slightly, but then another curve made her brake even more and her speed dropped significantly.
Then he was upon her. He emerged as if from nowhere. Bright headlights from behind filled her vehicle and reflected from the rear-view mirror making her squint, yet she could make out Colin gesturing for her to stop.
"Fuck-off!", she yelled, and again, floored the accelerator, both cars heading deeper and deeper into the woods.
She managed to put some distance between them, but could still hear his car horn, and see his headlights about forty metres back. She rounded another curve, adrenaline flowing through her system, the fear of a dangerous drive and of being caught by Colin who had fuck-knows-what on his mind.
The path grew narrower, and Colin seemed to gain on her, his headlights flickering. The wheels splashed through puddles and spattered the vehicles with mud, streaked by the wipers on the windscreen washed off again by the rain.
Why can't they have just made a straight path through the woods? she thought. Why does it have to twist and turn? and why is it so fucking narrow?
She rounded a curve, then another and should a vehicle appear in front then one of them was swerving and crashing into the woods.
Then he was on her again. Colin appeared metres behind, and she saw him in the mirror making wild gestures.
I'm not gonna be a victim Colin, she thought, in fact I might even call the police. She rounded another corner without braking, but Colin braked, and she lost him for a few moments, flooring the accelerator again. The path widened slightly, but two vehicles would still struggle to pass each other.
The path sloped downwards and curved to the right, then levelled out again, and she could hear Colin still beeping his horn somewhere behind. Another bend to the left made the car swerve, its back tyres skidding towards the verge, dangerously close to the trees, but her white knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel and regained control, the path ahead straight.
Again, in her rear-view mirror, headlights appeared, but they were gaining. Colin's car was metres behind.
He drove up alongside her, both cars going much too fast for this pathway. She glanced across at him and saw he was wildly gesturing. Looking back ahead the headlights picked out the pathway curving slightly, and a tree heading rapidly close in front of the car.
She slammed on the brakes, the tyres screeching on the muddied tracks, the headlights illuminating the offending tree which caused her to stop, the light blending into the the deep darkness of the woods, the rain still hammering down.
Colin had also braked, his car alongside at about three metres away, his tyres sunken down into the verge.
Kathy angrily wound down the window.
"What?" she yelled "What do you want?"
Colin was pointing to the rear of her vehicle. He was saying something but she couldn't hear him or make out what he was saying.
He opened the door and stepped out, rain soaking him.
Again he pointed to the rear of her vehicle.
"There's a man in the back" he shouted. She heard him then, and looked in the rear-view mirror.
He was right.
There was a man on the back-seat, staring at her in the mirror.
Suddenly her hair was gripped and a cold blade pressed against her throat. She screamed but the blade was pressed hard and stifled the sound. Her terrified eyes looked across to Colin who was standing around not knowing what to do, scared to interfere.
The man gripped her hair tighter and pressed the blade harder. His face came inches from hers and she looked at him, and that was when she did scream. The knife could not stifle it because although the man looked at her with his green eyes, eyes were all he had.
He had no face.
No face from below the eyes. Just a gaping red maw, or cavern, where the nose, mouth, jaw and tongue should be. Some of his spinal bone could be seen but it was mostly red glistening tendons and veins, blood trickling from what looked to be freshly made cuts within the ragged maw.
A low gutteral sound came from somewhere in the throat which turned into a hissing sound.
Then suddenly he let go and sat back in the seat. Kathy immediately vacated the car and ran to Colin and hugged him. Colin didn't know what to do, looking around, confused, fear coursing through him, and rain soaking them.
They heard the sound of a car door being opened and both looked to see the rear door of Kathy's car swing back.
Then he appeared.
He slowly climbed out and stood up, staring at them, knife in hand.
He was naked, and had cuts and scars all over his body. Some of them were fresh and oozing blood. There were no genitals, just a gaping ragged hole.
The rain soaked him, streaking the blood down his skin, matting his thin hair. He just stared at them, more gutteral sounds coming from what was effectively the stump of a neck, blood spilling down his chest.
Then the man pointed the knife at the both of them, and Kathy gripped Colin tighter. Then he turned and ran into the woods, swallowed by the trees. Swallowed by the darkness.
They stood there for a few moments, frozen to the spot. Colin was trembling, and Kathy knew he was in no fit state to drive.
"Come on," she said, and led him across to her car.
They were soon sat in the vehicle, but Colin was mute, and in shock, trembling, staring ahead at nothing. Kathy had to muster all her composure and knew they had to get out of there, to get to civilisation, or at least some semblance of it. In the village there was a 24hour medical practice. There was no hospital. She knew that was their first port of call before the police.
She drove back onto the pathway, and floored the accelerator.
Other eyes watched the car drive away, watched the headlights cutting through the leaves, turning around bends until one of those bends took it out of sight, and darkness returned, but it did not matter, because the owner of those eyes knew exactly where it was, knew exactly how to get back to one of its tents in the woods where it now headed, slowly walking through bushes, wet leaves trailing over his wet skin, manouvering through the woods until he was crawling into the tent, and laying down on a stained, matted sleeping bag.
He lay the knife down and looked up at the roof of the tent, his eyes indicating that if it could, it would have been smiling.
He only ever used the knife on himself. He liked to cut the inside of the facial area to get blood flowing. He had cut off his genitals to create a ragged, fleshy hole where urine would trickle out down his thighs. Sometimes he would slice down there to get blood oozing out to create a more visceral effect.
Old Farmer George as he used to be known, and to some people, still was, lived in the woods. He knew them inside and out, because they had been his home for eight years.
He had been a farmer for most of his life, taking over from his foster parents and knowing nothing else. Farming was in his blood, and he was successful for 46 years, never marrying or having any children. He had lived two miles from the woods near a river, and was a respected member of the community.
Until the storm came.
The river had bursts its banks, flooding the area and swamping his farm, killing every animal, rendering him homeless, out of work, destitute.
Depression hit him like never before, and as he been staying at his other farmer friends while he figured out what he was going to do, he had said it might be therapetic for him to just help out like one of the farmhands, so thought that killing some of the cows for meat and dairy might help if only slightly. The thing was though, his farmer friends never always stuck to the tried and tested methods, and would kill his cattle with a .44 desert eagle handgun to the back of the head.
So George took the gun, shot a few cows, and looked at the handgun, and knew there and then exactly was he was going to do.
So without hesitation, and without saying goodbye to anyone, he left the farm, and headed deep into the woods.
He had knelt down, took the gun in both hands and placed the barrel beneath his jaw. The thing was though, he arched his head back slightly too far, and when he pulled the trigger, the bullet tore through his face and exited at the bridge of his nose, missing the brain. He was knocked unconcious and collapsed back, waking hours later with a garbled, agonising bloody scream.
After the realisation of his faceless ragged maw, he had scrambled around and found the gun again, but although he could have put another bullet in his head, he had hesitated and leaned against a tree where he had rested and slept for hours on end. When he woke, it was a cloudless sunny day, dappled sunlight falling over him.
He still had the gun, and stayed there another few hours.
He had changed his mind, and threw the gun to the side.
He had got on all fours and crawled into the woods.
Eight years had passed since then, and there were only three people who knew about him. Two of them were the local constabulary who would leave food and various items he may need for him to collect. He had dispensed with all clothes for all weathers.
Mrs Bennett from the local parish church would sometimes come and talk to him. Of course he couldn't reply but he acknowledged her the best way he could. George would never have hurt anyone, but he did rather have a penchant for mock violence and aggression.
He loved to scare people.
He had obtained a fishing fillet knife from the police who knew what he did and did nothing about it.
George just lived in the woods and did whatever he wanted, and scaring people was his passion. Using the blade before a scare he would cut himself in various places to have the sight of blood enhancing his grotesque appearance, frightening the victim even more, especially when up close and personal.
When campers came to the woods he would sometimes sneak into one of the tents when he knew they were all asleep and position his face inches in front of theirs, and flick on a torch which they always had. His gutteral breathing would rouse the victim awake who would open their eyes to see the raw visage which sometimes dripped blood onto their faces when he had sliced the inside. The second they screamed he would make his escape, because by the time anyone had been woken up by the noise and had come out to investigate, he had long gone.
Sometimes children from the village school would visit the home and its gardens, but when the bus wound through the woods, George would appear and run behind it until the children noticed him where they would point and scream. He only did that one a select few times. He didn't want a lynch-mob of parents tracking him down.
Then, when the police had been informed in the village, Officer Sanderson would always make a show of writing notes and saying he would investigate, and sometimes would be co-erced into going into the woods to look for the creature, but would always say he would look into it. Exactly what he would say to Kate and Colin when they turned up where Colin would decry he was not going back into those woods to get his car, and Sanderson would walk up there, 'looking' for George along the way, and retrieve the vehicle.
Mrs Bennett had been driving to the estate when George emerged from the woods and threw a rock in her side window, then ran at the car.
Usually when he did that the people would be terrified and would sometimes crash their cars. He would come at them with a knife then vanish into the woods, and sometimes if he could get into a vehicle when they were not there as he did with Kate's car then he would press the blade to their throats, putting his bloodied maw before thier face.
Mrs Bennett however, was a different case altogether. When he smashed the window she slammed on the brake and angrily got out of the car. George rushed at her, but she stood her ground and George stopped. He had not accounted for that and had no idea what to do. He didn't even think to rush into the woods.
"What was that for? and who on earth are you?" she had asked, and since then, she came to give him the local gossip and give him various treats, almost like he was an animal that she came to feed every so often.
He didn't scare everybody that came into the woods. Maybe once or twice a week, fuelling the 'Legend' or myth that there was a creature. A myth that hadn't quite got off the ground. There was talk by his victims of some strange freak in the woods but it soon gave way over time to their memories of it. Was it some horrible monstrous creature? Or was it just a man?
For now, he sat inside his tent, which was crawling with insects which he let crawl over him, a sensation he enjoyed. He would wait for a new victim to scare, to fuel the legend of the creature in the woods.