This is a journal excerpt from my time living in the forests of north Appalachia.
06/13 – I witnessed something strange today. Or, at least, that’s the truth my eyes fed me. Whether what I saw was actually real, however, I don’t truly know. I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let’s avoid that by starting from the beginning. I woke up today to the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking, the same as every other day. I would happily gift them a muzzle for that damn thing. Anyway, I get up, begrudgingly, make my morning tea and head out to the porch to sip away at it.
I should mention there’s some distance between the houses here, and between them is forest. From my porch, I can see only one other house through the trees, and, during this time of year, when the trees are lush and full of leaves, that’s just barely. It can get pretty dark in there, what with the leaves blocking out most of the sunlight, and that’s where that little voice of doubt is stemming from; the imagination does love to play tricks when in darkness, painting away with sinister intent on that black canvas.
So there I was, standing at the edge of my porch, tea in hand, relaxed as can be, gazing out at my surroundings. Maybe I had hoped to see something semi-interesting out there, like a family of deer or a fox, to name a couple of examples. Nope. A tree, another tree, nothing out of the usual, and then my eyes catch something “semi-interesting”; something similar in color and texture to the trees around it, albeit shorter than those around it. It was humanoid in shape, looking right at me, in a stance that said “I was on the move until you caught me, but I’ll remain motionless hoping you didn’t”. It definitely resembled a human, proper amount of limbs and all, and, although it was a distance out, I swear I could see eyes. It gave me a deep, heavy feeling, possibly dread, just looking at it; a wrong place at the wrong time kind of feeling. For me that is, because, in that moment, I felt like I saw something I shouldn’t have.
Or maybe I didn’t and it was simply the shifting light being cast from the sun above, through the moving leaves in the breeze. It has been a somewhat windy day today after all. Yeah, that’s probably all it was. You get me, eyes? All you saw was an illusion. I remember then being startled by a vibrant dot of red darting passed me, a robin I believe, which would take my attention away from this “illusion” for only a second, conveniently enough time for it to get away, because, when I looked back, whatever was there in that dark patch of trees was gone. A sleight of hand by Mother Nature, I’m sure that’s all it was.
06/15 – I woke up late today, around noon if I remember correctly. I haven’t slept in that late in quite a while, partly because of the noises I was hearing throughout the night, and partly because, I’m guessing, the neighbor finally got sick of his noisy dog, too, and did something about it, because I awoke only to the peaceful sound of birds chirping. It was blissful, to say the least.
About those noises though, if I had to guess, it sounded like sticks being hit against trees. Tok tok, went the wood nymph in morse code. Nah, probably nothing so fantastical as that, but I can dream. I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly it was coming from, but it was all over the place out there. I wonder what kind of animal does that, and why it does that. Whatever the reason, hopefully it got that out of its system or has moved on, far away from my house. I’d rather not go through another night like that. The glass-half-full side in me would say: better here than in a city where I’d be waking to 100x as many dogs barking, and the occasional late night tree knocking replaced by incessant car horns. Okay, when I put it that way, carry on Mr. Woodpecker. I’m not that fussed about it.
06/16 – The night was quiet, thankfully, yet, again, I awake to knocking. This time, however, it was someone at my door: the neighbor who owns that four-legged noise machine. He had a look of worry on his face, so I tried to keep the beast that wanted to lash out at him for waking me up reined in. I believe I was successful in doing so, even if my face didn’t show it. Hey, I complied for the most part. Coincidentally, the reason for his visit actually had to do with his dog. According to him, it had gone missing, ran away in the night, and here he was asking me if I had seen it. Nope, I had not, but I suppose I got my answer on who was making those nighttime noises yesterday. If it’s not waking me up by barking, it’s throwing branches around. Maybe the owner doesn’t play fetch with it enough, so it said ”screw it, I’ll do it myself”. That’s the conclusion I came to anyway, and I’m content with it. Good riddance to it, I say. Find yourself a Lady and have a good life, far away from here.
06/18 – Another night of noise. I slept so poorly because of it. Knocking here, rustling there, so much closer than last time too. I should go tell the neighbor about it, if it is indeed his dog. I’m half tempted to leave poisoned food out there, but I don’t want to risk hurting the quieter animals out there. Maybe a few bear traps or trip mines; an automated turret perhaps. No, but, again, I can dream. Just not at night apparently, not as long as all that damn knocking is occurring outside.
06/19 – Today was … eventful. Firstly, again I am kept awake but someone’s late night fun; this time even closer than last night. I think I even caught what was doing it, and it wasn’t that dog either. So it’s around 3 AM, and, from bed, I’m hearing the knocking again; closer and closer it gets. I’m rolling left and right with my pillow around my head, desperately trying to sleep through the outside racket, until it finally gets to my bedroom window. Tap tap. At that point I was done, fed up, so I get up out of my bed, rush to the window, and what do I see? Not at all what I was expecting, I’ll tell you that much.
It was too dark to get any details on the who, but it was definitely a human silhouette I saw; tall and lanky, highlighted by the sliver of moon in the sky. I figured, my neighbor was either doing some late night searching for his lost pup, or he, in his distress, decided to do some streaking in the moonlight. Why he had to involve me in that, I don’t know, but I wanted to. After sleeping in late again, I take a walk over to his house, no longer with the intent to keep that beast in. Oh he was going to get it. Well he would have if he was home. I stood there knocking for a few minutes, itching for a fight, but nobody ever answered the door. I suspected he knew of the hell I was going to reign down on him, and found a cozy place to hide in there, because his car was out front and it’s a distance to get anywhere around here. I yelled some obscenities and went home. Do it again neighborino, and Johnny will be visiting your door with an axe next time.
Last strange event of the day, later on around 6 PM, I hear a knock at my front door. Did he finally build up the courage to explain himself, I wondered. No, from my window I could see it was in fact a delivery guy. Odd, they don’t usually show up this late in the day, I thought, and I don’t remember ordering anything. That feeling of dread returned to me, a primal fear in my gut that something wasn’t right, but I answered the door anyway; had to sign for my mystery package, clearly, because he wasn’t going away. This fellow was an odd one, staring daggers at me, piercing my soul; I don’t think he ever blinked, honestly. Outside of that, though, he looked normal enough. Tanned skin, long, disheveled hair. He had that familiar brown uniform, so he was official enough for me.
After signing for it, I noticed there wasn’t a delivery truck in my driveway, and it’s a good length of driveway to get back to the road at the end of it. He walked the 30 or so feet back to the road, and then disappeared behind the trees. Okay, he’s getting in some exercise where he can I guessed. I brought the package back to my kitchen, looking for a knife to open it, but, for whatever reason, something in me drew me back to my front door. A feeling, if you will. A fight or flight-like feeling, and I felt like I had to get back to that door to prepare for a fight.
Looking out from the window next to the door, I see that same delivery guy, standing there at the end of my driveway, staring at me, still unblinkingly. With the sun setting behind him, it was tough to make out an expression, but I thought I could see a grimace on his face; contorted, but, again, maybe my eyes were deceiving me. I don’t know what his deal was, but after going to the door and opening it, he was gone, and for good this time. I made sure of it as I stood there for a few minutes waiting to see if he’d show up again. Nope. Finally, back in my kitchen now, I open the mysterious package. The smell hits me first; it reeks. A putrid smell that could make you gag. I know because that’s what it did to me. I sifted through the odd choice in packing material, which happened to be grass of all things, and I see it: a paw. It was bigger than a cat or raccoon’s paw, but certainly not as big as a bear’s paw. It was no lucky rabbit’s foot either. A dog’s paw, or, as I saw it, a bad omen, and affirmation for all these bad feelings I’ve been having.
I went to the window next to the front door one last time, hoping to see that delivery guy, wanting to question him about this package, but all that awaited me was a darkening red sky and silence. No birds, no grasshoppers, or cicadas. Nothing. Even the leaves seemed frozen in time. It was an unsettling scene, not one I was used to at that hour, to say the least. I had the feeling, in that moment, that this coming night is also going to be similarly eventful, but I hope that I’m wrong.
06/20 – It’s the middle of the night right now. I saw something. I don’t know what the fuck it was, but it was like nothing I’ve seen before. More like a mix of things I’ve seen before. I’ll explain in a second. I’m here with a knife at my side as I type this. I just want to get this recorded in case anything happens to me. I want my family to know, they deserve to know, but I think, I hope, that I’m safe in here; got the feeling whatever that thing is, it’s unable to enter my house. As if that knocking has been a lure up till now, so as long as I stay inside the house I’m safe. Famous last words, I hope these are not.
So around 10 minutes ago, I finally get up out of my bed to find the source of the noise occurring outside again. I get a flashlight and a baseball bat to deal with it, and head in its direction. It sounded to me like it was searching through the trash cans at the back of my house. I’m still inside, mind you, and I chose to keep it that way until I got my answer on who or what was behind the noise; wouldn’t want to go getting bit by something with rabies, you see.
There it was, that familiar silhouette I saw a few nights ago. Now what the hell is he doing looking through my trash cans, I thought to myself, so I raised the flashlight up to his face hoping to give him a scare through the window, and what’s looking back at me? That’s it, the thing I struggle to explain. I still can’t fully wrap my mind around it, but I’ll try. I have to. It was bestial. Half its face was dog-like, the other half I recognized as being that delivery guy. Its nose was human, yet protruded out like the face of a dog. Canines, impossibly long for a human, yet there they were in a human mouth. This unnatural fusion, of what looked like two beings melting together, continued throughout its body; patches of fur here, bare skin there, human legs bent backwards at the knee. Its skeleton was defined, entirely visible to me, with its skin stretched over it looking as though it could tear any second.
All of this was, eloquence aside, obviously causing me to shit myself, but it was the eyes that were the most unnerving. I could see pain in its eyes, and sadness, but, more than anything else, a raging hunger emitting from them. It felt to me there was more than one consciousness behind them. I stood there for longer than I wish I had, thinking back to it, my light fixed on its face and unable to move. I had the sense it wanted in and it wanted me, not the scraps from my trashcan. After it let out some low growls, it dropped the trash it was holding and ran off into the darkness. That was 10 minutes ago. Since then, I’ve heard a mix of barking and laughter, one transitioning into the other. Yeah, it’s safe to say I’m not getting any sleep tonight.
06/20 – Finally, daylight has arrived. The night was long, longer than any I can remember. I don’t think I got any sleep, and, from what I could tell, neither did that thing. I heard laughing and growling throughout the night. Noises I’ve never heard before; otherworldly. At one point I swear I heard my neighbor talking. First he was calling to me, calmly beckoning me to come outside. After some time, he started talking to his dog, all friendly-like, playing fetch with it. And, can you believe it, the dog barked back, all of this happening in the pitch black of night just outside my window.
Eventually all of that commotion blended into howling winds. My exhausted mind couldn’t help but envision lost spirits, floating around my house, inviting me into their club of the dead; victims of it, I imagined. Every time I close my eyes, I see it; snarling with the sharpest stare. Face so dog-like, yet the eyes unmistakably human. Its whole body was quivering while, at the same time, frozen in place. That image, I’ll never be able to erase it from my mind.
With the sun finally blessing me with light, I decided that I’m getting far away from here, and never coming back; to hell with this forest. I’ll bring the necessities, and stay with a friend for the time being. One final something worth mentioning, while I’m writing this, it seems my visitor left me a parting gift. While packing my truck, I noticed the house was surrounded by dead rabbits, forming a circle around it. There must have been at least 50 of them. Yeah, that’s the final nail in the coffin for this place. Why didn’t it act when it was posing as a delivery guy? Was it toying with me, playing with its food? I don’t know, but I’m just hoping it doesn’t follow me.