“You all set to go, Sarah, honey?”
“Yeah, oh, wait.“ She said as she ran into the garage and returned with her BB gun.
“Now, what are you planning to do with that?” He asked.
“It’s for protection from the nasties that lurk in the dark,” Sarah said, half smiling.
They loaded the last of their camping gear into the back of the truck and said goodbye to mom.
Halfway to Hoosier National Forest, they stopped at a diner to get one last civilized meal. While they sat in their booth and waited to be served, they couldn’t help but overhear the older couple next to them.
“Did you hear Beth the other day saying there was another Wendigo sighting?” The older woman asked her husband.
“For Pete’s sake, Carolyn, there’s no such creature. And even if there was, they’ve never been seen this far south.” The elderly man was seemingly irritated by his wife’s gossip.
Carolyn continued despite her husband’s disdain. “Well anyway Beth bought a book on them, and she told me that the Wendigo is from the north woods of Minnesota, the forests of the Great Lake Region, and the central regions of Canada, where these evil beings live among the darkness. The book said that this creature might appear as a monster with some characteristics of a human, or as a spirit who has possessed somebody and made them into a monstrous beast. Apparently, it is historically associated with cannibalism, murder, and insatiable greed. It goes by several names — Windigo, Witigo, Witiko, and Wee-Tee-Go ~ each of them basically translates to “the evil spirit that devours mankind.”
She said that these creatures have long been known among the Algonquian Ojibwe, Eastern Cree, Saulteaux, Westmain Swampy Cree, Naskapi, and Innu peoples who have described them as giants, many times larger than human beings. Although descriptions can vary somewhat, common to all these cultures is the view that the Wendigo is a malevolent, cannibalistic, supernatural being that is strongly associated with winter, the north, coldness, famine, and starvation.”
“What the hell? Are you an expert on these things now?”
“Oh, shut up. Just eat your food, and never mind.” She said.
Sarah and her dad looked at each other and smiled. Sarah raised her hands in a claw-like fashion and growled. Just then, a car backfired in the parking lot, and Sarah jumped.
Her dad laughed and said, “Thought it was the Wendigo coming to get you, didn’t you?”
“Whatever, bring him on. I’m not afraid of imaginary things. That’s for babies, and I’m nearly nine years old now.” She said as she sat up straight and brushed her hair back.
After they left the diner, Sarah and her dad made their way to the fire tower parking lot where the trailhead began. As they got out of the truck, they noticed a man yelling at a woman.
“Come on! Hurry the hell up! We’re getting out of here right now.”
“What was that?” The woman asked as she ran to the car.
Sarah laughed and said, “City stickers in the woods. What’s more hilarious?”
Her dad just chuckled. “Let’s get our gear and get moving. It’ll be dark in a couple of hours.”
They locked the truck and hiked for about an hour north and then veered off to the right of the trail to get away from any other hikers.
“This seems like a good spot. “Her dad said.
“I agree. Nice and flat.” Sarah made a motion with her hands to verify her point.
“I’ll set up the tent and get the fire pit ready. You go collect some firewood.”
“Don’t go too far, though, honey. You don’t want the Wendigo to get you. Take the walkie talkie. Her dad raised his arms and gave her a grimacing look.
Sarah headed off into the trees and picked up the different sized sticks so her dad could get the fire going. After about twenty minutes, she stopped and looked around.
“Sarah. Help me.”
She sat her bundle down and grabbed the walkie talkie. “Dad? Can you hear me?” She got no reply.
“Sarah, over here.” The voice came from the opposite way of the camp.
“You doing ok, honey?” The walkie talkie sprang to life. Without answering, she grabbed her wood and ran back to her dad.
She arrived at camp to find her dad just finishing the tent and had already dug a pit for the fire. She dropped her wood and asked, “Were you out in the woods calling my name?”
“What? No, I’ve been here setting up camp.”
Sarah wanted nothing more than not to believe him, but she knew she had heard her dad’s voice, and it wasn’t coming from the walkie talkie. She shrugged it off to her imagination and went into the tent to lay out her sleeping bag.
When she exited the tent, her dad had the ax and was chopping some larger logs and limbs he had drug up to the campsite. After a while, they got the fire going as the sun was slowly fading away.
“What should we do now?” Her dad asked.
“Tell me a story. A scary story.”
“Well, let’s see now. A scary story.” Her dad rubbed his chin, and then after a few moments, smiled at his daughter.
“A true one.” Sarah quipped.
“Have you ever heard your mom and I talk about Harold? He was your great-granddad, and when I was about your age, he told me a story of the time he went hunting out here in Hoosier National. See, he used to come out to these woods a week at a time to camp and hunt deer.” He removed his hat, rubbed his head. “Anyway, this one night he’s getting ready to lie down when he hears some footsteps outside his tent. Heavy footsteps. So, he grabbed his flashlight and went out to see what was what.”
Sarah placed her elbows on her knees and leaned in closer to the fire.
“Now your great-granddad wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. He looked around with his light and told whoever was around to get lost, or they’d be sorry. He waited and said he heard three knocking sounds off in the distance.”
“What was it? Another hunter?” Sarah asked, wide-eyed.
“From what he told me he didn’t know, so he just went back in his tent, loaded his rifle, and curled up. After he had fallen asleep, he was awakened by something rubbing against the tent. Still half asleep, he grabbed his gun and flashlight and quickly exited only to come face to face with a dark hairy creature that he said must have been eight and a half feet tall and seven hundred pounds. He got so startled he pulled the trigger, and it ran off into the darkness.”
“A Bigfoot? Come on, dad, I’m not stupid or naïve.”
“I swear to God. He wasn’t a man to make up stories, and after that, he never came back out here again, saying, ‘those woods aren’t safe.’ So, believe me, or don’t, but he saw something that scared him bad enough to stop hunting and camping.”
“Well, that started off pretty good but a Bigfoot. I mean, really, dad.” Sarah sighed and stretched out her arms.
“You never know, honey. There might be all sorts of things lurking out there among the trees that people aren’t aware of. Anyway, let’s hit the sack. What do you say? Or are you too scared to sleep now?” He said as he laughed and yawned.
“Nope. I’m gonna sleep like a rock tonight. You’re the one that’ll be up and freaking out over every sound.” She got up and walked towards the tent and unzipped the front.
As they settled down into their sleeping bags, he said goodnight to Sarah and rolled over. Later that night, he awoke to the sound of a woman’s voice coming from outside. He sat up and listened. He heard it once more and went out to check on whoever was out there. As he looked around, he couldn’t spot anyone, and the voice had stopped calling, so he returned to the tent only to find that Sarah was no longer there.
He turned back to the fire and yelled, “Sarah! Sarah, where are you?” no sound. No reply. No nothing. He then remembered the walkie talkie and desperately called into it for her.
Sarah had walked about twenty yards into the forest because she swore she had heard her mom calling her name. when she reached a small clearing, she could clearly see her mom standing in the moonlight. “Mom? How did you get out here?”
“It’s ok, honey. Just come over to me.”
She started to walk to her mom when the vision instantly transformed into a hideous creature with pale reddish skin that barely clung to its bones. The head was monstrous and had a fearless look in its eyes. On the top were a set of horns that more closely resembled twisted antlers. The thing began to charge her, and before she could yell, it leaped for her and disappeared into nothing. A few moments later, she heard her dad as he called for her. She snapped back into reality and ran as fast as she could back to camp.
“Where have you been? You had me terrified.” Her dad hugged her and noticed she was ice cold. “Why did you take off like that?”
“I heard mom calling. I even saw her, but it turned out to be nothing. I must have been dreaming.” Her eyes stared blankly at her dad’s as she spoke. “I’m going back to bed. I don’t feel so good now.”
After a few hours of lying awake, he decided to get up and get the fire going again. As quiet as he could, he went outside and placed some wood in the pit and lit some paper to tuck underneath the smaller twigs. He watched as the flames grew taller and put some larger pieces of wood on top to keep it going.
Sarah opened her eyes and looked over for her dad only to see he wasn’t there. She sat up and saw the glow of the fire through the tents opening. She slowly stepped out and grabbed the ax that sat next to the tent. She walked closer to her dad and raised her arms as high as she could and swung. The sound was like a watermelon being split open as the ax buried itself into the back of her dad’s head. He fell forward and lie motionless. She looked down and reached for him. She tore his shirt off and sunk her into his flesh and ripped away small chunks and started to chew.
Three days later.
“Over here chief. The dogs have picked up on something.”
The search party all headed in the man’s direction as the dog led them to a small campsite, and the remains of who they assumed was the missing father, Brandon.
“Looks like something’s been eating on him.” One of the officers said.
“Yeah, probably coyotes. But where’s the little girl at?”
Sarah sat at the edge of the cliff that overlooked the campsite and watched the group of people as they moved around. Inside her mind, she screamed and screamed. Get out of me! Look what you have made me do!
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