Sunday, December 24, 2017
By Daniel Skye
A herd of frightened deer shot across the road. Kim screeched. The children all screamed in unison. Jeffrey panic-popped the brakes and the van skidded across the slick pavement. The wheel jerked in his hands and the van zigzagged, gliding from one side of the road to the other. He finally managed to straighten the wheel and the van came to a shrieking, skidding halt, narrowly avoiding a collision as the deer escaped to the other side of the road.
Something had startled them and sent them darting out into the road. Jeffrey was certain of it. Something must’ve spooked them good. But what could it have been?
“Is everyone okay?” Jeffrey asked. He was clearly shaken but trying desperately not to show it. He couldn’t afford to look weak in front of Kim Sutton. All he had going for him was his long, rock star hair and his façade of false bravado.
The kids were just catching their breath, but managed nods of reassurance. He made sure his brother was okay, then he glanced at Kim in the passenger seat. Her hair was a mess, which she didn’t seem to appreciate, but she was otherwise unscathed. Though she didn’t show a modicum of gratitude.
Jeffrey Holden had volunteered to take his brother and friends camping for the weekend, though his parents suspected Jeffrey had ulterior motives. And they were right to assume. Kim Sutton had also volunteered to chaperone her brother, and a weekend alone with Kim Sutton was all the motivation Jeffrey required.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Kim said. “Usually the deer are too scared to run across when a car is coming.”
“It is hunting season,” Jeffrey said. “A loud gunshot could have easily sent them scattering.”
“But wouldn’t we have heard it?”
“Not if it was deep in the woods.”
“Are we there yet?” one of the kids finally spoke up. It was Andy Wallace, the troublemaker of the pack. Jeffrey was never too crazy about him, and he could never understand why Jim hung around with a punk like that.
But he never protested Jim’s friendship with Brady Sutton. Jim being pals with Kim’s little brother meant Jeffrey always had an excuse to see her. He’d come by the house all the time to pick Jim up or drop him off when he played with Brady. And he’d see her every day in biology, chemistry, and history. The problem was that Kim failed to see him.
For years, Jeffrey had pined over Kim, yearned for her affection. A year ago, he had finally worked up the courage to ask her out to junior prom, but was rejected in favor of the football team captain. Kim had a type; tall, dark, handsome, intelligent or athletic. But she seemed to prefer the athletes. Girls like Kim were rarely on the market. She always had someone more popular vying for her attention. Now a year later, senior prom was right around the corner and Jeffrey didn’t have a date. But neither did Kim, yet. And he was hoping this trip would change that.
Though, part of Jeffrey doubted that Kim would ever feel the same for him. Kim was indifferent to his existence. She hardly noticed his presence. But Jeffrey noticed her. How could he not? That fiery red hair, that slim hourglass figure, those emerald green eyes, those ruby lips, the light scattering of golden brown freckles on her cheeks that formed circles around her dimples. He absolutely adored her dimples, a feature that Kim didn’t appreciate nearly as much.
“Are we there yet?” Andy Wallace said again.
“Yeah, are we there yet?” Connor Sullivan repeated.
“Almost,” Jeffrey said, checking the GPS on his phone. He got the van started up again and drove east for two more miles.
Officially, Fish Cove Inn has been closed since the mid-nineties.
Unofficially, the place never really closed. People still walk the nature trails, fish off the pier, use the fire pit, pitch tents and camp out for the night.
The cabins, dilapidated and weathered from years of neglect and harsh climates, overlook the water. Bums jimmy the locks and crash for a night or two. Teenagers squat there when they need a place to drink or smoke pot.
Jeffrey parked the van adjacent to the cabins, unloaded, and helped the kids set up. Then Jim and Brady helped him gather twigs and branches for the fire pit. They waited until dark, then they sat by the fire and roasted marshmallows.
“Those cabins are really creepy,” Jim Holden said. It didn’t take much to scare him. He was easily frightened.
“They’re just old cabins,” Jeff said. “But I guess they do look kind of creepy in the dark. That’s probably why they filmed a horror movie here.”
“They made a movie here?” Connor Sullivan said, his eyes lighting up. He lived to go to the movies. Most kids his age preferred sports or video games, but not Connor. He spent most of his weekends at the theater, sometimes with Jim and Brady, and sometimes with Andy if he found a way to sneak in.
“Yeah, this was before you guys were even born. Actually, it came out before I was even born. It was a movie called Madman. It came out in 1982, I think. It’s about a maniac who stalks and kills a group of campers.”
“Why would you tell them that?” Kim asked.
“It was just a movie.”
“Was it based on a true story?” Andy asked.
“Nah, the legend of the Madman Marz was something they made up for the film. Besides it was really just a rip-off of Friday the 13th.”
“What’s Friday the 13th?” Brady asked.
“Oh, I’ve seen that one,” Andy said. “With that guy with the hockey mask, right? Jason?”
“Yup. Jason Voorhees.”
“Voorhees is also a town in New Jersey,” Connor said. “My cousin lives there.”
“That’s right. In fact, they filmed a lot of the Friday the 13th series in New Jersey.”
“Can you tell us a scary story?” Brady asked.
“Yeah, a really scary story,” Andy added.
Jeffrey grinned. “You guys want to hear a story? I’ll you the story my grandpa told me when I was about your age. Now this story is about a monster so foul, so hideous, so deadly, you can’t even speak its name aloud. To speak its name is to summon it. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?”
The boys exchanged looks of trepidation, then shook their heads at Jeffrey.
Jeffrey pulled out his phone and typed something out in a new text message. He flipped his phone around to show them. It was written in all capital letters so they could read it clearly.
“Whatever you do, don’t say its name. If you say its name, it will appear. This monster has an insatiable appetite. It lives to feed. It will snatch you up in its giant hands, crush every bone in your body, and then devour you.”
“Devour?” Connor asked.
“It means it’ll eat you,” Andy said. Jim shivered at the thought.
“A few years ago, around the holidays, a grandfather told his grandchildren a story about the same monster. One of the children slipped up and said its name aloud. And it appeared, and swallowed the grandfather whole.”
“That’s not scary,” Andy scoffed. “You definitely made this up.”
“It’s no story,” Jeffrey said. “If you don’t believe me, just say its name. Go ahead. I dare you.”
Andy went silent. Jeffrey shot him a look, as if to say, “That’s what I thought.”
“What does The Creach look like?” Connor asked, then one hand flew up over his mouth when he realized his mistake.
“Now you’ve done it!” Jim exclaimed. “You said its name!”
“Relax, boys,” Kim said. “It’s just a story. Jeffrey is just messing with you guys.”
Jeffrey saw he had gone too far and tried to save face in front of Kim. “She’s right. It’s just a story. Nothing to be afraid of, guys. I just wanted to scare you a bit.”
He looked at Kim, who appeared to be glowing from the flames. He yearned to kiss her, hold her, squeeze her tight and tell her how much he cared about her. The kids were nodding off and getting ready to retire to their tents and sleeping bags. He was ready to make his move, when his plans were derailed.
The flames crackled and spat smoldering embers from the pit. The harsh winds ushered in a symphony of unsettling dins: Branches snapping, leaves rustling, the crunching of twigs and dry leaves. And they all felt the unmistakable rumble as the ground quaked beneath their feet.
“What’s that?” Jim screamed. He was starting to rub off on the other kids. Even Andy Wallace looked shaken.
Through the trees, Jeffrey saw a gargantuan figure looming overhead, a sight that made him gasp and forget all about Kim Sutton’s presence for a moment.
It was hunting season, and Mark Berman was determined to nab himself a ten-point buck. He’d stay out there all night if he had to. He wasn’t leaving without his trophy.
The frigid air circulated around him, cutting through his wool hat and insulated jacket. He removed his gloves to take a sip from his flask. A hunting rifle rested in his lap. He’d been cursing himself for hours, ever since he’d missed an eight-pointer and sent a whole herd of deer scattering through the woods. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
He sealed the flask and pocketed it, put his gloves back on. The Jameson was starting to warm him up a little. And when he heard the screams–distant and faint–he thought the whiskey hit him harder than he realized. Until those screams grew louder, clearer. Mark abandoned his post and started running through the woods with his rifle and a flashlight, following the source.
“You see those cabins?” Jeffrey pointed. “I want you to run up there and barricade yourself inside one. And don’t come out until you hear me say the coast is clear.”
Jim didn’t even have to think twice about it, putting his fear of the creepy cabins aside for the sake of his survival. The boys–cold, terrified, and confused–huddled together and made a break for the cabins. They ran so fast that if it had been a Bugs Bunny cartoon, you would’ve been able to see their silhouettes.
“What are you still doing hanging around? Go. Protect the boys.”
“No way,” Kim said, rather emphatically. “I’m not leaving you.”
“This isn’t the time to be a hero,” Jeffrey said, unsure if he was talking to her or himself in this situation.
“I’m not trying to be a hero. I’m staying because…because I care about you.”
“You what?” If not for his impending doom, Jeff would have been ecstatic. The girl of his dreams had not only acknowledged his existence after so many years, but she expressed feelings for him.
The creature moved towards them, the ground rumbling with each step. It stood as tall as the trees themselves. Its long, ragged fingers slithered across the ground like snakes, talons scraping through piles of dead leaves. Its skin as black as tar and thick as the hide of a rhinoceros. It practically blended into the night if not for its massive, rigid exterior and eight segmented eyes that glowed as bright as the moon. How tall was it? Twelve feet? Fifteen? Easily as tall as the average household.
Kim grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. Jeffrey looked around for anything at his disposal, anything he could use to possibly defend themselves against this behemoth.
The sudden blast of the hunting rifle nearly popped Jeffrey’s eardrums. Mark Berman came charging out of the woods, rifle in hand.
“Stay back!” he screamed as he aimed his rifle and took another shot, barely penetrating its thick, rigid exterior. Jeffrey stared in his disbelief, his façade of bravado crumbling to the ground. Eight spider-like eyes squinted back at him; two large round eyes in the middle, surrounded by three eyes on each side. Those eyes then turned their attention to Mark Berman, who was frantically trying to reload his rifle.
The Creach seized him in its cold, ragged fingers, lifting him with ease. Jeffrey and Kim could hear the screams, and beyond that, the audible crunching sounds of bone and cartilage. It grinded him to pulp between its fingers. All they could do was look on in horror as it devoured all of Mark Berman and then retreated into the night, disappeared as quickly as it had materialized.
“Is it…is it gone?” Kim asked, her voice failing to rise above a whisper.
“I think so,” Jeffrey said, the initial shock starting to wear off.
“Do we go to the police?”
“Would the police even believe us?”
“I sincerely doubt it.”
“We should check on the boys. They’re probably scared to death. This is all my fault.”
“Don’t blame yourself. There’s no way you could have known.”
Jeffrey started to walk when he noticed Kim was still holding onto his hand. She held him close as they walked towards the cabins.
“So…do you have a date for prom?” Kim asked.
“I think I’m free that night,” Jeffrey said and managed a smile.