Every bone in Jed’s body was broken. There were no signs of injury to have caused the breaking of a bone. His body was naked except for one sock on his left foot and underwear, which were soaked with wet rainwater. He was found face up next to an old stream that ran out from a cave just at the top of Cascade Mountain.
It didn’t make any sense to the investigators. My cousin was always a cautious outdoorsman. Yet, he was found without his clothing and several miles from his campsite. He never left his camp once he was settled in for the night. All of his supplies were there, and his fire was still burning from the night before. Somehow it had outlasted the rain, which was weird too.
The investigators were baffled; I notified Jed’s parents. I was supposed to pick Jed up that very morning, as promised. When I got to the secluded campsite, that is when I realized something was very wrong.
His tent had a large hole in the top, a perfect round hole. It didn’t make sense with the rain, and the fire was still going. Jed usually put it out when it was time to sleep for the night. His hunting rifle and food supply were left out as though he was interrupted by someone or something.
I looked at my aunt’s face after I told her and my uncle. It was the worst moment of my life.
Little did I know it was only the beginning.
It had been a year since my cousin Jed died under mysterious circumstances. It was ruled an accidental death, but it didn’t make any sense.
I began researching online on how that could even be possible. I read every book I could find on cryptids, missing 411 and even alien books. There was nothing that was even remotely similar to what happened to Jed’s body. I had never heard of a body with broken bones and no reason for it. When they looked at an x-ray of his body, it showed that every bone was shattered into pieces. His brain was mush, and there was some bleeding near his ears and nasal passages.
Still, there were no apparent signs of injury. It was as if someone set off a bomb inside of Jed’s body. The strangest part was there were no evident signs of swelling either. His body didn’t even decay after the incident. When the mortician attempted to drain his blood from his body, nothing would come out except a clear yellow substance.
The coroner kept Jed’s body for a week, trying to rule out everything under the sun before being ruled as accidental. It was as if his body was already embalmed. Jed’s body didn’t smell, and it didn’t show any signs whatsoever that he had been dead for the last week. It baffled everyone involved, but after the funeral, Jed was buried in the family plot.
I felt guilty about Jed’s death too. I had promised him I’d be there to pick him up, but I was late by an hour. What if I could have saved him? I had never been the overly responsible one in the family. Instead, I was Marc, the black sheep of the family. Jed was the smart one, the good one. He volunteered with big brothers and helped build homes for victims of hurricanes in Puerto Rico. I was the one who’s father had bought him a new Mercedes and wrapped it around a pole a week later, no insurance.
If anyone should have been found dead on the side of that mountain, it should be me. So with all the guilt, I could muster, I made a vow to find out what had become of Jed when he was found on that mountainside.
I decided after the end of winter was over, I would plan a spring camping trip in the same area that Jed was found. Maybe it was morbid curiosity, or perhaps it was a death wish that whatever killed Jed would do me in and bury my guilt with it once and for all.
I spent most of the winter working to save money, money that I could no longer borrow from my rich dad. He had cut me off after the Mercedes wreck. I was slowly working my way into being a better human being. For whatever it was worth, I felt I owed it to my cousin. He had been a source of inspiration to me whether I wanted to admit it or not.
Once I had saved up enough money to buy camping supplies, I spent time online researching the area and what I would need to spend a few days in those woods alone.
I mapped out the trail and made sure I had a portable charger for my phone to help guide me in case I got lost. I took minimal supplies because I knew I’d have to carry everything with me into the woods.
I readied myself the morning I set out. It had just finished raining, and the sun was peeking into my window. I made sure I ate something before I made my way out. I would need what my mom always referred to as “brain food.” I drank my coffee, spilling a little on my pants before I left. I dried myself off as best I could.
I reeked of coffee, though, but didn’t bother to change pants. It would dry by the time I drove the hour into the mountains.
I got to Cascade Hill Park and parked near one of the rest areas. I knew this part of the trail very well. It would get more challenging once I went off-trail. I picked up my bag complete with matches, lighter, flashlight, food, water, and because I was a wimp bug spray.
I’m not going to lie and pretend I know anything about camping except how to build a fire, stay dry, and pitch a shelter. I was no outdoorsman. I was a city boy, one that was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
I pulled out my map and followed the trail to the stream that Jed had always camped near. It was just off the main course and not hard to find once you know the markers. I didn’t count on the only thing that the trees and bushes looked different from when I had last been near here because it was still spring. I made a turn when I got to a break-off point where one trail broke off into three separate unmarked areas. Two of the tracks were close to each other, and so I had to pick the one that seemed familiar.
I followed the trail as far as a mile in when I realized I had made a wrong turn. All paths lead close to the stream, so I may be short from the water, if anything. I would find it. I had come so far now.
I walked for what seemed like another hour when I stopped dead in my tracks. The trees seemed to whisper “ssshh” at the end of a clear yellow field in a white wolf. I had never seen one this close, nor had I ever seen one that wasn’t in a zoo.
I saw it realize my scent was there and take off into the forest as fast as lightning. I took a deep breath and then kept on walking.
I finally got near a large body of water and figured this had to be the same stream but the part that ran into the river. There were large rocks everywhere. I decided this would be my spot for the night. I managed to build a fire, and I took out my jerky and my bottled water and decided to rest. I took off my jacket to cool off. I had no idea how hot it was for a spring afternoon until I removed my coat. I pitched my tent as best as I could. I wasn’t as easy as they make it look. It took me a couple of tries before I realized that I was missing a steak to keep it in the ground, so I improvised and put a rock on the corner to hold it down, and it seemed to do the trick.
I brought a book to read, High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, a personal favorite. I read about Rob and Laura’s trials and tribulations until I got tired and put my fire out, crawling inside my sleeping back, and soon I was fast asleep.
I woke to the sound of something growling, and I got up to peek outside my tent. The white wolf was devouring the jerky that I had stupidly forgotten to put back inside my back.
“Scat!” I yelled, and it was gone in seconds.
I got up, and sighing, made myself a packet of instant coffee. Rubbing my eyes, I looked around. I was glad I had gotten to the white wolf before he stole all of my food. Unfortunately, he had gotten a bit more than I could spare. I’d have to hunt for my food tonight. I groaned.
I ate some fruit I had packed and some nuts. I would be spending the day investigating the woods for any signs of what could have killed Jed. It may have been a wild goose chase, but part of me wanted to live as Jed did in his final moments. I needed to know what it was. I just knew in my gut that something unnatural had taken my cousin’s life.
It didn’t make any sense the way he was found and the way his body was preserved.
So, I made my way out on the trail, packing some of my supplies back up. I walked around and snapped some photos of anything that looked weird or out of place. There wasn’t much to be found, only the occasional giant piece of fur hanging off a tree. I guessed it was bears. That wasn’t unnatural.
After spending all day wandering around, I decided to make my way back to my campsite.
When I got back, I sat down, and although hungry, I was too tired to hunt. I looked around and found some blackberries were growing near the water. I’d eat them for now. I still had some jerky and cheese left. I’d be fine until the next morning when I packed up and went home.
I lit my fire again and curled up, looking at the stars as they began to come out. It was so beautiful. There was a peace in being alone in the woods. I had to resign to the fact I would probably never know why Jed died.
As I was sitting there thinking of Jed and admiring the stars, I saw him again. He and that lone white wolf seemed to be watching me from afar. I didn’t feel threatened by him. He seemed curious. I knew that wolves didn’t usually attack humans, and it was the last thing I was worried about.
He stood for a while curious before he galloped back into the trees, disappearing.
I smirked at him; if I didn’t know better, I’d think I had made a new friend.
That is when I heard something that sounded like a massive metallic banging.
It hurt my ears. I looked up at the treetops, and the moon seemed to be sitting on the top of them as though someone sat it there. Then I saw something strange. There appeared to be a blurriness to what I saw, as though someone hung a waterfall in the sky.
Then I realized it almost looked human-shaped. The only thing wrong with that was it was as large as two trees. It had to be a trick of the eyes. Then it moved.
I heard the sound of the trees snapping, and then the tops of two of the trees bent backward as though something was pulling them apart.
I watched in utter fascination as I looked at what was now a cloaked figure gliding across the forest in front of me.
The sound of the animals in the forest and the wind seemed to all but vanished. I felt dizzy all of a sudden, as though someone had pressed the pause button on my reality.
I watched for a while until the image seemed to get darker like a smoke cloud appearing in the night sky.
When it did, I now realized with complete horror what I was looking at was nothing that should belong in nature.
It stood over thirty feet tall and about ten feet wide. It was dark in color. It had shaggy hair like cousin IT from the Adam’s Family. Only there was nothing sweet or cuddly about this thing.
It was no longer cloaked; it now revealed its real face. There were four eyes atop its head like a spider. Its mouth was large and in a frown with salivating lips and fangs. It had long arms that seemed to drag on the ground. Its hands were an atrocity unto themselves.
They were large like humans; only each hand had a long black blade-like fingernail that was nearly the forearm’s length.
I thought back to the tent that had the hole in it. Could this creature have been the thing that killed Jed? That is when I saw two large deer running from the beast. It caught sight of them, and in one split second, it took the large fingernail and stabbed the closest deer to it. The other deer managed to barely escape as I stood, mouth gaping in horror as I watched onward.
The deer fell to the ground and shook for a second. Its eyes became bloody, and in seconds the creature had the deer in its hand, squeezing the deers insides that were now like melted liquid into its mouth. It resembled a kid stuffing a frozen popsicle out of the plastic into his mouth on a hot day.
How did this deer turn to mush so fast? I thought of a spider and how the venom turns an insect into a liquid treat. What was this thing?
Just as I thought that I wished I had not. It was now turning its four gigantic eyeballs in my direction.
I looked at it as it stepped forward in front of me. I wasted no time in grabbing what I could and running away.
I ran towards the forest trees opposite the creature and could feel the ground shaking behind me as this thing was only inches behind me.
I ran in a zigzag motion like you would if a bear was chasing you. Then I did something incredibly stupid. I stopped to turn around and see how far it was behind me.
There was nothing there.
What the hell?
I stood feeling the sweat run down my forehead and my hands shaking.
I thought maybe it had not decided to chase me after all.
Then its face reappeared inches from my face.
I let out a scream so loud that it looked down at me in surprise. The giant monster put its hand up to the side of its massive head as though I had injured its ears.
It stepped back for a second; then I felt it grab me in its massive hand.
I put its face up to me and stuck out its large black blade of a fingernail. But just as it went to stick its large finger in my guts, it caught a whiff of something weird. It put its nose up to my pants and then screamed, dropping me.
I didn’t know why it dropped me, but it stepped back as though I had shot it with a dart of poison. Then I remembered I had spilled coffee on my pants the day before. The coffee was what must have made it so repulsed.
I didn’t care what enabled my escape. I wasted no time running into the forest and back towards the trail, I had used to enter the clearing where I set up my campsite.
I got to that fork in the trails, and I couldn’t remember which way I came. I was spinning in a circle, panicking as to what to do and where to escape the forest.
I heard the growling not far behind me, and I knew this thing could cloak itself again if it wanted to hide from me to hunt me down.
Then I saw him. The white wolf was at the end of one of the trails. He came closer to me then ran away down the tracks. I looked at him and then looked behind me. I watched the white wolf again, and he repeated his gesture as though he wanted me to follow him.
If this was a sign from beyond, I was not going to question it.
I ran towards the white wolf and kept following him. He was fast, and I had to run at a rapid pace to keep up. When my body could go no further, I stopped as my chest nearly caving in.
I looked up, and the wolf was now gone. I began to panic. My only lifeline was gone. Where had the white wolf gone?
Then I heard it. Laughter and music were playing. I recognized the parking lot, not more than a hundred feet in front of me. I ran as a second wind hit me, and I could see my car. I didn’t stop until I reached my car.
I didn’t care what I looked like running like some maniac; I just knew I was safe.
When I pulled out of the parking lot, I halted my car. In front of me on the road was the white wolf. Where did he come from, and how did he get so far in front of me?
He stood watching me for a long time and then ran into the woods.
I drove onward, thanking him inwardly for saving my life. I no longer questioned what it was that killed my cousin. I was so lucky to be alive. I guess I had a guardian angel, a white wolf looking out for me.
As I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw Jed wearing a white shirt and white pants waving at me, and then his apparition fading away.