The Halloween air was tender. Tracy and her Jock had decided to camp for the night. Syringa Park was dead during the off-season, like the rest of BC. The place was beautiful during the day: conifers reached high into the clouds and leaves crunched underfoot.
They spent the night as teen do, drinking and fornicating under the dying sun. He strummed his guitar and spoke soft words to her. They took shrooms, and smoked a half ounce. Took them three hours but they smoked it. She sucked him off in broad daylight, which he thought was pretty bad-ass. All was well.
Their tent was perched at the top of the rocky shore of Lower Arrow Lake. Tracy knew a lot about the lake and the history behind it. It was named by Emilius Simpson, who noted in his journal that the indigenous lake Indians fired their arrows at rock faces to enhance their aim. There used to be two lakes up until 1960, when a reservoir created a body of water that joined the two.
Tracy thought this was an awful shame. Acres of forested land were washed away in an instant, taking all of the area’s life with it.
The lake was very busy during the summer. Now, its daily activities were limited to the crossings of the ferry. Tracy and Jock had a very good view of the pier from their tent. They had seen the last ferry leave the pier and make its slow crossing at about nine pm. Things here never happened exactly on time.
When the sun went down, more than the sky darkened. A dense mist hung in the air. Twigs seemed to crack all around them. The buzz of the bourbon was wearing thin. Tracy and Jock were huddled together at the mouth of the tent, flashlights in hand.
‘Why did you book this place, Tracy?’
‘You weren’t complaining when I had your dick in my mouth.’
‘Okay, what the fuck is that?’
‘Probably another squirrel, do you want me to go check for you? Those big bad squirrels are pretty scary,’ she laughed.
‘It’s probably just us coming down hard. Why did you buy so much tree?’
‘I thought we could handle it. Besides, it will make for a trippy fuck later, don’t you think?’ She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. She could feel the fast beat of his heart against hers.
Tracy checked the time on her phone. How could it only be one o’clock? They had about four more hours to go until day broke. Jock was fidgeting with his hands beside her, his blue eyes darting here and there. She grinned mischievously.
‘Do you know the story of how the Sixnit Indians in this area were wiped out?’
‘No, and I don’t want to. But I’m sure you’re going to tell me anyways.’
‘I am. The Sixnit were one of the most ancient Indian tribes. They were extremely in tune with the lands here. They took all kinds of herbal fusions to get closer to nature. They ate the mushrooms of the forest and nature spoke to them. Do you think that will happen with us, Jock?
‘No way, that’s bull. If they were so smart and powerful, how come they were wiped out?’
‘The Europeans came. They had the Indians that resisted strung up on the trees. And that was just the men. They took all the women and children together and left them in tents with the men who had developed sicknesses. They let the flu wipe them out. Influenza! Took the whole lot of them out…’
‘And what happened next?’
‘Well, one of them came back to life!’
‘How do you mean?’
‘I don’t know how exactly, but the stories say that one day when two British builders were creating a wooden trading post right here in these woods, a Sixnit Indian with blood on his face rose out of the water just over there.’ She pointed. ‘He took a hammer from one of them, battered their knees in. Then he strung them up on a chestnut tree with their own rope.’
‘Why didn’t the British just shoot him?’
‘The only surviving account said the Indian was wearing a metal bodysuit of some kind. He had difficulty describing it, but what is clear is that bullets couldn’t get through it. Isn’t that something?’
‘Really is. Maybe it was an alien.’
‘Maybe the Indian was an alien. A time-travelling alien. I mean, where would an Indian get a bullet-proof vest? Had to be from the future.’
‘You’ve been watching too much Ancient Aliens, babe. It’s just a myth. I doubt if any of it is true. Makes for a good story, though.’
‘How do you explain the pyramids then? They are pure evidence of advanced—‘
A loud crack perforated the night.
‘Okay you can’t tell me that was the wind?’
Tracy fidgeted nervously. ‘It’s just a raccoon.’
The embers in the fire were slowly burning out, but the glow of the flashlight was enough. Tracy looked at Jock. He screwed his face up, as if in pain.
‘What are you pulling that face for?’ Tracy asked him. ‘Do you want to lie down?’ She knew now he was having a bad trip.
She laid him down slowly, placing a rolled-up jumper behind his head. She had to keep his head elevated, or he might swallow his tongue. Tracy checked her phone again. It was time she called somebody to come pick them up, her brother maybe. Jock was an inch away from puking all over himself. He was grey as the lake by now and beginning to shiver.
She picked up her phone. No signal, low battery. Fuck, she thought, we’re going to have to tough this one out. What a stupid fucking idea it was, to camp in the middle of nowhere on a creepy night like Halloween. She had only ever been up here once or twice, fishing with her father. There was a bar nearby, she knew that. It was probably less than two and a half kilometres away, that much she knew. Should she make a dash for it?
Bump bump bump bump.
A small black rock had just rolled its way towards her. It was at her feet. Tracy shrieked and shook Jock. He was completely passed out.
‘Jock, get the fuck up! Get up! Something’s here!’ She stood up and took out her flashlight. There was nothing. Trees, the lake, the pier. Her hand shook as she dragged it around her in a circle, looking for whoever had thrown that rock.
‘This is not funny!’ her voice rang out in the barren darkness. She seemed to be completely alone. ‘I know you’re out there, you punk kid! Quit messing with me.’
Bump bump bump bump.
The rock crashed into her shin.
It was bigger this time, and grey. It was thrown harder too, and it fucking hurt. She rolled up her khakis and took a look with the flashlight. There was a small cut on her shin, nothing to worry about.
Tracy reached back into the tent and shook Jock.
‘Get up, get up! Something’s here. I can’t carry you, Jock!’ His head rolled and rolled as she shook him, as if he was suffering from some sort of fit.
Bump bump bump bump.
The sound of rocks being thrown outside intensified, muffled smacks against the earthy forest floor.
Bump bump bump BUMP.
They were coming thick and fast now.
Tracy reached into Jock’s backpack and pulled out his hunting knife. She went outside the tent, flashlight and knife in hand.
‘Stay away, whoever the fuck you are!’ She was scared now. This couldn’t all just be part of some trip. This was nothing to do with the substances in her body, she told herself. They were genuinely under attack from some dumbshit kids.
The light of her torch rested on a bush to the left of a large conifer tree trunk.
It was shaking.
Tracy could hear footsteps now, they were coming from all around her. Someone, or multiple someones, was running circles around her and Jock, utterly vulnerable in their yellow plastic tent. Worse still, she couldn’t see a thing with all of the thick bushes surrounding them. She felt exposed, standing there transfixed at the mouth of the tent, knife in hand, wildly waving the flashlight here and there, trying to get a look at their attackers.
Something rustled directly behind her. She whirled around. Her flashlight caught a glimpse of something behind the bush. A foot, grey and long with no shoe. It was gone as soon as it came.
‘Show yourself!’ Tracy screamed.
She barely saw the rock as it looped toward her and struck her clean between the eyes. A perfect shot. She passed out.
She woke up to the sound of meat. The sound was that of squidgy, chewy, juicy meat being eaten and sucked, like the sound of someone hovering chicken off the bone.
Haha, I fucking love chicken, she thought.
Wait, where the fuck did Jock get chicken?
Wait, didn’t I just get laid the fuck out by a rock?
Wasn’t there a creepy fucking ankle?
Tracy didn’t want to open her eyes. But she had to do it.
A grey hooded figure squatted over Jock. Tracy lifted her head slowly, desperate to not make any noise. Her head was throbbing. She lifted her head to get a better lock at Jock.
The hooded thing had dark grey ankles. Its body was entirely covered in a black cloak. It was sprawled over Jock’s body with a leg either side, hunched down.
It was eating him. Sucking flesh directly off of his arm. Her knife was buried deep in his chest. He was dead, and that fucking thing was eating him. This has to be a trip. This has to be a trip. She was no more than three metres from where the remains of her boyfriend were being eaten. Right before her eyes.
Tracy reached slowly for the rock beside her head.
The hooded thing didn’t hear her.
She closed her palm around the rock and pushed herself up slowly from the ground. She got to her feet, and edged towards the monster and its prey.
She struck the monster over the head and it fell to the forest floor. She wrenched the knife from Jock’s unmoving body and drove it into the monster’s back. It let out a piercing banshee’s wail that echoed through the forest. She drove the knife into the monster again and again.
It turned and closed a crust hand around her neck. Its fingers were grey, its nails black and sharp. She wrenched its hand away and drove the knife deep into the chest of the hooded figure. She saw no face in the darkness.
She turned and ran.
Braches and leaves whipped against her face, leaving scrapes to match the bloody crevices that thing left on her neck.
She didn’t stop. Not to check behind her, not to mourn Jock. She was going to the bar. She was going to get help. He could be alive.
She bundled in the door of Maisie’s Bar and Grill at about 3:30 am. The place stayed open all night for folk who were travelling through the park. The first ferry across Arrow Lake was at 5am, and there was nowhere for people boarding that ferry to wait or get something to eat, so Maisie’s filled that gap.
The bar was almost half full with travellers. They gasped when they saw Tracy stagger in the door, all cuts, gripping a bloody knife.
‘He killed my boyfriend! He killed him! He killed him and ate his body!’
The knife fell to the floor with a clang.
When Tracy Kernan awoke she was in a prison cell, being attended by a state attorney who introduced himself as Mr Fokes. The people at the bar alerted the police after she collapsed at Maisie’s.
They searched the forest and soon enough, found Jock’s body. It was half eaten and punctured over 17 times with multiple stab wounds. They found no sign of a third party. Beside Jock’s body was a cairn, heaped high with stones in a triangular fashion. The state said that satanic shit like this won’t look good in court, but it would help her cop an insanity plea.
Tracy had no fucking clue what was going on. She tried to tell them about the rocks and the hooded thing, about his grey ankle, how he ate Jock. The state attorney didn’t know how to say it to Tracy, but they tested her urine, blood and stool and it looked pretty incriminating. Her blood tested positive for narcotics including LSD, shrooms and marijuana. Her urine backed this up.
And the human flesh in her teeth and stool didn’t help.
By Eoin Molloy
Lead image Flickr: The Commons