Monday, January 28, 2013

Big Bad Foot

Chris and Jennifer were a young couple trekking 'cross the country on the Summer between their last year of high school and their first year of college. They were an active pair, determined to climb every mountain and hike every trail before the sun set on the final day. This is what brought them from the upper most parts of Maine straight across to the upper most parts of Washington. Far from home, and besides the other, completely alone.

They'd heard many times that the forests and natural trails of Washington state were beautiful on all walks, simple and hard. With legs sore from an adventurously steep hike earlier that day, the pair decided to cool down with a simple, short path through the woods. Ultimately the trip was only a mile or two, and would loop them right back to the parking space after offering up a small spring water fountain and bushes of many magnificent flowers.

Their motel manager had warned them, however, that the area was known for vandalism. Tourists and locals alike who took the trail consistently returned to find their cars smashed, battered, and in many cases covered in the exploded remains of rotted fruit. Apples were a particular favorite of this group of vandals, unimaginatively dubbed the “Washington Wallopers” by police.

The walk had been largely as described for the first half hour or so. An easy pace on a flat dirt road patted flat through the thicker forest. Flowers sprung up around the road (though Chris thought they had mostly been planted), and the trail was alive with butterflies and small, curious creatures. The pleasant trickling of the nearby spring echoed beneath the forest canopy, setting a would-be tranquil tune for the trek. Would-be, because as most know, constant trickling water often creates a far from tranquil sensation.

As the pink sky grew to purple, and swiftly after to blue, Chris began to feel worried. He couldn't help but thinking he'd left a door unlocked, or a window part-way down. Images of his dad's RV—hood popped and gutted, skeletal axles spear-heading the air, doors ripped from their hinges—flashed through his mind. And of course, there was that “tranquil” water.

“Let's go back,” he said. “I don't want anything to happen to the car.”

“Don't worry about it,” Jen replied. “It'll be fine. It's only been there a little while.”

“Yeah, I know.” He shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. Explaining himself always made him feel somehow foolish. “But you heard the police. Almost everyone who parks here gets vandalized.”

“Even if that's the case, we're more than halfway done. If we turn back now, it would take us longer than if we just finished the trail.”

“Oh. Well. I suppose.”

“Come on.” She grabbed his hand and smiled. “We just won't stop to look at anything else. We'll hurry on and be out of here in no time.”

She was wrong, of course. Not more than thirty feet up the way did they stop beside something peculiar. Just standing around looking down at it made Chris's spine crawl. He glanced nervously into the bushes, feeling distinctly as though they were being watched.

“What do you think made it?” Jen asked, placing her own foot inside the footprint. It dwarfed her entirely, like a mouse stepping place behind a man.

“Pranksters, I suppose. We don't have any apes.” At least, I don't think we do, he thought.

“It looks too real to be a prank.” Jen knelt down and examined the print closer, feeling the dirt with her soft hands. “Look how the dirt is uneven, and there are lines all around. Like scars or wrinkles.”

“I still think it's pranksters,” Chris asserted. “And I really think we should get back before they prank my car.” And I can't hold this bladder much longer...

But it was too late. The roar-scream, something between a lion and a man, drowned out the trickling spring and chased off the curious creatures. The butterflies had disappeared long ago. All at once the bushes came to life with the snapping of twigs and the rustling of leaves. The crack and groan of a tree, followed by the thud of its corpse crashing down.

Before either of the pair could move it was upon them. A blur of of black and gray that rushed from the foliage and tore Chris apart. It grunted and stood tall, at least nine feet so, heaving its mighty chest up and down with deep breaths. It squinted its wrinkled brow over its black eyes, and made a face like that of a drunken man trying to read the fine print. A drunken man with two very large fangs protruding up from its bottom lip.

Jen saw only a glimpse of this as she spun around before the beast hoisted her over its shoulder and carried her off into the woods.

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