Once when I was young I went deer hunting with my Father. We would always head out in to the woods well before daylight, when it was the darkest. I was always afraid of the dark but I wanted to make Dad proud so I would act as if it didn’t bother me. We would always split up on different hunting stands to increase our odds of bagging a buck. We would sit in the dark to wait for daylight, when deer are most likely to walk by your stand. The deep woods in the darkness can play tricks on your mind.One morning things felt different. It was foggy and warm, too warm for hunting but we went anyway. As we got our gear out of the truck I could not shake off the uneasiness that I felt. We always spoke in a low whisper to each other as to not alert our prey. Every time I would try to speak my voice would shake and crack. Dad asked if I was okay, I just told him that I thought I was getting a cold. He kind cut his eyes at me with a look of amusement, he knew I was scared. It was a long walk down into the holler because Dad always believed the big bucks stayed far away from the roads. We headed out on our march into the black, humid night.
As we walked the only sounds were that of our footsteps, the leaves were soft from the humidity so it was eerily quiet. Our flash lights could not cut very far into the fog so we could not really navigate through our normal trails. The walk seemed endless almost as if I were dreaming it, but a sharp tree limb to the face reassured me that I was awake. At one point Dad realized that we had ended up somewhere unfamiliar. Dad was never lost, this was just somewhere that he hadn’t been before. He said that we had stumbled upon a perfect hunting spot, it seemed that no humans had been there before. No tale-tale beer cans of other trash, it was pristine and lush. Acorns littered the ground everywhere, prime food for deer. We had stumbled into deer hunter paradise and this is where we going to set up. I could not shake the feeling of not belonging there, it felt like we were trespassing. Dad picked out a stand for me next to a huge old Oak tree that looked as if it had fallen years ago. I sat up against the root end of the giant tree and dug in. I kicked away all the leaves and readied my rifle. Dad told me he would come back to pick me up sometime after daybreak unless he heard me shoot. I told him that I didn’t like this stand, he just cut his eyes at me and told me that it would be alright. Dad walked on down into the holler as I watched the the light from his flashlight fade into the fog.
After a few minutes I got up the nerve to turn off my flashlight and sit in the dark like I was supposed to do. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could start to make out shadows and shapes. I was able to get a good look around before I sat down. Other than the fog, the skies were clear and the moonlight was barely penetrating through the mist. From what I could make out there were several trees that had fallen over leaving gnarled stumps and piles of dead wood. I sat perfectly still only moving my eyes, not because I was a good hunter, because I was scared. I felt my rifle sitting across my legs and it gave me some comfort, but every little boy knows a gun won’t save you from the boogeyman. I tried to keep scary thoughts out of my head but it was no use, this place just felt wrong. Something else felt wrong, I was being watched. Something was moving on the back side of the tree I was sitting by, I heard it and I froze.
Something was scratching along the bark of the tree and heading right for me. My mind starting racing through the possibilities, a witch, a monster , aliens or worse. I sat motionless waiting for this thing to reach out for me, I slid my finger inside the trigger guard of my rifle. Then it was upon me, the bane of all deer hunters the mighty Fox Squirrel. I was relieved and angered all at the same time, in the silence of the night all I could hear was the blood rushing through my head and this little fat squirrel that was almost sitting on my head and then he scrambled off. I let out a sigh of relief, for hunters that was almost as bad as a cough. Any human noise that comes out of you alerts the entire woods to your presence and ruins the hunt, so I stopped it short. As my sigh leaked out of my lungs and into the night, I caught something out of the corner of my eye, that stump moved.
The sound of my heartbeat became deafening, at first I thought that it was a bear. I cut my eyes over to the shape, and watched. For many minutes I watched for any sign of movement, nothing. It must have just been a trick of the moonlight or all in my mind. Now I was screwed, I would be sitting there in the dark for two more hours waiting for daylight, terrified. I tried my best but I could not get the monsters out of my head. So I resolved to man up, I tried to think about girls, football, Evel Knienvel just anything else. I finally settled down and thought about how stupid I was to be afraid of an old tree stump. I cut my eyes over to look at it, and it was not there anymore. I stiffened up and stopped breathing. Now I could smell a nasty odor in the air, like a dead wet dog. The sounds from behind me started again, I prayed that it was that squirrel again.
The last thing I was supposed to do was turn on my flashlight, after all I wouldn’t want to scare the deer away and let Dad down. This was desperate times though, so I eased my hand into my coat pocket to get my light. As I did a ground jarring thud hit the ground behind me, I could not stay silent anymore. I whispered out “Dad”, in my hope that it was him coming back early to get me. No answer, and then the tree rocked slightly. At this point I grabbed my flashlight and turned it on, quickly surveying the area. It was shining like a Hollywood spotlight through the fog, and I could see that some tree limbs we bouncing as if they had just been disturbed. Then came more thuds behind me, I realized that something big was walking right behind me. I pointed my light straight up over my head and caught a glimpse of something moving away from the beam. At this point I jumped to my feet and my rifle went sailing off into the leaf bed in front of me. As I tried to recover it, my flashlight came open spilling the batteries out onto the ground. Now I was standing there in the dark with my rifle, shaking uncontrollably. Then I saw the eyes, and I knew they saw me.
It was a standoff, my eyes were slowly adjusting to the dark again and I could make out a huge silhouette with two giant red eyes. I pointed my rifle at it but I couldn’t aim in the dark, I was afraid to shoot anyway. The smell and the stress was making me feel sick. I began to dry heave, and lost my gaze upon the shape behind the tree. As I looked back it was gone again. I dropped to my knees and frantically found my light and the batteries, my hands were shaking so bad that it was almost impossible get the thing back together but somehow I did. I turned it on as if the light was my only protection from the boogeyman. I shined it to were the shape had been but there was nothing there. I backed up against the giant root of the fallen tree that had been my hunting stand, and then the smell became overpowering and I felt a breathe blow across the back of my neck. I spun around only to be met by those two huge red eyes right in my face and then came a howl that ripped through my soul. I screamed and fell back, as I did I dropped my light again and fired my rifle. Then it was all black and calm, I had passed out from fright.
I woke up to the sound of my Dad walking through the woods, we always made a point to sound human when approaching another hunter. It was daylight and I was still laying were I had fell. The fog had cleared and a crow was cawing in a treetop. I quickly got up and checked to make sure I was still in one piece. Before Dad got to me, I got to my stand and sat there. When he reached me he was laughing because he had figured that I just fell asleep and missed the hunt. He told me that it was okay, he had fallen asleep too, something that he has never done. Dad told me that he had fallen into the deepest and most relaxing sleep of his life and how much that he loved this place. I did not say anything to him about what happened, I thought that maybe I had fallen asleep and just had a bad dream. He would have heard me shoot and came to me, so yeah it was just a stupid dream.
We made the long walk out of the holler, it took a while because Dad had to figure out where we were. He said that he must have got turned around a little, but not lost. We finally got back to the truck and started stowing away our gear. I handed Dad my rifle so that he could unload it. As he did he noted that it was a good thing that I didn’t see any deer because there was a spent cartridge in the chamber of my gun. He figured that we must failed to eject it at the shooting range. My heart stopped and I jumped up in the truck and slammed the door.
Dad never found that holler again, though he looked for it for years. It drove him crazy, and his friends teased him about his dream holler. I never went hunting again. It caused some tension between Dad and I, but eventually he accepted it. I never told him about what happened and to this day I always on the lookout for those red eyes peeking around a tree or through a window. I think once you see it, it follows you.