2019/10/15

Something Else Was Watching

Red Eyes

You've all been very good, so here's a second spooky story to follow yesterday's cautionary tale.

This account was reported to me as fact by the same uncle who related this story.

My family once owned a sizable tract of land situated in and around a deep, wooded hollow. Glacial melt water had cut a channel through the bedrock, leaving a large ravine or small gorge with high sandstone walls. A little stream still ran through the middle.

Nothing now remains of the house my great-grandparents built in the hollow, or the tavern they owned beside the secluded two-lane road winding through the surrounding hills. But both structures remained back in the 50s, and family members would still hike, swim, and camp in the hollow.

One summer afternoon, my uncle and two of his elementary school friends trekked into the hollow for some R&R in the great outdoors. This description is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since at no point were they more than a five-minute drive from civilization. But the thickly forested hills and the ravine's steep walls completely insulated them from the modern world.

The boys spend the day roughhousing, swimming, and just plain lazing by the stream. They built a small campfire at sunset and roasted some hot dogs. After supper, they unrolled their sleeping bags on the soft grass and turned in for the night.

My uncle and one of his friends woke in crisp, dewy dawn. Only cold ashes remained of their small fire. The third boy in their party remained abed, zipped up tight in his sleeping bag. They tried to rouse him, but he would not so much as stick his face out, despite his bag being soaked with urine.

After several minutes of coaxing, my uncle and his friend managed to draw their companion out of his sodden bag. His jeans were equally soaked, which must have made for a great deal of discomfort in the unseasonably chilly night. Yet he had not gone for his pack, which sat beside the dead fire with a change of clothes inside.

Only when they had accompanied the third boy to the stream--at his insistence--so he could wash his sleeping bag and jeans, and both items had been hung up to dry, did the bed-wetter tell his tale.

The third boy had gone to bed at the same time as the others, but for reasons he couldn't explain, he'd had difficulty falling asleep. He'd finally nodded off and had woken sometime later, also for no clear reason. Clouds hid the moon and stars. The only light came from the fire's dying embers.

And a pair of deep red points high above that glowed like coals.

At first, the boy thought he was seeing a strange constellation. But as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he made out the shadows of the trees against the clouds.

The twin red lights were shining from inside the tree line, not in the overcast sky, but on the clifftop.

Overpowering dread seized the boy. He huddled inside his bag and zipped it shut. Several moments, he had no idea how long, passed in deathly silence. Only his own frantic breathing broke the night's solemnity.

Eventually he dared to look again.

And found the angry red lights hovering at the cliff's edge directly in front of him. He could vaguely make out their owner: a gangling man-shaped apparition darker than the trees behind it. The red lights were its eyes, and they were staring down at the horrified boy. It was then that he wet himself.

With an act of will, the youngster tore his gaze away from those terrible eyes. He cocooned himself in his sopping bag until his friends were awake and he was sure the awful visitor had gone.

My uncle and his friends had planned to spend the rest of that day in the hollow. Instead they left as soon as their friend's wash was dry.

The trail out took them past the clifftop where the third boy had seen the menacing visitor. Ever adventurous, my uncle sprinted off the path to stand at the cliff's edge. He asked the third boy where the eyes had been and indicated a succession of increasing heights with his raised hand as the witness shook his head.

"No," the third boy said reluctantly. He slowly pointed to a branch on the tree right behind where my uncle stood--where the thing had stood. "They were a few inches lower than that."

My uncle had a length of fishing line with him. He looped it over the branch. Based on the line's length, which he knew, the branch's height measured nine feet.

The second boy asked if his friend might have seen an owl perched on the branch, its eyes reflecting the moon or the headlights of a car on the nearby road.

"I thought of that," the third boy said. "But there was no moon, and the road runs behind those woods."

The three boys hiked back to the tavern in silence. When my uncle got home and my grandmother asked him why he'd cut his camping trip short, he said one of his friends had wet the bed, while declining to name the guilty party.

And he told the truth.

But not the whole truth; not until years later.

The hollow and the land surrounding it belongs to the park district now. My aunt took me there once when I was ten or so. It was a nice place, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.

My mom, aunts, and uncles love reciting stories of the family's history--including tales of the old hollow. But they never mention why my grandfather sold the property, along with his father's house and business, seemingly out of the blue.

Grandpa's been dead for a quarter of a century. He probably took his reasons to the grave, as was his right.

Anyhow, I hope this story put you in the spirit of the spooky season, despite the lack of firm closure.

For more eerie stories, read Souldancer, the first Dragon Award winner for Best Horror Novel.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier

7 comments:

  1. I'm always thrilled to read these Brian.

    I wonder if there is a way for you to unify them into a larger narrative? But not an anthology.

    A larger project of these would be worth paying money for, I'm just saying...

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    1. Thanks. I'd love to do a true horror anthology. I'd need to talk to my friends and relatives about the rights to their stories, though.

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  2. I have a tale of a personal encounter with the supernatural, but a wholesome one, not an eerie one. Would you care for it?

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  3. Jacked Huwhite BoyOctober 29, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    After finding this one I've been searching through the blog's archives for more paranormal stories, you have an excellent voice for these tales that creates an eerie atmosphere without becoming hokey or absurd. I was wondering if there isn't some common tag I could search to find all the ones you've written? I've loved all the ones I've been able to find.

    And I'll second a call for a horror anthology, and especially one featuring true stories. I'd buy one of this quality in a minute.

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    1. Thanks! Readers didn't give me the 2016 Best Horror Novel Dragon Award for nothing ;)

      Now that I'm done blowing my own horn, the tag you want is High Strangeness.

      And stay tuned, because I'll be sharing the scariest true horror story I know on Halloween.

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    2. Jacked Huwhite BoyOctober 30, 2019 at 7:39 AM

      Thanks, can't wait!

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