I was alone, completely alone. There was a full moon but it didn’t cast much light on the dense dark forest as I wandered through the undergrowth, helplessly lost. I had given up calling out for Brad or Chad or Scott or the other one. All that accomplished was to give me a sore throat as my strained, desperate cries for help died into silence.
Still clutching my camera, I stopped and leant on a tree. I was too cold and tired to cry and it made no sense to go wandering on through the dark.
Then I heard it. A low, rumbling noise, like the approach of a tractor or a steam roller, a grumbling that seemed to shake the ground. But this was no vehicle. It had an animal quality to it, a growling, menacing edge. I held my breath, frozen in fear. The rumbling growl started again, this time accompanied by shuffling and snuffling sounds and the crack of branches giving way. Desperately, I looked around me, trying to see where it was coming from. Then I saw it. A little way off, the implacable darkness of the trees was shifting, the shadows resolving into new shapes. In the half-light of the moon, I caught a glimpse of something truly, truly terrifying.
I was too frightened to scream. So I ran. Still clutching my camera, scampering headlong through the trees and bushes in the pitch black, I ran.
* * * *
My name is Fae. I’m a documentary film maker from Seattle. Make that a struggling documentary film maker from Seattle. When I first decided to be a film maker, I imagined I’d end up dispatching pulse-racing bulletins from dangerous war zones, but getting to war zones takes either money or contacts and I had neither. I didn’t have any relevant qualifications either – blame a bad choice of college courses and a fondness for parties – and so I had ended up living over a Chinese restaurant, trying to find ways to make rent while gathering a healthy collection of rejection emails.
Yes, it’s fair to say that the independent documentary film business is not exactly lucrative, but then you could say that about most creative jobs. So when I happened to hit on a theme that earned me money, well I had no choice but to exploit it.
Decoding Roswell was a rushed ninety minute piece about a group of UFO truthers – the result of me spending a week in Albuquerque interviewing a collection of lunatics, misfits and morons. It was supposed to be for a conspiracy channel called American Truth but it turned out better than I thought, so I tried pitching it to a major online news company and they loved it. They liked the psychological angle, they liked the shaky camera footage, and most importantly, they paid me.
So having found my niche, I started scouting round for other truthers, and didn’t have to look far. After a few days chatting to people on various forums, I got in touch with a collection of weirdoes who had dedicated their lives to solving another great American mystery that didn’t need solving, and after some mind-bendingly tedious online conversations, I managed to arrange a day of filming in Wenatchee National Forest, or Big Foot Central, as one of them described it.
* * * *
After a long and tedious drive into the Washington forests, involving several wrong-runs, a flat tire and numerous outbursts of violent swearing, I steered my beat-up old car along a rutted track and pulled up outside a feeble collection of tents.
I’m a city girl, and, as a rule, I don’t do the countryside. Naturally, being a documentary film maker sometimes involves leaving civilization, but I absolutely refuse to get into all of that country clothing nonsense. I dress in the country as I dress in the city, which on this particular day meant purple leggings – to match my purple hair – and a battered, faded denim jacket over a faded Sonics tee.
I don’t know what aspect of my appearance was most alarming for the Big Footers. It might have been my hair, my nose piercing, or the fact that I hadn’t bothered to wear a bra, but whatever it was, they looked as though I had landed from another planet. All four of them stood, open-mouthed and rooted to the spot as I got out of my car. I remember thinking that if the arrival of a punky girl from Seattle caused them such terror, then they might not be entirely cut out for an encounter with Big Foot.
After some prompting, they introduced themselves. There was Brad, Chad, Scott and someone else whose name I don’t recall. Three of them were sporting bushy beards. Three of them were overweight and three of them were wearing plaid lumberjack shirts and baseball caps. There was some overlap in these categories.
First impressions were not encouraging. I tried to set up a set-piece opener around the camp fire, but Brad, Chad, Scott and the other one were not big on talking, and their discomfort at being around a girl was embarrassingly palpable. It was as though I had travelled back in time to High School and was once again trying to make friends with terrified nerd boys, although these specimens were a few IQ points short of nerd status.
The afternoon was drawing on and the prospect of spending a night and another day with this group didn’t really appeal, so I suggested that we could strike out into the woods, with the plan of filming them all individually. They didn’t seem to think this was a good idea, but were handicapped by their inability to speak to me in complete sentences, and so after a little bullying and a little journalistic insistence, we were soon setting out into the gloomy, sombre-looking woodland.
After some time of crunching through the woods in silence, during which I tried but failed to provoke them into interesting conversation, Chad – or it may have been Brad – decided that it would be a good idea to split into two groups. By this time I was thoroughly tired and bored as I trudged off behind Brad – or possibly Chad – and the other one. With one last burst of journalistic enthusiasm, I pointed my camera at each of them in turn as we walked, hoping to provoke them into saying something – anything – of interest. But all I managed to elicit was mumbling and long silent interludes, and after half an hour of this, I was thoroughly dispirited. I sat down on a tree stump, to check my camera and when I looked up I noticed two things. Firstly, that it was getting really dark, and secondly, that there was no-one in sight.
* * * *
I was running blind, staggering into the darkness, whimpering as I ran, but no matter how quickly or desperately I ran, I couldn’t outrun the bellowing and grunting behind me. Gasping for breath, my lungs raw from the effort, I made the mistake of looking behind me and as I turned back, I lost my footing, skidding on a leaf litter and then felt my toes thud into a stubborn root and I tumbled headlong, landing on my hands and knees.
As I scrambled to my feet, I felt a dark shadow looming over me, blocking out the moonlight and I turned in time to see the vast bulk of something horrible and enormous bearing down on me. I screamed, involuntarily and began to scrabble desperately along the ground, feeling my leggings catch on a stray branch and tear and my jacket fall away from my shoulders as I tried to wriggle away.
I had begun to get some momentum in my desperate fight for freedom, when suddenly, a great weight was pressed down on my calves and I sank, face down into the earth. I screamed again, but the soil muffled the sound. I tried to shake my legs desperately, jerking as hard as I could, but something had me in its grip, and then, the ground shifted and moved beneath me and with horror, I realized that instead of pulling free, I was being dragged in the opposite direction!
As I was pulled across the rough earth, I tried to grab anything I could: tree branches, roots, shrubs, but nothing worked. I shouted and cried and screamed but there was no-one to hear me as I was dragged along the forest floor, until eventually I stopped trying to resist and, sobbing, surrendered to my fate, my ankles lifted in the air, my body scraping among the leaves and stones and soil.
After a few minutes of being dragged through the forest, I came to a halt. I opened my eyes and screamed out again, because close to me, close enough that I could feel its breath on my skin, was the face of a hideous, deformed creature, covered in matted hair, with gleaming sharp canine teeth and a vast, bulbous nose. I felt rough hair against my legs, my side, my neck and suddenly the ground began to shift again and I felt the dizzying, disorienting effect I’d previously only encountered in roller coasters as I was lifted into the air. I felt heavy weight clamping down on either side of me, and the creature’s foul-smelling hair was smothering my face as we once more began to move through the forest, though this time my body rose and fell as it walked.
Once again, I tried desperately to free myself, but once again my efforts were wasted. I was held fast under its arm. Looking down at the ground only made me dizzy so I tried to look at the creature. It was tall, maybe eight or nine foot, and walked on its hind legs, like a human, but was covered all over in thick dark hair that was illuminated occasionally when the moonlight broke through the trees.
I was feeling sick and dizzy and exhausted and so I closed my eyes, telling myself first that this was a horrible dream and then, when I’d failed to convince myself of that, that I would gather my strength, bide my time and break free when I could.
A rush of cold air and a splash of moonlight on my face caused me to open my eyes and I realized we had left the tree-line and were now climbing up a pebbly incline towards nearby cliffs. Summoning my strength, I shouted for help with all my might, begging, screaming for someone, anyone to help me. But there was no answer, the creature appeared unconcerned by my screams, and before long we passed into a dark cave at the base of the cliffs.
The cave was damp and cold but not very deep. The creature dropped me onto the ground near the rear of the cave and I scrambled away into the shadows, sitting against a rock, my arms hugged around my legs.
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