In the Clearing
George Sutherland followed Francine McKenna farther into the forest. His interest in Sasquatch had led him to join the Nova Scotia Bigfoot Hunters Society. When he met the group’s leader Francine, however, his priority instantly became to get into her pants. When she asked him to go with her on a short overnight expedition, he saw it as good a chance as any.
Only one tent for the two of them.
“Come on,” Francine said, looking over her shoulder. “Pick up the pace back there.”
Her red hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail and although her cheeks were red from the excursion through the woods, George could still see her freckles. He couldn’t help but smile.
“Easy for you to say,” George said adjusting his backpack straps. “I’m the one carrying all of the heavy shit.”
“I can give you the lighter one if that one is too heavy for you. I bet the rest of the group would love to hear about that.”
George made a face but increased his speed, trying to catch up to her.
Clouds were slowly overtaking the blue sky that had been present earlier in the morning when they parked on the side of the logging road and ventured into the woods. Some blue jays chirping in the trees suddenly darted out, catching George’s attention. He didn’t see his boot catch the exposed root and fell forward with the weight of the backpack forcing him to the ground.
Francine laughed. “Are you okay?”
“Fuck sakes,” George said, pushing himself off the ground. “Where is the rest of the team anyways?”
“Matt and Ryder had to work and Beverly’s out of town visiting family. They’re going to regret not coming out on this one.”
“So exactly why are we out here? Why this particular area?”
Francine looked at him. “You mean besides living up to the NSBHS’s name?” She took out her cellphone, opened some files and handed it to George. “An old friend of mine, Bryan who works as a harvester for Triple L Lumber, sent me these photographs.”
The first few photos George flipped through consisted of large footprints in the ground and at the end were shots of reddish-brown fur snagged on tree branches.
“Those pictures were taken by different employees all within this eighty hectare plot,” Francine said. “They all reported experiencing a strong, foul odor like a combination of a skunk and wet dog as well as hearing loud grunts and sticks banging against trees. All classic evidence of Bigfoot.”
George frowned. “I know that I’m still relatively new to the group but we get dozens of emails from people with pictures like this, claiming to have seen Bigfoot. What makes these more special or significant?”
“There’s also been some other strange things going on up here. If you scroll to the end of the photos, you’ll see one that’s not related to Sasquatch at all.”
George found the photo she was referring to and looked at it.
There were four impressions in all, with two distinct prints. The first set was the smaller of the two with what looked like three knuckles side by side. The larger ones also had three knuckles and were further out to the sides. They also had small indentations that resembled bear claws.
“It kind of looks like whatever made these was running,” George said. He handed the phone back to Francine. “The way they are laid out reminds me of the way a gorilla runs.”
George undid his backpack straps and slid them off his shoulders.
He squatted down and then pushed off with his knuckles, landing on his feet and repeated for a few feet so Francine could see what he meant. She looked at the pictures, then at the slight impressions George had made in the ground and back to her phone.
“I can see it,” she said. “If we can find more evidence of this we may have something new for the cryptozoology books.”
It was sore from the struggle its previous prey had put up.
Unable to see, it relied on its sharp sense of smell that was still filled with the skunk-like smell of its previous meal. It was about to move on when it picked up on something else.
The smell was faint but recognizable.
They trudged on, venturing deeper into the forest. The air was cool, yet humid, as summer was refusing to hand its reigns over to autumn.
“I’ve always enjoyed the smells of the woods,” Francine said. “It smells alive.”
“The bugs have always kept me away from walking amongst the trees,” George said. “Fucking things.”
“They don’t seem to be too bad now.”
George realized that he hadn’t heard the high-pitched buzzing in his ear for a while. He also noticed that the birds didn’t seem to be chirping either.
“Why is it so quiet?” George asked.
Francine looked at him, listened and shrugged with little concern for the silence.
They walked on and in the pit of his stomach, George thought it felt wrong. He opened his mouth to mention it but didn’t want to ruin his chances.
The trees started to thin out, which George was thankful for as it made walking easier. Eventually, they entered a clearing and were immediately hit by a strong stink.
“Holy shit, what the hell is that…?” George said covering his nose with his hand.
“It kind of smells like a skunk,” George said.
He looked at Francine and even though the smell was bothering her, she seemed to get excited.
“Sasquatch is reported to have a skunk-like smell,” she said.
“Or it could just be a skunk.”
“No, this is different. It’s really thick and… it does seem to have a wet dog scent to it.”
Although he smelled it too, George shook his head. “To me it still smells like a skunk, possibly a dead one, but a skunk nonetheless.”
“Let’s go find the source,” Francine said.
The clearing was roughly the size of a football field. An assortment of bushes had sprung up sporadically with a few small spruce trees here and there amongst the tall grass.
George started after her and immediately felt his body break out in goose bumps. He stopped and looked around. Something about the clearing made him feel very uneasy.
“Maybe we should…”
He was cut off by Francine yelling with excitement in her voice.
“Oh my God! George, get your ass over here! Hurry!”
She was standing near the far tree line, waving her arms frantically.
“Did you find the skunk?” George asked as he got closer.
Near the edge of the clearing was a body lying on its back, its arms jutting straight out to the side. It was covered in reddish-brown fur that fluttered in a gentle breeze except for the face, which was clean shaven. The eyelids were open slightly but the eyes had rolled back into its head with a wide, flat nose sitting just below them. Its mouth was slightly agape, showing yellowed teeth.
The body of a Sasquatch.
It could tell it was getting closer; the human scent was everywhere. Very faintly, it could hear their voices.
Its pace quickened.
“I don’t fucking believe it,” George said.
“Do you know what this means?” Francine asked. “Get the camera out.”
“I still don’t believe what I’m seeing.”
“You can don’t believe all you want later.” Francine slipped the backpack off her shoulders. “Get the camera out and start shooting!”
George’s eyes, and brain, were still trying to comprehend exactly what they had stumbled across. He removed his backpack and let it fall to the ground hard.
“Hey, come on. Pay attention to what you’re doing.” She took her cellphone out of her backpack and began dialing.
“I’m going to give the rest of the team a call.”
George squatted down and began unzipping his backpack, but didn’t take his eyes off of the body. It was well over nine feet and the beast’s frame looked powerful.
His hands found the camera and he pulled it out. He turned it on, shifted his eyes from the body to the LCD screen and began taking pictures.
“Damn it,” Francine said. “I can’t get a signal out here.”
As he walked closer to the body, George zoomed in on the Sasquatch’s arms and noticed a puncture wound on each one. The fur and skin seemed to have been pushed to the sides. A hole, roughly the diameter of a pencil, penetrated through the tissue underneath.
“I really can’t believe that this is lying right in front of us,” Francine said. She knelt down beside the Sasquatch and held her hand out, hesitating to touch it. “This is incredible.”
As he took a few more pictures, George noticed the ground around the body was beaten down. A lot of the tall grass had been broken, as if it buckled underneath something heavy. Scattered around the ground were clumps of the Sasquatch’s fur.
To him, it looked like a fight had taken place.
George lowered the camera and looked at her. “It doesn’t look like it died from natural causes.”
Francine met his gaze for a moment then looked around at the surroundings. “I think you might be right.”
“So what killed it?”
It could tell it was near the clearing due to the trees’ smells fading into nothing more than background scents. The other odor was still there.
There were two human scents, a male and female, both of them nearby.
Despite its previous meal not too long ago, it was ravenous.
It entered the clearing.
“Does Bigfoot have any natural predators?”
“I’m not really sure,” Francine replied. “But, if I had to give an answer, I would say no.”
“So, I’ll ask again. What killed it?”
They both thought back to the strange tracks in the picture on Francine’s phone.
“Do you think those tracks are part of it?” Francine asked.
George opened his mouth to answer but saw Francine’s eyes open wide in fear.
Something slammed into him and tackled him to the ground, landing on his stomach. George struggled to turn over but he felt a sting in his back; within seconds a toxin entered his bloodstream, paralyzing him. Although he could not move, George’s head remained facing Francine’s direction.
The thing that tackled him was already making its way towards her. It was hairless and running just as he had acted out earlier: running on its knuckles with its fingers curled underneath, like a gorilla.
Francine screamed and ran. The creature, however, was too fast and tackled her to the ground. Two stingers shot out of its palms into her back, just beneath her shoulder blades.
When she stopped moving, it turned its head to George.
There were no eyes; only nostrils constantly flaring and a mouth running vertically up its face. A large plate-like feature jutted out along its back, protecting most of the torso.
The creature began dragging her back to where George was lying. It released her and using the claws on its hands, cut into her forearm. George watched as it dug its hook-like teeth into her flesh and then the mouth opened, tearing tissue away from the bone. A penetrating sheath shot out of its mouth into the bone and it began to ingest Francine’s marrow.
George could only watch and wait, knowing that once it finished with her it would come for him.
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved