The Woods

*Names have been changed.

It was a cold, dark night beneath a starless sky--Okay, it was actually three o'clock in the afternoon late one July, but it seems all the spooky stories happen at night.

For my fourteenth birthday, three friends and I decided to go hiking though the forest near my house. We had heard tales of a hermit who had lived in those woods fifty years ago and we wanted to see if we could find the remains of his hovel.

Being July, the weather was incredibly muggy as we trampled through the bug-infested undergrowth. One of my friends, Karen, followed a garter snake, insistent that she could catch it. Soon she disappeared over a hill and out of sight. The three of us remaining were trying to walk quietly so we didn't frighten off any woodland creatures, hoping to find a herd of deer. After fifteen minutes, Karen still hadn't returned, but we weren't worried. All four of us had grown up in the area and new that forest relatively well.

Becky, one of my other friends, was walking ahead of Susan and I when suddenly she stopped and let out an ear- piercing scream. We ran up to where she stood shaking to see what had scared her.

Hanging from a tree limb a little ways away from us was what appeared to be a human arm--handless, slender, and covered in blood. Glancing around, we saw three more arms, which caused Becky to faint. Susan ran to her, attempting to revive her. While she did that, a strange sort of morbid curiosity got the better of me, as I had never seen a dismembered limb before, so I moved closer to view the dangling objects. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the "arms" were covered in hair, a thick, tan fur like that of a deer. I shouted back to Susan and Becky that they were legs from a deer. No sooner had the words left my mouth than Karen came running from over the hill (the direction we had just come from). She was pale but didn't stop running, saying,"we have to get out, we have to go" over and over. By then, Becky was sitting up. All three of us took off after Karen, confused and concerned.

We caught up with her at the edge of the forest, near a golf course. Once she caught her breath, Karen told us her story.

She had finally caught the snake and was bringing it back to us. She noticed the end of it's tail had been cut off, leaving it smooth and rounded, instead of pointed. Also, it was starting to shed, with the new skin dull instead of shiny like the old. As she headed up the hill, Karen heard footsteps crunching through the undergrowth behind her. Thinking it was us, she turned, ready to berate us for trying to sneak up on her; instead, she saw nothing. Looking back at the dirt, the only footprints she saw were her own. Now she was starting to get a little freaked, so she put the snake down and turned to run up the hill. At the top, she looked down and screamed. A large, hairy creature was at the bottom, staring up at her. There was blood dripping from its mouth and arms. It didn't move, but Karen didn't stay long enough to wait for it to; instead she took off running in the other direction.

She stopped running when she felt she was a safe distance away and leaned against a tree to catch her breath. When she stood up, she noticed something on the trunk. She moved closer to see what it was as it was partially in shade and nearly fainted. Impaled on a piece of rough bark about five feet off the ground was the snake Karen had caught. She knew it was the same one because of the rounded tail, dulled skin, and shedding. By that time, she was really scared, even though it was a bright day. Again she heard footsteps behind her, but turning revealed nothing. Karen took off running, and that was when she finally found us.

Since we knew that forest, we figured we had never been more than 1,000 yards apart. The area was very hilly and densely wooded--some lines of trees were so close together that a child couldn't pass between them. But despite our closeness in proximity, Karen hadn't heard Becky scream, nor had we heard Karen scream. Some things remained a mystery to us.

We couldn't figure out what Karen had seen. The description didn't match that of any deer, which we initially thought it was--the body to the limbs we found. How the snake had ended up dead on the tree Karen leaned against was also a mystery. Why were the legs hanging from limbs? It wasn't hunting season, and we didn't really see how they had been suspended. Then there were the footsteps. Karen wasn't one given to exaggeration--if she said she heard something following her, then there was, but what? Squirrels and deer couldn't make thudding of feet, and they would have at least left some indication that something had been there.

Although the forest is large, it is located on the edge of a larger city's limits, and is bordered by a river, a golf course, and a housing development. To this day, Karen refuses to go back.

Thanks for reading.

Submitted by Teresa, NE, USA