I turned up the radio and rolled my window down as my truck sped down Highway 25 of southern Georgia. It was a Friday and I was able to get off work early so I could start my weekend. I was driving to a secluded little hunting area that was situated a few miles down a dirt road off the highway. It was a perfect isolated spot that not many people knew about and it allowed for almost total isolation. That was my favorite part about hunting. I was a pretty good shot but to me, the most exhilarating part was the feeling of total isolation in the woods. I always invited that creepy feeling that I would get when I was alone in the woods and everything seemed like it was watching you. I could feel the butterflies building in my stomach as I turned off the highway and down the dirt road towards the hunting grounds. “Hopefully there’s no one else there”, I thought to myself as I weaved my truck down the road. I never could feel completely at ease when there were other hunters in the woods with me.
To my delight, there were no other cars in the clearing area that functioned as a parking lot. “Perfect”, I said to myself as I shut off my truck and hopped out. I looked around at the surrounding woods and sighed in anticipation as I pulled my gun case out from the back floor of my truck and set it in the bed. I pulled out the rifle, a .270 Winchester, and carefully inspected it while I loaded the chamber. I decided not to bring any extra ammunition as I only had half a day to hunt and I did not plan on being out there for more than a few hours. I checked myself over in the window reflection and I looked like a true hunter, with my camo jacket and pants and a rifle slung over my shoulder. I gave myself a nod of approval as I grabbed my backpack loaded with water and food and started off into the woods, locking my truck behind me. I hadn’t been to these woods for a few months so I figured I’d head out in a straight line so as to not get lost.
At about 30 minutes into my hike I was already starting to get winded. There was a lot more foliage and debris on the ground than I had remembered and I was moving with slow, elongated steps to not make too much noise. I hadn’t heard much wildlife but I just attributed to that to me making more noise than I actually was. The weight of my rifle and backpack were slowly becoming heavier as I trudged through the undergrowth. I looked up ahead and I saw a circular clearing, like a very small field surrounded by trees. I decided to take a breather and eat, considering it was in the dead of summer in Georgia and I could already feel the heat sapping my energy. I walked up a tree at the edge of the clearing and fished a water and granola bar out of my backpack and sat at the base of the tree. I quietly ate while I caught my breath and looked out across the clearing. There was something about this heat that seemed different from any other day in the summer. It was incredibly humid and there was absolutely no breeze at all. The air felt still, like it was collecting all the heat and holding it there. I could feel every pore on my body dripping sweat. My arms and face were coated and it felt like I was soaking through my pants and jacket. I fished out my phone from my pocket to check where I was exactly on Google Maps.
That’s when I noticed, after my breathing had returned to normal, that it was completely silent. I sat still to focus my hearing and there was not one sound that emanated around me. I had been in the woods many times throughout my life and I had never experienced this. There is always some natural sound out in nature, whether it’s running water from a river or a bird calling. There was absolutely nothing out here until the thought entered my mind that there could be a predator around me. I slowly readied my rifle and turned my head to survey the environment. Nothing out there but dense trees and brush.
I slowly leaned around the tree I was sitting against to check the clearing. Nothing. The clearing was undisturbed but I began to get the feeling that I should leave. The still air seemed to amplify the silence around me and my feeling of uneasiness began to creep in. “This is too weird”, I said as I put my water bottle back in my backpack. I looked around to make sure I wasn’t being watched by anything when a slight noise caught my attention. It was almost rhythmic and it was slowly getting louder. I glanced around trying to find the source. As it got louder, I realized it was coming from the sky and I looked up. Hundreds of birds were flying over the woods in the same direction in complete silence, a part from the beating of their wings. There were different kinds of birds and all seemed to be flying away from something. My eyes fixed on this as I had never seen nor heard of anything like this. “What could they be flying from”, I wondered to myself as I watched the last of the birds fly over head and disappear through the cover of the trees overhead. I continued to look up at the sky until another noise diverted my attention. It came from ground level and I instantly began to feel adrenaline pumping through my body. I heard another noise, something was walking around and snapping twigs and sticks. I crouched behind the tree and peered across the clearing. There were a group of antlers poking through the dense underbrush.
I aimed my rifle across the clearing and looked through the scope, trying to get a look at the buck and see if I had a shot. My excitement spiked when I saw the antlers appear again from behind a tree, but then confusion began to slowly set in. These antlers were situated much higher off the ground, even if the buck was massive. Only part of the antlers was showing through the dense foliage but it looked like they were 8-10 feet off the ground. I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. I looked through the scope again but the pair of antlers had vanished. I scanned around the edge of the clearing with my eyes, trying to find whatever was there. Suddenly, I saw it emerge from behind the trees and step into the clearing while my jaw dropped. A massive buck had just walked on its two hind legs from behind the trees and out into the clearing. I completely froze as a sense of dread filled me as I watched this thing just stand there. A gaping wound was visible on its abdomen, like it had been torn into by something and fresh blood stained its fur.
I slowly lifted my scope to look at its face, which is something I will forever regret doing. Its face was haunting; dull, cloudy, lifeless eyes sunk deep into its eye sockets. The deer’s tongue hung out lazily from its mouth, moving like a dead worm every time it moved its head. The most haunting part about this deer however, was its breathing. A slow drawn in breath sounded like someone with lung cancer had bronchitis. The sound filled the air, as this thing would take in a deep ragged breath. My dread slowly built up inside me as I realized that this deer was not alive, that something much more evil was a part of this dead deer. I watched it frozen in my place as it took in its horrible breaths, the sound of it was the only think that filled the air. I was too scared to even shoot at it, the thought of it not going down and charging at me was enough to keep me frozen in my place.
The deer slowly lifted its head and sniffed at the air. It started to scan the tree line with its lifeless eyes as it slowly walked towards the center of the clearing. I knew it would eventually find me if I stayed in the same place but I was paralyzed with fear. I hid behind the tree and clutched my rifle while my heart thumped in my chest. I could still hear the thing breathing and moving around, maybe it will wander off I told myself.
I took a peek around the tree just to see where it was and my heart almost leaped into my mouth. The deer’s lifeless eyes were fixated on the tree I hid behind, it’s breathing had stopped. It stood there locked on to the tree, seemingly looking right through it and staring at me. I broke out of my trance when it began to walk towards me. I sprung up to my feet and fired a poorly aimed shot that seemed to shatter the woods with its booming sound. I don’t know if the bullet found its target because I took off in a full sprint back to my truck. I crashed through the woods believing that some kind of demon was right behind me. Behind me, I could hear the deer’s heavy breathing above all the noise I was making. But it was also making another kind of noise. It sounded like a half gasp, half laugh on top of its raspy breathing.
The sound of this sent a cold chill up my spine as I willed myself to run faster. I dared not look behind me as I thought that my eyes would meet with the thing’s evil, dead eyes.
I could see the entrance of the woods and my legs pumped even faster. The thing’s breathing quieted down but I knew it was still following me, as I could still hear it walking through the woods. I fished my keys out of my pocket and unlocked my truck as I ran full speed towards it. I threw open the driver side door and glanced back at the woods. The deer had appeared at the tree line, its lifeless eyes looking intently at me. I tossed my rifle in the backseat and started my truck as quickly as I could. The deer did not advance towards me, it chose to remain in the cover of the woods as my truck screamed out of the parking lot and down the dirt road. I watched it retreat back into the trees as I sped my car along. Unable to comprehend what had just happened to me, I just drove as fast as I could in a cold sweat. All that I could think about was what sort of evil could exist in other places. Who knows what could be wandering around in the woods?