Camping in the Sticks

For those trying to leave the chaotic city for the comfort of the forest, they may find it disappointing. For the silence that one might unearth in the woods can be just as loud as the bustling city. On a warm sun soaked day lacking any clouds. We meet our three travelers driving to get away from just that, the chaotic city. Jake is driving 20 over the limit, his eyes wandering every now and then. His twin brother Mack sitting in the passenger seat beside him, was zoning in and out, taking in the scenery of Washington in full bloom.. Sitting behind Mack is Lane. She's a friend of both of the brothers but is the closest with Mack, and like with most road trips, Lane is napping with her headphones in. As the song ends, the hosts of the local radio station chip in. Mack is focused on the trees when he starts to catch on to what they’re talking about.   

“...a local girl who went missing last week has been located. May’s body was found near the rusted old bridge on the Calawah River. Quill they’re beloved dog, has yet to be found. May’s brother and grandfather are still hoping he’ll find his way home, but if you do see him please call the station. We’re lucky enough to get a comment from her grandfather, as he wants to warn others to stay on the path when you're in these woods, and don’t listen to the whistling. He also...

“Hey, did you hear that?” Mack calls at Jake.

“What? I wasn’t listening.”

“Of course you weren’t, “ mumbles Mack. Well apparently some local girl died around here last week” Mack sounds concerned, but like always Jake brushed off the anxieties of his twin. 

“Erie... but, anyways, where do I have to turn off again?” Jake responded.

“Um, well, I believe it should be coming up pretty soon.”

“We’ve barely passed any cars... where exactly are we going?”
“I don’t know I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful. It should be a great place to finally get some peace” answered Mack, who has been trying to find the place he read about it on reddit again.
“Yeah, I need a break from education, and if I’m being honest with you, I’m not looking forward to going back.”

“Oh come on! It’s just two more years! Easy peasy.” Mack enthusiastically cheered from the passenger seat.

Jake irritatedly responds, “then what?” I have no idea...” Mack cuts off his brother to tell him to turn left, as they almost miss the turn.

As they venture further away from society, Jake is speeding down the dirt road, when he hits a bad pothole and accidently punctures one of the tires. The car dangerously swerves in the dirt. 

“Oh my god, OK, we’re ok!” Jake reassures everybody.

He manages to align the car with the road, and hits the brakes. Lane launches forward into the back of Mack’s seat. 

“Ah, fuck! JESUS Jake!” Lane angrily yells.

“Jake, you OK? How about you Lane? You good?” 

“Yep, I’m good,” responds Jake.

“Well, aside from you know, SLAMMING into your seat? I’m feeling peachy. How far are we from the camp?”

“Uh, I have no idea. My phone doesn’t seem to have any signal, but I don’t think we’re too far.”

Lane groans, “K well I really have to pee, and I don’t think I’ll make it to the camp. The pipes are bursting,” Lane groans again, the straining of her seatbelt is not helping.

Mack starts laughing “Gross, well we’re pretty much stranded until somebody…” he trails and stares at Jake.

“Me?” Jake glares at his brother.

Mack just continues on talking“...fixes the car! So you’re going to have to find somewhere around here to...ease the pipes.”

“Uh...great. Ok well I’ll uh, go do that. Yay peeing in the woods!!” Lane sarcastically responds.

“Great, so Jake...yes, you are going to stay here and fix the car,”

“And what are you going to do?” Jake questions.

“I’m going to grab the gear and head towards the campsite. I’m sure we’re not too far so I’ll start setting everything up until you guys get there.”

Mack gets out and grabs a couple bags out from the trunk, and heads off down the road. Lane steps out and walks to the left of the car to find somewhere to pee. Jake gets out and stretches, and begins looking around the car, making sure everything is alright.

~~~

“Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who knows how to do anything around here. I didn’t even want to go camping,” Jake thinks to himself as he walks towards the back of the car.

Before opening the trunk, looking to the left, he sees Lane going deeper into the woods. “Hey, Lane! Try not to get lost or something cause that sounds like a lot of work!” He shouts after her. “And... I don’t think she’s listening, nope she’s gone. I don’t know why she can’t go behind a tree or something.” he mutters to himself. Looking to the right, Mack has also already disappeared. “Ok, so they’ve both straight up left me. Alone in the middle of nowhere, with a broken down car. I swear to god.” 

Finally finding the tools. Jake places the toolbag by the broken tire and goes back to get the spare. Jesus this thing is heavier than it looks! I need to start going to the gym or something like damn. As Jake is struggling to get the tire out from the trunk of the car, he glances towards the tool bag, which now appears to be slumped over with the tools sprawled about. When he finally gets the tire out, it drops right on his foot. “Oh shit!”. He yells. The tire then begins to roll off the road and into a ditch. Walking over to the ditch, he notices a screwdriver beside the tire. “Hm, that looks like my screwdriver.” He picks it up and looks back towards the bag slightly confused. “Uh, ok... where’s the bag?” He struggles to push the tire up the small hill and out of the ditch. Letting go, exhausted, he manages to walk towards the car to confirm his suspicion. The bag is gone. “I swear it was here, I mean I can see the mark it made on the ground. Someone couldn’t have taken it? Could they? Maybe Mack came back and grabbed it by accident? Hey Mack?! Mack! Where did he go?” So many dumb questions. Jake is startled by the bouncing of the tire. He looks towards the road and sees the spare has begun to roll away. “What the hell!” Jake runs after it but the tire is rolling at an unnaturally constant speed, it’s just fast enough for Jake to be unable to catch up.

Jake is running as fast as he can when he almost rolls his ankle in a small pothole. “You know there’s not this many potholes in the city! we could have just stayed at home, but no, Mack and Lane wanted to go camping. And now I’m chasing a damn tire!” The tire suddenly hits an obstruction on the road and flings into the woods. Jake stops to catch his breath. “Great, where did it go?” He begins to walk in the directions he thinks the tire had gone. Into the woods.

~~~

Looking into the woods, Lane can’t seem to find a good spot. “Ugh, I think I’m going to have to go a little deeper to find somewhere good. Don't want them seeing me.” Lane is pee shy, and needs someplace completely private in order to go. 

“...Lane...try not to get lost or something...cause that’s a lot of work…”

“Bitch, I don’t get lost..." A hot minute or two go by and her mindset slightly changes. “Jeez” she groans “Walking in the woods is not as easy as some make it look” She huffs and continues. Lane, still desperately needing to pee, walks deeper into the woods. When she stumbles upon a derelict shack, that so happens to be accompanied by a creepy, gross looking outhouse. Lane reluctantly and cautiously walks up towards the smelly outhouse. “Ahhh... yes, it's not everyday you find a creepy old cabin in the woods, all alone I might add. Yikes, this looks fucking creepy. Definitely has a wrong turn, hillbilly, hick type of serial killer vibe to it. But fuck, at least it’s private.” Lane attempts to open the outhouse door, but it seems to be wedged stuck with something. “Well, this isn’t going to work.” she continues to poke around this desolate place. “I mean there has to be a good spot to pee, somewhere in this bloody forest!” 

Lane walks around the old shack of a house, hoping to find a spot, but unfortunately everywhere seems to be far too open for her liking. And even though this place appears to be abandoned, she can’t help but get the feeling she's being watched. “I could always go into the house, see if there's something I could pee in and dump it out?” She ponders,”but I don’t know. That just screams, bad idea.” She begins to chuckle to herself, “You know the second I go in there, either a group of psycho cannibal freaks will come out and kill me, or a grotesque looking thing will appear out of nowhere. HAHA, I’ll pass. But this girl has to pee, and I cannot hold it any longer.”  She hears a loud snap, coming from the bushes beside her. It startles her, causing her to almost piss herself. “HA, I fucking knew it, okay, well if it’s the psycho cannibals, running into their house won’t be a good idea, but if its the super slow but somehow fast grotesque things that will ultimately catch up to me if i run shows up, I will not be able to outrun him without pissing my pants. Hearing the snapping noise again but closer, she decides that her best bet is getting into that outhouse. 

“Okay, we are fine, we are fine, we will be fine, once I get this stupid fucking outhouse open! But this is fine, I’m fine.” With the sound of snapping twigs coming closer, she tries to reassure herself. Lane manages to finally unwedge the door, and quickly climbs in before the sound reaches to where she was standing earlier. “Fuck, I should have just gone in the house, this is nasty!” The pungent smell of the outhouse fills into her nostrils, almost makes her puke, but she stands there, holding her breath waiting for the sound of the snapping twigs to disappear. Peering through one of the knot holes of the wooden door, and to her surprise she saw a tiny frog-like being marching out of the forest. She lets out a loud cackle, at the sight. Man she fucking scared herself half to death. Lane, still reluctant, but knowing this is the best she’ll get, finally goes pee. And unfortunately but to know one's surprise the creepy outhouse is out of toilet paper. Not wanting to stay in this disgusting thing any longer she just does a quick shake, but as she’s reaching for the door she spots one of those things standing outside. She jumps at the sight. As much as she would love to stay in the safety of the nasty shack, she can’t stand the putrid smell any longer. Terrified of the weird looking thing, she finds the courage and opens the door.  

As described before, standing in front of Lane is some tiny green slimy creature standing on two legs. It just stares at her, almost as if it’s waiting. Unaware of what she was in the presence of, the revolting smell has its way, and the terrified Lane throws up. Her projectile nearly landed on the creature. It remained still, simply making a noise, and continued to stare at her. That’s when Lane realised how many of those little guys there were, all just staring, waiting for her to do something else. 

Not knowing what to do, she wipes her mouth, and breaks the silence, “I come in peace, I just needed to use the bathroom. This was the only...suitable...place to go, sorry if I bothered y'all, and...for almost coating your friend in vomit…” She pauses, waiting for them to say something but they just watch her. “Yeah, the ah... the smell in that outhouse, was...well it wasn’t pleasant. Um, just letting you know I found it like that...not that...aah...not that..okay well, as much as I would love to stay and chat.” Lane slowly begins to exit the outhouse, continuing her conversation with the little people and bumps into a tire, she continues paying no attention, “...my friends will be waiting for me, you see I’ve been gone for quite some time...” She notices the Mannegishi have blocked the way she came. She picks up a crowbar placed next to the tire, and continues to talk to them, hoping that it’s distracting enough to distance herself. “...Just a shy peeier over here! Haha can’t take me anywhere..” she says, accidentally swinging the crowbar around. Every step back she takes they take two more towards her. “...Ah, if it’s payment for the gross bathroom, that I used,” she rummages through her pockets. “...well here is...a...dollar, and...a...button?...for your trouble...” Lane drops both of the items in front of the little Mannegishi, and runs away, completely losing her shit in the process. Lane finds herself predictably lost until she hears some commotion, she grips the crowbar.

~~~

“God these bags are so heavy, I really thought this camp would be a lot closer.” Looking back he can’t even see the car anymore. “I hope Jake doesn’t take too long, I don’t like being out here alone.”  Mack continues walking along the road until he finds a path. This must be a shortcut to the camp, his gut stops him at the entrance. “I don’t have a good feeling about this, but I already told Jake and Lane that I’d set up the camp before they get there.” If he continues down the road, it might take him forever to get there, and who knows they might get there before him, but if he takes this shortcut, he will definitely get there before them. So, he ignores his gut feeling and begins walking the down makeshift-path. 

“Ok where is this campsite? It must be this way, I’m sure of it. But I don’t know, maybe this doesn’t lead to the camp.” Worried, Mack stops to look at his phone. No service, typical. Suddenly, a branch snaps in front of him dragging his attention away from his phone. Looking up, he sees nothing. Yet in the silence, he hears a noise. A faint whistle of the wind perhaps? It’s coming from the direction of the branch. “It could be other people, maybe who are camping as well? I guess we’ll see” he thinks to himself. Unaware of the dangers in front of him, he walks deeper into the woods. He continues down the path until he sees a bridge accompanied by the sound of water. Soon Mack finds a rushing ravine, bordered by lush hills.

“Wow this is beautiful!” Mack takes out his phone and looks towards the steep hillside, when he sees a figure. Putting down his phone, he moves to get a better look. Then he sees it, somebody is running along the hilltop. When suddenly they tumble down. The person is rolling, hitting multiple rocks, when he hears their body slam on the rocky riverside. Mack, unable to move, stares in terror. 

“Oh my god!...” He snaps out of it, “...Hey! Hey!! Are you ok?” he yells towards the limp body.

Mack runs to help this person but is stopped by a large dog at the end of the bridge. The hair on his arm raised, and his stomach sinks. This dog does not look or feel friendly to me, it almost feels as if it’s staring into my soul. That’s when the sound of the rushing water from the river below begins to diminish. And the world around him starts to blur, as if all he can focus on is this dog. He tries to look away, to move, to run, but he can’t feel his body, as if it’s numb. Suddenly the dog bolts into the woods, and he regains feeling. Looking towards where the dog had run off to he sees a figure. Someone...holding a wrench? Is that Jake? The whistling of sharp winds increase and Jake seems to be twitching. He drops the wrench and begins to laugh, sounding close to a shriek or maybe a distorted cackle.

“Hey Jake? Are you ok?” he asks. 

Taking a step forward, Jake abruptly stops laughing. It feels, like the dog, he’s just staring at me. Something must be wrong. Then Jake dashes into the darkening forest.

Mack chases after him, until the path ends almost tripping on a root that was sticking out of the ground. That’s when he sees it, a foxhole. An overgrown hole, surrounded by vegetation and moist dirt. Gross, he thought to himself. Mack was just about to turn around, when hears Jake's laugh, faintly coming from inside the dark hole.

“Jake?” Mack begins to creep towards the hole, only hearing the sound of shallow breathing.

“What’s going on?”

He stops due to the sound of something snapping below him. Looking down it seems he’s stepped on a stick, but looking closer, not a stick, bone. Quickly observing the rest of the area, there are bones littered everywhere. All of a sudden his attention is brought back to the hole. Replacing the shallow breathing is a deep growl, and now reflective eyes stare back. Without missing a beat, Mack turns around and starts running. He runs as fast as he possibly can, the sound of hungry, rabid animals chasing close behind him. He somehow manages to reach the bridge. Glancing toward the river, the person who fell is now standing, and missing an arm? He pauses to call for her but she only glares back, Mack continues running onward towards the trail. He looks back only for a second when suddenly he slams into something, and lands on his back, thankfully the bags break his fall.

“OW! Mack, what the hell? Why are you running out here?”

“Ow, ugh, wha- “ Mack jumps off the ground and grabs his brother.

“Jake we need to get out of here. There are wild animals!”

“Yeah. it’s the woods, what else would be out here?”

“Shut up…I’m serious! This is serious!” Mack stops when he notices his brother staring at him. Wait, not at, but past him. Then he hears it, that same, deep growl from the hole. Looking past Jake, Mack notices another creature. And in the corner of his eyes, two more on each side. Who knows how many he can’t see, but he can feel the hunger in their eyes.

“We’re surrounded,” Mack tells him.

“What the hell are these things?”

“I don’t know, but stay close to me,”. 

“Is there anything in those bags we can use?”

“Ahh...I’m not sure, I don’t think we exactly have enough time to look” Replied Mack, and with no way to escape, the brothers are surrounded by these hungry beings. 

The forest is completely silent, other than the low growling hum all around them. When out of nowhere the boys and the beings are startled by the deafening screaming of Lane. Lane comes blazing in, ferociously swinging a crowbar, and knocks one of the creatures to the ground. The brothers stare in disbelief, Jake, quick to action, unzips one of the bags and grabs their small axe. One of the stick looking people lunges towards Lane, but she smacks it midair with another hard swing. Jake runs towards it and wedges the axe in its face, giving Lane time to quickly catch her breath. 

“Hey! Mack are you just going to stand there?!” She calls out.

“Let’s go buddy!” Jake adds as he rips the axe out.

They start running down a path, the creatures not far. Mack begins to lag behind, when Lane notices, “Jesus Mack, drop the damn bags!” Mack quickly throws the bags off his shoulders and sprints as fast as he can, catching up to Lane and Jake. 

When they finally reach the road, the car is not far in the distance, the same can be said about the creatures. They don’t stop running till they finally reach the car, which luckily was already facing the direction to the main road. Jake with keys in his hand, turns on the car, and steps on the gas. Leaving no time for seat belts. 

After everyones has a moment to catch their breath, Jake breaks the silence, “What the hell Mack? What were those things?!”

“I don’t know..”

“Let's not go back, with those creatures and the slimy frog things that ambushed me at the hoboken hollow outhouse…” Lane adds

“What?!” Mack looks back at Lane.

“I don’t know, at least Jake fixed the tire so we could get out of there,” she replies.

“Guys, I didn’t fix the tire, I was trying to find the damn thing when Mack ran into me...”

“What the fuck is that?!” Mack points at some small frog-like creature on the road, catching everyone's attention.

“Jake watch out!” Lane panics. Jake swerves around the creature, nearly flipping the car. Jake looks at everyone, “Was that bitch digging a pothole?”

 


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