At two am when Mike started screaming again, I seriously regretted not putting him in the cabin with the girls.
I should explain. I was already just waking up – something felt wrong. I wasn’t sensing a creature but still, it felt like someone was watching me. Being a slayer, I rarely get the creeps but this was just enough to wake me – and really annoy me.
My eyes had just opened and I was staring at the wood paneling beside my bed when Mike began his wailing. What happened next took a lot less time to happen than it will for you to read this. I threw myself over, tossing the covers as I did. I looked at Mike but knew instantly he was looking at the window so I spun in that direction as my feet hit the floor.
Outside, there was something. Big – really big – was my only impression before it disappeared.
Slayers are inhumanly fast at times. that’s how I could do all that in a fraction of a second. That’s also how I could catch my now infuriated youngest brother as he went for the window with a stick he’d found earlier.
It was a good sign, really. He was past being afraid and well into being ticked off by whatever had been messing with him. But it was gone and I wasn’t at all sure he was going to bother with niceties like opening the window before trying to hit the thing that wasn’t there anymore.
“Whoa, whoa, calm down!: I ordered as I got a hold of him, “It’s gone.”
Mike said words I won’t repeat – and promised later not to tell Momma about. He’s the family runt, troublemaker and hothead – and right that moment, he was twisting my arm half off trying to get at the thing.
Marty was on his feet and had enough sense to go get Tim in the next room. Tim told me later he was coming out of his room when Marty got to the door. They got back quickly and Tim and I wrangled Mike together until he finally started to talk sense. To his hotheaded credit, it only took a minute or so.
Leaving Mike to Tim, I borrowed the stick to go investigate. I grabbed my flashlight along the way and met Clifton in the living room. He had pants and shoes on – I was still in PJ’s but honestly doubted anything was still out there. wordlessly, we went onto the well lit porch and then into the darkness.
I gave up doubting things when I became a slayer – I kill vampires, who am I to doubt other weirdness in this world? I admit, the prints in the dirt were not what I was expecting but I promptly rationalized that they were just bear tracks. Really big ones.
Clifton knelt beside the tracks and looked closer. He looked none too happy once he got back up. “Let’s do a walk around in case it’s still here.”
I nodded. Bears do not belong in the campground. If it were still here, it needed to not be.
But a complete walk around the campsite, with the obligatory poking into every dark corner, produced no bear or anything else furry. I did see a tree frog I stopped to quietly move from my sister’s cabin window to the edge of the woods so both of them would live a lot longer. Otherwise, nothing. No critters, real or unworldly, at all.
As I finished my frog rescue, Clifton spoke, “What do you make of those tracks?”
“By the window tonight?” I was still convincing the frog that he could safely let go of my hand.
“Those and the others on the dirt road.”
I finished and stood up. “I didn’t see the others – I’m not exactly Paul Bunyon, but the ones i did see looked like a really big bear.”
We started toward the front of the cabin, but he was gawking at me, “Bear?”
I sighed and shrugged at the same time, “I only know what they look like from a book we used in Scouts. Never seen anything like one before tonight.” I paused as it hit me, “Um, but what else would be that big out here?” Not knowing Clifton well, I did not want to voice my second choice.
He just shook his head, “A grizzly couldn’t make a track that big. I worked out of Tacoma last summer and got to see a few in the wild. Bear don’t make tracks that large unless they are stepping on their own tracks – but that isn’t what those were.”
I stifled the urge to sigh again. Clifton works search and rescue for the Forest Service – he’s a trainer and an expert woodsman. I’m the guy a rabbit managed to spook when I was a kid – he’d know better than me but he didn’t seem to want to put a name to option two either. I decided it would be quicker to just get it over with, “Okay, that leaves what, bigfoot?”
He shook his head again and abruptly changed course, “No, I … saw some of those, too. These were… Heck, hang on.” He hopped up on the girls porch and tapped twice, followed by three more.
He stepped back down to where I was. We could here movement so we just waited.
Crystal’s voice was speaking as she opened the cabin door, “Yes, I’m sure. Go back to sleep, it’s just my cousin.”
I heard Jane’s voice reply but didn’t catch the words.
“Night.” Crystal responded, then closing the door, turned to us, “This had better be good. Do you know what time it is?”
Clifton nodded, “Sorry, Crysie, but I need you to look at something. It’s got to be from your side of the street but neither of us recognize it.”
Crystal joined us, pulling her robe around her in the chill morning air, “What? Can’t be – I haven’t sensed a thing. You?”
Meeting her gaze, I gave an emphatic shake, “No, but something woke Mike and me – it was at the window. I didn’t get a good enough look. It left tracks but I don’t know what they are either.”
“Why does it have to be a creature, Cliff?” Crystal turned to her cousin.
We were almost there. “Let me show you.” he replied.
We got to the spot. The light was out in the window but the other cabin lights were still on. We showed Crystal the tracks.
She did pretty much the same stuff her cousin had as she knelt beside them. The Scouting program down south must be better than ours, I concluded. Crystal took a lot longer than her cousin had before she finally got back up.
She shook her head, “It’s nothing I’ve seen before – not a creature of the night at all. I mean, it could be a creature of the day, those are hardest for us to sense, but it gets less than ten feet from a true slayer, even one from a different period? That seems really unlikely. Could you track it at all?”
Clifton nodded, “Yeah, just a short distance – I’ll show you where they end.”
“Okay. Just to be sure, those Sasquatch things don’t have claws like that, do they? I mean, I’ve only seen casts in videos…” Crystal asked her cousin.
“No, they don’t. That’s why I figure it has to be something you guys deal with – it looks like a cross between a pigeon toed bear and a bigfoot with a limp. Here, I’ll show you.” Clifton took one step more before kneeling in the roadway, “See?”
I saw dirt with scratches in it. Mostly dirt. Crystal knelt beside her cousin so I joined them, but they proceeded to talk about the tracks they were looking at in ways I couldn’t follow. Even with them pointing out features, it was just swirls in the dirt to me. The gist was the thing was really big, walked funny and was definitely dragging one leg just a little bit.
I was silently apologizing to all those film writers I’d laughed at over the years because I didn’t believe you could get that much from lines in dirt as we reached the end of the tracks. We all knelt again but this time the cousins were a lot more animated about their findings.
I loaned Crystal my flashlight and they split up, trying to find more tracks. I just knelt there, trying to think back to my first sensation after waking. It hadn’t been a creature, I was certain. At least, it hadn’t felt like one. Then again, I’ve never met a day creature. Sonia, the day slayer I have met, says the sensation of period is pretty close between slayer and creature – so a creature of the day should feel a little like her. But I’d just emerged when I met her and had almost no sensation of her.
I was considering if it could have been concealed when the cousins returned. It was kinda fun, listening to them squabble like siblings. Clifton was the closest thing to a brother that Crystal had and it showed. But they weren’t actually angry with each other – it was frustration and predawn hours taking their toll.
Once again, they’d found no further sign. That bothered them both because the loose dirt hadn’t ended; the tracks had. Even with the huge steps it seemed to take – Clifton tried to imitate one and couldn’t make the same distance even stepping as far as he could without losing his balance – there should have been more tracks to the wood line.
At least according to them. Crystal and I briefly mulled the idea of concealment. That seemed to explain it best – although why a concealed day creature would stalk a cabin with a true slayer in it in the middle of the night was something we couldn’t explain at all.
Which left me with nothing to tell my siblings as I returned to the cabin and Clifton walked Crystal back to hers. They were my brothers, so I was stuck with the job but I would much rather have been with my girlfriend, even if she was still fussing at him when we parted.
Getting Mike calmed down took another hour. Clifton, once he returned, helped considerably. Mike gave his word more credit – he’s an expert; I’m just his dorky brother. But he wasn’t happy when he finally agreed to go back to sleep. He took one of the couches and I took the other. Marty joined Kevin, who slept through the whole thing, Tim and Clifton in their room. I couldn’t honestly blame him.
I managed to stay awake until Mike drifted off. I was right behind him.