Author’s Note: This is my first short story. It’s a survival thriller with some twists along the way. It has so much in it that it reads like a condensed novel. This story features violence, strong language, and extraordinary circumstances. A lone fisherman, deep in the woods, hooks into a snag that forces him into a battle for survival and ultimately leads him down a surreal journey into the unknown.
The Fisherman’s Snag
by Adam Light
Erik Foster cast the last half of his only remaining night-crawler into the middle of the river. He spun the reel once, set the rod down in a pole holder, and wiped his grimy right hand on the old cargo pants he was wearing.
Sitting down on a five-gallon bucket with a pad on it, he reflected on how good of a day it had been. He’d caught seven channel catfish – three of them big enough keep. Those fish would soon be in his bucket as he hiked out of the woods. The timing was perfect; he’d be right on schedule and back before dark.
Even though Erik enjoyed night fishing, tonight he had other plans. He was going to have Ellie over to his place again, and, more importantly, he was going to cook for her for the first time and try to make her feel welcome in his home. He had playfully bragged about his fishing abilities, telling her that he’d catch dinner while she was at work. Ellie would be off by nine and at his house by nine-thirty. Erik checked the time on his phone… It was barely past eight o’clock.
The tip of the fishing pole lurched downwards like a striking predator; the kind of thing you see when a big fish gobbles up the bait without playing first. Erik gave a victory smirk as his heart jumped and sprinted into overtime. He was excited by the possibility of landing a final whopper before he had to go.
He grabbed the pole and gave it a steady pull back in order to fully set the circle hook and get a good feel for what he was about fight on his 10-lb test. The fish responded with a powerful downstream swim and the drag wheezed out. That familiar sound triggered some nostalgia in Erik. He was living – he was happy.
He expertly fought the behemoth. It’s massive size and the river’s current could not outmatch Erik’s skill and experience. Twenty minutes later, the fish was tired out and splashed slow swirls of defeat in the water as it finally surfaced. It was a gigantic carp. Erik was happy enough with this result and had guessed that it might be a carp beforehand. He didn’t eat them, but they were damn fun to catch anyway. As long as he could land the thing and manage to take a couple pictures, he could surely impress Ellie with it. (In a joking, yet serious, I can deliver, Babe kind of way.)
He jumped into the mud next to the water, sinking at least three inches, and netted the monster. Once it was in his net, he hoisted it up to a higher position on the bank and kept it secure. Erik exhaled a sigh of relief as his heart-rate slowed to a celebratory walk. This was the largest carp he’d ever caught. It was a thirty-pounder, at least!
At this point, Erik just needed to unhook it, get a picture, release it, and hike out of the woods. He got the circle hook out easily enough, and after making sure that the fish was still secure in the net, he snaked his smartphone out of his right pocket and switched it to the front-facing camera. He winced as he strenuously picked up the carp.
Once standing, he secured the carp to his chest with his left arm while extending the smartphone out with his other arm for a selfie. There was just one problem; it was too dark for a picture where he was. Although he’d still be able to see well enough to hike out of there, the phone’s camera wasn’t picking up nearly enough light for a good shot.
The smartphone had a light, but it wouldn’t be of any use in conjunction with the front facing camera. Erik had an idea; he could use the small flashlight on his keychain. He made sure that he still had good control of the fish and then slid the flashlight off the carabiner that hung on his right side.
As Erik turned the light on by twisting the end in his mouth, he caught a whiff of something unpleasant. He could smell the carp, definitely, but his nose was also assaulted by something reminiscent of dog breath and stink bait.
With his hands full and his feet slowly losing traction in the mud, Erik fumbled his way through a selfie using a voice command. Just after he did so, the monster carp flailed with the explosive energy of a horse’s kick. Erik slipped, lost his balance, and tumbled down into the mud. The carp landed in shallow water, flopped wildly, and then zoomed off into the deep like a drunken boater, splashing without mercy.
After expelling all of the expletives most relevant to the situation, Erik, still halfway in the river and completely covered in mud, reached down into the water and grabbed the light as it shined through an inch of murky water. He widened the beam and started scanning the ground for his cell phone. It was nowhere to be found.
Erik shined the flashlight down at the water and probed the darkness with one hand, but felt nothing except mud and dead vegetation.
As Erik frantically searched for his cell phone, the last remnants of daylight were disappearing. The sky over the river presented a dying blue color, but within the woods the light had already been shut out.
He looked out over the river and saw something floating in the water a short distance upstream from him. His intuition told him it was a body, but as his heart jumped, he chose to calm himself. He wouldn’t jump to any conclusions.
He focused the flashlight into a bright, narrow beam and centered it on the floating mass.
It was a body. He could see appendages and a head bobbing in the current. It was adult-sized and showed no clear signs of decomposition.
Erik’s first instinct was to call the police, but that idea sank, along with his heart. He did not have his phone, and he didn’t want to be digging through the muddy water for it as a body floated by, just a few feet away, on the off-chance that he’d actually be able to find it.
Another idea stuck him. He felt like he had to do something, and as nobody was there to give him direction, he would have to trust his own judgment. He grabbed his fishing pole and performed an accurate cast to the other side of the body. He barely saw the splash of his rig on the river, but he knew it went where he intended. He pulled the line taught and reeled in quickly. Within a couple of seconds, Erik snagged the body.
He planned on doing whatever he could to stop that corpse from endlessly floating downstream. He figured that he might be able to get it to the bank, or, at the very least, get it out away from the main current and into some branches or a calm spot. Then he would hightail it the fuck out of there and call the police. He’d show them the way back, and they could figure out what happened.
His pole slowly bent to the maximum and the drag started going out. He could tell that his plan was working. The 10-lb test was strong enough to start guiding the body towards the bank.
Erik suddenly felt very uncomfortable. He wondered if he was doing the right thing or not. Would the cops think he was an idiot? Was he being reasonable, or interfering with what would soon become a death investigation? He wondered if he should have just allowed the body to float on by and let the cops and search parties deal with the task of finding it again.
What he was doing would save the authorities time. He wouldn’t be, he thought, negatively impacting the investigation. If an authority figure was here, in the same situation as him, they would probably do the exact same thing. More confident in his decision, Erik tightened the drag on his reel.
As the drag become quieter, Erik heard a male voice from nearby in the upstream direction. It sounded impatient and vindictive. “He can’t be that far ahead of us! Let’s hurry up and find his dumb-ass. Move quick; keep your eyes peeled.”
Erik’s heart started pounding like an angry drummer. He knew he was in a bad situation. People were looking for this body, and by the way it sounded, they were more peeved than concerned. This spelled sociopathy – or murder.
Erik released the spool of his reel in order to let the line come out freely and silently. He knew he had to get away quick. He snapped the line with his hands and then knelt down and submerged his fishing pole in the shallow murky water next to the muddy bank. He did the same thing with the landing net and the rod holder. Knowing that they’d float, Erik grabbed the five-gallon bucket with one hand and the tackle box with the other and urgently set off into the woods.
After he traveled through the dark for about a minute, he was starting to feel less worried about any evidence of his presence left behind. He was getting further and further away, and even if they noticed all the footprints and imprints in the mud from his scuffle with the carp, they wouldn’t know how recently someone had been there. His Jeep was thirty minutes away, parked on private land owned by a family friend. Whoever was out here in the woods probably wouldn’t find it or link it to him.
Erik knew that if the body was recovered, and if the people looking for it were paying attention in the dark, they would notice a size 4/0 fishing hook attached to the victim’s clothing with about forty feet of fishing line hanging off it. If they notice that, they’ll be looking for him, but he’ll have a decent amount of time for a head start first.
As Erik was listening to the soft rattle of his tackle box, he remembered something he’d left behind; his stringer of catfish. Not trusting the mud to hold the stringer, he’d tied it around a tree root near the water. There was about a foot of his blue stringer contrasting against the green and brown of the environment. It would be easy to miss in the dark, unless a bunch of footprints caused someone to investigate the area more carefully.
As far as he could figure it, Erik only had one direction that he could go. He would go North – or at least what he thought was North in the dark. He hadn’t gone that far North in these woods before because he’d only been living in the area for two years and had mainly just stuck to the river bank for fishing. He knew the woods were huge, and that North wouldn’t lead him to help, but it would, at least, lead him away from whoever was looking for that body.
Erik walked Northward at a steady pace. He moved quietly and listened intently. So far, all he heard were the sounds of a regular September night in the woods; owls, coyotes, insects, and wind. It was thirty minutes ago that he heard the voice and dipped into the woods. He guessed that it was about nine o’clock by now.
Soon, he would missing the date with Ellie that he’d been looking forward to so much. He figured that she’d text or call him, but that she’d give up easily, assuming that he was sleeping or wanting space. The relationship was too new for her to take his unplanned absence as a sign of real trouble. She didn’t know him well enough yet to know that he would never stand her up. Even if Ellie was concerned about him, he thought, she’d probably convince herself not to freak out or assume the worst.
Nobody else was expecting him anywhere. Nobody else would realize that he needed help.
Erik was still carrying the tackle box and the five-gallon bucket, afraid that if he tried to ditch them somewhere, they might be discovered by the potential pursuers. He kept on walking, and wondered if what he was doing was ridiculous. Could it really be that he was being chased by someone that would want him dead for seeing what he saw? Could his life have really become this bizarre in an instant? Was he missing his date with Ellie for nothing?
Raindrops started to find their way down through the thick canopy of the woods. The first few were like scouts that, in short order, reported to the rest that this was an ideal place for a downpour. Erik was still wet from his tussle with the carp; now he was getting soaked again.
After walking North for at least forty-five minutes without hearing or seeing anything suspicious, Erik stopped for the first time. He knelt next to a tree and carefully opened his tackle box. He extended the tray and grabbed a fillet knife that was in the main compartment. It had a thin, six and a half inch blade, and was housed in a leather sheath. It wouldn’t be a great defensive weapon, but it was better than nothing, he thought.
As Erik stood up and started looping his belt through the sheath, he noticed an unpleasant smell; it smelled like stink bait. He wondered if he had some in his tackle box that had become even more rancid than usual, but before he could investigate further, a bright light from the south shined directly onto him.
Erik froze. The light was so bright that he couldn’t see anything beyond it. He only saw illuminated drops of rain attacking the ground. He tried not to blind himself by looking at the light while conveying as much as innocence as he could on his face.
A loud thud and a clank echoed through the woods, followed by quick, heavy footsteps. A terrible, piercing pain in his left arm shocked Erik into maximum gear and he instinctively ran for his life.
As he ran, Erik could see the bright light from behind him swinging wildly. This illuminated the ground in front of him like a long string of lightning strikes that were creating a strobe effect.
The men were contending with someone, or something, else.
“Kill that mother fucker!” a voice commanded. It was the same voice from before; deep and sinister, with a slight Southern accent. A gunshot rung out. A moment later, the sounds of five more gunshots permeated throughout the woods.
Erik couldn’t see any more of the light from behind him. He was again in almost total darkness, and he continued to run haphazardly through the brush. He was glad, that at this moment, the rain and wind were at their heaviest, and this probably helped conceal the sound that his footsteps made as he ran away from whoever just shot an arrow into his arm.
As he moved rapidly through the brush and varying terrain, Erik wondered if this night in the woods was going to be his last. He also wondered what he was going to do about the arrow that he could feel stuck in his left arm. There was about ten inches jutting out in front of him while the rest was sticking out the back, and it flopped back and forth as he ran. Without being able to examine the injury, Erik could at least tell that it hadn’t penetrated his arm in the middle. It had pierced through his bicep and come out the other side, but it wasn’t that far in from the side. He could still move his arm and he didn’t seem to bleeding too much – not yet, anyway.
Eventually, Erik came upon a small, shallow creek. He got down close to the water and leaned up the against the steep bank, hoping that he would be out of sight for a moment while he caught his breath and thought of what to do next.
Where could he go? What could he do? His options were severely limited, and daylight probably wouldn’t come for another eight or nine hours. Could he hide until then? They didn’t seem to have dogs. How could they possibly track him in the dark?
Erik carefully examined the arrow wound in his left arm. It felt like a giant bee stung him with a stinger of fire, and he desperately wanted it out of him. He touched the arrowhead with his right hand. It was a sharp mess of blades – a broadhead hunting arrow, designed to penetrate and wound.
Erik started to twist the arrowhead off. As he did so, he smelled the same stink bait smell from before. What was that awful stench? Was it something alive? Was it the “mother fucker?” that the hunters ended up shooting at?
The answer presented itself. The stench, indeed, was coming from something alive. This alive thing was carefully walking up the creek bed towards Erik on two legs, but it was obviously not a human. It was about eight feet tall, burly, and covered in dark hair. It had broad shoulders and a comparatively narrow waist.
A FUCKING BIGFOOT!
To Erik, it seemed like the bigfoot, or whatever it was, knew he was there and was intentionally approaching him. Erik didn’t know what to do. For the third time tonight, he was reaching all new levels of shock. He wanted to run away, curl up into a defensive ball, and shine his light on the beast for a better look, all at the same time. Soon, it would be upon him and the time for decisions would be over – possibly forever.
The bigfoot slowly approached and stopped ten feet short of Erik’s position on the bank. It scanned the entire environment with its eyes and seemed to be fully aware of all the sights, sounds, and scents of the woods.
To Erik, this giant bipedal beast seemed like less of a threat than whoever tried to kill him with an arrow. Erik stayed put to see what the bigfoot was going to do.
The bigfoot got down on all-fours and crawled towards Erik without ever taking its eyes off him. Once it got close enough, it looked him over carefully and started sniffing. The bigfoot quickly discovered the arrow jutting out of Erik’s arm and the fresh, bloody wound it had caused.
The beast let out a short, quiet grunt and put one its giant hands on Erik’s head. It then grabbed the pointed side of the arrow and yanked it out of Erik’s arm.
Erik writhed in pain, but managed to stay quiet. The bigfoot kept its hand on Erik’s head, patting it slowly. With the other hand, it held the arrow close to its face, looking at it carefully and sniffing along the shaft.
The bigfoot removed its hand from Erik’s head and sat down next to him. It held the arrow with both hands and stared at it, as if lost in thought.
His new companion was a brute, Erik thought, but at least he was an ally – of sorts. Whoever was trying to kill him was probably trying to the hunt the bigfoot as well. They had shot an arrow at Erik, trying to silently dispose of him, but were forced to use a gun when they were attacked by the bigfoot.
Erik unsheathed his fillet knife and cut a large strip off from his t-shirt. He then tied it tightly around the wound on his left arm. He was surprised that he still had use of his left hand. It hurt intensely and wasn’t very strong, but he could still control it.
Once Erik had bandaged his wound and resheathed his fillet knife, he looked over at the bigfoot, who was still sitting silently and staring at the arrow. Although his nose was getting used to it somewhat, Erik could still smell the odor that emanated from the bigfoot. He realized that if he could smell the bigfoot, then so could whoever was hunting them, and on top of that, they were leaving hard to miss footprints on the muddy bank of this creek.
As Erik started to consider leaving the bigfoot behind, it turned and tapped him on the chest. It stood up to its full eight feet, carefully looked around, and then reached down and gently grabbed Erik’s arm. Erik came up willingly as the giant pulled him. Once they were both standing, the bigfoot started walking across the creek. It stopped halfway and looked back to see if the human was following. Erik wasn’t following yet, but being that the bigfoot was going in the opposite direction of those who were trying to kill him, it seemed like a reasonable idea.
Once they crossed the creek, the pair veered off to the northeast. Erik had to walk fast to keep up with the creature’s giant, relaxed strides. As they traveled, the sound of insects became louder than the rain for the first time in well over an hour. The bigfoot stopped and crouched behind a large Oak tree, waiting for its human companion.
Erik’s body tightened in alarm, and as he reached for his fillet knife, the bigfoot grabbed his t-shirt and pulled him down behind the tree. They were just a few feet from a clearing. The bigfoot pointed at something and let out two quiet grunts. It looked back into Erik’s eyes to see if he understood.
Erik cocked his head and squinted. He was impressed that the beast knew how to point, and even more impressed that it tried to use the gesture to communicate cross-species. At the same time, he really wanted to figure out what the bigfoot was pointing at. He meticulously scanned the clearing, hoping that his eyesight was half as good as the bigfoot’s. Finally, he saw it. It was a tripod, about three and a half feet high, with a device on top of it.
A TRAIL CAM!
Erik took a couple steps towards the trail cam, almost reaching the clearing, when the beast grabbed him with its giant arm.
Erik could see the look of concern on the bigfoot’s hairy face. “It’s just a camera, Bud” Erik said softly as he petted the giant hand that made his own look a baby’s. The bigfoot let go reluctantly and stood up slowly into a defensive position.
Quickly and quietly, Erik made his way over to the trail cam alone. He approached from the back, even though he doubted it was broadcasting live. Trail cams generally just take infrared pictures or videos, usually of low quality to save space, and store them on a local drive of some sort. Erik deduced that this trail cam was probably connected to the hunters that were after him and the bigfoot, and that this wasn’t the first time the bigfoot had run into the trail cam – or the hunters.
He turned on his flashlight for a brief moment, controlling the beam carefully with one hand. He looked at the back of the trail cam and how it was connected to the tripod. Erik then turned off the light, detached the trail cam by feel, and stood there wondering what to do with it. It was a pretty harmless thing and easy to take out of commission, but the bigfoot seemed suspicious of it. He decided not to take it back to the bigfoot, but to place it in the dirt face down. This was a simple and quiet solution. For good measure, he stepped on it with one foot and bounced his full weight onto it, but this accomplished nothing except wedging it further into the soft ground. He made his way back over to the bigfoot, who had been watching him with keen eyes the entire time.
The bigfoot now stood straight up, grunted three soft little grunts, and pointed excitedly at Erik’s right hand. Erik held up his flashlight. “Ah, you saw me use my flashlight. It’s a useful little tool. Here, I’ll show you how it works.” He shined it onto a tree from only three inches away to avoid drawing attention and twisted to end to demonstrate how the beam could be adjusted.
Erik handed the flashlight to the bigfoot. “Here, check it out, Bud. Do you mind if I call you that?”
The bigfoot didn’t protest. He lifted the light up close to his eyes for a moment, took a long sniff, and then gave it back without trying to turn it on. With the flashlight back in his pocket, Erik looked at the giant creature and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, “What now?”
Maybe the creature understood the gesture, or maybe it was just a coincidence, but the bigfoot started walking Northeast once again. Erik followed, thrilled to be interacting with such a magnificent being, even if both of their lives were in grave danger.
After walking for about thirty more minutes, Erik guessed that it was around eleven o’clock. The rain had finally stopped, and Erik’s nose had grown accustomed to the scent of the beast. He wondered what it was like to walk around with other humans before anyone wore deodorant. He also wondered if Ellie was angry with him, trying to find him, or sleeping peacefully, ignorant of his plight.
The bigfoot stopped walking and turned around to face Erik. He squatted down, tapped on his chest, and pointed off to the Northeast. Erik knew that they had arrived wherever he was being lead to. Erik’s eyes had been growing more accustomed to the dark woods for hours, and now there was even a little bit of moonlight. He saw a small, rustic cabin. No lights were on, but he could see at least one, probably powered by a generator, above the front door. He could also see a burn pit, a charcoal grill, and stacks of firewood leaning up against the cabin.
Erik didn’t know if coming across this cabin was a good thing or a bad thing for his survival. It could be good thing if it contained a phone, a weapon, or a human ally. It could be a bad thing if the hunters knew of this cabin – or owned it.
As the bigfoot was closing in on the cabin, Erik decided that he would follow him and see if anything good could come of this. The bigfoot, being a large and intelligent creature, gave Erik some assurance that he wasn’t just walking into his own death.
The bigfoot peered through a window on the front of the cabin. If he saw anything in the dark interior, it didn’t alarm him. He then went and grabbed a piece of firewood.
Erik didn’t understand what the bigfoot was doing until the bigfoot was standing in front of the picture window, preparing to smash through the glass with the piece of wood. Erik thrust his hand onto the beast’s back. “Wait, Bud! Not yet.” The bigfoot stopped and looked down at Erik’s face, showing signs of both confusion and impatience.
“That will make a lot of noise, and piss people off, and… cause us to get shot. Let’s try the door, first, shall we?” Erik reached for the door knob and gave it a turn. Luckily enough, it was unlocked. Erik opened the door slowly, half expecting to take a shotgun blast to the chest at any moment. Once the door was fully open, and after realizing that he didn’t want to go in first because this was the bigfoot’s idea anyway, Erik stepped aside and allowed his companion to make the first move.
Without hesitation, the bigfoot ducked and entered the dark cabin. Erik followed close behind with his flashlight. Erik didn’t want to the use cabin’s lights in order to avoid detection, so he opted instead to use his flashlight on it’s dimmest setting. He carefully avoided shining onto the windows while he looked around the cabin.
The cabin was small and only had one main room aside from a small bathroom and a closet. It had a simple kitchen area with a table in it, and on the opposite side of the room were three cots, some bags, and a bunch of empty beer cans.
The bigfoot started rummaging around, seemingly relying on his good night vision and sense of smell. He made more noise than Erik was comfortable with and seemed very intent on finding something.
Erik was looking for two things; a phone and a weapon. In 2018, Erik didn’t expect to find a landline phone, and although a cell phone was a possibility, it also seemed unlikely. Weapons, however, might be a more promising prospect. Hunters, and gun owners in general, love guns. It’s not unlikely that they brought extra guns – or knives or bows…
Erik continued to carefully scan the cabin with his light. He caught a glimpse of his bigfoot pal, who was bent down on his knees and looking into a storage freezer. “Is he looking for food right now?” Erik wondered.
Something else caught Erik’s attention; it was on the floor amongst the empty beer cans. As he closed in for a better look, Erik felt another dose of adrenaline pulse through his body. There was a revolver on the floor, almost underneath one of the cots. He was glad that he might have the opportunity to protect himself and the bigfoot, but the idea of actually shooting someone scared him in a new way. He knew that if he picked up the revolver, and if it was loaded, he was going to move from being a passive participant in a game of death to an active one, and that it would have drastic, permanent consequences – should he live through this ordeal.
Erik sat on the cot and picked up the gun. He held the dim light close so he could take in the details. It was a .357 magnum with a six-inch barrel – the kind of revolver meant for hunting. Erik remembered something he learned once; the .357 is the handgun caliber most responsible for stopping an assailant in only one shot.
He unlocked the cylinder and slid it out to make sure that he wasn’t just holding a shiny blunt object. He was in luck; all six chambers were loaded. He opted to not put the gun into his waistband like people in the movies. Erik would simply carry the revolver.
Once Erik was satisfied with his loot, he headed towards the bigfoot to check on him. The bigfoot was still kneeling in front of the open storage freezer in the kitchen area. As Erik approached, the giant slowly stood back up on its feet while it continued to look down into the freezer.
Though he was looking at a non-human biped from behind in the dark, Erik could read the bigfoot’s body language. The beast had found what he was looking for and now appeared to be dejected. The bigfoot leaned down and reached into the freezer with both arms. He pulled out something large and dark. Erik couldn’t see what it was.
Erik knew that his giant friend was in a fragile state, but he figured that the bigfoot would want him to see what was in his hands. He shined the dim light on what appeared to be the body of a smaller bigfoot. It was five feet long and covered in black fur, just like the big one. Its head hung limp and its mouth gaped open with the kind of morbidity that only inanimate flesh can achieve. Its eyes were open, but glossy, and its chest showed evidence of a fatal wound; a bloody hole, much like the one in Erik’s left arm.
“Oh, man. I’m sorry, Bud.” Erik murmured as he looked up at his new friend. “That must be your kid.” The bigfoot returned Erik’s gaze, but remained somber.
Erik twisted his light off completely, assuming that there was nothing left for them to search for inside of the cabin. He still held the revolver in this right hand, and as he struggled to put the light back in his pocket with his wounded left arm, he accidentally dropped the light on the floor.
As Erik bent down to pick up the light, a deafening gunshot rang out. Erik was disoriented and he wondered if he accidentally discharged his weapon, but then he faintly heard the sound of glass falling to the floor. He hadn’t discharged the revolver, someone had fired a shot through the window!
Empty beer cans crinkled and dispersed as Erik dove into the area of the cabin with the cots. He laid on his back between two cots with his heart beating with enough force to cut through steel, should the proper technology be invented to harness the power. He aimed the .357 at the door and tried to see what had become of the bigfoot using his peripheral vision. He spotted a giant mass of fur on the floor in front of the storage cooler, but the darkness of the fur quickly faded into the darkness of everything else.
A man burst through the door like a wannabe swat operator, toting a rifle with a red laser on it. The rifle was in firing position, and just as the laser found its way to the pile of fur by the cooler, Erik fired four rounds rapidly at the hunter.
Erik was momentarily almost deaf again, but he could at least see that the rifle had fallen to the floor. The laser ended up pointing at one of the empty beer cans a few feet from Erik, illuminating the bottom of the can and sending a small ricochet of red light around it.
The body of the hunter was completely motionless. Erik kept the revolver aimed at the doorway while he tried to see if the bigfoot had moved yet. He noticed that the arrow wound in his arm had started bleeding heavily again.
“You fucked everything up!” a man’s voice snarled from somewhere outside of the cabin. “You stupid fuckin’ fisherman!” Erik recognized this same voice again from the previous two occasions. This, apparently, was the guy who called the shots.
“I didn’t want any of this to happen this way.”, the man continued. “Earl shouldn’t have done what he did, and he became a floating corpse because of it. You shouldn’t have been out here, whoever the fuck you are! You just had to be there when Earl floated by. We only wanted the bigfoot, but now you have to die, too. Lucky for me, I don’t think you called the cops, or we’d have seen signs of them by now.”
Erik remained silent as he tried to pinpoint where outside the cabin the man was talking from.
“You killed Teddy, for fuck’s sake!” the man screeched. “Fucking fuck you!
The only sounds that Erik could hear now were the natural sounds of the woods coming in from the open door. The wind blew, the leaves shook violently on the trees, and the insects cheered on as if they were the bloodthirsty audience in an arena of death. One particular sound, however, seemed out of place. Erik heard a slight tap on the window off to his right.
Erik pointed the revolver at the window. Although the window had a curtain, he could see some of the glass due to this angle; beyond the window he saw nothing but darkness.
A bullet came through the window and struck Erik under his left collar bone. Erik fired his final two shots towards the window almost instantly and then clicked on empty chambers twice before dropping the gun. He had little hope that the shots actually connected with the intended target. Before the glass had even finished sprinkling onto the floor, Erik lurched upwards and ran for the door to his left. Although he didn’t know if there was more than one person outside, he didn’t have much choice but to get out there and run for the cover of the woods.
As he ran, Erik could feel extreme pain and heat on his left side. The gunshot under his collar bone had rendered his left arm completely useless and it flopped wildly like a fish hanging from a line above the water. Another shot echoed through the dark as Erik was just getting to the treeline and it punctured his right calf muscle. Erik refused to fall over. He stumbled through the pain and managed to keep hobbling along.
Is this end? Erik wondered.
In a state of panic and shock that went well beyond anything he’d experienced up until now, Erik staggered deeper and deeper into the woods. He struggled to see where he was going. He slipped in mud, tripped on sticks, and felt his hot blood soaking his shirt and leaking downwards.
“Look, don’t make this so hard on yourself. It’s over. You don’t have to die running away like a prey animal.” The hunter spoke these words from somewhere about halfway between the cabin and Erik’s current location.
Erik started to believe that the hunter who had just spoken was the only one left. Since he was bleeding heavily, and there was nowhere for him to run to, Erik decided that he’d have to take his chances with the fillet knife. He would get down, hide behind a tree, and wait with the fillet knife in his good hand. As desperate as it was, it seemed to be the only choice he had left.
The man was slowly and quietly making his way towards Erik. Erik was hyper-alert and could hear the muffled sounds of small sticks cracking and limbs brushing across clothing.
The hunter crept closer. Erik could now see him from about fifteen feet away in the dark. The man was of medium height and stocky build. He wore a dark ball cap and carried a rifle in firing position. Erik wanted to watch him approach so he could strike at the right moment, but he also didn’t want to give away his position. From here on out, he would need to hide behind the tree until the hunter was right on top of him.
The hunter was now close enough that Erik could hear each footstep. On the count of three, he would jump up and stab vital areas, making sure to stay close enough that the rifle couldn’t get a good bead on him.
A small light beamed through the trees from Erik’s left. It seemed like it was about fifty feet away. Erik paused, held his breath, and hoped that the hunter would also see the light. The hunter did notice the light and instantly changed course. Erik saw the man’s back from just a few feet away as he walked towards the light. He appeared to be uninjured, and wore a black shirt tucked into black, tactical cargo pants.
Erik watched the light as it alternated between a dim, wide beam and a bright, narrow one. It moved around, sometimes shining through the trees in Erik’s direction, and sometimes shining on the ground.
Having decided to follow the hunter, Erik got up slowly. He knew that the bigfoot was trying to get the hunter’s attention. The bigfoot didn’t die in the cabin after all, and he must have grabbed the flashlight on the way out.
The hunter thinks Bud is dead and Bud is pretending to be me!
Assuming, at this point, that he was going to die on that night anyway, Erik determined to do his best to keep his giant beast of a friend alive. Thinking back to when he got shot in the arm by the arrow, he realized that the bigfoot must have attacked the hunters in an attempt to save him. He had to return the favor. For some reason, they were in this together.
Erik struggled to pick up the pace in order to close the gap. He wasn’t being perfectly silent, but the hunter had tunnel vision, thinking that the man he was looking for was up ahead, and nothing else mattered to him. Soon, Erik was right behind the hunter.
The hunter was starting to raise his rifle to firing position. The light still moved in a natural way, cleverly held at human height. Just as the hunter was preparing to fire, the bright narrow beam of the flashlight pointed directly into his face, and Erik pounced.
Erik jabbed the fillet knife handle-deep into the center of the hunter’s upper back. Before the man could even turn around or cry out, Erik did it again, this time ending the stab with a shove.
The hunter shrieked an unintelligible mixture of shock and anger and fell to the ground. He struggled to sit up and regain control of the rifle, but as his hand reached the gun, the bigfoot slammed a large rock down into the man’s head. The hunter was knocked down to the ground with a loud thud and he laid completely motionless; dead.
Erik, exhausted and increasingly weakened from blood loss, sat down in the mud. He looked up at his hairy friend and flashed him a thumbs up sign. The bigfoot squatted down and gently patted Erik’s head. Erik thought this would be an ideal opportunity to take a good look at Bud, in all of his glorious detail, before it was too late.
Aided by the moonlight, Erik could see that Bud had large black, intelligent looking, eyes. His whole body, including most of his face, was covered in black fur. He could see thin lips, a prominent brow ridge, and a flat, wide nose. Erik was in awe. He couldn’t believe that such a wonderful creature existed on Earth.
He then noticed what appeared to be a bullet wound in the chest of the giant. The black fur was nearly an inch long, but there was definitely a small section of gore above the rest of the blood-soaked fur on the beast’s stomach.
Damn. He really did take one back at the cabin.
The creature bent all the way down and started rummaging through the pockets of the dead hunter. Erik was surprised by this, but also intrigued. He wondered what Bud was looking for.
After finding and discarding a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a loaded rifle magazine, the bigfoot seemed to find what he was looking for. He held out what looked like a small remote control. The device was thin and barely three inches long. It was silver and had one single button placed directly in the center. It also had a length of thin, black cord hanging from it in a loop.
The bigfoot held the device towards Erik’s face and let Erik take a look at it. Then, with an exaggerated gesture, the bigfoot slowly brought one finger down towards the button and pressed it, making sure that his human friend was paying attention. A small red light flashed once.
Erik squinted and wondered what the bigfoot had just done. What was that strange device? How did the bigfoot know the hunter would have it? And what was he trying to achieve by pressing the button?
The beast stood up and motioned for Erik to follow him. “I can’t, Bud. I’m done, unless there’s an ER out here,” Eric groaned. The bigfoot then bent its massive body down to the ground, grabbed Erik by his good arm, and pulled him over his back.
As they hiked back towards the cabin, Erik wondered if he was going to bleed to death soon. He hadn’t had time to address any of his wounds properly, but the gunshot wound under his left collarbone had him particularly worried; he was bleeding profusely and the whole left side of his body felt warm, but dead.
Erik couldn’t believe that he was being carried by a bigfoot. He wasn’t one to anthropomorphize animals, but this creature was intelligent, sensitive, and cooperative. This wasn’t just an animal. Erik thought that meeting Bud was an opportunity of a lifetime, and if his brain circuits were going to stop firing tonight, at least it wouldn’t be an uneventful or boring death.
Before long, Erik had been carried all the way back to the cabin. As he was being put down on the ground, Erik guessed that the bigfoot was headed inside to retrieve the body of the smaller one, but he was also ready to be surprised; this bigfoot was as complex as any human being he’d ever met.
The bigfoot, indeed, came out of the cabin carrying the body of the smaller one over his shoulder. The beast then hoisted Erik up over his other shoulder. As it began laboring Northward, Erik noticed that the gait of the incredible beast had become distorted – the rifle round to the chest was probably finally taking its toll on the fury tank of the forest.
Erik wondered if the beast had a specific plan, or if they were simply headed to a final resting place. His vision had grown blurry and he stared at the muddy and plant-rich ground as Bud carried him. A sudden bright light from far above created a swirl of light and shadows in the woods. The light disappeared, having lasted barely longer than a flash of lightning. The bigfoot continued to hobble North, unperturbed.
Erik noticed the silver device dangling from the bigfoot’s wrist. The small red light on it was flashing with increased frequency now.
The dark, blurry images of the woods faded to black as Erik lost consciousness. He regained awareness some unknown time after when the bigfoot started making noise; the sounds were deep gunts that Erik could feel, almost as if he was sitting on top of a dryer. The bigfoot was trying to communicate something.
The bigfoot stepped over a downed tree and then, from Erik’s point of the view, the ground changed. He no longer saw tree trunks, low hanging branches, or shrubs; he saw tall grass – they were in a prairie, or a clearing of some kind.
Erik could now see light caressing the top of the grass and that light was coming from the direction that they were headed.
What the hell is going on?
The bigfoot bent over and gently placed Erik down in the tall grass facing the sky. He then placed the small bigfoot a few feet away in a similar manner. As Erik stared up at the dark sky, he could still see a source of light reflecting off of the wet grass around him.
With the bigfoot completely out of sight, Erik mustered the strength to prop his head up past the top of the grass. He wanted to see where he’d been taken, what the source of light was, and where Bud had gone. On the brink of death, he didn’t seek the comfort of a god, but the reverie of a majestic creature that actually existed!
Erik gazed upon what he instantly recognized as a spacecraft of some kind. He knew that it couldn’t be anything else. The craft was at least fifty feet long and thirty feet high. It was circular, perfectly symmetrical, and adorned with lights. The top seemed to be about three-quarters the size of the base. The craft was black or very dark in color. Erik was having a difficult time taking in the details. His jaw hung low as he stared at the craft that, for him, was going in and out of focus.
Is that Bud’s ship?
Erik noticed the silhouettes of three beings, all much smaller than Bud, making their way towards him. He couldn’t see anything but their slender, almost humanoid shapes. Erik tried to reach out with his right arm, but ended up slumping back down and losing consciousness again.
He awoke later in what he presumed was the ship. Erik noticed that he was on a very large bed. Albeit extra-sized, it wasn’t all that different from a regular human bed. His head even rested on a large, comfortable pillow with a white pillowcase. He was in a small room with high ceilings. The walls and floors were a dark shade of blue, and a small amount of light seeped down from the ceiling.
Looking around the room, Erik noticed another bed a few feet away from him. This one was covered in what appeared to be a metallic blanket. There was a bulge under the blanket, and Erik guessed that it was the dead bigfoot.
A hallway was visible from Erik’s position. It split off into two different directions, but Erik couldn’t see where it lead to. The entrance to the room had no doors.
Erik listened for any signs of life around him and heard nothing. He did, however, realize that he no longer felt any pain. His body was a little sluggish, but he seemed okay. He looked down to see that he was only wearing his boxers and that the nasty bullet wound under his left collar bone was covered in a sticky white, powdery paste. He then lifted his left arm and looked at the arrow wound to discover that it had been treated the same way. He assumed that the gunshot wound on his calf had been treated, similarly, as well.
Erik heard something coming and glanced towards the entrance. It was Bud. He had the same white paste smeared onto the bullet wound on his chest. His black fur was wet and slicked down against his body in some places and sticking out in others. Bud made eye contact with Erik and then motioned for someone to follow him from the hallway.
Bud stepped into the room, and then a slightly smaller bigfoot slowly tiptoed in behind him. The other bigfoot was about a foot shorter than Bud, with breasts and wide hips. Erik knew that she was a female; probably Bud’s mate. She carried a baby in her arms, wrapped in a metallic blanket. It was twice the size of a human baby, and Erik could see a small head adorned with brown fur and little hairless hands sticking out from the blanket.
Erik noted that even though there were multiple bigfoot in the room with him, he could barely smell them at all.
The baby wailed and the mother brought it up to her breast. Bud lead the female over to the other bed. He put an arm around her and slowly pulled back the metallic blanket, revealing the dead body of their older offspring. They each put a hand on the deceased youth and stood in silence for a minute. The two adult bigfoot then pressed their foreheads together for a moment, and then Bud covered the body back up with the blanket.
Bud then lead the female over to Erik’s bed. She seemed both alarmed and curious, not wanting to bring her newborn near the human, but also wanting to see the odd creature up close.
Bud reached out with his massive hand and patted Erik on the head twice. The female did the same while doing her best to keep the baby away. Bud grunted and vocalized something to the female while gesturing with his hands. He seemed to be thinking carefully about each of his signs before he made them. Erik figured that Bud was explaining to her who he was, how they’d met, or how they’d survived a life or death struggle against two well-armed hunters together. He also considered the possibility that he was communicating something much simpler, but once it was over, the female patted her own head twice and then patted Erik’s head twice more, as if she was expressing gratitude.
The female bigfoot touched Bud’s neck lovingly, and then walked out of the room with the infant. Bud urged Erik to get up and follow him. Like a drunken ape, Erik got down off the bed and followed Bud out of the room. They went into an adjacent room that was identical in size.
On the left, there was a bed just like the one Erik had been on. It, too, was covered in a metallic blanket with a bulge under it. On the right, there was a large chair. It was translucent in some places, with lights inside, and it was decorated with strange carvings and symbols. Where it wasn’t translucent, the chair was forest green. Erik was captivated by this chair, as it was the first real piece of alien technology, aside from the medical paste, that he’d seen so far while inside the spacecraft.
Bud lead Erik over to the bed and pulled the blanket down. There were three dead human males huddled together. Erik identified them one by one.
The first one was the hunter that he’d stabbed in the back and that had gotten his head smashed by Bud. He had been the leader.
The second one was the one he’d shot in the cabin; the size and shape of the body matched his recollection, and he could see the bullet wounds that he’d caused. That was one was Teddy, according to what the leader had said.
The third and final body was the one that had started this whole unfortunate situation for Erik. It was the one that Erik had snagged as it floated down the river. His name was Earl, and he had originally been with the other two hunters. Erik looked for his circle hook and found it still hooked on the waist area of the man’s pants.
The bigfoot looked down at Erik, grunted, and patted him on the head twice. Then, for the first time that Erik had seen, he smiled. He had a mouth full of large, white teeth, not all that different from a human’s teeth. Erik smiled back up at his new friend, ape to ape, and wondered if Bud’s alien dentists cleaned his teeth every six months. This thought, as well as being alive and well, opened a floodgate of emotion for Erik.
What happens next? How on Earth does this end?
As if to answer, Bud pointed to the chair in the room and gave Erik a gentle nudge. Erik got the idea and went over the chair. He was excited, but a little apprehensive, too. Although he was enamored by the bigfoot and the unintroduced aliens, he didn’t know what they had in store for him. Another glance towards Bud confirmed that he was supposed to sit down.
Erik sank into the chair. As he touched and investigated the chair, he felt like he was experiencing a new plane of existence; this was like the afterlife or an alternate universe. He didn’t know what was coming next, but he knew his life would never be the same again.
Bud crouched down to his knees in front of the chair and presented something to Erik. Erik was shocked to see his flashlight, dwarfed by the giant’s hand, being handed back to him. He couldn’t believe that the bigfoot had held onto it the entire time. Erik accepted the flashlight as graciously as the bigfoot had offered it back to him.
The bigfoot grunted and then put his hand on Erik’s head. He held it there for a few seconds, and then stood up and slowly backed away from the chair, never breaking eye contact.
The dim light in the room went out, but the chair’s lights stayed on and become even brighter. A single alien, approximately five feet tall and very slender, walked into the room. Erik couldn’t make out any distinct features because the alien wore a white helmet and was completely covered in black clothing.
The alien walked ceremoniously over to the chair and stopped. Erik guessed it was looking at him through the helmet, but he couldn’t tell. After a brief pause, the alien walked around to the back of the chair and inserted a long, delicate finger into a small hole. The room flashed with bright light. The last thing Erik saw was Bud, standing a few feet away, with one massive hand covering his eyes, and the other displaying a thumbs up.
“I know it’s hard to believe and that it doesn’t make sense. And I know you don’t know me that well yet, but I only ask that you look into my eyes as I say this,” Erik pleaded. “I do not remember what happened last night at all. I remember that I was going to go fishing, and that I planned on catching us fish for dinner at my house. And I looked forward to it! Then, the next thing I knew, I woke up in the driver’s seat of my Jeep at 7:29 AM today – wearing only my boxers…”
“I was baffled. I didn’t even know what day it was for sure. The first thing I did was look for my phone and my clothes, and I couldn’t find either of them anywhere – never did – so I stuck the keys in the ignition of my Jeep to check the time. It was 7:29. I wasn’t even sure if it was AM or PM. I got out and noticed that everything was covered in dew. The sun was in the East, and it was only about sixty degrees. I realized it was morning and I was floored.”
“I got back in my Jeep and discovered that all of my fishing stuff was gone, too. Every last bit of it was gone! Did I get robbed or something? Did I get drugged and robbed?”
“I had never felt so weird in my life as I was driving home. I couldn’t make sense of any of it. And, right when I got here, that’s when I messaged you from my computer.”
Ellie had been listening intently the entire time. She was completely convinced by Erik’s sincerity and apprehension. “Erik, I believe you. Don’t you worry about that,” she said. “Just stay calm, and we’ll figure this out.”
Erik let out a sigh of relief, thanked her, and kissed the woman who he hadn’t been with for long yet, but who he felt very good about so far.
Attempting to brighten the mood, Ellie joked, “I was pretty bummed about last night. If you can’t catch and bring home fish like you say you’re going to, I guess I’ll have to go with and help next time!”
“I’d love that. I always need someone to hold the light.” Erik quipped.
The young couple spent a few hours together in Erik’s house on that Saturday morning. Eventually, Erik found himself researching cell phones on his computer while his girlfriend went to her apartment to pick up some food that her mother had given her the night before.
Ellie came back in and started heating up the food in Erik’s kitchen. After a minute, Erik bleated, “What on Earth did your Mom make? That does not smell like normal food.”
Ellie laughed and chided him, “You’re probably smelling the stink bait I put by your desk, silly! I told you I put it there when I came in. Remember how my brother asked if you wanted it and you said yes? Well, I just brought it in for you. It’s disgusting, but I didn’t know where you’d want to put it. This pasta, on the other hand, smells delicious! Are you ready for lunch? It’s just about ready.”
“I’m almost ready.” Erik responded. “I’m about to order the same model of phone as the one I lost. I guess I chose wisely the first time around.”
After ordering the phone from his favorite E-commerce site, Erik clicked over to the cloud photo section to make sure the precious photos of him and Ellie on their first dates had been properly saved there. His heart lurched when he saw that one of the four folders from September was from yesterday.
On the thumbnail for the folder, he could see that there was a selfie of him holding a big fish. He opened the folder, clicked on the only photo in it, and studied it diligently. It was fairly dark outside and he was holding a giant carp with one arm, while struggling to shine a light on himself and take a picture with the other.
Erik could not believe that he had no recollection of this. A warm, gentle wind came through an open window and carried a strong sampling of the stink bait right into Erik’s nostrils as he noticed what appeared to be, to an imaginative eye at least, a large, dark creature poking out from behind a tree in the back of the photo.
Erik’s eyes grew wide as memories from the night before flashed sequentially back into his mind.
“Ellie!” He shouted, “I remember what happened to me last night!
She stopped what she was doing and waited.
“It’s a fucked up story, and I’ll tell you everything, but the dumbest part is, I did catch three keeper catfish. They’re probably still on a stringer down by the river, and they’re probably still alive, too. Those things are tough sons of bitches!”
Copyright © 2018 – Adam Light