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"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)

10.28.2010

Wild Things

It was my favorite time of year to be hiking in Yellowstone -- fall, when the leaves turned brilliant colors, the days were cooler but the nights not yet freezing, and the tourists packed their broods into station wagons and left the surroundings littered but quiet.  The stillness in the air enticed the wild things to come back out of hiding and return to their normal habits.  Sometimes I'd pass another seasoned naturalist on the trail, and we'd nod, but mostly it was just me and blue skies and birds, squirrels, elk, deer, and a few big horn sheep.

I made good time, five to six miles before stopping for lunch, and then another leisurely four this afternoon.  When the temperatures started cooling and the sun darted in and out of trees closer to the horizon, I knew I needed to look for a place to camp for the night.  I liked to settle in and then listen to the awakening of the nocturnals.  I wandered off the main trail and found a nice clearing under a few trees, the ground fairly even and free of rocks and shrubs.  I shrugged off my backpack and popped up my one man tent, then scouted around for wood to use for a fire.

By the time night fell, I had a warm, blazing fire.  I heated some of the water from my canteen and poured it into my styrofoam cup of soup.  I settled myself against the trunk of the nearest tree.  I stirred my soup, took a spoonful, blew on it, and slurped a long, salty wet noodle into my mouth.  Not exactly gourmet, but it reminded me of my college years, and it suited the mood of the evening -- young, free, and just a little out of touch with reality. 

I finished the noodles and threw my head back to drain the last of the liquid from the cup when I noticed a large black feather falling from the tree.  It landed beside me.  I picked it up.  It was sticky.  I brought it near the fire so I could see better.  Deep maroon, still almost black unless the light from the flames glinted just right.  Blood? 

The feather looked too big to be from a duck or woodpecker.  I worried it might be from a falcon, or worse, a bald eagle.  Curious, I fished my flashlight from my backpack and shined it up into the tree I had been leaning against.  The faint beam landed on a dark, feathered body, wings splayed and head tilted askew.  It was a big bird, but probably not an eagle; more likely, just a hawk.  Looked like the predator had become prey.

The light illuminated something else on a branch a little further up the tree.  A deer, or at least what was left of a deer.  Its legs dangled lifelessly, its head flung backwards, exposing the ripped, hollowed underbelly and a few pieces of flesh still clinging to the fur.

A deer?  In a tree?  I'd heard of leopards doing that with their prey, but this was Wyoming, not the Serengeti.  I shined my light back and forth, along the branches, and then dropped it with a clatter at my feet.  I fell to my knees, groping around in the dark, desperate to find it again, while reason fought against what I thought I had just seen.  A human hand, glistening white, dangling from a branch.

I heard a deep-throated growl and froze.  I shifted my head to see two yellow eyes towering above me.  So this is what it was like for Steve Irwin and that guy who lived with the grizzlies.  The last thought flashing through my mind: what was that guy's name?

*****

Today's prompt:

In most parts of the world, Halloween is celebrated – in some form or another – this weekend. Your challenge this week is to write a horror scene (or something horrific) using a wet noodle, a styrofoam cup and a feather.

19 comments:

Ruchiraa said...

Eerie. And I love how you make me visualize the setting. Good use of the props too. I'm not so sure about my wet noodle.

Eileen Andrews said...

I like the solitary hiker setup. Good job!

agatha82 said...

Great set up, atmosphere and vividness, specially at the end...poor hiker..

Marisa Birns said...

Such a soothing set up. Felt lulled by the calmness of it all.

Then ... wow!

Scary/spooky/wonderful. :)

A Writer's Vein said...

Heh Heh, I am liking this week. The lovely setup and even the nasty surprise were all in character. Like a shaggy dog tale almost. sweet.

Laura Rachel Fox said...

Great build up. I was in complete suspense. I like that you let the "monster" remain a mystery. Sometimes the hints are more terrifying than an actual description would be. This worked well for your piece.

twinklebelle said...

and that is why I do not go hiking alone. This would make a great ghost story to scare the children with at a camp out, you never know, it may become an urban legend!! Nice work Shelli, you can see my not so scary horror here - http://bit.ly/bf4jFx

Shelli said...

Ruchiraa -- Thank you, and welcome! I'll have to check out your wet noodle later today. :)

Thanks, Eileen and Agatha!

Marisa -- Thanks, I'm glad the contrast worked. I was the slow pace was a little too dull.

Writer -- Thank you. It is a fun week for all the spooky tales.

Rachel -- Thanks! I thought it would be best to let my readers imagine the worst monster possible. Glad it worked!

Twink -- Thanks! Hm, I think I may have to try it out on my kids... I'll be by to check yours out later today, too. :)

Thanks, everyone, for lovely comments!

Cathryn Grant said...

Great atmosphere and set-up through the beautiful surroundings shifting gradually into fear of the unknown ... and then the known!

newtowritinggirl said...

This is why I don't read horror, I was so nervous the second she stepped off the track. I agree with Rachel that it works really well just giving hints to what the monster is. Loved the lightness of the last sentence too!

newtowritinggirl said...

This is why I don't read horror, I was so nervous the second she stepped off the track. I agree with Rachel that it works really well just giving hints to what the monster is. Loved the lightness of the last sentence too!

Shelli said...

Thanks so much, Cathryn!

Newt -- Thank you! Horror is really not my forte, but it was fun to write. Glad it didn't flop!

John Pender said...

Good one Shelli! I agree. This one can be a good one to tell at campsites.

Shelli said...

John -- Thanks! Maybe it will go viral. ;)

Tiffany said...

Great descriptive writing to set your scene. Getting killed while camping (especially alone) is such a scary thought. Shudder. Great job on your story!

Tribute Books Mama said...

Thanks! for sharing.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Fantastic use of the prompt! Really well-written. Very chilling when the hand comes into it.

Carrie Dair said...

I'm late to respond, but probably just as well so I didn't have nightmares. I will never feel comfortable camping again. Thanks, friend....
lol jk That was awesome!!!

Shelli said...

Thanks, everyone! And Carrie -- just keep your big, strong husband around. That was her mistake -- camping alone.