By Raven Boy

My family was always in a financial rut, especially after my mother passed and my father moved to NJ with me and my sister. If you are familiar, New Jersey property prices aren’t as bad as New York. But their taxes are incredible…

This being, me and my father always took work. Whether it was running a good truck, cleaning some guys house, or working on the road.

Our most common job was truck driving. He got a somewhat stable job from a family friend who owned a trucking company, down near Newark. It likely isn’t there anymore, he had to relocate after flooding.

We would haul shipments of food and metals, deliver truck parts, or even just do something as simple as take it for repairs when the mechanics weren’t available. Making 200 dollars for just driving a couple Mac trucks, pretty good work for a kid who hadn’t graduated yet, and a half cripple who can’t even lift himself off the floor if he were to fall…

All of this would change, however…

We had a job to deliver food supplies to fort Dix, pretty standard. Ended up delivering more than required, and my father being the sneak he was, decided to keep a chest of meat for ourselves. It was about mid August, the near end of the summer rush for people to come to the shore. This meant a large amount of drunken young adults, families, and even the occasional nudist would flock down the highways like a group of birds, swarming the beaches and boardwalks. This meant an extra build up of traffic, and thus, more accidents.

We listened to the traffic report whenever we make a haul, short, long, etc.

It provided us with weather, what routes to avoid, and so on. This is how we knew our usual road was piled up after a drunk driver got behind the wheels of his SUV, plowing into another car, and the domino affect followed. Luckily, it only ended in a three car pile up.

But for us at the time, it was more than a small nuisance. Needing to plan a detour with the sun setting, already behind schedule. To make it short, after cursing out the tourists on the radio, we decided to simply take the more secluded rural back roads of the surrounding Barrens. This was mostly bear swamp, a large nature reserve and hunting area during deer season. It also had some bear and even bald eagle preservation… But I can assure you, what we saw and heard in that back road, was no eagle.

The detour put us off schedule for about an extra hour and a half, sending us right through the swampy roads, flooded with mud and dirt. Not to mention the pitch black darkness and having to drive slowly be used there might be a deer or coyote running across the road in the pitch black darkness.

I remember joking with my father about going for a swim in the swamp, our A/C was broken at the time,

“Hey dad, how’s about a dip with the gators?”

He said something along the lines of wishing he could feed Sal, the family friend to the gators for “not getting the God damn air fixed!”

The night swamp was oddly mystical looking, looking at it from open windows. The large star and the few lighting bugs you could see in the distance, it was a good scene. Despite what most say of jersey, it isn’t ALL smoke stacks and highway.

Something was off however. Middle of summer, driving past a swamp, normally you would hear the calls of frogs or even an owl in the pines. Granted, our truck engine could be spooking the animals. But all the same… It was odd for its beauty.

As I enjoyed the view, My body flung forward against the dashboard as my father slammed on the breaks, hitting the horn at the same time.

“The hell?!” I practically shouted at him, my teen voice still cracking. How stupid I must have sounded.

“Deer on the road. Big sucker too, Should tell your grandad to come out here next winter.”

He was plain and simple about it, something I hadn’t inherited from him. Pulling myself into my seat, I strained my eyes to see past the darkness. To which I did see a tuff of hair disappearing from our headlights, flicking like that of a cats tail. Oddly, it was dark from what I could see. Blackish ginger instead of the usual brown or white a deer would have. It’s length off as well… If I could guess, I’d say a good five inches long.

About another twenty minutes later, we had made it deeper in the wooded area, passing the farmland and meeting the old cabins and hillbilly hotels that scatter the woods like buckshot.

It wasn’t like a suburban cul-de-sac in the middle of the woods, these houses were spaced out a good fifteen minutes from each other each, if not more. As we were making our way down the long winding path, praying not to get shot by some crazed redneck who we may have woken up from a deep sleep, it hit us. Literally. A loud snapping noise a metallic bang as something landed on the top of the truck. First, we imagined it was just a tree limb hitting the top of the truck, being quite tall, it had knocked many branches off before. But it began moving, like rocks hitting the metal, all you heard was SNAP CLANK SNAP CLANK as whatever it was was too tall to move under the branches, hitting the roof and trailer. At this point , my dad stopped, intending to exit the cab and see the commotion.

Then came the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life, even now as I share this.

Grizzled dark hair, gingerly black like it was burnt, long round snout like a donkey but with bulldog like teeth, fangs peeking from its lips. It’s claws were just that, long finger like appendages that ended in sharp almost metallic looking talons that scratched across our wind shield, hanging from each arm was a long flap of skin, connected to its barrel shaped chest as it slithered across our hood.

If I had to guess a length and width, I’d say it was about as big as An NBA all star. Probably around 200 or so pounds. It’s eyes weren’t glowing like most would say, but in the light of our cabin, they reflected like that of a cats eyes. It had almost no ears, just a flat head, expect for two curled growths on its head, like a filed down antler, dull and short.

As it stared into our truck, it’s nose flared and exhaled deeply, it’s breath fogging up the glass before it slithered back up, the clanking noises returning as it climbed over the truck itself, hitting the roof of the trailer, it’s tail coming up and lashing about. A long reptilian like trial, dark gray with a tuff of mangy hair on its tip, thin but large. It lashed out sideways, swooping off the hood before smashing into the side of the truck.

I’ve been in plenty of car on car incidents, and I can tell you honestly that when your vehicle is rocking back and fourth on two wheels, it isn’t pretty.

As we landed back down on our left side, the tail swooped out again, with just as much force, shattering my fathers window.

Never before have I seen a fifty year old man nearly soil himself.

The creature must have reached the back of the trailer, I started feeling as if we were tipping backwards before a loud screech ripped the air. Honestly, if any one has ever heard a bat squeak, imagine it amplified and drawn out.

Just as I was about to break down with a panic attack, A loud ripping noise followed, a series of loud clanks as its claws peeled off the back of the truck.

This was met by the tuck jerking back and fourth, the sound of heavy breathing in our ears as it climbed in the trailer, and a lurch as it climbed out.

Finally, the sounds of branches snapping and a quickly fading FWAP FWAP FWAP as wings flew off into the night.

We were scared shitless. Our tuck just sitting there as we stared at the dim lit dirt path before us, partially unsure if that happened, and half expecting they beast to return.

After ten minutes of sitting in cold sweat, we stared the engine and drove to the yard, another two hours.

We were silent, the whole way…

We told Sal about the “Dragon.” But he wrote it off as dime backwoods freak robbing us for food.

We did discover a whole crate was busted open at the lock, the door as well hanging on a hinge, that was discovered by a cop who pulled us over half way home.

Growing up in jersey, you all hear stories of The Devil. The old legend of the Lees family, or the tale of the King of Spain, the joke about the man and the kangaroo. But most only believe it as stories.

That night, looking into the snorting nostrils and hearing that blood curdling scream, I was convinced that the Devil is no myth.

Perhaps they’re right… New Jersey is a portal to Hell.

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