For the sake of the story, you can call me Cal. I worked as a police officer for the Atlantic City PD of New Jersey for eighteen years, and when I retired I pulled some strings from my many years on the force and cooperating with New York Police Officials to get a job with the Adirondack Park Rangers. I’d always loved the great outdoors, something I missed from my work in Casino Central at Atlantic City. And what could be more outside the loop than a 6.1 million acres of woods, rivers, lakes and mountains? I was looking forward to it: a quiet bachelor’s retirement, preserving the forest and looking after the nature I loved. But as it would turn out, Nature also holds a lot of terrible secrets.
I arrived at the Adirondack Park in 1995, a year after my retirement, to my designated Park Ranger cabin – we were required to live and work on the reserve. I was driven up from Atlantic City by the guy I was replacing, a fellow who I’ll call Joe. Joe had worked here for over thirty years, and in spite of his greying hair he was still spry and full of life. After a long drive we pulled into the clearing around the cabin. Joe showed me the well from which we drew water, where the power lines were and around the small two-man cabin. As we were sitting on the front stoop; laughing sharing fishing stories and chewing on cigars, Joe suddenly got very quiet. He trained his ice blue eyes on me and asked, “Do you believe in God, Cal?”
My family is Italian and Irish, we’re about as Catholic as they come. My answer was an instant yes. Joe grimaced, grinding the stogie on the wooden railing of the porch. “I don’t know about God myself,” Joe said, staring at the old growth rows of Oak that ringed the clearing, “The devil I’m more sure of. I’ve seen him – he lives in those woods.” I thought Joe was being over dramatic, and I chuckled. But he gave me a look – cold, dark and foreboding, and my laughter extinguished. “You’ll see what I mean soon enough,” He said, disposing his cigar in the garbage inside the cabin. As he came back out with his fedora, he paused and looked at me. “I love these woods – but there are dark things out there you couldn’t begin to imagine.”
For the first month after Joe left, I could almost convince myself his terrifying words were nothing more than Park Ranger hazing – he was indoctrinating me to the camp by scaring me. I quickly fell into the rhythm of Ranger life, patrolling the woods and clearing paths, participating in biomass surveys with people from Albany. It wasn’t all sunshine – poachers were rife, and anti-government militia training illegally in the park aren’t friendly at the best of times. But after eighteen years on the beat, those punks didn’t scare me. What did scare me – to the point of quitting my job – happened late one night.
Part of my old life on the beat was being a night owl, and being a park ranger was no exception. It was late August and almost 10 PM when the Ranger station called in. They said a family had gotten separated from their little girl, and they needed all hands on deck to mount a search. I was instantly awake, putting down my dogeared W.E.B. Griffin book and hauling on my Park Ranger uniform and donning my cap. I met up with my Boss, Captain O’Rourke, and he assigned me to follow a Tributary of Grindstone Creek, near where the family had last seen their daughter. I led a bunch of civilian volunteers down the creek, armed with flashlights and intermittent firearms. There had been black bear activity in the area, so packing heat made sense.
As we fanned out along the creek, I gradually separated from the others, scanning the forest until my flashlight caught something pink – totally at odds with summer ground cover. I yelled out that I’d found something, but then my flashlight panned up – and I wish, to this day, that I’d never done that.
The girl was in pieces, scattered across the clearing. What my flashlight had caught was a dismembered arm, with the stub of a pink t-shirt still attached. I’d seen horrible gangland slayings, but nothing ever topped the brutality of the scene. I gagged, and that was when I heard it – a strange, cooing, hooting sound. Something about the sound turned the blood in my veins to ice as I planned my light in the direction of the sound – and it felt like my soul died in my chest. Standing there, easily seven feet tall, was this THING – that’s the only way I can describe it. It was tall but heavily emaciated, about as wide as a lamp pole – I could see its ribs protruding out of its rotting grey flesh. Its feet were hooved, but it had hands like a humans – albeit with long, disgusting black talons in place of fingers. It’s head – that’s what still gives me nightmares. Instead of a normal head it wore a deer’s skull, a buck’s head with a massive rack of eight-pointed antlers. It’s mouth was full of dagger teeth, which curved up and outwards the closer to the front of the mouth they got. In its jaws, the child’s leg dangled limply as it fixed me with a nightmarish glared of its yellow demonic eyes.
Neither of of us moved for a space of about ten seconds until it cocked its head to the side. It let out another cooing hoot, and took a step towards me. That was enough. I screamed as loud as I possibly could, and pulled out my revolver, firing again and again after the thing as it turned tail and bolted through the brush, faster than any living animal I’d ever seen. I didn’t stop firing until my gun clicked empty uselessly, and the search party found me a sobbing wreck a few minutes later. I lied and said it was a black bear, but I know what I saw – it wasn’t natural, not of this world of the living. There and then I quit my job, left the Adirondacks and have never looked back since.