I worked a small time park maintenance and upkeep job a few years back for a local park. It’s no Yellowstone, but I grew up there, hiking the hills and exploring the forests. When I got offered a job working there I took it without a second thought, even though it didn’t pay well – just my way of giving back to the park.
I have more than a few stories from my time there, trekking about with a shovel and saw for whole days at a time, but my favorite tale comes from a co-worker of mine, who I knew as Mikhael. Mikhael had a particular nickname among my fellow crewman – The Count. This was, as far as I could tell, in reference to his angular European face and dark black hair. The Count was around 50 or so when I met him, and yet he had such a love for the forest that he stayed in his part time volunteer job.
The Count was a very kind and gentle man – he would help out with anything you asked, was always kind and compassionate. Of all the things I remember about the Count, one thing that’s always stuck was his love of telling tales of adventures in his home county of Poland. His passion for said stories are part of why I log and spread them as much as I do today. The Count told, no pun intended, countless stories, and many of them I can recall somewhat. Only one of them has really stuck with me all these years later, and it was the last one he ever told me.
The Count was soon to leave his job and this area of the country, and began to tell me one last tale. Like I said, Count was from Poland, and he moved to the US in ‘97, following the tragic death of his girlfriend and stillbirth of his child in ‘94. Such an event really shook him; I could see sadness in his eyes when he talked about this detail, recollecting his story late one night in the maintenance garage. To settle his nerves, Mikhael relocated to the rural areas of Poland, found himself a small job as a forester, and settled down. The town he had chosen was very small, with a population of less than 200, shrouded by deep forest. Mikhael had worked with a lumber and forestry company that operated out of the village, and was granted a small shared house along with his fellow workers and strict manager. He was by far no stranger to the woods; he had camped and hiked his entire life.
As Mikhael began to fall into the repetition of his logging job, he found hiking and exploring his work area to be what really helped him to ease his mind. He spent countless dark nights alone, roaming the forest in search of answers to his questions, taking solace in the silent trees and bright stars. It was where he felt the safest; where he felt the most relaxed. Count had mentioned finding odd buildings and structures in the forests before, but never anything like this.
He said he remembered the night clear as ever; a crisp, fall night, full of the chirping of bugs and the sounds of the trees. He began to walk down the same dirt path he had nearly every night prior, and when he reached a point where he could break off to explore a new, unseen region, he entered into the brush and undergrowth. Most of the night was unremarkable, he said, until around 2 a.m., when the trees began to clear away. There, within the open meadow he had never seen before, was an ancient, rusting structure, It had a concrete base, rather wide and flat, around the main structure of a silo-sized cage of welded bars. The whole thing was clearly very old, beginning to collapse, even having several large holes in the frame. Mikhael was of course interested, and as he began to advance on the cage, the smell hit him. Count described it as like a rotting animal and vegetables mixed – strong enough to be noticeable from 40 feet away.
When he finally arrived at the concrete base of the towering structure, and climbed up, things immediately didn’t seem right. The floor of the cement was stained a dark reddish brown in splotches all over, and large black feathers littered the inside of the cage. Crates and other miscellaneous objects lay strewn about the foundation, all left sitting perfectly, as if they hadn’t been left there for years. Mikhael only took a few steps forward when he accidentally kicked a small oil can, making a sudden crashing noise – but it soon resonated that the object was not nearly large enough to make that loud of a noise. He began to scan the area with his small light, and did not see anything around. He had began to stifle his nerves when he looked up.
Perched high above Mikhael, in the upper area of the cage, was a huge creature, with sleek black feathers and a human’s head. It took the Count more than a few tries to get this out – he was sort of stammering, as if he were reliving the very moment right in front of me. He went on to describe how the thing opened its mouth wide, wider than anything ought to be able to, in order to let out a loud bird’s call. Mikhael turned and fled, crying out, back into the trees. He could hear the unmistakable sound of the huge bird leave its position on the structure and fly above the treetops. He fled through the forest, back down his trail and towards the Logging camp.
As he broke through the trees, Mikhael began to feel woozy, and found himself struggling to run. He realized he was soon to black out, and right before his vision went dark, he saw his manager exit the front door of his lodge in a hurry, shoulder a rifle at Mikhael, and fire a shot.
Mikhael awoke a day later, in his bed. He was alone in his lodge, and didn’t see any of his coworkers. He examined the area and found a note left on his dresser, addressed to him, from his manager.
“I know what you’ve seen. It’s come near before, and I have kept it at bay until last night. For your safety, you are no longer under our employment. Please pack your things and vacate our lodging. You must never speak of what you saw last night, or I will find you. You’re best off forgetting that it ever happened.”
The Count describes leaving that same day, faced by stares from his coworkers, and how shaken he was. From there, he moved home, and after a short while moved to America.
When The Count finished the story, I could tell just how upset he was. He was nearly in tears, and may have even been shaking slightly. I didn’t want him to go on, base purely on how much stress I could tell it caused him, but he kept speaking on that night.
“I know what I saw that night.” He forced out to me, in a quiet tone. “It’s called a Latwiec, it’s a… demon of… sorts.” At this point tears ran down his face. “ But… the demons are… they’re the spirits of…of… ach, boże…” He trailed off in Polish. I told him it was ok, to not go on. He thanked me for listening to his stories, grabbed his tool box and coat, and left. That was the last time I ever spoke to him.
What really terrifies me the most about this experience isn’t what the Count told me that chilly night in the garage, but what happened soon after. I remembered how Mikhael couldn’t bring himself to tell me what a Latawiec was, and when I researched it, I knew why. A Latawiec is a Polish demon, of the harmful type, believed to be the souls of lost children and the recently deceased. It horrifies me to the core to imagine that what the Count saw that night, was the demonic manifestation of his child.
Like I said, I haven’t spoken to the Count since. I know it’s a long shot, but I know he always loved scary stories, so Mikhael, if somehow this reaches you, I’m so sorry, and I will keep you in my thoughts.