I always loved urban legends, just the simple idea of a paranormal or supernatural entity sparked my interest. Between haunted houses and cryptids, some could say that I was obsessed. But they didn't understand the need for knowledge I felt, that was the main reason I decided to traveled to this town. Bristol, Tennessee.

I decided to only rent a room in a small motel, I had no desire to stay long and only rented my room for a few days. My reason for being here came from the local legend that a friend had told me about. I had even stopped at the nearest bar to get the latest gossip. What mainly brought this place to life was the missing person posters all over town.

I introduced myself to the bartender and asked him for the latest news. He chuckled lightly and asked if I watched the news. I did have a TV in my room but all I seemed to get from it was old shows in black and white. I told the bearded man of my technology crisis and he seemed to chuckle.

The bartender grabbed a glass and poured whiskey into the clear cup. I grabbed my beverage and took a quick sip. The bartender rubbed together his thumb and pointer finger as a sign for money. I quickly complied and slipped him a ten. He told me about the recent disappearance of a young boy who ventured into a cavern.

This sparked my interest and I asked further about it. What could have possible made this boy just suddenly disappear? There could be a number of reasons but without the boy or his body there was almost no way to tell for sure. The bartender told me about the growing fear of the cave, for some odd reason the town citizens began to believe that the cave held something supernatural. My curiosity peaked.

I asked him if it had something to do with the various missing people posters around town. He confirmed my inquiry with a grunt and a nod. He went even further by telling me that the townspeople believe their loved ones were still trapped inside the cavern, even after all these years, but it seems that outsiders find the idea preposterous, which can be assumed from logical human beings.

I decided to ask the bartender where the cove was, I found it particularly odd how he knew so much about this cavern, but I chalked it up to hearing the local gossip. The bartender's face twisted in a look of suspicion, almost like he was displeased with my prodding for information. The bartender asked me why I wanted to know where it is.

I lied and told him that I was doing a school documentary on urban legends and that this cavern was being used as an example. The look of disbelief on his face made it obvious that my bluff failed. I grabbed my beverage and took a long drink before slamming the glass back onto the counter-top. This was hopeless,I began to turn away with my hand still on the rim of the glass.

The man quickly pressed his hand down on top of mine. His skin felt wrinkled and sweaty on top of my own. I glared at the man and asked him to let go of me. He simply told me the location of the cave. I still to this day have no idea why he did what he did. I like to believe that he had a personal reason for telling me, but I really have no reason to believe that. All I knew at that moment was that I needed to visit it immediately.

I left the building as soon as I got the location and headed to the motel. I arrived at the small building and entered, my feet slapped against the carpet and I quickly turned the knob and entered my room. My eyes flickered around the small space as my jaw dropped, I stared at the devastation before me.

Broken tiles were hanging off the wall and most of my possessions were lying about, as if a tornado had torn through! I began to collect my possessions off the ground and packed them away. There was no way I was going to stay here after someone broke into the motel and trashed my room! But what didn’t add up in my head was why someone would do this.

Perhaps this was the work of someone I knew? No it couldn’t be, none of my friends knew where I was staying and they wouldn't prank me this way. Maybe it was someone from the town? Yes, that must’ve been it, it had to. But I arrived in this little town last night. It just didn’t add up. Unless someone from the bar overheard me? But then how would they have learned where I was staying?

I jumped onto my torn up bed and laid the blankets and pillows in the same position they were when I had left. I needed to take my mind off of this for the night. Unfortunately, I had not slept well that night. It might’ve been the worst sleep of my life. My nightmare consisted of my spelunking of the infamous cavern.

In my nightmare I was walking inside a large rocky cave. I felt the need to escape this place for some odd reason. I began to move across the area and spotted several bats hanging from the ceiling. Nothing unusual for a cavern. Bats preferred the dark so they were bound to be in these kinds of areas. The stone I walked upon felt slippery underneath my sneakers so I made sure to take my time walking.

But something was not right. It felt like I had been walking around the cave for what seemed like hours, and yet I hadn’t managed to discover another path. No exit, no path, it’s almost as if I was transported into this exit less cavern. How would I get out? How would I eat or drink? I began to panic and banged on the walls.

“Get me outta here!” I yelled in my panic. Fear rose along with anxiety and anger, but fear was the main root. It was a horrid feeling.

I looked all around the cave once more and once again noticed the lack of any sort of exit that lead outside this large underground dome of stone. I looked to the ceiling to see the bats once again. But something seemed off. One of the bats seemed much larger than the others, unnaturally so.

Its large fangs seemed to shine in the darkness, exposing its head. I stared at the creature with curiosity and fear. It looked like an oversize bat, but it also looked vaguely humanoid.

It opened its wings and let out a large screech. Its clawed feet let go of the stalagmite and fell down towards the hard ground beneath it. The creature outstretched it wings and began to glide downwards towards me. I let out a scream of fear and ran in the opposite direction. I quickly collided into a solid wall due to my limited space.

The monstrosity lunged towards me in an attempt to capture me, I jumped to the side and felt something sharp pierce my skin. I quickly looked to my shoulder and spotted three large slashes, blood erupted from the wound and stained the rock below a sickening crimson. I let out a whimper of pain and spit onto the stone.

The creature had regained its composure and took slow steps towards me.  I jumped down a ledge to my side and prepared to hit the ground below. I felt something wrap around my torso, arm, and legs as I fell and realized that I was suspended in midair by vines. I grasped the vines and began to pull but only felt the vegetation constrict my limbs even tighter. Anxiety washed over me, it was going to get me. I looked around all over the place, it was above me and was sure to attack soon.

I let out a cry of terror as the beast fell down with a sickening screech and grabbed me. Its hands appeared to be attached to its wings as they were slightly wrapped around my body. Its mouth opened widely, its razor sharp teeth were stained a deep crimson, I realized why as it swung its teeth into the clavicle of my neck.

My eyes shot open as soon as the sharp teeth made contact with my skin. I grimaced as I thought about the night terror. I jumped off my bed and quickly freshened up before I began to pack up my belongings. I exited my room quietly and carried boxes of my belongings to my car. After what happened to my apartment that meant that the person who did this knew where I lived and they could just as easily do it again, or worse.

I quickly put the stack of boxes into the trunk of my car. My stomach churned at the thought of last night's horror trip. I had a choice. Either leave town and return home, or visit the cavern then go home. After the nightmare I wasn’t sure if wanted to risk going there. Surely the idea of some sort of bat monster was purely fictional. But something caused those people to disappear.

No, it had to be something else, I told myself as I rejected the idea. It was just a nightmare after all, there was no way something like that could ever exist. It couldn’t hurt to go there and find nothing out of the ordinary. After all it was only a dream, and dreams were only the imaginations way of projecting an idea or thought.

I drove to the cavern and entered. Vegetation creeped down from the top of the entrance. Clearly this place wasn’t kept in the best of shape. It didn't even look like civilization had touched this place. An entire forest had sat upon the large cavern. So why were people coming here? I pushed the question aside and entered the large opening

It was big, branching paths started from the stone and led in different directions everywhere, I even spotted one that went in a circle. I turned on my flashlight and began to explore. Most of the paths lead nowhere or just intersected back into the original. I spotted small puddles in between various rocks and even some some nice looking minerals sticking out from the walls. I found the experience to be quite… peaceful. I never had a problem with the dark and the deafening silence was peaceful in its own right.

I noticed in my exploration that the underground cave was completely different from the one in my nightmare, there was almost no relation between the two. I decided to head out, there didn't seem to be much else to look for. I didn't want to get lost in this stone prison. I spotted a lot of bats hanging from the ceiling. I shined my light up at one and it screeched at me. I snickered at the small creature and resumed walking back.

It took me a second to realize that I still need to learn about the missing people. What if they were further into the the cave? What if they simply got lost like I feared. But it could also be anything else. There’s any number of reasons that could explain these disappearances. Could be runaways, kidnapping, maybe concealed murders. They couldn't still be here. God, I hope not.

I began to walk out of the cavern but winced as I felt an odd burning sensation on my neck, almost like I had gotten sun-burnt. I twisted my head at just the right angle and spotted a bright red mark on my neck. It felt on fire, almost like someone was holding a match to it. I felt very uneasy and stopped in place. I looked further into the cave and felt my heart drop as I spotted a large silhouette hanging from the leaky ceiling close to me.

I felt my muscles tighten around the bone beneath and turn me into a human statue. Maybe it was simply a stalagmite, but its form was to rigid, it also seemed to be rocking back and forth. I didn’t take my eyes off the swinging form as the bottom part of it seemed to move around irregularly. I couldn’t really describe it due to the darkness, I dreaded to shine it with my flashlight in fear of it being something hostile.

What looked to be its head shifted as what I thought to be its mouth opened revealing a pearly white row of fangs. Its slimy red tongue slipped outside of its maw while its jaw stretched out. Was it waking up? I took slow movements backwards as my muscles finally began to relax. Why was my body in such a state of stress, was it because of my anxiety?

The creature's head began to move around more frequently until its eyelids opened revealing precise black orbs. They darted around in the things sockets until its eyes looked straight ahead. Its eyes looked to be bulging out of its skull until it spontaneously took a sniff at the air. What was it doing? I found out my answer when its head pointed into my direction.

The burning in my neck increased into a searing pain. I felt the spot on my neck and noticed that my flesh had become irritated. It turned around and began to walk away at a fast rate. A screech was let out as I could hear a loud flapping sound, my fast walk turned into jogging which quickly turned into sprinting. I slammed my sneakers against the wet stone for what felt like hours as I continued to sprint away in my frenzy. I felt like it was getting closer and closer to me, I thought it was going to be breathing down my neck within seconds. But I managed to stay away.

I finally made my way to the entrance and saw that the sky was now darkened and covered with puffy clouds. I quickly took out my keys and used my remote car starter, the lights of the high beams turned on and shined a blinding light into the vine covered entrance. The creature let out an ear piercing cry and fell onto the ground as it attempted to cover its eyes. It quickly looked in the other direction and flew into the sky as it was carried by the wind.

I stared into the sky as the creature made its way into the woods on top of the cavern. I got back into the car and drove right home. When my mother called me and attempted to learn where I was, I simply told her I was sightseeing.

I never found out what happened to those poor people. I still wonder if the figure happened to be the monster in my dream. I can’t help but make the connections. What does concern me is that the burning in my neck not only was in the same place in my dream but the burning also comes and goes, mainly at night, when bats roam around...