Possession. It’s the strangest thing. Being out of control of your own body. What could it possibly feel like? Agony? Peace? Nothingness? These are the questions that race through my head ever since that day in 2011. The day I witnessed the impossible. The day I lost my best friend to something beyond reason. Something beyond our reality.
Seven years ago, my friends, Ellie, Chris, Mark, and I went on an unsuspecting camping trip in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. We had all been true outdoorsy types and liked a challenge whenever we went. It was our yearly tradition. Apparently, it had been someone else’s too. That was the biggest mistake of our lives. Camping on the night of a Blood Moon.
We came into Paw Paw (Stupid name, I know) around three in the evening. We hadn’t gotten anything for lunch yet, so we stopped at a McDonald’s in town. I swear no matter how small a town is, it will always have a McDonald’s. There were only two other locals dining there and we could hear every bit of what they said. We should have taken them seriously.
“Blood Moon tonight,” said the elderly woman of the couple, “You know what that means, Lester?”
“I know, I know,” the man groaned, “Stay out of them damned woods. I heard the same stories you did, Edna.” He seemed disgruntled.
“That’s right,” Edna told him, “They say things come out on a Blood Moon. Bad things.” She joked with him and reached across the table to tickle him. It must have been nice to have such a relationship when you get that old.
“I wasn’t going back there anyway. Ain’t nothin’ in season yet. Less you wanna be pinging at the leaves.” He ignored her tickles entirely.
“You’re no fun,” she told him. She poked one gnarled finger into his shoulder. And that’s all there was to their conversation. It lasted all of a minute but would have changed our lives forever. We were such fools.
“The old folks are always the superstitious ones,” Mark chimed in. I hadn’t been the only one listening to the elderly couple chat.
“Yeah. They can’t help it though. They were raised in a time when there wasn’t any proof to prove ‘em wrong. Same with their parents and so on,” Chris had told us. We all agreed with him and laughed about them later.
We got in our car and drove it down many of the back roads looking for a place to pull off and begin our trek. Around four we found a spot to set the car for the night. It was on one of the worst roads I have ever seen and looked nearly abandoned. As we unloaded we talked and joked around. We were having the time of our lives. Just the simple joy of nature and friends.
In the back, we had only a few things. A cooler with snacks, a bottle of water each, two tents and four sleeping bags. We divided the load as evenly as we could and made our way through the first edge of underbrush. I realize now that it was colder in those woods. A lot colder. None of us cared though; it was a scorcher of a day and we were glad to be out of the heat.
“We should’ve brought bug spray,” Ellie piped up about a mile into our hike.
“I know. These things are thicker ‘n fog,” I exclaimed. The bugs had begun swarming us almost instantly and were a constant cloud buzzing around our heads.
“We’ll deal with it for now,” Mark told us from the front of the line, “It’s just a day.”
“How far are we? Or do you know where we’re going?” Chris hollered to him.
“No, but I’ll know the place when I see it,” Mark told him confidently. We passed by one rather open spot, but Mark determined it was just barely to small. We should have stayed there. It would have been all right. We trekked another two miles before we finally found the right spot. By then it was a little past five and we began to set up camp. Our little clearing was just big enough to accommodate our tents. It seemed perfect. Too perfect.
“Alright, we got ourselves a nice little base camp,” I said to everyone, “Should we get the fire going?”
“Yeah. I’ll gather up some firewood,” Ellie said enthusiastically as she trotted off into the woods. We could hear her breaking off dead branches and gathering sticks.
“What do we do now?” Chris asked. He was newer to camping than the rest of us.
“Anything you want. Look at nature, help get the fire going, try to find a stream. Anything!” Mark told him with a hand on his shoulder.
“I guess I’ll get some stones to make a fire pit with,” Chris said looking around. I walked to Mark and handed him his water bottle. Mine was a little under half-empty.
“Cheers,” I told him jokingly as I tapped his bottle.
“Cheers,” he repeated.
We sat around at camp for a while as Chris and Ellie got stuff for the fire. Mark and I got the tents out of our packs and assembled them in the clearing.
Once constructed we rolled out everyone’s sleeping bags inside. They got back right around the time we were finished.
‘Got the stuff!” Ellie told us dropping her bundle. Chris did the same. Mark and I got to work constructing the fire while they rested. Finally, we had ourselves a nice little camp that a woodsman could have been proud of. We lit the fire. In the instant before we did, the forest seemed to stop. No birds, no squirrels, no deer. Not even a leaf rustling in the wind. We all felt it. An unnecessary tense moment. A few seconds later life started back up. The noises of the forest resumed, and life went on untouched.
“Spooky,” was the only thing Chris said. We all nodded in agreement. Later we just forgot all about it. In hindsight, if I had to guess that was when They showed up. I’d bet anything on it.
The rest of the evening we sat around our campfire feeding it occasionally, laughing often, and talking always. We sat and leaned back, pointing out stars and marveling at the moon’s orange shade. At one-point Ellie even busted a bag of marshmallows out from the cooler. We roasted them on sticks and ate them just like that because no one had brought anything to make s’mores.
“What kind of camping is it if you don’t have marshmallows?” she asked and we all laughed. We were feeling good and having fun. We didn’t know it then, but the chaos would start in only three hours. Right at the stroke of midnight.
We climbed in our tents around ten, worn out from our hike. We had no trouble falling asleep on the uneven ground. We were fast asleep when Chris got out of his tent to take a whiz. It was eleven-thirty. Mark must have heard something because he roused me from my sleep. He was sitting up and had an ear cocked to the woods.
“Mark? What time is it?” I whispered raggedly. He put a finger to his lips and shushed me. “Mark wha…” He shushed me more vigorously this time.
“Listen,” he whispered. It was barely audible. I cocked an ear with him and heard something too. Footsteps. Footsteps and voices. I could hear whoever it was trudging through the brush and growth.
“Mark, it’s probably just Chris or Ellie,” I told him trying to comfort myself more than him. I knew I was wrong before he said anything.
“No. It’s more than one person. Why would they be talking?” He had a point. I was somewhere between confusion and fright.
“Can you tell what they are saying?” I asked him. Even in the dark of the tent, I could see him shake his head.
“It’s just mumbling. I can’t hear them,” he told me.
“What should we do?” I asked him. I was getting nervous by then and my palms started to sweat.
“Nothing yet. Just wait. When we can’t hear them anymore we’ll get out and look around.” He sounded just as nervous as I felt, and it gave me a little relief.
“What about Ellie and Chris? Should we wake them up?” We were still whispering in our little tent. The voices had gotten farther away.
“Yes. Definitely. I don’t want to be out there with just us.” So, we sat and waited. It seemed like an eternity but couldn’t have been more than two minutes. Eventually, the voices vanished.
“Alright. Now we go,” I said. I unzipped the door very slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible. I stuck my head out and looked around twice. There was nothing there. I began to crawl out and waved Mark on behind me. We snuck to the others tent and unzipped it. Inside lay only one shape. It was Ellie. I shook her awake and she looked around.
“Sam?” she asked after blinking twice. “Is that you?”
“And me,” Mark said poking his head around me.
“Why are you here? What time is it?” She was still confused.
“We heard something,” I said, “Where is Chris?”
“He’s right here,” she mumbled bringing her hand down. It fell on an empty sleeping bag. Her eyes widened, and awareness flooded them. “Chris?” she asked.
“Where is he?”
“We don’t know. There were people just out here. Voices. They went that way,” Mark said pointing down the slope.
“Did they… take him? No, that wouldn’t happen. Would it?” Her terror was almost full-blown. The look on our faces confirmed her fears. “We have to find him then. Let’s go.”
“Yes. Let’s go,” I said. We clambered out of the tent and back into the clearing. The Blood Moon lit the night in an almost unreal way. We started down the hill not saying a word. Halfway down a light appeared way ahead of us. It was fire. A torch.
“Woah, hold on,” Mark whispered placing a hand in front of us, “What is it?”
“Fire? Who’s lighting torches out here?” Ellie questioned. Mark and I had no answer. The fire began to move as it was carried and briefly we caught the silhouette of the figure holding it. After a few more feet it stopped and was placed in something. We were maybe two hundred yards from all of this. Another torch was lit and brought about eight feet from the other. It was well lit, but to far away to make out anything.
“We need to get closer,” I suggested.
“Are you crazy? We have no idea what these…” Ellie began and was cut off by Mark.
“He’s right,” Mark said calmly, “We’re too far away. And we still haven’t found Chris.” Now I wish to God with every fiber of my being that I hadn’t been right. I would give anything just to go back and leave. But, the past is in the past.
We crept the rest of the way down the embankment to flat ground and stalked closer. From our new position, we could see them. In a large clearing was a ring of about forty people all in hooded cloaks. They stood heads bowed and hands together chanting. In the center of this ring was a square wood frame. Suspended in the middle by ropes on his wrists and ankles hung Chris. He looked more scared than anyone ever could. He was sobbing as the group chanted.
“Eccham Deus ves. Cen boja re kuwan. Miret so. Penno asen gaf.” The group of men chanted this in unison. It was no language I’ve heard before. In my mind, it must have been the language of devils and all that is unholy. That is all it could be. Chris continued his sobbing.
Then a new figure stepped into view behind Chris. This man was obviously the leader. His robe was billowy and had many intricate gold swirls and designs running across it. The chanting stopped as he approached. He came around from Chris’s left side and left our view momentarily. When he reemerged, he had produced a large knife. Chris cried harder.
“Stop, my child.” The man’s voice was deep and powerful. Chris stopped and looked right at him. He tried to speak but merely mouthed the word "why". The man turned our way for a second and I got a glimpse of his face. He was old. His face had been scarred by the wrinkles of age more than any man I’d ever seen. He stood still in front of Chris looking him in the eyes. Then he looked up towards the moon and mouthed a soundless scream. Then he began to chant, and the group joined him.
“Eccham Deus ves. Cen boja re kuwan. Miret so. Penno asen gaf.” They repeated this twice more then stopped. The man in the gold-lined robe raised his knife and brought it down slowly. It traced through Chris’s flesh, opening dark red wounds in his chest. They did not bleed. Chris did not scream.
The man stopped when he had three different symbols on his chest in a triangular pattern. They were foreign and unrecognizable to me. They were strangely sharp yet curved at the same time, each ending in a curl. Chris hung from the frame limply.
“It is time.” That was all the man said to start it all.
There was a great rush of wind and a feeling of raw power. It passed through the woods like a gale and buffeted everything. Everything but the man and Chris. They were stock still for this hurricane force wind. It seemed like they were in a pocket of calm. The eye of the storm. I remember seeing some of the cultists even fall over, but most kept their footing.
Then it stopped, and Chris looked around. He said two words I’ll never forget.
“There’s nothing.” Then he began to thrash and spasm violently. The whole frame shook, and the group backed away in awe. He writhed and screamed, muscles tightening and pulling. I could see every vein in his body, grotesquely outlined beneath the skin. He then began to grow. I wasn’t sure at first, but it was happening. He bulged and lengthened. It looked like his skin wouldn’t contain the muscle underneath, but it did. It was hard to tell for sure, but I think he stopped at around eight feet tall. The ropes were slack enough so that he could stand now. He broke the thick lines with ease.
What used to be Chris now stood in the middle of a wary group, breathing deeply. It looked around a couple times then threw its head back and roared. There is no other word to describe what it did. It hadn’t screamed or yelled, it had roared. It was long and guttural. Once it was finished it sniffed around. When it moved its clothes ripped in little places. Later they would become rags. Then the thing turned and looked right where we had been hiding. The group looked with it.
“Who’s there?” asked one of the cloaked figures. We turned and bolted back up the hill while the group yelled and pursued us. The used-to-be-Chris thing roared again and charged after us. We made it to the top of the hill and in our panic, Mark ran in a different direction. To this day I’m not sure what became of him, but I still have hope that he made it out.
Behind us, the thing plowed through trees and members knocking everything out of his way. We arrived at camp and kept running. I remember picking up some of the still smoldering embers of the fire as I ran through it. The noise got closer and closer behind us as we ran. We shouldn’t have come this far in. We’ll never make it, I thought to myself.
About a mile back through the woods the noise stopped for a second. Ellie turned and slowed down just as I heard a tree fall. The thing picked it up with ease and hurled it right at her. It hit her with the force of a freight train and I watched her upper body get pulverized. I turned just in time to see it grab her still living remains and crush them beneath its hands. Something thick and dark ran between its fingers.
I ran faster as it began to close the distance. We were passing landmarks I recognized from the hike down as we got closer and closer to the car. Then I formed a painful stitch in my side and was limp-running through the woods. It made it all the easier for the thing to catch up to me. I heard its approach and knew it couldn’t have been more than fifteen-feet behind me when I could see the car. I felt in every part of me that I was about to collapse, but it was my only hope. Stitches in both sides racked my body as I made my desperate escape from the beast. In that last bit of underbrush before the road, I actually felt his fingers scrape my back. I almost fell and regained my balance when I crashed through the tree-line panting heavily. I scurried around the car and fumbled it open. I fell in the driver’s seat and gasped painfully.
I looked back in the trees expecting to see it fly out and flip the car. But it did no such thing. I scanned the forest and found it. Standing right where I was only moments before was a hulking abomination staring loathingly at the car. Its amber eyes stared out from the trees as some invisible force held it in. I flipped it the bird and closed my eyes. I’m so thankful for that barrier.
I spent the night in that car trying to recover from my four-mile sprint. I slept at some point and woke at the crack of dawn. I scanned the woods again but saw nothing. Only the carnage it had created in its fury. I thought of Ellie and wondered if I should get her body. No way. I’m not going back in. There might not even be a body left. She had been hit by a flying tree after all. Then I thought of Mark but brushed it off. The thing came for me and I had given him plenty of time to escape. I hope.
I started up the old car and drove straight through Paw Paw and didn’t stop until I got to my town of Wheeling. That’s where I sit now, seven years later, recounting the night that changed my life. I’m still scared of that thing. It’s always here. I always see his amber eyes, full of hate and murder. I see them in the dead of night. In the corner, out my window, anywhere they’ll fit. Those weren’t the eyes of my friend. They were that of the devil. I still wonder if Mark made it out. It’s been seven years and no contact, so my hope is starting to fade.
I try to keep up with the news from over east as much as I can. It’s hard with such a small town as Paw Paw. There have been five more groups of campers and three solo hikers that have disappeared in those woods. One of the groups went missing only last week. That’s why I’m writing here and now. I guess those folks just weren’t as lucky as I was.
Written by Samrev09