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Do Not Continue over One Mile up the Path

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It was a normal camping trip. Was. My friends Malachi, Eric and myself went up into the wilderness outside Estes Park. At the trailhead, there were no cars in the parking lot and a piece of laminated paper nailed to one of the trees. "DO NOT CONTINUE MORE THAN ONE MILE UP THE PATH." The words were written by a clean hand in large, block letters.

We assumed this was an old sign put up after the massive flood that damaged many trails a few years back. About a mile up the trail, the next sign appeared. Same sort of thing: laminated paper, clean block letters. But this one was a little less explainable. "THIS AREA UNDER CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE." Thick forest all around, no cameras, cables, or anything manmade in sight. Well, other than the path cleared through the trees and the laminated signs. The trail was fine, so if it was damaged by the floods, it had been repaired, so we continued. Another mile up, we found another sign.

This one was torn, showing only a few letters: "TURN- REV-" The tear was ragged, and four cuts of the same shape showed on the bark of the large spruce. The marks were almost an inch deep, and oozed fresh sap. We were beginning to get uneasy. Eric fished the bear spray out of his pack. We came to a consensus that bears probably wouldn't bother us and trodded further up the trail, Eric swiveling around nervously with the spray in his hand. It was getting dark and we needed to find a place to camp.

About a quarter of a mile further up, we came to a small clearing and decided this was as good as a place as any. While Malachi and I were setting up, Eric watched for bears. Suddenly, a rustling noise came out of the trees, followed by a loud, quick yelp, a clatter, and another, louder rustling noise at the other side of the clearing. We spun around quickly.

"Jesus!" I heard Malachi yell.

Eric was gone, the can of bear spray resting against a rock. A series of large scuff marks led from the spot Eric had stood to the trees. No new footprints were anywhere, other than the solitary pair left by Eric, which meant that whomever—or whatever—had stolen Eric had launched itself out of the trees, grabbed him, and dragged him into the forest in less than one second, covered a distance of about fifteen feet, and did so without touching the ground.

"What the fuck...?" I asked nobody in particular.

Malachi was shuddering and sitting on the ground, babbling about how "it took him" and that "we're next." I pulled him to his feet and we ran. A load roar echoed through the forest, sounding like an air raid siren crossed with a wolf's howl. A rustling followed us up the path in the trees to the right, then suddenly passed over to the left and stopped. Malachi's hand jerked in mine and pulled for a second, then came back to normal.

"Malachi, you okay man? You trip?" I yelled back. No response. "Malachi?" I realized there were no footsteps running with me.

I stopped. "M-Malachi?" I slowly turned around. Malachi's hand was still in mine. Only his hand. Wrenched off at the wrist, dark red blood steadily dripped off the severed appendage onto the dirt path. I screamed and dropped the hand.

The leaves began moving off to the right. I froze, waiting for... whatever the fuck this thing was... to grab me too. Only it didn't jump out. It strolled out. It stood about eight feet tall at the hip. All six hips. Six hips that led down into graceful, horse-like limbs that ended in three-toed feet with sharp claws. The body was deer-like, with the three pairs of legs spaced evenly across and a long, slender tail stretching far back into the forest. The head was crocodile-like with three sets of eyes, perched on a long, S-shaped neck. The neck stretched down to meet my eye level. I could see its jaws were red with blood. It croaked out something that sounded extremely similar to human speech. "Leave."

It didn't have to tell me twice. I bolted, waiting to feel the jaws on the back of my neck. They never came. I turned as I ran and saw it. Standing there, watching me. It took me over twelve hours to stumble back to the trailhead, disoriented and exhausted.

As the sun began to rise, I came across the "THIS AREA UNDER CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE" sign. As I came up behind the tree, I noticed words on the back of the sign in a much smaller, lightly colored font. I tore the sign off the nail and nearly shit myself. The text read, "But not by anything human."

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