I am not drunk. I had only a few drinks to calm myself. To steady my nerves so I could tell you the whole story. Without the liquid courage; I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get through the more abominable parts of what happened. You must think me crazy telling you all this. I thought the old campesino was insane too when he told me at first. I should have listened to him, but of course I didn’t and now it’s too late. He is dead. I am not. I wish I could celebrate this fact, but I know that I will not be alive for much longer.
After you hear my story, you will know why the thought of rain sends chills down my spine and makes my heart pound in my chest. I was working with a non-profit organization in Nicaragua in the city of Esteli. I worked in a clinic with other local doctors. My job was to organize the patients and to provide treatment that might otherwise be overlooked. The local doctors had the training to diagnose and treat injuries, but they were woefully uneducated about mental illness and coping with trauma. I worked in a clinica in Esteli for one year without problems. I earned a name for myself as handling the mental cases that the doctors saw as being beneath their expertise. It was in one of these cases during early May that I first met the old man.
He lived a few miles outside of the city in a rural community. (Hence the slightly derogatory title of campesino, a term similar to hillbilly.) His daughter literally had to drag him into the clinic by the hand because of his pena/guilt of seeking help. The doctor spent five minutes with him before referring him to me. I sent his daughter out of the room so I could talk with him and see if I couldn’t find out what was the problem. He, of course, saw little reason to tell me the truth. The only thing I managed to learn was that he was anxious about something before he clammed up and left the counseling room. I figured that I couldn't force him to tell me and went about with my work.
I didn’t give much thought to the Viejo until one of his friends visited me a week later. My Spanish wasn’t perfect, but I managed to learn from his friend that the old man hadn’t been sleeping and wasn’t able to prepare the land for planting in the rainy season, which was only a week or so away. This was something serious as most campesinos will work on their land until the day they die. At his friend’s behest; I went to the community to visit the old man.
I followed his friend into the community on a beat-up school bus that had been re-purposed as a transit option. I spent an hour crammed against other commuters that stared at me like I was the only white person in existence as we slowly made our way through the hills. We arrived just before lunch and began the hike up to his house. During the winter, some farmers live up in the mountains so they can be close to their crops and protect them. The old man had a shack up in the mountains.
The Viejo was surprised by my visit, but his friend helped to smooth over the awkwardness of the situation. While he calmed him down, I observed the old man. His eyes were bloodshot and he had bags under his eyes like he hadn’t been able to sleep. He seemed agitated as well, but I wasn’t sure if that was because I was here or it was something else entirely. His friend left me with him to talk and find out what was happening. The man was quiet at first, but eventually began his story when it became clear that I wasn’t going to leave.
He told me that ten days ago was the first rain. I remembered the rain that pelted my apartment roof in Esteli viciously for a few hours before receding. Before the rainy season begins in mid-May, sometimes there are quick downpours that last only minutes. He had been preparing his house up in the mountains when the rain came. He decided to wait out the rain before heading down into the community. The rain lasted longer that he had hoped and he found himself sitting under his roof watching the sun sink behind the mountains. It was there that he became aware that he wasn’t alone.
He told me that he could have sworn he felt something watching him. He reasoned that it had been other productores/farmers that had been caught in the rain like him. They didn’t respond to his call, but he said that sometimes men are hesitant to be caught on other people’s property. When the rain died down, he grabbed his machete and went down the mountain. He didn’t expect anything more of the occurrence were it not for the dreams.
He told me that a day later he dreamt he was in the woods. He could see the trees around him and the rain falling off the leaves and cooling the air around him. The woods were dark, but he wasn’t afraid. He said that it wasn’t until he woke up that he realized this dream was different from the others. He whispered that in his dreams he was usually in third-person, but in this dream he was looking around the forest in first-person.
He had told his daughter of his experience, and she being superstitious took him into the clinic thinking it to be the work of a bruja/witch. I sympathized with him, knowing that holding local beliefs and superstitions sometimes brought out the ridicule of others who considered the myths to be tales only for country bumpkins. He noted that the dreams of being in the woods didn’t stop. In fact they became more frequent as winter approached.
He dreamt of moving through the woods stalking something. He noted that he only had these dreams when it was raining. He whispered that there was something about the way he moved that unsettled him. His gait was more like a lumbering plod. The dream culminated a few days ago when he came across a chancho/pig in his nightly foray. He watched as the pig squealed when he brought his big, meaty fist down on its head. He said in terror that the fist was almost as big as its head and it reduced the skull to a pulp similar to a rotten watermelon. It twitched spasmodically on the wet ground in death throes.
He confided that he now knew that it wasn’t him in the dream, but something else. It was something that was hunting in the forest. Whatever it was had killed the pig in a single blow with a heavy, hirsute fist. He said that he hadn’t been able to sleep after that dream. He was afraid of what he would see next. I told him the only thing that I could think of. That his dreams were just dreams. I didn’t take him seriously, but decided to leave the clinic number with him in case the dreams got worse.
I could tell he was disappointed that I didn’t believe him, but I had thought who could believe a story like that? You’d have to be insane to take dreams for reality. Right now I can tell that you don’t believe me. I’m not angry, seriously. I’m not. I hope that by the end, you will understand that what I am telling you is true. I hope to God that I will not share the fate of the old man, but I now think otherwise.
I returned to Esteli with a story to tell all my co-workers. There is no such thing as doctor patient confidentiality and chisme/gossip reigns supreme. I thought nothing of the man’s tale. It was something brought about after a night of binge drinking or horror movies. He was over-imaginative and nothing more. He’d probably never call and eventually the dreams would go away. I continued with this line of thinking for a few days until one of the nurses told me that I had a message. It was of course from the old man.
I went into the backroom and played the message. After listening to it, I played it again. Then again. Each time my heart beat faster and my stomach dropped lower. This was as best as I could translate it. Forgive me if the translation seems a little garbled. He wasn’t necessarily talking clearly or concisely when he made the call. It went, "I dreamt again last night. Oh Christ blood, I looked through that thing’s eyes again. That creature is out there in the woods. I saw what it saw. JesuCristo, I saw my cabin! It was so close! It’s coming for me. It’s hunting me! I don’t know what to do. For God’s sake help me!”
I called in the nurse to ask when the call was made. She informed me that it was only a few days old. I played the message for her and she blanched. She realized the urgency of the message. I asked if she had received any more calls from him, but she had not. I broke one of the rules of the clinic and used my cell phone to call the number. There was no answer. I called again and a third time, but met with the same results. He clearly needed medical/mental assistance.
I felt like I was responsible for what had happened. I reasoned that he had lost his marbles and was now too frightened to go outside. His dreams had gotten worse. I searched the pharmacy in the clinic and couldn’t find what I needed so I went to an outside source I knew and picked up a few Valium. (I’m no saint. I have my vices too.) I had decided I was going to go to the community and find the old man. I’d calm him down with some Valium and then convince him to seek some serious psychiatric help. What a fool I was.
I arrived in the community at ten in the morning and began to ask around for the old man’s whereabouts. Most people’s interest was piqued that a gringo was visiting and after a few misleading conversations in which I was directed to a young girl’s house in a vain attempt to play match-maker, I managed to run into his daughter. She recognized me from the clinic and asked why I was visiting. I lied and said that it was procedure to check up on people that came in and I needed to speak to the Viejo.
She believed my story and told me that he had gone up to his house in the mountain to be closer to his crops so he could protect them from deer and less scrupulous farmers who would steal his beans and corn. She told me that the Viejo went up into the mountains at the start of winter and wouldn’t come down until harvest. At one o’clock, I decided to go up to the old man’s shack and try to help him.
I did my best to remember the path I had taken with his friend, but I must have got turned around somewhere because I arrived a few hours later around three o’clock. The sky had gone from gray to black. Thunder rolled in the distance. I just wanted to find the old man and get him off the mountain and try to calm him down. With luck, we would avoid most of the rain. I reached his house just as the first droplets began to fall.
The door was open. I wasn’t worried yet. It was common for people to leave their doors open in the campo. Most spent their time in front of their houses or in the back with their door open to welcome in guests. I called out to the old man, but didn’t get a response. I called louder and approached the small house. Something didn’t feel right, but I shut away the thought. The old man was probably in the woods nearby cutting wood to cook his dinner or something. I told myself this as I approached the cabin. I stood in the doorway and it was there that I knew that my gut instinct had been right. The words, "Oye Viejo!” died on my lips as I looked over the ravaged room.
What little was in the room had been scattered about like there had been a micro-hurricane localized inside. His wooden table was flipped over and the plastic chairs had been hurled about the room. The hammock had been torn from the support beam and laid on the ground. The support beam was cracked and it looked like it could fall any second. The room was spartan at best, but it looked like nothing was left untouched in the struggle. The most disturbing thing in that room was the machete that was buried into wooden wall.
It took three pulls to remove it from the wall. It had bit deep and whoever had swung it was definitely panicked about something. I didn’t have much experience, but I knew that whoever had ravaged the house was dangerous and I didn’t want to meet them without something in my hand. The sound of rain pounding the tin roof pulled my attention away from the disheveled room. I looked out the door and saw the rain coming down in sheets. Winter was here and it had no intention of letting up. I could barely see a few feet in front of me in the heavy downpour. I wouldn’t be able to find the path back to the community. I would be stuck up here until the rain passed.
I passed the time looking around the one room building. He used the hammock as a bed and there were a few stones on the floor with two metal pieces across the top and ashes beneath that he had used as a makeshift stove. Like many of the houses in the community, he had dirt floors. On closer examination, I found that the dirt had been clawed and displaced at spots. I followed the path as it started in the middle of the room and worked its way to the door. It was in the doorway that I found something that made me want to run screaming into the night.
In the doorway, buried in the wood were three human nails. These nails had to belong to the old man. Something had come into his cabin and they struggled. In the process; they did all the damage that I surveyed. The old man had been knocked down and dragged through the door. He had dug his nails into the doorpost in a vain attempt to keep himself grounded, but whoever was pulling him was too strong. He had broken his finger nails off in the door. I remember shouting, "Fuck this!” as I went out into the rain. There was no way I was going to stay in that small house a minute longer than necessary.
The rain had lightened up and my visibility in the rain had drastically improved. I could now see about one hundred feet in front of me. Through the pounding rain, I looked at the trail which was now swamped with water. Rivers of rain poured down the mountain and washed downward. There was no way I would be able to make it down the mountain without slipping and probably breaking my neck. I had to stay until the torrential downpour lessened.
The rain continued as night fell. I killed time by toying with the machete. It was one of the types specifically designed for cutting firewood, but the curved top had snapped and it seemed more like a foot long knife. I left the machete by the door and sat down in the hammock. I lost myself listening to the sound of rain pounding on the tin. I began to entertain the thought that I would be stuck up in these mountains until morning. I wouldn’t have any problems sleeping in the hammock, but I preferred my bed to a hammock and my room took preference over a cabin in which an old man was drug out by force. I got out of the hammock for the fifth time to look out at the rain and see if my streak of bad luck would end any time soon. It only got worse.
I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I could have sworn I saw something in the shadows of the woods. It didn’t move, but it didn’t mix in with the uniformity of the trees. My breath caught in my throat as I began to entertain thoughts that the old man had been right all along. I stood frozen in the doorway, watching the thing in the woods as if breaking eye contact would cause it to move. In the darkness, it just looked like a man standing in the woods. I couldn’t even tell if he was facing my cabin or away from it.
A peal of lightning confirmed my worst fears. I caught only a glimpse of it, but a glimpse was all I needed to let out a scream. It was tall. It had to have been eight feet tall. Its arms sank down to its knees and it was completely covered in matted hair. Its teeth were bared in something that looked to be between a grimace of pain and the knife-sliced smile of a sadistic man. The brief flash of light died, but that image will be burned into my memory until the day of my death. Coincidentally, I may not have to wait long until then.
I stood paralyzed in the doorway. A thought occurred to me as I stood there. I realized that if I made the slightest movement as if to run away, it would attack. I remained there; watching it, and it watching me. Seconds passed like minutes and minutes passed like hours. The ache set in after a few minutes of remaining completely motionless, but I buried it and soldiered on. The machete was just inches away from my hand. I glanced at it, wondering if I could get it in my hand without attracting the ire of the beast. There was another peal of thunder and when I looked back, it was gone.
I thought that seeing it was bad enough, but when it was gone; I couldn’t help, but imagine it breathing down my neck. Not knowing where it was now was one hundred times worse. I scanned the shadows in the downpour, but could find shadowy figure watching me. I knew it was still nearby and it was very focused on me, but I couldn’t pinpoint its exact location. The sound of a stick breaking behind me alerted me to its position. It was behind the house now. How did it move so quickly? It had stood stone still for minutes and then in the blink of an eye, it was behind the house.
I said a silent prayer to the God I never acknowledged up until this point. I prayed that I would leave this rundown shack alive. There was nothing else I could do, but pray. There was only one door into the house. It was searching for other entrances. Another stick snapped a few feet to the left of the last noise and I knew that it was moving. It was circling around to the front! I had to keep it out if I didn’t want to suffer the same fate as the old man.
I slammed the door shut and slid the bolt across. The bolt was held in by a few nails in the rotten wood. It was not the sturdiest of barricades. I could hear the creature breathing just inches away from the door. My heart was close to exploding out of my chest. The rain was weakening. I waited for it to try and enter the rundown shack, but the longer I waited with my breath dying in my chest; the more I realized that it probably wasn’t going to try- Bang! The creature struck the door and by sheer luck, the door held. The impact sent waves of recoil energy resonating through my now bruised shoulder. One hinge popped out of the wood and the bolt bent, but held fast.
The rain was now just a patter on the roof. The creature gave a low inhuman groan and began to walk away. I couldn’t figure out why until I recalled the old man’s words. He said that he only dreamt of the creature when it was raining. He only saw it in the first rain. The creature had some connection to the rain! Did it only hunt in the rain? I waited in the silence and listened to the sound of water dripping off the roof into the soaked ground. I decided then and there that I would go down the mountain in the dark because if the rain picked up again, it would return for me. I fled into that dark night tripping and falling and didn’t stop until I reached the village.
I was taken in by a concerned villager, but no matter how hard he pressed the topic, he couldn’t get me to talk. They say that they found a dent on the door bearing no mark of a human hand. He wanted to hear about how the old man was doing, but I knew to open up about that would break the floodgates open and it would drive me insane. I was awake the entire night and I caught the first bus into Esteli in the morning. You are probably wondering why I am so terrified? I escaped and now it should only be a matter of avoiding the mountains. You know nothing! You wanted to learn why I get so panic-stricken at the first sign of dark clouds?
That night, as I listened to the rain, I drifted off. I was always unable to resist the sound of rain hitting a zinc roof. I dreamt. Oh God, the things I dreamt! I saw something moving through the woods. It grabbed a tree and I saw its hairy fingers wrap completely around the tree trunk. It scaled the tree with ease. The thick tree creaked under its weight, but stayed upright. It crested the tree and look out over its domain. There were woods all around it. The creature looked Northward and through its eyes, I saw Esteli. The creature dropped down to the ground and began to head in that direction. It was heading towards me!
The old man was right! It was stalking him in his dreams. It was now stalking me. It would find me eventually. I could run, but it would always find me. The rain! It only moved in the rain. It wouldn’t stop until it found me and did to the old man what it did to the Viejo. You wanted to know why dark clouds make me tremble and the thought of rain makes me want to piss my pants? It’s because I know that the next rain, it will draw closer and closer to me. And today it looks like the heaviest rain yet.
Written by EmpyrealInvective