“Daddy! Look at all the trees!” said the little girl, to her father. She was my entire life. Everything else had been taken by the witch when she left me.
“Aw that’s great sweetie… ARNOLD! Do you or do you not know where we’re going?!” the staticky voice yelled at me. Her voice took me out of my happy place—all the memories I had here with my family and friends, which made me happy that my special little girl would have the opportunity to experience this place as I did—though sadly, more importantly that bitch broke my concentration and I nearly swerved off the road. Trying to compensate, I made a hard left and hit a massive tree.
“Are you ok Melanie?” I looked back scared for my daughter’s life to see her face briefly covered with a shocked expression. She then looked up and a wily smile overcame the previous emotion as she let out a loud cheer. “Do it again, Daddy! Woohoo!” I sighed in relief, knowing she was alright.
“YOU IDIOT!” screamed my ex-wife Karen who had begun to let out a barrage of profanity at me, when I clicked the red button on my phone. Sighing, this time I was in for it.
Melanie could tell, “Uh, oh…” she said. I smiled weakly and told my pride and joy to stay in the car—I’d handle her bitch mother alone.
Karen was following us with her own car. She pulled up behind my slightly damaged car and got out to continue her rant. In the passenger seat, sat my “replacement”, Conner. He was the type of man, your wife runs away with because she isn’t in the mood to play house. This was the type of man that pretended to be a rough, rugged, and romantic individual that fancied Martial arts, guns, cigars, travelling, and the outdoors and bragging as much as possible about being the best at them and knowing everything about them, even though I always caught him in the lie. I despised him and his knock-off “Dos Equis, the most amazing man in the world” persona.
The mouth on his play-thing began to sound-off, but I blocked her out until she was waiting for a response. “You know Karen, you shouldn’t yell at the driver of a vehicle once he’s trying to do his thing on rough terrain—”
I was interrupted by Conner trying to give me driver’s lessons. “Rough terrain, pft. You should try driving a semi on an iced over lake up in Alaska, I have and did it with incident.”
“I can handle the roads, just not her mouth,” I said as I point at Karen’s face. Before I could get a response form either, I go to get Melanie from my dented car and tell them we’re within walking distance anyway.
Conner tried to take Melanie from me, but instead I handed him my keys and said, “Why don’t you move it out of the street, Ice-Road-Trucker?” Karen got Jake from the other car and all five of us continue down the dirt road into the dense forest. Jake wasn’t my son. He was Karen’s first husband’s child.
But at one point I would’ve called him my son, but ever since the divorce and the introduction of Conner, I’ve lost him. Jake used to love outdoor walks, building model-everything, and helping me take care of his baby sister but now all he does includes his phone, earbuds, groaning, and complaining. As we walked I tuned out the combined noise from my ex’s nagging, Mr. Interesting’s bogus stories, and Jake’s stuck-up indifference to it all, as I cradle Melanie asleep in my arms and brought back the memories I made here.
I was about five when my parents first brought me here. Not much to remember besides catching my first fish, much to Dad’s pride, and getting poison ivy to Mom’s dismay. I remember also impressing my father by how tough I was: I didn’t cry when the itching reached its peak, but only Mom knew my secret. The way she attended to the rash with a thorough rinse, and much needed lotion, followed by a soothing song to calm my sobs did most of the work. This was my first memory.
Next I remember hanging out with my friend Tom, back when I was in grade school. We used to shoot our Nerf, toy guns out in these woods and have a blast. But because of just how vast it were, we never did recover all of our ammo and that’s how we met a new friend. One day when we visited the woods, I came across some off the darts we’d lost in a battle the day before.
We both thought it was strange how some animal had only chewed off the tips of the darts and not eaten the whole thing. After all, it’s not like they tried one and decided they didn’t like it, because we found like 20 of them like that. Without the tips. Well, as we searched around, we found a big storm drain, covered in the average, urban-graffiti you’d expect, but on the inside it was adorned with strange symbols. We weren’t afraid, partly due to ignorance and partly due to thinking we were invincible, so we went further in.
Inside there was a big, hollow, and seemingly dug out by hand, section of the tunnels that held in its center, a big, glistening pool of dark liquid. Crudely built torches lit the room with their crackling flames. In the midst of the pool, there was what looked like to us a big stone table. We were set on climbing that rock, but the stench was unbearable and both of us retreated from the place and vowed to return later with some other scent, but before we left, we both swore to keep this place secret.
Later that day, as the animals of the forest began to settle down for sleep and fill the dark air with their many sounds, we entered the lair with cans of air-freshener. This time we weren’t alone. As we entered the room, we began spraying away and soon after, had depleted them, we began remarking on whether we were happy with the end result. Suddenly from the darkness of the pool, arose something from under the surface.
Neither of us could see it because it was on the other side of the rock table. We held our breaths for a second, thinking it was our imagination, then we both jumped as we heard the loud and sickening sound of something snorting and the subsequent sound of liquid splashing. Me and Tom, began to slowly back away. Our pacing, turned into running as we heard something slowly smell the air and then smack its tongue.
From behind the walls of the entrance way, we heard a voice ask us if we “had finished with that smell.” We didn’t respond, but the thing continued, “I know you two are there,” it said slowly, “Come out already, and maybe we can get to know each other...” Tom had had enough and ran away but I walked into the room and slowly made my way around the alter. My nostrils burned. Then something leaped from the liquid and turned to me. I screamed. It stood much taller than I, on double jointed legs. The thing grabbed me, kneeled down, and held me close to its chest. I began to scream from its stench and begged it to let me go. It did, and the putrid smell had disappeared.
But I stood covered in that black liquid, but strangely didn’t mind. “Now that’s better, sit down and let's chat.” Something was clearly wrong—I couldn’t feel fear and I was actually complying with its request. We were silent for a while. Soon, my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could behold my host. His face was not... human but something like it. He had two long and curly horns on his head, and long claws, which he used to scratch a rhythm on the ground. It was soothing, like my mother's songs, so soothing I stayed for hours, and told him all about my life, interests, and parents.
Soon, I had run out of thing to say and asked it if he’d like to tell me about himself, but he only looked up and suddenly stopped his rhythmic clawing, and said, “Next time, but now I think your parents would very much like to see you again… Oh and please wash yourself in the creek. It was nice getting to know you Arnold and I’m sorry your friend couldn’t stay,” he chuckled, “maybe next time...” Once he had finished speaking, my heart was filled with a sudden and mysterious horror, and I ran out of the tunnel screaming.
My parents had called the police and they had been searching through the darkened forest all night, when I showed up back at my house my parents were so worried but happy to see me. The police were there, and so was Tom and his parents. I had taken a dip in the creek as he had asked, but my clothes were still stained black and smelled putrid, but I never told them where I had gone, or what had happened… and Tom silently agreed, and kept the reluctant secret.
I had visited him from then on. Tom never came though. He refused to and I didn’t much care anyway. I had a new friend. I’d visit and spend the whole time sharing snacks with him, telling him my troubles, and hearing his stories. Sometimes he’d say words I didn’t know, or make noises I didn’t understand. He’d strangely, always eat only the tips of whatever snacks I brought. I asked him why and he told me because that was his name, Tips with a "y".
One day I asked Typs where was his family? He said that he and all his "kind" lived in these forests for a long time, long before the tunnels were made, back when people walked around naked and used sticks and stones, but now they were all gone, and he said that my "kind" did it. He also said that most people that see him now, are scared and run away. “They don’t like me, for what I am and do.” I asked did he have any other friends, and he told me a story of how he used to have a lot of weird friends that would dress naked and do strange things, but treat him very nice and would bring him lots of food, and he’d let them live in the tunnels with him. I asked what had happen to them? Typs told me one day, they were acting strange and hurt themselves, and then they all disappeared and went away.
I asked were they kids too? He said no, that most of them were teenagers and older, but he’d had friends like me before. I asked where’d they’d gone, but he never answered. All throughout grade school, past middle school, and even into high school I came back to visit and we both grew up together. But it wasn’t ‘til later I became aware of the truth.
The sharp sound of zip-ties being secured awoke me from my memories. The ropes had been done before and some of my best knots were employed, and I’m willing to bet that some would rival any boy-scout’s work. Jake was behind me sobbing…
Conner and I had pitched the tents earlier, hours after we should’ve, due to him taking over the project and screwing it up. “They're broken!” he declared. I proved him wrong after a quick glance at the instruction and a total of 10 minutes for both. I had laid down Melanie for bed and invited the woodsman and Mrs. Trap, to join me for an adults only walk. Karen was reluctant as usual, but Conner actually convinced her, saying he’d, “fend off any trouble.” I always knew he was just a tool. Before we set off, Jake exited the tent and surprisingly wanted to come along too.
Karen and Conner scoffed the idea, but I allowed him to join. “He’s 16, so might as well be an adult.”
Now we were all in front of the very same drain I had first seem with Tom. Jake was standing with me, still sobbing and holding his hurt eye, but no less loyal. Karen and Conner… well they were in the water stream tied up and gagged. Both were fidgeting and trying to scream with the clothes in their mouths. I had yet again called Conner’s bluff, the struggle he put up was nothing like martial arts, but contained just as many screams.
More surprising though, was how quiet Karen was, well she does have a gag on, so. I gather up some nearby dry wood and poured the can of lighter fluid I had brought on along on the pile of wood and lit it with Conner’s cigar lighter. I pulled up a nearby log, sat down, and beckoned for Jake to join me. His eyes were full of tears as he yelled at me, “Why are you doing this?!”
I looked up and said, “Now Jake, I’m sorry about your eye but you know I don’t like having what I’m doing interrupted by screams, isn’t that right Karen? Now sit down, I want to tell you a story before our guest arrives—”
I was interrupted, “What guest, are you crazy? We’re all alone in the middle of the woods—”
I retort with a stern voice, “Jake, I know we haven’t been getting along for a while, and I regret that, but whether either one of us want to admit it, I AM your father and YOU ARE my son, and you know very well I expect nothing but respect and for you to do what I ask. You will sit down or I’ll make you.” He looked at me with disbelief and with the slightest of tears dripping down his shocked face, he sat cross-legged on the ground across from me.
As I smiled and opened my mouth to begin my story, a voice echoed from the tunnel. “You’ve made a wise choice, is everything ready Arnold?” Jake jumped up and fell back. In fear he tried to crawl on his back away from the tunnel, but I commanded him to be still, and still quaking violently, he stayed put. “I was just about to tell our little tale, would you like to join in?”
A grievous, and thundering laughing echoed from the tunnel, and a reply billowed out, “Of course, you start then...”
“Well once upon a time…” I couldn’t take it, that line was too much for the both of us, me and my guest filled the night with laughter as the totality of my son’s and the two tied up faces had the color sucked from them, leaving only whiteness. “Me and you mother dated in this very same park. We met here for the first time at her sweet sixteen, and we fell in love. The two of us would come here often and to get intimate…”
The voice picked up my line, “But then one day love’s arrow had pierced another’s heart and Karen fell for another man. Oh so tragic.”
I chimed in, “And no, it’s not the asshole that she’s with now, but seems she never outgrew her tendencies, and her taste for douche-bags.”
It continued, “Yes, I would seem that your father’s lifelong friend, poor little Tommy, not only liked to abandon his friends but get caught with their girlfriends years later,” it roared that last line in anger.
“Yeah, that’s right, and that bitch, over there begged for me back, and like a fool,” caught up in anger I failed to finish the line. “He took her back, against my advice, but there was one person who he couldn’t forgive. One thing that was unforgivable. There was somebody that needed punishment. And that was our dear Tommy.”
“So then one time in college I caught word of a Kegger going on in these very woods, you know the ones with alcohol? Well I knew Tom wouldn’t be able to resist, so I invited him to go along with me, as an olive branch of peace. Like pacing the peace pipe. Like signing a whole Goddamn treaty. I avoided the booze all night long, and then when Tommy wasn’t able to stand by himself, I guided him to this place…”
From the darkness of the tunnel, the voice announced its turn had begun with a dramatic claw to the concrete. “The very same place where years ago, as children, young Thomas had abandoned your dad his best friend, in my home. And it was beautiful: the initial, drunk nostalgia, then the pain, then the screaming, then the tasty little snack I feasted on that night! I painted the walls of my home with his blood.”
“And ever since then, no one remember Thomas A. Horn but me, his family, maybe some files in the local precinct, and who can forget good old Typs. That son is a true story, and well… “ Climbing upside down and emerging from the tunnel, a tall beast that had a build similar to a man came out. The thing was sporting double jointed legs, a furry body stained and dripping with black liquid, and to top it off having two fleshy wings perched on its back and two goat-like horns at the crown of its skull. It leaped from its position at the top of the drain, beyond Jake and landed next to its victims.
“Something like that is going to occur tonight. Could I interest any of my guests with some? It’d be rude for me to eat without offering.” He grabbed both of them by their hair and wrapped their bindings around his wrist then began dragging them into his lair.
”Thanks Typs, but me and Jake have just experienced an attack by a bear while out camping, and we’re going to head back to camp to get Melanie and get the hell out of dodge. But enjoy your meal!” I grabbed my son by the arm and helped him up, then holding him by the shoulders I began leading him toward the camp.
Both Conner and Karen began to scream through their gags, causing Jake to freak out and try to run toward them. I couldn’t stop him as he bumped Typs out of the way and grabbed his mother by the bindings. Typs growled and threw him back almost ten feet, his arm and partially his chest had large cuts on them from Typs’ claws. I ran over and pinned him down, and yelled at him. “Boy, I’d listen to your father if I were you. I have no qualms with adding to my meal. Now go, both of you.” I got Jake up and carried him over my shoulder toward the camp as Typs began to tear one of them limb from which intensified their gagged screams.
“Oh and Boy…” Typs called out as we left. “Don’t worry,” he was interrupted by the intense, but sudden crack of Conner’s skull under his massive palms. “Unlike him, I’ll make sure she goes quickly.” As we continued Typs began the slow, rhythmic clawing of the concrete, which soothed Karen enough for her to stop screaming, then the last thing we heard was a loud crack and Jake went limp in my arms.
I got into the camp and quickly grabbed Melanie in my other arm and ran to the car. I put both my sleeping children in the back seat, and pulled out my cell phone to alert the authorities of our distress. I typed in 911 into my phone, but before I hit send, Jake hazily said, “Dad?”
I turned, surprised and asked, “Yes son?”
He looked me in the eyes, “He’ll make it quick? How do you know?”
I smiled and put a blanket over him, “Don’t worry son, it’s all over and we’ll be a family again soon... It’s because he always begins with and only ever eats the tips.” I started the engine then sent the call as I pulled onto the road.
Since then me, Jake, and Melanie have never been better. It was a difficult adjustment for them. It should be expected by the traumatic loss they suffered. But make no mistake, Typs wasn't doing me a favor, he was making a deal. And every deal has a cost. I have but one regret from what happened in the forest that night and it wasn't what I had him do, but what he did it for.This one, terrible expense—one I hope to default on if possible, will tear what's left of my family apart if cashed in, and quite literally in a violent manner, if I refuse to hold up my end of the bargain. The forest is a lonely place, and my old friend is in need of some company. I hope to God she'll forgive me one day. The day, when the time comes and Typs expects his bride, and children of his own.
Written by RayW0