before you read this i want you to know it’s a true story. this really happened to me. one time me and my friends were out hunting in a big forest in our home country of australia and i saw a huge monster it had arms and legs like a human but it defiantly was not a human.. it was what i would consider the very most fritening moment of my life. i told my friends that i seen a monster and they did not belive it until they heard it raw from the forest depths. then we split up to look for it because we had guns and could easily fight it
. . . . .
“Wait. Michael, this is the best you can do?” In my hands I grasped a page of smudged and scribbled writing, barely legible, and barely readable. I didn’t need to read past the first two paragraphs to know it was garbage. “This is 11th Grade English buddy. Your writing should be leagues better than this.” I tried to continue the story, but decided not to over fear of losing all respect for the daft young man that stood in front of me.
“Oh come on, Sir!" he whined, "This is English Studies. This is the class we elected so we didn’t have to put in any effort.” He tried to weasel his way out of doing work, like he always did. Every day. I was fucking sick of it.
Come to think of it, I didn’t have a whole lot of respect left for the little shit anyways. “Michael, I don’t care if this is Standard English, Advanced English, Extension English or English Studies. So long as I am your teacher, you will put in the correct amount of effort. Now take this story back to your desk, throw it out, and rewrite me something that isn’t absent of character development and a decent plot.”
“I don’t give a fuck sir!”
“Excuse me Michael but that language is-”
“I’m only going to be a mechanic when I leave this piece of shit school anyway! In what world do I need to be able to write stories good anyway?”
“Michael, please shut the hell up and sit down!” I yelled.
“Wow sir, I thought you were almost going to tell me to shut the fuck up!” Michael gleamed as the students around him chuckled.
“Michael, that language is not-“
“Because we all know that my father would love to hear how I am getting verbally abused by my English teacher,” he interrupted. “That would be quite the scene at the Parent-Teacher interviews tonight.”
The class went quiet. Michael's father was just as much of a loose cannon as his son; and had a well-earnt reputation for violent outbursts at school events.
I swallowed my pride and put on a fake smile just for the shit of a kid that stood in front of me. “I am sure your father and I will have a lovely conversation about your progress in class and your attitude towards learning. Now I will reinstate the fact that your story deserves a place in the bin more so than a mouldy apple. So sit down, write a decent story, and be quiet for some time.”
Michael, obviously disappointed at the fact that he could not intimidate me, did exactly as I asked of him.
"Remember our writing tools Michael; please be C.A.R.E.F.U.L." I motioned to a massive poster, prominent on the wall beside the white board. It was an acrostic poem I had created for the class.
Concise (make your point clear)
Articulate (express ideas without unneccesary ramble)
Realistic (in relation to the actions of characters)
Emotive (make the reader care about your characters)
Foolproof (dig no plot holes - ensure plot comes full circle)
Unhackneyed (be original)
Literate (make sure spelling and grammar is correct)
I was proud of it, but it seemed my class paid no attention to it. And that is a regular lesson in 11th Grade English Studies at Bowral High School. Granted, English Studies was a non-ATAR subject so there were no exams, and everyone who elected the subject was either planning to drop out, too lazy to do work, or generally stupid. I was supposed to be teaching Advanced and Extension English, but it was my first year working here and the staff weren’t too keen on letting a newcomer take the reins. Either way I had made it through one semester, and tonight was my first Parent-Teacher Interview at the school.
. . . . .
All the interviews went well, and I met a range of parents and personalities. Some parents took their children’s learning more seriously than I do, and some parents were less enthusiastic about their children’s learning than their children were. However, the last minute booking was what made me stay later than most other teachers; Max McInnis. Michael’s father. Whilst I hate to admit it, I was a little nervous. I had heard the stories, and his reputation preceded him. Eventually I convinced myself all would be well, and that Max couldn't possibly be the monster that my fellow colleagues had described, even if he did try to fight the school principal last year.
I was reviewing Michael’s homework when his father entered. The man paced like a predator; each step was methodical and meaningful. His clothes were well worn, but tattered to a degree that almost made them fashionable. His head consisted of thick dark hair that slicked back over his scalp and hung to his shoulders. His hair continued down onto his face in the form of a beard, which concealed all but the menacing eyes that fixated on me as if I was his prey. The chiselled nose that twitched ever so slightly as if he had picked up on my scent of Joop aftershave and freshly dry cleaned clothes.
With a big smile on his face, he extended his paw-like hand to shake mine and said; “G’day Mr. Tyrell!” The man spoke in such a kind and gentle voice it took me by surprise. I met his hand with mine and we shook them.
I always tell my students to not judge a book by its cover. It seems as if I failed to follow my own advice. The man’s personality was the exact opposite of what his physical appearance displayed. We spoke for a few minutes about his son's learning. He seemed oblivious to Michael’s distaste in English and his disrespect towards me. Max seemed almost shocked, and said his son would ‘receive a nice scold’.
“I am sorry buddy. His mom passed a few years ago and I am working constantly on my farm, I just don’t see him that much. He was always a little shit, but I have left him to his own devices for too long. I don’t know where his respect has gone, and I don’t know where his motivation has gone. But I will find it, and I will bring it back to him,” Max sighed to himself, as if he knew his attempts would only be in futility.
“I know how it is mate,” I said. “Actually I grew up on a farm myself. I loved to go hunting, still have my old rifle locked away somewhere.”
Max’s eyes seemed to lighten up. “What calibre is she?”
“Oh, nothing big. I just have a 17 HMR.”
“Do you use it often?” He asked, his interest obviously piqued at the new topic of conversation.
“Not since I moved here,” I replied. “So much land out here to hunt on but it’s all privately owned. I don’t know anyone who owns property though.”
“You know me,” he said, smugly. “I’d be glad to take you out hunting with a few of my mates. Michael will be furious but honestly, I couldn’t give a shit. Damn it’d probably help the little rascal pull his head in!”
“Haha! I couldn’t impose on you.”
“Bullshit! You aren’t imposing, I go out hunting every weekend anyway. You’ll get to meet a few of the lads from town, and we can blast a few bunnies and kangaroos. You can’t pass it up.”
I sat there silently for a few seconds, pondering whether to take him up on his offer. I’m not usually the type to hang out with people I barely knew, but then again it was also a good opportunity to meet some new people. Ultimately I decided it was a good idea. What was the worst that could happen? “What day is good for you?”
“Tomorrow night, it's Saturday so that really suits everyone I suppose.”
“That’s good,” I said. “Where abouts do you go hunting? Where do you want me to meet you?” “We have a little spot just outside of Belanglo State Forest,” Max said.
My heart sunk, and I felt a shudder of dread run up my spine. The kind that makes you queasy and send tingles through your face and hands. I had to readjust my position in the chair just to feel comfortable enough to continue the conversation.
“It that good with you?” Max asked, obviously seeing that I was a bit shaken.
“No it’s fine,” I said. “Just a bit of an ironic place to go hunting.”
“All that shit happened years ago mate!” Max barked, his voice raised a little and he was visibly frustrated. “Don’t tell me you are scared of a fucking incarcerated serial killer!” His voice raised a little more this time, border-lining on an aggressive shout.
“No,” I stuttered. I was taken aback by his sudden change of tone. Maybe I deserved it, digging up old wounds that the town has obviously tried to bury and forget. “That was immature of me. I-I’m happy to come out.”
Max smiled, and he returned to his happy and bubbly self. “That’s great mate! Just meet us at the entrance to the forest by the big sign at about 6:30 tomorrow night.”
The thing is, Belanglo State Forest is the site of a number of grisly serial murders committed by Australia’s most prolific serial killer; Ivan Milat.
Ivan Milat was the inspiration for the frankly terrible film; ‘Wolf Creek’. In real life he was the killer of seven backpackers between the years between 1989 and 1993. He would pick them up, kill them, and bury their mutilated corpses in Belanglo State Forest. It is even theorized that he hunted a number of his victims through the forest as if they were animals.
In prison he cut off his own little finger with a plastic knife with the intent of mailing it to the high court. For some reason, there are specific people who admire this man. They believe he is admirable, iconic, relatable. Granted, he went on a hunger strike and lost roughly 25 kilograms in an attempt to gain access to a Play Station for his cell. I guess I can admire his determination in that scenario, but that's a different story.
Ivan Milat is in prison, but it's no doubt that his legacy still remains here. They can lock away the killer, but they can't protect the world from what he has already done. So yes, I felt a little uncomfortable with going to the place in which seven or more people were murdered, even if it was just for a fun night out.
Nevertheless, come Saturday evening, I cleaned my rifle, sighted it in and took off to Belanglo State Forest.
. . . . .
I pulled my car off the road, parking close to the tree line; out of sight. Soon after, Max turned up and followed suit, parking his car directly behind mine.
“Let’s go and kill something!” He yelled excitedly from the window of his blue Ford F250. The spotlights shone brightly into the darkness, showing the sign as clear as it would be during the day. It read; ‘WELCOME TO BELANGLO STATE FOREST’. In a smaller additional sign underneath the official welcome, the words read; ‘PLEASE BE CAREFUL’. The words seemed to burn their way into my eyelids, and each time the bright glare of Max’s high beams flickered into my pupils, and I closed my eyes, I could still see the words.
PLEASE BE CAREFUL
Suddenly, my car door opened and a thick hand yanked me from the car, dragging me out of my unbuckled seatbelt with incredible strength and slamming my back into the front quarter panel.
It was Max.
“Well what are you waiting for mate? The sunrise?” He laughed to himself. “Get your weapon out and we will make our way in to find some game!”
“Wait,” I said. “Isn’t hunting in the state forest illegal?”
“Sure is!” Max said, gladly. “But worse things have happened in here! Let’s go!”
I was a little uneasy about breaking the law, but Belanglo was a massive forest, and the chances of a ranger or the authorities finding us were slim to none.
“Where are your mates?” I asked.
“Not coming,” Max said, bluntly.
“Why not?” I persisted, now feeling more uneasy that I originally was.
“They came out last weekend.”
“Don’t they come out every weekend?”
“Don’t you find it a little strange?”
“What I find strange is that I am out here to hunt and you want to play twenty-fuckin'-questions!” He barked. “Hunting is about being quiet, so I’ll kindly ask you to do so.”
I was unnerved by Max's hostility, but I tried not to think too much about it. My creative mind tends to wander, and I would just incessantly get myself worked up over it. Just because he was grumpy and a little bizarre did not mean he was a serial killer.
We marched on for longer in the woods, probably for about a full kilometre. Not one living creature did we find.
“It’s nights like this,” Max began, “The full moon usually means that finding anything will be rare.”
“That’s no good. But you’d think that the full moon wouldn’t affect the conditions much in here, especially when the canopy blocks out most of the moonlight.”
Max grunted, “Maybe they sense there is a superior predator in the woods, and they want to steer clear of it.”
I laughed, “Maybe they’re afraid of you, but I’m afraid I’m not much of a threat to anything out here.”
“Of that, you can be sure of,” he growled sadistically. "But I'll make a killer out of you yet."
Again, Max's hostility and pure wrongness got me thinking again. Why has he become so aggressive? I didn't know why, but his attitude was sinister, and I knew there was something wrong.
Max fired his gun into the woods. I couldn't see his intended target, but I knew he had hit something.
"Finally!" Max laughed. "This is the moment we have been waiting for mate! Come on!" Mood swings again? Max had immediately switched back to his calm and collected self. The man I was hunting with was definitely not the person I thought he was, his actions were a little too strange for me to willingly continue this outing with him.
"Tyrell!" Max called. "We got ourselves a live one!"
I trudged quietly over to the corpse that sat at Max's feet; a kangaroo. The symbol of my country, dead at my feet in the decomposing leaf litter. Amidst the red mess, a pink organism was writhing. Slowly it crawled from the pouch and made itself visible on the cold ground. A baby kangaroo, so young it was absent of fur. I held back tears as I saw it sniff and scratch at it's dead mum, trying to gain the attention it would now never receive.
Again Max pulled the trigger on his massive weapon, as dirt and meat flew up into the air.
"Fuck!" I turned my head away at the sight.
"Isn't that lovely?" He laughed. I heard the gun cock and fire again.
Max repeated this action three more times.
Max sighed. "They chose the wrong night to be out here. Well, we better find another poor soul to mutilate."
Max could go on by himself, I was giving up the hunt with this sadistic prick. I was going home. “Max?” I asked trying to get his attention. He stared at me for a second and kept trudging onwards, without a word. “Excuse me Max?” I asked again, this time a little louder. No response. “Max!” I yelled. That caught his attention.
He stopped in his tracks, and stood motionless for a few seconds, before he slowly turned around to face me. His face was blank of all expression, like a corpse. He breathed heavily, and the corners of his mouth moved ever so slightly upwards; forming a smile. The same fake smile he had shown me at the Parent-Teacher Interviews. Then he spoke.
“If you keep up your bitching, I’ll put my next bullet in you.”
“What the fuck did you jut say to me?” I could feel my hands start to shake with fear and adrenalin, unsure of whether or not this was some kind of joke. "You know what? I'm just going home, you are about as much of a cunt as your brat son!"
"Not my fucking son!" Max laughed. "You fell for that one too easy!"
"What?" I asked, starting to get even more nervous.
“I thought you had it in you to come out here into the fucking bush and hunt like a man. I thought you and I could have been good mates, more than that, even,” Max licked his lips as he looked me up and down. His crooked smile contorted in disgust, barely visible through his thick beard. “Maybe I was wrong.”
“You really are out of your fucking mind!” I yelled.
“You know it gets really lonely out here? I thought you could have been more like me.” Max started trudging towards me as he spoke. “I planned everything tonight just for you! But you aren’t the hunter I thought you were. You are the prey!”
I was now scared, there was something wrong, the temperature, the atmosphere, this creep ranting on about wanting to be together. “I’m sorry if I look like a faggot to you, but if you want some dick tonight you can go and fuck yourself!” I promptly turned and walked away.
“Please be careful,” the man said. I turned my head to get a glimpse of him. He stood in the exact same position in the shrub, unmoving, staring at me as I made my way out of sight.
I made sure to put a bullet in the chamber as I made my way back the way I came. “What the fuck?” I whispered to myself as I made my way through the forest. I whispered it over and over again. I don’t understand how I was fooled, how I didn’t notice something was inhuman from the beginning; the way his personality was the exact opposite of what all the teachers described him as; the way he showed complete and utter disregard for his son, describing him as if he was a weight on his shoulders and nothing more; the way how father and son looked so impossibly different from one another; the late booking to the interviews, as if to maintain his ruse as the boy’s father, knowing most teachers who could identify him would have left; his strength, as if there was no holding back; and his fucking personality, the skill to manipulate me so well into leading me out here.
This guy wasn’t Michael’s father.
He was a psychopath.
Suddenly, the cracking of leaf litter could be heard ahead of me, followed by a loud puffing sound. Similar to the panting of a dog. I aimed my gun into the brush, my flashlight illuminating what was only an empty space.
Again, the crunch was heard behind me, and the breathing was louder, closer and warmer. I could feel the warm, dog-like breath steaming down my neck. “Please be careful,” it said, in a husky voice.
I turned to face my enemy before being thrown hard into the ground, dropping my weapon into the shrub.
"I was going to wait until we got further into the forest, but you got suspicious way too quickly." Max stood over me, pointing the barrel of his gun directly in my face; so close I could smell the gunpowder. "Maybe that's my own fault. I used to be better at this!"
In one swift movement I pushed the barrel away from my face, and swung my foot into Max's groin. He fell to his knees, moaning in pain. For good measure I stomped my foot firmly into his chin, knocking him to the ground.
The man chased me, as if I was an animal - hunting me throughout the forest as if I was his prey. He had enough clearance to stop and shoot me if he wanted to; but he was toying with me. Playing mind games, like most serial killers do. I almost got the feeling he was leading me somewhere, trying to round me up into an area where he could live out his sick fantasy, execute his MO. Soon enough my fears were confirmed as I crashed through the foliage and into a clearing.
At that point, the pursuer stopped. The moonlight lit open the clearing to such a degree the flashlight from my hunter was rendered useless. The man stayed out of the moonlight, catching his breath, almost afraid to enter the clearing.
The horror that sat adjacent to me stopped me in my tracks.
Strewn around the clearing was a red, graphic mess of flesh and bone, dismembered limbs laying half-eaten and contorted into unnatural shapes, intestines splayed over the single tree that stood in the centre of the clearing. A mangled torso consisting of merely a ribcage and skin sat upright against the trunk of the tree, with the head strangely intact and untouched.
It was Michael.
An immense pain jolted through my knee as a loud bang erupted from the gun behind me. My kneecap exploded from the front of my leg, and blood sprayed across the grass in front of me. The hollow-point round came fresh from a 30.06, and the bottom half of my leg held on to my thigh by nothing but skin and tendons. I fell to the ground, screaming in pain. The strangest thing was, I couldn’t hear my own screams, as if my ears were ringing so loudly from the incredible pain and shock that it drowned out all my surroundings. Just my severed leg and I sitting in a red mess.
I turned my head slightly to confront my attacker as I lost control of my bladder. ‘Max’ stepped into the opening and dropped to his knees in pain as soon as the moonlight hit him. A scream left his mouth, piercing my ears and becoming more distorted and inhuman the longer it dragged on for. His body seemed to twist and grow as the clothes tore from his body, leaving him naked. His body hair grew in a matter of seconds, covering all his skin as his jaw dislocated from his skull and rolled outwards to form an animalistic feature that could only be described as the snout of a dog. Canines sprouted from his gums and his eyes faded into a white abyss before exhibiting green, reptile-like irises. The hands snapped and stretched into massive, clawed features and the legs cracked and popped as the knees and ankles simultaneously bent in the wrong directions and adopted a canine-like digitrade stance.
This was the only time in my life where the English language could not accurately describe the figure that I saw in front of me. As it made its way towards me, I only wished that I hadn’t been so daft. If only I hadn’t come out here.
If only I had been more careful.