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The uneventful days and nights in southern Maryland always left me curious and adventurous as a child. I would explore the woods behind my house, and later the creek to try and subdue my boredom. Forgotten bottles of beer and shattered pieces of ancient furniture that littered the creek bed did little to spark interest in the ten year old child. Most days the distant gunshot or the calling of my mother brought me back to the house before I could explore far, so I always tried to push further into the dense, wooded area.
Although I wouldn’t have deemed it inevitable, fate seemed to push for me to have the experience of enjoying hours of pushing through mud and bushes. One day school let out early, and my parents had gone off to wherever they had gone. I had many hours alone and video games only kept me occupied for so long. With promised hours of exploration, I put on my boots and coat and set out to explore the creek. I ventured for hours, following the same path I always had. I had explored farther than I ever had, and fear that I would lose my bearings began to gnaw at my mind. This feeling ceased when I found something new, something wonderfully exotic to me, the marsh lands.
You would have been able to completely walk around the marsh without the faintest idea that it even existed. Large bushes and overgrowth choked the edge of the marsh, making a wall that ringed the entire marsh. I followed the path until it ended and I sat a moment, completely lost in thought and ideas. Aimlessly pushing through bushes and other leafy vegetation, I walked straight into the murky abyss that was the water in the marsh. A Garden of Eden almost, for a small child it was beautiful. All the plants were a bright green, almost vibrating with light and color.
The only things that I could say were not beautiful were half-rotten trees, which must have been dead for years. They plagued the marsh and I hated them for that reason. Even the brownish waters were lively and beautiful in comparison to these trees. Many had fallen over and crushed the luscious and exotic flowers that grew freely across the marsh. The marsh was symmetric almost, and in the shape of a circle. One of the disgusting trees sat in the middle of marsh, and it stood out like a beacon.
On top of the tree was a half finished tree house, but the boards that you were supposed to use to climb up had long fallen off and rotten away. All that remained was a small pallet and a few boards. I gazed and moved around the tree for the longest time, trying to get a peek at what sat upon this tree but all I could see was a small table, and a small object on that table. To this day I ponder what could be up there, but attempts to climb the remaining boards resulted in a bruised neck and a sore back.
After several minutes of straining my neck and hurting myself, I gave up and explored else where. After losing a boot to the depths of the stream that snaked through the marsh, I had found where the stream opened up. It grew to the size of a highway lane, and thorn bushes hung over the stream like a canopy. After waddling through here I came to another section of the marsh, beautiful like the rest but still sickened by one of those trees. I walked around this area for a little, keeping my back to the tree to get a full view of this new area.
When I almost surveyed the entire area, I felt a small object on the tree. I turned around. A pearly white deer skull had been nailed to the tree. Shocked and frightened, I fell backwards and my hand sank into mud. I scrambled back to my feet and shook off the mud that caked halfway up my arm. In my frantic state, I fell backward into a thorn bush. Instead of pulling myself out, I continued trying to push myself through it. I cut open my skin on the large thorns in several areas, but reached the other side.
I was back in clearing with the tree-house, but everything now looked unnatural and alien. Even the once beautiful flowers were frightening and unsettling. I was creeped out now, and my Garden of Eden had been ruined. Someone had come here before me, and soiled the marsh. I frantically splashed through the stream and shoved my way through the wall of shrub and overgrowth and fell back into the creek. I had pushed down the shrub and I could visibly see back into the marsh. I turned around to look back at the marsh, and that’s when I saw him.
Either I was just a child, or this man was a giant. He towered compared to me, and stood next to the tree house. He wore a moose head on his head with the antlers still attached. It completely veiled his face, except I could make out a beard and piercing blue eyes through the eye holes. He wore a vest made out of unrecognizable skin, and body hair covered his entire body. Shorts made out of dark brown fur covered his legs, and the same fur covered his feet. He stood mysteriously still, and a feeling of both dread and peace filled me.
He drew a large wood axe from behind him and held it threateningly beside him. He moved, step by step towards me. The stream and mud didn’t slow him down an inch, but I still stood frozen. As he came ten or fifteen feet in front of me, something in my brain snapped. Only one thing filled my head, Run.
I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as I could. I feel through brush and stream, but I could still hear him crashing behind me. He was catching up. Adrenaline began to pump through me, and I picked up the pace. I randomly picked a direction and went crashing that way. Eventually I found my way away from the creek, and back into the forest area. My foot caught an outstretched root and I came to my knees in the middle of a clearing. Perfectly flat and surrounded by shrouding trees, I crawled to the center and flicked my head left and right, searching for the man.
A tree branch cracked to my right and I stared wide eyed in the direction, but I saw nothing. That’s when I felt a hulking hand grab the back of my shirt. The man stood behind me and effortlessly picked me up, holding me up to face him. My legs dangled uselessly above the ground, and I tried to struggle out of his iron grip. He brought me to eye level and stared into my eyes. He sat for a moment, completely still as if he was searching through my soul. He gazed at me for what seemed like an eternity, and tossed me away from him into a tree.
I heard a few cracks from my ribs; he just seemed to be toying with me now. I lay sprawled against a tree, hyperventilating. My vision was blurry and shaky, as I was dizzy. There was a searing pain in my back and every time I tried to breathe, the pain grew. The man threw his axe into the ground and advanced toward me. At this point I was inches from either death or blacking out.
My mind raced to stay conscious. He knelt down and spoke to me in a foreign language, but his voice was deep and full. Although this man was hunting me like an animal, his voice soothed me. It filled my ears and mind, like a song. He eventually stood up, retrieved his axe, and stomped out of the clearing. I blacked out soon afterward.
When I awoke, it was almost nightfall. I struggled to my feet and clutched my ribs. I eventually found the trail and returned home. When questioned by my parents, I told them I had fallen out of a tree. This had happened before, so they believed me. A few days in bed and a trip to the doctors healed my fractured rib and cuts, but the man with the moose head was forever burned in my memory.
Later years I went back to try and find the marsh, but I’ve been unable to track it down. I would later read about a Native American tale that told of a hunter who mysteriously patrolled the forests and woods. An ancient sketch of a man with a moose head and fur clothes accompanied the story.