Friday, August 5, 2011
(Warning: Everything you are about to read in Part Four and Part Five is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth during that odd, jarring and terrifying night on the remote, deserted island. Seriously.)
Curt and I walked together to the center of the beach. Lee has said it was okay for us to have our own tent. I was thrilled and Curt seemed very happy, slapping me on the back as we walked along the shore, looking for clear shells and white rocks.
Curt and I assembled the tent together in record time. When I worked with my Father or his brothers on cars at home or when I was asked to repair the fence or chicken coop, I fumbled and felt awkward. I could never hit the head of a nail or figure out how mechanical systems worked. But with Curt I understood exactly where things went. I understood why we put the stakes in the ground where we did, how to brace them and why the tent had to be put where it had to be put.
The rest of the day was spent following Lee around various parts of the forest on the island and discussing the regional wildlife. Trees soared in front of us and the air was sharp with the smell of seawater and raw earth.
As the day burned off and the sky darkened, we gathered on the beach for the most tried and true ritual in camps across America: the campfire.
It was dark by the time we finished eating our freeze dried dinner and were roasting marshmallows on a roaring fire. I loved the smell of burning wood and how the smoke would make my eyes sting. My favorite way to fall asleep was to the sound of the moaning and crackling burning logs. I used to smell my clothes the next day, basking in the smell of the campfire.
Lee sat at the corner of the circle around the campfire. He rubbed hands together and cleared his throat. He looked across the roaring fire, his eyes staring intently at each of us. Richard was angry with me. He sat next to Lee and glared. Curt had taken a seat a few boys down from me. We all sat on old, knotted logs.
We were very excited to hear Lee's campfire story.
"Okay, now, I know you all think you know the true story about Bigfoot, but I'm telling you, you really don't know," he said, staring into the fire.
It's true. You grow up in the Pacific Northwest, you hear Bigfoot stories. Some are clearly made up, some sound real. But one thing is for sure - deep down we believed Bigfoot existed. No question.
Lee stared into the fire as he talked. I could see the flames flickering in the center of his green eyes.
"I grew up in Billings, Montana as you guys know. I've told you this," Lee said in a low whisper. It was true. He had told us. My Father was from Montana and I had spent countless summers there over the years. I loved Montana almost more than Washington. The sky was truly endless and the people were some of the kindest and nicest I'd ever met. They also had terrifying summer storms to make your hair stand up on end.
Lee continued. "My Father used to bring me to these islands to see my Aunt in the summer. Her home was in Yakima but she also had a cottage here, in the San Juan's. Matter of fact, it was on Lopez Island, just across the water."
He pointed across the water to the dark mass on the far side, looming Lopez Island. It was pure wilderness darkness. Darker than the blackest night.
"See the small cliff, the one facing our island? Can you see that tiny speck? That was my Aunt's house. It's deserted now," he said, his eyes still trained on Lopez Island. "One summer, my Father had to work in Seattle so he brought me out here, alone, to stay with my Aunt. It was a Friday. Hot. Just like today. My Aunt wasn't home, she was on Orcas Island getting groceries for dinner."
Lee turned back to us, his eyes meeting ours, staring us down. I felt a shiver run along my spine. It was pitch black out. Beyond the dull glow of the fire I couldn't see anything but darkness.
"There's a porch at the front of the house," he said, picking up a pine cone in front of him and throwing it into the fire. "My Aunt liked to sit in her rocking chair at night and watch the sun go down. She called me to say she was going to stay the night in Eastsound, the town on Orcas. I said fine. I was your age, thirteen, maybe fourteen. I was thrilled to have a house all to myself."
Lee inhaled and then very slowly exhaled. "It was late and I was sleeping. Now, you guys know how weird it is that sound travels over water, right?"
We nodded in unison.
"And that you can hear something from really far away as if it were next to you, right?"
We nodded in unison.
"I heard this sound. So I got out of bed." Lee stood up. His shadow fell over the fire. "And I walked to the porch and I looked out and I looked right here, on this beach."
Like bobble heads in the back of a Chevy pickup, we all looked at his Aunt's house. "That's why I wanted to bring you guys here tonight. I wanted to see it again. I wanted to witness this beach up close. See, when I stood on that porch over twenty years ago I saw something here. Something..."
"It came out of the woods. Carefully, tentatively." Lee walked away from the fire and slowly towards the edge of the trees. "I couldn't tell what it was. It looked like a man, a tall man, in shadow. But something was wrong. I could feel it."
Lee slowly walked closer to the edge of the forest. His face was covered in a mass of moving shadows. My anxiety was rising inside of me, like a hot splash of scalding water thrown at my chest. "It was right here I saw...something big. Large. It stood right here and seemed to be looking out, towards the water. Towards me."
Lee swallowed. He looked nervous and hesitant. "I shouldn't tell you what happened next," he said.
"I think that's a wise and mature idea," Richard said, solemnly nodding his head.
Curt held up his hand. "Lee, we wanna hear."
"Really?" Lee asked. He didn't sound convinced.
Curt looked over at Richard. "As long as it's okay with Richard."
Richard stared at Curt. He didn't know what to say. Curt seriously wanted to know it it was okay with him. Richard was startled. "Of course, of course. I just thought it might be fun to tell jokes, you know, but this is much better. Of course. Please, Lee, continue," he finished, shaking his head as if this was all rather absurd and silly. "Dying to hear more."
"Okay," Lee said with a shrug. "It came out of the woods and in the moonlight, a moonlight like tonight, in a way -- I could see it was huge. Maybe seven feet tall. I knew it wasn't a man then. And it's eyes, they weren't a man's eyes. Even in the dark so far away, they were like flashlights, red flashlights framed in yellow, piercing and bright. It was right...here."
Lee walked over to edge of the woods, hesitating before the entrance. "Right here...yea. I saw it standing right here. And it had to be my imagination but I could have sworn it was looking right at me."
He pointed to the house on Lopez Island. None of us moved. My stomach turned twice. I knew Lee had to be making this up.
Suddenly, Lee swiftly turned around and faced the woods. He stared into the dark for a very, very long time. He didn't turn around.
"What?" One of the smaller kids in the cabin. I didn't know his name. He had gripped the edge of his sweater so tightly I thought it might start to unravel. "What is it?" His voice was thin and terrified.
Lee didn't turn around. "I thought I heard...hold on."
And with that he walked into the dark woods.
Nobody moved. Our camp counselor, our fearless leader, had abandoned us on the shores of a deserted island in the middle of nowhere after telling us about his sighting of Sasquatch.
That's when we heard it. A bloodcurdling scream. The scream of a man being torn apart.
Everyone stopped breathing. We stared into the woods. There was a crunching sound, the sound of something moving in the forest. Something big. Something big and running straight for us.
Then as soon as it started, it stopped. Not a sound. No crickets, no birds. Dead silence.
That's when Lee bolted out of the woods, his face covered in blood, his mouth open in terror as he screamed the most inhumane scream we had ever heard.
Two of the smallest boys in the cabin screamed bloody murder, "Into the water! Into the water!" and proceeded to run full tilt into the water, head first.
Richard screamed so loud I had to clap my hands over my ears. I ran after Curt who was laughing hysterically as three more boys ran into the water as well to escape.
Lee fell over on his side and cackled, tears of laughter rolling down his cheeks, smudging the ketchup he had haphazardly slathered on this cheeks.
Richard stared at him, slack jawed. I looked down and saw that Richard had literally peed his pants. He was mortified. He ran down the beach to his tent and darted inside, furiously zipping it behind him.
(...to be continued...Part Five -- The True Encounter with Bigfoot...)