To Catch a Creature Part 3
It was as if the trees sucked the sound out of the world. Not even birds could be heard and Mike felt as if they’d been completely cut off from any other living thing.
Nathan commented, “I’ve never heard such silence in a natural environment.”
“Nothing about this is natural,” Mike said.
Reina rolled her eyes at his ominous tone and mumbled that they’d better hurry before it got too dark to search for the thing.
The quiet continued as they walked along the trail. At first, it seemed like any other well-worn path in a forested area. Mike expected to see hikers passing by, families enjoying the beautiful scenery, maybe even a small picnic. As they walked deeper into the woods, however, the forest became less and less like a hiking spot and more like a death trap. Mike’s stomach churned with worry. He couldn’t afford another job where he failed as their leader.
Mike pulled the electromagnetic detector from his pack. Even though this creature wasn’t a ghost, he wanted to see if there were spirits haunting the woods. It would make sense and the ghost hunter in him couldn’t resist. Reina rolled her eyes at him again. Nathan laughed, knowing that she only joined these excursions for the money and nothing else. Of course, it wouldn’t make sense for her to come for the thrill of it or for their company. Especially after almost losing her life.
The meter on the detector bounced wildly the deeper they trekked into the forest. Nathan spoke as if he were narrating a horror film, “The ghosts might be trying to warn us to turn back.”
Reina added, “Maybe we should listen to someone other than Mike, even if they are ghosts.”
Mike stared at her, wondering if he should apologize again for the hospital incident. Was that pushing it too far? He made a note to himself to talk to Nathan later to see if she confided in the other man at all.
A cracking branch broke the unnatural silence. What should have been a simple click sounded like thunder in the deep woods. Reina gasped loudly, jumping closer to Nathan who swung around to punch whatever it was. Mike turned to face the direction from which the sound emanated. The electromagnetic detector squealed as if it would explode from too much energy. That’s when they heard footfalls.
It was slow and distant at first. Nathan mumbled that someone else could be searching too, another party. Mike knew they were the only ones out, at least the only approved group. If someone came out here on their own, they were foolish. And suicidal.
The footsteps grew closer and, as they approached, it was clear they weren’t human. Too heavy, too wide. They slapped the ground like raw meat slamming into a butcher’s block, wet and heavy. Mike and his group didn’t move. They didn’t breathe as the steps picked up tempo.
Reina hissed, “What should we do?”
Mike searched around the area quickly, taking note of the landscape. He had to get everyone in a safe position. He needed to assess what exactly was making its way towards them. If it was the creature they sought, he needed to figure out how they were going to capture it. He didn’t expect contact so soon; they were barely in the woods.
Mike jerked his head toward a dense set of large trees. The trunks were massive and the branches gnarled enough to make it easy to conceal themselves to get a better idea of what they were up against. Quietly, they made their way toward the area, taking careful steps and trying not to make any noise to alert the creature to their movements. Once in their hiding spot, they each held their breath and waited.
Mike chose a place with a clear line of sight to what seemed to be the sound’s point of origin. He glanced over at his team. Reina had her back against a thick layer of bark, her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to control her breathing. She was scared and Mike knew she was experiencing flashbacks from the old hospital. Nathan had found an opening near his hiding place so he too could get a glimpse of what approached. He looked at Reina’s panicked expression and then over at Mike, waiting for instructions.
Whatever it was continued to plod heavily for what seemed like an eternity. It was either farther away than they realized or it was playing with them. It probably smelled them, smelled their fear. They were in its territory, which made them fair game. A few more heavy steps and Mike caught a shadow at the edge of the tree line across from them.