In my downtime, between all of the tasks of Maine living and raising a family, I’m a writer of crime fiction. Between my background and my interests, it just kind of fits.
But, deep in my mind, there’s a genre that keeps poking at me. One which I’ve not indulged until now.
It’s October here in Maine, which I’ll admit is my favorite month of the year, particularly in my little corner of the world. The leaves have turned from green to brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and red. The blueberry fields have rusted over, and the mornings bring spiderwebs of frost.
And, it’s dark.
Now, I don’t mean that in the conventional sense. Yes, we’re rural, with no light pollution at night, but this is different. It’s like a shroud is placed upon the world, and even the brightest fires cannot penetrate the murk.
And thus a story pokes at me.
In the ancient world, before electric light, there was darkness. Civilized man clung to cities and built walls for security, from their fellow man to be sure, but also from the wilds of the forest.
The tales of what lurks beyond our firelight persist to this day; fokelore of less-enlighten peoples. But once upon a time, those stories were reality. Instructional. Life-saving.
As civilization has expanded across the planet, electric light illuminating the night and driving away the shadows, those things which dwell in the darkness have retreated to the far corners of the globe, clinging to the last vestiges of themselves.
And now, in rural society, there are those of us who encroach upon that limited territory, unaware of the consequences of our transgressions.
This is one such story, which I hope you enjoy. Happy Halloween.
I found a phone.
Readers of this blog know that here at 10Chickens we live on a small mountain in rural Maine. The fact is, much of the mountain itself is owned by a land heritage trust which preserves the wilderness, maintains some hiking trails, and encourages the public to have a wander.
Recently, up on my own part of the property, I found a cellphone. I assumed it belonged to a wayward tourist, but it was pretty beat up. That said, I was able to get it up and running, and what I found is… perplexing.
The camera roll was full of pics of the mountain, including some on my property and some I can’t identify, and the notes app was full of, well, I’ll let you read it.
Below, in italics, I’ve tried to match the text entries with the photos as best as I could figure it, and, look, the notes entries were kind of a mess (especially towards the end) so I’ve cleaned up the grammar and spelling.
It’s been three days since I lost the trail. I’m making a record here in case someone finds me and I’m unresponsive. Went hiking on [redacted] mountain. Stepped off the path to piss and couldn’t find it again. Walking north. Taking a break now to jot this down before my phone dies.
Made it to a ridge line. I could see buildings in the distance. Lost sight of them in the brush, and somehow ended up back on the same ridge line. I’ve been yelling but haven’t seen or heard anyone.
I don’t remember falling asleep, but I woke up this morning in a clearing. I can’t remember anything after making the ridge line. My phone has full power somehow. I think I’ve found a trail.
The trail took me to the same ridge line I remember. I see the same houses, but I can’t reach them. I keep [emerging] from the same place on the ridge. Something isn’t right.
Tried all day to reach the houses and couldn’t. Yelled a lot and no response. I can hear a buzzing, like electricity or insect wings, but it’s not coming from any direction. My phone has no signal but the battery isn’t draining. I’m [also] not thirsty and I don’t understand.
Woke up to something moving in the woods. I don’t know where I am. Tried to get it on camera with my phone flashlight. [I] could hear it moving but didn’t see it.
I opened my phone today to make an update and don’t remember taking the pictures last night or writing [about something in the woods.] I’m back in the same clearing I woke up in yesterday.
I’ve been walking in one direction all day and can’t break out of the woods. It’s dense. I’ve not seen any animals, but I keep seeing movement in the corners of my eyes. Spent most of the day crying. [I] haven’t seen any airplanes. My shoes are gone but my feet are fine. I don’t understand.
I think you can see it in a pic. [Note: this was the closest timestamp photo to the entry]
I’m up. Back where I keep going. I can hear it talking but it doesn’t make sense.
It’s on [two] feet. There may be more than [one of them].
I am back at the ridge line. I’ve seen people and shouted but they didn’t hear me. I don’t think I expected them to. My phone is still at full battery and I haven’t eaten. I think it’s been a month, maybe more. I can’t tell. I’m not hungry. The harder I try to reach the houses the farther away I am. I won’t step in the shadows anymore.