22 years ago…
"Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Go!
Their mother mysteriously died. Now two brothers…
"Dad's on a hunting trip and he hasn't been home in a few days."
Are on a quest for answers.
"This is dad's book. I think he wants us to pick up where he left off. You know; saving people, hunting things. The family business."
-Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho-
"You guys sure we should be out here?" Carly fretted, glancing at the surrounding forest. It was dark and eerie, making the girl shiver. From across the fire, her friends smirked.
"Jeez Carly, stop worrying," the other girl laughed.
"Brenda's right," Scott added. "Relax. Have a beer." She shook her head when he offered her a can. Their other friend Lee, though, eagerly snatched it for himself.
"Whatcha so scared of, Carly?" he teased, taking a swig of his drink. "This isn't your first time out here."
"Maybe it's all the disappearances," Darrell suggested, roasting a marshmallow for his smore.
"What disappearances?" Brenda asked, snuggling closer to Scott.
"Didn't you hear? Like four people have gone missing out here in the past month."
"It's probably just a bear. Or a mountain lion," Lee shrugged.
"Maybe it's a crazy hermit killing off anyone who come into his woods," Scott grinned ominously, earning a smack from his girlfriend.
Carly snorted. "That was the movie we watched last week."
"Hey, most scary stories are based on actual events," Darrell added.
"Yeah, I'll remember that when the ghosts want to drain my blood to summon a demon or something," Brenda rolled her eyes.
"Speaking of drain." Lee jumped to his feet, taking a quick stretch and walking out of the circle. "I gotta leak the lizard."
Carly shook her head. "Way too much info, dude."
"Don't let the crazy hermit get you!" Scott called as the other teen disappeared through the trees.
"But seriously guys," Carly sighed anxiously. "What if there is something out here?"
"We'll be fine. Nothing's out there. Besides, no animals gonna get near us when we have a fire." Scott's words were immediately contradicted by a sound in the distance. It was a cross between a low wail and a woman's shriek.
The group jumped to their feet and turned towards the sound.
"What was that?" Brenda whispered, clinging to Scott's arm for support. Carly grabbed one of the iron fire prodders and held it aloft, ready to face whatever was hiding.
"Lee is that you? Not cool dude!" Darrell shouted. He didn't receive an answer. After a second he tried again. "Seriously, man, not funny anymore! Cut it out!"
The bushes in front of them rustled loudly before someone dashed out of them and barreled into the campsite. It wasn't Lee, though.
Instead, a middle aged man stumbled into the clearing, carrying a worn out backpack and a loaded shotgun. The teens screamed in terror. At once, the man lowered his gun and gestured to the fire.
"Put that out," he panted gruffly, strolling towards the group.
"What?" Scott asked dumbly, brain still slow from the startle.
"I said PUT OUT THAT FIRE!" the man shouted. Before anyone could properly respond, he had already rushed to the flames to stomp them out himself.
"Wait a second! Who are you? What are you doing?" Carly screeched as the last of the campfire was reduced to smoldering embers under his boots.
"There's no time to explain. You kids need to get out of here. Now. It's not safe."
"What are you talking abo-?" Darrell was cut off by another eerie cry from the woods. It sounded closer…and angrier.
The stranger watched the trees with worried eyes and raised his weapon again. "You've got to go. Take the trail and get as far away as you can. Don't stop until you're out of the woods and don't turn back."
"We can't just leave! Our friend is still out there!" Carly argued.
The man glared at them over his shoulder. "I'll do what I can for your friend but you need to get out of here NOW!"
There was another scream closer than ever. Pumping the gun, the stranger barely aimed before firing into the trees. A roar of pain and fury shook the leaves and finally convinced the teens to leave.
Turning on their heels, the four took off into the trees, searching for the trail that had led them into the forest.
"Come on guys! This way!" Scott called from ahead. Another blast echoed behind them before falling silent.
"You think that guy's okay?" Brenda yelled.
"He has a gun. He can take care of himself!" Carly answered, still grasping the fire poker.
"We'll call for help as soon as we get back to the car," Darrell added from behind her.
The three slowed to a stop, gasping for breath and clutching their sides.
"Where…did…Scott…go?" Carly panted.
Brenda spun around. "He wouldn't…leave us…would he?"
"No way. He probably just found a path. It should be around here somewh-" Darrell suddenly fell silent and the girls turned to glance at him. Where he had been standing just seconds before, there only sat an abandoned shoe.
"Darrell!" Brenda shrieked. The unearthly howl answered from all around them.
"Run!" Carly snagged Brenda's hand and the two dashed through the trees, leaping over bushes and ducking under low tree branches.
"Wait wait wait!" Brenda screeched to a halt. Backtracking a few feet, she picked up a piece of cloth from the ground. "This is Scott's shirt! He's around here!" Seeing another, she snagged it and looked around for more, collecting bits here and there back the way they had come.
"Brenda wait! The guy said not to go back! We have to go get help!"
"But what if that thing got him! We have to help! Scott please! Answer me baby!" Following another scrap around the trunk of a tree, her pleas were silenced abruptly and a chill went through Carly.
"Brenda?" she called anxiously. She jumped when a something tumbled from behind the tree and rolled to a stop in front of her. In the moonlight, she could just make out the fear frozen on the features of her friend's disembodied head.
Staring at it glassy eyes, she stumbled back and screamed.