- 1978 -
“The killer struck first at the Chi Omega sorority house where he clubbed and then strangled to death, twenty-year-old—“
“Nope!” Chris turned the dial of his VW Kombi’s tinny radio as he searched the airwaves.
“…sssshhhhhffffrrrr…’Runnin’ with the Devil….”
“Alright. Van Halen!” Chris beamed at his girlfriend, Michelle, who sat rolling a cigarette in the passenger seat.
“These guys seriously rock.” Chris pumped his head to the drum beat.
Michelle lit the cigarette and took a long drag before passing it to Chris.
“I like Blondie better.” She replied.
Bowen Forest, on the outskirts of the small town of Able’s Bay, was well-known to the young generations.Its isolation and vast expanse offering the town’s teens a place to date, drink and gather beyond the watchful eyes of parents and nosy, lose lipped neighbours.
Her friends and family disapproving of her association with the older, unruly burnout, Chris Manson, Michelle had been using the dark woods to date in secret for the last three months.
Chris cracked a beer and looked through the windshield and out into the darkness.Taking a large gulp, he handed it to Michelle.
“I love this place. Spooky, eh?” Chris raised an eyebrow.
“It gives me the creeps. Always has,” Michelle replied.
“Speaking of scary, I wanna go check out that new movie, “Halloween” soon.” Chris took drag. “Dougie saw it last week and said it was fucked up! Like, next level, gore-fest type shit.”
“Mindy from my chemistry class said she nearly pissed her pants it was that scary.” Michelle gulped and handed the bottle back.
Chris drained the last of the beer and smiled.
“Speaking of pissing your pants…back in a minute.” Chris opened the driver side door, the chilly night air rushing in as he hopped out.
Michelle watched as his dark silhouette disappeared into the black mass of trees. The Bee Gees crackling through the speakers, she drew Chris’s jacket up around her shoulders with a shudder and cracked another beer.
Michelle lit a cigarette and squinted at her watch.
“Where the fuck is that idiot?” She mumbled. Chris had been gone longer than the time needed to relieve himself.
Michelle took another nervous drag, her leg bouncing as she weighed her options.
“Son of a bitch.” She slapped the dashboard. Butting out her cigarette, Michelle flung open the passenger side door.
The crisp air whipped at Michelle’s back as she she thrust her arms into Chris’s jacket pockets and made her way into the blackness between the tall trees. The squeak of wet grass beneath her feet the only sound as she walked cautiously as the smell of cold, damp bark filled her nostril.
“Chris?” Michelle whispered loudly. “Whatever you’re gonna do, it’s not funny, okay.”
Michelle slowed as the darkness intensified. Looking back towards the Kombi, she could barely make out its form between the trees before something sounded behind her.
“Chris?” She mumbled.
Turning, she felt a strong hand cover her mouth, muffling her startled cry.
“Shhhh. Babe, it’s me.” Chris’s voice whispered in her ear.
Michelle kicked out again before Chris squeezed her tighter.
“Calm down, Shelley..Relax.”
Michelle pushed away from him before turning.
“What the fuck..?” She started.
Chris put his fingers to his lips and pointed behind him.
“You gotta see this.”
“I can hear something,” Michelle whispered.
Chris continued forward, dragging Michelle behind him.
“Is that a light?” Michelle said.
Chris pulled Michelle down to crouch next to him.
“Stay low and close” He whispered in hushed tones..
The two moved through the wet undergrowth towards the light before Chris stopped.
“Check it out.” Chris pointed through the trees at a clearing up ahead.
Michelle adjusted herself to see.
“Whoa…” She exhaled.
Through the trees, Michelle could make out several figures standing in a circle. The light from full moon casting pale shadows across their faces. A thin figure stood next to an altar in the middle of the circle, its back to Chris and Michelle, it raised its arm before a low hum began to sound.
Another figure emerged from the darkness and passed through the circle carrying a small bundle. Stopping at the altar, they placed the object onto the stone before retreating. The sound of an infant crying cut through the icy air.
“Oh my god.” Michelle clapped her hand to her mouth.
“No way.” Chris looked at Michelle in disbelief.
The gaunt figure near the altar held up a small, shiny object. A bright flash of colour streaked across the forest as the light refracted through its glassy form.
Chris leaned into Michelle.
“What is that?”
“I don’t know. It looks like a necklace with an emerald or a jewel on it or something”, Michelle shook her head.
The figure placed the object on the altar and moved back to stand amongst the gathered circle before, on by one, they began to leave. Disappearing out of the light and into the forest, abandoning the screaming child as its cries pierced the night air.
Chris stood up and began to move forward before Michelle caught his arm.
“Chris, wait.“ She started.
“We cant leave it out here, Michelle. It will die–.” He replied.
“No, Chris. Look.” Michelle pointed toward the alter.
Chris turned as a black shape slowly appeared at the edge of the light near the alter. His hand clutched at Michelle’s arm.
“What..the actual fuck..?”” He mumbled.
Michelle drew Chris’s jacket around her tight as she felt the temperature suddenly drop. The chilly air that had brushed against her cheek moments had fallen away. Above her, the trees were still as if frozen, and loomed like giant statues above her.
“Jesus! Can you smell that?” Chris covered his nose as the stench of burning flesh washed over them.
Both watched as the inky, black figure slowly made its way into the light and moved towards the sound of the crying babe.
“I think we should get the hell out of here.” Michelle whispered.
“Yeah... I think you’re right.” Chris nodded and began to rise.
“Wait!” She gripped Chris’s sleeve as the dark figure paused.
The figure’s tilted its head, its unseen eyes scanning the forest before it suddenly shifted to face the direction of the two teens.
“Oh fuck. It’s seen us.” Chris pulled Michelle up by her jacket and pushed her forward.
“GO, GO, GO!”.
Michelle gasped in pain as her lungs sucked in the brittle air. Her legs blindly thrusting her forward through the darkness, she felt tears begin to streak across her cheeks. Behind her, Chris’s terrified voice barked at her to go faster.
“Run, Shell!” He wheezed. “Fast–“
Michelle turned as Chris tripped and fell to the ground.
Reaching out her hand, she squealed as Chris suddenly lurched backwards as if dragged by the legs.
“Michelle!” Chris cried out, his fingers clawed desperately at the dirt.
Michelle watched in horror as Chris disappeared into the darkness. His frantic screams quickly replaced with screams of agony before a sudden silence cut them short.
Turning, Michelle’s body launched forward, her heart beating so hard she could barely breath as her adrenaline charged legs propelled her forward. Up ahead, the greyish outline of Chris’s Kombi van suddenly loomed.
“Please, God…” She gasped.
Reaching the driver’s door, Michelle leapt into the seat and started the engine with a roar. The Kombi’s headlights sprang to life, blazing white light across the tall trees.
Her hands shaking, Michelle slammed the gearstick in reverse and hit the accelerator, sending the van screeching backwards.
Michelle felt a shock ripple through her body.
“FUCK!” She cursed through tear-soaked lips as she noticed the large tree behind her.
Putting the van in first gear, she revved the engine hard, the crippled Kombi stuttered forward a few feet before its engine cut out.
“Please, please, please….” Michelle pleaded as she tried to turn the car over.
“Son of a bitch…COME ON!” She beat at the steering wheel furiously with her fist before falling back into her seat.
Silence descended over the car. Michelle’s breath began to plume as she looked out at the dark trees and noticed a frost appeared on the windshield and began to snake its way across the side windows. She tried the engine again before the headlights suddenly died. Blackness once again blanketed the forest.
Michelle sat frozen. Her staggered breath the only sound before a long, high pitched hiss echoed from beyond the blackness.
Her heart beating furiously in her chest, Michelle whimpered as the sound slowly drew closer.
Michelle squealed as the roof buckled and bent under the weight of an unseen force. Scrambling into the back, she dropped onto the floor and closed her eyes.
“Please, God. Help me…I don’t want to die.” She whispered frantically.
A moment passed.
Michelle opened her eyes slowly. Outside the van, the trees sat still in the darkness.
A faint sound. A metallic scratching, like something being dragging along the Kombi’s exterior, grew louder and faster as it moved towards the van’s side door before stopping dead.
Michelle held her breath. Her hand covering her mouth to muffle her whimpers, she watched as a dark figure materialised at the window.
The door handle of the side door began to turn.
“No.” Michelle lunged forward and gripped the handle, yanking it back before the door whipped open violently.
Falling backwards onto the floor, Michelle felt something grasp her leg before she was wrenched forward. Screaming, she dug her fingers into the seat desperately and she kicked out into the darkness before pain suddenly shot through her hips as she was jerked from the van. Landing heavily on the hard ground, she recoiled as the smell of burnt hair suddenly overpowered her, a blackness moving over her.
Michelle let out a blood-curdling scream as something sharp dug into her calf before the crack of her tibia bone snapping sounded. Her eyes rolling back into her head, she collapsed onto the cold, wet ground as a mixture of pain and adrenaline shot through her body.
She lay for a moment in agony before something gripped her ankle tight.
“Please, No…” Michelle heard herself beg. Her eyes began to close over as she felt herself being dragged through the mud and over the rocky ground. Back into the tress, and back into the blackness of Bowen Forest.