And so there I was, writing this story just after watching some videos of survival in the mountains and it occurred to me to involve cryptids. I guess, after writing my first novel: By the Gates of the Garden of Eden, it shouldn’t come as a shock to me that I wanted to write about them some more. The thing is, do people want to learn about them? Now, I’m sure you are wondering what my theological makeup is about them, and I assure you about one thing: the realm of humanoids is empirically esoteric in nature. Hollywood is full of movies about them, and, for the most part, the movies are made by people who believe in the presence of extraterrestrial life on earth. I assure you that, having studied scriptures and arcane texts, my viewpoint is a bit more… Biblical? At least, I like to think so. I want to open up minds to challenge what Hollywood and “Science” tell us. And hey, we might as well have fun with the whole idea.
The Night Eyed
They called them “The Night Eyed” and they were a little less friendly than your average mountain folk. Most of the time you could catch them up above the treeline, clamoring on the scree on all fours like the cats people thought they were. But they weren’t cats at all. Not even close.
Being stationed at the Polebridge Ranger Station most of the week, I kept a sharp eye out for them, even from my house up near Demers Ridge. You could see them every full moon out screaming and hollering – having a good old time. But you had to get used to the sounds. The first time people heard ‘em, they thought someone was getting murdered.
It was April 20th, 2019 when everything went down. I had to write the very same report up for the State Police, so you’re getting the retelling of the story… Except… I don’t think anyone’s going to believe me… In the official report I had to be pretty vague about some details. Hopefully in this version, I can get some things cleared up that I didn’t really want to include in the “official story.”
Anyway, if I know the state police at all, they’re just going to write my story off as “night terrors” or something, even though I haven’t had that since I was six years old. Whatever. I’m not scared of anything. All that got beat out of me in the Marine Corp. You could send me up after those crazy people with a machete and I’d be alright. But no one is going to do that, because they don’t even think they exist. I’ve got their “official press release” about the night eyed.
They ignore the issue altogether. They called them Pumas and were done with it. Well they weren’t Pumas, not even close. Pumas, Mountain Lions, Cougars, Catamounts – it’s all the same animal. America’s largest cat. Scary as all get out. The Puma were all over these parts. As an employee of the DNR, it’s part of my job description to make sure each adult Puma is accounted for. We use drones to investigate new litters, and whenever we have a newborn death, we tally it. We even have names for ‘em. It’s a lot of work, especially when we have to go tag-and-release, when the populations are low.
Now east, up in the Lewis Range, the Glacial National Park DNR has everything reckoned out. So many tourists come up there the state has them on point. But west of the Livingston Ridge, down in our valley, things are a different matter. Our action comes from the west. The Flathead County Sheriff’s department and the Forestry Service both get up here from time to time, mostly to handle drunken loggers, or find lost tourists, or poachers… But it’s me up here all the time. They think they know what goes on, but they might as well be tourists themselves.
Down the middle of the valley runs North Fork Flathead River. It runs from Flathead Canada into Flathead National Forest, then dumps into Flathead Lake. All this sits on the Northside of the Indian Reservation. Guess which tribe it is? Yes, genius, the Flatheads.
It was cold and wet and I hadn’t brought my snowshoes, but the blood trail led right up into it. That sucked, because I could see the fur tufts and knew what I was looking for and it wasn’t an animal. It was one of the night eyed folk, and I knew it. The fur was from a black bear, you could see fur every now and again, and there were four sets of prints from our hunters, leading, pulling, pushing, and dragging the bear up and over the drifts. Their feet and hands left the usual markings, long skinny human feet, splayed toes and hands. More instinctive creatures than anything else. I wonder what it was that had made them want to hunt the bear? They couldn’t be that hungry, could they?
From what I had been reading about gorillas, the main two big boys ate mostly fruits or vegetables. Humans had the same type of teeth, and the lowland and mountain gorilla ate only 3% animal life. The rest of the time, they were vegetarians. That’s the key to health, I think, mimic nature when I can, and get technology to help you along into the progression of the human animal. There are no termites here, so my gorilla mimic can’t be perfect, but… Hey. How does roast beef sound?
But I wouldn’t eat a bear. They taste disgusting. Why would you kill a bear? They didn’t need the meat. There were plenty of mice and rabbits to eat that they could catch. And they did just that, let me tell you, I’ve picked through enough scat to know. It’s kinda funny seeing the tiny bones, but… To each their own, eh?
I pulled up my GPS and marked the spot. Then I took some photos and packed everything back up. I might not be able to make it back up this way again for a while, so I suppose my curiosity would have to do it. Before I left, I found a nice clearing and spray painted a huge orange “X” on the rock. I maybe could get back here with my biggest drone.
I was walking back down as a pack of them were coming up. As I measured it, about six hundred meters down from where I had abandoned the trail, there they were, coming right up towards me. Four of them – a family unit. The wind was flowing across the slope, the prevailing winds are west by southwest this time of year, making hunting a little easier, but also stuff like this can happen as well if you’re headed south east and your prey is coming the opposite direction. No one moved… Well… My right hand lost its glove and found my side-arm, but after that, no one moved.
I had seen a lot of the night eyed in the past. I had photos of them with my drone, and I even had ‘em named. There were around twenty four of them in the pack that I was familiar with, and the four that stood in front of me, I didn’t recognize.
Instead of the gun, maybe I should have gone for the candy bars. The whole situation might have come out a little differently, maybe. The four that stood in front of me were men, their markings over their head and groin areas were more pronounced than that of the females. The one in front had a balding head, and many scars on his arms and shoulders. He was the one who stood erect and addressed me, hands in the air, pawing, like a trained house cat.
“Awch aw arroaa…” was as far as he got before another male from behind him pushed him away and moved in front to address me. This one wasn’t the friendly sort and bared his teeth and began howling. As he did so, the other three sort of submitted and began the intimidation dance to match suit. They were very slowly fanning out around me, trying to make a net to capture and kill me.
My .357 held seven shots. The first one went through the head of the leader and created a red, gray, and black splash on the tree behind him. As he was leaning towards me, facing up the hill, the force of the impact brought him up fully perpendicular to the ground, and then in an almost slow motion effect, he fell backwards into the snow… The echo of the report rolled through down the slope and slowly brought back ghost echoes from in and around the area.
A shot from a .357 does a lot to a very quiet morning. I hadn’t noticed the sounds of the chipmunk and grackle and various other wildlife that surrounded me, but after a gunshot, when everything is quiet, you sure notice the silence. It lasted for the eternity of 45 seconds until a hawk broke the silence with a “creeeee” and one of them made a dash for me. Two in the chest. He’s down. I didn’t want to wait so I just blasted the other two before they could come at me. I had emptied all the rounds.
I got the speed loader from my belt and chambered up the next batch of bullets as quick as I could. I was a bit deaf, but I could tell that all was quiet except for the old one. He lay on his back. I had punctured his lung and the wheezing was rattling his chest every time he inhaled. He was crying, looking at me, with an outstretched arm.
“Awch aw arroaa…” I knelt beside him with my bowie knife and put it in his hand and helped him bring it into his throat. The questions in his eyes died with him.
It was a three hour walk to my Jeep Commander, and it was an hour drive back to the station. The drive wasn’t what worried me. It was getting the hell out of Dodge that was my main concern. I didn’t know how close the rest of the tribe was. I didn’t want to find out. I needed to go, and go very, very quickly. The group of four had between them a bag of some sorts. I had grabbed it before scrambling down the mountain at pell-mell speed. I wondered what was in the bag. Coming to a small ledge of rock, I stopped and opened it up. What in the world could they have been lugging along?
It was a caribou skin bag and it contained some odds and ends. Bones mostly. Two skulls most importantly. Smaller and slimmer than humans but not animals at all. This must be some of their tribe. Incredible. No one had ever seen anything like this before. I would be abso-fuckin-lutely famous. I took them and stuffed them into my backpack. It was then that I heard the screams.
Normally when I hear them, I’m up alone in my station, and I can go investigate in the morning. But being this close, it sent chills up my spine. Fuck, that was close. I needed to move, move, move. I had my pack back on and was turning to leave when a glint caught my eye. Inside the pack, almost at the bottom was something shiny. I reached in. A flint knife of intricate design lay in my hand. Leather and wood over a full tang of flint and a very sharp little number of a blade, polished to a shine. It was gorgeous and it went in my left cargo pocket.
Another scream. I needed to beat feet. Without movement, they would catch me. Like an idiot, I hopped down from the rock and scrambled… And lost my footing. I’m a dumbass. I fell, tumbled, and fell some more, sliding along the scree. The ledge after the outcropping was sharper than I had figured, which may have been a vital mistake. Like. Literally, my vitality might drop to zero. Oh, and I was still falling, scrambling, and, yes, another two or three tumbles. Thanks to the tree that stopped me, but no thanks to the rock that rushed up and knocked me out.
The sun was too low when I came to and I was concussed. I knew I was concussed because the second time I vomited, I was super dizzy. Ugh. This is no good. My left leg was screaming at me as well. Great. Now I’ve only got one leg and I still have to hoof it out of here before crazy mountain people eat my face. Well, they probably wouldn’t eat my face first. They might save that for later and add it to one of their skull collections. Who the fuck knew? I didn’t, and I didn’t want to find out either. I tried standing on my leg….
Sitting down was so much nicer, but nothing that I had time for. Sitting, I shimmied my pants down and my thermals to check out my… Ugly yellow left knee. Oh man, I must have hyper-extended it or twisted it or something… Fuck. I must have been out for longer than thirty minutes for it to already look this bad.
I took off my neck-wrap and double wrapped it around the knee, cinching it tight. Holding back the yelps and whimpers, I wiped the tears from my eyes and pulled my pants back up. It didn’t make it any more comfortable, but the tightness would do me some good. I knew this was going to suck hardcore, but I had time to heal after I survived. Right now, making sure my hunters were not captors was the most pressing item on my mind.
I took some deer trails and one or two man-made trails. I was a little lost but had a general idea of where I was. My head hurt like a mo-fo. I needed to go a little to my South and I should be back on track. The sound of rushing water threw me off, but I kept running anyway. When I came upon the little lake, I knew that I was more lost than I had thought. My back was drenched with sweat. I had abandoned my toque long ago, it had just been too warm to wear it. Trail running was a sport all of its own, and I, the one legged man, was overdressed for it.
I got out my GPS and powered it up. Parke Creek should be right to my west. I had never even seen this landscape before. Where in the world was I? North of Reuter Peak? Holy shit. Had I been running the wrong way? How concussed was I? The sun would set soon and I was nowhere near where I thought I was. I hadn’t heard their screams for a while now, but that didn’t mean anything. When they hunted, they were well-coordinated and often ran in silence, as long as they could see each other.
In the glen where I was, the sun was already behind the ridge, and here in the valley it was already getting dark. As much as it might be the death of me, I had to make camp. You can’t run in the mountains at night, no matter who you are. I would just have to stay awake.
Stopping and camping probably seems like foolishness to a city person. I don’t know who you are or where you hail from, but I know the forest and I will give you some information that will help you better understand where I am coming from.
In the forest, the dark is darker than it is in the city, even in the farmlands. If you have ever been “camping” in the woods, even in the middle of the day, you can find places where the sun doesn’t reach you. And in the middle of the night, in these same places, the moon and stars can’t reach you either. In cities and towns, and even in farm-land, you have something called: “light-pollution.” It’s the effect of man-made light against the night sky. Out near, let’s say, Billings Montana, you have to go almost twenty miles out of town to get back to an “almost natural” state. Even a hundred miles out, there’s sometimes a .0011 effect of light pollution.
Out here, it was a zero. That’s 0.00. No light. And there were no stars. And there was no moon. It was so black that often you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Day-hiking was a perilous adventure if you didn’t know what you were doing. Even people like me, who had done it all their life, and even sometimes twisted their ankle, it’s rough… And that’s when you can see everything. A one legged man does not travel fast… In the daylight, or at any time. A one legged man is often a dead man.
So when you’re camping, at any time during the year, you need to find a good place to do it. You had to have access to, or bring with you, a good supply of water. If you were going to survive for longer than a day, you needed water.
In survival, always remember the rules of three. To maintain a healthy body, you need oxygen every three minutes, you need water every three hours, you need food every three days, and you need shelter every three days. In the mountains, in the dark, you need hope every three minutes. Raw survival and healthy survival are different. In raw survival, certain things change. Water can be up to three days, food up to three weeks, and shelter (unless you’re wet) can be up to three weeks… But hope… Hope you need every three seconds.
And here we get to the subject of fire. Fire gives you hope. Fire gives you warmth. Fire gives you light. Fire gives you a place to boil your water. Fire gives you a place to cook. Fire scares away wildlife. Fire scares away mosquitoes. Fire gives you a fixed point of navigation. Fire is good… Usually. In this instance, fire would give away my position to them who hunted me… And that would be a bad thing. I had to go without fire.
After gathering some pine branches and building a small lean-to against a straight back wall, a distance away from the lake, I set about cleaning the site. This is a skill that I’ve developed over time. Most city folk tromp through an area and leave traces of themselves everywhere. They never see what they’ve done to nature, but I was alright at it.
It was already dark.
There was nothing left to do but wait.
“Having done all to stand, stand therefore.” Nana would say to me right before we got ready to walk in the front door of her church. And there I was, hair slicked back with her saliva, sporting a blue bow-tie and my tiny powder blue checkered vest, waiting for Sunday school to start. After Sunday school, would be the main service. The sweaty preacher waiving his Bible around, greasy hair flapping in his face, asking if there were any sinners that needed repenting. He was in my face now, on the first row, his eyes looking into mine – nose to nose. His breath smelled like the forest.
Rough hands grabbed me and forced me to my feet. His gray hair was dripping with sweat. Eyes piercing into mine with electric blue. He shook me by the collar and shoulders. He grabbed my bag away from me and threw me to the ground again where I fell with a splash. Were these the tears of the saints? There must have been a lot of repenting going on. I could hear the crashing and banging of many lost souls giving their lives to Jesus right then and there. It must have been Palm Sunday. Branches were everywhere.
Then there were five preachers, with five Bibles. They were lifting me up and tying my hands, moving me roughly. Carrying me out. Carrying me down the aisle to get some repenting. Their feet had no shoes on them and the mud came up from between their toes. Thunder rolled. Or was that the organ playing? “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling… Calling for you and for me… BOOM… Thunder rolled again and the preachers laughed at me. They had yellow sharpened teeth and blue tattoos on their faces.
I was concussed.
These weren’t preachers at all.
The one legged man sat alone in a cave. No, that’s not right. The one legged man died alone in a cave. Yeah. That’s better. The one legged man woke up and then died. How awful. But what a fitting end to this story. Because that’s exactly what happened. I died.
In case you’re wondering. It was a long and horrible death. My leg eventually healed, and I think that’s the only reason that they kept me around for as long as they did. It was soon after that they started eating me bit by bit. I don’t think that I was a great tasting meat, but they seemed to enjoy causing me pain. With no food, I had little energy to fight them, and they took off the bottom half of my right leg first and made some sort of soup with the foot. Well… Not so much a soup, as a jelly.
They would cauterize the cut each time to make sure I didn’t bleed out. With the top part of that leg, a week later, they had a bit more trouble. They ended up pulling my leg out of my hip and sort of working their way around the wound with a hot knife. I can only remember the fire and the pain.
With the first leg gone, they did a little less to keep me prisoner, and when they took my other leg, they didn’t guard me at all. They allowed me to eat from the common area, and I might have eaten some of my own flesh, but hunger did weird things to me. When my arms were gone, they did not feed me at all.
The final day came when they stood over me and crushed my throat. Then the world turned black and I was dead.
I don’t know how long I had been at the camp, but it must have been a couple of days or so because I was still alive. I hadn’t been kidnapped and eaten… Just the kidnapping part had happened. The only thing that was true about any of that was that it was raining and I was almost drowning. The cliff I had built my quick lean-to under was a waterfall and it was coming down on me, pounding me down into the mud, drowning me. If it had been much earlier, I may have drowned. I had to get up and get out of this. And that was no easy doing.
Pulling myself up involved a lot of rolling to the side and getting my legs unstuck. My left leg had a dull ache to it, but otherwise seemed alright. Getting out of the rain was the first priority, before I drowned or froze to death. I was already shivering. It was pitch black, and the rain didn’t help me not seeing anything. I found what should be my hat with my hand, and, wet as it was, squashed it down on my head. It might do a little to keep me warm at least.
A couple more rolls and I was free from the muck. I felt my bag at my side so I grabbed it and tried to stand. OUCH my leg was still not okay and I almost went down. But I could hobble my way out of here, and if that was what it took, then so be it. Down the mountain side, clutching at this and that. I could just barely make out the trees as they were coming up in front of me, so that’s how I went. Blurry tree to blurry tree to tree downward. Thank God it wasn’t too steep, I had good footing. Wait. Did I just thank God?
Why not? I had nothing to lose.
“God! If you can hear me! Let me live!” I cried at the top of my lungs.
If I had been out for only hours, the night eyed would still be on me. If I had been out for days, then they had given up on me and left me to the elements. At this temperature, I didn’t have long.
“God! If you’re there, let me know!” I screamed again.
“How did you know my name was Bob?” a voice hollered back through the rain.
The Next Day
Bob Cooper was a volunteer fireman who helped work the odd crisis every now and again. He had shone his flashlight in my eyes and led me back down to the road, where he and other volunteers had been looking for me for five days. Five days was a long time in the mountains and I had been out for almost all of it, in a state of delirium, under my lean-to. I was famished and ate a Whatchamacallit candy bar while they radioed the rest of the team.
“You’re lucky you called my name,” Bob said, face smiling from the front seat. His grin was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. “I was just getting ready to head back down and go home.”
“Yeah.” I said. “Thanks.”
But I hadn’t called Bob’s name. I had prayed. And that prayer was answered. By some miracle or coincidence, I didn’t know.
Laying in the hospital bed, getting checked out, it was nice to be warm and dry. My boss had come by to check on me and ask me what had happened. “Panthers” I said. “Gonna get some sleep. Talk to you in the morning.” I rolled over, and he left.
Rick Sanchez over at Mountain View Mennonite was there when I arrived the next morning. Didn’t really even know they had Mexican Mennonites, but, whatever. I had left the hospital without checking out because I needed to see if a church fella knew what it was that happened. If God answered my prayers maybe there was something to it. Maybe Nana had been right all along. Rick said he was only a deacon there but he would answer my questions all the same. I gave him the whole story.
“Oh you mean the Tepeyollotl.” he said, eyeing me funny. “Yeah we know about them. They got here long before the white man did, and they’ll probably be here long after we’re gone.”
I showed him the skulls that somehow, miraculously were still in my bag and he gave a low whistle.
He looked it over very slowly, fingers going over the cheek bones gingerly.
“You got two of them?” he asked earnestly.
“Right here.” I handed the other one to him.
“Hold on, I’ll be right back.” he said, and walked to the back office of the church. What, is he going to get a camera or something?
But he never came back.
As I limped to the front door of the church and opened it up, his black Denali was kicking up dust, turning left and driving down the street.
“Fuckin A.” I said to myself. “Now who’s gonna believe me?”
Pauly Hart is a public speaker, actor, painter, singer, poet, and story-teller. His main focus today is writing. His latest works have involved novellas in the vein of “Classical Horror” from the Christ-centered world-view. The Horror story is the story where the character has to survive until the end. What better chance for survival than in Christ? Pauly writes not for the churchy types, but for those who would pick up a Stephen King book, giving them an alternative to the spirits. Pauly writes so that the Holy Spirit will have room made for him in modern day literature. He runs several websites all bent on leaving the mind of the atheist awash with the glory of heaven. You can find him at PaulyHart.com