Valley of the Headless Men

Here is a little bit of flash fiction I wrote a while ago. It was going to be part of a bigger story, but it never happened. If you all like it, I might manage to finish it:

Jim Powers stretched, reaching his arms outward and arching his back. He was tired, but he had to fight off sleep. There was work to do. A light rain began to fall, the cold droplets finding their way through the maze of conifers that formed a canopy over Jim’s head and creating a gentle chorus as they pattered around him.

Good, he thought. That’ll keep me awake.

He glanced around the small clearing. At midnight, his camp was engulfed in darkness, but the moon, near full, forced some of its light through the clouds to cast an eerie glow over the ground. The mist had rolled in, covering the ground in a two-foot layer of thick fog. His tent sat alone, rising like a bright green pyramid out of the mist. The rain bounced off it, pattering louder.

And then there was the tree stump. The five-foot-tall stump of a small tree had been ripped, roots and all, from the ground and shoved back into the hole upside down. Of course, Jim had not done that. It would have taken several men with a backhoe to accomplish what something had apparently done with bare hands. He smiled at it.

There’s my evidence. A Sasquatch had been here and had marked its territory.

That’s why Jim was there. He and his team had come to the Nahanni National Park in Canada to find evidence of the mysterious creature known as Bigfoot. And there, in the clearing where he stood, they had seen it. The tree stump had been ripped from the ground by an animal, but only by an animal with two hands and inhumanly massive strength.

They had taken pictures, of course, and searched it for hair samples, of which they found some. Then, Jim made camp there, while the rest of the team moved onward, setting camp about a quarter mile away.

He took out his walkie talkie and put it to his mouth.

“Team Two. This is Team One. Over.”

This was met by static coming out the little speaker.

Jim frowned. “Team Two. This is Team One. Respond.”

Still nothing.

“Come on, guys! Pick up.”

When there was still no response, he sighed. “Whatever.” They’re not paying attention. Well, I’ll give ‘em something to think about.

 “Okay, if you can hear this, I’m going to try some tree knocking and see what happens.”

He clipped the walkie talkie to his belt and searched around for a nice strong stick. Hefting a long, fallen tree limb, he examined it. It was recently fallen and had not begun to rot. It seemed strong enough.

“This’ll do,” he said to himself as he walked over to a tree on the edge of the clearing. Before swinging, he lifted the sound recorder that dangled on a lanyard around his neck and turned it on.

“May 17, 2019. Nahanni National Park. 12:07 am. Trying some tree knocking to elicit a response.” He let the recorder dangle and raised the stick.

Taking up his best batter’s pose, he breathed in deeply, exhaled and swung hard. The stick struck the tree with a loud crack that reverberated throughout the forest. The limb held strong.

Jim paused to listen. He expected his friends to check if the noise came from him, but the walkie-talkie remained silent. He also didn’t hear any Sasquatch.

He grimaced and tried again, this time hitting harder. The impact rattled his arms, and it hurt a little, but the stick didn’t break.

Far off in the distance, perhaps a mile or two off to the east, he thought he heard a return call. Another tree knock, first one and then another, repeating his pattern.

That was not the direction of Team Two. This was something new.

Encouraged by the response, he banged out the pattern again, first one, then the other with increasing strength. On the second swing, the stick had had enough. With a loud crack, it broke in two, sending the far end hurtling into the trees.

Jim held up the stick to inspect it. It was now only two feet long with a jagged, broken end.

He grinned. “Oh well. It was worth it.”

In the distance, he heard the responding knocks, again repeating his pattern.

Now to get a vocalization.

He cupped his hands around his mouth, inhaled, and …

The sound of cracking branches came from behind him, followed by heavy footfalls entering the clearing.

Jim froze.

Another Sasquatch? It didn’t respond to the tree knocking because it was nearby. That made sense. He stood still, listening intently. If he turned around, he might spook it.

The newcomer stepped closer, and Jim sighed with disappointment.

Four-legged. A bear? A moose?

Now it was important to turn around.

He spun about, slowly, holding the stick down, so as not to antagonizes the bear.

Then, he froze. His jaw gaped, and his eyes went wide in terror.

“Oh my God …”

The intruder lunged.