It was several years ago that I had a strange chance encounter in the woods that has since left me with frightening nightmares as time passes. I had found some large hooks and other sign from a big buck around the Number 1 stand and had been hunting it on the weekends when I could get down to the famous Christmas Place Hunting Club.
One Saturday morning I left camp way before day and made the long trip around to the back of the property, parked, got my gear and rifle ready and set off down the old and winding logging road to get to my stand.
It was still an hour before day and my little pen light did not cast much of a glow as I eased down the road trying to be as quiet as possible. I hoped to silently get to my stand and not disturb any nearby deer.
The moon was lying low in the night sky and a light frost covered the old road. In an open area along the road, the fading moonlight illuminated something standing in the middle of the road. It scared me to death at first; as I realized a man was standing there waiting for me. It was not the first time I had met another hunter before day and I eased my rifle into the crook of my arm and walked up to him.
He had no light and was carrying a covered milk pail in his left hand. My light worked up his body as I got closer. He was tall, medium build, and wearing jeans and work boots. He was wearing a green wool hunting shirt, a black wool coat, and a wide brim black hat that he pulled low as my light reached his face. I saw that he was clean shaven with a sharp nose and a wide thin mouth. The faint light and circumstances made him look slightly frightening, though he made no movement as he waited for me to lower the light.
In the dim moonlight, he smiled a wide, wry smile as if he knew something I didn’t and said "Good morning". I came closer and said “Good morning Mister", and then "Did you know that you are on posted land?" His reply was strange “ I was just out collecting this morning and didn’t mean to disturb you.” I replied that I understood but we had that piece of land posted and no one was allowed to come on the land. He avoided eye contact with me and acted almost as if I had not spoken. He said “If you are interested, there’s a big ten point and a couple of does bedded down in the hollow below your stand.” This shocked me and I said “ Have you been spotlighting deer on us?” He gave a sharp, deep laugh that raised the hair on the back of my neck and said “No, Mr. Howell, I’m just collecting what I need for the next month.”
He jiggled the heavy pail in his hand. His speech was slightly stilted as if he did not talk very much or it had been a long time since he had spoken to anyone. Even so, his voice had a compelling quality to it that demanded your attention and I found myself hanging on his words. He stated “I haven’t hurt any of the deer, they are extremely useful to me, they have qualities and nutrients that you could not believe”. His eyes bored into mine as he said this and fear jumped through me as the light caught his eyes. Pale, crystal blue eyes that seemed to hold you and pull you into them. Even carrying the rifle, I felt intimidated and found myself easing a step backwards; though he did not move. I said “How do you know who I am?” He said, “I have lived here for a long time and know every inch of this land. I know where your camp is and have visited there several times.” I asked him if he knew my father. He said “No, not personally” with another strange smile. It grew quiet between us for a minute as I thought on this. Then I repeated “You’re going to have to leave” He was quiet for a second and said “I was just leaving, but I’m sure we will see each other again.”
He started past me then and moved up the logging road as I asked "Who are you?" He did not look back, but said "People call me Jack or sometimes Wandering Jack". I did not want to, but I found myself asking in a near whisper "What are you collecting?" I heard him stop in the darkness and it seemed his shadowy figure seemed to stretch and grow as he answered in one bone-chilling word, "Blood". He seemed to disappear in the darkness and I never heard another sound as he walked away.
Labels: Campfire Stories