When I was about oh, 12 or so years old, I spent my days in the country, roaming the hills and digging up snakes and bugs. There was some other kids around, and we had fun. It was a grand thing, and we enjoyed our free days in unspoiled nature. See, sometimes city folk will get tired of the city, and they move into the little town I called home to ‘get away from it all’. Sometimes they’d bring the reluctant child or two with them, and they stuck out like flies in cream. They’d look at us with wrinkled noses and raised eyebrows like we were something dragged out of the trash. Well the other fellas and I, we didn’t like that too much, so we took to playing awful pranks on these newcomers. We’d tell horrible stories about mountain men, waiting to steal away children. Or haunted streams where a careless child drowned. The fear in their eyes as they finally understood that this was an entirely different world they were living in was very satisfying. We figured mostly it was for their own good, as these city slicker kids would end up getting bit by the tamest of snakes and generally causing a mess of the forest around them. They never lasted long, their parents would get as fed up as they were and they’d pack up and head back to the city.
One Summer, everything went wrong. I often dream of it, even now that I’m grown up. My actions….lead to some terrible consequences.
It was one day when a new family once again occupied the old house down they way. The Fellas and I decided to be friendly like and head down to greet the new family. Well, it was what I expected. A man and a woman were busily unpacking their things while a very unhappy teenager waited by the door, arms crossed and very sour looking. One of the fellas, Mark, went up to greet the newcomer, who was fiddling with a cellphone.
“Hello there!” Mark cheerfully walked up to the teenager, who only scowled in return.
“The hell do you want?” The teen grumbled. As the others crowded around we could see the source of his ire. There were no bars on his cellphone, as the nearest tower as…far away.
“Hey none of that now, we just wanted to welcome you to town.” Jason, another friend of ours, spoke as he thumbed in our direction. “It’s the country way, after all.” The teen only scowled harder, before turning abruptly and heading inside the house. The door slammed, leaving us outside with the adults.
“How rude.” I crossed my arms in mock hurt as I looked around. The parents were preoccupied, so we all shrugged and left to spend the rest of the day at the lake.
We barely saw the new kid in the coming weeks, as we had our own adventures to plan and execute. We could see him sometimes in the yard of his house, looking very unhappy indeed. It was then, I hatched a plan and we approached the kid on a day where he looked the least likely to snap at us. He regarded us with contempt as we neared, but didn’t yell or curse at us.
“Heya kid.” I smiled. “How are you holding up?”
The kid looked at me like I grew a second head. “I HATE it here.” he spat. “Mom wanted me to ‘get back to nature’, but this place sucks! How can you even STAND it here!?” “Well, we grew up here.” I replied. “It’s got some wonderful things about it, if you’re willing to see them.”
“Yeah? Like what.” his interest was peaked and he regarded me with a cool, calculated look.
“Come with us, and we’ll show you.” Mark added, also smiling. “I promise, you’ll like what you see.”
He looked very critical at that, but when he saw we weren’t going to budge anytime soon, he sighed and stood up. “Alright.” he sighed. “I’ll come along, it’s gottah be more interesting than…here.” he looked back at his house and grimaced. I smiled and gestured for him to follow, which we did.
Now we promised him we’d show him some interesting things, which to that we did. We lead him through the foot hills and showed him the dens where little garter snakes would rest. I personally showed him a special tree that grew on my property, named ‘The Devils Pitchfork’, over the four thick spoke-like branches that grew up and out of a single trunk. We even showed him some fossils of fish and corral, kicked up out of the mountain when it pushed up out of the earth, billions of years ago. Eventually the sun started to go down and cast long shadows in the woods, where as the new kid began to get nervous.
“Shouldn’t we head back?” he looked around, startled. “Where are we?”
I smiled. “We’re deep in the woods, and no, we aren’t leaving yet. Not until we take care of something.” As I spoke, Jason pulled a large burlap sack out of his backpack. “We got one more thing to show you.”
The kid eyed the sack. “What’s that for?” he muttered.
“This, is a Snipe sack.” I said, as I took the sack from my friend. I held it aloft. “See, there’s a very special and rare animal that lives in these woods, called a Snipe. It’s a bird that comes out when the sun goes down and is very, very valuable.” I held out the sack for the kid to take. “What you do is that you hold this sack open and wait, it may mistake it for its burrow and will hop inside, where you close it up.”
“And you catch it.” I sighed. “It isn’t very hard. Once you’ve caught it you take them into town to sell AND you’ll get a lot of respect around here for it.” Of course I kept from him that there was in fact, no snipe. It’s a made up thing meant to waste people’s time, as they went off to search for something that didn’t even exist. Hence the term ‘A snipe hunt’.
“And you want me to do it?” he looked back at me with a very hard stare.
“Yes, and only you.” I smoothly said. “The Snipe can smell the fellas and I, so they don’t come around us anymore. But they’ll come to you.”
“I don’t….what if there’s anything out here besides the snipe?” The kid eyed the sun as it sank lower and lower in the sky.
“Don’t worry.” Mark then decided to speak. “The other animals will leave you alone if you stand in here.” Mark then proceeded to pull out a large container of smelly spices, and made a circle of it on the ground. “Animals besides snipes HATE this scent, they’ll leave you alone for sure.”
The kid gulped but decided then to be brave, agreeing to the snipe hunt. I promised we’d come back to collect him in a few hours, and we could barely contain our laughter as we left him back in the wood, standing alone holding a burlap sack open. See the trick was to leave the poor idiot out in the woods all night long. Nothing would hurt him, but it would scare him for sure. It was the 5th time we’ve pulled this trick, and we all went home feeling very smug and satisfied. A good night’s sleep passed and we met up in the morning to collect the kid.
We headed back to the spot where we left him, to find him huddled up against the tree, white as a sheet and just as cold. He was covered in bruises and scratches, and I knew then we went too far. Alarmed I went over to where he lay as his breath came in gasps and chokes. His eyes were wild and he did not respond when I touched his shoulder. I followed his gaze to the sack, which lay on the forest floor. Several heavy stones were laid on the end to keep it shut, and to my surprise there was something in the sack, struggling silently against the tough fibers. Whatever it was, it was large enough to stretch the fabric, and it moved in a jerky and unnatural way. I shook the kid harder, trying to get a response.
“Kid! KID!” I shook harder. Finally he turned to look at me. “What Happened!” I demanded.
“The…the snipe….” he choked out. “The snipe….”
“Kid, there ain’t no snipe. We made it up.” I shook him a little more. “Are you okay? What happened.”
“The snipe…don’t let it out.” he whispered as he glanced fearfully at the sack.
Mark shook his head. “Sounds like he maybe caught a rabbit or something.” he went over to the sack and bent down next to it. “Probably scared the hell out of him in the dark.”
“Don’t let it out!” the kid repeated, desperately.
Mark of course, ignored him and began to move the heavy stones off the end of the sack.
“NO! NO DON’T LET IT OUT!” He tried to lunge out but I held him fast.
“Stop, it’s just some animal, you’ll see.” I tried to soothe him, feeling mighty guilty over what the fellas and I have done to the poor guy. He continued to scream and yell, which only increased in pitch as Mark removed the last stone.
He opened the sack, and in the darkness, I saw large glittering red eyes. A deep hellish growl erupted from the sack as….the thing emerged on too many spindly needle legs. Mark backed up away as the creature pulled itself away from the sack like some horrible birth. It screamed and began to shamble towards us, dripping a black substance as it’s form shifted around it’s thin long legs.
We booked it out of there as fast as we could, except for the kid, who only laid on the ground and mumbled to himself. I was pulled a distance away by the other fellas, but I looked back to see the…the thing….use it’s needle thin appendages to force the kid’s mouth open and upwards. It began to force its. way into the small boy’s mouth, folding up it’s legs as it went. I didn’t see any further than that, as I was once again dragged along by the fellas. We ran…for what felt like ages, until we arrived home. I don’t know about them, but I sure as hell slept with the lights on that night, and many nights after that.
To our surprise, the kid was back at his house the very next day, looking cheerful. But I could tell something was off. Once when he thought nobody was looking, this sick evil look would wash across his face. Animals voided his house completely, not even birds would perch upon the trees in his yard. The hairs on my neck would stand up when I got close, so we completely avoided him.
It was only a few short months later when his parents ended up murdered, and the kid missing without a trace. The mother and father were stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife, and left to rot. Nothing else in the house was touched, and a whole family dinner sat on the table waiting to be eaten. The whole town was shocked, nothing more serious than cattle theft ever happened in this sleepy little town. The sheriff suspected that someone must have murdered the family and kidnapped the child, and began looking for anyone in the city that might have a grudge. We knew that was a waste of time.
But the local kids and I, we knew the truth. Whatever hijacked that kids body did it. And it was all our fault. We let it loose.
We don’t do snipe hunts anymore.