Hunting_Tree_3

“Bathroom?” asked Mike, his body halfway into the cramped gas station. It was a stretch, but he was desperate. He couldn’t imagine finding a public restroom somehow jammed into this small space – packed-in shelves filled with snacks.

“Nuh-uh,” the squat cashier said between clicks and pops of gum. “Try the Tim Hor’uns. They open.”

“Pardon?” he asked.

“Roun’ the cahnuh,” she waved. “Tim, Hor Uns.”

“Thanks,” he was halfway back to the van before he mentally inserted the missing “T” and came up with Tim Horton’s, a chain of coffee shops. Sure enough, around the corner from the tiny gas outpost, they found a Tim Horton’s lighting up the darkness.

“You could call this a one-horse town, but I bet they have tons of horses, and cows, and chickens,” Mike chuckled.

“What’s that?” Gary asked. When Gary drove he dropped into a deep trance.

“They should call it a one-bathroom town instead of a one-horse town,” Mike amended, his chuckle now forced.

“Is this it?” Gary asked, pulling into the parking lot.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Mike.

Mike jumped out as Gary was still bringing the huge van to a stop. He rounded the front, walking a stiff-legged shuffle to contain his discomfort.

“Stay with the van,” he said when Gary’s door swung open.

“I want to get something,” said Gary.

“I’ve got thirty-thousand dollars of equipment in there – please stay with the van,” said Mike. His temper was fueled by his urgency to use the restroom.

“Okay,” said Gary. “Get me a doughnut.”

Mike tugged at the door, but his hand snapped back empty. He reached and grabbed the other handle, which pulled easily. He hustled in and found a friendly door on his right. Ten minutes later, after a loud and malodorous session which he attributed to that evening’s Greek salad, Mike exited the men’s room.

A young man and older woman stood behind the counter, staring at Mike.

He approached the counter trying to look casual, but he read unmasked disgust in their eyes.

“Could I get a dozen glazed?” he asked.

“All we got is cherry,” said the young man.

“Pardon?” he asked.

“Cherry.”

“Okay,” Mike considered, “could I get a dozen cherry?”

“All we got is six.”

“Great. Six cherry and a diet then,” said Mike, reaching for his wallet.


Outside, Mike found the van abandoned and the driver’s door open.

“Gary? Gary?”

Gary poked his head around the corner of the building with a cigarette in his mouth.

“Didn’t I just ask you to stay with the van?” Mike asked his approaching assistant.

“You don’t want me to smoke in there. I went over here,” he waved.

“Can’t you close the door and lock it when you leave?”

“I was listening to the radio,” said Gary.

Mike held out the bag of doughnuts in one hand and rubbed his temples with the other. “Whatever,” he said, “let’s get going.”

“I’m on it,” said Gary, jumping back in the driver’s seat with his bag of doughnuts.


A mile away they pulled into the gravel lot again to find their site changed. Another car waited in the lot, and a group of teenagers were down next to the river.

Gary flipped on the night-vision scope. It emitted a high-pitched ascending tone as it powered-on.

{pullquote position=left;margin=0em 0.5em 0em 1.5em}Even through the crude night-vision, the researchers could discern a gaunt woman with shoulder-length hair and tattered clothes resolving from the green blob.{/pullquote}

“Looks like kids drinking,” said Gary. “Want me to go run them off?”

“No, no,” said Mike. “That might even be better. Sometimes human activity actually fuels the entities.”

“Cool,” said Gary.

That sat in silence while Gary observed the teens.

A knock on the passenger’s window startled the men. Mike spilled his soda.

“Jesus,” he hissed. He rolled down his window a few inches – “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Sorry, Dr. Mike,” she smiled. “Am I early?”

“Nope, you’re right on time,” he said, recapping his drink. The girl outside the window backed away as he pushed open the van door. “We’re about to get set up, you can help me in back.”

“This is so exciting,” she bounced.

“Do you have a sweater or something?” Mike asked. “It might get cold out here.”

“I’m fine,” she waved, “I’m from here and I don’t get cold easily.”

He led the young woman around to the rear of the van and motioned for her to stand aside as he pulled open the back doors.

“Wow, look at all that stuff,” she said.

Mike lowered a built-in stepladder to the ground and smiled at her enthusiasm.

“Hey, I’m Gary,” he said as he appeared from the left side of the doors.

“Hi,” she took Gary’s hand. “I’m Katie Brown, from Bowdoin. The college, not the town,” she pointed south.

“We’re going to be studying that area of rocks, just past that sign,” said Mike, stepping between them.

“I know that place,” said Katie. “Sometimes kids go down there to get drunk. Mostly high-school kids though.”

“Exactly,” said Mike.

“Have you ever seen anything down there Katie?” asked Gary.

“Nope,” said Katie. “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t drink.”

“Good for you,” said Gary softly, tilting his head.

“Anyway,” said Mike. “We’ll set up the narrow transmitter from here, and then we’ll get multiple angles with the thermals and infrared.”

“Which is the new one?” asked Katie. “The narrow one, is that it?”

“Yes,” said Mike. “The main thing we’re testing here tonight is my new narrowband amplifying transmitter.”

“You invented it?” asked Katie.

“Yes,” said Mike. He turned to the van and started pulling equipment. “Gary, can you get this on the roof and catch the bottom part of the dam?”

“No problem,” Gary made a show of hauling the tripod up the ladder on the side of the van.

Mike handed the end of a cord up to Gary and swiveled a rack of equipment so it faced out the back of the van. He reset knobs and powered up the equipment as Gary mounted and pointed the antenna.

“So what’s it do, exactly?” asked Katie.

Mike ignored her for the moment – “Hey Gary, what’s your compass direction?”

“One ninety-seven.”

“You can think of it like a power supply for paranormal activity,” Mike explained as he began his calibration process. “Gary and I measured specific types and frequencies of energy that were being drawn, or tapped into by paranormal activity. You ready Gary?”

“Yup,” Gary called down from the roof.

“First,” Mike said to Katie, “we’re going to calibrate the baseline.” He pointed to a display which showed a jagged horizontal line. “Gary’s going to do a slow spin of that antenna to find the natural hotspots.” They watched the display closely as noise moved quickly across the line. A giant spike tracked across the line from right to left.

“What’s that?” asked Katie?

“Probably just the sun,” said Mike. “Too big to be anything local. What’s your bearing Gary?”

“I’m in the two-forties,” said Gary.

“Yeah, see, that’s about west,” said Mike. “We always get a big hit roughly west. It’s probably some lingering effects of the sunset.” They waited for almost a minute before their next spike. This one rose only a fraction of the previous reading.

“You’re back at south?” Mike asked Gary.

“Yup,” he replied.

“So that’s the thing we’re here to measure tonight. You can see that it’s pretty small right now, but we’ll be able to jack it up when we turn on the emitter,” Mike informed Katie.

Gary jumped down from the ladder and landed beside Mike and Katie. “Ready for cameras?” he asked.

“Yes. You want to show Katie the ropes while I finish the calibration and tuning?” asked Mike.

“I’d be glad to,” said Gary. “If you could grab a reel of those cables, Miss Katie?”

“Just Katie,” she replied.

Mike smiled at his dials.


Thirty minutes later, all the equipment and cables had been properly deployed. The three researchers gathered inside the van to monitor the displays.

“If you could just slide in a little and shut that door, Katie?” asked Mike. “We like to make sure that people driving by don’t get curious when we turn on the video equipment.”

“Oh, sure,” she said.

Their control center showed them the river at the base of the dam, the rocks, and a group of drunk teens passing a bottle around their small circle.

“As you can see from this meter,” Mike continued his tutorial, “there’s some activity down there, but we don’t see any visual, infrared, or thermal evidence. Those kids don’t seem too impressed either. But, if we use our amplifier, we should be able to find a resonant frequency for the entity to tap into.”

“And does that make it visible?” asked Katie.

“Well, we don’t know yet,” said Gary.

“Really?” Katie asked.

“It’s true,” said Mike. “We’ve detected this energy drop several times, and we surmise that the activity is limited by the amount of energy in the area, but this is the first time we’ll attempt to amplify it.”

“That’s cool,” she said, “so this is ground-breaking.”

“We certainly hope so,” said Mike. “Let’s start small, give it an amp Gary.”

“Roger that,” said Gary. He made an adjustment. “Okay, we’re there.”

“Nothing yet,” said Mike. “No change from the ambient levels at all. We might need to cross a threshold to see results. Try ramping up to five over thirty seconds.”

“Will do,” said Gary.

He held out his watch and slowly turned the large dial. After ten seconds the three looked up to the roof as the humming sound grew in intensity. When the dial read three, a set of headphones hanging from a hook began to rattle. Mike pulled them down and sat the headphones on shelf, but they resumed rattling when he let go.

“Keep going?” asked Gary.

“Yeah,” said Mike, studying his meter. “I think it’s about to start absorbing.”

“So that thing is supposed to go down?” asked Katie.

“No, this display is inverted, but if we see a spike it would represent the energy decreasing. The theory being…” he trailed off. “Wait a second. Hold it there Gary.”

“Okay, but we’re pulling some serious power. We’ll only have a couple minutes of output,” said Gary.

“I think that might just be enough,” said Mike. He tapped the display and Gary and Katie looked over his shoulder. “See this?”

“Looks like it’s gathering or something,” said Gary.

“Exactly,” said Mike, transfixed by the jagged green line.

“Dr. Mike?” asked Katie. “Dr. Mike?” she said louder.

“What?” asked Mike. He snapped around. Katie pointed at the video display which showed the output of one of the infrared cameras. The picture depicted green teens, drinking on green rocks, next to a green river. At the center of the image and green blob slid slowly uphill towards the teens. “What is that?” she whispered.

“Off, Gary, turn it off,” said Mike.

Gary fumbled for the big dial and spun it with both hands until the knob clicked off. Mike turned back to his readout, horrified – “It’s still drawing,” he informed them. “It’s drawing more than ever.”

“I think they see it,” said Katie, drawing their attention back to the video displays.

On the screen, the teens had dropped their bottle and their circle had flattened, with all five members scrambling backwards, away from the water’s edge. One boy, in the direct path of the creeping entity, wore a white t-shirt and seemed paralyzed.

“Why don’t they run?” cried Katie. “We should go help them.”

“This is amazing,” said Gary. “We’ve never caught anything this good.”

“But what’s going to happen to that kid?” Katie scanned the various displays, distressed.

“They can’t hurt you,” said Gary. “They’re like psychic movies.”

“We’ve never seen anything this powerful, Gary. She might have a point,” said Mike.

Before they had a chance to act on any decisions, the blob leapt towards the drunk teen, gaining definition as it moved closer. Even through the crude night-vision, the researchers could discern a gaunt woman with shoulder-length hair and tattered clothes resolving from the green blob.

“It’s a woman,” said Katie.

“A girl,” corrected Mike.

When the girl from the river reached the closest teen, the spell on the other four seemed to break. She clamped down a thin hand on the boy’s leg as the others ran, fleeing up the rocks. The boy in the white t-shirt remained motionless, until the girl from the river backed up, pulling him by the leg. He made no attempt to escape her grip.

“Go, go, go,” said Mike. “Let’s get down there, now!” he shouted.

Gary fumbled for the door, trying to open it without taking his eyes from the monitor.

“Go!” yelled Mike, pushing Katie into Gary’s shoulder.

Gary looked down and threw open the door. The three researchers spilled into the gravel parking lot. Mike was the first away, running down through the scrub and vaulting the chain-link fence. His eyes had barely adjusted to the night when he arrived at the rocks, and he nearly plunged over a small ledge. Mike turned left at the last instant and ran along the edge of the drop, waving his colleagues to follow.

He arrived at the clearing just as the boy’s legs slipped into the roiling river. Mike threw himself to the loose rocks and grabbed the boy’s shirt.

“Hey, kid, hey!” he yelled, but the boy’s gaze remained on the turbulent water.

Gary arrived as the boy’s shirt tore away and Mike shifted his grip to under the boy’s arm. Gary grabbed his other arm and they both pulled against the single boney arm dragging the boy into the river.

In the starlight, the river’s surface was a black mirror. Their tug-of-war was a standoff. Mike strained against the shore, trying to keep his grip while pushing with his legs to drag the boy back. His jaw dropped when he saw another thin arm appear from the water, moving towards his own foot. Just before it reached his shoe, the world lit up from a bright flash behind them.

Gary and Mike jolted back with the flash. They pulled a few inches away from the river and the hand near Mike’s foot had disappeared. Mike looked back to see Katie pointing a camera.

“Do it again, make it flash again,” grunted Mike.

Katie obeyed and they jerked back again, gaining more ground.

“Fast as you can,” said Gary.

Each time Katie took a picture and the flash lit the river, they pulled more of the boy from the water. Within a dozen pictures they had dragged him safely back.

“What are you doing?” the boy snapped from his trance. “Shit, I’m all wet. Get off!” he shook his arm away from Gary.

“Look, kid,” said Mike.

“Get away,” said the boy in the white t-shirt. Before Mike could explain further, the boy was off – running up the rocks to the bridge.

“Did you get anything?” Gary looked over Katie’s shoulder at the camera’s display.

“Not really,” said Katie. “The flash only goes so far.”

“Let’s get back up to the van and check the readings,” said Mike.

They backed slowly up the rocks, not willing to take their eyes off the water’s edge until they had made it back to the chain-link fence. Katie paused to take a picture of the sign mounted on the fence.

“Danger,” she read. “No kidding. What was that thing?”

“I’ll tell you when we get back in the van,” said Mike.

Safely back among his instruments, Mike told her the story: “She’s the reason we came here. Her name was supposedly Marcia Taylor, but we haven’t been able to turn up any records to corroborate. She was seventeen or eighteen; at a graduation party on the Brunswick side of the river, like twenty-five or thirty years ago. She turned down the host’s advances, and he kicked her out. She had to walk home and cross the old railroad bridge alone, but she never made it across.”

“Why didn’t she take the footbridge? It has railings,” asked Katie.

“That part we do know. The footbridge was closed for almost six years because neither town would pay for the repairs. Supposedly they both contributed after Marcia’s death.”

“So she fell off and drowned?” asked Katie.

“Yeah, but there’s a little more. The story says that she was an excellent swimmer, and even made it alive over the dam. She managed to get all the way over to that shore, where those kids were. Like tonight, more drunk teens had gathered by those rocks. They saw her crawl out of the water, but instead of helping her, they ran. They didn’t want to tell anyone because then they would have been caught drinking. When the dam operators opened the gates that night, she was still unconscious on the shore and she drowned.”

“Oh, man,” said Katie. “So now she seeks revenge?” she whispered.

“No. Well yes, I guess so,” said Mike. “Until tonight nothing has really happened, as far as we know. A couple of kids have said they saw something, but dragging people away is unprecedented.”

“Maybe it was your machine,” said Katie, excited.

“Maybe,” said Gary.

Mike turned back to his instruments.

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