Out There in The Dark
by Paul Benvin
Cindy Dudzinski worked hard. She always got the scoop before anyone else, and on
this night she was determined to find out just what it was that all the locals had seen. In the ten years she had been working
at the Morning Crier, she had amassed a very respectable portfolio of news stories. When Mark Brenner went bat shit
and pumped a full magazine of hollow points into his family, in the end taking his own life as well, she was first on the
scene with her tape recorder documenting all the gruesome details. And when Shelly Carmichael had finally gotten fed up with
all the black eyes and broken bones something that was necessary and for her own good, according to her booze loving husband
Steve Cindy was the one that interviewed her at the county lockup. According to her front-page story, Steve came home after
a long night of partying and began to beat Shelly unmercifully because she hadn't done the dishes. When Steve finally fell
into a drug and alcohol induced slumber, Shelly loaded one of her husband's shotguns, took careful aim and exacted her revenge.
It took Shelly's family three whole days to rid the place of skull fragments and brain matter. Cindy Dudzinski was smart,
exacting, and most of all unwavering. If anyone was going to prove or disprove, once and for all, that there was some kind
of animal out there roaming the woods, she was going to be the one to do it.
She first began to take notice of this strange phenomenon a few months before,
when one afternoon John Morgan, a respectable and level headed man, stormed into the newsroom and demanded to talk to someone
about the strange creature he had just seen in his yard. Cindy happened to be standing there when he burst through the door,
so she was the one that was forced to listen. John was in near hysterics, shaking and excited.
"How's it going, John? Would you like some coffee, water maybe?"
"No thanks, I'm fine," he responded blankly. He had the distinct look someone gets
only after they see something their mind can't comprehend. To Cindy he just looked stoned.
"Well then, why don't you tell me what happened," she said as she reached into
her desk and brought out a pad of paper.
"I was out in the yard gathering wood for the fireplace," John began, "when I heard
movement over by the barn. It kind of scared me, so I turned pretty quick. I couldn't make it out at first; I guess it took
a while for my eyes to adjust. I wish they didn't. This, this thing was enormous. It was eight feet tall, easy. And it wasn't
any bear, so don't even lay that shit on me. I've been living here my whole life, and I know bears. This wasn't a bear."
"So what did it look like," Cindy asked incredulously. She wanted to go to lunch.
"Well, like I said, it was at least eight feet tall," John continued. "It was completely
covered in hair. I mean every inch of it. And it was shaggy, like one of those goofy looking dogs, you know. And it was walking
on two legs, like a man. It was the craziest God damn thing I've ever seen."
"Uh-huh, covered in hair," Cindy replied. She was beginning to doodle in her notebook.
"When it saw me," John continued, small beads of sweat starting to drip down his
forehead, "it squatted down and started making this loud grunting noise. At that point I just dropped the wood and ran back
to the house. I have never experienced fear like that in all my life. When I got to the back porch, I turned to look at it
again but it was already gone."
Cindy scribbled some more to complete the illusion that she was taking notes, and
then closed her notebook with an audible smack.
"Well thanks for the report, John. I'll run it by my editor and see what he thinks.
If we need any more information from you, I'll let you know."
"Listen. I know what you're thinking. I'm not a fucking fruitcake, okay. I know
what my own two eyes saw, and whatever it was, it ... it ... never mind."
Cindy showed John the door and watched as he somberly got into his truck. Only
after he was clearly gone and out of sight did she begin to laugh.
"I can't believe this shit," she mumbled to no one in particular. "I'm going to
get something to eat."
As Cindy maneuvered her jet-black SUV through the jumble of twists and turns that
was County Road 303, a light snow brushed along the pavement. She knew the area well, but every thirty seconds or so she was
forced to take her foot off the accelerator for fear of plunging headfirst into a ditch. She could recall more than one occasion
when rowdy vacationers had to be fished out of the swamp because they were tearing ass around the corners and lost control.
Besides, she was getting close to her destination, and the last thing she needed was to wind up stranded out here because
she was stupid. In about five minutes she would be at the intersection of CR 303 and M-55, where she would get to the bottom
of this business everyone was talking about. She would stay out here all night if she had to. She was going to confirm once
and for all that there was absolutely no such thing as Bigfoot.
She pulled the truck over to the side of the road and put it in park. This was
the place where all the reports had originated. The point of origin, if you will. You could reach John Morgan's house if you
walked a few miles east through the woods, and about three miles west were the campgrounds. To the north and south were U.S.
10 and I-275, respectively. In the middle, where Cindy was now parked glaring into the thick forest immediately in front of
her, was where so many people had fled in a panic, and for what? Because they claimed to have seen some mythical beast covered
in hair and walking upright like a man? To her, it was all a bunch of nonsense, fairytales. Her father once told her a story
of seeing a large ape-like creature crouching near the dam. He said whatever it was had been dipping its hands in the water
and drinking. Even then, at the age of eleven, she thought it all to be bullshit.
With thoughts of her father still fresh in her mind, she reached into her purse
and brought out a high powered MAG-LITE, making sure to hit the little button on the side a few times to guarantee it was
working. Stepping out into the frigid night air was like getting hit in the face with a bucket of water. She inhaled deeply,
the freezing air filling her lungs with a slight burning sensation. As an afterthought she reached into the backseat for her
scarf and wrapped it snuggly around her neck. It was now or never. She was either going to have one hell of a story on her
hands, or she was going to freeze to death out here waiting for nothing. With the gusting wind at her back and her trusty
MAG-LITE held in her outstretched hand, Cindy began plodding through the woods.
Cindy shined the flashlight onto her wrist to look at her watch. The time was approaching
midnight, and so far she hadnt seen anything. Not a deer, not a coyote, and definitely not a hairy biped ambling through the
woods. The wind was blowing harder now, and every few feet she had to steady herself or risk being blown over. At one point
she heard some rustling off to her left, but when she shone her light in that direction she found it was nothing more than
a plastic tarp covering some hunters old deer blind. Why anyone would want to come out here and sit for hours on end completely
boggled her mind. Talk about boring and pointless shit.
"What a joke," she said out loud. "I must be out of my mind."
Another half an hour, and she was going to call it a night. Enough was enough.
After tonight, if she ever heard another story about this farce, she would probably scream. No more sighting reports, no more
listening to hysterical ramblings, and no more ...
In the distance something let out an appalling shriek. It almost sounded human,
but to Cindy it sounded more guttural. She stopped, cocking her head slightly to listen, and when it came again it made the
hair on the back of her neck stand on end. This time it sounded more intense, more angry, and worst of all it sounded closer.
She suddenly had the overwhelming sense of something or someone watching her, and all at once the familiar woods didn't seem
to be so harmless.
"That had to be a wolf," Cindy told herself a little halfheartedly, but deep down
inside she knew it wasn't. She was trying to convince herself that it was something identifiable. Over and over again in her
head she kept repeating the word "Wolf, wolf, wolf ..."
"Jesus Christ, what is that?"
There was a riotous crash as something came sailing through the branches at her.
It hit the ground with a dull thud and rolled into the brush. From behind her came another crash as another object whizzed
past her head. Something was throwing rocks. Her mind began to race as she tried to put things into perspective. Thinking,
she began to take shallow panicked breaths when she realized what was going on. There was something out there more than one
and she was surrounded. She had invaded their turf, and now they wanted her out. As if in agreement, another rock came bolting
through the foliage, narrowly missing her nose. It was close enough that she could feel the draft as it went by, and to Cindy
that was sign enough that it was time to get the fuck out of Dodge.
"Okay, I can take a hint," she said as she slowly began to walk backwards. She
didn't want to provoke whatever was out there. "I'm out of here, don't worry." Her voice was quivering now and she couldn't
stop her hands from shaking.
Cindy turned and began to walk faster. She could hear branches and twigs snapping
all around her, and knew at once that she was being followed. Her legs felt like rubber bands beneath her, and she wanted
nothing more than to be out of these woods. She thought of her father and that story he told her so long ago, and the mishmash
of reports she had taken and read. Could they be true? Was there something out there, something that had eluded capture and
scientific study for so many years?
"No," she whispered to herself, shaking her head. "I will not allow myself to be
made a fool of. This is nonsense."
There was a sharp cracking sound directly in front of her. Cindy abruptly stopped,
illuminating the tress and bushes with the flashlight. As she scanned the dense thicket, her gaze suddenly fell upon something
that nightmares are made of. What she was now looking at what was now looking at her, stalking her caused her entire body
to solidify with shock. Standing less than twenty feet in front of her was what looked like a human being, but a lot larger
and with tufts of brownish black hair covering its entire body. The facial features were startlingly homosapien, but with
a larger forehead and a wider jaw. It stood hunched, with broad shoulders and a heaving, barrel chest. From the elongated
arms to the large flat feet, everything about this animal was extreme, including its determination to oust her from its home.
If she weren't seeing it with her own eyes, Cindy would have thought it was all a dream. She was trembling violently now,
so much so that she released her grip on the flashlight. She wanted to flee, to be away from this monster, but her mind was
cemented to what it was she was looking at. Only when the creature began to trudge her way with long, vast strides, its heavy
arms swinging wildly beside it, did she finally snap out of it. As did her bladder.
It was on her in a flash, knocking her to the stiff earth and tearing away with
violent precision. The creature was meticulous with its thrashing, first tearing at her legs so she couldn't walk so she couldn't
run away before ripping at her arms and face. Somewhere during the course of the mauling another beast had made itself evident,
grunting and screaming as if encouraging its companion. If Cindy could think, she would undoubtedly find her current predicament
ironic, laughable even. Only a few short hours ago she was in complete disbelief of this legendary creature. Now she was being
beaten to within an inch of her life by not one, but two of them.
As quickly as it had begun, it unexpectedly stopped. Cindy's clothes had been completely
ripped from her body, and now she lay prone and motionless in the snow with no evidence of her attackers remaining. Blood
was oozing from numerous cuts and lacerations, the worst being a large gash just above her collarbone that was shooting torrents
of thick, blackish red sludge. Both of her eyes had rapidly swollen shut, and patches of her once elegant and shimmering black
hair had been ripped out in clumps and strewn about like discarded chew toys. She made a feeble attempt to pick herself up
with her shattered arms, bringing her body up in a pushup like position, but then collapsed again. She had lost too much blood
and her bones were too wrecked to be of much use. She tried to scream for help, but a repulsive gurgling sound was all that
she could muster. Her trachea had been crushed.
Star Reporter Victim Of Horrible Accident
Cindy Dudzinski, long time reporter for the Morning Crier, was
found yesterday afternoon in the woods near Reedsburgh Dam, a victim of a horrendous attack by an animal of some sort. Sources
say she was there doing research for a story she had been working on. Two hunters, laying bait nearby, said they happened
upon her when they noticed pieces of her shredded clothing just off a trail. Authorities are not saying what exactly attacked
Ms. Dudzinski, only acknowledging the fact that she was in critical condition and being cared for in an undisclosed hospital.
Copyright Paul Benvin 2004
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