What Lurks In Luther Woods - Chapter 1 - Part 1
What Lurks In Luther Woods
Sam was sitting quietly at his desk beneath the hum of flickering florescent lights. In one tightly flexed hand was a full, now cold cup of coffee. In his other hand was a blue pen that he tapped gently against the top of the table in an incoherent pattern. He looked much older than the average twenty-one-year-old did, but he also had much more responsibility. Light streaks of grey already caressed the sides of his thick dark hair in lines like spread fingers. He looked much like his father had.
Instead of brandishing his ID to get into Foley’s Pub like other guys in town his age, he brandished a badge and a gun. His eyes, narrow and cold, barely open as they were, didn’t see what was in front of him. They saw things that had already happened. His memory of what happened on a particular night of his childhood was strangely clear, troublingly so at times. Especially when he was so tired he couldn’t see straight, but still he couldn’t manage to rid himself of the images his mind forced on him. He would lay awake for hours, at least a few times a week alone in his bed, as the scenes played again and again in a malicious loop in his mind. Even though it was years ago, twelve to be exact, when something so surreal and nightmarish happened to him, it really stuck deep in the fear section of his developing child’s brain. It scared him bad then, when he was just a kid. He knew it still scared him now, because he thought about what happened a lot, but he never talked to anybody about it. Not a soul, even though the monster of Luther Woods was a legend everyone in the little town of Bandon knew about and spoke of often.
There were no t-shirts stands selling tourist friendly cartoon versions of the monster in town yet, but it was probably just a matter of time. Once a week there was an article in the Bandon City Herald with another first-hand account with no proof. It was already a frequent coffee shop topic too. “You actually believe it’s real?” the old folks and the regulars, would ask each other. “You mean you don’t?” The teenagers would say and then they would tell stories of what happened to their best friends second cousin’s roommates. Together they would all chatter away with each other in the worn but comfy booths of the coffee shop in the small strip of stores in downtown overlooking the ocean.
Strange calls to the Bandon police station used to be few and far between, but lately, they had picked up. Used to be, a prankster or a drunk with a few screws loose would call in occasionally, but now, calm, sane, and sober people were calling in disturbingly unusual things. Their garbage cans were knocked over, but there were no bear tracks. Pets were missing in record numbers, mostly cats and smaller dogs. Worthless things were being stolen, used car parts and garage radios that had been collecting dust in barns since the seventies. Not so strange on their own, but the frequency, proximity, and number of them, that was very strange indeed to the dispatcher and the other sheriffs, but not to Sam. He knew exactly what it was. Soon, it seemed to Sam like an officer was going out into the woods to make a report for “lost” dogs every day.
Always, the calls were near Luther Woods. And I’m the only one who really knows, Sam thought. It’s just a matter of time, until... something bad happens. Sam was wrong on both accounts. There were others that knew, and something bad had already happened. He would learn what, as soon as he picked up his receiver. His blank eyes switched from the spot on the wall to his phone that was ringing and had been for a few seconds, but, he didn’t hear it. His memories were too loud. Some part of him, as tired and inward as he was, realized it was vibrating slowly across his desk.
Sam unconsciously tapped his pen harder than he meant to and the reverberating feeling in his fingers pulled him out of his thoughts for a moment, but just for an instant. His eyes flicked away from his hand jiggling the pen and back to the spot on the wall he had been studying and he was back in his thoughts. The only time Sam spoke about the monster was with his parents when it all first happened, and then not again until years later, when he absolutely had to. He didn’t want it to be real, didn’t want to believe his own eyes.
But Sam didn’t live in “should-land” and he knew wishing away the truth didn’t matter. The truth would still be there, no matter what he wanted. Still, he often had conflicting feelings about being able to remember what happened so vividly and if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it would have been better if all of it had just faded into abstract blurry feelings like so many other of his childhood memories had and he had moved away and went on with a different life. Any other life would have been very different from the one he ended up living. On the other hand, already knowing, already seeing it, may have been the reason he did as well as he did in the fight against it. Sadly though, not well enough in the end.
Without Sam, who knows what would have happened to the otherwise dull coastal town and the people that lived there. Unknown to him what would come, by reliving all the horrible moments and seeing it again and again, he was preparing himself for what he would have to do. Many times, while he sat at his desk or anywhere else, deep in his mind and right in front of his eyes, the thing from Luther Woods was there. Sam was seeing it then and not actually studying a spot on the wall while he tapped his pen and gripped his untouched coffee. It was there, eyeing him back, just as sure as it was in the woods.
He often saw it when he closed his eyes. On the really bad days, like on that day, when he hadn’t managed to get enough sleep for several nights in a row, that’s when he saw the monster with his eyes still open. He hated those days. He would slam his eyes shut and push his fingers against the fleshy globes, shaking his head until the vision was gone. Sam sipped his coffee for the first time and then tried not to spit it out. It was cold and terrible. He had forgotten the sugar and the chip on the side of the mug raked against his lip. But just that quickly, he was back in his thoughts. It had been a bad few nights and he could see the monster vividly then, just like it was the first time he saw it, on that night long ago.
The memory was just as clear as his sight, his badge, and his nameplate that read Sheriff Samuel Maybeck. As tangible as his desk in front of him where his phone rested. As heavy as his sidearm strapped to his waist. It was just as if he were still the little boy he was in nineteen eighty-four, clutching at his blankets. He had almost been asleep when he first heard the sounds.
Sam is nine years old. He feels content and safe, like only an innocent child with a loving happy life can feel. Deep wonderful sleep is only moments away and he is starting to fade. His nightlight is casting its dim orange glow. It not only makes him feel safe, but he is also confident in its ability to ward off any would-be under-bed monsters in his room. Before falling asleep every night, that comforting light is the only brightness he is accustomed to seeing. More lights will be lit this night. He lays comfortably next to his best friend who happens to be furry and have four legs. “Ralph,” the dog is aptly named because of how his very small bark sounds, is already under the covers, snoozing softly against Sam’s face. His serenity begins to end. In two waves, comes the noise and the light that starts the events that forever change his life for the worse.
A rumble like a far-off jet, passes in the sky and Sam opens his sleepy eyes. The dim but warm illumination from the plug-in nightlight is doing its job Sam thinks. He feels immense relief when his dinosaur wall paper meets his eye instead of the panic inducing blindness of nighttime. Sometimes his mother flips his nightlight off if she comes to check on him and he’s asleep.
Seconds pass and he is about to close his eyes again. An explosive boom dwarfs the loudest thunder he has ever heard, easily ten times over. A flash accompanies the deafening sound and for a moment it’s as if a sheet, the brightest whitest sheet he has ever seen wraps around his world. His eyes close and his little hands clap over his pained ears. Ralph dashes up and under the bed where he proceeds to whimper every few seconds. Even though little Sam is still afraid of the dark, he isn’t a complete coward like his puppy. He wants to know what’s going on. The deafening roar subsides as does the light and he can see again. He runs to his window, and peeks out between outstretched fingers that block the quickly diminishing blaze.
Outside once again resembles nighttime, but a streak of fire rumbles through the sky. The flames roll off it in billowing ripples that fold against themselves in orange and red ribbons. He has seen lights in the night sky before; comets, falling stars, planes, and helicopters sitting on the back porch with his dad. This is not any of them. Whatever it is, its big and close and it slowly arcs in a banking turn that straightens when it points at his backyard. As it nears, he can see it’s about the size of two RV’s right next to each other and its longer than it is tall with sharp angular sides. Like a shoe box Sam thinks as he sees the profile, but sleeker. It hits the ground, digging into the soil and slides violently along. The impact shakes the house and toys scatter from his shelf, seemingly taking cover, and bouncing haphazardly on the carpet. Even though the thing is glowing hot, most of the flames are washed away by soil as it grinds along.
Heaps of dirt and rock shoot out on both sides of it, like waves behind a boat dropped from the sky, as it bounces off rocks and pushes through the earth. Sam hears his father say the next day that it cut a trench nearly three hundred yards long, twelve feet wide, and six feet deep in some spots. The skipping object pops off a final large boulder and lands neatly between two giant pines where it finally squeals to a stop. It’s veiled in foliage past the tree line now and Sam’s wide eyes soak up all they can in the darkness.
Clutching at his windowsill, Sam puts his face as close as he can to the glass in his little farmhouse room and looks intently out at his rural backyard on the edge of Luther Woods. His hand makes a squeaky sound as he rubs his foggy breath off the smooth glass as he peers out again through the peep hole he just made. Sam’s breathing hard and fast and manages to fog up the whole bottom half of the glass again in just a few seconds. He can still see a few flames lingering on the thing, marking the foreign object’s spot among the giant trees and deep green ferns. Lightening streaks in reaching fingers through the sky and thunder cracks, shaking the little Maybeck house in the woods. Sam jumps at the thunder and nearly falls, but he takes a calming breath to focus himself, and holds his ground at the window. A hell of a storm is rolling in. He can smell it. His little eyes focus again in the dark, looking for anything that moves. Then, something does. With a loud pop and a hiss, a door opens and light pours out from where the thing is in the forest. A yellow beam propels up into the sky, skimming through the tree branches, much brighter than any flashlight he’s ever seen. The pillar of light reduces, until it shrinks to nothing as the sliding hatch closes. Then it’s dark again and the only sound is Sam’s own breathing.
Ralph unleashes his miniature “Ralph!” bark and then growls in a comical throb, as deep as his little voice can. There’s a crash behind him in his room and Sam whips around. His heart misses a whole string of beats and he clutches at his chest. It’s his mom Susan. Her hair is matted to one side of her thin groggy face and she nearly kicks his door off the hinges to get to him as fast as she can. She always does her best to protect him, which he’s thankful for, if not a little embarrassed at times. She runs at him with wide eyes, succumbing to the fierce instinct to shelter her cub, and throws her arms around him. For a whole minute, not a word is spoken. She just clutches him to her chest and gazes out his window with him. Ralph crawls out from under the bed and rubs his cold wet nose against Sam’s hand. Then Sam hears his Dad’s voice and his rapid heavy footfalls as he runs down the hall.
“What the hell was that?” Jim asks. He’s a panting streak of boots and flannel underwear moving past Sam’s door. Skillfully, he manages a heavy flashlight and a shotgun’s while pulling up jeans and his suspenders as he hits the back patio. His flicks on his flashlight and he brushes the beam in slow revealing streaks across the yard.
“Mom,” whispers Sam. “What is it?”
“I don’t know son.” Susan says through pursed lips. Her hands shake while she clutches him. When she sees Sam looking at them, she pulls them back inside her robe. “Your dad will know what to do. Its ok. Just stay here.” Then, she’s gone. Sam hears her clink one of her bottles against the glass front of the liquor cabinet. She pours herself a shot glass full of warm vodka.
Sam creeps again to his window and peers outside. Ralph follows and puts his feet up against the wall, copying Sam, but he isn’t near tall enough to look out the window himself. So, Sam picks him up to see too. There is his dad, out the window. He’s walking the yard, dragging his flashlight over the changed landscape, trying to find an explanation. A part of Sam wants to go outside too, to see for himself what it is and to be brave with his dad. Another part of him wants to pull a blanket over his head and whimper and cuddle with Ralph. But soon, Sam realizes he won’t need to go outside to learn what the foreign object is.
Through the cloudy glass window of his room, a place that in a few moments he never again feels safe in, he finds the answer to the night’s mystery. As he frantically rubs the sleeve of his pajams against the smooth surface of the glass once more to rid it of the fog of his breath, a figure in a black visor and a pure white suite staggers out of the woods. Sam thinks, it must be a man in a suite, probably a space suite. Then Sam freezes as he realizes the spaceman is looking directly at him, from behind its black glasses. Sam can feel its eyes, its mind, focusing on him. He stops walking and stares, wholly fixed in Sam’s direction. Sam quickly realizes his own silhouette is framed by the glow of his trusty nightlight behind him and he and Ralph stand out dramatically in the dark night, the only light except for his dads flashlight. He doesn’t know why exactly, but the spaceman’s gaze is unnerving. His instincts tell him to hide.
Sam drops to the floor and makes his way to the bulb and switches it off. Crawling back to the window, he can watch in stealth mode as his dad and the spaceman get everything figured out. Maybe I’ll get to meet an astronaut, Sam hopes. As he pops his head back up, he sees his dad’s flashlight moving away, in the wrong direction along the trench, towards where the thing first impacted. A rain drop tings against his window pane and he watches it streak downward as more quickly follow. It’s harder to see through a wet window, so he moves his face closer to the glass. Lightning flashes and streaks through the sky again, illuminating the strange white figure hidden by the darkness. Its peering down at Sam who tightly clutches Ralph, just an arm’s reach away.
Its featureless face blankly surveys him, seeming to scan him up and down, cataloging him. A slit appears in the pasty white flesh Sam mistook for a suite and it splits wide to reveal a mouthful of sharp cone teeth. In the moment the lightening lingers, time slows for Sam, giving him an eternity to burn the image of the monster, the demon, the nightmare into his mind. Its black merciless eyes, the ones he mistook for a helmet visor, burrow into his own. Its clawed six-fingered hand glides through the raindrops toward him. It’s going to grab him and Sam can’t move. It’s hand hits the glass with a thud. For a moment the creature assess the nearly invisible barrier until It presses, flexing it inward until it cracks and Sam hears himself screaming. It’s the high pitched terror of a little boy and it pours from him. He doesn’t mean to, it just happens. Still not knowing or able to control his screams, he watches the glass of his bedroom window spider web in broken lines around the pressing hand of the monster. He knows, with every fiber of his little heart, it’s going to get through, inside to get him. Ralph frantically barks and claws in Sam’s arms, but Sam holds him tight.