Hailey’s Myth

In my town we have a local legend about a girl called Hailey. Hailey lived in the 1950s and was normal in all respects – dark hair, biggish nose, maybe she was a bit on the tall side. But what happened to her, I believe, is not very normal.

In the evening a man approached her on the street. He wore a beige trench coat and a hat with a large brim on all sides. The moment she noticed him Hailey felt on edge, a tickling sensation spread in her lower spine. The man said Hi and Hailey, cautiously, responded likewise.

He smiled. Then, quickly, he pulled a flask from his coat and threw a black liquid in her direction.

Hailey woke up in the early morning. A woman was shaking her and from somewhere a police car was coming closer. The only thing she knew for sure was that the liquid had hit her. She said it felt like cold water.

The boils came two days later. They began small, like the small red spots on a teen’s face, but their color was that of normal skin. They grew quickly.

The hospital could find no explanation for the boils. They gave Hailey antibiotics and pushed her through a series of tests. The boils turned into large, round balls; they were so large that Hailey could only sit and not lean back. The x-ray showed bones within those balls.

The first one that burst was the one on her back. It looked like a birth; a mass of whitish liquid and blood spread on the bed sheets. Hailey passed out from the pain.

The friends that were in the room with Hailey were shocked when they recognized the arm. A full arm, complete with a hand, came outside the right side of Hailey’s back. It flailed up and down, as it tried to free itself from the ripped pieces of skin that was stuck to the soft pink tissue of the arm.

The first doctor that had rushed into the room simply stood and stared. The second one, a young female doctor, acted quicker. She was curious. She wanted to see whether the arm was truly what it seemed.

She touched it. Hailey’s third hand gripped the doctor’s arm and smashed it against the bed’s hard metal bars. Bones cracked by metal.

They were more careful after that. Particularly when the second and third ball broke; both to the left of her chest.

The fourth ball broke during the struggle. The burst threw foul smelling whitish liquid over one of the doctors that tried to hold Hailey down.

Hailey struggled against the doctors and so did the extra arms. Hailey screamed to cut them off and to let her go. They sedated her. They strapped her to the bed. They planned to saw the arms off.

The doctors asked Hailey’s parents on the corridor to agree to the procedure. There was loud noise.

The last thing they saw of Hailey was her jump. She threw herself against the window and the glass shattered. She screamed.

They found shards on the floor, and blood. But not Hailey.

As said, the legend is from the 1950s. Supposedly there are even news articles about her case, although they were watered down to prevent a panic.

There is a large forest near the hospital. Every year a few people report seeing a strange creature in the forest. The serious papers would never report about these “sightings,” but the tabloids sometimes do and the radio stations enjoy the odd entertainment. The reports are rarely coherent, often they are provided by drunks or by those that got lost alone in the woods. Still, that’s how her story is kept alive.

Of course, it could all just be a myth or maybe an inside joke. It might also help to keep children away from a forest filled with badgers, boars and bears.

But one of my close friends swears that he saw Hailey – or rather, what was left of her. Weihan is not usually the type that makes tasteless jokes or plays pranks. She is serious and focused on work. She forbids her friends to talk about fashion or sports. And still, Weihan stopped running in the forest after her supposed encounter.

I remember the way her voice trembled when she called me. I could hear her whole body shivering on the other end of the line. Weihan had locked herself in the bathroom with a baseball bat and a kitchen knife. She sat in the bathtub when she called me.

“I saw something,” she said. “First I thought it was an animal, but it had a face! I think it was this girl, you know this girl that lives in the forest.”

“What girl?”

“The one that died, you know, the one with the arms?”

“You think you saw that one? Wei, that’s a myth!”

“I saw her! Listen, I saw her! She was standing behind a tree and then, when I saw her, then she bent down to the floor and started crawling towards me!”

“Are you serious?”

“I’m not joking. I swear I’m not joking. Please come over, okay? Please come over.”

There was some dirt outside her front door, but nothing else seemed off. Weihan was still in the bathroom when I arrived, she didn’t even hear the bell, or maybe she refused to answer.

She didn’t tell me much more, she just kept repeating the same things: That she saw the girl; that the girl crawled by pulling herself forward with her arms; and that the girl kept staring at her. Hollow, black eyes.

Weihan never recovered from that. She now runs in the gym and mostly she goes swimming instead. Outside she always takes the car.

My house is next to the forest. Not right at it, there is first a street and then a thin stripe of grass between my house and the edge of the forest.

Often I see animals on the other side of the street. Usually I only see rabbits or dear, but a few times I saw boars too. They are usually well hidden and they don’t come far out of the forest during the day, but in the morning I often see the holes they dug in the strip of grass.

The spring was late this year. The deer had their offspring late too. There are still fawn around, although they are not that small anymore. Sometimes they stroll away from their mothers. I rarely see the mothers on the grass, but often the fawns – and they too quickly go back into the forest when a car approaches.

There was a fawn. It can not have been older than six or seven weeks. I wasn’t particularly watching it; I was just taking a break from my work and glanced outside. Usually the early evening hours relax me; I like the time when the animals begin to stroll outside but the darkness has not yet completely enveloped the forest.

I was looking at the fawn for just a moment when I saw the movement in the underwood. It was right behind the fawn. I figured it would be a fox or, if I was lucky, a boar. But if it had been a boar the fawn would have run. And foxes are more careful when they move.

The fawn stood there. It was still young so likely it was trying some of the first grass in its life.

The movement edged closer; I saw the leaves of a few bushes shaking.

The fawn shrieked in fear and panic; it kicked against the arm, but the hand was tightly around its leg. Then the second one shot out from between the branches. The fawn fell. It was pulled into the bushes and kicked and tossed its body. It even tried to bite a low hanging branch but the pull was too strong.

Just before it disappeared a third hand grabbed its neck.

The underwood was shaking for a few more seconds. Then the movement subsided to just a small tickle of leaves.

For a moment something white and brown protruded from the forest. I didn’t pay attention to it. Only afterwards I realized that it looked like dead skin wrapped around the bones of a foot.

Instead, the moment the movement subsided, my attention had been grabbed by something else.

I saw a man standing to the right, deeper in the woods. He was watching the scene too.

He was hidden behind leaves and the sun had nearly set.

The man disappeared in the shades, and the foot of brown skin and white bones was pulled back into the underwoods.

I didn’t see the man for long; still I don’t have a doubt.

He wore a beige coat and a hat with a large brim.

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