Tag Archives: hiking

15 Years in the Woods

It was more than fifteen years ago and still I feel guilty. Still I sometimes cry myself to sleep. Still I wonder what in heaven I could have done differently.

It was a hiking trip. Laney loved the outdoors and I wanted to help her love it more. Laney was already in the girl scouts and loved that too but our local group wasn’t very active. I felt like it was my fatherly duty to grow my daughter’s passion for nature and exercise.

Just for the long easter weekend. I carried the tent and sleeping bags and Laney proudly carried our cooking utensils in her small dark green backpack. My then wife wanted to do the family tour with our two year old son.

I think that’s why we broke up – because she couldn’t look at me anymore without seeing Laney. She couldn’t look at me without blaming me.

The first two days everything was wonderful. We hiked mostly along a small river and sometimes through stretches of wood. Along the way I taught Laney about edible mushrooms and how to recognize fresh bear tracks and how her mother had always hated hiking. Continue reading

Sinner’s Cave

The moment we entered the cave all light was gone. It didn’t just get weaker, it completely disappeared the second we walked through the opening.

“Let’s go back.” I said.

“What, no way!” Will said. “Don’t chicken out on me.”

“We could get lost in here.” I said.

“Stop whining,” Will said.

He pulled the mobile phone from his pocket and unlocked the screen. A dim light flooded the area in front of us. There were deep footsteps in the dry ground.

I curse that day just like I blame myself for staying friends with Will.

I keep telling myself that I just stayed friends with him because it was the right thing to do; because he was investigated but never charged – and good friends believe each other. But in reality I just stayed with him because he was my only friend.

Brice and Will had been an odd couple anyway. She was shy and two years younger than him, barely legal – and he was the large, overconfident, rude dropout.

I remember the text message Will sent to tell me that their relationship was over.

“We’re over. Lol. Fuck that bitch.”

A week after that she went to the police; half a day later he was arrested.

I heard that Brice cried a lot after the breakup. Maybe that’s why she too lost so many of her friends. But Will lost all of them, even after the police let him go, after the investigations ended.

“No evidence; it’s her word against his.” Was the official statement.

“She just wanted to take revenge.” Said Will.

I believed him.

Either way, they were both alone. Each had their family, Brice had a few of her friends – or at least so I heard – and Will had me.

That’s why we went hiking together; the two of us and no one else. It was his idea. He chose the location. He told me what to pack.

Three days – one day to get to the camp grounds, one day stay and one day to get back. Our backpacks were heavy with booze and sleeping bags and not too much else.

We never needed any of that, because we never made it to the camp ground, because we took a shortcut. And then we found the cave.

Will stepped off the path to empty his bladder; I waited for him. The forest was beautiful with all its shades of green and the soft ground under my feet; the loneliness scared me a bit – the distance from everybody else – but the sound of leaves in the wind and bird songs calmed me.

“Check this out!”

“What?” I called back. “I don’t want to see your dick.”

“Just come!” Will’s voice shouted.

I dropped my backpack next to his and stepped off the path and past the bushes. I saw Will’s red t-shirt in the distance and walked in his direction.

It might have been just the wind, but in that moment I began to feel cold. The summer was warm, even when we walked in the shades of the large trees the back of my t-shirt was drenched in sweat. Still, in that moment, when I walked towards Will and his excitement, my skin was slowly forming goose bumps.

“This looks huge.” He said.

“What?”

“Don’t you see?” He said. “There’s a cave.”

I stepped next to him and felt the cold draft moving over my arms. It came from the hole just a few steps below us.

“And?” I asked.

“We have to go in!” Will said. “Maybe we find drugs or something.”

“There’s no one else around for miles.” I said. “What if we fall in a hole or something?”

“Come on,” Will said. “This is cool.”

It was cool. Freezing cold to be precise.

After we stepped inside not just the light was gone; the warmth was gone too.

With his mobile phone as a light source Will took a few steps forward. I looked around to remember the place where we had come in, but the light was barely visible from the inside.

“Let’s not go too far.” I said. “It’s freezing in here and I don’t see a thing.”

“Oh, come on.” He said. “The mobile is enough to see.”

Will held the bright phone towards me.

“Hey!” I said.

He lowered the phone.

“Besides, it’s not cold at all.” Will said. “Stop being scared.”

His words echoed off the walls.

Stop being scared.

Stop being scared.

Stop being scared.

Will walked further.

“Dude, this is really creepy.” I said.

Still I ran to quickly catch up with him.

I pulled my own mobile from my pocket; the light seemed weaker than his.

Will kept walking forward, I followed him and shone my light to the sides of the path. It definitely was a path below our feet, well-trodden earth with some deep footsteps that looked as if the floor had once been mud. The frequent holes made it difficult to walk.

“There must have been dozens of people here.” I said.

“Uh-huh.”

“I think this really must be some drug place.” I said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Will laughed.

“No way.” He said. “This is like paradise.”

More like the opposite. I thought to myself.

On the sides of the path it looked as if there were thick pillars that seemed to hold up the high ceiling.

“This place is high.” I said and shone the light upwards.

“Yeah,” Will said. “We must be deep.”

“But we didn’t go down much,” I said.

“Whatever,” Will said. “Maybe it’s some sort of hill.”

“It might be unstable.” I said. “Let’s go back.”

“Dude!”

Will turned around.

“Look at all the footsteps; they look centuries old. This shit is not unstable. Fucking stop whining!” Will said.

Stop whining.” Said the echo.

Stop whining.

Stop whining.

“This is creepy.” I said.

The dim light showed me that Will too had goose bumps. Either he was lying about the cold, or –

“A bit.” He said. “That’s what makes it awesome!”

He shouted the awesome.

“There’s no echo.” I said.

“Yeah.” Will said.

He slowly shone the light around us. There was nothing except the bare pillars of dark stone and darkness in between them.

“Okay,” Will finally said. “Let’s go back.”

Go back.” Sounded the echo.

Go back.

No back.

“Dude.” I said.

“Holy fuck.” He said.

We walked quickly, on the same footpath that we had come. This time I was in the front; Will behind me was quickening the pace further, as if he didn’t want to walk behind.

I shone my light on the floor to avoid the holes. The way back seemed longer.

“Are we on the right path?” Will asked.

“There is only one path.” I said.

“Are you sure?” He said. “It feels really warm here.”

“What?” I asked. “It’s freezing here! I feel like I’m walking through ice.”

Ice.

Ice.

Brice.

“Did you hear that too?” I asked.

“Fuck man,” Will said.

He ran past me.

His footsteps echoed from behind me.

From behind me.

“Let’s get out!” I screamed.

We ran, Will in front of me and me right behind. Our footsteps kept echoing through the wall like a legion of men behind me.

We ran, stumbled over the holes. Will fell and I pulled him back up; then I fell and he pulled me forward and again ran in front of me. The echoing footsteps followed us.

We ran for what felt like ten or fifteen minutes.

“Stop.” I shouted between my breaths. “We didn’t go that far!”

“Fuck.” Will said.

He slowed down.

The footsteps faded away.

“We must have missed it.” I said.

“You missed it.” He said. “You were running in the front.”

“Fuck you.” I said.

“It’s your fault.” He said.

“We have to go back.” I said.

I turned around and shone my light on the path.

It was empty.

“We have to search for the exit.” I said.

I shone my light to the side.

I have never screamed that loud in my life.

The corpse was hanging in a hollow pillar. His thin arms were slightly stretched out to the sides, like a moth stuck on a pin in a collector’s set; the man’s feet were hanging straight down and the head was bent forward.

“Oh god.” Said Will.

The skin was not just a whitish gray; it was hanging in folds off the body, as if it was wrapped around the mere skeleton.

We ran past the pillar, careful to stay on our path.

“The exit must be to our right.” I screamed.

Just then Will screamed a second time.

His light was on the left side; on another pillar.

Another body was hanging in the hollowed out center.

“Fuck.” He screamed and we sped up.

My light was on the path again.

Will pulled his light from one pillar to the next.

“They are everywhere.” He screamed.

And they were everywhere.

We ran until we were out of breath; then we walked as fast as we could.

There was no light from the right side; only pillar upon pillar upon pillar.

My lungs were burning; my skin felt as if it would freeze to death. I stopped walking and Will stopped next to me.

Will shone his light on the pillar to our right. The corpse’s face looked Arabic and there was a dagger in his hand. Most of them were men, but there were women too.

The man was naked except for his dagger and a necklace. His head was bald; the body hair was a tone between gray and brown.

I didn’t see any obvious wounds; just the thin, folded skin that on his face seemed to trace the skull.

I shone my light around us.

“There must be hundreds.” I said.

“Who would do such a thing?” Will asked.

Such a thing.

The man’s lips moved.

Such a thing.

His head rose.

Such a sin.

We ran.

The army of footsteps returned; we hadn’t noticed that it was gone just before, just when we ran.

My light was still on the ground so that we wouldn’t fall; Will was shining his light around us.

“It’s their feet.” He screamed. “Their feet are all moving!”

While we ran past the hanging bodies I saw it too; saw the bare, thin feet stamping against the stone of the pillar.

We ran faster; they stamped louder.

We screamed; their heads followed us.

Whenever we stumbled they smiled.

I felt my heart exploding and my lungs and mouth on fire.

“It’s so hot.” Will screamed. “I can’t anymore.”

I was freezing.

“Me neither.” I whispered.

Will was falling behind me.

“Don’t slow down!” I screamed.

Then, just in that moment, I saw the light. Soft, yellow light from a place to our right.

“The exit!” I screamed.

I didn’t hear Will’s footsteps anymore. I looked over my shoulder and saw him hunched on the ground in the light of his mobile phone.

“Come on!” I screamed.

“I can’t.” He said.

Will bent forward and leaned on his hands. He crawled in my direction.

I stopped running.

They didn’t stop stamping their feet.

“Quick.” I screamed. “Let’s get out of this insane cave!”

Insane cave.” They repeated.

Next to Will two of them jumped out of the pillars.

“I can’t!” Will said.

Insane cave.

The first two stepped towards Will. Several more jumped out of their pillars; now closer to me.

I turned towards the light and ran.

The light from outside was bright; I saw the corpses’ lips moving.

Sinner’s cave.” They said.

When I looked back I saw them pulling Will away from his phone; into the darkness.

I stumbled through the hole; crawled up the edge we had climbed down while I still heard and felt them behind me.

Sinner’s cave.” They said.

I stumbled back between the trees and fell on the ground.

The warmth woke me up.

The hole in the ground; the whole cave was gone.

I screamed his name and ran in circles; I begged a group of cyclists to call the police; there was a search mission.

Will was never found.

But sometimes I wake up, freezing but with sweat on my chest. When I hear their chant, that’s when I know where he is:

Sinner’s cave.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.