Here There Be Monsters

“The sun came up over the mountain like it always did. Rays of pale light stretched lazy fingers over the mountains and into the haze. The beams brought a blush to the clouds hovering above. This tremulous moment of balance between light and day lasted but a moment until the sun, eager to greet the denizens of the world, charged over the horizon and flooded the world with its glowing light.”

“Harvey why the fuck are you narrating the sunrise?” Bill kicked his friend in the shin as he staggered out of the tent.

“It just felt right; I was inspired,” Harvey said.

“Well, you woke me up. I’m on freaking vacation dude; I don’t want to get up at dawn. I do that enough for my job.”

“Sorry,” Harvey said. He didn’t sound sorry; he sounded annoyed that his friend could not grasp the depth of his muse.

Bill grumbled and staggered over to the folding table where the propane stove lived. Even half awake and in the wild his need for coffee controlled his movements perfectly. Soon a percolator of water bubbled over a roaring propane flame making the life-restoring brew on which he lived.

Bill refused to even glance at his garrulous friend until he held a quart sized mug of coffee heavily laced with sugar and a dribble of cream.

“Now you can narrate to your heart’s content,” he said and slurped more coffee.

“You sir are a Philistine. My muse has fled.”

Bill ignored his pouting friend and stared across the valley. They had set camp atop a flat hill at the edge of the valley. He loved camping, even if Harvey could be an insufferable bore at times. He had chosen this spot because it was far off the normal camping maps. When he had told the guy running the general store in Gunpowder Ridge where they were going he had acted like Bill was crazy. They might be in West Virginia but it was still only a few miles from civilization; it wasn’t like they were heading into darkest Africa in the 1700s.

Bill accepted the merchant’s warnings about hill folk and wild animals with a grain of salt. He didn’t intend to go anywhere near any locals or signs of habitation. He and Harvey loved to visit pristine forests, rarely touched by men. The pocket valley north of Gunpowder Ridge fit the bill perfectly. The nearest road ended three miles from the valley which was guarded by craggy mountains on three sides and a smaller but equally daunting hill on the southern side. The valley was a perfect bowl hidden from access by any but the very determined. Now here they were, perched on the top of the hill staring into a valley that might not have been visited since the settlers headed west.

“Today we go into the valley,” Bill said.

“What about what that guy in the store said?”

“Crazies and monsters? Come on Harv, I know you have a wild imagination but let’s be real. He was just a bumpkin trying to scare the city boys off.”

“You do know that we’re not that far from where the Mothman sightings occur, right?”

“Ooooo, Mothman. What next Harv, Bigfoot or maybe there’s an alien base somewhere in the valley?”

“Look man, I’m withholding judgment. There are more things in Heaven and Hell than are dreamt of in our philosophies after all.”

Bill looked at Harvey as if his oldest friend deserved to be checked into a mental institution. He drained his remaining coffee in one large gulp and then started gathering his day pack.

“You can sit here if you want, man,” Bill said. “I’m hiking into the valley and enjoying nature.”

“OK, OK, don’t blow a gasket man. I’m coming.”

The sun had finished clearing the horizon when the two men started their trek into the valley. Glowing red eyes watched their progress. The beast’s forked tongue lolled between its jaws dripping saliva that burned holes into a log where it struck. It had been too long; soon it would feast on human meat

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