Friday, October 10, 2014
The Albertville Bear Part II By Guest Blogger Todd Serad
The Jersey Devil has been a part of our history and culture here at the shore. What better place for tales to grow from an area so barren and unexplored. So if you’re following along, lock your windows and doors, keep your lights out, and listen for that telltale noise. Don’t speak, or move or he just might hear.
The Albertville Bear
“He says that everything is fine outside,” said Seth. Ben lowered his elbow to the table and rested his forehead on his right hand. He began to rub his wrinkled brow and temple.
“Abe wrote that his son met a friend in the woods and that he eventually became more and more hostile to everyone in town. He had acquired this meanness about him is what he wrote. Then one day he disappeared, and Abe began searching for him every day and eventually wrote to us for help,” said Ben. Jasper’s eyes grew wide.
“Jasper, who was he looking for in the woods?” asked Ben.
“I told you, there is no who, it’s a what,” said Jasper.
“What in heaven’s name are you talking about?” said Ben.
“I’m certainly curious,” said Seth. Jasper folded his hands in front of him on the table. He sat up a little more erect.
“Just listen. Don’t say a word until I finish, okay? Okay?” said Jasper. Ben nodded.
“Abe, his wife, that kid, the entire town, all good people, really. Like your brother wrote, the dogs were the first to go missing. Just missing, no sign of them ever again. Heck the whole town even searched for a day for the Stevenson dog. Nothing. A few broken branches in the nearby woods where they tied him with that leather strap to the front house, but that was it, nothing else. Every few days you would go out to do your business, and you would begin to notice that so-and-so was missing, or that it was quiet in a couple homes. Harland was always drunk. You heard him every night yelling at his wife and dog, but more so at his wife. Then one evening it’s quiet at his place. His wife is walking around asking if anyone had seen him. Then she too is gone. My wife is even gone. My beautiful Agnes went to pick some berries several days ago and haven’t seen her since. Everyone is gone, but me. After a bit I just refused to go outside. I haven’t left for days. Why I don’t even know how long I’ve been sitting in here alone,” said Jasper.
“You didn't go looking for your wife?” asked Ben.
“I did, for hours and hours, days, but then I noticed something, the tavern was quiet,” said Jasper.
“Perhaps a sickness?” said Seth.
“No, it’s a what,” said Jasper, “I’ve heard it.” Ben looked up sharply.
“Heard what?” said Ben.
“Not sure. I’ve heard it at night. It comes creeping around the cabin. It looks in through the window. It even banged on the door once,” said Jasper. Seth moved in closer.
“What exactly are you talking about?” Seth asked.
“Can’t say. Couldn’t tell you. I see the shadow as it passes the window. If it stops, I squeeze as tightly as I can into this corner with my gun, and I close my eyes. I don’t want that nightmare in my dreams,” said Jasper. Seth looked across the table to Ben who leaned back on the rickety old chair.
“So you have not seen this lurking thing that steals people and animals when no one is looking?” said Ben. Jasper nodded.
“What do you think it is, really?” asked Ben.
“They say it is folklore, but I believe it to be true,” said Jasper.
“Are you talking about legend?” asked Ben.
“Legend, folklore, however you wish to refer to it, but I believe it exists. Born in Leeds Point well over 120 years ago in 1720. It was the awfully deformed thirteenth child, and it ate livestock and children in order to survive and to grow,” said Jasper.
“You speak of the Pine Barren’s devil, the New Jersey Devil,” said Ben.
“Yes I do. The legend is true, it exists, it is alive, and it’s here, its back,” said Jasper. There was a long silence as the three brothers stared incredulously at Jasper. Ben began to softly chuckle which prompted both Seth and Zach to do the same. Jasper did not know what to do at first, the joke was on him. Zach was doubled over and Seth had tears in his eyes. Jasper stood up and slammed his antiquated chair into the equally old table.
“Get out,” Jasper shouted, “get out and meet your death, it awaits you just outside that door.” Ben stood immediately with hands in a reassuring position.
“Jasper, no, we don’t mean to laugh,” said Ben, “look, we’re just going to stay the night, take a look around the woods tomorrow to see what we can find, and then all four of us will return to Ong’s Hat, how does that sound?” Jasper pulled out his chair and sat back down. Seth walked over to Ben to converse quietly.
“Look Ben, why don’t we just leave now?” said Seth. Ben examined the seriousness in Seth’s features.
“All we have here is a town of missing people, they could have all just up and left, we don’t know,” said Seth, “and now we have some old guy with this far-fetched story about some lurking creature, it doesn’t make any sense, and regardless, Abe is not here.” Ben looked out one of the windows and watched the snow fall, which was getting heavier.
“Let’s just go now,” said Seth.
“We stay for the night,” said Ben, “it’s snowing, it's two hours by horseback to Ong’s Hat, and the road here is not well marked. With the bogs and low visibility, we risk injury to ourselves and the horses, and not to mention simply getting lost.” Seth went back to his chair.
Coldness permeated the shack at the midnight hour while Seth and Zach stretched across the floor asleep. Ben and Jasper leaned against the wall opposite his only two windows quietly speaking about their wives and kids.
“So what do you do if you find Abe, or any of his family?” asked Jasper.
“I bring them back to Ong’s Hat,” said Ben.
“Thought you said earlier that you weren’t close?’
“We’re not, he left years ago to be on his own. Turned his back on our family.”
“You take offense to that?”
“No. I just took the reins. I look after the family.”
“Say he returns, then what?”
“Then nothing. He relinquished that right years ago, but he is still my brother, still family.”
“Well, his son is missing, I can’t imagine such a thing, and that’s really why we came.” Jasper held his hand up to Ben.
“It’s here,” whispered Jasper anxiously as he quickly blew out the single candle. The illumination from the snow outside provided a bluish tint to the room.
“How do you know?” asked Ben.
“Look at the snow falling,” said Jasper, “it is coming straight down, no wind, no sound, nature is even afraid of this thing.” Ben dropped his shoulders in slight exasperation.
“Jasper, please,” said Ben. Within a heartbeat, there was a sound of crunching snow along the wall just outside from where they were sitting. Both men heard it. Both men froze. The sound was heard again, but this time moving away from them, but still along the wall of the shack.
“It could be anything,” said Ben.
“Sure,” said Jasper. His lower lip began to tremble. There was a slight bump against a wood slat, then another crunch of snow. Jasper began to quietly slide to his protective corner. Ben tried not to breath. His hearing was strained. He did not even twitch a muscle. He was not even sure what he was about to see. Ben looked over at Jasper and saw that he somehow already had his gun in a defensive firing position. Zach and Seth still slept. Ben glanced back up at the window after hearing another crunching snow sound near it.
The thing was walking around the shack.
A shadow went by the window with surprising ease. It was tall, the head, with what looked like three or four twisted horns or antlers protruding from it, was half concealed by the top of the window. Ben thought that it had to be a man with an unusual hat. The dark shadow past the second window, again with similar ease, as if almost in a gliding fashion. The steps began to move away from the building. Fading away, and then he heard a few faint sounds from the hitched horses. Then quiet.
Ben slid over on his belly to wake up his brothers with an urgent shake.
“It’s here,” said Ben. Both brothers bolted upright knowing immediately what he meant by that, but then logic and rationale took hold.
“What’s here?” said Seth.
“I don’t know, something, something big, it just walked around the cabin and over toward the horses. Zach scrambled to the front door on all fours. Once at the door he stood slowly and cracked the door open just enough to peek out at the snowy environment while Ben pleaded for him to be careful.
“See anything,” asked Seth. Zach mumbled, and then frantically waved the other two brothers two the door. Once there Zach pointed to direct their attention to the tracks in the fresh snow. It was snowing heavy, but there was no mistaking the recent footprints.
“Definitely two-legged, but damn that is no normal step for a man, know what I mean,” said Seth. Zach mumbled.
“About forty, forty-five inches in stride, but those are more like deer tracks,” said Ben.
“Narrow enough, but they’d be side-by-side, not one perfectly in front of the other,” said Seth. Not understanding why, but the chill of the quiet outside cold suddenly penetrated Ben like sharp ice daggers freezing his core. No wind, just heavy snowfall. Zach mumbled, and then dashed toward the hitching post where the horses were tied. Ben heard someone yell to Zach to stop, and then realized it was he that had just shouted. Once he neared the post, Zach began to slow until the last few steps were a slow walk of disbelief. He saw that the horses, all three, were gone. He lifted and examined with both hands two of the three leather straps, both snapped clean. The third dangling along the side of the post looked to be in the same fashion. Unaware to Zach the other two brothers were standing by his side in the same incredulous and stunned manner. Seth spotted a depression in the snow some twenty feet away and slowly made his way to it as if something were to suddenly jump out of it.
“Guys…,” said Seth as he held up in front of him for the other two to see, the lower portion, from the knee down, of a horse’s leg.
“I don’t think I want to be here anymore. Besides the fact that I’m holding a leg, don’t the two of you feel the stillness of the air? It’s heavy, like something closing in on us, suffocating,” said Seth.
“Let's get back inside,” said Ben. Seth dropped the leg where he found it and the three men, all watching in different directions, made their way back to the Jasper residence. Upon returning to Jasper’s front door, Ben cautiously requested for the rather uneasy Jasper not to shoot. He didn’t.
No one uttered a word as all of them remained in the bluish dark. The three brothers sat at the table while Jasper resumed his usual position in this usual corner. Seth tapped his foot at a high rate of speed. Zach peered over to him with an annoyed glance. Seth stopped. Tension was high. There was a scrapping sound, a branch against a wood slat perhaps, but the heads all twisted immediately in that direction. Eyes all narrow and focused. Quiet resumed, which was followed by moments of more peaceful nothing. Heart rates began to lessen again and normal breathing returned.
A crunching sound was heard. It sounded to Ben as if it were just inside the nearby woods. The men quickly raised their guns.
“Don’t move, don’t make a sound,” said Ben who began to wish it were already morning.
Closer now, the crunching sounded along the side of the cabin. The walking stopped as if whatever was outside was also surveying the situation. Ben wondered if it knew they were in there. Could it smell us? Sense us? He then wondered why he kept thinking of this thing as an “it?” Surely it was some man or a group of men with an elaborate ploy to plunder the village while scaring everyone away, it just had to be. Ben thought that these men had to have seen them arrive, that they had been watching them all day.
Crunch, crunch, crunch, sounded behind them now along the side wall opposite the windows. The men quickly stood and turned around to face the barren wall. Jasper remained in his dark and protective corner where Ben noticed that his gun was once again shaking violently and that an element of craziness had returned to his eyes.
Quiet again. Seth took a step toward the wall with his right ear turned toward it as if to listen intently for any sign of movement, talking, or even breathing. Nothing.
He leaned near the wall even closer. Still nothing. Zach mumbled something that was nearly inaudible.
Seth leaned into the wall even closer. Still no sound.
He stood there with his ear against the wall for about two minutes and then finally turned toward the others and shrugged his shoulders. He took a step and accidentally kicked a leg on the chair that produced the most deafening sound in the cold silence. They all looked at each other for a second. Nothing.
Seth smiled and took another step, and then jumped with an insane startle as an ear piercing shrill filled the cabin as the wall began to be pounded on from the outside with such force that it shook inward a few feet with each dramatic blow.
With each blow slats cracked and splintered. The wall shifted and was about to fall and crush them. Without another second to think, the three brothers fired their rifles into the center area of the side wall. The report of the blasts echoed with thundered. Pistols were drawn after initial rifle blasts. A fusillade of shots riddled the wall. A multitude of holes emerged, some small, some larger as ripped portions of wood were blown away from the foundation holding them in place. The shaking and pounding of the wall stopped as abruptly as it began. The shooting stopped. Ben and Seth stood in disbelief looking through the holes for any sign of movement outside. They saw falling snow. No sound. Zach sat down on a chair.
Come back next Friday for the conclusion to our tale, Part III Of The Albertville Bear. Don't forget to comment, if you liked tonights segment and thank our special guest Todd for his very scary tale.