I wasn't sure where else to post these stories, so I figured I'd share them here. I've been an SAR officer for a few years now, and along the way I've seen some things that I think you guys will be interested in.

I have a lot more stories, and I suppose if anyone's interested, I'll tell some of them tomorrow. If anyone has any theories about the stairs, or if you've seen them too, let me know.

Part 2

So I logged back on tonight and was blown away by the staggering amount of interest this seems to have generated. First off, I'll address a few things that you guys have brought up:

Alright, on to the new stories:

So this kind of turned into a massive wall of text, and for that I apologize. I wanted to get to the stories my friend told me, and he does have some good ones, so I'll post those tomorrow evening. I also have a few more of my own I think you guys will like. I'm sorry to keep you all in suspense again, hopefully the stories here make up for it and help you get through the next 24 hours until I can post again!

Part 3

Well, once again, you guys have blown me away with your staggering amount of responses to my stories! There's no way I can respond to each of you individually, so I'm just going to address some common things again, and then move on to the stories. I'm going to write as many as I can think of, in addition to my friend's stories, and I will probably not update again until I get a chance to answer some questions that I myself have for my superiors.

Alright, so the common questions I found you all had:

Alright, let's move on to the stories:

Of the missing persons calls I've gone out on, only a handful have ever resulted in a complete disappearance, meaning no trace of the person and no body ever found. But sometimes, finding a body just leads to more questions than answers. Here are some of the bodies we've found that have become infamous in our team:

Now on to a couple of the stories my friend told me. I mentioned that you were all interested in the stairs, and you're in luck: he's had a closer encounter with them. Though he doesn't have any explanation for them, he does have a bit more experience with them than I do.

My buddy has been involved in a lot of missing persons cases where there's never been a trace of them found. I mentioned David Paulides, and my buddy said he can confirm that those stories are, for the most part, accurate. He said that most of the time, if the person isn't found right away, they're either never found, or they're found weeks, months, or years later, in places they can't possibly have gotten to. One story he told me really stood out that involved a five-year-old boy with a severe mental disability.

The last story I'll share from him was one that took place relatively recently, only a few months ago.

I'm going to end this entry here, since it's turned into a huge wall of text. I'm going to be heading out on a yearly training op tomorrow morning, so I'll be gone until early next week. I'll be meeting with a lot of former trainers and buddies who work in other areas of the park, and I'll be asking around about any stories they'd like to share. I'm so glad you guys have been interested in my stories, and once I'm back from this op, I'll continue to share them!

Part 4

Hey guys! I'm back from my training op, and I have a lot of really interesting stories to share with you. I've got enough that I'm going to break them up into two parts, this being the first. I'd love to put them all in one entry, but I just haven't had a chance to write them all down yet. I didn't have anything too crazy happen while I was out there, but we did have one incident with a rookie that I found relevant. Since I'm sure you guys have been waiting for these, I'll just get right into the stories. I'll assign each batch of stories to the person who told them to me.

K.D: K. D is a vet who's been an SAR officer for about fifteen years. She specializes in high elevation mountain rescues, and is widely considered one of the best in her field. She was one of the more enthusiastic storytellers, and since we were together a fair amount during exercises, she ended up telling me about four that really stuck with me.

EW: The next person I talked to was E.W, a former trainer who now works as an EMT. He still comes to ops like this to help out, but doesn't work full-time for us anymore. He specialized in finding lost kids, he just seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to knowing where they'd gone. He's a legend among the more senior vets, but he gets embarrassed if you compliment him on his work. He sat down with me at dinner one evening, and we ended up swapping stories. Most of them were just casual, but when we got on the subject of our weirder calls, I mentioned that I'd had a buddy who'd gone up a set of stairs. He got kind of quiet and asked me if I'd heard of a little boy who'd disappeared from his park a few years back. I hadn't, so he told me this story.

PB: By pure coincidence, I got to talk to another vet, P.B who's been in the SAR field for years. We were partnered on a grid sweep during a training exercise, and we were chatting casually about how we liked the job, what kinds of things we'd seen, and the like. At one point, we passed an old set of stairs, though these were probably from an old fire lookout, given the area that we were in. I sort of casually mentioned that I was curious about the stairs, and that I wished I knew more about them. He got kind of quiet and looked like he wanted to tell me something, but wasn't sure if he should. Finally, he told me to turn my radio off. Obviously this is something we are never, ever supposed to do, but I did it, and he did the same.

I'm going to stop here for the time being. I'll try and post the next part in the coming days, but what with it being the end of summer, things are pretty busy here. Thanks for the continued interest, guys, you've really awakened this curiosity in me that I didn't know I had!

Part 5

I apologize for the short update, guys. Things have gotten a little crazy around here, and I'm not sure how often I'll be able to update going forward. I really appreciate all the support you guys have given me, and while I only have a couple of stories to share with you, I'll be interested to see what you all think!

I'll update as soon as I'm able, guys. I appreciate the continued support!

Part 6

It's been way too long since I posted an update, and I'm sorry about that. There's also been some confusion about the new formatting requirements on the board, which I've cleared up. So these next few stories are going to be posted a little differently! They'll be in chronological order, and I'll do my best to tie them into each other as much as I can so it doesn't skip around too much.

When I started out as a rookie, no one had told me a lot about the job in terms of weird things that could happen. I'm assuming this was largely to prevent me from freaking out and abandoning the park. But a few months into my service, when I was still a rookie, a friend and I were drunk at a party, and he opened up a bit: "Yeah, it can get a little crazy out there, I guess. I think the worst are the ones where people die when they just shouldn't, you know? Or when we find 'em dead like ten minutes after someone says they saw them last. 'They were fine when I passed them on the switchback, I swear!' That sort of shit. Like, take this guy who I found one spring out on a really popular trail. Someone comes into the VC freaking about about some guy who's lying in the middle of the path in this giant pool of blood. So we run out there, and we find this guy dead as a doornail. Which he absolutely should be, because the back of his head is like mashed potatoes. The skull is decimated, brains are leaking out like custard filling, and they guy's old so you figure yeah, he probably fell and hit his head. Old people fall all the time, it's no big deal. Except that this area where he fell doesn't HAVE any big rocks. There's not even any stumps or big branches. And on top of that, there's no blood trail, so he clearly died where he dropped. Now that's when you'd turn to murder, but there were people just out of line of sight with the guy. If someone came up behind him and murdered him, there's no way someone wouldn't have heard. And again, even if someone had, there'd be a blood trail, spatter all over the place. But everyone on the scene said it looked exactly like he'd fallen and smashed his head on a rock. So what the fuck did he hit his head on? And then there was this lady I found in a different park about five years ago, back when I was upstate. We found her in the middle of a stand of big junipers, curled around the trunk, like she was huggin' it. We pick her up to move her, and a fucking waterfall comes out of her mouth, splashes all over my shoes. Her clothes are dry, and her hair is dry, but the amount of water in her lungs and stomach was phenomenal. Unreal, man. Coroners report? Says the cause of death was drowning. Her lungs were completely full of water. This, even though we're in the middle of the high desert, and there isn't a body of water for miles. No puddles, no nothing. No signs of anyone else being out there. I mean yeah, it's possible they were murdered. But why go out of the way to do it like that? Why not just stab 'em and be done with it? I dunno, it just sits weird with me."

Now of course, that freaked me out a little. But we were wasted, and I guess I sort of wrote it off as a fluke. I also assumed there was exaggeration there, since, you know, we were wasted.

Now, I don't like talking about this next case very much. It was an awful one that I've done my best to forget about, but of course that's easier said than done. This happened about six months after the conversation with my friend at the bar, and up until that point I hadn't had a lot of really weird shit go down. A few things here and there, and of course the stairs, but it's amazingly easy to get used to stuff like that when it's treated as if it's normal. This case was a little different.

A guy with Down's Syndrome in his 20s went missing after his family lost sight of him on a major path. That was odd in and of itself, because this guy never left his mom's side. She was absolutely convinced he'd been kidnapped, and unfortunately a Ranger who isn't with the park anymore insinuated that no one was going to kidnap someone... well, with that kind of disability. Not very tactful, to say the least. We wasted a lot of time trying to calm her down enough to get information about him, and then we put out an official missing persons call. Because of the urgency of the situation, him being mostly unable to function alone, we had local police come in and help us. We didn't find him the first night, which was heartbreaking. None of us wanted to think of him being alone out there. We assumed he'd just kept wandering, and was staying ahead of us. We brought out helis the next day, and they spotted him in a little canyon. I helped bring him back up, but he was in bad shape, and I think we all knew he wasn't gonna make it. He'd fallen and broken his spine, and couldn't feel his lower half. He'd also broken both his legs, one at the femur, and he'd lost a lot of blood. He was confused and scared while he was alone, so he'd probably exacerbated the injuries by dragging himself a little ways. I know it sounds awful, but while I was riding in the copter with him, I asked him why he'd wandered off. I just wanted something to tell his mother, to let her know it wasn't her fault, because he was fading fast and I didn't think she'd get to ask him herself. He was crying, and he said something about how 'the little sad boy' had wanted him to come play. He said the little boy wanted to 'trade' so he could 'go home'. Then he closed his eyes, and when he woke up again, he was in the canyon. I'm not sure that's exactly what he said, but it was what I thought the gist of it was. He kept crying, asking where his mommy was, and I held his hand and tried my best to keep him calm. 'It was cold out there.' He kept saying that. 'It was cold out there. My legs was frozen. It was cold out there. It's cold in me.' He was getting even weaker, so he eventually stopped talking, and he closed his eyes for a while. Then, when we were about five minutes from the hospital, he looked right at me, with these big tears running down his face, and he said 'Mama won't see me no more. Love mama, wish she was here.' And he closed his eyes and he just... never woke up. It was horrible, and I don't like talking about it. That case was one of the first ones that really rattled me badly.

Because of how badly it affected me, I reached out to a senior Ranger, and who ended up helping me through it. As time went on, and we got to know each other better, he ended up sharing one of his own stories with me. It was disturbing, but it helped to know that I wasn't the only one affected by the things going on out there. "I think this must have happened before you got here, because I think if it had happened while you were here you'd have remembered it. I know it didn't end up in the news, for some reason, but I think most people who've been here long enough know about it. The park sold off a portion of land to a logging company, and it was a really controversial thing. But it wasn't that large or old of a plot, and it was right after the recession, so we needed cash bad. Anyway, they were felling this plot of land, and we get a call that we need to get our supervisors out right away. I don't know why, but they ended up sending me and a few other guys along with the heads, I guess for power in numbers, to see what was up. We got there, and all these guys are crowded around a tree that they've just cut down. They're all pissed off and freaking out and the foreman comes over and says he wants to know what we think we're up to. "What the hell y'all think this is, some kinda sick joke? You've got a lot of fuckin' nerve pulling this shit, we bought this land fair and square!" Well we don't know what the hell he's talking about, so he brings us over to this felled tree and points at it and tells us that when they cut it down, it was just like this, and they'll be damned if they put it there. The inside of the tree was all rotted out and hollow in one spot, and when they'd cut it down it had exposed that chamber, and inside it is a hand. Like a perfectly severed hand. And looks like it's actually fused with the inside of the tree. Well now we think THEY'RE pulling a joke, so we tell them that we don't like being fucked with, and we start to leave, but they tell us they've already called the cops, and that they'll go right to the media if we don't stick around. Well that gets the heads' attention, so they stick around and talk to the police about it. Everyone is denying that they put the hand in there, and besides, how would anyone have even done it? It's clearly a real hand, but it's not mummified or skeletal. It's brand new, probably not even a day old. And it is definitely fused with the wood, you can see that it's coming right out of it. The loggers, they insist that they didn't put it there. Somehow, this fresh human hand ended up fused to the inside of this living tree. The cops have them cut up that section of tree into a movable chunk. Then they take the hand away, and the area is closed off. There was a pretty big investigation, but I know they didn't find get any answers. Now it's become this legend, and as far as I know we haven't sold any more property for logging."

As you all know, I went to a training seminar recently, and heard some amazing and horrible things there. One of the guys I talked to while I was there told me a story when we were all around the campfire one night. We were both pretty drunk, you'll see a pattern here, and we were swapping stories. He told me this one: "Me and another guy were out on a field search because some campers reported screaming noises at night. So we head out there to look for whatever fucking mountain lion has wandered into the area, and I'm pissed. We've had three of them show up in the camping areas that year alone and I'm getting tired as hell of constantly having to deal with them. Plus, I just don't like them anyway. They're a pain in the ass and they're loud and they scare the shit out of me. Fuckin' cats. Pieces of shit. I'm groanin' about it to the guy I'm with and he thinks it's a real fuckin' riot. So we're seeing all these broken branches and what look like dens and we're pretty sure we know where this thing is. I call in and they tell me to confirm if possible, which you know just means they want to you to step in a big pile of shit and use that as proof. I'm not seeing any, though, so I basically just tell 'em to shove it, I'm done. We know that damn thing's out here somewhere, even if I'm not stepping in its shit or inside its mouth or whatever. Guy I'm with wanders off to take a piss or whatever, and I stay behind watching this little burrow under a tree to see if maybe a fox or somethin' is living under it, 'cause I love foxes, man. They're cute as hell. But anyway, I'm watching this tree and I start hearing branches crackling and it's coming from the direction my partner went opposite of. Now I've got my pistol, but you and I both know that's not gonna do shit against a cat. I cock it and holler for my partner to get his dumb ass back, but he's too far and he can't hear me. I stand up and get my sights on where the thing is approaching, and I shit you not, man, I just about peed myself. This guy is coming toward me, and he's back-flipping through the fucking woods. Like, instead of walking, he's doing these crazy fucking back-flips, and I swear to God he cleared every fucking log and bush in his path, it was like he knew right where he was going. I yell at the guy to stop right where he is, that I'm pointing a gun right at him, but he keeps coming, and I just kinda lost it. I shot at the ground in front of him, and it was a dumb fuckin' thing to do, but man I didn't want this guy anywhere near me. When I fired, he was about fifty yards from me, and as soon as the gun goes off, he whirls around and goes off, back-flipping back into the woods. My partner hears my gun go off and runs back and asks what's up, and I tell him there's some fucking weirdo out here hopped up on God knows what, and we need to get the hell out of Dodge. I let the cops know what happened, and I didn't get in any trouble for firing, but man, I don't know what that motherfucker was on but I've never seen anything like that before. Shit was absolutely butt-fuck crazy."

I think we can agree that there's stuff going on out here in the woods, and while I'm not going to spout off about what it could be, or offer any theories, what I want people to take away from all of this is that it is so damn important to be safe when you're out there. I know a lot of you think you're invincible, but the fact is that you CAN die out there, or be hurt, or go missing. It's easier than you'd ever imagine.

I apologize for this relatively short update, guys, I will do my absolute best to continue this series as soon as possible. Thanks for all your continuing support, it means the world to me!

Part 7

One of the topics that I get asked about a lot, here and in real life, involve things like The Rake, the Wendigo, and other related legends. I can't honestly say that I know a lot about any of them, but based on some light reading I did I can say that I've heard stories that seem to be loosely related to them. You've heard the old adage that legends like that come from somewhere, and I'm sure that's true, but as you all know I do try to take things with a grain of salt. You have to, out here. It's sort of like working in a hospital, I'd imagine. You could spend all day thinking about how many people have died there, and how there are probably ghosts, or whatever you want to call them, all over the place, but it doesn't do you any good. It just makes it harder to do your job. I think a lot of us feel that way, and that's why we try to just go about our work like everything is fine. Once you get paranoid, there's not really any going back, and a lot of cadets quit because of it. My park especially seems to have a high turn-over rate because the cadets graduate and get so freaked out about everything, and they can't seem to let it go. You have to learn to internalize things and shut off.

I've talked to K.D a bit about her experience, because I wanted to know what she thought about the Wendigo. She didn't really have anything in particular to say about it, aside from that she didn't want to think about it that much, but she told me a friend of hers had had something similar happen. I contacted this person, H, over Skype, and they agreed to talk to me a bit. They're aware of my work here, and they're fine with me posting the story exactly as they wrote it:

"I grew up in Central Oregon, and there's a reservation called Warm Springs about two or so hours from where I lived. I only mention that because a lot of people in my area have friends there, and a lot of the land in that area belongs to that tribe. When I was a kid, we used to go camping up there. Not on the res, of course, but in that area, and I met a lot of kids who grew up there. I got to know one kid really well, his name was Nolan, and we ended up hanging out a lot when our families were in the area. Our folks got to know each other so we'd all get in touch and camp out around the same time. We'd camp for about two weeks, so we were out there for a long time. [I asked him if he camped in an RV.] Yeah, my dad had one, so I guess it wasn't really camping but we'd take our tents and stuff and set them up out away from camp most nights. I didn't like sleeping in there because I like being outside. [We talked for a bit about camping]

So anyway, sorry, one year Nolan and I were out there, I think we must have been like twelve or so. We wanted to go out and camp near the river because we wanted to try night fishing, I think we must have been about a third of a mile from the main camp. Far enough away that we couldn't hear or see anyone else, I remember that. We were messing around most of the day, I don't really remember much about it, but we ended up building a fire at some point and I was really impressed because he had this flint or something that he used to start it. I'd never seen anyone do that before so I thought it was pretty cool. I got him to teach me how to do it and we lit some stuff on fire, which looking back was really stupid because it was the middle of fucking summer, and if I remember right the fire warning was either at yellow or orange. But thankfully we didn't start anything major, and when it got dark we sat around and talked about whatever it is twelve year olds talk about, I don't really remember. What I do remember is that at some point, he looked over my shoulder at the river and asked me if I could see something.

The way our camp was set up, we were about ten feet from the river, and we were at the widest point, so it was probably about twenty feet to the other bank. It gets hot up there in the summer but the water's still cold, which is important.

I look over my shoulder and I could see something wading into the river on the other side. From where we were it looked like a deer but we couldn't really tell because of the fire. I got up to look closer and I saw a pair of antlers, so I figured it was a buck. But I thought it was weird that it was wading into the water, and it was definitely heading for us, and I asked Nolan what he thought we should do. He's looking at the fire with this weird expression and he tells me to sit down and shut up, so I do, because I'd never seen him act that way before. He's whispering at me to ignore it, and to just keep talking like we were but I couldn't think of anything to say. He was saying something about an episode of some show, but I could hear the deer coming through the water, so I wasn't really paying any attention, and I kept trying to see over his shoulder, but every time I did he'd sort of hit me on the arm and make me look at him. I wasn't really scared, I remember, I was just sort of confused. But then I hear the deer come out of the water, and I could kind of make out what it looked like, and I realized it wasn't a deer because whatever it was was walking on two legs. I started to get up, I was super freaked out, but Nolan just yanked me back down and talked louder about this television show, and I could tell he was just as scared as I was, probably even more. He leaned in and poked the fire with a stick, and he whispered that whatever I do, I can't speak to it. I could see it come closer, and it stood right behind Nolan's back. I was about ready to pee my pants, and I think I'd probably have run if I'd been alone, but I didn't want to leave Nolan, so I kept sitting really still and sneaking glances at it. It wasn't that tall, but the way it carried itself was just wrong, like its center of balance was screwed up. I can't really describe it, but it was kind of like it kept shifting too far forward. It just stood there behind Nolan for a long time, and eventually Nolan ran out of things to say and we just kind of sat there for a second. The fire was making noise, but I thought I could hear this thing talking in a really low voice. I couldn't hear what it was saying, and I leaned forward a tiny little bit, and I actually DID pee my pants when it leaned forward too. I couldn't see its face, but I saw its eyes.

They were cloudy and milky, and if you want to know what they looked like, find that scene from Lord of the Rings where Frodo falls in that lake and all the dead people are floating toward him. That's what its eyes looked like. So all I saw were these two white eyes floating above Nolan's head, and the really vague shape of the antlers coming out of its head. I don't know what my face looked like but at exactly the same time Nolan and I fucking booked it out of there, and we ran non-stop until we got back to the main camp. My pants were soaked with pee, so I took them off as we were running and threw them in the bushes. We both stopped once we were in front of my dad's RV and we couldn't see anything chasing us, so we stood there and caught our breath. I asked him what that thing was but he said he didn't know. He said his grandpa had only warned him that if anything ever came up to him when he was out in the desert, he was never, ever supposed to talk to it or listen to anything it had to say. I wanted to know if he'd heard it talking too, and he said that the only thing he'd been able to understand was 'help you'. I think we ended up sleeping in the RV with my parents, and the next night we went back out and didn't see anything.

That does remind me, in a lot of ways, of the Wendigo legend. There's a phrase used to describe it that I think fits perfectly, which is that the Wendigo is 'the spirit of the lonely places.' I know sometimes when I'm out in the wilds, where I know there's no one around me for miles and miles, I get this weird kind of craving that I can't really explain. I don't know if it happens to anyone else, but it's this desire to consume. It's not like I crave anything in particular, but more of this weird, distracting hunger that comes from every part of my gut.

I also wanted to find out more about the faceless man, if I was able, and found a few similar things. I asked around my circle of friends, and one of them said when he was out doing repairs at a park in his area, he saw something kind of like that.

We were having dinner in town, five of us including myself. This guy, he was re-painting an information booth and heard a man ask him for directions to the nearest campsite. He didn't turn around because he was up on a ladder, but he informed the man that there weren't any campsites nearby, but that if he headed down the road about four miles, he'd find one at another park. He asked if he could be of any other help, but the man said no, and thanked him. My friend said he kept painting, but he was listening, and never heard the man leave.

"The second he came up and talked to me, the hairs on my neck stood up, but I wasn't sure why. I just had this really uneasy feeling about the whole thing, and I wanted to finish painting and get out of there. I figured maybe part of it was that I couldn't turn around to look at him, but something just felt off. There was also this weird smell floating around even before the guy talked to me, kind of like old period blood. I had looked around to see what was causing it but I didn't find anything. So I waited for the guy to walk away, but I didn't hear him leave, which made me think he was just standing there and watching me, so I asked again if I could do anything for him, and he didn't answer. I knew he was there though, because I hadn't heard him leave, so I did this awkward turn on the ladder to look down and see what he was doing. Now I admit it could have just been my brain fucking up, but I swear to you, Russ, for a split second when I turned around, that fucker didn't have a face. Like he had no face. It was almost concave, and totally smooth, and I just about had a fucking heart attack because I couldn't even wrap my brain around what I was seeing. I think I started to say something but there was this kind of 'pop' inside my head and suddenly he was just a normal looking guy. I must have looked weird because he asked me if I was okay, and I was just like 'yeah, I'm fine.' He asks about the campsite again and I point to where he has to go, and he's like 'I'm not from around here, can you help me get there?' Now this is when I know something is really up because there's no way this guy got out here and didn't know where he was. And for that matter, there's no car around, so how'd he get here in the first place? I said I was sorry but that I couldn't take him anywhere in a company vehicle, and he's like 'please? I really don't know where I am, can you come with me and help me get there?' So now I'm seriously weirded out, and I start wondering if this is some kind of ambush or whatever. I told him I could call him a taxi to come out and take him where he wants to go, and I pull out my phone and he just goes 'no' and walks away really quickly. But he doesn't walk out of the park, he walks back into the fucking trees and I got right in my fucking truck and start to get out of there, fuck the paint or whatever. I looked in my mirror to see where he was as I was leaving and he was standing right at the tree line again, I don't know how he got there so fast, but this time I know that fucker didn't have a face. He was just watching me leave, and right before I turned the corner he took a big step back into the trees and kind of dissolved, I guess. Maybe it was just dark so he blended in, but it felt more like he just melted away."

Interestingly, right after this guy finished his story, someone else, piped up with another one, but with a slightly different twist.

"You know actually, I had something sort of weird like that happen a while back. I was out doing some trail scouting, and I was out in the middle of nowhere figuring out where we were gonna have this trail run through. I hadn't seen anyone else for probably a good two hours, so I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going, I was just looking at the ground for the most part. Then out of nowhere, I crested this little hill and almost ran into this guy. He was older, probably in his sixties, and I started to apologize to him for running into him. And then I noticed his face, and I probably looked like a complete douchebag because I stopped and just stared at him. It took me a second to figure out what was wrong, but this guy's face was huge. I know that sounds weird, but that's the only way I can describe it. His head wasn't big or anything, it was normal, but the amount of space his face took up was just way too much. Like if you took someone's face and enlarged it all by about two times. He doesn't say anything, he just kind of looks at me, and I backed up and was kind of stuttering and saying I was sorry, and I went around him and fucking got out of there and did what I needed to do. The whole time, I kept looking behind me because I was so freaked out that he'd pop up behind me or something. I know it sounds ridiculous but I swear to you it was one of the creepiest things I've ever seen."

I switched the topic to the stairs a little later, and there was a definite shift in enthusiasm. No one spoke up at first; there is a real stigma around discussing them, even when we're away from work. But I broke the ice with a story of my own, and the guy who told the story about the faceless man told this one, albeit very quietly.

"Couple years ago, I was camping with my girlfriend, and were out about two miles from the road at this site I know. We went to bed that night, but we couldn't sleep because-"

Someone interjected a funny comment, and we were dangerously close to going off on another subject, but I got us back on track.

"-yeah, really funny, you fucker. No, it was because we kept hearing that grinding noise. My brother used to grind his teeth in his sleep, and it kind of reminds me of that. My girlfriend was freaking out but I just kept telling her to ignore it because I've heard it before and you just have to ignore it. It goes away eventually, you guys know what I mean."

We all knew what he meant.

"So eventually I got her to go to sleep, but I woke up probably two hours later because something was just off. I rolled over and she wasn't there, and I kind of freaked out, because..."

He thought for a second and then he took a very long drink.

"Anyway, I ran out of the tent calling her name, but I didn't have to go far. She was standing at the edge of the camp looking at something in the trees and I could see she was really pale. The fire was low but bright enough to see her. Anyway, so I ran up to see what was going on and she was dead asleep, but her eyes were open. She had this real spaced-out look, y'know. So I put my arm around her to lead her back, but she wouldn't move. She just said really quietly something like 'I have to go now, Eddie. I have to go, it's here.' I was like 'you're just sleepwalking, come back to bed' but she wouldn't budge. She just kept standing there and saying that she had to go. And I looked where she was looking, and there was a fucking staircase right there about fifteen yards away. Grey one, concrete. And she started to walk toward it but I yanked her back and that woke her up. She looked at me like I was fucking out of my mind, and she asked what the fuck she was doing out of the tent. I didn't tell her anything, I just told her she was sleepwalking. The grinding was gone, so she just went back to the tent with me and fell asleep again. I don't know... I don't like thinking about it, y'know?"

We all knew.

"You guys remember that kid with... I can't remember what it was, some kind of brain fuck-up, not Down's but something like it." Someone else brought up. "Well I got to read the report he gave when they found him a week after he went missing and it was fucked up beyond belief. I mean you have to take it with a grain of salt because who knows what that kid actually thinks is real, but some of this stuff, I don't think he could have made up."

"Like what?"

"Well first of all, he talked about the stairs. He said he'd been watching his dad build a fire and the stairs 'came up to him', and he had to go up them or something bad would happen. The cops couldn't really understand what he was talking about after that, because he just kept saying 'like the campfire' over and over. And he kept mentioning sounds, but he couldn't say what sounds, just that it was loud and he covered his ears so he couldn't hear them. But the thing I remember most is that they asked him where exactly he'd gone, and he just said he was right there. He kept pointing at himself, and they said they thought that meant that he thought he'd never left. He said he wasn't scared because the stairs were there and he said they talked to him, but not like people talk. Like I said, it was really convoluted and hard to understand, and I have a feeling the cops didn't take most of it down. They ended up just saying that the kid had some kind of amnesia or fugue, and that they didn't think foul play was involved. Doesn't really explain why he came back a week later perfectly fine without a speck of dirt on him and well fed, but hey, what the cops say goes."

There's still a lot of questions I want to answer. I'll continue to ask around and find out whatever I can. The next update should be soon, thanks for being so patient.

Part 8

This will be my final update for now.

Things have deteriorated here to a degree that I didn't foresee. I didn't know how much writing about the things that are happening out here would affect every single part of my life, and maybe that was stupid of me. Maybe I should have considered it more seriously, but honestly I just thought I was writing about things that a few people would want to hear. I didn't think it would get this much attention.

People ask me about the stairs now. It doesn't happen every day, but when it does happen I never really know what to say. My bosses know someone is talking about them, and I'm sure that if they know, the higher-ups know. And I can tell you that they aren't happy about it. I've been formally told that I am not to speak a word about them to anyone anymore, which is part of the reason this has to be my final update. I can't risk my job for this; as much as it's been wonderful to get a lot of these things off my mind, I still do love my work, and I need to be out here. If anything, my being aware of what's really going on is enough reason to stick it out. I may not be able to tell people that they're out there, but if I see them, I can direct traffic away to somewhere safer.

Because of the amount of attention the stories have gotten, I've heard a lot of stories being swapped back and forth. I've heard so many I can't even remember most of them. The ones I do remember are the ones that I wish I could forget.

One story that's made the rounds here was about a young woman who disappeared upstate. Initially, everyone assumed she was a runaway. She didn't come from a great home life, and so it really wasn't any kind of surprise that she'd choose to cut and run. But people started coming forward saying that they'd seen her around the park shortly before she vanished, so some of the Rangers in the area were sent out to make sure she hadn't hung herself or something on any of the back trails. It took them a while, but they did find her. Well, not all of her. Just half of her tongue and a quarter of the lower jaw. Very clean cuts, from what I heard. They've never found the rest of her.

So many stories about children. So many of them going missing and turning up in caves, wedged in between impossibly tight spaces. So many of them found on mountain peaks, or at the bottoms of sheer gullies. Missing shoes, missing socks, or found with both in perfect condition despite them being miles and miles away from where they vanished.

So many stories of black-eyed people, wandering around the woods and calling out in the night, mimicking the sound of running water or a bobcat screaming. One man in particular goes to every news station he thinks will listen to him and tells the same story. He was deer hunting, had camped out in a very remote area, and woke up because something was scraping against his tent. He thought it was a raccoon or a fox until the thing pressed its face against the door of the tent, at which point he could very clearly make out a human nose and mouth. He kicked at it, but it leaped back and was gone by the time he opened the tent flap, gun at his side. He fired two warning shots, and when the sound had faded, he heard a snap behind him. A man was standing at the edge of the campsite. This man was not wearing any clothing, but he also didn't possess any kind of human flesh. As this hunter described it, the man was made of some kind of amalgamation of raw meat and hair. As if someone had scooped up roadkill and molded it into the vague shape of a man. The face was lumpy and only a rough approximation of a human face. The thing opened its lopsided mouth, and from it came the sound of the gun the hunter had fired. It did this twice before mimicking the sound of the tent zipper and fleeing into the night.

A young couple, out for a hike in the rocky areas of my park, reported to me yesterday that they had seen something strange out on a peak I'm very familiar with. They were taking turns looking through a pair of binoculars when the man noticed a hiker climbing up a very steep part of the cliff face. He watched the man scale the slope, and it didn't occur to him until the incident was over that this person had no climbing gear. When the climber reached the top of the peak, which was about five miles away, they turned and faced the young man. He said whoever, or whatever, this person was, was looking right at them. The climber waved in an exaggerated manner before snapping in half at the waist, sideways, and leaping off the peak. The young man didn't see where the climber landed. I sent them on their way with assurances that I'd check it out. I lied. I won't be turning in a report, because there are ten others exactly like it. The climber is well known in that area. I don't question it anymore.

There are so many things I won't ever be able to understand about my job, and it would take me years to relate all of the things I've heard in the last few months. When I feel like my job isn't in jeopardy, I will come back. It may be in a different format, but I will come back. Thank you all for sticking by my side, and enjoying the things I've talked about.

If you go out into the woods, I encourage you to be safe. Bring water, food, survival equipment. Let people know where you're going and when you'll be back. Don't go on uncharted paths unless you know exactly what you're doing.

And above all:

Don't touch them. Don't look at them. Don't go up them.

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