It was my twelfth birthday and my dad was taking me camping at my favorite spot by the lake. We have been camping there since we moved here to Maine. We lived in one of the most rural areas in the state. Our house was surrounded by miles and miles of woods. My mom and older sister Joslyn were not as thrilled as I was about being so far away from the city. But my dad loved the outdoors and thought it’d be safer and less stressful living in the sticks.
I got to invite my friend’s Morgan and Riley. We went to school together in Caribou, which was about an hour away. Since they did live in the city they were always excited to spend the weekend with me. My house basically became the hang out spot for mine and my older sister’s friends. We would have bon fires and play our music as loud as we wanted.
This was probably my hundredth time camping on the lake and I was just as excited as the first. I grabbed my bag and joined my friend’s by the front door. Dad loaded most of the camping gear onto his back. My friends and I just carried smaller things, like food, silverware, and blankets. We all grabbed our own flashlight and headed out the door. It was only six pm so it was still light out. “I can’t wait to get there,” I said almost skipping past my dad.
“I can’t wait to hear more of your dad’s scary campfire stories,” Morgan said. “I always get so scared.”
“Everything scares you,” I said. Riley giggled.
“Shut up,” Morgan laughed. We continued chatting for a while as we trekked our way through the woods. It only took us twenty minutes to get there. My dad immediately started setting up the tents. He asked us to gather up some dry wood for the fire, but not to go too far.
We walked down the bank towards a pile of sticks laying near the tree line. I checked the sticks to make sure they were dry and handed some to Riley. “So do you think we’ll see a bear?” she asked.
“I hope not,” Morgan snatched up a few sticks. “Bears are scary and they kill people.”
“Don’t worry guys, my dad always brings his gun with him when we go camping,” I tried to change the subject. I knew Morgan was terrified of bears. Her uncle had been mauled during a hike in the Cascades in Washington. “So Morgan, have you started on your paper for English yet?”
“No, I haven’t decided what to write about yet. I keep changing my mind.”
“I’m gonna write about my trip to Gatlinburg,” Riley said. “I got to go horseback riding on this really long trail. It was so awesome.”
“What about you Lux?” Morgan asked.
“I don’t know either. But we still have some time to decide,” I grabbed one last piece of wood. “I think we have enough.” We headed back to the tents.
“Thanks girls, this should be plenty enough wood,” my dad took the wood and laid it in a pile next to his homemade fire pit. “I’m going to get dinner started, you girls hungry?”
“Yes, starving,” I laughed.
After we ate, we roasted marsh mellows while my dad told us some creepy ghost stories. We were definitely freaked out. And it was pretty dark out, so that made the stories even scarier. My dad checked his watched and suggested we get into our tents and get some sleep. In the morning we would go swimming.
Riley, Morgan and I climbed into the bigger tent and my dad got into the other. “Night girls,” he called.
“Night Mr. Frey.” Riley called.
“Night,” said Morgan. I zipped up the tent and clicked on the flashlight. It was pretty dark now without the glow of the fire. “Okay guys here’s the plan,” I put the flashlight in the middle of the tent.
“What?” they asked at the same time.
“I think we should go look around the woods after my dad falls asleep. What do you think?”
“What about bears?” Morgan whispered.
“Oh calm down Morgan, there are no bears around here, right Lux?” Riley looked at me.
“I’ve never seen one. It’ll be fine I just wanna go a little ways in.” I slid into my sleeping bag. “We’ll just lay here a while until he falls asleep and then we’ll go. Okay?”
“Okay…” Morgan moaned. “But I better not see a bear or we are no longer friends.” We all laughed. I clicked off the flashlight and we all laid down. It was quiet. But outdoors quiet. I could hear the night animals calling. It was the best sound in all the world. The sound of nature.
I awoke with a start. Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes and looked around the tent. Crap, we had fallen asleep. So much for our midnight escape. I could hear my dad snoring. I figured he was the reason I had woken up so abruptly. I turned over on my side and laid back down.
A branch snapped. I perked up. Another snap. And another. There was a lot of movement coming from the woods behind the tent. Clearly something was passing by. I was too tired to care. It was probably just a deer or some other small animal. The woods were full of them. I laid back down.
Just as I was closing my eyes I heard footsteps. I sat up and checked to make sure both Morgan and Riley were in the tent. I thought maybe it was one of them. But nope. They were both sound asleep. I was no expert but I was sure it was a person. It was definitely two-legged, not four.
“Morgan, Riley?” I shook them. Morgan didn’t budge, but Riley slowly sat up.
“What’s wrong?” she yawned.
“Shh, there’s someone out there,” I whispered.
“What? What are you talking… “ I shushed her again.
“Listen.” We sat there staring at each other. It was quiet. And I mean quiet. No birds, no crickets, no anything. It was dead silent. The only thing we could hear was the occasional snore from my dad.
“I don’t hear anything, I think you were dreaming.” She tried to lay back down but I caught her arm. Thump, thump, thump, thump. The footsteps came again. They were getting closer, whoever it was. “What is that?” her face was white.
“I don’t know, it’s definitely a person. Maybe Joslyn trying to scare us.” I grabbed the zipper and slowly as I could I unzipped the back flap so we could peek out the little mesh window. I only got it about halfway when I heard a low growl. I froze. My heart slammed in my chest and my stomach clenched.
The growl came again, deeper. I knew at that moment it was not a person. That was an animal growl. An angry animal growl. I immediately thought bear. Big bear. The growl was so deep it vibrated the tent.
“Luxie… Is that.. a.. a… bear?” her voice was so low I was surprised I even heard her. I just sat there, hand frozen on the zipper. “Lux?” she shook my shoulder. I was hoping my dad heard the growl too and would come running. But in reality my dad was a hard sleeper and could sleep through the loudest of thunderstorms.
“I don’t know,” is all I could manage. My mind was spinning. If there was really a bear outside and it decided to attack we didn’t stand a chance. I knew I had to get to my dad. But I didn’t know where the animal was. And I knew it could most likely see better in the dark than I could. I tried peeking out the little window to see if I could see anything. The moon was out now and it was bright enough to see fairly well. But I couldn’t make out anything past the first line of trees.
Something moved to my right. I glanced over. All I could make out was a big dark shape moving just along bushes away from our camp. I couldn’t tell if it was a bear. “Whatever it was it’s moving away,” I said. I felt so relieved. My heartbeat slowed and I sat back from the window. “My dad said most bears won’t hurt you. They’re just curious. That’s why we always hang up our food away from the camp.”
Riley let out a big sigh. “I was about to have a heart attack. That was freaking scary!”
“Yeah. Once I know it’s completely gone I’m gonna go tell my dad just in case it comes back.”
“Good idea,” we tried to relax and lay back down. I wiped my sweaty palms against my shirt. The woods have never scared me before. But whatever that animal was, it terrified me. I remember my dad telling me how quiet other animals get when a predator is nearby. It made sense it was a bear.
My mind went back to the footsteps. I was so confused because I knew I heard something on two legs, but that growl was definitely an animal. Maybe the bear was picking stuff from the trees. They occasionally will stand on two legs and walk for small distances. I didn’t want to think about it anymore.
“I’m going to go wake up my dad,” I said. I stood up and unzipped the tent.
“You want me to come with you?” Riley asked
“No I’ll be fine. He’s just right there,” I got out and went to go wake him up. A glow from ahead caught my eye just before I reached the tent. I froze mid step. My heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. I was paralyzed with fear. I was looking into the eyes of a creature peeking out from behind a tree. The eyes were a glowing yellowish green color. And it had dark fur. I couldn’t see much else but I did see pointy ears that sat on top of its head and teeth. I could hear it snarling at me. It crouched down and let out the most horrifying sound I have ever heard. A mixture between a howl and a growl. I screamed. And that was the last thing I remember.