Jos Crane

Official website of Jos Crane, author.

It felt like it had been years since I last took a shower. Realistically, it had only been several days. Most of that time was spent in a forest I deemed haunted. When I initially drove to the campsite, it seemed ordinary in every aspect. A van parked on the dirt road, a little stream that quietly separated the plains and a forest, and a dirt path that led to the unknown. It was a quaint little spot until the first night when I spotted shadows.

Unfortunately for me, I had hiked nearly 10 miles before reaching my camping site. Along the way, I placed little red flags into trees as far between them as I could see, so I wouldn’t get lost on my way back. By the time I arrived, dusk had settled in and orange and purple filled the sky above. I set up my tent, started a fire, and started cooking myself some steak. Then, the shadows came.

They didn’t appear like shadows you see when walking in the late afternoon created by another person blocking sunlight. No. These were the kind of shadows that I could see in the corner of my eye then completely disappear the moment I tried to peek in that direction. Sounds of a whistle would vibrate through the air and the fire would whimper briefly, before resuming its passionate burn again. At first, I thought the shadows were my eyes adjusting to the night, and the whistling was perhaps the wind. I shrugged it off, poured water over the fire, and went to sleep in the tent.

The next morning, I chewed on a nutrition bar while I packed everything up and head out another three miles to another campsite. I took photographs of the mountain range, the forests, and various oddities I found as I leisurely hiked. I spotted a deer, too, but couldn’t take a photograph of it in time. The next campsite I discovered, I put up my tent, started a fire, and cooked a Meal-Ready-Eat kit. Again, the shadows appeared, the whistling sounded, but there was no wind this time. It was too much of a coincidence, especially miles apart, to come from the same source. To calm my nerves, I began to sing various music from video games. Why video games, in particular, was beyond me, but it successfully soothed me. While singing, the whistling stopped and the shadows seemed to remain away. I poured water on the fire and went to rest.

By the third day, I wanted to escape, so I headed back where I came from by following the red flags. My photography resumed while I took pictures of artifacts I may have missed on my way up. After what felt like five miles, I stopped for the day and set up camp again. Like the night before, I started singing songs, but this time from my favorite films. The whistling never sounded, nor did the shadows appear.

The next morning I continued my path, but it became peculiar that my red flags would no longer fit in the bag of which I initially carried them. I took them all out and attempted to compact them so they would fit in the bag. It didn’t work. I took them out again, this time counting each red flag. I started with one hundred, and I counted 110. “This doesn’t seem right,” I thought. I counted them a second time with the same result, but I was one off. I had 109, not 110. Regardless, it was more than I started with. I looked at where I thought the path ahead of me led back to my car and found yet another red flag in a tree. “Okay, well that makes 110 then,” I joked to myself to ignore the nerves creeping up my spine.

I grabbed a few more flags on my pathway to the car until I reached a spot that appeared to be a good campsite. What concerned me the most along this hike was that there were certain trees I had seen yesterday, or earlier today. Even a little pond where a beaver dam existed was an exact replica of the one I saw yesterday. Or was it coming up that I saw it? No, I had seen it more than twice. Concerned, I settled down for the evening and sang more music around the fire to calm my nerves. I stopped briefly to see what would happen. The shadows appeared yet again, and so did the whistling that would tamper the fire. I resumed singing until I went to bed for the night.

Continuing the next morning, I eventually found my way back to my car, but the number of flags that I had nearly tripled the amount I started with. Where the consumed food was stored in my backpack was replaced by the new red flags I had claimed. I still couldn’t fathom where they came from, nor who they belonged to. There were no other cars where I parked. I drove home.

Immediately running upstairs once I got home, I turned on the shower and bathed myself as long as I could before the water started to turn warm. At one point, I felt the water lift over my head. I could see the water pouring like rain around me, but couldn’t feel it directly over my head despite never moving. My heart started to beat faster as I felt my hair stand up on my arms, even though the water had been forcing them down. I began to sing and the water returned to rain over my head. The water started to cool down and I decided it was enough water wasted. Once I exited the shower, I headed over to the sink and stared at the foggy mirror. In it, words were written, “YOU HAVE A LOVELY VOICE” – I live alone.

I like to sing in the shower sometimes. When I got out of the last one, the fogged-up mirror read “YOU HAVE A LOVELY VOICE” — I live alone.