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I went camping with my friends, and a stranger joined our group unnoticed – Scary Stories


I was the first to notice an extra person
had joined our group. I counted six of us sitting around the campfire,
but I knew we had left home with five. The sixth person had joined us somewhere along
the way, but where and when exactly I could not be sure. All the glowing faces looked familiar, like
I had known them all for a lifetime. That was why it took so long to find the man
out of place. I had to go through the faces one by one. I went through my history with them, recounting
how I met them, how I knew them. I fit each one into my memories like puzzle
pieces. First, there was Mark. He was sitting next to Sarah, chatting her
up as always. I met Mark and Sarah six years ago in the
tenth grade. Mark and I played wide receiver together on
the school football team. Sarah was a cheerleader, and Mark always had
a thing for her. The three of us started hanging out after
games, Mark flirting non-stop, and Sarah always hilariously rebuking him after a while. Then there was Ben. We had been best friends since the first grade. Inseparable ever since we bumped heads playing
tag during recess. He had his arm around his long-time girlfriend,
Justine. She started at our school when she moved from
Chicago in the seventh grade. Ben sat next to her in English, and soon she
became a part of our group at the time. She was quiet and shy when she first arrived. But once we got to know her, she opened up. She was one of the coolest and nicest people
you could ever get to meet. She had also become close with Sarah in the
past few years. And then there was the sixth face, the piece
that did not fit. I stared at him, and his name escaped me. That is if I ever had it in my memory banks
in the first place. He looked familiar, but I could not place
him in my memories. But why, if I recognized him, could I not
remember his name? Why did he sit among us, acting as if he belonged? He stared at Mark and Sarah as they chatted. He laughed when they laughed, smiled when
they smiled. I couldn’t figure it out. The question burned in my head. How had he–a stranger–joined our little
group without any of us noticing something amiss? “Yo, Porter!” Ben pulled me from my thoughts. “Your head up in the clouds or something? I was just telling Justine about our fifth-grade
teacher. What was his name again?” “Mr. Smith,” I said. “Oh yeah, Mr. Smith. I was telling Justine how you could rile that
guy up like nobody else. Remember that time you handed in an assignment
printed in yellow ink?” Ben and Justine laughed. “Yeah I remember,” I said. “I can still see the steam coming out of
his ears.” They laughed again, and I joined in half-heartedly. When I glanced the strange man’s way, he
was watching us, grinning. He was always watching, always on the periphery,
never partaking. Part of the reason he had flown under the
radar. I was struck with the sense that he was studying
us. My skin crawled. Ben drained his beer and threw the empty can
in the cooler. “Well, I gotta take a leak,” he said and
walked into the woods, swallowed up by the dark. “You really know how to push people’s
buttons when you want to, huh?” Justine said. I shrugged. I was having trouble focusing on the conversation. The weight of the situation, the reality of
it, was starting to hit me. A strange man had attached himself to our
group unnoticed. And who the fuck knew what his motivations
were? Questions raced through my mind. None I could answer. How had no-one else noticed yet? Why had it taken me so long to notice? Was I going insane? Did I have amnesia and forget this one friend
of ours? What in the hell was going on here? The strange man stood with jerkiness. “I gotta take a leak,” he said. It was the first time I heard him talk. He spoke with an odd lisp. It sounded as if he had to force the words
from his throat. He walked with an awkward gate, and like Ben,
disappeared behind the dark veil of the trees. No-one else flinched. Justine kept talking. “I always loved the long relationship you
and Ben have. It was so hard moving cities and leaving all
my old friends behind. I mean, I can’t complain too much, I wouldn’t
have met Ben and all you guys otherwise.” “Justine, don’t you see what’s going
on here?” “Huh?” “You’re telling me you haven’t noticed?” “Notice what, Porter? What are you talking about?” “Who was that guy?” I gestured to the vacated spot the strange
man left behind. “Oh him, he’s uh. . .” she trailed off. She frowned into the fire. I could see her mind ticking over, and her
eyes twinged with concern. I knew I wasn’t going crazy. “I don’t know,” she said. “Who is it?” “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” We stared at each other. “Maybe-” Justine was cut off. An ear-piercing screech came from the woods. It sounded like a shrill, injured cat. A large cat. The sound split the air and cut our conversations
short. A blanket of silence fell over the four of
us, only the crackling campfire persisted. The woods were still and quiet. “The fuck was that?” Mark broke the silence. “I don’t know,” Sarah said. “I’ve never quite heard an animal like
that before.” “Sounded like some fucked up mountain lion,”
Justine said. “You ever heard anything like that before,
Porter?” I shook my head. My fingers tingled with adrenaline. Ben was still in the woods, and the strange
man was out there with him. Dread filled my gut. “There’s no mountain lions out here,”
Mark said. “It’s probably an elk. They can make some creepy sounds.” Sarah agreed. Justine bit her lip and scanned the woods. “It’s probably okay. I think Mark’s right,” I said to her. But I wasn’t sure I believed it. Mark and Sarah had started up their conversation
again when the strange man bumbled out of the woods. They paid him no mind. I was hoping something would have triggered
in them by now, but they were oblivious. The strange man took a beer from the cooler. He fumbled with it, struggling with the tab. It was as is if had never opened a can before. When he finally had it open, he sat, beer
in hand, and continued to watch Mark and Sarah, a thin smile on his face. He never did take a sip. I watched him from across the campfire, his
head wavering behind the heat. I touched on what made me uneasy about this
strange man, aside from the fact he had managed to infiltrate our group without any of us
noticing for a long time. He moved with jerkiness and awkwardness, like
a newborn animal. Nothing he did was smooth or well-practiced. It made everything he did look like an act,
an imitation. I didn’t make the connection at the time,
but I should have seen this man was not quite human. But at the moment I wasn’t sure what to
think. I guess I just thought he was a freak. I considered calling him out, then and there. I wanted to ask him just what the fuck he
was doing. But I’ll admit I was scared. I had visions of this guy being some horrific
serial killer, and I didn’t know how dangerous he was, or if he was armed. I didn’t want to push him into doing something
drastic that got us all killed. As time went by without any sign of Ben, I
became convinced the strange man had done something to him. I watched him plotting, planning, and marking
his next target. Anger sprouted from my fear, and I started
to see red. I needed to stop him. We used an axe to chop firewood for our campfire,
and it was leaning against my seat. This man was dangerous. I was sure of it. I convinced myself I needed to do something
before another one of us was next. I clutched at the axe’s handle. The smooth wood felt reassuring in my hand. Justine touched my arm. “Porter, where’s Ben? I’m getting nervous.” “It’s okay,” I lied, patting her hand. “I’m sure everything is okay.” I stood with axe in hand. “I’m going to get some more firewood,”
I announced more awkwardly than I hoped. “Uh, okay dude,” Mark said. “Porter?” Justine’s voice wavered. Speaking up was a mistake. I had drawn the attention of the strange man. I walked passed him, trying to act as nonchalant
as possible, but I was never a good actor. He watched me the whole way. He maintained his glare as I reached the perimeter
of the woods, and as he looked back, his head rotated around an unnatural distance. That was enough to chill my spine. I was hoping he would turn around, to look
away and give me an opening. But he never did. I’m not exactly sure what happened next. I never saw him stand up and walk over to
me. I never even saw him move a single muscle. But in an instant, he was standing in front
of me, inches away from my face. It was as if he teleported. A metallic smell stung my nose. The strange man stunk of blood and copper. The axe trembled in my hand. Any thought of actually using it fled my mind. I locked into place, my skin covered in goosebumps. Power radiated off him. He spoke to me. “Get some firewood,” he said in his forced
tone, and he smiled wide. At that moment, Ben emerged from the woods. “Ben!” Justine cried. “Jesus,” Ben said as Justine squeezed
him. “Did you guys hear that cat thing?” “We think it was an elk,” Mark said. “Where were you? Why did you take so long?” Justine asked. “I guess I wandered too far off and I lost
sight of the campfire. Took me a bit to find my way back. For a second I thought I was going to have
to freeze my ass off out there alone tonight.” The relief washed over my body like a wave,
crashing into my muscles. I felt each one relax. At least Ben was safe. I looked for the strange man, but he was gone. He somehow slinked away while I was distracted. He was good at going undetected when he wanted
to. My thoughts turned to getting out of there. Even though Ben was unharmed, that guy was
still trouble. I started back towards the group and caught
the middle of their conversation. “I don’t know actually. Yeah, who was that guy?” Ben said. “I thought he was with you guys,” Sarah
said. “Yeah isn’t he your friend?” Mark added. “I thought he drove over with you three.” “No,” Ben said. “I don’t know who he is.” The panic spread over everyone’s faces. They were finally feeling what I was feeling. The realization had set in. “We need to get out of here,” I said. “Before he comes back.” “Yes please,” Justine said. “We have to leave now. That guy was a freak. Right, Porter?” “Yeah,” I said. I explained to them how I noticed he was the
odd man out when we were sitting around the fire. I explained the odd behavior, and they all
agreed the guy was strange and possibly dangerous. None of us could pinpoint exactly when he
had joined the group. He had slipped in unnoticed and unaccounted
for, it was uncanny. We packed our tents in record time. We trekked the fifteen minutes to our cars
through dark woods, flashlights in hand. We heard the screech of the elk again–if
it was an elk, which I have my doubts about now–and we took some comfort from the fact
it sounded farther away. Even so, we picked up our pace for the final
stretch of the walk. I felt like I could finally relax behind the
wheel and locked doors of my SUV. Justine and Ben sat in the back, while Mark
and Sarah followed behind in Mark’s beaten up Ford Laser. We were heading out of the woodland and were
planning to shack up in a motel for the night, before heading home in the morning. I thought we were free and clear. We wound our way around the dark roads that
snaked through woods. I let a smile open up my face when we finally
reached the exit road. It was an arrow-straight stretch of asphalt
that split through the last few miles of woodland. I pressed on the accelerator. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there,
and I think Mark was feeling the same way, because he sat close on my rear bumper. I remember thinking, at least we’ll have
a strange tale to tell after all this. I didn’t think it was about to turn into
a horror story. The trees and the dashed lines on the road
blurred past us. My headlights reached out for the seemingly
endless road, and my speedometer needled its way towards 100mph. I don’t know what possessed me to go that
fast, and I wish Mark didn’t follow my lead. It was a mistake. The strange man appeared from behind a tree. He walked into the middle of my lane. I slammed the brakes. It was too late. The next sequence of events happened so fast
it plays like a slideshow in my mind. The tires screeched, and there was a smell
of burning rubber. The strange man folded over my bonnet and
got sent flying down the road. He skated across the pavement on his back,
moving with such speed it looked as if he was gliding on ice. More tire screeching. Mark flew past in the opposite lane, fishtailing. He fought it, and for a moment I thought he
had it saved. But the car hooked right, into the trees. The sickening sound of crunching metal reverberated
in the air. Mark’s car slammed into a tree, driver side
first, sending fragments of glass and metal flying. The car bounded off one tree and into another. The front passenger side impacted this time. The front light exploded, and the passenger
side cavity caved in, sending a wheel bounding into the woods. The crumpled heap of a car came to a rest. Justine was the first out the door, crying
out Sarah’s name. Ben went after her, and I followed after him. Everything felt surreal as shock coursed through
my body. It was as if I was watching through a screen. I floated over the asphalt as Justine and
Ben sprinted towards the steaming wreckage. The crash scene dimly lit by my SUV’s one
remaining headlight. There are two screams I’ll never forget. They imprinted themselves on my brain, and
I’ll hear their echoes at night forever. If I happen to get Alzheimer’s later in
life, I know the last thing to go will be these screams. The first one I heard when I was thirteen. It came from my mother. It flooded the house, splashing off the walls. I ran out of my room to see her crumpled at
the front door, with two police officers standing by. They had notified her that her eldest son
(my brother) had died. The second came from Justine when she saw
what was waiting for us in that Ford Laser. Mark was unrecognizable. He was a shattered mess of bone, skin, and
blood, melded and intertwined with the crumpled steel. Sarah was blinking slowly, her breathing labored. Her one arm shattered, broken in too many
places to count. Her legs crushed at knees from the front of
the car, which crumpled back into her leg space. Her legs would have been flat, if I could
see them. Justine turned away and fell to her knees,
face buried in her hands, shoulders heaving. Ben tried to comfort her, but he had to turn
away and throw up off the side of the road. I pulled out my phone and struggled to dial
9-1-1. With my fingers shaking, I kept pressing the
wrong numbers. My voice was small and distant as I explained
what happened to the operator. She told me to stay on the line, but as I
looked down the road, I dropped my phone. The strange man was standing there. His grin reached from ear to ear, showing
a grandstand of teeth. His shoulders shrugged up and down as if he
was laughing. In fact, the fucker was laughing. If I were not in shock, I would have gone
after him right then and there. I would have torn his heart–if he has one–right
from its chest. But all I could do was stare, mouth agape,
struggling to keep the tears behind my eyes. The strange man started for the woods. I watched him go, and I watched him change. I saw it. I know I did. This was no illusion. No trick of the mind. This was real. I saw him shapeshift. I saw its true form. We were not dealing with something human that
night. After countless hours of research, I believe
I saw what others have called The Goatman. Its horns stuck out unevenly from its head. Its grinning snout bared rows of sharp teeth. And walking upright, like a man with an awkward
gait, it vanished into the shrouded woods. It has been eight months since that night. I’ve only seen my friends a handful of times
since then. Our relationships have shattered and are left
in ruin. All we are now to each other is a stark reminder
of that night. Mark is dead. Sarah survived, but as a triple amputee. Justine and Ben broke up. And here I am, rugged with a scraggly beard
and uncut hair after spending every sleepless night researching the monstrosity I saw that
night–The Goatman. I’m going back to those woods. So help me God, I’m going back. I’m coming for The Goatman. And I’m not stopping until one of us is
dead.

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