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It’s time to gather back around the campfire for the next Halloween Horror Nights tale. Let’s cool things off with a story of a fan-favorite haunted house from last year (2019). It’s the 1800s in the Yukon and a blizzard is rolling in, the snow is piling up, and there are distant howls carrying on the wind.
Terror of the Yukon
It would be a decade before gold was discovered in the Yukon but, in 1869, the valley held other resources, plundered by only the bravest of souls. Outcasts, criminals, and company men all looked to make their fortunes off of furs and lumber. The short summers and longer winters made the work only possible for the hardiest or the most desperate frontiersmen.
A strong rush of icy wind crashed against and over the mountain range. It twisted down into the valley and braided itself between the trees. Storm clouds began to blot out the dipping sun. The snow-packed peaks began to slough off preceding snows, pushing it into the valley and making room for the newest delivery of powder. The icy wind pushed through the Shadow Creek Logging Camp, squeezing through the timber walls, knocking over saw horses, and bending large trees.
The lumberjacks and other inhabitants, who had been rushing around all day, hastened as if propelled by the strength of the wind. They had been preparing for the storm for the last day and a half, gathering firewood and locking up supplies. The summer had been too short and so, in the interest of profits, the skeleton crew stayed behind to salvage any clear-weather work days.
Another large blast of wind, accompanied by an eerie howl, pulled the Foreman’s focus. He subconsciously touched the pistol at his hip, as if the wind were an easily-defeated foe. Standing on his small porch, he sipped his freshly poured coffee, only to find it had already frozen in the tin cup. He cursed and re-entered his cabin that stood on the rise, overlooking the logging camp. He shook his head in disappointment. Snow fell off of his hat and onto the cabin floor. The entire camp was going to lose the bonus that had enticed most of his crew to stay. He picked up the photo of his wife and touched her face. He should count his blessings. He was the only man to have a spouse with him on this excursion. Her presence was not a perk he had to sell the company on. Opal was a lumberjill with arms like steel. No man would mess with her and most steered clear of her when she was in a mood. The Foreman was the only one she would cool her hot temper for. The only one in the camp with a worse disposition was the trapper, Jean-Guy Biledoux.
The Foreman counted on Jean-Guy and Gilbert (the hunter/scout) to keep the larder full of meat. The larder was full and even though the pelts and furs would not fix the balance sheet, it would help him keep his job. He surveyed the camp as the final loose items were tied down, and the mules were stabled. The lumberjacks would hunker down in the main lodge for the next few days and wait out the approaching storm. He knew there were a few bottles of whiskey that had made their way into the lodge and he smiled. They deserved to blow off some steam. Frank with his fiddle and Douglas with his strong-tenor singing voice, he knew there would be dancing near the fireplace tonight. He saw his wife trudging up to the small cabin. Tonight they would play cards and laugh by the fire. He opened the cabin door for her with a smile that pulled at her frozen frown. The camp was ready for anything mother nature wanted to throw at them.
They were prepared.
Inside the trapper’s shed, Jean-Guy growled as a droplet of sweat ran down to his beard and then halted, adding to the icicles collecting on his thick bristles. His meaty arms shook as they set the final bear-trap. He grunted with approval as he surveyed the shed. Animal furs laced the walls, keeping much of the stinging winds at bay. His shed was a sanctuary, protecting him from the outside elements and whatever beasts tried to enter.
Trapping this time of year was slim pickings and, according to Gilbert, the hunting grounds were nearly barren. The logging camp was lucky to have the two men. They had brought in enough meat to sustain a group much larger than was currently inside the timber walls. A younger Jean-Guy would have felt remorse for the predators in the area. The carnivores would be going hungry this winter, but it was survival of the fittest, and this group was at the top of the food chain. That is what Jean-Guy believed, until he found the overlarge footprints in the snow last week. The proof had vanished under a layer of fresh powder by the time Gilbert arrived, but Jean-Guy knew what it meant.
They were not prepared.
The lodge in the middle of camp began to fill, as preparations for the oncoming storm were completed, and dusk began to tease the sky with its lavender kiss. Men kicked the snow off their boots as they entered the warming lodge. The smells of meat-on-a-spit and coffee filled the room. Quincy stirred the stew pot over the fire and replaced the lid. He smiled at the smell then reached into the wood box and pulled out his secret stash. He raised the bottle and saluted the room with his spoon. The men cheered and readied their tin mugs. Quincy poured out the warmth into each mug and took a long swig for himself. Frank tuned his fiddle and began to play, then stopped and tuned again. The cold was havoc on the strings, but the men all encouraged him to continue playing his pitch-bending tunes. The storm outside slammed the closed shutters as if to let the group know that the blizzard had arrived. The men cheered louder, mocking the outside wind. They danced and stomped their feet, keeping time with the pounding hearts in their chests that slowly relaxed with each sip.
When the blizzard first hit, Jean-Guy was halfway to the lodge. He had set his traps and was ready to wait out the storm, but the smells of the lodge and the promise of a bottle called to him. One bowl of stew to warm his gut. One nip of the bottle and he would be fine. Then he would go back to the safety of the trapper shed.
He didn’t need the camaraderie, but the stew and his gut had a strong bond. He reached the door and pulled it open only to have the wind slam it shut again. He was glad he wasn’t halfway into the doorway. The force of the wind was like a falling tree. No one would survive that crushing force. He braced himself to pull open the door again and heard a mournful howl. He squinted into the snowstorm. His hackles raised as he opened the door revealing a white darkness, but the smell of the stew calmed his nerves. He had enough time for one bowl.
He had enough time.
Gilbert stood behind a tree with a rifle flat against his thin frame. His buckskins creaked and popped with any movement and so he stood still. His breath was blocked by the thick scarf that covered his mouth. The hot, wet exhalation collected in the heavy wool and then froze. Gilbert knew if he didn’t move soon, he would freeze where he stood, positioned against the large tree. He was also keenly aware that any movement would be picked up by whatever beast was tracking him. Moments earlier, he had wisely let Horsetooth, his rebellious mule, loose to find his way back to camp. He worried for Horsetooth, but then the memory of the mule’s hard kick reassured him that his friend would fare well enough against any predator. His babiche helped him traverse atop the snow, but the wide snow shoes were not built for speed.
He heard a low snort nearby and the heavy crunching of ice and snow behind his hiding place. He held his breath as the large tracker paused and sniffed the air. A low growl emerged from another spot further down the animal trail and was answered by a loud angry howl even closer. He was surrounded and couldn’t see, but could hear each beast’s location. Is this what Jean-Guy was trying to show him last week? What was it he said? Footprints? Big men? It was hard to understand Jean-Guy and his gravelly Quebec French. Gilbert wanted to run to the camp for safety, but it was clear that the group, pack, or tribe was converging on the logging camp’s timber walls. If he could hold out for a few more minutes while these beasts passed, perhaps he could circle around in the deep riverbed.
The river was frozen and the water-carved walls of the ravine were high enough to cover his escape. The river wound around the outskirts of the logging camp and was fed in the opposite direction from a waterfall, high in the rugged foothills. His chances were slim, but he stuffed down his despair and summoned his courage. He had to warn the camp. He did not see the things moving in the white of the blizzard, but he could hear the lumbering beasts and worse he could smell them. The pungent musk was strong and, as it began to fade, Gilbert made his move. The ravine was only a few yards away. He could alert the camp.
He just needed more time.
Jean-Guy sat alone in the corner of the lodge, bottle in hand and three bowls of stew in his gut. His eyelids grew heavy as the warmth of the room and his full belly lulled him into a trance. His foggy gaze traced the members of the party. He despised all of them. The only person in this whole camp he didn’t hate was Gilbert. He chuckled. The camp referred to them as opposite sides of the coin. Gilbert, the disarming hunter who made friends with all around him. He even apologized and thanked the animals he brought down. Not Jean-Guy. He enjoyed trapping. Nothing else. He tried to make nice before, but these men were nothing to him. Tonight he even tried to look out for the group. He relayed his warning about the prints he found to a few men near the bar, but not many understood his Quebec French, and he was laughed off. He had no bonds here, so he settled in and ate.
As the only veteran of this “newly discovered” landscape, he had heard the rumors of the Salishan from the indigenous people. He had seen the tracks that only an expert trapper such as himself could see — big humanoid tracks that were quickly covered with snow. The tracks were too big to be human. So he sat, methodically sharpening his knives, until the bottle was passed to him. He was set up to defend himself at the shack and would go back in a moment, after the bottle made its rounds to him again. He began to drift. The wind battered the walls of the lodge and then a small popping noise followed by a howl pierced through the sounds of the blizzard outside and through the cheers and music that filled the warm lodge interior.
Jean-Guy jumped off his stool as if hit by a bucket of ice water. He moved to the window and peered through a small hole in the shutter. The Foreman’s shack, positioned atop the hill on the outskirts of the camp, was barely visible in the storm. A tiny lantern light flickered in the shack’s window…
…and then vanished.
Opal gestured to her husband to snuff out the lantern and put a finger to her lips. The growls and pounding from outside had stopped. The Foreman was reloading his rifle and Opal held the pistol aimed with unwavering arms at the door. The small cabin was perfect for the couple and a great benefit from the Shadow Creek Logging Company, but now it felt like a prison. Moments earlier, it had sounded like boulders smashing and cracking the wood. Then in the briefest of moments, just before Opal inhaled, she heard a creaking from above. In what seemed like slow motion, a large shape fell through the ceiling, crashing between the wide-spaced rafters. As the blizzard poured into the cabin from above, one wall exploded inward filling the Foreman with large wooden projectiles. As Opal ran out the front door she cried out, thinking about how she was leaving her love pinned to the window frame, covered and pierced like a wooden porcupine. She heard him screaming as she ran into the night. She knew the best place to hide. The Buck Sawyer had just stacked fresh hay inside the mill to protect it from the elements. She could hide from those hairy creatures.
What were they? What sort of beast walked like a man?
She needed to trust her instincts.
She needed to survive.
Gilbert looked up and saw the looming snow-covered figure above him. If he fired, would the rest of them attack? That would be best wouldn’t it? The shot might warn the camp and give them time. He raised the rifle and fired. He was a marksman who rarely missed and this creature was like an oak tree. He hit it in the neck and it roared in anger and backed out of view.
The blizzard, now a near white out, blurred his vision. Gilbert scrambled out of the ravine and set off in a loping gait. He ducked under limbs and dove over logs. His legs burned which was good. He could feel them. He could see the walls of the camp and passed the Foreman’s cabin just as a beast plunged its arm through a lone window and pulled a corpse through. The lifeless body snapped in half as the beast roared. The blizzard blotted out Gilbert’s vision as he turned and headed into the camp. He saw light from the lodge flickering in the distance. The swirling storm made it impossible to see for long moments and the sounds of the attacking beasts on the wind made it tough to trust his instincts.
How could any of them survive?
The storm howled outside and everyone shouted as the fiddler picked up the tempo. Old Oliver had stripped down to his long johns and was laughing as he danced and slapped his knees. As the storm pounded the walls, Jean-Guy heard a short pop within the blizzard. A muffled yell grabbed his ear and he recognized it as Gilbert. He slowly backed into the shadows and out the back door. He was no coward, but was also no fool. Something was here and he wanted to be back in his trapper’s shack. He would nestle in amongst his traps and wait. Was he abandoning these fools? Maybe, but he was a solitary man with no bonds here.
His boots crunched over the red snow and he stepped over the quickly freezing, eviscerated corpse of Gilbert. Jean-Guy worked his way through the howling and biting cold as he quickly moved away from the lodge, the sounds of exploding lumber, and the screams of men. He passed one building where the lights from a lantern cast large shadows. The smaller shadow was being torn apart like a rag doll. The screams of a woman pierced the air and then were lost in the blizzard.
Two large ape-like creatures moved past Jean-Guy as he dove into the tent. He was surrounded by the bails of furs he had bundled months before. Both creatures roared at each other. Their large, snaggletoothed mouths bit at the air as they fought over their now shared prize. A logger screamed as each creature pulled at either arm. With a loud crack and a wet twist, one arm ripped free and each beast enjoyed their portion.
Jean-Guy used the rivalry to escape out of the tent and move toward his shack. He entered and moved among the open bear traps like a well-rehearsed dancer. He set his stance and drew his two large bowie-knives. His chest was tight and the stew sat hard in his gut. He gripped his knives tighter as the walls quivered and the front door exploded open. The force of the blast visibly shook the trapper. His eyes widened as his fists clenched tighter on the hilts. The ten foot creature took a large step forward, planting its foot in the center of a large bear trap. The teeth of the trap slammed shut on the ankle of the beast, embedding into the mass of hair and leg muscle. The creature howled in pain. Jean-Guy snorted and then laughed harder and harder as the creature’s painful howl swelled. Instantly, they both stopped and the sounds of the massacre outside leaked into the room.
Shadows formed by fire light told the story of the chaos in the storm. More creatures gathered outside the shed and continued banging on the walls as if the creature, caught in the trap, had warned them to not enter through the doorway. Jean-Guy took a small step forward as if to intimidate the now wounded behemoth. The beast looked down at its leg and made a small sound, like a sad house cat’s mew. Then, still looking at its leg, the beast began to inhale and exhale deeply. It continued breathing with a growing pace. A low growl began to grow and build along with its chest, as if powered by large bellows. The massive shoulders and head began to vibrate with a rage that made Jean-Guy shake in his boots. With impossible speed the creature reared up and roared, spittle and foam flying from its gaping maw. At the pinnacle of exertion, the beast swiped with an arm that missed Jean-Guy’s face by inches. Flinching Jean-Guy stepped back and landed his leg in a bear trap. He fell to the side and grabbed for a support beam. A beaver trap snapped shut on his reaching arm, pinning it to the beam. The monster seemed to grin as Jean-Guy screamed. The walls on either side of the shack burst open with an explosive force. The trapper shifted his gaze back and forth between the new openings.
Following the blowing snow, a large Yeti entered the small shack. Jean-Guy pulled to get out of its reach, but the Yeti grabbed his poncho and ripped him from the wall. Jean-Guy, now missing the arm that dangled from the beaver trap on the wall, plunged his remaining bowie knife into the creature’s chest. It fell back through the missing wall and out of the shed.
Weak and mumbling curses, Jean-Guy looked to the door and found the cabin empty. A trail of blood drew a line from an empty trap and out into the lessening blizzard. The trapper used the last of his energy to stand. He futilely pulled at the trap with his one good arm. He heard the stomping approach behind him but did not have the air to scream, as a large Yeti-fist plunged into his back and out through his chest. He dropped to his knees. The last of the humans. The last investment of the Shadow Creek Logging Company.
The wind died down along with the sounds of mayhem and massacre. Through the opened door, by fire light, large shadows moved away from the camp and back to the forest. Each one dragged limbs and bodies towards their ice cave, behind the frozen waterfall. The yeti had thought most of the food had been hunted or run off. But, fortunately, this would be a good winter after all.
They were prepared.
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