n high school, everyone was always looking for places to drink. That was the question every weekend practically. Where are we gonna drink tonight? Once we found a spot where we could drink freely with limited chance of being arrested, we went there every weekend until we got bored. That sounds terrible, I know, but come on; we lived in an extremely boring, white, middle class, gated community ridden town. Drinking was a fun way to almost rebel against our parents and get away from the continuity of life there.
So my family and I moved here to Virginia from the Midwest, and we did a lot of outdoorsy things when we lived in the Midwest, and once the move to Virginia happened my dad ended up getting really sick which prevented him from being outside for long periods of time. Camping was always something my family and I used to do when I was little, and now being a senior in high school I remember how much beer my parents could drink without being disturbed. It was perfect. Get a bunch of buddies together, buy a few cases of beer, go out into the woods and camp for a weekend and get plastered for my birthday.
So we did our research and found a nice looking place about 40 minutes away, so we packed the cars full with food and gear and, of course beer. When we got to the campsite, the place was packed with campers and tents, we could hardly find a spot. The only space that was open was site no. 2, which was right by the registration office. Fuck, they will definitely be able to see us drinking, but we noticed that everyone in the office left at like 5 p.m. and didn't come back until like 11 p.m. the next day. So we unpacked our stuff, and camped for a weekend and it was great. The weather was absolutely perfect, we never ran out of beer, we got to go swimming the lake, we got sun, and we got away with it. So then, of course, we go back to our cookie cutter neighborhood and tell all our friends how great it was, and the only question we had left was "when are we gonna go next?"
So later that very same summer, we planned out another camping trip.This is where it got very strange. So we got like half of the original group to come again, as well as two very attractive girls who signed on to go with us. We were, of course, going to go back to same place we went to last time when we had such a fun time. So we did the 40 minute drive back to the camp ground, and I noticed it felt different on the drive in. I attributed it to the cloudy covered sky, but something felt very different. We arrived at the camp ground together and the first I noticed was that there was nobody there. No tents or campers anywhere, except for one. There was also nobody in the registration office, which I thought was strange for 3 p.m. on a Friday at the end of July. I just remember thinking "I should be weirded out by the fact that there is nobody here right now, but nobody else seems to be noticing so it might just be me. But somethings not right." It was like everybody else knew something that we didn't. The one other camper there didn't have anybody in it. We were there for 3 days straight and we didn't see a single person come in or out of the camper the whole time, nor did we see anything on their surroundings moved around. The whole weekend ended up being weird.
The weather was rainy and humid, so we spent a lot of time in the tent just roasting and drinking beer. We were sitting in the tent when one of the girls says "Is there someone walking on our site right now?" So I poke my head out of the tent and there was a State Ranger parked at our site looking at me, not 3 feet away from the tent opening, I immediately freaked out because we had been drinking in the tent, so I said "Hi sir, how can I help you?" And all he said back was "Don't forget to pay your camping fees." Then he stood there for like a minute just staring at me, he gave a small chuckle before backing up to his truck and getting in and driving away in the direction of the empty camper. I went back and told the story with relief because we got away with drinking, but something didn't feel right about that. But that's not the detail, that comes into play that night.
We were sitting around the campfire, drinking beer and telling funny stories. Earlier in the day, one of our friends Mitch went to go get more beer since we ran out. The only problem was he left at 3 p.m. and still wasn't back at 12 a.m., so I was slightly freaking out. The culmination of all the weird things deterred me from drinking any beer that night, so I could stay clear headed in case anything weird happened. Boy am I glad I made that decision. So we're all sitting around the campfire telling stories, when I notice a car drive up, thinking it's Mitch I jump up to see, but it's just a brown rusty looking truck and it pulls into site no.1 which is a stones throw away from us. It should've made me feel comfortable to know we're not alone out here in the woods, but it didn't. It made me paranoid, specifically for two reasons: 1. It was 12:30 a.m. There was no reason he should be here at this time if he was just going camping. 2. He didn't have any tents or camping equipment in the back, all he had was a blue tarp covering a half full bed. So I stay aware, but calm as to not freak out my group of friends. But I noticed him setting up a floodlight and a wooden bench, but that's all I could see because he parked his truck on the far side of the campsite to block view from us. I talked myself down by saying "just calm down, you're being paranoid, it's probably just something you don't want to get involved with." So I turned my full focus to my friends and even started drinking some beer. About an hour later, I made my worries about Mitch known to everyone and they all calmed me down, but as I was agreeing with them I looked up and saw a man walking onto our site, but I only caught him in the light of the camp fire so we he was on top of us before I could even react. The man said, in a thick Eastern European accent "Hello, I am the Park Ranger for this park and I just wanted to offer you two complimentary pieces of wood for your fire. You know, you're not allowed to bring your own wood here because it can have bugs on it. Enjoy and have a good night." We waited until he was out of ear shot before giving it the "what in the fucking hell was that?", "We're outside, don't bugs like live out here? Why would it matter?" But I noticed when he put the wood down next to our fire there was a part of him that didn't bend when he did. Once he was walking away and I saw it swinging from his belt loop did I know he was carrying a large machete. Mitch still wasn't back at 2 a.m. and I was afraid for his life, so I asked my close friend Mop to ride with me to go find him (it was a one road drive so he had to be on it no matter what). I was also going to voice my terrors and concerns with him in the car to see if he felt the same things I did. We were driving down the road looking for either a crashed car or Mitch heading in the opposite direction. As soon as I opened my mouth to ask if Mop was freaking out too, we saw Mitch speed past us which was a huge relief to me. I whipped a quick U and started following him back to the site. Once we were all back we told Mitch the story of the strange wood guy and how we thought he had died. But he had brought the beer, and we all started drinking once he was back. I began to notice a pounding sound coming from site no.1 that sounded a lot like he was chopping wood. Yeah, that makes sense, he's the park ranger and he is chopping wood for them to sell and he gave us two complimentary pieces. That makes sense. Until we ran out of wood, and they asked me to go steal some more. Nothing made sense about that. We brought bundles of wood. Enough to last us through this night. And it was gone. So I guess I had to go steal some wood. Now the wood tower was in between site no.1 and site no.1 but it was closer to site no.1. I snuck from our campsite through the woods towards the wood tower, I was drunk at this point and was not scared of the mysterious wood chopper. So I get to the wood tower and begin sliding pieces of wood into my arms, the more I get, the less times I have to come and steal more. So I grab about 8 big pieces and start sneaking back, but not before throwing a glance in the direction of site no.1, where the chopping sound continued. My eyes focus on the wooden bench where I saw the park ranger chopping, with his machete, a human leg. I saw him plummet the large knife in the the thigh and it cut in about halfway before he raised it again and slammed it back into the same spot, severing it from the rest of the leg. I closed my eyes and froze. I immediately started tearing up and felt like I was going to puke. It felt like I was standing there for hours. There in the dark with my arms shaking from holding the heavy wood and my eyes watering from the trauma that unfolded in front of me. I pulled my legs out of their frozen state and slunked back to our site. I dropped the wood down and just sat down. I didn't know what to do. I could've said something and we could've gone home and gotten in trouble but I would've known everyone would be okay, or I could keep quiet and not freak everyone out. When I got back, the jokes about the wood guy were spewing out and everyone was laughing but it was as if someone had turned my hearing aid down and I was just listening to cotton. I told myself it wasn't a leg. It was a log. It had to have been a log. This doesn't happen to people like you. It's a log. So after some time we burned up the 8 logs I brought back and I just went into the tent and laid in bed. Everyone followed. It's a log, remember. It was just a log. I woke up the next day to a beautiful hot summer day. I looked over and all my friends were alive and well sleeping and waking up next to me. That was one of the best feelings I've had. Knowing that the night of worrying was for nothing.
But I couldn't help but remember an extremely realistic dream of the wood guy peering into our tent from the screen window on the side, I made eye contact with him and shook my head "no" and he slowly walked away. But you know, just a dream I guess.