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THE CRIMSON KING

The bright halogen headlights pierced the mountain darkness with ease and dark shadows chased along side the speeding brown Ford pickup. Behind each tree there appeared to be something moving when the headlights failed to reveal what was there. As he approached each curve seeing the darkness washed away with his powerful headlights he had the urge to stop and walk into the darkness to see what, if anything was there. The darkness and what secrets it held attracted him like metal to a magnet. The giant red Sequoias were keeping out even the starlight with their overhead canopy turning the night pitch black. Aaron lowered the passenger side window with the push of a button and as the first blast of bitter cold mountain air enveloped him he quickly closed it. A chill ran down his back and goose bumps raised on his arms. Two minutes later the cab of the truck was filled with warm air from the efficient heater with the flick of a switch.
He was on top of the Great Western Divide in the Sequoia Wilderness. The blacktop had ended many miles back. He had been running on a bad to fair dirt road when suddenly it came to a forest rangers barricade. Beyond the barricade a four-wheel drive road curved up and into the darkness. With the engine idling a deep rumbling sound could be heard coming from the Ford’s tailpipe. Nothing else could be heard until Aaron’s bolt cutters broke the padlock on the barricade and the sound of metal snapping could be heard echoing off some distance mountaintop. Aaron replaced the padlock with one of his own, another Master padlock, they looked identical and unless a ranger tried his or her key no one would be the wiser. This was not the first time he had done this and it had always worked in the past.
His planned destination was to make it into the Golden Trout Wilderness and along the Little Kern River within it. Deer season was opening in two days and he planned to come out with a nice buck shortly thereafter.
The following afternoon he had found a beautiful camping spot along the Little Kern River. The river was being fed by run-off from the winter snows and it was crystal clear and ice cold. The river ran through a valley of giant red Sequoia pine trees, elevation was seventy-one hundred feet. The river was about twenty feet wide and three or four feet deep in the shallows. Large mountain rainbow trout were plentiful for the taking and that first night camping on the river he had two large trout sizzling in a large black cast iron pan. The trout were delicious and along with a roaring fire on the bank of the river reflecting off the water it was a picture perfect evening. Before the moon came up the stars put on their own show with countless shooting stars blazing across the vast space above. That night he fell asleep with a smile. He always snacked on salted peanuts in the shell before dinner and if there were deer around they would sneak into camp, chew the empty shells for the salt and tonight he could hear a small herd crunching away outside his camper. The next morning he checked around the camper for sign of the deer and confirmed it by seeing their hoof prints. One set in particular was so impressive that he decided to try and track it.
After filling his canteen with water, putting a few basic supplies in his daypack, he uncased his 7mm Remington Magnum rifle, loaded it and placed a box of rounds into his pack, then, he began tracking the large prints. After following the trail for three hours the trail had played out on an intersection of major game trials all coming together and shooting off into different directions. It was a major animal highway and one hove print gave way to another animal paw print. Aaron decided to walk in a 360-degree circle in an attempt to pick up a trail and as he was circling saw a clearing through the trees. He decided to check it out and could see before actually getting to the clearing that someone occupied it. There were tents set up and he could see their different colors, blue, red and purple. He slipped into the clearing and stopped to survey what lay in front of him.
There were three tents, two of them had collapsed and one of them was flapping in the breeze like a flag. It appeared to be shredded. Walking to the nearest tent it was obvious something bad had happened. Round ragged holes were all over the tent, there were shapes, large lumps in the tent that he thought might be the bodies of whoever had been using it. There was a smell of dead flesh and flies were laying their eggs through the tent material. He used the barrel of the Remington to lift up a portion of the tent to see what was there and a cloud of humming black flies flew out the hole, the stench was almost too much for his stomach, he covered his nose and mouth and looked into the tent. There were two brown Labradors lying on their sides and both had big gaping holes in their bodies like the tents. The sight of the tremendous amount of maggots churning over each other and out of the holes including the eyes, noses, and mouth along with the thick smell of death and rotten flesh was finally to much for Aaron’s stomach as he spun away and fell to his knees puking and coughing on sour tasting vomit.
After rinsing his mouth and composing himself he checked the second tent, it was purple and there was no smell coming from it, it had the same holes as the first tent but there were only small lumps laying on it’s floor, lifting the tent open with his rifle he found that the lumps were only clothes, sleeping bag and a green florescent lantern on it’s side. The third tent, bright red had a center pole that was holding it up and a portion of it was flapping in the breeze coming off the mountain. It held basically the same items as the second tent. Two deep tire tracks led away from the camp through an opening of the trees. It was obvious it was in a hurry when it left as chunks of dirt from the tires had flown and landed fifteen feet behind the start of the tire torn tracks. What had happened here he did not know but something in the back of his mind told him to get as far away from here as quick as possible. The pictures in his mind of the dogs kept sending shivers throughout his body.
As he worked his way back to camp every little sound or movement got his undivided attention. Constantly he felt something was following him and ever since leaving the clearing the feeling of impending danger grew with each step. Going back he decided to take a different route, using a compass made it impossible to get lost. About an hour from camp as he was coming over a small rise in the forest he thought he saw something out of place in a small ravine. Using his telescopic sight on his rifle he saw what appeared to be a vehicle lying on its side at the bottom.
It was a gray Toyota Land Cruiser. Fifty feet from the Toyota he could see flies swarming and they appeared to be huge flies but as he got closer he saw that they were meat eating wasps. Until he got up to the Toyota there was no smell, looking through where the windshield had been the reason was simple, the wasps had cleaned the bones so well there was hardly anything but bones left. Based on the clothing It appeared to have been a women and a man. As he stood and studied the scene wasps would land on his exposed skin of his hands and face requiring him to flick them gently away. There were two skeletons fully clothed, their skulls had been cleanly stripped and their jaws were wide open as if they both had been screaming when they had died. All the windows were gone and the passenger side door was missing, it looked as if it had been torn off as the hinges were twisted into odd shapes.
Walking quickly away in a cold sweat Aaron’s mind was in a state of confusion, what was going on? Nothing made sense. It was as if he were in a dream. He was about a mile from camp when he heard a small voice say, “Help, please help me”. Startled he looked around and couldn’t see where the voice came from. Once again he heard, “Please help me!”. He looked up and there in front of him a women was sitting about twenty feet off the ground on a large branch of a tall thick pine tree. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The trees circumference was to large for her to have climbed up yet there she was. She was about five feet in height so she would have at least a twelve to fifteen foot fall to the ground even if she were to hang from the limb before dropping. I said, “Hang on and I’ll be right back with some rope, my campsite is only about mile away, I’ll be back within forty-five minutes.”
“Please hurry, I’ve been up here all night and I can’t stand being up here anymore. I’m scared to death.” She said.
He made it back in forty minutes carrying his Remington and a black high-test rope with orange stripes on it. The first thing he said was, “By the way, my name is Aaron and what in the **** are you doing up there?”
“My name is Beth. A friend of mine, Bob helped me get up here, there was a giant bear or something after us, it destroyed our camp and once Bob helped me we could hear it was coming toward us, Bob told me to stay quiet then ran off into the forest, I could hear the thing crashing after him but it was to dark to see it. Now please help me down!” He tied hand holds in the rope then threw it over the limb and once he had hold of the other end of the rope told her told come down slowly.
 
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