The diary was from a while ago; 21 years, according to the dates. It was sealed really well in plastic wrap and stuffed in a watertight bag. It I hadn’t hit the thing with my shovel when digging a hole for a latrine, I never would’ve found it. I wish that would’ve been the case because I can’t stop thinking about the stuff I read. I’m only going to share the fucked up parts, but all I’m leaving out is the lady talking about how she and her husband were spending the month camping and having a good time. There, I just saved you 5 pages. Here’s where it got weird:
Last night, James and I got woken up by a ridiculously bright flash of lightning. There was no thunder, either. James said it must’ve been heat lightning. He’s probably right because it was disgustingly hot and muggy all day and once the sun went down it got even more humid. We eventually got back to sleep and this morning the air seems a little less like a wet sponge. We’re hoping to do 12 miles today.
I don’t even want to write this down because it’s so gross. James asked that I do it anyway so we’ll remember to report what we saw once we get to a ranger station. Like I could forget something like this. Anyway, here: all day, while we walked, we saw animals. Deer, birds, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and a black bear. That’s pretty par for the course out here. But when we went off the path for a little bit because, well, James was staring at my ass for the last hour while we walked and I guess he got some ideas, we were stopped by the sight of something awful about a hundred feet off the path. Well, many somethings. Strewn across a wide area that I estimated to be a couple thousand feet were miscarried animals. They were all at different stages of development. It was horrible.
I’m not able to sleep after the events of yesterday. James, of course, is snoring like a buzzsaw despite the big flashlight lighting the tent up. What the hell could’ve caused something like that to happen? I’ve heard about animals going to find a safe place to die when they’re sick or old, but I’ll be damned if something like what we saw is in any way normal.
That heat lightning just happened again. This time it was three flashes clustered together within a couple seconds. No thunder. Fuck that’s creepy. James is mad that I just kicked him to wake him up and tell him about it. Sorry hon.
I got to sleep about an hour after the lightning. Thank God we brought some good coffee to brew over the fire. We’re going to do 10 miles, although it might be a little less because the map says we’re getting into a pretty hilly area. Good for the glutes!
Pretty good walk today. We’re both going to be sore tomorrow, though. The map does a decent enough job telling us where the hills are going to be, but it’s shitty at indicating how steep they are. On the bright side, and I never thought I’d be at a point in my life where this sentence would make sense, we didn’t see any more fields full of animal fetuses. Whee.
My dickhead husband smuggled some fireworks in his pack and decided to wake me up by setting them off right outside the tent while screaming, “Happy 4th of July!” Of course he was naked as he did all this and was presenting himself to me through the tent flap while holding a sparkler in each hand. I’ve come to the conclusion that I love his sense of humor between 8am and midnight, and anything from 12:01am until 7:59am makes me want to choke him. Waking up to explosions and his dick and balls is not quite how I envisioned our mornings together. Take away the explosions part, though, and I’m pretty okay with it.
It looks like it’s going to rain today. The clouds are low in the sky and it’s pretty breezy. Gusty, too. The rain gear we bought before we started our hike kept us dry during the storms last week, though, so I’m not too bummed out about it.
No rain while we walked. James shot a rabbit an hour ago and he’s about to skin it and get it ready for the fire. He’s making me learn how to do it, too. It’s pretty much the last thing I want to do, but there’s no reason why he should have to be stuck with the job every time we want to eat some cute forest critter. Ugh. Here we go.
I just finished throwing up. As soon James started working on the rabbit, we saw how sick it must’ve been while it was alive. Again, I’m only going into detail so we can report it at the ranger station, but for fuck’s sake James, if I have to learn how to skin a rabbit you can learn how to write clear, descriptive sentences. That’s a fight for another day. Under its fur, the rabbit was absolutely covered in what looked like big whitehead zits. They were under a lot of pressure, too, because when James poked one with the tip of the knife it burst and flung grayish white pus like 10 feet and onto the tip of my shoe. Cue me throwing up for a half hour while he apologized and tried not to laugh.
We still have a good amount of beef jerky and stuff in the food pack, so it’s not like we’re going to go hungry, but it would’ve been nice to have something a little different. The rain finally started and we’re stuck in the tent.
And here’s the lightning again. It’s flashing over and over and over. Sometimes it’s a few quick bursts, others it’s just single ones that last upwards of 4 or 5 seconds. It’s those long ones that scare the shit out of me. I’ve never seen lightning like that before. James keeps telling me it’s unusual but not unheard of, especially at this time of the year. It appears to be tapering off a little now, and I’m pretty glad it coincided with rain this time. I guess it really is just plain lightning. James is a pretty reassuring guy. Early bed time.
I’m freaking out because James is trying hard not to freak out. We’ve been up since 6 and when we opened the tent the ground outside was covered in dead birds, dead bats, and dead bugs. And I mean covered. I guess we didn’t hear them hitting the ground because of the rain that started up again while we slept, but we still have no explanation as to why they’re all fucking dead. That’s not the worst part, though. They’re ALL covered with those zit things like the rabbit.
We’re deciding to cut the trip short and get the fuck out of here. The map says there’s a ranger station about 40 miles to our west, and James said we can get there by tomorrow afternoon if we really move. Both of us are at the point where really moving sounds like a great plan.
We walked fast and we walked far. The whole way, we saw dead animals. They weren’t as tightly clustered together as they were around our tent, but we still saw a lot. I remember walking under a tree where the ground was littered with dead wasps. When I looked up, there was a huge nest with nothing flying around it. The forest is almost silent, too. No birds. Only insects. And even their sounds are few and far between. I never realized how omnipresent their din was until it was nearly gone.
Fuck. Just a minute ago, the first live deer we’d seen in all day walked into the lit area around our tent. It stared at us for a while on the outskirts of where the light fell, and when it turned around, I saw a dead fawn hanging halfway out of her body. As the deer trotted away, the fawn slid out and hit the ground with a wet thump, still connected to its mother by a tangle of afterbirth that stretched until it, too, slid out a few feet later. Fuck everything. Good luck trying to sleep tonight, Mel.
Okay something just happened while we were sleeping and I am freaking the fuck out and can barely breathe and I don’t know what to do other than write it down to make it make sense. The lightning came and just…stayed. The whole forest was lit up. James and I tried to convince each other it was just the weather. But it stayed lit for a whole minute. Then two. I begged James not to go outside but he unzipped the tent and went out. I panicked and didn’t want to be alone so I followed him and the entire sky, not just one area where lightning might be, was white. Brighter than the sun at noon. It hurt my eyes really bad to look at and James was squinting hard, too. I squeezed my eyes shut to recover a little and when I reopened them, he was gone. I ran around and looked and didn’t see him until I turned back around and he was right there again, staring at the sky. Except, he was…wrong.
He didn’t answer me when I screamed his name. He didn’t even blink. And I could see bumps starting to form on his neck and face. The light was so, so bright. I pushed James to try to get his attention and when I did the area under his shirt where I pushed got soaked with something. Well I know what it was but I couldn’t look. I couldn’t. I can’t. He is still outside and he’s not moving. Just standing and staring at the terribly bright sky. His pupils are gone and all that’s left is the blue and white. He’s different. He’s wrong. His skin is getting worse. And I am fucking terrified.
Little bumps are popping up on my hands while I write this and they’re coming to a head and now one of them just broke open and that’s my blood on the page. I know the wetness I feel on my thighs is blood, too. Blood signifying the end of what I’d been waiting to tell James on our anniversary next week. I keep thinking about the dead fawn sliding out of its mother.
I’m going to wrap this journal up in a bag and run in the direction of the ranger station. I don’t know what else to do. I’ll leave it under a tree or in some safe spot right off the trail so someone can find it if something happens to me on the way. This page is soaked through now. I have to go before I get worse. Before James gets worse. The light is so bright.
And that’s what was in the diary. As soon as I read it and typed out what was inside, I mailed it to the CDC because I have no fucking idea what was wrong with that lady and her husband and I sure as hell don’t want to catch anything. That last page she wrote on was disgusting. I wish I’d been wearing gloves when I touched it. It was encrusted with dried stuff, probably that pus she wrote about, and it smelled awful. I washed up real good and left a note for the CDC guys to be careful with it.
I’m pretty reluctant to go back in those woods again, but I’m just being stupid. I bet the whole thing was a prank by some high school assholes and I’m going to waste the time of some pretty important guys when they get what I mailed over. Still, I’m more than a little creeped out. Everything that lady wrote about is just so far-fetched. But I still wonder. I wonder because I vaguely remember hearing about some massive animal die-off back in that part of the state in the mid 90s. It was probably something else though. It had to be.