Listen to master story-teller Otis Jiry narrate this story here.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1981
People began disappearing in the fall of 1979. Not long after The Three Mile Island accident happened on March 28th.
The partial meltdown in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, caused widespread panic. Locally and nationally. Despite company denials, radioactive gases and radioactive iodine were released into the environment.
Nuclear agency experts assured the public there was no lasting damage done. The radioactive gases that escaped would soon dissipate, they told Dauphin County and Harrisburg residents.
The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident with wider consequences.
It wasn’t long before residents in Dauphin County reported seeing strange things in the woods in the aftermath of that accident. Strange lights and colors. A local farmer disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a bewildered family.
A year later, a couple of hunters claimed they saw a man-like thing tearing a deer apart – limb by limb – on their way back to their pickup truck. It was dusk.
When asked by friends at the bar afterwards why they didn’t shoot the thing, both men said they didn’t want to take the chance of killing a man. It was hard to make the figure out. He could have been a really big strong man. As far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any laws.
That night, on their way home, one of the hunters asked the other, “Why didn’t you say something about that thing eating the deer’s raw flesh? How it tore pierces of meat off the legs with its bare teeth?
“Who would have believed us?
“But, it’s true.”
“Don’t you understand Bob? It sounds like crazy talk and people would be laughing at us. You don’t want people laughing at you. Do you?”
Henry dropped Bob off at his trailer. He didn’t want Bob to know how shaken he was. He wasn’t sure what they saw in the woods, but the next day when he backtracked their trail he found freshly broken deer leg bones, half a rib cage, and a skull with the eyes missing.
In the following months people began disappearing. Authorities searched everywhere. Including the woods. People were warned not to go out alone after dark. A dark pall had descended over the county. Fear.
Coffee shops were crowded with old men trading conspiracy theories like baseball cards. Bob and Henry went hunting again. They were both combat Vietnam veterans and never tired of one another’s company. Or hunting.
Both men lived alone. Bob’s wife had died of breast cancer. Henry was divorced. His wife couldn’t stand living with his PTSD. Both men carried Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action rifles, with 3-9×40 scopes. They were both expert shots and trackers.
For weeks they hunted for deer, and signs of the mysterious man who now haunted their dreams. Was it a man? If not, what? It was obviously powerful. And elusive.
The county sheriff was frantic. People continued disappearing. The word was getting out to the world. Something bad was happening in tiny little Dauphin County. National reporters were seen around town talking with residents. Sniffing around like curious squirrels on the scent of a story.
Henry adjusted his new Pulsar Challenger GS 3.5×50 mm Night Vision scope. He’d made a decision. He was going to “return to the jungle” and hunt the thing out there. He didn’t tell Bob. Both men were in their late 30s, but Bob wasn’t in as good as shape as Henry was. There wasn’t a pound of fat on him, unlike Bob who was losing the battle of the bulge to sweets and pasta.
As Henry prepared for his hunt, donning camos, and filling ammunition clips, he thought back to his days in Vietnam as a tunnel rat.
A flashlight and a .45 caliber pistol were all that stood between him and death when he slithered into the enemy’s tunnels. He was bit once by a venomous snake, but survived thanks to a savvy medic who carried snake anti-venom with him in the bush.
He packed his rucksack with enough supplies to stay out for a week. His web belt had a military K-Bar knife, two 20-round ammo pouches, two 30-round ammo pouches, and two 40-round ammo pouches, a compass, and a length of rope. He had a custom-made sling for his Heckler & Koch Mp7 automatic pistol.
The Mp7 fired 4.6×30 mm ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor. Henry liked that it was light – only weighing a couple of pounds but could bring on major heat. He grabbed his bolt-action Remington with the new night scope, and locked the front door. He pinned a note on the front door: “Back in a week. Visiting family.”
The first three nights there was no sign of the thing. On the fourth night – on a hunch – Henry was checking out a perimeter fence surrounding the 3-Mile Island Generator Plant when he heard a scream.
Alarms went off and two security guards ran out of a small wooden shack. Henry watched them though his scope. They ran around with automatic weapons, shouting. Two more guards appeared and they were also shouting frantically.
From his position in the tree line, Henry watched the chaos unfold. Then he saw the thing! It had a man’s body tucked under one massive arm, and was loping along seemingly unconcerned with the noise less than 300 yards away.
Suddenly he burst into a run and disappeared further down the tree line. Henry jumped up from his kneeling position and gave chase. The thing was moving amazingly fast. It didn’t make a lot of noise but Henry’s ears were still keen enough to hear it.
After a hard five-minute run, the trees opened up and Henry saw rolling hills. And nothing else! Where did the thing go? He felt exposed out in the open on a full moon that caused shadows to appear everywhere.
Henry went back to the tree line and climbed halfway up a tall spruce. He picked a sturdy branch to sit on and lashed himself to the tree. He slept soundly, dreaming about a large underground complex he discovered in Cambodia in 1970.
The next day Henry walked around the hills looking for tracks and tunnels. It was well into the afternoon when he discovered a well-hidden cave that was big enough to stand upright in. The charnel house smell told him dead things were inside.
He loosened his Mp7 and popped a 40-round loader into the gun. Turning the LED light on his helmet to bright, he cautiously stepped into the dark interior. Minutes ticked by. At one point the cave branched off to the left, before continuing on in a straight line. Henry checked out the new opening and discovered mutilated human bodies inside!
Skulls and rotted flesh in piles. Broken bones. Gnawed on bones. Flies and maggots. Scraps of torn clothing clinging to headless torsos. This is where the missing people were. Butchered and forgotten.
As Henry took in the horror his sense of survival kicked in when he heard a noise from within the cave. Something was grunting and growling. That’s not Charlie out there good buddy, he murmured to no one.
The best defense is a good offense Henry use to tell his friends. No more thinking. Time to act.
Henry stepped out into the main tunnel and fired quick bursts in both directions. The shots thundered through the tunnels. No sign of the thing. Only the scent of gun powder. He popped the loader out and replaced it with another 40-rounder. It was time to get out of the tunnel.
It took him longer than he thought. He wasn’t out of the putrid tunnel until nightfall.
Instinctively getting out of the open, Henry trotted over to the edge of the forest. He re-slung his Mp7, and unhitched the sling holding his Remington Bolt action. He held the rifle up and peered through the night scope, waiting for the thing to appear.
It troubled Henry that he didn’t know what the thing looked like. Or what it was. It was best to know your enemy. He learned to never underestimate the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. To do so could mean your life. The more you knew, the better.
Hours later he spotted movement on a nearby hilltop. He focused the scope and found himself staring at the thing’s face. It might have been a man’s face once, but the grotesque thing he saw in his cross hairs was so misshapen it was unrecognizable as any known animal.
He squeezed the trigger on his Remington. The shot caught the thing near one of it’s uneven eyes. It looked startled at the impact, but didn’t fall down. Instead, it turned in his direction and charged!
He fired the Remington one more time, and dropped it while grabbing the Mp7. In one motion he popped a 30-round clip in it and fired away. The full burst only slowed the thing down. He tried to pop another clip in when the thing slammed into him, sending him violently backwards!
The Mp7 flew out of hands as he fell. Without thinking he drew his K-bar and staggered to his feet. His nose was bleeding profusely as the thing drew itself up. It was an abomination of a man. A hideous reminder of the perils of radiation, and body transformation.
Henry was startled to hear a gun shot. Sounded like a 12-gauge. Part of the thing’s head disappeared, and another shot followed. The thing swayed drunkenly and took a step towards Henry. Two shots this time! Both barrels slamming into the things chest. A pause. Then two more shots, and the thing crumbled to the ground, both legs blown away.
Bob stepped up to the still heaving body and ejected two shells. As he popped two more shells in he asked Henry if he was alright? Then he fired both barrels again into the midsection. They burned the thing afterwards.
As the two old friends walked away from the bonfire, Henry finally asked, “How did you know what I was doing Bob?”
“You haven’t got any family left like the note said. Other than me,” he chuckled. “I figured you wanted to hunt the thing, but didn’t want me to go along in case I’d get hurt. So I just followed you my friend, and covered your back.”
“Are we going to tell people what happened after the murders quit?” Bob wondered.
“Hell no! They’ll just think we’re crazy veterans telling war stories,” Henry assured him.
As It Stands, as the bard said, “all’s well, that ends well.”