Sitting in the dim interior of my camper van, I stare intently at a low resolution monitor. On the bright screen before me, a remote feed transmits live infra-red images from cameras placed deep in the forest outside. I sit silently, impatiently flicking between the remote feeds, occasionally pausing to look up from the monitor and stare out of the windows of the camper van, listening intently to the whispers of the wind and creaking of the nearby trees.
A bush rustles outside – my breathing stops and I draw my rifle. Taking careful aim through the window at the bush, I finger the trigger lightly, waiting for movement. The shrubs move aside and a boar shuffles into view. Relieved, I lower the weapon again, heart pounding.
Suddenly, from the darkness to my right, I hear the pounding of footfalls and a crashing of vegetation.
They call it the Rake. I’ve no idea why – it sounds like something a group of bored people in an internet chat-room might come up with. It lives in the forest, is carnivorous, highly intelligent and over the next couple of days I’m going to try to kill it. Why? Because I’m a Ghost Hunter, it’s what I do – (there’s a logo on my van and everything.) Ghosts and other stuff – the weird stuff, stuff that doesn’t fit into our rather constricted view of ‘normality.’ The Creepy Pasta they call it – again, I have no idea why.
I say kill it, but to be honest, I’d just be happy enough with a decent photograph of it. Right now, the only pictures I’ve managed to take wouldn’t be accepted by the Fortean Times. They’re the kind of blurry, out-of-focus shots that appear on UFO documentaries accompanied by wide-eyed Americans swearing that the three pixels in the top left are an advanced alien species capable of faster than light travel and, for some reason, rectal probing. I’ve even met it face-to-face several times, just long enough for it to slash me across the body and bugger off back into the woods before I can ask it politely to pose nonchalantly against a tree.
So at least I know it’s real – real and capable of causing me significant pain, whereas I on the other hand have no idea if the rifle I’m carrying is even capable of hurting it. But to shoot it, first I have to track it, hence the monitor. The remote cameras I’ve set up through the forest are equipped with motion sensors, so I’m alerted when something stumbles through whichever clearing they’re pointing at. A wandering boar, a lone elk, a half-second blur of the terrifying beast as it rips the camera off the tree with a snarl and the screen going blank. Luckily I’ve got spares, but I just wish the beast would leave them alone and stand still long enough for me to shout ‘cheese.’
Right now, I don’t think anyone would believe me – The dead pigs blood all over my camper van and slashes across my body could easily be the work of the kind of madman who puts a ‘ghost hunter’ logo on their van and drives out into the middle of nowhere. No, the only way anyone is going to believe me is if I can, somehow, take the Rake out.
I take my rifle and open the door. The darkness is absolute, the trees are claustrophobic and rain hammers down against the roof of the camper.
Sod this, the Rake can keep his damned forest. I shut the door of the camper, start the engine and head for home. I won’t get paid for this job, but who cares? I’ve still got that other case waiting up the road. Maybe that’ll be simpler. What was its name again?