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Something ancient lives in these woods and the only thing more legendary than it’s curses is its HUNGER.
Ol’ Bones by Joe Solmo
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Support us on Patreon http://patreon.com/IncrediblyHandsome
Something ancient lives in these woods and the only thing more legendary than it’s curses is its HUNGER.
Ol’ Bones by Joe Solmo
Get Cool Merchandise https://weeklyspooky.storenvy.com
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By Joe Solmo (plug Penned In Blood Vol 1 and 2 and that 3 is coming)
Ol’ Bones is what my grandpa used to call him back in the days of black and white tvs. I’ve never seen him myself, but I was sure he existed. Nothing scared my grandfather. Nothing but Ol’ Bones that is. Most of the local folk will tell you they seen Ol’ Bones here or there, but most of them are full of shit. For a while one of them TV crews came in and filmed the town tellin’ stories, but that’s all they were. Shit! Even Farmer Kendrick over on route 70 had a story and that son of a bitch never left his house, his fields were all overgrown like seventies bush.
Our family and the neighbors next door, we had a special deal my grandfather said. Our lands butted up with the state forest, but pappy called that his territory. He told us we could hunt in there, but we had to leave the first kill for Ol’ Bones. Kind of a sacrifice of sorts. An offering so he would leave us alone when we were out there as long as we didn’t cross the markings along the creek.
We would shoot a nice buck, and have to leave it in the clearing, it pissed me off, but not enough to cross Ol’ Bones. Usually, a day or so later we’d find the carcass, most of the meat gone, strung up in the damned trees of all places. Could it be a mountain lion? They are around, but rare, and I’ve never seen one in these parts, but I have seen the tracks Ol’ Bones left under the tree.
I would ask my grandfather all the time what Ol’ Bones looks like. He’d always say if I ever saw him, I was sure to shit my pants and run, if I was lucky. Not very descriptive, I know. I pressed him once, when he took me hunting on my sixteenth birthday. He had gotten me a nice .30 06 and we had sited it in the night before. He had gone hunting without me two days prior and gave up an offering to Ol’ Bones, so my kill would be ours.
We reached the tree where he had lain out the buck and we saw the tracks come into the clearing, as fresh as this morning. Big tracks, looking like a giant moose’s print. We get moose now again here in northern New York, but I have never seen a bull that big. The tracks were over a foot long. Twice as big as I’ve ever seen myself in these here woods!
“Is Ol’ Bones just a big moose? Is that what you’re afraid of?” I asked him.
“Don’t be simple, boy. There ain’t a moose I’d run from when I got a loaded rifle,” was his reply as I studied those tracks. The left track had a bit of a crack in it, like the foot had an old injury. The right one dragged just a bit in the dirt. Then it hit me, there were only two legs?
“He stands up like we do?” I asked looking at a circular hole in the ground an inch or so deep. There seemed to be one every twenty feet or so. Sometimes there was a little bit of a drag there as well. What could it be?
“Never mind how he stands. Just give him no reason to come looking fer ya and ya be just fine,” he told me as he placed his hand on my shoulder. He had lost a foot a long time ago and the artificial one never quite was comfortable for him. But it wasn’t an inconvenience enough to keep him from taking care of the deal with Ol’ Bones.
I kept my eyes peeled that trip, but never got a peep at Ol’ Bones, even though I got the feeling something was peepin’ on me. But then again, I always got that feeling when I was in those woods. The deeper in, the darker the forest got. Some of those trees were hundred feet tall or more! The old growth forest kept all but the most persistent sunlight out. It was the best hunting ground most of the time, but once in a while, there wouldn’t be a damn thing around. No birds, no game, nothing. Just dead silence in the forest. On those trips we learned to give up early and come home. We’d have better luck another time.
My uncle Jim once said he caught a glimpse of what had to be Ol’ Bones. It was a foggy morning and he said the forest just got real quiet like. He stood still, as the hair raised on the back of his neck. He said he knew Ol’ Bones was near because the rest of the animals had the good sense to fuck off somewhere else. He stood there, peering into the forest, and he said standing next to a large pine tree was Ol’ Bones, about fifty yards out. Barely perceptible in the fog. He said it slid through the forest, its great limbs having no problem as it traversed the uneven forest floor. He was too scared to get a closer look. He said it stopped between the trees and sniffed the air for a moment. Two large sniffs, before turning to face my uncle. He said its eyes smoldered even in the fog, cutting though. It stared a hole into him for about ten seconds or so, before nodding and moving on through the forest.
Uncle Jim said he sat there waiting for Ol’ Bones to go on about his business. Whether he was too scared, or was playing it smart was anyone’s guess. He listened as the thing moved through the forest, creaking branches and heavy footfalls fading into the distance.
He told me Ol’ Bones was tall, like really tall, and if he didn’t move, he would have mistaken him for a tree at that distance. I asked him if he saw a bigfoot and he told me it was nothing like that. He said it was something older, much older. Now I must tell ya, Uncle Jim was a drinker, but we’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he doesn’t usually drink in the a.m. He died about a month after that so we can’t ask him now.
The neighbor boy Neil saw him once. We didn’t believe him at first on account of the kid is slow in the head, but I guess his eyes worked just fine. His daddy came runnin’ over all excited to talk to my father about it. I watched from the doorway to my room because it was past my bedtime. It was the second week of deer season, but neither family had managed to get out there yet. He said Neil was out back of the house, putting away his toys because a fog had rolled in, and his mother was worried he would get lost out there.
Said it was standing there, next to the barn, looking at him. It’s eyes burnin’ straight into his soul. Neil pissed himself and started to cry. I listened as he described Ol’ Bones to my dad from Neil’s account. It was almost as tall as the gable roof on that old two-story barn they had. Said it just stared at him until his mom came out the screen door looking for him. That thing hadn’t been oiled in ages, the creak probably scared him off, if you ask me.
Anyway, they said it took long strides and moved off into the woods past the field behind the barn, taking one of their sheep with it. Held it in one large hand. That was the last time one of our families didn’t get Ol’ Bones some meat on opening day, let me tell you. It didn’t hurt to offer up some other times as well, it never went to waste. Ol’ Bones always found what we left for him.
Was it a creature or a man? I may never find out myself, and I think I am okay with that. I was fascinated as a kid, but after everyone’s stories, I think I’m good. Ya know? As an adult I really don’t want nothing to do with it, but that’s not always my choice, now, is it?
I wanted to let you know that about ten or so years ago there was a couple of campers that went out there and went too far, crossing Ol’ Bones creek without any regard or offering. They really didn’t know any better, mind you. Like they say ignorance is no excuse. The search party never found them, but we sure did, can you guess where? No? Up in the goddamn trees. I just wanted to let you know, that you ain’t the first.
I looked over at the unlucky camper. He came to my door an hour ago seeking help because ‘something’ got his friend out in the woods. I knew what it was. Ol’ Bones. I almost felt bad for the guy until he told me his story. You cross the creek your fair game, but even that wasn’t enough for this guy. You see there are these totems out there, they kinda mark Ol’ Bones sacred grounds. This guy comes to my door seeking help and says they burned some weird carved wood for warmth last night? It had to be one of the totems for sure. These dumb pricks.
Now I gotta march this asshole back into the woods, at gun point because there is no reasoning with him. Gotta get him to the clearing and let Ol’ Bones take him. “You got a second gear there? You’re awfully slow,” I said.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this? If you didn’t want to help me, I could have gone somewhere else,” the camper said to me.
“You gotta learn, that’s not an option. You know what got your buddy? It was Ol’ Bones, and Ol’ Bones has a certain way of doing things, and damn if I am going to be the one to cross him. I’ve heard too many stories about what happens,” I explained.
“What’s Ol’ Bones?” the camper asked.
“It’s everything. It’s older than the forest. It is the forest. It is an inescapable hunger that roams these here woods,” I told him.
“Yeah, but what is it?” the annoying fuck asked.
“Around here we say it’s a god. We revere it. We take care of its needs and it lets us hunt his land to feed our families. It really ain’t nothing personal. I gotta make it right with Ol’ Bones. I don’t hate you or nothing,” I said to the guy.
“Don’t hate me? You’re bringing me out into the woods, at gun point, to feed me to something you call a forest god! Don’t hate me, but just gonna kill me!” the camper yelled.
“First of all, I don’t like that tone, and second of all I don’t have no choice in the matter. Ol’ Bones will want the trespassers who entered his sacred groves and disturbed his totem. You sealed your own fate when you crossed the creek,” I said.
“Just let me go. I got eight hundred dollars in cash in my wallet, it’s yours if you let me go,” the camper said. I shook my head at his stupidity.
“That money is already mine. Ol’ Bones has no use for it. Hand it over,” I said pointing the barrel of that .30 06 I got so long ago at him. He sighed and handed over the cash.
“What did we learn here today?” I asked. He just stared back at me with anger. “We learned to keep our mouths shut,” I finished for him.
We walked further down the path my grandpa walked all those years ago. I knew it pretty well, but he knew it inside out. It’s a shame he was gone. He would have gotten a kick out of this camper’s predicament. I could hear the sound of the creek now, we were close. Once we reached it, the path followed it south for about a mile or so, then comes the clearing.
“What’s going to happen to me?” the camper asked now that he had calmed down.
“Well, Ol’ Bones will take ya and open you up. Gobble up the bits he wants and whatever is left he will toss into the trees. Why he does that, I don’t know. Maybe to feed the birds. They gotta eat too, you know,” I explained matter-of-factly to the camper whose eyes grew larger with every word.
“You’re joking, right?” he asked me. I stopped on the trail and gave him a look.
“What did Ol’ Bones do to your friend?” I asked him.
“He…it pulled him right from our tent, it was dark, I just heard the screaming. By the time I found the flashlight there was nothing but a blood trail. I followed it for a bit, but then it just ended,” the camper said, forlorn.
“Did you look up in the trees?” I asked him.
“Why the fuck would I do that?” he queried.
“I bet that’s where Ol’ Bones stuck him. Had his fill and tossed him to the clouds, like the early season stags we leave for him. Your friend is up in the branches, I’d bet you…well I’ll bet you eight hundred dollars!” I joked with the camper.
“You’re demented, you know that right. There is something off in your brain,” the camper said. I smacked him with the barrel of the rifle and pointed it down the trail. For a second, I thought he was going to try something, but he gave up and started walking off.
“Why should I keep going?” he said defiantly and stopped in the path a moment later. “I’m going to die either way, I’d rather get shot than ripped apart,” he reasoned.
“Well, it aint your choice son,” I explained and pointed yonder with the barrel of my gun. The clearing was just ahead. He looked like he was going to make a run for it, but I kept the barrel pointin’ right between his eyes. I figured he was bluffing anyway. I took him for a coward, and eight hundred bucks, ha!
“Get on in there by that stump,” I commanded him. He waited a second or so before he following orders. I took the rope from my pocket and followed him over. I tied him up against the stump, eyeing the carvings on it. Grandpa said it was the natives that lived here a long time ago that carved into the stump, it sure was weathered enough.
Grandpa said the carvings tell how to leave offerings for Ol’ Bones. It’s how our family figured it all out. Live food gets tied up but the dead won’t run away. I’ve never left live food before, but there is always a first time.
I remember my grandpa telling my father how to do it when we came across a stag with a broken leg. It was crazy to try to grab the thing, but it had to have been struggling for days and was just tuckered out. We got it to the clearing then they told me to leave. To go home and tell mom they’d be back soon. I can still see my grandpa pointing to this very stump and explaining to my dad what to do.
I first made the camper tie up his own feet at gun point, I didn’t want him to kick me after all. That is what my kin did with the stag so many years ago. Then I tied his arms around the stump, with his chin resting on the top in a little groove, facing deeper into the forest. I made sure he was good and tight before I stepped back and gave the clearing a look over. Only one more step left. I drew my knife and came up behind the hiker.
“You’re just going to leave me here with that thing in the woods?” the camper asked.
“Yeah. That’s the plan. Haven’t you been paying attention? Look man, I told you it’s nothing personal. If I don’t get the transgressor to Ol’ Bones, then my family will pay. I can’t have that,” I said as I sliced into his flesh, not too deep, not in a vital spot, mind you. Just enough to make him bleed. To get the scent out into the air. To let Ol’ Bones know we were ready.
“You’re a murderer!” the camper yelled out.
“I aint gonna murder you. That’s for Ol’ Bones to do,” I explained.
“Leaving me here is murdering me!”
“I ain’t arguing semantics with a person that got himself tied up,” I told him.
“All you’re saying is what you ain’t going to do. Well, what are you going to do, then?” the camper asked me followed by an exasperated sigh. Just then Ol’ Bones made himself known with a cry out in the forest followed by the boom of a large footfall. I moved in front of the camper.
“I’m going to take my leave. Give my regards to Ol’ Bones,” I said and turned towards the trail back home.
“Don’t fucking leave me!” he yelled as I left the clearing. I stopped and turned around. The footfalls from Ol’ Bones were getting closer really quick. I got myself an idea and ducked down in the small bushes that lined the clearing, peeking through at my offering. This might be a good chance to finally see what Ol’ Bones looks like.
I listened to the sound of the trees creaking, as if they were making way for Ol’ Bones to walk among them. In the distance he could see the branches swaying. He would be here any moment. The hair on the back of my neck stood as a wave of chills ran though me. The camper started to scream as the primordial aura of Ol’ Bones took over the clearing.
All those years of wondering, all the stories from the townsfolk, even the bits and pieces of information I got from my own family couldn’t prepare me for what I saw step into the clearing. It stood almost twenty feet tall, standing like a person would. Thick muscles adorned its body. There were parts where white bone was exposed in holes in the flesh. Its huge feet were cloven, just like the prints I saw so long ago. The long arms were thin, but strong. The left pushed off the trunk of a pine tree, the right clutched a gnarled walking staff made from some ancient wood.
Resting on top of its shoulders was a huge head. A moose’s head, scared and scraped with countless years of existence. The large antlers had stains and scrapes as well. I tried to take it all in, but my eyes kept focusing on its gaze. The fires of Prometheus burned in the orbs as it looked down on the offering before it. It was like looking at a whacked-out moose version of a minotaur.
Ol’ Bones had a smell about him. Like fresh turned dirt. Just an earthy smell about him. It was like he was part of the forest. He blended in so well, except for those eyes, currently focused on the camper.
It cocked its large head like a dog and raised the staff in the air. Ol’ Bones poked the camper with the weathered end. When the camper screamed out with terror, Ol’ Bones raised an eyebrow. He seemed pleased by the live offering. Even from my position I could smell the piss on the camper. How disrespectful.
With a large hand Ol’ Bones grabbed the camper and raised him into the air, snapping my ropes like they were nothing. He opened his large moose jaw, inside weren’t the teeth of a moose, but sharp fangs of a carnivore. It bit off the camper’s head in a snap and I nearly lost my lunch. I would have been sad too, my wife makes a mean chicken salad.
I watched as blood poured out of the side of his mouth. He chewed on the head for a few seconds and swallowed. He huffed twice into the air. With a pointed finger he dug into chest and ate the organs by dumping the chest out over his head into his mouth, a lung missed and splattered on the ground. It exploded like a water balloon. I retched, tried to keep it down.
Ol’ Bones must have heard me. Our eyes met for a second, the eons of burning earth before it cooled branded my brain. I felt the ebb and flow of the magma below the crust. I thought I was going to die. That Ol’ Bones was going to kill me. My own stupid need to see him was going to do me in.
He tossed the camper’s corpse into the air, it landed in the branches of the large pine trees, he picked up his staff and took a step towards me. I didn’t have it in me to move, I was just trying to not break down. He took a massive step and was now in front of me.
“Mortal,” Ol’ Bones muttered. He commanded my attention. His voice came from nowhere, but from everywhere at the same time. The ember stare burned into my head.
“I thank you for the offering. It has been some time since I have had flesh of a man. I think I would like some more. I forgot the taste of the arrogance of the young race. We need to amend the deal,” it spoke into my brain.
“No. Humans are hard to get ahold of. It’s wrong,” I replied. “I can’t do it.”
“Shame, mortal. If I do not receive a live offering of man flesh by the longest day of the year, then I shall take my payment from the farms.
“Anything else, please. Don’t ask this of me,” I begged.
“I have spoken,” Ol’ Bones said and turned from me. He walked into the woods without another word. I looked at the camper in the trees, almost envying him, if I was being honest. Now I had to go home and explain to our families the new terms. We dare not go against Ol’ Bones. Not if we want to protect our loved ones. At least now I know what Ol’ Bones looked like. If only I had left the clearing, I never would have seen Ol’ Bones or interacted with him. Everyone that has seen Ol’ Bones have paid a price, and mine will be paid in man flesh.