Hunting,  Fiction

Eternal Echoes: A Haunting Hunt

Step into a chilling tale as we follow Josh on a crisp April morning. His mind, shrouded by the remnants of a heated argument the previous night. With sleep-deprived eyes, he journeys to the farm he has been granted permission to hunt. Hoping the serene silence of the woods will grant him solace and clarity, little does he know, he will come to face to face with phantoms from the past. Click the link to uncover the spine-tingling encounter that awaits him in the fog.

By Michael Maynor

Josh’s tires hummed along the county road, a rhythmic hum that matched the steady beat of his restless heart. He had woken that morning, tangled in the remnants of a heated argument with his long-time girlfriend. The echoes of their words still reverberated in his mind, like an unwanted passenger on this early morning journey. As he continued down the familiar path, the radio’s soft tunes provided a brief respite, but the weight of their disagreement lingered. Then, with a sudden turn onto the dirt road, the rhythm was disrupted, and a jolt of reality shook him from his thoughts.

He lowered the radio volume, and the headlights of his Silverado pierced through the Carolina darkness. He reached for the Yeti tumbler in the cup holder and took a sip of coffee. It might have been April, but there was a distinct chill in the air, and he felt the coffee warming him as he swallowed. He hadn’t traveled down the road  long before the truck’s lights illuminated a weathered cattle gate; he switched off the engine and sighed.

His watchful eyes glanced at the time on the truck’s radio and knew he had a good half-hour before it would be light. He shook his head, thinking about the train that had held him up that morning, but he knew where he was going to set up and felt confident he would have time. He couldn’t waste any more time thinking about trains or her.

Shaking off the past, he zipped up his jacket, stowed his cell phone in a pocket, and ventured into the frigid morning air. A well-practiced routine unfolded as he donned his turkey vest and unzipped his shotgun case, ensuring his decoys were secured. The flash of his truck’s headlights and the sound of the locks sealed his journey into the darkness.

Beyond the gate, he traversed familiar terrain, scouted the previous day. The creek’s trees sheltered the roosting turkeys he sought. Settling into the woodline, he arranged his decoys, his shotgun cradled across his lap. The morning’s chill nipped at his face, prompting him to remove his ball cap. A knit facemask, retrieved from his jacket pocket, veiled his features. Now concealed and warmed, he watched the world awaken.

In the pre-dawn stillness, Josh nestled into his hunting spot, waiting for the first light to break. His thoughts were a tempest, a relentless replay of the argument with his girlfriend from the previous night. As he sat there, he couldn’t help but hear the familiar sounds of nature awakening. The chirping of crickets, the rustle of leaves, and the distant hoot of an owl—they were the symphony of dawn that he had come to know so well.

But as he lost himself in the memories of their heated exchange, those expected sounds began to change. Faint at first, like a whisper carried on the wind, came the sounds of approaching people and horses. It was as if reality itself was shifting. The rustling leaves transformed into the rhythmic marching of men. The owl’s call merged with the distant commands of a sergeant. The once-familiar sounds grew in volume, until they demanded his full attention and drew him away from the haunting echoes of the night before.

And then, as if to compound the eerie transformation, a soft, rolling fog began to creep in, wrapping the landscape in a ghostly embrace. At first, it was like a thin veil, barely noticeable. But as the fog thickened, it obscured his view of the woods around him. Shapes moved within the mist, indistinct and mysterious.

Josh squinted, his heart pounding, trying to make sense of the fog-shrouded forms. The shapes slowly materialized before his eyes, like specters emerging from the veil of time itself. It wasn’t the natural world coming to life; it was something altogether different.

Within the fog, he saw them—men in uniform, their faces obscured by the mist, their footsteps muffled by the damp ground. They marched with purpose, their voices carrying on the damp breeze. The Union Army, as real and haunting as the memories that had plagued his thoughts.

His mind rebelled against what his eyes were telling him. Josh had always loved history and even thought once about becoming a history teacher. He knew the Civil War had been over for more than 150 years, but here now in a cattle pasture in Eastern North Carolina, Union Troops were purposely searching for something in front of him. 

Josh’s heart raced, and a chill ran down his spine. The past had become the present, and he was a solitary witness to a convergence of time and history.

He blinked once and then again, closing his eyes and counting. When he opened them, the troop was advancing in his direction—about twenty men marching, with two men on horses. They were searching for something, as he heard one call out, “They went this way!” Josh’s gloved hands tightened around the shotgun in his lap as he watched the men coming closer. The cattle pasture was not often used and brush piles were being checked as they advanced in his direction. Josh had the same feeling come over him that he did anytime a big buck was working his way to him, everything seemed to go silent and he only listened.  He heard the men laughing and joking about what they would do when they caught them, cursing those damn Johnny Rebs.

Josh didn’t know what made him turn his head, but he slowly did. He noticed a log pile twenty yards from where he was set up on his right, and behind the log pile, he saw them—two young boys barely teenagers, one looking over the pile and one laying on his back, holding his gray hat in his hands. They were just kids, and Josh now  knew the men out front were hunting these two boys, these Confederate boys. Innocent yet ensnared in the relentless grip of history’s inexorable march. As Union troops encroached upon them, Josh felt a haunting truth—the past was not a distant memory but a living, breathing presence.

As Josh’s eyes locked onto the two young boys hiding behind the log pile, a surge of instinct and adrenaline coursed through him. He knew the Union troops were closing in, and the Confederate boys were their target. Without a moment’s hesitation, he made a bold decision, driven by a primal urge to protect the innocent.

Rising from his concealed spot, he ripped off his facemask, his actions swift and deliberate. The chill of the morning air kissed his exposed face. It was a sacrificial act, an offering of himself to divert the attention of the approaching Union soldiers.

His sudden appearance in the open was a stark contrast to the hidden observer he had been moments ago. He wanted to shout at the boys, to urge them to run, but he couldn’t make a sound. Instead, he stood there, exposed and vulnerable, in the eerie silence of the misty morning.

The Union troops, now only a few yards away from the Confederate boys, came to an abrupt halt. Their eyes, initially fixed on the young Confederates, shifted with a collective chill as they locked onto Josh. It was as if the very fabric of time and reality had bent, and the soldiers had become aware of his presence.

One of the Union soldiers, a grizzled sergeant with a haunted look in his eyes, was the first to speak. His voice sent shivers down Josh’s spine. “You don’t belong here, boy. This ain’t your fight.”

Josh tried to respond, his voice trembling, but no sound came out. His heart pounded in his chest, and he felt the weight of history bearing down on him.

The sergeant’s eyes bore into Josh’s, and he replied with a chilling certainty, “No, you are not dreaming”. 

 Josh, his breath visible in the frigid air, finally found his voice. “But the war ended more than a hundred years ago! This can’t be real.

The sergeant’s expression remained stern. “In this place, boy, the war never ends.”

Josh’s mind reeled, trying to grasp the surreal situation he had become entangled in. The Confederate boys, still hidden behind the log pile, watched in horror as the Union troops turned their attention toward him.

The sergeant continued, “You’ve entered a place where time is a twisted thing”. 

As the sergeant spoke, the ghostly figures of the Union troops seemed to multiply and surround Josh. They stared at him with spectral eyes filled with sorrow and anger. Josh could feel their presence pressing in on him, and he realized he was becoming one with the haunting.

Suddenly, the sergeant raised his hand, and the ghostly soldiers vanished. The Confederate boys behind the log pile, their eyes reflecting resignation and fear, disappeared as well. Josh was left standing alone in the eerie silence of the misty morning in the cow pasture. 

The fog that had rolled in earlier disappeared, and Josh was standing alone, shaken and bewildered. The haunting had released its grip on him, but the memory of the ghostly encounter would forever haunt him.

With the haunting encounter still fresh in his mind, Josh packed up his gear and quickly made his way back down the path and loaded it into the truck.He knew he could never fully explain what had happened that morning, but he was certain that he had ventured into a realm where the past and present converged—a place where the spirits of long-dead soldiers still waged their eternal battle.

Just as he was about to start the engine, his phone buzzed. It was a message from his girlfriend, Sarah. He couldn’t resist sharing the bizarre experience, so he began the conversation with, “You won’t believe this…”

I am a proud native of North Carolina with a deep love for the sporting lifestyle and everything Southern. My book collection seems to grow endlessly, and I have a particular fondness for collecting vintage duck decoys. Despite appearing content, my heart longs to return to Africa for another safari adventure. John 3:16