Friday, November 13, 2015

What's in the Tent?

This story takes place in August of 2013, in the mountains of Southern Oregon. I am a USAF Security Forces Airman (military policeman). My girlfriend was at work, and as a blisteringly hot day began to turn into thunderstorms, my buddy Nick (another military cop) and I decided to go explore some back roads and get out of the heat in town.

Southern Oregon is criss-crossed with logging roads, some actively used, and many totally forgotten and grown over. Nick and I spent many of our days off starting on roads that we knew, finding roads we didn't know, driving for hours into the mountains, eventually navigating back to paved roads. On this particular day, with storm clouds building over the mountains, we set off on a road we had never been on, and began the drive into the mountains.

After driving for around an hour, we hadn't seen nor heard any signs of other people in the woods. We rounded a bend in the thick fir woods, and emerged in a meadow that was totally surrounded by thick aspen groves. The meadow was perfectly flat, and eerily still. We both noticed the strange stillness almost immediately; no birds, hardly any insect noise, no squirrels, and certainly no other people. On the far side of the meadow, right at the edge of the tree-line, there was a picnic table. The table was very odd, however. It was painted a bright orange, and was much larger than a typical picnic table in a park. Remarking on this, Nick drove through the meadow to get a closer look.

I remember being apprehensive as we approached. The whole scenario was exceptionally strange; the overall silence of the aspen grove was unsettling. Also, it was nearly impossible to see far into the trees as aspens grow extremely close together. When we parked by the table, I hopped out of the passenger seat of the truck to check it out. I'm not very tall, only about 5'5", regardless, the table was ridiculously oversized and practically unusable. The seats were nearly at chest level, meaning I would have to climb up to even sit on them.

As I was looking at the table, Nick called me over to the truck, and I noticed he was looking back into the aspens. At first, I couldn't see what he was looking at, but then I noticed a splash of color that was completely out of place in the thick trees. A small one man tent was set back in the trees, about 50 feet from the strange table.

I had an initial feeling of dread, and felt certain that there was someone in the tent, and if we could see the tent, they could see us. There were no campgrounds in this area; no people, no main roads for miles. Surely someone camping so remotely would be, at the very least, a strange person. However, as we observed the tent, we didn't see any movement or hear any sounds coming from it. Nick suggested I call out; I didn't want to, but I did. "Hey! Anyone in there?", I yelled.

No reply. Feeling completely on edge, Nick and I thought about driving away and leaving this strange area. But we began to fear the worst; what if there was a body in the tent? What if somebody had gotten kidnapped? Foolish, I know, but we thought it, all the same.

After some debate, we decided to have Nick turn the truck around to drive away from the camp; should we need to leave in a hurry, he would be waiting behind the wheel. With my heart pounding, I started walking through the trees towards the tent. I was totally keyed up with my senses on full alert. When I reached the "campsite", several things struck me as odd. Backpacks were scattered all over. No fire had been built, no wood collected. The tent... The tent was literally full of backpacks, and women's clothing. Full of dread, I turned to leave and tell Nick what I had seen. As I left, I heard Nick start yelling.

"Let's go! Let's get the fuck out of here!" Not knowing why he was yelling, I ran back to the truck. When I broke out of the trees, I saw a beat up old Ford Taurus on the road, blocking us from leaving the meadow. I immediately leapt into the passenger seat, and Nick floored the gas pedal. The car was occupied by two men; a third person was laying against the window in the back. As we drove across the meadow, the driver attempted to block us from the road, but Nick drove around them and accelerated the way we had come from. I looked back and saw the car attempting to turn around on the narrow road. Nick drove like a mad man, and though I was honestly terrified that they would catch up, we hit the the highway without seeing the car again. I still do not know if the person in the back was male or female.

I called the State Police, and they promised to send a Trooper out to check out the scene. However, I received a call the next day from a Trooper stating that the campsite, the back packs, and the women's clothing was all gone, though he could tell people had been in the area. The strange table was still by the thick aspen grove. I have not returned to the area, and do not intend to.

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