I had always heard about how beautiful Colorado was at this time of year. I guess that would be considered a subjective opinion. To a South Texas guy like me, braving these types of temperatures was anything but beautiful.
“Mark, are you still in there by the heater? Get your butt out here and eat some breakfast with the rest of us. We have a big day ahead!”
That was my wife, Cynthia. As you can tell, she is an absolute ray of sunshine in the mornings. I called back towards the opening of the tent.
“Right away, dear. We wouldn’t want your 5-star continental breakfast to get cold.”
“What was that?!” She shot back.
“Nothing, nothing. Be right there, love.”
I pulled on yet another layer of warm clothes, almost successfully recreating the look of the kid in A Christmas Story who can’t put his arms down. I took in one last moment of that sweet heater and made my way out of the tent with the others.
The view was incredible from the side of the mountain. We weren’t far up, but today we would be making our furthest push yet. I looked up at how far we had left to go and shuddered at the thought of it.
As I sat down next to Cynthia and our friends Josh and Christina, I was handed a big plate full of scrambled eggs and potatoes with a steaming hot coffee to go with it. I chuckled the way I do when I know I am about to get myself in trouble and glanced over towards Cynthia.
“You know, honey. When I said we could be a little more adventurous, I meant that maybe we could get some handcuffs or a new toy.”
She punched me hard in the arm, causing me to spill a bit of my fresh coffee but grinned all the same as Josh and Christina bust out laughing. They were used to my unique brand of humor, and it was not out of the ordinary for them.
Josh finished his last bit of eggs and looked up towards me, pointing with his fork.
“You think you got enough layers on there, Mark?”
I smiled at him and took a sip of my coffee before replying.
“Bite me! Not all of us have lived outside of the 100° humidity of the gulf coast in our lifetime.”
He laughed a bit before getting a bit more serious.
“Ok, ok. I get it, but you really might want to make yourself a bit more mobile. We have a pretty intense day of hiking ahead of us. You might not be so cold after we get moving.”
“Yeah, ok. Thanks, Dad. I’ll keep that in mind.” I fired back at him as I lifted my coffee, visibly shaking from the cold.
Christina and Cynthia stood up together and headed towards the tents to gather our supplies. After I was sure that they were out of direct earshot, I leaned in so I could question Josh privately.
“So, you’re sure that we’ll be fine right? I’m definitely not what you would consider an experienced hiker or even an outdoorsman for that matter.”
Josh grabbed me by the shoulder reassuringly and answered in a similarly hushed tone.
“Mark! You guys have nothing to worry about, buddy. Seriously. Christina and I have run through these trails dozens of times over the years when up here visiting family. I would not have invited you two to come unless I was 100% certain that we would make it up the trail with no problems.”
I took a big swig of the hot coffee and looked at him vaguely skeptically.
“If you say so, Josh. I think it’s about time to kick this pig. I’m freezing my butt off, and getting up and going might do me some good.”
“Ask A Ninja references, really?”
“Let’s go, let’s go. Times a-wastin’ my friend.”
With this, I scarfed down the rest of my breakfast, and we all began to pack up. It was not long before we had everything ready to go. We took off up the trail one behind the other with Josh and Cynthia in the lead.
The scenery was breathtaking, like something out of a movie. Mountains were all around us, and the snow was on top of the trees. You could take a picture and send it as a postcard. There was not a thing that could match it in the world.
As we rounded the corner, we saw a campsite up ahead. The tents were ripped at the sides and looked tattered. There was a smoldering fire, so there must have been people there recently if they were not still there. I caught up to Josh to see what he thought.
“You see those tents? It looks like they were attacked by some bears or something.”
His face was grim as he responded.
“It doesn’t look good. I’ll go ahead and check it out. You guys hang back for a minute but keep me in your eyesight. I will wave you over when I know that all is well.”
I remained silent but nodded. The 3 of us walked over to a good vantage point of the camp as Josh made his way up ahead. He was approaching a tent when I noticed a body on the ground and then another. There were red stains in the snow, the camp was a massacre.
I yelled out as I went sprinting towards him.
He turned back towards me. As I pointed towards the bodies on the ground, I was cut short before I could explain. The sound of gunshots in multiple succession rang out. He grabbed at his torso, looking at me in terror as he fell to the ground.
I covered my mouth to keep myself from screaming and stopped my advancing movements. Christina let out the most pitiful and heart-wrenching sound that I had ever heard. Just as I was about to start running the other direction, I heard something that I could not comprehend.
“Shit! No, no, no, no. I’m so sorry. Oh my God, what have I done.”
There was a man whose face was as pale as the snow kneeling over the top of Josh’s motionless body. He held a gun at first, but he placed it on the ground next to Josh. He was clutching his face for a moment, but then as Christina wailed, he looked up in shock.
He saw me first and then looked past me to Christina and Cynthia. I saw the panic in his eyes as he looked at us and the body. He called out towards us.
“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to do this.”
As he finished calling out to us, he stood upright and bolted in the opposite direction. I yelled at him.
“Wait! Come back!”
He did not look back once and turned a corner without another word. We all made our way over Josh’s body. He was motionless, and the snow was stained red beneath him. Christina sobbed while holding him and Cynthia held onto her trying to give whatever consolation she could.
I decided that I should check around the camp. I picked up the gun, which was just used on my best friend, and checked the magazine. The man had emptied the gun. I tossed it aside and steeled myself for the horrors I was about to witness.
There was a man face down next to the smoldering campfire. It appeared that his throat was slashed. A woman was a bit further from the camp, and she had a large knife sticking out of her back. I walked over to the other tent cautiously, making sure to approach from the side of the opening. As I drew near, I grabbed the flap from the side and slowly pulled it open, waiting to see if there was any noise from within.
As I pulled the flap open, I heard what sounded like a small child whimpering. I poked my head in front of the opening and saw a boy holding what I assumed was his dead mother and crying almost silently. He looked up at me in fear and spoke in a wavering voice.
“Please mister, don’t hurt me. My mommy needs help. You aren’t with the bad man, are you?”
I looked at his mother that had no color in her face and had multiple stab wounds in her stomach. I spoke to the boy in a calm and reassuring tone, although I, myself, felt anything but.
“Hey, little guy. Why don’t you come with my friends and me? We will take care of you and make sure that we bring some help back for your momma and everyone else, ok?”
He looked very wary of the offer and squeezed his mother tightly.
“Only if you promise you will get help for my mommy. She got hurt by the bad man, and she won’t wake up.”
“I promise, buddy. We will do everything we can.”
His eyes welled up with tears, and he held his mother for a moment longer. He then gave her a kiss on the cheek before getting up to come with me.
“Ok, I will come with you.”
He came to the opening of the tent and came close beside me. I patted him on the back and pointed in the direction of Christina and Cynthia.
“Let’s go over to them, that is my wife Cynthia, and our good friend Christina. She has someone who was hurt and needs help as well.”
I didn’t have the heart to try and explain what death was to the child. I definitely didn’t want to let him know that nobody who was lying cold in the snow or in a tent was coming back no matter how much help we got them. He had been through enough for now.
“Christina, Cynthia, this is…”
The boy chimed in with his name on cue.
“He was in that other tent, and I told him he could come with us to go and find some help.”
Cynthia answered as Christina was still beside herself over Josh.
“That sounds like a plan to me. I think we could all use a little bit of help right now.”
Christina spoke in a wavering tone as she continued looking down at her beloved husband.
“Yeah… Let’s get out of this place.”
She stood up, and we began to walk towards where we left our supplies at the vantage point to the side of the camp. Lokin’s little voice called out as he was running back towards his tent.
“I forgot my favorite toy. I’ll be right back.”
I was wary of this at first, but we were not going far, and there was nobody near the campsite. I kept an eye on him until he made it to the tent and then turned back towards our bags as we started to grab all of our stuff.
A high-pitched scream rang through the area as Lokin was running as fast as he could back to us. He had a superhero action figure in his hand, and he looked as distraught as when I had found him by his mother. As he made his way to us, he pointed back towards the camp.
“The bad man was there. When I came out of the tent, I saw him. He ran behind that cliff over there!”
I looked towards the camp without going any closer. I noticed that the knife had been removed from the back of the murdered woman. This was all the confirmation I needed.
“We need to run, let’s go!”
I picked up Lokin, and we all took off in the opposite direction. Luckily the killer had run uphill and left us a clear path to head back down the way we had come. We ran for as long as we were able to. We even made it past the sit of our previous camping area. Eventually, the weight of our gear became too much.
I set Lokin down and tried to catch my breath, and we all dropped our gear for a rest. There had been no sign of the killer since we left the site of the bloodbath. We were all exhausted, so it was a minute or so before anyone said a word. Christina was the first one to break the silence.
“I really need to go to the restroom. I don’t feel safe though. Can somebody please go with me over to those trees.”
I looked over toward the patch of trees and responded.
“I’ll go with you in case he is hiding in there somewhere. Cynthia, you stay here with Lokin and scream to us if you see anything. Try to call for the police. Hopefully, they can meet us at the bottom of the mountain.”
“Ok, you two be careful, though, please.”
I nodded back to her grimly and then kneeled down to reassure Lokin.
“We’ll be right back. Alright, buddy? Cynthia is going to keep a good eye on you while we are gone, ok?”
Lokin looked scared, but he nodded his head and held onto Christina’s hand. I led Christina over to the wooded area and looked around in. There was nobody within eyesight, so I let her know that she was good to go while I kept watch.
Not long after she began to go, I heard a scream that sounded like Cynthia followed by a high-pitched wailing, which was definitely Lokin.
“Shit! Let’s go.”
Christina quickly finished and pulled up her pants, and we took off in a mad dash to get to them. They were in the same spot as when we left, and Cynthia was on the ground with a hand pressed against her eye. Just about when we arrived, her arm went slack. Then, her whole body went limp. As soon as we got there, Lokin was talking a million miles a minute.
“The man came running back from the trail, and he stabbed Ms. Cynthia right in the eye. We were both so scared, and then he ran off into the trees on that side, right past where you guys just were!”
Lokin pointed a shaky finger toward an area almost directly by where Christina and I had just been. This man had just killed my wife. The time for running was over.
I told Christina to wait with the boy and the body of my dearly beloved wife. I took off with fury driving me every step of the way. I was running and running, and then I realized something right before I made it to the trees.
No footsteps were heading in this direction in the snow.
My blood ran cold as I turned back and screamed.
She looked up in fear from Cynthia’s body, where she was kneeling on the ground. That’s when a tiny arm reached around from behind her holding a large bloody knife. Before she realized what was happening, Lokin had slit her throat from one side to the other.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood there in shock as I watched the last member of my group tumble to the ground in a heap. I ran towards them, not even sure of what I would do if I caught the little brat. He had disappeared by the time I made it to the bodies of Christina and Cynthia, and I didn’t have the strength to chase him even if he hadn’t.
I was overtaken with grief, regret, sorrow, and so many emotions that I almost hoped that the little demon would just come back and finish me off too. I crawled over to my Cynthia, and I collapsed on top of her.
When I made it to the bottom of the mountain, the police were not yet there. Cynthia never got the chance to call them, I was sure. Once I got them on the phone, it did not take them long at all to arrive. They warmed me up and took down my story. I was waiting with them so long that they found the guy who shot Josh at the beginning of all this madness.
He apologized over and over, but after what I had seen, I reassured him that I understood and that I did not blame him for what happened. Something he said confused me as he spoke about what happened at that site.
“That little boy just came out of nowhere. I don’t know what in the world possessed him to do something like that.”
I cocked my head up from the hot tea I was given by paramedics.
“That kid told me that he was there with his mom when we found him. Y’all aren’t family of his?”
“God no! I don’t know what kind of sick Michael Meyers thing that boy has going on, but none of us even had any kids. We were here on a couple’s trip, a lot like what it sounds like you guys were doing. I just hope they find him before he puts anyone else through this kind of tragedy.”
The football game was on, and his dad and a bunch of his friends were rowdy and drunk in the living room. His mom was getting some wings ready to bring to the coffee table. He waited around the corner until she brought them in and dashed to the drawer where they kept their knives.
He had washed it clean with the water hose in the back yard, and he snuck it in with plenty of time to spare before she made her way back into the kitchen. He beamed up at her with all the innocence of a boy his age. He didn’t show a hint of emotion regarding the things he had just done.
She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.
“Hi sweetie, did you have a good time with your friends?”
“Yeah it was alright, they were starting to get on my nerves though, so I decided not to stay the night.”
She patted him on the shoulder and responded in a tender tone.
“Well, that is just fine baby. You can always come home if you’re not having a good time.”
He shot her another toothy grin.
“Thanks, mom, I’m going to go play in my room.”
“Alright, sweetie. You do that.”
He held his superhero action figure that had accompanied him everywhere he had gone on that day. As he made it to the stairs, he stopped and turned back.
He paused for a moment and looked as sincere as could be.
“I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too sweetie.”