The Sinking Man was a myth around town about a man who went on a hike further up from the camp site on the far side of Stellar Creek. On his way back he fell into a sinkhole. No one went after him. His family left him and assumed he was attacked by an animal. The police later came across the sinkhole with the man’s bag a few meters away from the hole. It was later said that he haunted the grounds around the sinkhole where his family camped. He haunts anyone who resembles his family and shows up anywhere and everywhere. He doesn’t hurt anybody, but he’s still there.
This was the talk of English class Tuesday when the teacher was speaking about urban legends. Once class was dismissed, Jason and Kylie came to me with the brilliant idea to go search for the sinkhole. I agreed after a lot of begging from Kylie who didn’t want to be the only girl since Jason invited a few of his friends. We decided to go camping Saturday night and to explore on Sunday.
“So when we get to Stellar Creek Saturday we will hang out and go explore Sunday,” Jason nodded as he planned everything out in his head.
“Are you sure we should do this?” I asked.
“Come on Lea, haven’t you always wonder if the myth was true?” Kylie asked.
I nodded and sighed.
The weekend came faster than I wanted it to. Jason and a few of his other friends were ahead of Kylie and I. We decided to hang back and take in the scenery. I was always amazed by how the forest seemed to be a different world. I looked around to see ivy crawling up the tree trunks, moss covered the base of some trees and nearby rocks, and the leaves changing color. The wind was a little chilly, but the sky was clear and the sun was blistering.
“How are you girls holding up back there?” Jason called.
“We’re good. Are we camping tonight and looking tomorrow?” Kylie replied. Jason nodded and turned to some guy who started talking to him. “You know they are all going to chicken out right?”
“Yup, they are all too scared to even put a toe in the creek. I’m going to do it though.”
I was determined, but Kylie laughed it off. That night we all made a campfire and joked around until we went to our tents and went to sleep. The next morning most of Jason’s friends left. They came up with crazy excuses as to why they needed to leave. We let them go without questioning anything. Soon it was Jason, Kylie and I left. Jason didn’t look too good and Kylie was taking care of him.
“I think I’m going to take him back. He’s running fever.” I nodded. “Are you coming?” Kylie asked.
“No, I think I’m going to hang out for a bit. I’ll be back later.” She looked at me skeptically, but nodded and left with Jason. I walked to the creek and sat on a rock close to the bank. I wanted to cross and prove to myself that I could do it and not back out like everyone else. I stood up and drifted toward the creek. I couldn’t see into the creek. The water was too murky and had a steady stream.
I decided it was time to do what I came to do. I walked to the broken makeshift bridge that was once used for crossing. I crossed and landed on the opposite side of the creek. I smiled to myself. I was a little scared, but the hardest part of the journey was to cross to the other side.
Now, I could just explore. I tried to stay on the path, but it was difficult to find it after a while. I was wandering around admiring how lively the forest seemed. I heard more birds chirping, saw a rabbit, and came across a field of flowers. I couldn’t process why we would stay away from such a beautiful place. The more I walked the more congested the forest became. I didn’t mind, but the trees never let the sun creep through. The wind started to become a little colder. I started to slow my pace. An unsettling feeling washed over me. Something didn’t feel right. That’s when I saw something move beside me. I turned to see what it was but there was nothing. I thought I was just imagining it until a man ran right toward me. I knew it had to be the Sinking Man.
I tried to find something that looked familiar to me, but I found nothing. The dead leaves from the past fall covered the ground and crunched under each step I took. I silently wished there was no sound; the more cautious I tried to be, the louder my steps seemed. There was this eerie feeling I couldn’t shake. Glancing to the left, my heart rate elevated and my breathing stopped when I saw the man again. Taking off into a sprint, I forged ahead, paying attention only to what was in front of me. I needed a moment to think and evaluate how to find my way back out to civilization. I knew I had to come up with a plan to escape this thing and get back to the trail.
I tried to see if I had any signal on my phone, but my hope drained as I noticed that it was dead. I finally realized I was on my own with something chasing me. I tried to take a few calming breaths, but I was too on edge to calm down. After a minute of mental preparation, I decided to find a way out of the forest. After a minute of looking around, I noticed what seemed to be smoke coming from the southeast.
As I made my way toward the smoke, every sound made me jump. I tried to keep a steady pace as I scanned my surroundings. I didn’t see anything following me. I heard something crack in front of me. Figuring it was something large approaching me, I ran behind a tree and peeked around it, only to see a small child looking directly at me.
“Are you lost?”
“Very much so. Do you think your parents could help me?” I said.
“I’ll take you to Mommy,” he smiled. “I’m Ryan and I’m seven.” This kid sure was happy to be in the middle of the forest despite something out there.
“Hey, Ryan. I’m Lea,” I said trying to be nice to this kid and not show him that I was freaking out. He on the other hand, was completely composed. He seemed so at ease being out here all alone.
“What’s your favorite thing to do? I like to play football with my brother Thomas. He’s mean sometimes, but I know he loves me because he brings me ice cream,” he said.
His rabbling reminded me of a kid I baby-sat on occasion. I glanced behind me. Despite seeing nothing, I stayed on my toes as we entered what seemed to be a campsite. It was a little cleared area with a camper toward back and a fire pit in the middle where a dying fire was smoking. Nothing seemed out place within the site. It looked as though people had been living here for a while; a clothesline stretched across the camper to the trees with clothes swaying in the wind, wood was stacked neatly in a pile, and a grill was close to the camper.
“Stay here.” He ran off. I prepared myself to tell Ryan’s mom what was going on without freaking her out.
“Hello, dear.” A lady who seemed to be in her late thirties approached me. “Ryan tells me you wandered into our part of the woods?” She continued peering over her glasses to look at me. She seemed trustworthy enough with her frizzy hair and kind brown eyes.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m from town and camped crossed the creek last night. I went on a hike this morning when a man came out of nowhere and started to chase me. I’ve been lost since then. I saw the smoke from a distance and hurried over, hoping you could help me.”
“What do you need me to do, sweetie?” she asked. I could tell she was being polite, but she was looking over my shoulder as though she was distracted.
“Do you know how I can get home? Or back to the creek?”
“Thomas won’t give me my toy back!” Ryan ran out of the camper, his face red and his brown hair messed up.
“I’ll take care of it when I get done helping this nice young girl,” She looked down at him and patted his head. “Actually, why don’t you guide her to the trail that goes into town?” Her eyes looked down to him and she gave him a knowing smile. I gave them both a shaky smile.
“He doesn’t need to do that. If you would just point me in the right direction, I can make it back.”
“No, no, sweetie. You’ll be better off with Ryan here. He knows these woods better than anyone does. I trust him to make it back in one piece if that’s what you’re worried about,” She smiled at me. I nodded.
“Come on Lea. I will tell you all about the fort I made.” Ryan walked into the woods. As we walked, Ryan told me all about the fort he made, how Thomas tried to destroy it, and how his mom stopped Thomas. Being back in the woods caused me to scan my surroundings. “Lea, he won’t get you when you’re in this part of the woods.” Thomas said, sensing my distress.
“How did you know?” I was surprised this little boy knew as much as he did.
“The hooded man doesn’t come this far. He likes chasing people, but rarely causes them harm.” He said.
“How do you know so much?” I asked, bewildered.
“Me and Thomas can see,” he said.
“Why are we the only ones that can see him?”
“We’re almost there.” He smiled.
I made it home safely that night, but I still felt like someone was watching me. It reminded me of the words Ryan whispered to me before running away.
The Sinking Man didn’t get you, but that doesn’t mean he will stop watching you. He’s always watching.
My anxiety rose the more I thought about it, so I decided to get information from my parents about what had happened.
“Dad, have you heard any stories about The Sinking Man?” I asked, walking into the living room where my dad sat watching TV.
“You’re seventeen; don’t you have better thigs to worry about than that old myth?” He said as he watched a golf tournament.
“So, do you know something?”
“Go talk to your mom. I’m trying to watch the tournament,” he waved me off. I turned toward the kitchen and saw my mom reading out of a cookbook.
“Hey, Mom,” she looked up and smiled at me.
“Hey, sweetie, what’s on your mind?” she asked.
“Have you heard anything weird about the Sinking Man?”
“If I remember correctly, it’s the story about a man that haunts the woods.” I nodded hoping she would tell me more. “All I remember is that if he chases you, you’re stuck with him for the rest of your life. If you see him and he’s gone, you’re free to roam the woods as much as you please. If he does end up chasing you, that means you’re now his and you’re stuck with him for the rest of your life. I think the story is just used to keep children from wandering around out there by themselves. Although, I did hear once that a girl did end up dying a few years back out there. No one knows why or how she died, but people think the legend is true because of that. Why do you want to know?”
“That dress you ordered came in today. It’s on the table,” she shooed me away. I picked up the dress and went up to my room. I sighed and thought about the day’s events. I shook my head, not believing that it was real. I went into the bathroom and showered. I wanted to be clean and ready to try on the dress. I walked into my room and put it on. I stood in front of the mirror admiring how the light pink dress contrasted against my skin tone. Right before I was about to take off the dress I saw Ryan standing behind me. I turned around to see nothing there.
I rolled my eyes, “Really Lea? It’s just a stupid myth. Snap out of it,” I cursed myself for thinking that was real. I quickly showered and climbed into the bed. I didn’t get much sleep that night. I dreamt of being in the forest again. The figure chasing me until I woke up sweating. I rolled over to go back to sleep when I saw a boy sitting on the floor. I sat up and turned on my lamp to see nothing except for the floor. Sighing, I decided to go down stairs to sleep on the couch and watch TV.
After school on Thursday, Kylie and Jason invited me to go to the coffee shop down the street from the school to study for an upcoming chemistry test. Walking over to the coffee shop was interesting to say the least. Kylie and Jason were arguing about some zombie movie they watch while he was sick Sunday and I just laughed at how dumb they were. We were almost to the coffee shop when I saw Ryan standing by himself across the street. I looked away and looked back to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, but as usual he was gone.
This had been happening since I got home Sunday. I would randomly see Ryan around town, in my house, in my car, and at school. I was a mess. Kylie and Jason were worried about me and kept asking me what was wrong. I didn’t want them to think I was going crazy. Who would think a little boy was following them around? I couldn’t imagine the looks I would get if that happened.
“Lea, are you okay?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, sorry.” I forced a smile.
“Your mind has been everywhere else since Monday. Are you sure you’re okay?” Kylie said. I nodded, and we walked in the shop where Ryan was standing off to the side. I tried to avoid eye contact. I was sitting at the table when Kylie and Jason started talking about the upcoming dance. I nodded, and tried to jump in the conversation so they wouldn’t notice that I wasn’t paying attention.
“Lea, seriously what’s wrong,” Kylie asked, her eyes full of concern.
“Look in that corner over there,” I pointed to where Ryan stood. “Do you see anything?” I asked.
“No, it’s a dark corner. Do we need to take you home?” Jason felt my head. I shook my head no.
“So your telling me you don’t see the little boy in the corner?” I finally asked. I looked over to see Ryan smiling and waving.
“No, Lea, you’re seriously scaring me,” Kylie said. Sighing, I grabbed my drink and walked out. I couldn’t believe they couldn’t see him. He seemed to be mocking me.
Two days later my mom called me into the living room. I walked in to see her sitting there with my dad. He was more focused on the TV than what mom was saying to him.
“Umm, did you call me?” I asked.
“Yes, we’ll talk in the kitchen,” she got up and we walked into the kitchen. “Kylie called me to see if you were okay. She said something about you acting strange and seeing something. She’s worried about you. Do you need to talk to me about anything?”
“No ma’am I’m okay.” I walked to the sink to get a glass of water. I glanced up to see the Ryan in the backyard.
“You don’t look okay. Are you sure?” She asked as I turned away from the window.
“I think I need to go on a walk through the forest and clear my mind,” I said.
“Okay, be careful,” she gave me a hug.
I walked out of the house and into the backyard. Ryan was gone, but my desire to go check out the campsite where I saw Ryan and his family wouldn’t leave. I sat out that Saturday evening determined to figure out why this kid was following me. I knew how to get to the trail Ryan said that Thomas and his Mom made. I followed the trail until I saw the clearing that could hold all my answers.
I walked into the clearing to see it the same as before. I quickly walked to the camper and knocked on the door. No one answered, and I didn’t hear any noise coming from inside. I knocked again, and once again, no one answered. I knocked louder this time only for the door to crack open. A horrible smell filled my nose. I gagged and pushed the door wider, holding my breath. I took a step inside to see two bodies laying there. One was Ryan’s mother and the other must have been Ryan’s brother. Thomas. I heard sounds coming from behind me. I turned to see Ryan. He had a cold look on his face. He was covered in what looked like blood.
“I’ve been waiting on you,” he walked closer to me. “Dad said you would come back. That they always came back.” I backed away from him.
“Ryan what happened here?” I managed to choke out.
“Me. I killed them.”
“That’s how it goes. Dad will be proud,” he smiled. “And you’re next.”