Bogleech.com's 2016 Horror Write-off:
Zero Percent Rain
When I was a kid, I was in love with the outdoors. I was the sort of guy who would spend whole afternoons tromping through the woods behind my house, looking for fish and frogs in our local creek, or even just lying in the park and looking at birds (nah, it was never just birds, always something specific like nuthatches or chickadees).
That had been when I lived in Colorado. After I graduated from high school, I ended up getting an apartment in Massachusetts, near where I went to college. Times had changed. In the real world, you didn't get by just by taking walks in the woods, and I knew that. That said, a couple years later, when I'd finally saved up enough, I decided to fly back to where I'd lived as a kid for a few weeks in the summer.
Most of my childhood friends had moved on long ago, but there was one who I knew was still in my hometown—David Hutchins. David wasn't my best friend as a kid, but we were pretty close, and right now he'd gotten a job as a hiking tour guide in the mountains. He ate, slept, and breathed the wilderness, even more than I did. "Corey," he'd say to me, "sometimes I wonder whether you've lost your sense of adventure. You seem more interested in exploring the woods around your house than hiking up the mountain!"
I finally ran into him again at the local bar. He didn't look like he'd aged a bit. I suppose that sort of lifestyle can do that to a person.
"Fancy seeing you here, Corey," he said to me, as if we'd only been apart for ten days instead of ten years. " You know, I was thinking that if we ever got together again we should hike up to the Mile-High Brewery."
"What's that?" I'd been out of the loop on that sort of thing for a while.
"It's this little pub—actually more of a restaurant, but who's counting—on the top of that big mountain. It opened five years ago, but it didn't do very well and it closed."
"So, why do you want us to go there?" I asked.
"You really have lost your sense of adventure, Corey," David laughed. "It's an awesome hike, and the view at the top is excellent. Besides, there's zero percent rain tomorrow. What do we have to lose?"
The next day David and I set off on our hike up to the Mile-High Brewery. We'd both packed a lunch—including a can of beer each, so we could say we drank at the Brewery—and a full compliment of sketchpads, cameras, and field guides. The weather could hardly have been better.
The hike didn't disappoint; the bird watching was some of the best I'd ever done, and the wildflowers were all in bloom. We made more sketches than either of us had before, got God knows how many photos, and pretty much felt like we were having the time of our lives.
As we got near the top, though, David started to complain that he felt cold. This was weird—David was a guy who went out jogging in shorts and a t-shirt in October. I personally didn't feel cold, so if David did, something had to be up.
That was when I noticed it. There was a grayish cloud passing in front of the sun. But that's impossible. The forecast for today said zero percent rain.
David must have noticed it too, because he started to look nervous and said, "I don't like this . . ."
"What?!" I asked him incredulously. "You sound nothing like the David Hutchins I know. That David would finish a hike at any cost." What David said next surprised me even more.
"I don't think we should be going up there. I made a mistake saying we should." I shook my head, partly in exasperation and partly in defiance, and continued up the hiking trail until the end was in sight.
The Mile-High Brewery was basically a one-gimmick joint. Its only real selling point was the fact that it was on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, and unfortunately that didn't seem to be a draw for too many people. It actually got more publicity after it closed as a destination for hikers than it ever did while it was open. I could see it through the trees—a small log cabin-like building, with its windows boarded up. I'm almost there, I thought. I'm almost—PLINK!
Something wet landed on my face. Oh crap, I said to myself, it IS raining. But when I looked down at my shirt, I didn't see raindrops. I saw snowflakes. Snow. In June.
"David" I called, "You might want to check this out!"
"What is it?"
"You'll never believe this, but it's snowing up here. Not a blizzard, but more than it should be in June at any rate."
As I said this, though, the snow had begun to pick up and the sky had become distinctly overcast. By the time David arrived where I was, it was a blizzard, or at least a decent snowstorm. "We'll need to find shelter," he said, "and hopefully somewhere where we can wait out this . . . thing, whatever it is."
"I'm going up to the Brewery," I told him, "Even if it's closed, I can still stay under the awning. You come with me if you want to."
When I arrived at the Brewery, something told me that it was not as inactive as I had believed. I could see smoke rising from behind it, and even though I couldn't smell anything burning, I took this as a sign that someone else was here before me. David showed up about ten minutes after I arrived. He looked unusually tired and worn out, and—this was something I had never seen him doing before—he was silently cursing under his breath. The snow continued to fall.
"I came to get you," he said. "This. . .was a bad idea. It was my fault. We have to go down now."
"No," I said. "It's too dangerous. We have to stay up here until the storm passes."
At that moment, we both noticed a man walk out from behind the Brewery. He was wearing a chef's hat and an apron, and walked with his head stooped over so neither of us could clearly see his face. I assumed he was one of the employees. But what was he doing if this place was closed? "I'm going to go ask him if we can go inside," said David. "You stay here."
The man walked a ways into the woods and stood still. He looked to his left his right, and then his left again, then turned and wandered back toward the Brewery. David called out to him repeatedly, but the man was either deaf or distracted, because he paid no attention whatsoever. It creeped me out a little bit then, and it creeps me out even more now. Not that any of this mattered to David. Eventually, having had enough, he followed the man back behind the Brewery.
I must have waited for half an hour before finally wondering what on Earth was taking David so long. To pass the time, I looked up at the sky, which was still gray and snowy. However, the plume of smoke rising from behind the Brewery was growing thicker. Wondering why this was, I decided to investigate for myself, hoping that perhaps I would also find out where David went.
As it turned out, I did not see David—at least not at first. The smoke was coming from an old-fashioned barbecue grill, and the man was hunched over it, prodding at something with a meat skewer. Even though I knew David's efforts had been futile, I tried my best to talk to the man. "Um. . .hello?" I asked him "Do you know if we could stay here until the snow passes?"
This time, the man did react. He turned around, and I could see what was on the barbecue. I could also see the reason he had kept his face hidden. In his forehead, between his eyes, was a single, bloody hole. A hole the exact same shape and size as a meat skewer. He did not speak, and I did not wish to wait for him to. I gathered my possessions, not even caring anymore what had happened to David, and raced headlong down the mountain.
No one could ever figure out what happened to David, and the official story is still that the Mile-High Brewery was closed because of low customer income. I've grown used to the ridicule over the years—indeed, it's almost become a part of me. Not that it really matters to most people. If some random hiker has an experience like mine, they dismiss it as a hoax, a hallucination; that's their way of accommodating it in their mindset.
I haven't been back on that mountain since then, but tomorrow is the first day of summer, and my parents have invited me home again. The forecast calls for zero percent rain.