If you haven’t read Part 1 of Incident On Panther Mountain click here.
The mist continued to thicken as I stood on the edge of the road looking down into the foggy valley below. A few of the trees are already bare but there’s more than enough foliage to hide anything smaller than a house. I could hear a steady thumping that seemed to come from everywhere. The thick fog made me a little claustrophobic until I realized that if it was thick enough to hide whatever was out there then it was hiding me too. I briefly considered dropping over the edge and allowing the edge of the road to be my cover but all it would take is one mistake and I would slip into the valley and fall for hundreds of feet. I fumbled with a fob on my key ring. If I clicked on the unlock button the door would unlock but the lights would also come on and let half of the mountain know my exact position. But if I waited until the last second I could open the door and be safely locked in before anything could zero in on me. I looked back down the road behind me and saw that nothing was there yet but the thumping was getting louder. Why can’t tell which direction it’s coming from? I thought as eased back to the truck. After a few steps I realized that it was my own heartbeat that I heard. Pounding in my ears like a drum. Just a few yards before reaching the door but before unlocking the truck I had a terrifying thought. I was on Panther Mountain. Not butterfly mountain. Not puppy mountain but Panther Mountain. The old timers would tell about the large “Devil Cats”. Jet black and able to move as silent as the fog across the leaves. What else was it that they said? I searched my memory for the tales and yarns that were told around campfires. If ever there was a real monster it was an 80 pound predator able to carry a full grown buck up to the treetops and devour it there. That was it! The Devil Cat is an arboreal hunter. I remembered my great uncle Teddy saying that when he was a kid people would walk with sharp sticks taller than they were to keep panthers from leaping out of a tree onto their backs. All I had was the monopod for my camera but it was kinda pointed so opened it up and shouldered it like I was marching. In those last few steps I watched the trees for any sign of movement and only took my hand off the stick to unlock the truck. Just as I predicted the headlights came on and cut through the fog. The trees were empty. I breathed a sigh of relief and chuckled at my own senseless panic. No panthers had been confirmed in this spot for at least a generation. But there was still the strange silence of the birds. It’s not unusual for there to be holes in the noise that gives you way to track people and animals that are out of sight but for the whole forest to suddenly became devoid of sounds is very odd. I turned the key in the ignition and the big blue truck purred to life. I have a choice to make. I can go forward and push beyond the fog in order to find a place where I can turn around or I can attempt to back the truck down the very narrow path.
Image Titled “A Foggy Morning On Panther Mountain 101919c ”
I shifted in drive and began to move deeper into the foggy woods. I had decided that it was all in my head when a shadow slipped through the trees on the hillside to my left. It happened so quick that I couldn’t tell what it was other than a dark mass.
To be continued on Part 3
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