I don’t know how this story ends. Even Herman doesn’t yet know how it ends. But we’re all hoping for a big finale.
A friend told me this story yesterday, and it’s me gripped in the way storytelling has entranced us since the first cavemen sat around a crackling fire and told tales of mysterious beasts in the darkness.
It’s one of O. Henry’s yarns.
A story that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
One that keeps you up at night.
For anonymity, we’ll call the main character in this story Herman. Herman is from Portland. He’s a large man. Hands big enough to palm a prize-winning pumpkin. Size 16 feet. Shoulders that barely fit through doorways. I heard that Herman was drafted by a Major League Baseball team, but in working-class Maine fashion, had to decline the offer to work in a mill.
In addition to his behemoth stature, Herman is a skilled hunter and fisherman. It’s in pursuit of big game adventures at his camp in Frenchville, Maine this summer where Herman’s story begins.
Frenchville borders Canada at the top of Maine. It’s all potato fields and pine trees. The remote town boasts some of the old wilderness that once covered New England. It’s common to come across moose and bear driving to the grocery store. The word ‘primitive’ comes to mind when thinking about this part of Maine.
The drive to Frenchville from Herman’s Portland home takes five and a half hours. Herman motors the two hundred miles up 95 and continues through back roads. His family camp is so removed from civilization, Herman has to park his truck at the end of a road and drive five miles through tight logging roads with his ATV. When his ATV hits the end of the logging road, Herman then has to hike with all his supplies two additional miles before he reaches the front door of his camp.
The only way to get there is by car, ATV, and, finally, on foot. Once there, it’s just Herman and the woods. No other people.
At least that’s the way it should have been.
After making the trek to camp three weeks ago, Herman and a friend settled in for some mid-summer trout fishing on the pond abutting his camp.
From their canoe, Herman and his friend hear what sounds like people talking. It’s a sound so rare in these parts, that it startles the men.
The sound goes away.
Ten minutes later, it’s back and louder.
The men reel in their lines and decide to paddle towards the voices at the far end of the pond.
The voices swell. Herman tells his friend that the inflection sounds human, but the voices don’t seem to be speaking intelligible words.
They row to the edge of the pond facing a steep rock cliff. There’s a rustling. Loud unintelligible voices call out. Their canoe rises and falls with the breath of the pond. Neither man speaks.
Suddenly, a massive boulder crashes from the rock cliff above and splashes into the water, nearly capsizing their canoe. There’s a loud banging in the woods. Like someone is thumping a stick against a tree trunk.
The men steady the canoe and frantically paddle.
In the middle of the pond, they stop.
“No man could have heaved that boulder,” Herman says. Remember, Herman is hulking, and if he doubts man’s ability to launch that boulder into the pond, that’s saying something.
“Whatever that was,” his friend says, “it doesn’t want us here.”
“Maybe it’s a hermit,” Herman says.
“Maybe — ”
They paddle back to Herman’s camp. In the morning they make the journey back to civilization. The men vow to come back the following week to further investigate the disturbance in Frenchville, Maine.
…Stay tuned for Part II of this three part story. Part II is known, Part III, like I said, is yet to take place.