Teens are going missing in the town of Fort Nelson. There are no clues for the authorities to follow—people are just gone. Three friends are piecing together the mystery, discovering that there’s an evil in the woods, always watching, ready to strike.
Will of the Shaper is February’s short story, bringing you into supernatural horror in British Columbia. Enjoy the story in written form, the artwork, and in audio through the podcast with improv synths.
Will of the Shaper
My hometown, Fort Nelson, has always been uneventful, and I like how close it is to the Rockies and Muncho Lake. It’s the peaceful small-town life. Well, until about six months ago. There’s a creature out there in the woods. Seriously, some strange stuff started happening around when the holidays ended and high school started up. Kids have gone missing, and I know why. My friends, Wesley—also my brother—and Curtis, get what I’m talking about. We’re all on the same page regarding this monster. The other folks here think we’re making it up for attention. They think we’re just kids trying to rattle chains. We’re not! This thing is out there; it’s tormented—or she, rather—is conflicted. She’ll watch you when you’re not looking and then strike. I escaped lucky, unlike her other victims.
I’ve gotten a couple of good looks of her in her prime. Once from a distance and the other . . . let me tell you how it all happened. It’s a rarity to see her. Anyone who does ends up dead. When she’s near, you can hear her croaky moaning. It’s like an old door swinging, the type of sound you make in the back of your throat. Her footprints are in the mud and snow too. She’s barefoot. I had thought to myself, who the hell goes around barefoot up this far north? You’ll freeze! Fort Nelson is far colder than anywhere else in British Columbia during the winter. After a while, the tracks just stop—no sign of anything. It’s like she vanishes into thin air. We don’t have any footage of her either. Again, you end up dead if you see her, and I never thought about pulling my phone out in the heat of the moment.
We pieced together that it is a she because of that eerie croaking and the two times I saw her. She preys on teens—like us—for the most part, targeting boys . . . one girl did go missing. Wesley, Curtis, and I have gone to the RCMP to tell them about her and the missing teens. They know these kids are dead in the back of their minds, but they don’t care, I think. Missing people happen all the time, and unless there is a body . . . then it is a missing person report and not a homicide. People can be flagged as missing for years.
Alright, let me explain how I first saw her. Wesley showed me this wicked abandoned bus by the river years ago when we were kids. He is more adventurous, which keeps him so thin. Most of the time, he goes out at night, too, like some vampire kid. Mom complains about him not having enough sunlight and to stop playing his ‘angry noise,’ which is industrial music. He wasn’t always this way, but he’s changed. We all do while growing up.
Wesley, Curtis, and I like to drink out in the woods on that old bus. That’s where we first heard her. Our buddy, Garett, was with a couple of other kids and us. We were all kicking it in that bus with the beers that Curtis got from his dad’s liquor store. Curtis is a year older than us and has a wicked taste in music. He’s introduced me to so many black metal bands—you can get why Wesley is friends with him. The guy has a bit of a temper, so don’t mess with him. Oh, Curtis is a Satanist, too, doing all the rituals. He lent me his Satanic Bible for me to read. I’m not much of a reader, but I am giving it a shot. It would be so cool to brag about being a Satanist. That’d really piss off the folks of Fort Nelson.
Anyways, there we were, laughing and smoking cigs like we would any other time when Garett decided to go for a piss. That’s when we heard her . . . the shuffling in the nearby bushes . . . the croaky moan . . . it’s not like a sexy moan either. The sound starts off quiet and gets louder until it morphs into a rattling.
Garett screamed at the top of his lungs. God, I’ve never heard someone shout like that. The agony he must have felt before she got him. Then, all sounds stopped—no creaky moan, rattling, or screams. We ran out to look for him. We couldn’t see anything. At first, we figured the doofus ran home—maybe he drank too much, but he didn’t come to school the next day, and we’ve never seen him since.
It’s messed up. Some of the other kids talk about it. For the most part, no one takes it seriously. As a rule, people stay out of the woods anyways. There’s an active grizzly in the area. Let’s not forget the mountain lions or the wolves. Fort Nelson is a busy place with wildlife, and people would rather be safe. Let me tell you, though, that bus is awesome—totally worth it! Since no one goes out that far, it’s the perfect place to drink, smoke weed, and not get caught.
The RCMP eventually talked to everyone in school about Garett going missing. Wesley, Curtis, and the other kids told them straight up what happened. Not much came of our statements. The cops investigated the bus and the area but didn’t find anything. She’s cunning . . . and able to cover up her tracks.
Nehom, the girl I hung out with in math class, believed us. She’s cool. I still remember the first time I met her. Nehom was new to our town. Her parents moved in on an acreage just outside of Fort Nelson. She said they moved here to get away from the old life, start new where no one knows them. She’s apparently lived in over a dozen towns across the west coast.
I got to math class late, and Mr. Ramirez shifted the desks around to accommodate her. I was pissed off. My spot was rad, in the far corner in the room. She offered to have me sit by her in the middle. Mr. Ramirez was cool with us sitting there since Nehom was shy, and I could help her get familiar with the school.
Right away, we hit it off. She was well-versed in black metal, and thought Curtis’s copy of the Satanic Bible was dope. Nehom said she was familiar with the religion and read the book herself to understand who she was. I guess I’m doing the same thing; the whole scripture is about self-empowerment. She also poked fun of me for forgetting her name—I love it when a gal can rip on you. She called me Fish-head. The name stuck. Her burn is accurate though, I have poor memory. No matter what I do, I cannot remember the names of people, movies, bands, anything. She had me write her name down several times, and her name stuck with me. Bam. Nehom.
Nehom was chill and could kick back with a drink. She ain’t afraid to go in the woods like some of the other kids. Man, this one time—about a month after Garett— Curtis and I tried to throw a party out there, and most of the kids were too chicken-shit to join us. Only the hardcore kids went. That’s when the second kid went missing—another boy.
We heard that croaky moan again. As always, it starts gentle, feminine, then rises to that throaty sound, and then the rattling. That killed the party vibe fast, and we all booked it. Nehom wasn’t with us, and neither was Wesley—I’d hate to lose my brother. Nehom . . . what a cutie, minus the poor taste in fashion. It was always cargos and hoodies and nothing new. Her eyes are amazing—like a radioactive green. Plus, the blonde streaks and pale skin creates a total punk look.
After that party kill, Curtis, Wesley, and I decided to go to the RCMP and get serious with them. Two people were gone! The officers know we’re trouble. Curtis has been caught drinking underage, me with cigs, and Wesley with dope. They usually let us go on a warning. Still, with our backgrounds, they noted our stories, and that was all. I mean, we were the last to see Garett and that other kid—I’m forgetting his name. See? Horrible memory.
I can count about six people she’s taken, one being a girl and the rest boys. The girl, Vanessa, was a real piss-off. I started flirting with her in social class, and things were getting fly. Look, I liked Nehom, and I think she liked me, but Vanessa, damn, I heard she was into hooking up. It was a no-brainer.
Vanessa and I went out by the old bus after school, like, on a Thursday. We had smokes, and I kept a six-pack out there from another night with Curtis. We were smoking our own cigs, flirting a lot, and she even kissed me before asking for a drink. It was all looking good. The only problem was that the six-pack was missing. Like, wow. Curtis probably took it. Thankfully I had another stash just outside the bus. I told Vanessa to hold tight.
The croaky moan began . . . slow, gradual, and soft . . . gravelly and ghostly . . . and finally rattling. I was a good fifty paces away from the bus when I saw her go into the vehicle. I must be the only person who has ever seen her and lived to talk about it. She was crawling on her hands and legs but was naked, pale, hairless. It looked like that weird dangly creature from that fantasy movie everyone loves. Is it based on some book? Toads of Rings or something? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. Damn memory. She looked skinny and dangly like in the movie.
Vanessa screamed in agony, one just as horrifying as Garett’s and that other kid. There was smashing glass and fumbling. I hurried back to the bus to help Vanessa. She was gone. There was a bit of blood on the window and barefoot prints in the dirt. They went into the woods for about three dozen steps before disappearing. No blood. There were a couple of black feathers on the ground where the prints ended and nothing beyond that. Vanessa was officially the third victim. That gal was ready to take her panties off too! I swear.
I’m still a bit pissed about Vanessa, and there’s nothing I can do about it. She is too swift and cunning. You never know where she is going to be or when she’ll strike. I told Curtis, Wesley, and Nehom. Curtis swears he never took the beers, as does Wesley. So, neither were out there before Vanessa and I arrived. Nehom was a little irritated that I took Vanessa out there. She kept digging her nails into her arms. Maybe I should have made a move on her sooner . . . because she started to distance herself from me for a bit. All four of us didn’t see a point in telling the RCMP this time—they didn’t care. Vanessa would be filed as a missing person, and that would be the end of it.
This brings me to where I saw her the second time, minus the other three kids who went missing, but still, to speed things up, I went on with my life. Curtis was disturbed about the bus and stopped going. He still gave us some beers, and we hung out. Wesley and I went to the bus again, nothing happened.
Nehom came with me this one time, three victims after Vanessa—being about three months since that terrible evening. We were hitting it off well. I think she got over the jealousy of me taking Vanessa out there. She was back to her regular old self, cracking good jokes and hanging out with me.
Nehom and I were a few drinks in, slurring a bit, and we kept scootching closer to one another. Her crooked smile was pulling me in, and she kept eye contact. I took this as a sign and went in for the kiss. She seemed surprised at first, stiff, but didn’t hold back, and we shared the moment. It held . . . and I pushed further until we started to make-out. My hands went under her shirt to cup her tit as a croaky moan picked up. The noise wasn’t outside. My heart stopped.
The sound was coming from Nehom’s throat. That moment, as our lips still held and I let go of her breast, I realized what was going on. Nehom was her. Her eyes were open as I stared at her then trembling throat. It looked like a vibrator was jammed in there, shaking so rapidly.
Nehom broke free, and her eyes teared up. She kept saying she was sorry, over and over, and that she thought she could control it for another few days. She was rambling on so fast with her vibrating voice I couldn’t make it all out. Nehom did say she was fond of me, our similarities, jokes, and didn’t want to feast on my flesh. She didn’t think I’d kiss her and said emotional energy ignites the monster’s will, leaving her powerless. She begged me to run!
I dashed towards the bus’s door. Nehom kept telling me to run until her voice began to mutate into full-on croaky growling. Her face squished into a scowl as her eyes shifted black—like ink dying water. She pounced towards me, throwing her hair, or wig rather, off and leaving her bald. Her fingernails sprouted into claws as tiny white spikes pierced through her skin. They ran down her limbs and back, shredding her clothes and shoes to scraps.
My foot slipped on the muddy entrance to the bus, and my jaw biffed the floor. I bit my tongue in the process, causing blood to seep out of my mouth. Nehom’s dangly naked form was on top of me in no time, her throat still vibrating and now puffing up. Her claws pierced my wrists as her feet coiled around my legs, overpowering me. All I could do was shout for help while gurgling blood.
Her mouth opened slowly as her bottom jaw split in two, revealing a mouth full of razor-sharp spikes. All of them vibrated rapidly as a slithery black tentacle wormed its way from the depths of her esophagus and towards me. The jaws continued to expand, stretching the skin outward until each half was the size of my body, ready to envelop my flesh.
For some reason, I shouted her name loud, “NEHOM!” thinking I could reason with her. Damn, I was right. It must have shot her back into reality for a split moment. Her pure-black eyes shifted back to her beautiful green—white ink droplets into black. The jaw began to constrict back into her mouth. The vibrating slowed down, giving her the freedom to talk.
Nehom freed my wrists and legs, telling me to run again. She said she couldn’t control it for much longer. The craving was too much. She was tired of being alone and apologized again while crawling off me, saying she was a fool. She retreated into a corner, curling up into a ball as the gravelly groans escalated once more. I ran. My writs were fucked, and my tongue kept bleeding down my chin, but I didn’t stop running. My legs were wobbly, stomping into the mud. I never looked back. I didn’t stop. Never.
She didn’t come back to school. The RCMP made another missing person’s report. Apparently, they visited the acreage too, and it was an abandoned home—kind of like the bus. Maybe that’s why she liked hanging out at the bus because she gravitates towards the forgotten and abandoned . . . like her victims . . . or her, who drifts through life alone. I don’t know. I’m still trying to make sense of it.
About a month later, after my wrists and tongue healed, I did get a sign from her while I was walking home, about thirty days later. A month seems to be when she mutates into that thing and feeds. This crow was sitting on the fence, staring at me. Of course, I walked by it as it cawed. The animal flew towards me and sat on the fence again, cawing. I ignored it, and the crow did the same thing a third time. I stopped and stared at the bird.
A droplet of white entered the crow’s eyes . . . ink . . . and they morphed into a human-like state. They turned white with irises—toxic green—Nehom. The crow’s throat vibrated briefly, and I could make out the bird’s attempts to chirp the name, “Fish-head,” as the eyes shifted back to all black and the animal flew away. The sign was unmistakable.
People in Fort Nelson stopped dying—or going missing—and life returned to normal. Curtis and Wesley believe my story. I mean, Nehom just stopped showing up to school, and I have scars on my wrists. Those are two clear signs that she was that monster the whole time. I still think about her. Again, I really like her, and she had a soft spot for me.
The three of us try to hypothesize what she was. A demon, shapeshifter, an alien, we can’t come to any conclusion. Nothing in folk tales or mythology mentions anything close to her. Obviously, from what she’s told me, she doesn’t know what she is either. I wonder if “the monster” she mentioned is a part of her, or possesses her, or is two souls in one body. Who knows? We dubbed her a Shaper as if we’re explorers who discovered a new animal. We kind of did, but she’s not an animal. She’s another being like us, only not human. One thing is for certain, I’ll never forget the name Nehom.