This world is a beautiful but unforgiving place. Every day, countless atrocities ravage our civilizations; War, poverty, disease, famine… an innumerable amount of plagues lash out against humanity, and if left unchecked could bring us to the brink of collapse. However, these pestilences are inconsequential compared to the true horrors out there, the ones that have lurked in the shadows for eons… some that even predate our universe itself. They are the demons inside our heads, the beasts that live beneath your beds, the spooks and specters within the woods, the shadowy figures beneath their hoods… These beings are ancient and ferocious, but only a select few still bother to show their loathsome faces. Their numbers may be small compared to ours, but they are powerful; so powerful that to simply know of them is to invoke calamity… But is there a way to cheat fate? To cheat Death? Everything you know, everything you've seen, is just a distraction from reality…

"WAKE UP!"


Katelyn Milens shot up in bed, drenched in a cold sweat that chilled her to the bone. Her stormy gray eyes were filled with terrified anguish and locks of her messy, shoulder-length black hair fell in front of her face, making it difficult to see the rest of her bedroom. She brushed the offending strands away and nervously peered into the darkness, but fortunately, her nightmares appeared to be nothing more than a figment of her imagination for a change. She let out a sigh of relief and sunk back into her pillows, grateful that her personal demons had seemingly taken the night off. Perhaps they'd decided that what she'd gone through in the radio tower was enough trauma for one day, or maybe they were just lulling her into a false sense of security in order to strike when she was most vulnerable. It was impossible to predict the actions of her otherworldly stalkers, so she'd stopped trying long ago, choosing instead to worry about what she could actually control. However, that tactic was failing her for the first time in a long time, as it was next to impossible to avoid thinking about what was in store for her in the coming hours. Although she tried her hardest, Kate was too stressed to fall back asleep, so she got up to retrieve a pen and pad of paper from her desk instead. Lightning flashed across the night sky as she walked past the open window, making her pale skin look even whiter than it already was, and as she sat back down with the utensils and let a familiar habit take control, memories of when the nightmare first began came flooding back to her. She vividly remembered that fateful night back in 2009, when she was only fifteen years old…

(X)

It was a warm summer evening and Kate was sitting in her living room talking to one of her two best friends, Carl Ross, on the phone. They'd been discussing what he'd seen two years ago on one particular homestead, and what his recording of the event detailed. You see, about four years ago, around Carl's sixteenth birthday, he and his family moved to the town of Oakside; a quiet little village located near the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. It was a peaceful little town, and very similar to where he'd grown up and met his two best friends; Crystal Falls, Michigan. He'd first met Kate through a mutual friend named Lauren Boden, who was only two years younger than himself but three years older than Kate, when the three of them were in elementary and middle school. They'd all lived relatively close to one another back then, and as a result played together frequently, with Carl gradually assuming the role of the big brother of their group; something that he quite enjoyed since he didn't have any siblings of his own. Things were so much simpler back then, and all three of them wished that they could go back to those fun times; especially Lauren, whose hands were constantly full these days. Due to her academic prowess in high school, she'd scored a full ride to a university in Florida, and soon after graduation had packed her things to go take summer classes for Criminalistics and Real Estate.

As for Carl and his family; neither of the girls really understood why they'd wanted to move to a place like Oakside. While it's true that every town has its secrets, the dark history of that place blew just about everywhere else out of the water. It's common knowledge that the town's rate of missing person incidents is higher than anywhere else in the province, and more often than not, the cases are never solved. However, those statistics paled in comparison to the sheer brutality of the infamous 1905 case of the old Matheson Farm. Only the authorities had been made aware of how most of the people living there died in one fell swoop, as the details were reportedly so controversial that they were deemed unfit for public knowledge. Since a clear answer was never given, the townspeople had come up with their own theories over the years; each one darker than the next and ranging from a contaminated well to the family's possible connection with the occult. These days, the only remaining Matheson was a woman named Diane who'd married into the family a long time ago. Back in 2005, her ex-husband Charles perished in a house fire, and roughly nine years prior to that, their six-year-old son Charlie mysteriously vanished during a family trip to the beach. After hearing about Charlie's disappearance, Carl managed to get in contact with Charles Matheson Sr. a few months before he died and began an investigation into the boy's disappearance that ultimately led him back to the place where it all started; the farm.

There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't regret visiting that place, as what he'd seen there was something so dark and twisted that it'd haunt him for the rest of his life… or so he claimed. Kate wasn't quite sure how she felt about the results of Carl's investigation, or if she even believed him at all. Even after he'd shown her the footage of the event, she was still skeptical, as the things recorded on that tape seemed about as far from the realm of possibility as one could get. She'd done her best to shrug the footage off as an insanely good attempt at a prank despite Carl's protests that it was genuine, but even she couldn't deny that just maybe there was some truth to what he'd shown her… and what he'd told her about the place's history. Looking back on it, how could she have been so foolish as to not believe him?

After talking on the phone for a good half hour or so, Kate said goodbye to Carl and went back to tending to her mother's garden, as the poor woman was currently in no condition to do manual labor. It'd been about two years since Beth Hayes first fell ill with a mysterious disease, and her condition had only worsened during that time. Suspiciously, as far as the doctors could tell, it appeared to be extremely similar, if not exactly identical to the ailment that put her father, John Milens, in a grave when she was very young. However, it was progressing through her mom far more slowly than it had with her dad, something that gave them both hope that she could still be saved. Unfortunately, they could do little more than wait and hope that the doctors would be able to work a miracle, but they both clung to the little hope that they had. Her mother's plight was the reason she'd asked Carl to come to Crystal Falls for a while, as she needed some extra help taking care of her mother since she was already juggling two jobs and their neighbors could only do so much to help out while maintaining their own lives. As for why she didn't ask Lauren; she knew that her friend would've been happy to lend a hand if she asked for her help, but she was having such a hard enough time keeping her own hectic life under control that Kate didn't want to place another burden on her.

Unsurprisingly, Carl accepted the offer and said he'd try to be there by July 18th, just a couple of days from then. Kate hoped he remembered how to get to her house, since it was further out into the wooded area and therefore slightly more difficult to find. Whatever inconvenience that may have posed was made up for by the serenity of the surrounding wildlife, as it was quite beautiful where she lived, especially during the summer and autumn months. However, the woods behind the house had an unsettling aspect to them; contained within them was a supposedly haunted, long-abandoned campground called RiverView Park. Reminiscent of Oakside's local legends, RiverView had a nasty reputation of people going missing. Long ago, the park had once been a popular tourist attraction, featuring an excellent layout of campsites, playgrounds, visitor centers, and various recreational activities to take part in… but that was before everything went downhill. It began with a steady stream of campers seemingly vanishing from their sites and only escalated when the few mangled bodies that the authorities managed to locate were found in such a bad state that it took almost a month to identify them all. Due to a significant decrease in tourism after the incidents and the community's growing fear of a murderer living in the woods surrounding the place, the campground was shut down and promptly abandoned soon after. It was unfortunate that tragedy befell such a beautiful place, especially since the owners had recently spent a lot of money expanding the campground further into the woods with a series of dirt hiking trails. The project had come so far, only to fail at the hands of a bloodthirsty animal that had proven impossible to track. However, not everyone believed that a bear or wolf was responsible for the ghastly murders, and there were more than a few local myths about what truly lived in those woods. Kate usually dismissed them as harmless stories, but even she couldn't help feeling uneasy every now and then considering how close she lived to the place. After all, there was definitely a chance that a few of those stories contained at least a small grain of truth, despite how ridiculous some of them were.

Several hours later, around 11:00 PM, Kate was finally getting around to cleaning up the dinner mess when a strange sensation crept over her; a tingle ran up her spine and goosebumps began to form on her arms as the feeling of being watched became more and more noticeable. She glanced out of the kitchen window and into the dark forest behind the house, a nervous expression growing on her face. For what felt like hours she stared out at those trees, a feeling of paranoia filling her with dread as she strained to catch a glimpse of even the tiniest movement. "Pull yourself together, Kate, it's just late and you're tired," she told herself, turning away from the window to finish cleaning up. The eerie silence of the house was made up for by the furious windstorm outside as the trees creaked and cracked, with some of them even losing branches in the tempest. She found herself constantly looking over her shoulder, growing more fearful with each glance that she'd catch something looking back from the treeline. Another stressful hour passed without any hope of Kate's nerves being soothed since when she'd tried calling both Lauren and Carl to take her mind off of the storm, she discovered that the phone lines were down. She wasn't surprised, as the reception was terrible during any type of harsh weather, but it was still terrifying nonetheless.

She felt more isolated than she ever had before, and despite all of the windows and doors being shut and locked tight, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was in danger. In another attempt to calm herself down she tried playing her favorite movie, but the only thing the television would display was static, and white noise blared loudly in the background. Then, to her horror, the electricity began to act up; The lights flickered rapidly at uneven intervals, several devices and appliances started making unnatural noises, and it all culminated in the sudden explosion of a lightbulb, followed by the others going out and plunging the house into total darkness. Kate let out a fearful yelp and rushed to her room, slamming the door shut and backing away from it in terror. She rushed to her bed and grabbed the wooden baseball bat that she kept under it for home defense, gripping it tightly as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. It was then that she remembered her sleeping mother and the fact that her bedroom door was wide open, making her a perfect target for an intruder. Her heart pounded as she made her way back over to the bedroom door and gripped the handle, slowly turning it and peering out into the pitch-black hallway as it creaked open. The only sound came from the wind outside, and she had to force her legs to move as dread filled her heart. Through the darkness she crept, feeling her way through the house with one hand and wielding the bat with the other, steadily making her way to the kitchen where she kept flashlights in a drawer. After several terrifying minutes of sneaking through rooms, she finally reached her objective and opened the drawer; but to her dismay, it was empty. Her heart fell at the sight, and as the never-ending darkness devoured everything, it dawned on her just how unnatural the entire situation was. She began hearing strange noises, noises that almost sounded like disembodied whispers, but whatever they were saying was indistinguishable. They rapidly increased in volume with each passing second, making her head pound harder and harder until it felt like her skull was about to cave in. Kate dropped the bat and fell to the floor, clutching her head and praying for anything to make it stop. Then, something changed; as abruptly as they began, the whispers were silenced.

She sat there kneeling on the floor, unable to comprehend the events that just took place. Slowly, her breathing slowed and her headache faded as the remaining lights flickered back to life and bathed the house in golden brilliance. However, the return to normality wasn't enough for Kate; She couldn't explain what she'd just gone through, but she wanted to know what was causing this and how to put a stop to it once and for all. It was then that she remembered the stories about RiverView and the strange dreams of the park that both she and her mother had been having for months. In these dreams, whichever one of them was having it at the time always reported seeing the same thing; their surroundings were shrouded in darkness and they'd always be standing right at the entrance of the hiking trails as disembodied whispers echoed from all around them. These dreams reflected everything that'd just happened to her with the exception of location, and Kate quickly came to the conclusion that whatever was going on was tied to that place. The park was only about a fifteen-minute drive from her house, and she knew exactly how to get there since she'd passed it several times before, the only problem was that it was pitch black outside, and without any flashlights, she'd have no way to see what she was doing. That's when she remembered the spare flashlight she always kept in her mother's bedroom and swiftly made her way down the hall to retrieve it. Thankfully, when she stepped into the room she found the flashlight exactly where she'd left it; on the nightstand and fully charged. Kate grabbed the flashlight and prepared to leave, but stopped for a moment to look at her mom, who was sleeping peacefully for once. She felt tears begin to well up in her eyes as she glanced over at the gifts that Beth's friends and relatives had left for her; flowers, get-well-soon cards, and even a few teddy bears since she'd always found them adorable. She tried her best not to think about her mother's deteriorating condition, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand as she left the room. She might not be able to do anything about the disease, but Kate was going to try her damnedest to put an end to whatever was haunting the two of them. "If there actually is something paranormal going on here, then I really hope that Supernatural was telling the truth, because I'm screwed otherwise," she muttered as she gathered a bag of rock salt, a bottle of lighter fluid, a box of matches, and a shovel in case she needed to do some digging; something she'd learned from watching her favorite show. "A lot of people went missing out there and most of the bodies were never recovered, so there's a good chance that this thing is a vengeful spirit. If that's the case, then I just have to find the remains, salt and burn them, and hope to God that it solves the problem… Jesus, Kate, what are you even saying," she said, hardly able to believe that she was stooping to such superstition. "Then again… you know what you just witnessed, and you know from the pain alone that it was real," she told herself as she collected the last of her supplies.

It was while she was loading everything into her mom's car that she remembered something; they had a camcorder, and thankfully it used replaceable batteries instead of needing to be charged back up. Remembering the footage that Carl showed her, and simultaneously reevaluating how real it may have been, she decided to follow in his footsteps; Kate found the camcorder after a minute or two of searching, swapped out the batteries, stuck an empty tape into it, and tested it out, finding that it still worked perfectly. Without delay, she quickly wrote a note for her mother and placed it on her nightstand in case she woke up, then put on a brown jacket and stepped out into the windswept night, bringing the baseball bat with her just in case she was dealing with something other than a ghost. She locked the door behind her and got into her mom's car, beginning the suspenseful drive to RiverView. The night was even eerier on the road than it was at home, as there were no passing cars nor signs of civilization for miles. However, despite the creepy factor, she was actually grateful for the isolation since she didn't actually have a driver's license and didn't like the idea of being pulled over with a bunch of suspicious items in the car. The wind howled louder and louder the closer she got, knocking branches from trees and making it difficult to stay on the road. Then, after one more mile of struggling against the elements, she made it to the park at long last and pulled into the driveway. The overgrown foliage covered most of the parking lot and consumed all but a few dim rays of moonlight, and as she passed a painted wooden sign that read; "RiverView Park - Camping, Recreation, & Boat Launch", she felt a familiar chill creep up her spine. Finally, she reached the entrance to the main area of the park and stopped her car, grabbing the bat and camcorder from the passenger seat before stepping out into the night. "I'll come back for the other stuff once I actually find what I'm looking for," she muttered, beginning her trek down the desolate roads. It was then that she noticed the wind dying down, and as a light, eerie fog began to set in, Kate swore she heard a voice whisper;

"Welcome Home…"