It Sounds Like a Baby Crying

📅 Published on March 28, 2022

“It Sounds Like a Baby Crying”

Written by Brandon Faircloth
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 16 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Last month, I started my first solo hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Growing up, I’d hiked a lot with my Dad, but it was never more than a half-day before we broke off into some activity or went home.  But for the last few years, the idea of a longer hike, of spending days or weeks or even months largely alone as I passed through the wilderness of the world, sounded both magical and a little scary.

I’m no great athlete or outdoorsman, but I’m in decent shape and have spent the last few months building up my stamina, reading up on the skills and knowledge I’d need on the trail, and researching what equipment I needed to carry.  The two things I found repeated the most were travel light and plan ahead.

So by January, I had everything in place.  I had the permits and the gear, and my mother was going to send resupply boxes by general delivery to several post offices along the way.  If I kept to the schedule, I should arrive about a week after the packages, and anything I didn’t need then, I could send ahead in a “bounce box” to somewhere farther down the line.

The other key in my mind, aside from the planning and prep work, was being realistic.  I wasn’t trying to do the entire 2,200 miles.  My plan was to start at Springer Mountain in Georgia and possibly go as far as the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  If I found out I was in over my head or got tired of it, I could always stop early.  At just under 500 miles, I figured it would take me a little less than two months if I did the full section hike to Virginia, which would line up well with my new job starting at the end of May.

But it wasn’t just my work schedule that had fallen into place.  Everything seemed like it was working out for me to do the hike.  Almost like the universe was pushing me toward it.  So one day in early March, I put on my pack, locked my car, and headed out.

The first day was great.  The weather was cool, the scenery was beautiful, and I was full of the excitement of doing something different and exploring a part of the world that was easily forgotten in day-to-day city life.  I only made eight miles that first day, but I was more concerned about how I would do making my camp.  I’d practiced with everything, of course, but I knew that there was a difference between watching a video or trying out equipment in your backyard and using it when you were tired and really needed it to work.

Still, I got my tent up and a fire going, and the two packs of ramen I wolfed down tasted pretty awesome at the time.  It also made me sleepy, and it wasn’t long before I was crawling into my bag and falling into a deep sleep.

I woke up the next day cold and stiff, and it wasn’t until that afternoon that I started to feel normal again.  My beginner’s energy and enthusiasm were gone, but so were some of my nerves.  I’d been at it for over twenty-four hours without any real problems.  If I could just do it for maybe – forty-eight more times? – I’d be done.

That probably sounds silly, and I guess in some ways, it was.  But over the next two weeks, I quickly fell into the soothing routine of the hike and the welcome rest after setting up camp.  The nights could sometimes be a bit spooky, between the pitch-black night and the odd sounds that would sometimes echo out of the dark, but I never felt really scared or like it wasn’t safe to go to sleep.  And every day, I woke up feeling a bit more excited for the day ahead.

That’s when the storm came.  I had rain gear, and it definitely helped keep my pack and clothes somewhat dry, but it did less to keep the wet from coating my face and running down my neck.  By the second hour of the downpour, I could feel the first warning squishes in my shoes—they were waterproof, but some of the moisture was still getting in the top.  By the fourth hour, my feet were starting to feel numb and raw, and I knew I needed to find a place to rest and get dry for the day.

The problem wasn’t just the rain, however, but the wind that came with it.  My tent had been well-reviewed and seemed to be holding up fine, but I’d never tried to put it up in a storm.  I wasn’t sure if I could get it up easily with the weather like it was, and I definitely wasn’t positive how stable or dry it would be unless things died down.

Still, I didn’t want to push my feet too far without drying them out, so I started looking for blue blazes along the path that might indicate a good camp spot.  That’s when I saw the wooden sign saying there was an AT shelter ahead.  A couple of hundred yards up, I saw the blue blaze marker and another sign with an arrow pointing to a side trail.  Half a mile up that, I found the shelter.

It wasn’t anything fancy—three wood walls and a roof, with a blue tarp someone had hung along the outer edge to act as a fourth wall and keep some of the rain out.  I felt my stomach drop a little at that. I’d seen and chatted with a few people along the trail so far, but this was the first time I’d tried to use a shelter or faced the prospect of hanging out or even sleeping near a stranger.  Reaching down to my pocket, I patted the pocket knife there, though I didn’t know how much use it would really be if some maniac hiker decided to jump me.  Still, its familiar shape comforted me, and I forced a smile as I pushed back the tarp and found…

No one.

There was no sign of a person or their stuff, or even wet spots like someone had recently left to go back into the rain.  I looked at the tarp closer.  It didn’t look sun-bleached or worn, and I didn’t know why someone would leave it behind if it had been put up by a passing hiker, but either way, I was grateful for the shelter and the solitude.  I spent the next few minutes carefully setting up my wet stuff to dry and checking my feet.  They were sore, but some time out of shoes and socks would probably be all they needed.

Rooting around in my pack, I found a bar to eat.  If the rain lasted, I wouldn’t try for a fire, but I had enough water to last until morning, and I could make do with dry food.  I’d have liked to make it further, but it was growing dark, and my eyes were already getting heavy.  I just sat listening to the heavy patter of rain against the tarp, and before long, I was asleep.

“Hey. Hey, there.  You awake?”

I blinked, momentarily confused as to where I was or what was going on.  As I came back to myself, I realized I could still hear the rain pouring down and hear the occasional snapping rustle of the blue tarp wall of the shelter.  Everything was dark, though.  Everything, that was, except for the face floating above me in the darkness, partially illuminated by the glow of a small lantern.

“Not trying to horn in or nothing.  Just looking to get out of the rain.  You cool with sharing?” I stared at the man, unsure of how to respond.  On the one hand, I didn’t want to be rude or leave someone out in the rain.  On the other, I didn’t know this small bearded man from anywhere, and I dreaded having to constantly be on my guard for the next ten or twelve hours.  He seemed to sense my uncertainty, and he offered me a smile.

“I promise I’m a nice guy.  I just…”  His smile faltered.  “I just don’t want to be out in the dark, is all.” Swallowing, I gave him a nod.  “Um, yeah, sure.  Come on in.  There’s plenty of room.” And there was.  We could have easily fit eight or ten people in the space if we sat close, and as it was, he was able to settle in far enough away that we still had to raise our voices to be heard over the pounding rain.  He chatted as he got out some supplies and introduced himself as Tony, even offering to let me use his little camp stove to heat up one of my meals.  It was strange—he was friendly and seemed fairly easy-going on the surface, but there was also a skittish tension to him that he couldn’t quite hide.  At first, I wondered if he was just awkward or nervous around strangers like I was, and I was content to leave him alone until we both went to sleep.  But then he started talking again, his voice hoarse and reedy against the steady drumming of the storm.

“Is this your first time doing the Trail?”

I laughed awkwardly.  “Is it that obvious?”

He smiled and gave a shrug.  “Nah…or I mean, I guess it is, but not in a bad way.  I’ve done it off and on for years, and you can always tell people that are new.  Got that glow about them, like they just found a special secret.”  His smile faded some.  “Which, I mean, I guess they have.”

I nodded.  “Yeah, it’s a little intimidating at times, but I’m really enjoying it.  Proud of myself for doing it.” I gestured toward Tony.  “What about you?  You must still love it if you’ve been doing it that long.”

He chuckled, his eyes darting toward the tarp as a branch cracked off in the distance.  “Yeah, sure.  I do.  This is my third through-hike—first one southbound.  I started up in Maine in the coldest part of the damn year.  Told myself I was to up the challenge.”  Tony puffed out a breath as he shook his head. “It was stupid.  Should have waited and started now instead.”  His lips thinned.  “Things probably would have gone better.”

I frowned.  “Well, I mean, you look like you’re doing okay.  And if you’re headed to Springer, you’ll probably make it in a few days.”

He glanced back toward the tarp.  “Yeah, maybe.” His eyes cut back to me.  “Listen, this is going to sound stupid.  But have you heard anything funny at night?  Like the last few nights, I mean.”

“Um, I mean, I hear weird stuff every night.  Trees cracking, birds and other stuff making noises. Some of it I know what it is, but a lot I don’t have a clue.” I laughed.  “So you’re going to have to be more specific.”

Rubbing the backs of his knees, he smiled slightly and nodded.  “Sure.  Yeah. Sure.  It, um…”  Tony licked his lips as he went on.  “It sounds like a baby crying.”

Feeling a twinge of unease in my belly, I forced another smile.  “This sounds like a campfire tale, man.”  I pointed at his little butane stove.  “And I don’t think that counts as a campfire.”  Looking back up at him, the smile died on my lips.  He was staring at me, his face ghostly and ephemeral in the twin glow of our small lanterns, floating in the darkness with an expression that looked both serious and strange.

“It’s no story, Carson.  It’s real.  I heard it.  I heard it just two nights ago.” With an effort I kept looking back into his bleak gaze.  “Okay, Tony.  Well…it seems like you’ve got more to say.  So tell me what happened.”

I’ve been hiking for over thirty years.  Not just the Trail, but all over, and in my twenties I worked as a guide out west for a few summers.  My point is, I’ve seen and heard plenty of odd things over time, and I’ve heard plenty of…well, like you said…campfire stories.  I never believed any of that crap, of course.  The only thing scary about nature is not understanding it.  There’s never been something I experienced that I couldn’t figure out a reasonable explanation for, and the tall tales are just that. Bullshit used to scare kids or pass a slow night.

I’ve even heard things that sound like babies before—bobcats and some barn owls do.  So do porcupines, if you believe it.  But if you know what to listen for, you can tell the difference.  That difference is what I was listening for when I heard the crying start two nights ago.

I was still walking after dark—not a good idea for someone inexperienced, but I was familiar with the area, and I knew there was a good campsite just a few miles further on.  This little camp stove is heavy, and a lot of people would say it’s a rookie mistake to bring one, but it does mean that when I get where I’m going, I don’t have to mess with a fire if I don’t want.  Lots of nights, if the weather is nice, I don’t ever even unpack my tent.  I just walk in the moonlight until I get tired, and then I sit down, heat up some grub, and go to bed under the stars.

That’s what I was thinking about while I walked.  That spot ahead on the edge of a creek.  It wound down to a waterfall close enough it could sing you to sleep.  And then the crying started.

A bobcat, maybe?  No, it was too controlled and clear for that.  An owl?  It sounded too warm.  I was only curious at first, but as it started again, I felt a panic start to build in the back of my brain.  It was a baby.  A real, live human baby, out in these woods and left to cry.  Maybe the parents were hurt, or they’d abandoned it, but it was in danger or pain, and it needed my help.  It wasn’t even a question anymore.

So I left the Trail.

Pushing through the woods, I had to stop myself from running.  I needed to hurry, but I wouldn’t be able to help if I twisted my ankle or broke my leg, and there were no guarantees of a phone signal out that far either.  So I paced myself, picking my way between trees and bushes, going down one hill and up another.  The child was still crying, and I could tell I was getting closer, closer until I was there.

It was a field of bare winter trees that should have had leaves by now but somehow didn’t.  I wondered for a moment if they were dead, but then a wind picked up, swaying limber branches before cutting through me.  The baby’s cry was all around me now, carried on the wind like a handful of bloody leaves warning of danger, or worse, danger’s aftermath.  I shuddered as I looked all around in the dark for the source of the baby’s cries.  At first, I saw nothing, but then a thought occurred to me.

And I looked up into the nearest tree.

Staring back at me was a pair of wide and glowing yellow eyes.  My first thought was that I’d been wrong; it was a bobcat after all.  But no, the eyes were all wrong.  Too big and too far apart.  The eyes began to move in the dark, heading toward the trunk of the tree and then downward toward the ground. It was then that I shined my light on it.  And that’s what started me screaming.

It…in some ways, it looked like a child…not a baby, but a child of maybe twelve or so in size and length of limb.  But its skin was scaly and rough, like that of a desert lizard or the bark of a tree, and as it crawled down to the bottom, I saw that skin shift as though it was mimicking whatever was close by. Its fingers and toes were long and spindly, ending in flat pads with hooked claws twisting out of them like a punishment, and its head…its head was just darkness and those damn yellow eyes.  You need to understand what I’m saying.  Not that I couldn’t see its head well.  I could see it just fine as it began to crawl toward me.  I’m telling you it had no damn head at all.  Just glowing eyes and that yawning darkness that would let out the terrible wail that had drawn me in.  Even terrified, watching it dig up the earth as it came closer, I found it hard to resist that cry.  I don’t know that I could have at all if I hadn’t gotten so caught up in staring into that wailing black hole it called a face.  Because I could see something in there after all.

Teeth.  So many goddamned teeth.

That broke the spell, I guess, because I managed to run.  Even panicked, I knew which way the Trail was, and it didn’t take long for me to make my way back to it.  I turned onto it and kept moving fast, trying to keep my footing while pulling out my phone to call for help.  But like I said, no signal. Looking back, I saw no sign of the thing following me, and if there were sounds of it coming out of the woods beside me, they were masked by my breathing as I tried to make distance without taking a fall.

couldn’t fall, and not just because of getting hurt.  I had this idea that if I did, it would be on me in a second, that terrible mouth that wasn’t a mouth biting into me before it dragged me back into the woods.

I wound up walking through the night, and I never saw the thing again.  By early the next afternoon, I was dead on my feet and stopped to sleep before I collapsed.  I remember thinking, half out of it with exhaustion, that I’d probably dreamed the whole thing.  Maybe I was getting sick, or at least needed to slow down some for a few days.  Those half-formed ideas were still in my head when I woke up a few hours after sunset.  My sleeping bag had been unzipped, and something was touching me.  I could feel it on my leg.

Heart pounding, I shifted my head slightly to look down my body.  The glow from its eyes highlighted my legs, and I could see a bright purple tongue reaching out of the darkness behind that light.  I almost thought I could see the outline of a head this time, something twisted and strange and shifting, but I can’t say for sure.  To be honest, I was more concerned with what it was doing.

It was licking me.  It was licking me just behind the knee.

I screamed and rolled away, sure that it was going to be on me in a second.  But it wasn’t.  When I got to my feet, it was gone again, and I haven’t seen it since.  I’d like to say it was all my imagination, but I don’t think I’m crazy, and I’ve never been the imaginative sort.  Besides…I can feel where it licked me. It doesn’t look any different, but I can still feel it.  Like…like it marked me somehow.

 

There was a crash of thunder, and Tony jumped a little before looking back across the distance to me. “I know how this all sounds.  You think I’m pulling your leg or that I really am crazy.  I’m not, but you don’t have any reason to believe me.”

I had felt growing tension as the other man had talked, both because of the story itself and my growing fear that he really was insane and maybe even dangerous.  So when he stopped talking, I thought I might yell or tell him to leave or do anything at all to let off the boiling pressure inside.  Instead, I listened as I asked him a question, my voice still even and fairly calm.

“Why did you tell me all this?”

Tony wiped his mouth.  “To warn you.  Because I don’t know how far it’ll travel to get me.  Because I don’t think it’s over.”  He glanced at the tarp.  “I think it’s hunting me still.”

I shook my head.  “Okay.  Well, yeah.  That’s quite a story.  And I’m going to be honest; I do think you may be messed up somehow.  Not trying to be an asshole, just honest.”

He nodded.  “I get that.  But please, just let me stay in here.  I’m scared to go out there.  I’ll be gone first light, I swear.”

I frowned.  “Dude, if you’re that scared, why didn’t you just leave today or even before that?  Shit, I’d have been gone after that first night seeing the thing coming down the tree.”

The look on his face stopped the breath in my chest.  “I’ve wondered the same thing.  Tried to tell myself it was just my imagination at first, and after last night, I kept telling myself I just needed to wait until I reached a town.  That there was no cell service out here.”  He laughed bitterly.  “Thing is, I haven’t actually checked my phone for two days.  Not since I made it back to the Trail two nights ago.” He lowered his eyes from mine.  “I…I don’t think it’ll let me leave now.”

Puffing out a slow breath, I touched the knife in my pocket again.  “Okay, I don’t know what to think, but I can tell you’re really freaked out.  Just stay on your side, and we’ll be cool.  Okay?”

He nodded emphatically, and I thought I could see the glint of tears in his eyes.  “Thank you.  Oh, thanks so much man.  I…I won’t bother you anymore.  Just…just thanks.”

Not sure of what to say, I just nodded and sat back against the wall.  I knew there was no way I was going to be able to sleep with him in there, and I wasn’t sure what that would do to my overall plan, but the main thing for now was just…

When I woke up, Tony was gone.  My lantern was growing dim, but the grey light of early morning pushed through the tarp enough that I could see the man’s pack and bedroll, but no sign of the man himself.  I felt a moment of panic and checked my own stuff, but everything was there.  Looking around the edge of the tarp, I saw no trace of him anywhere, and I was about to pull my head back in when I saw the marks in the mud.  I felt my throat growing thick as I got up and went outside.

There were a set of footprints heading away from Tony’s side of the shelter.  The rain must have stopped around the time he went outside because I could see the outlines of his steps clearly.  They headed toward the edge of the clearing before abruptly being obliterated by a slashing smear of mud that trailed off into the woods.  I wanted to go further, to look for him and make sure he was alright, but I couldn’t quite make myself do it.

Because I knew what those other marks were.  They were drag marks.  Something had grabbed that man and dragged him away while I’d been asleep.

When I dug out my phone, I got a signal right away.  Two hours later, I had a ride back to the nearest town, and that afternoon I was on a bus back home.  I told my family and friends I’d gotten a stomach bug or food poisoning from something and had to give up on it.  That I’d find some other way to pay tribute to Dad’s memory.  I never told any of them of the man I met and what he had seen in the dark.

Even up to last night, I wasn’t sure what I believed.  I’d half-convinced myself Tony had just been high on shrooms and wandered off into the woods to sleep it off.  Being back in the real world, surrounded by lights and people, made it easy to treat it all like a weird adventure or a dream that had just left a mark.

I’ve moved into my new apartment, and while the rent is high and the walls are thin, I don’t mind. Feeling the heartbeat of humanity around me is comforting, and not just because it makes me feel less lonely.  It also makes me feel more safe.

Still, its not without its irritations.  When I woke up in the middle of the night to the neighbor’s kid crying again, I had to convince myself to go get a drink of water and cool down instead of going over and beating on their door.  Trying not to wake up too much, I swung my feet onto the floor and started to stand, even as I wondered why I could see my feet and ankles so well.

Where was that yellow light coming from?

The world pitched forward as something spongey and rough grabbed my calves and yanked backward, sending me sprawling onto the floor.  I only had a moment of fearful thought before I felt myself being pulled under the bed and all rational ideas were gone.  I was just clawing the floor and screaming, trying to kick the thing that was under the bed pulling me in.

Whatever it was, it was too strong.  It rolled me back to my stomach as though I was a child before settling its weight onto the small of my back.  There was a moment of stillness, of contemplation, and then it tore open the left leg of my sweatpants, right behind the knee.  I let out a howl as I felt its rough tongue there, swiping back and forth across my skin like a snake’s tail before being gone again.  A moment later, the weight on my back was gone, and I heard my living room window shatter as something leaped out into the night.

I’d like to tell myself this was all a dream too, but I had to clean up the broken glass and change my ruined clothes.  Had to look into the mirror and see the terror staring back at me.

And I know it’s not over.  I’ve been marked.  I can feel it on me, like dirt I can’t wash off.  I’d like to say I can run from it, or kill it when it comes back, but something makes me wonder.

Because I don’t just know how it left the apartment last night.  I know how it got in too.  When I went to the living room to make sure it was gone and found the broken window, I noticed my front door.  It was standing wide open.  I don’t remember it clearly, but I think maybe I got up earlier in my sleep and opened it.  As though I might investigate a strange noise outside.

Or let in an old friend I’d made in the heart of the woods.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Brandon Faircloth
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Brandon Faircloth


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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