By Tioga Webb
I’m going to keep this vague, because I don’t want any trouble after all these years. If you were around back then, you can fill in the blanks.
Some people say Vashon is all boggy spots, at least in the winter. The bog I lived near was called Whispering Firs Bog. It was near town, and near the highway. You know the kind of person who owns a Tesla? That’s exactly who didn’t live near the bog. Not that there were Teslas back then.
Mostly, the deputies left you alone, but every now and then there’d be trouble, or a new deputy would start on the rock, and then maybe they’d come down to try and find me and run me off. I’d been living there off and on for a couple years, and had laid planks on top of rocks I’d pushed into the mud. If you went quick and catlike along the planks, the rock wouldn’t sink down into the mud as you ran across.
So, I’d see their flashlight sweeping, and I’d sneak out into the bog on my plank road, out to a little solid spot where I’d hide. The grass grew around and over the planks, so unless you knew where they were, you weren’t getting far out into the bog. Usually, a deputy would nearly lose a boot in the sucking mud, then call it a night.
Uphill from the bog was an abandoned holly tree farm. It didn’t work out, go figure. My dad said they should’ve tried a Scotch broom farm instead. There were just rows and rows of these trees, huge and prickly and barely enough room between them to get through.
In the middle of the trees was an abandoned farmhouse. It still had some roof on it, but no windows. There were parts of the floor you could walk on, and others where your foot would go through. A real fixer-upper.
But still, a roof and some walls, you figure some squatters would help themselves. And every now and then, somebody would give it a try. Never for more than a couple nights, and then they moved on. Usually to leave the Island entirely. It didn’t feel good there, and that’s coming from somebody who lived on the edge of a bog.
One night, I woke from my sleep by a sound. A shriek? It woke me, but stopped before I heard it clearly. It didn’t sound good. I waited, then I heard crunching wood, up in the direction of that old house. If somebody wanted to knock it down, that was fine. But if that was a woman’s shriek, I’d at least go up to town and get a deputy to have a look.
I put on my shoes, and my coat. It was cold and damp, Vashon-style. Then I started up the hill, squeezing between the prickly holly trees, and hoping nothing was coming downhill for me.
I passed the last tree, and there I was in the clearing around that house. It was quiet now, and though I’d come along pretty quietly, I was suddenly sure there was something watching me from inside the house. Or somebody, but that wasn’t how it felt right then.
A shape leapt right out of a hole in the house where a door used to be, and it reached towards me, making a sniffing sound. It started another jump, but by then I had turned around was running straight downhill back to my camp. I heard crunching and crackling sounds behind me as it followed.
When I reached my camp, I kept right on going. I missed the first plank and my leg went straight down into the mud. I pulled it up, losing my shoe, but I didn’t care. I ran along those planks faster than I’d ever gone before, and only stopped when I reached my hiding spot in the middle.
I heard it, whatever it was, reach the edge of the bog. It got quiet, and then I heard a grunt. It had somehow figured where I was, and jumped straight towards me. But it landed short, making a plop as it crashed deep down into the mud. It snorted, whined, and splashed around. But the mud had it, and presently it was just making bubbling sounds; then the night was finally quiet.
I slept out in the middle of the bog that night, and in the morning gathered up my gear and headed straight to the highway. I don’t know what was down there, and I never want to find out. It was time to find a new place to camp … Which was out by the AT&T satellite dishes. It was boggy there, too, but the good kind of bog. I saw plenty of odd things there, too, but I’ll let somebody else tell those stories.