Eric and his father had the perfect weekend routine. Every Friday after school, Eric's dad would be waiting for him with fishing poles. Their trusty canine, Grido, panted and wagged his tail in the back of the truck. Then they would head down County Road 97 to an old camp site they had been going to for years.
There was only one rule when they were out there: never venture north of the first two ponds. Just last summer, three people had gone missing in that area and none of them were found. That section of the forest was like a thick labyrinth and getting lost was just a matter of straying too far.
After a long day of catching absolutely nothing, the sun retired behind the rolling foothills, the signal that it was time for the moon’s shift to start. Night had come, and rather than wait on the stubbornness of the fish to end, Eric's dad decided to hit the sack early and try again at sunrise. Eric, however, wasn’t ready to pack it in quite yet.
But something was bothering Grido – he kept looking over into the darkness of the woods and growling. It wasn’t totally uncommon, given where they were, especially with raccoons running all over the place, but this seemed different.
Suddenly Grido sprinted towards the tree line. Eric had no choice but to get up and chase him.
Grido went deep into the woods. The thick trees and foliage started to block out the moonlight that Eric depended on to see. It wasn’t long before he was alone and bathed in complete darkness.
“Grido!” he yelled. “Grido, where are you, come here boy!” There were no paths, no markers, Eric had no idea where he was, so he simply starting walking further into the forest. Little did he know that he was traveling north.
An hour passed and Eric was starting to really get scared. He thought about just stopping and hunkering down until morning, but the thought of losing Grido kept him going. So he continued walking aimlessly through the woods, constantly calling out for his dog.
About five minutes later Eric finally heard something about 30 yards away from him. It was a low whimper.
“Grido!” Eric sprinted towards the noise and found his friend lying in a small clearing. But it was so dark Eric could barely see in front of him.
Right at that moment, a sharp pain pinched at his ankles, like razors tearing at his flesh. Eric began scratching wildly. He rolled up his pants, took off his boots, and ripped off his socks. He brought his lighter to his ankles, and his stomach twisted in disgust and horror.
Dozens of quarter-sized ticks were pulsating and wiggling wildly, and burrowing so quick that he could barely pinch them out. Grido cried in pain as the ticks gorged on his hind legs, quickly doubling in size as he rolled around on the ground. All Eric could hear was the overwhelming sound of the ticks clawing and scratching, feasting.
Frantically, Eric began burning off the ticks with the lighter, even stabbing through his skin at those that had buried themselves. He did the same for Grido, who continued to whimper as the ticks continued their ravenous feast. Their blood-filled bodies and throbbing legs were clawing and pinching inside his floppy ears, and inside his nose. Crying, Eric continued burning and stabbing the ticks, trying to rid his four-legged friend, and himself, of the agonizing pain. He killed as many as he could, then picked up Grido and ran, trying to get as far from that area as he could.
By sheer luck, he finally came across one of the northern ponds, an area he could follow back to the campsite. But he had to stop and rest. He had been walking and running for hours. He meant to close his eyes just for a moment, but he soon slumped over in absolute exhaustion.
Eric woke up just as the first hint of morning light brushed across the sky. It was still dark out but at least he could see. He looked over to his side but Grido was nowhere to be found.
Eric immediately stood up and started calling out his name, but the only sound he heard was a blood-curdling screech from the nearby bushes. He unsheathed his knife and slowly approached the sound, hoping something hadn’t gotten to Grido while he was sleeping. But when he pulled back the leaves, he saw a creature he had never seen before… and it was ravenously feeding on something below it. Eric’s heart dropped, fearing it was his friend. But as he inched closer, he realized… the creature was Grido
His four-legged friend now had several spider-like appendages bursting out of his fur. His eyes had shrunk, now beady, soulless and fire red, and his spine arched violently as his midsection was now completely engorged. He turned to Eric, lifting his blood-filled body off the deflated raccoon he had just sucked completely dry.
Eric whimpered and cried. He called to his friend once more, hoping Grido was still in there somewhere. The creature paused for a moment and slowly turned its head to the side… then it let out an earth-shattering shriek and lunged onto Eric’s chest, plunging its newly grown pinchers into his flesh.
Eric was on his back, the dirt and blood spurting all around as Grido started rabidly feeding. Eric soon went numb, but he was able to slowly raise his hand, and stroke the fur of Grido’s neck one last time before everything went black.
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