“Sarah and Jake were so excited; they both loved nature and had planned a long hiking trip together. Their goal was simple: to enjoy the outdoors and take in all its beauty. But they never thought that a simple photo would turn their whole trip upside down.
This wasn’t just any trip for Sarah and Jake; it was their first holiday as a couple, adding an extra layer of excitement. Recently, Jake had been buried in work, often pulling late nights and barely having weekends. The fresh air and open trails were just what he needed to relax.
But relaxation wasn’t quite what was in store for them on their first hike. The couple wandered through beautiful places, passing tall mountains and walking by the side of calm rivers and babbling streams. Every step brought a new and lovely sight. On a particularly beautiful hill slope, with the vast landscape stretching behind them, Sarah pulled out her phone.
“Let’s capture this moment,” she said. They snuggled close, smiling wide, and took a selfie. They wanted to share this special moment with their friends, showing them the beauty they were experiencing. After taking the selfie, Sarah quickly posted it on her social media with the caption “Nature’s Beauty with my favorite person.” As likes and comments began to pour in, they slipped the phone back into the backpack and continued their hike, not knowing what the comments would say about their first vacation picture.
Once back from their hike, Sarah’s phone buzzed with a notification. Glancing at the screen, she saw it was a comment on the photo they’d posted earlier from Instagram. Curious, she tapped to see what someone had written about their picture together. Sarah’s eyes widened as she read the comment, a mix of surprise and confusion clear on her face. Jake, noticing her reaction, leaned in with concern.
“What’s up? Why do you look so shocked?” Taking a deep breath, Sarah turned the phone screen towards Jake. “Look at this comment,” she said, pointing. “Tom thinks he sees something odd in the background of our picture.” Jake squinted, focusing on the distant scenery behind their smiling faces. “What is he talking about?” he wondered aloud, equally puzzled.
Sarah scrolled to Tom’s exact comment, reading aloud, “Is that a massive animal behind you guys? Looks even bigger than a bear.” Jake leaned in, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Neither of them had noticed anything while hiking; the idea of a creature that size being nearby was both exciting and unnerving. The area they had hiked was popular and wasn’t known for large wildlife, certainly not anything bigger than the typical deer or fox. Could it just be a trick of the light or shadows, Sarah wondered? Jake shrugged, “Maybe, but now I really want to know.”
Their discussion deepened as they zoomed in on the photo. The animal’s outline was undeniably larger than any creature they knew of; it was massive, almost like something from prehistoric times, Jake mused. Sarah nodded in agreement, adding, “Or maybe a creature from folktales.” The mystery was becoming more intriguing by the minute. What could possibly resemble such a massive creature in these woods?
At the front desk, Sarah approached the young receptionist with her phone in hand. “Excuse me,” she began, showing her the Instagram post. “We took this picture during our hike today. Some friends think they see a large animal in the background. Do you know anything about this?” The receptionist took a moment to look at the photo, her eyes narrowing as she tried to make out the shape. Then, with a chuckle, she handed the phone back.
“An animal that size here? Impossible, ma’am,” she said with a dismissive smile. Sarah felt a mix of relief and slight embarrassment, but still wasn’t fully convinced. Feeling somewhat deflated, Sarah turned around to leave the front desk. With each step, she tried to shake off her disappointment until she reached the corner. Before Sarah turned the corner, she heard the receptionist quickly pick up her phone and dial someone. Curious, Sarah stopped walking in and stayed hidden, trying to listen. The receptionist’s voice sounded nervous, but Sarah couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying.
Sarah’s mind raced with questions. Why was the receptionist acting so secretive? Now Sarah walked back to the room and shared the story with Jake. Both sat sipping their drinks, wondering what was really going on with this enormous creature.
The next morning, after a quiet breakfast, Sarah and Jake felt the pull of curiosity. They laced up their hiking boots, packed some snacks, and set out. “Let’s go back to where we took the photo,” Sarah suggested. Jake nodded in agreement. With binoculars swinging around their necks and cameras in hand, Sarah and Jake headed for a path leading to the river’s opposite side.
The mysterious rumbling grew louder, and it seemed to be coming from the dense woods nearby. Jake, drawn by the sound, began moving towards the trees. “Jake, wait up!” Sarah called, not wanting to be left behind. Hesitating for just a moment, she then followed him, entering the shadowy forest. The forest was thick with tall pine trees, making it hard to see or move quickly. Just as they were adjusting to the dense surroundings, the rumbling sound that had led them there abruptly stopped. The sudden silence was almost deafening.
Sarah and Jake stopped, looking around nervously. The woods were so quiet; they waited, hoping to hear the sound again. But all they could hear was the distant chirping of birds. As the woods grew quiet again, a clear, low human yell broke the stillness. What was happening in these woods? They were clearly not the only people in there.
They exchanged a quick look, their hearts racing. Without a word, they both started running towards the sound. As they ran deeper into the woods, the initial yell was followed by more cries echoing through the trees. Multiple voices seemed to be shouting, but the sounds bounced around, making it hard to determine where it was coming from.
They pushed through the trees and suddenly found themselves in a small open space. There, under the moonlight, was something huge and mysterious. It was like a big shadow. They couldn’t believe their eyes. What they saw there was something Sarah and Jake vaguely saw before but now in real life, and it was huge.
Right in the middle of the clearing, they saw a massive creature. At first sight, the enormity of the creature made it hard to distinguish any details. But as Sarah squinted, her eyes caught something intriguing. Was that really what she thought it was?
Upon approaching the massive creature, Sarah discovered it wasn’t alive. Its fur felt synthetic, and a metallic harness gleamed in the moonlight. While they looked at the fake creature, a voice surprised them. A woman came out from the trees, smiling oddly, and said, “Welcome.”
Sarah and Jake were puzzled, wondering what was going on and who she was. Was this woman in some way related to the massive, apparently unlive creature in front of them? Sarah and Jake jumped, not expecting the sudden laughter. The older woman, chuckling softly, looked at them with twinkling eyes.
“Sorry for the shock,” she said. The couple, trying to catch their breath, asked, “What’s happening here?” They hoped she had some answers. More people came out of the trees, making the area crowded. The clearance was now filled with people holding cameras, phones, and all kinds of unfamiliar objects.
“Is all well?” The woman started to explain, “From the outside, it may look very weird, but we’re just appreciative of nature.” Sarah and Jake looked more confused than ever, with question marks upon their faces. “It’s a Wilderness Art Festival,” the woman finally said. Then she told them that the creature was a kind of totem created by all kinds of people from the community. Its purpose was to create togetherness and serve as a grand and beautiful structure to showcase during the festival.
“I understand it might look frightening when it’s surrounded by trees,” she said eventually. “But what about the rumbling sounds that we kept hearing?” Sarah asked without hesitation. The woman smiled again and pointed at some machinery behind the creature’s legs. Sarah and Jake sighed in relief. It was all orchestrated, and there was nothing to be scared about.
“But why was everyone so secret about it then?” Jake thought about how Sarah went to the front desk of the hotel and started explaining to the woman what happened. The receptionist’s weird response, who called someone very nervously right after she claimed nothing was wrong, to this the woman laughed out loud.
“She called me,” she said. “This might be a festival, but it’s a very local and secretive tradition.” She started to explain, “We do not prefer to have outsiders looking in because our traditions mean everything to us.” But then the older woman’s face went stern and said, “I do have one question.” Sarah and Jake looked at each other and nodded. Again, the woman’s face relaxed.
“Since we would like the festival to stay a local tradition and secret, please don’t share any of this on social media or with your friends,” she spoke. “It would deeply sadden us.” The couple totally understood this and agreed. They would never tell a soul, and so they promised the older woman to even take down the selfie they uploaded the day before.
After this, the older woman invited them to stay. Sarah and Jake didn’t have to think about it; it was a marvelous opportunity to witness something truly unique. Sarah and Jake enjoyed every second of that day. Performances were given, art was displayed, and the food prepared by all different kinds of locals was splendid. It felt like the day would never end, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They were very grateful for.”