The Blind

by Corey Farrenkopf

The blind wasn’t well-camouflaged. Printed twigs and leaves refused to blend with surrounding oaks and pines. I couldn’t comprehend how animals missed it, or the hunter inside. I didn’t want to go in, but Jerry said it was essential. We were on one of our logging expeditions, felling dead trees with roofing hammers snuck from his father’s shed. They were like hatchets, but smaller with the flat face of a mallet on the backside. 

I saw that Stephen King movie and knew what thirteen-year-old boys found in the woods. I wanted none of it. By that point, all we found that morning were a pair of deer antlers and the jagged ridge of a bottle dump emerging from a mossy hillside. The blind was the only other fresh sign of human life beyond the gouges we left in trees. Acres of wilderness surrounded us, that unknown expanse stretching off Jerry’s backyard where his dad no longer mowed the grass. 

“Don’t be a wuss,” Jerry said, pointing to the blind with his hammer. 

“It’s not that,” I replied. “Haven’t you heard about that hunter who went missing?” 

Jerry laughed. “I told you that. It’s made up. There’s no dead guy. Even if there were, I’d still check it out.” 

Then he was tiptoeing around the edge of the blind as if he could hide the snap of leaves beneath his feet. I was left alone with all the possibilities of the things hidden inside: live munitions tripped by misplaced steps, a rotting deer carcass stripped of fur, a gate to some other woods in some other state we couldn’t stumble home from. Then Jerry gasp-grunted and was back, leaning against an oak. 

“Nothing dead,” Jerry replied. “Still creepy though.” 

“What is it?” I asked, moving near. 

“Go look,” he said, shoving me in the direction of the opening. 

The back half of the blind was bare, only three sides covered by the off-patterned material. Inside, the scent of wet leaves and upturned earth was thick. There was a single mesh folding chair to one side. Empty shell casings and half a dozen spent beer cans littered the floor. The only thing off was the Bible sitting atop the chair. I picked it up, cracking the spine. The center was hollowed out, a perfect square cut from the pages. The recess held photographs of a dark haired man in his twenties. He was fully dressed. Nothing creepy. Nothing from those CSI shows my mother watched incessantly. In the first, he’s smiling, sitting on a stone getty gutting into the ocean. Another was taken at a birthday party, a string of multi-colored Christmas lights glowing in the background. Later, he’s sitting behind a slot machine, right hand pulling the lever. His brown hair was long, his features close together. The pictures looked old, faded yellow. The time-stamped dates were from the eighties. 

I didn’t know if it was the hunter’s son, friend, or boyfriend. All I knew was there was something sad about the pictures, finding them hidden inside another hiding spot when we were already so far away from town and the people in it. 

“What kind of weirdo reads the Bible while he’s killing stuff?” Jerry asked. 

“I think it depends on how you look at it,” I replied, placing the photos back inside the hollow section of the book, nestling it on the folding chair like I found it. I didn’t want the guy to think someone was messing with his memories. I didn’t want to be that breach of privacy, the reminder of the outside world, it’s judgments, and whatever forced him into the woods with his photos. 

I imagined the negative image of the hunter before me, leaning back in the chair, rifle notched over his knee. The young man looked back at him from the Polaroids, decades removed. 

I blinked and the blind was empty, the smell of leaves and soil overbearing. I drifted back, dazed, the canopy of trees opening overhead. Jerry was already running away from the blind. I followed, straggling, trying to catch up. 

Looking back over my shoulder, the hunter’s blind submerged into its surroundings, canvas sides finally indistinguishable from the underbrush. I was a hundred feet out. The hiding capacity of the place was complete, sucking down evidence, camouflaged as intended. We wouldn’t have stumbled over it if we hadn’t been so close, hadn’t practically tripped through the opening. It was part of nature, the forest. Indistinguishable. I gripped my roofing hammer tight about its cool steel neck as I ran. I hadn’t forgotten it, hadn’t left another reminder the hunter was never unwatched amidst the trees.

Corey Farrenkopf is a Librarian on Cape Cod. He searches for owls in the marshes.
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