From: Daniel [last name and email omitted]
Date: Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Subject: FWD: FWD: I need you to read this
To: [full name and email omitted]
I got home late from work and just got a chance to check my personal email. I don’t know what to do. It’s so late, but I have to do something. Jack’s not answering his phone and you know how Julie is, Jack won’t be able to talk her out of anything.
Like I said, I know it’s late, but I’m going after them too, I guess. Someone just needed to know.
Read the attachment.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jack [last name and email omitted]
Date: Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Subject: FWD: I need you to read this
To: Daniel [last name and email omitted]
I’m going after her. God help me.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Julie [last name and email omitted]
Date: Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Subject: I need you to read this
To: Jack [last name and email omitted]
I’m gonna kick some teeth in.
If you’re reading this then I’m dead, there’s no two ways about it. Actually, it’s more like you’re reading this because I’m dead. I wouldn’t have sent this email if I thought there was any hope of seeing you again.
Now, at this point I could say something along the lines of stop reading this if you value your life, your safety, and even your sanity. But I know you won’t. I know there’s nothing I could write that would dissuade you from reading the rest of this letter and that’s good. It would be too cliché anyway, everyone always reads the rest of the letter. You need to know what’s happened, but if by some chance you truly want to remain ignorantt of the things stirring out there in the woods, then for God’s sake, you really should stop reading right now.
Still with me, Julie? Good. I knew you would be.
Assuming my body’s still in the garage, I’m sure that everyone thinks that I’ve committed suicide. That’s good. Let them keep on thinking that, the police, the public, even the rest of the family, it’ll be better that way. Maybe if they think I did it myself there won’t be much of an investigation and that’ll be the end of it, of all of this. God, it’s such a mess. But they might do it that way.
But if I’m not there, if my body’s not still in the garage, then they’ll never find it. The blood on the floor’s still mine, of course, and the prints leading away through the side door will probably match my work boots. I didn’t make the prints, mind you, but they’ll still match my boots. Without a body, though, things will be a lot messier. There will be a much bigger investigation and police will certainly question you, maybe they’ll even suspect you, who knows. But don’t worry. Just tell them the truth. Don’t mention this letter, of course, you should delete it, but otherwise tell the truth. Didn’t you think it was odd that Jack called you out of the blue last night and asked if you wanted to go to the fair? That was my idea. That way you’d be somewhere public with lots of witnesses. You’re welcome. Haha.
Jack knows not to believe the official story, but he doesn’t know the details. Don’t worry, though, he also knows enough not to pry, he won’t ask you anything about it. It’ll be up to you if you ever tell him more, maybe even let him read this letter if you want, but you don’t have to. Your choice. He’ll understand. Good kid.
Now, before you ask, or rather before you think it, I’m not losing it. If this were my will (and I suppose in a way it is) you could say I’m “of sound mind and boy”. Trust me. Totally lucid. Now, I know you never saw a lot of me, you’re mother and I never really patched things up. But when I got to see you I tried to be the best uncle I could be, always have a present in my coat for you, that sort of thing. I like to think I did a pretty good job. This letter is a pretty poor last present, though, and I’m sorry about that. And I’m sorry for everything you’re about to learn. About me. About the world.
Do you remember my house? You hadn’t been here since you were fairly young, before Aunt Sal died. Next time you see your mom, would you tell her one last time that I’m sorry for missing the funeral? She never could forgive me for that. Anyway, even if you don’t remember the house I’m sure you remember the woods behind them, they were pretty spectacular. That’s what this is all about, really.
I actually moved into that house specifically for those woods and the mountains they were a part of. Growing up I loved the Appalachians. When I went off to college that was the thing I missed the most, aside from your grandma and grandpa and them, the mountains. Your grandpa always used to warn us about them, though. “Ain’t nothing good come down out of those mountains. An’ ain’t nothing good come to those what goes wanderin’ in ’em,” he’d tell us. He was very adamant that none of us kids go too far into the woods. The deepest we ever went was when we were gathering firewood, and that’s only because your grandpa went with us.
One day, while me, your mom, and your Aunt Sal, were playing out back, a lady came half walking half stumbling out of the woods, looking a bit worse for wear. She looked a bit gone in the eyes, but we were raised to treat everyone nice-like, so when she waved, we waved right back. She seemed to brighten up a bit and motioned for us to come over and, thinking nothing of it, we started towards her. Just then, your grandpa, looking madder than I’d ever seen him before, comes bursting out of the back of the house with his shotgun, screen door slapping behind him. “Git outta here! Git! Yer kin’ ain’t welcome! Git!” He fired a couple of shots into the air and that lady turned tail and bolted back up the hill into the woods. Well, Grandpa herded us all back into the house and gathered us all real close and hugged us. I’m pretty sure that was the first and only time he ever hugged us like that. Then he got a real serious look on his face and made sure we were all listening, “I told you’ns, ain’t nothing good come down out of those mountains. God’s teeth’s got secrets, and those mountain folk know too many of ’em. You see any of her kin’ again, you come get me right away. Hear? I ain’t havin’ none of my kids taken by the mountains.” I never really knew what he meant by “God’s teeth”, but occasionally I’d hear other people in the area use the same expression. Eventually I just accepted that that’s what the mountains were called; they were God’s teeth. I never heard any more about his “mountain folk” or how we could be “taken by the mountains”, though, and eventually we all just sort of forgot about the whole thing.
Now, like I said, in spite of all that and all of your grandpa’s warnings, I grew up loving the mountains. When it was time to find a place of my own, I knew it had to be nestled right into the Appalachians, just like their house was. And that’s what I got. Eventually. I lived in a few places first, big cities, smaller towns, out west for a bit. Nothing felt like home until I came back here. I found a nice little place with a big backyard that went right up to the forest and into the mountains, into God’s teeth. I was right where I wanted to be. I found a good job. Lived life. And eventually I met your Aunt Ruby. Bless her, we weren’t together long, but it was good for a while. Damn good. She tried, though, I just wasn’t around like I should have been and loneliness got the better of her. We keep in touch a little, she’s up north a ways. Don’t tell your mom, but she’s shacked up with another woman. Ha! They’re happy, though, she’s happy, and that makes me happy. Never did stop loving her. She’ll be getting an email, too, but not quite as detailed.
Now on to the part where I should really be insisting that you stop reading. But I won’t, I know how you are. Here goes.
It all went bad pretty quick. I was down at the store getting groceries and whatnot when I locked eyes with a pretty thing about my own age and downright gorgeous. Plus, no ring. Now I know you won’t like thinking about your uncle as a regular human being, but I think you can guess where it ended up. We had a good few months together, me and Maggie, she even moved in with me. I never saw her place, but she said it was too small anyway and God help me I was lonely. Well you know how things go and I’ll be damned if she didn’t end up pregnant. She was ecstatic, I was less so. I liked Maggie, of course, cared about her, but I could never love her. Making the best of a less-than-perfect situation, I decided to make an honest woman out of her and get married. Everything went nuts the day I came home with the ring. I could see that the door was wide open as I pulled up the drive. We never left the doors open like that, too many bugs. I hurried up the front steps and saw that the screen door had been knocked clear off its hinges and the main door wasn’t in much better shape. The inside of the house was a mess. There were leaves and sticks and dirt everywhere. Things were smashed and the filthy prints of bare feet covered the floor. In the midst of it all, resting squarely in the middle of the kitchen counter, was a perfectly white piece of paper with a hastily scrawled message written in what was unmistakably Maggie’s handwriting. “Leaving you, don’t look for me.” That’s all it said.
Now, I’m no master tracker, but a blind sight-hound could have followed the trail leading out my backdoor and up into the woods. Looking at that mess of trampled grass and broken branches leading up the hill, a phrase I hadn’t thought about for years suddenly came to mind. Yep, you guessed it: “taken by the mountains”. And then I thought about the “mountain folk.” Dammit, Grandpa. Well, as convincing as that note was, I took off after whoever had ransacked my house and made off with my would-be wife and unborn child. It was nearly 3 in the afternoon, but the mountains cast long shadows, so I took just enough time to grab a hunting spotlight, a coat, and my rifle. Hours later, I found myself in a part of the woods I’d never been in before. Now I’d been pretty far out, flushing out deer or whatever I could bag, but I’d certainly never been here. I still don’t really know how to explain it, but the whole area just seemed wrong, especially the rocks. That’s an awful description of the place, but that’s as good as I can do. It was just wrong. And it got worse.
Nobody should try to put into words all the things I saw up in the woods that evening, but I’ll try to give you an idea. Your uncle won’t leave you hanging like that. First off, wherever he’s at now, I thank your grandpa for chasing that lady away all those years ago. God knows what would’ve happened if he didn’t. Second, I now know exactly what all those odd expressions he used back then meant. I’ve seen the “mountain folk” living up there in God’s teeth and I’ve seen what happens to people who get “taken by the mountains.” God help them. If you ever see anyone like that lady I talked about shamble out the Appalachian woods, Julie, you run, because your grandpa was right, nothing good comes down from God’s teeth. That leads me to the last thing, Maggie. She was one of those damned mountain folk and I put a bullet right between her eyes. Now don’t jump to conclusions, I didn’t murder her. You have to kill another human for it to be murder and there was nothing human about her at the time.
You’re a grown woman, Julie, and I’m sure you’ve seen some things, but what she was doing with our baby. God. I mean, by this time it was barely formed, only a month or two in, but it was still our baby. My baby. Blood everywhere, all over those wretched rocks. Laughing. Chanting. And that goddamned howling. After I took care of Maggie, me and my rifle did what had to be done to the rest of them. Let’s just say that I was the only thing that came down out of the mountains that night.
That was a week ago. The howling’s been getting louder every night. And these last two nights I’ve been able to hear the chanting so I figure it’s about time. I’ve been reading up a little, doing some research. I’ve been looking into local police records, looking for missing person cases that look similar. The broken doors, the note, the sticks and stuff, it’s all here. A couple of times they’ve found others in the house, presumed suicides. I figure that’s what they’re planning for me. I’ll be heading to the garage in a bit. Prop the big door open, make it easy on them. I’m gonna put up one last fight, though. Figure I’ll kick God right in the teeth tonight. The mountains are coming for me, Julie, and but I’ll be damned if I let them take me.