“The Pine Arch Collection”—A Horror Story by Michael Wehunt (The Dark Magazine)

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The Pine Arch Collection

Michael Wehunt, 2018

First appeared in The Dark Magazine, May 2018.

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From: x_ <pinedemon@x.x> To: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
December 18 2017 3:36 am
Subject: The Pine Arch Collection

—Play the attached video and you can see, almost from the start, that something isn’t right. But you don’t know what. A sort of—familiarity. The trees are gasping in the fog. All you can make out for two and a half minutes are their thin trunks sliding through the white breath of a fallen cloud. There is no lamp on the camera. No night vision.

—At 2:17 a voice whispers, deep and thick. Increase the volume, reverse to 2:17: “She is sleeping.” You are welcome to think it whispers something else. But there is a—familiarity. What could almost be light approaches ahead, through the thinning screen of the trees. The camera is expelled from their mouth onto a bare patch of lawn. There is the moon. Pause the video at 2:38 and see the back of your house, at a distance of perhaps 80 feet. Something huddles against the wall, a heavy black lump with arms reaching up toward a window. Your low bedroom window a closed eye. You beneath its lid, warm.

—Resume play. The arms of the heavy black lump reach closer to your windowsill. The arms stretch up with a dreadful slowness. Zoom in but the resolution decays and you can’t tell if the arms have fingers, or hands. The camera holds for 43 seconds, then moves backward, back into the mouth of the trees. The pines gather. The cloud folds around the shot again and the wall of your house recedes. The heavy black lump and its arms reaching.

—Do the arms reach the window? But the video ends at 3:59.

—We have chosen you.

—Pine Arch Research is a group of filmmakers based—locally. As the title of the attached .avi file tells you, this is The Pine Arch Collection. When you complete your segment, send it to demon@pinearchresearch.com. Tap your own personal terror, real as blood. Breathe it into the camera with authenticity. Recommended length is 3-7 minutes. Finished product will be uploaded to YouTube (on a channel that does not exist at the time of this writing). Complete running time unknown. Cult status guaranteed.

—Welcome.

From: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
To: Bobby Power <bpower@gsu.edu>
December 18 2017 10:03 am
Subject: Shoot this weekend

Hey B. Texted you but wanted to elaborate. So something weird happened and I don’t know if I can do the shoot Saturday. I might have a new project, but . . . . . . . . . I don’t know. Got an email overnight from an encrypted (I’m assuming) address. Like a chain letter but for a cheap found footage horror movie? That’s what it seems like anyway. They sent the video clip with a sort of narration pasted in. Strange and pretty grim. I guess I got the most recent clip (and most recent director, if I’m right that it’s being passed along like that old typewriter story game), so it’s hard to say. But THEY FILMED MY HOUSE. I’m a little spooked at the moment. No, I haven’t responded to the email.

But IF I do a segment for their project and I need staging help, extra eyes, whatever, would you be down with rescheduling our shoot and joining forces on this too? I think Hamlet on Tape can wait another week. Pretty sure you’d be into this project, if it’s not too guerilla style.

Anyway, talk later?

-A

From: Bobby Power <bpower@gsu.edu>
To: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
December 18 2017 11:39 am
Subject: RE: Shoot this weekend

Mysterious dudes in the woods filming your bedroom window at night? Um, that’s a red flag, don’t you think? You know how those movies always end.

I’m cool pushing Hamlet back, but you gotta sell me on this. “Doubt thou the stars are fire” and all that.

How about you come to my place after work and we’ll talk about it. I’m not sure I’m super comfortable with you going back home.

Bobby

From: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
To: Bobby Power <bpower@gsu.edu>
December 18 2017 12:08 pm
Subject: RE: Shoot this weekend

Sure, it’s red flaggy, but it’s just . . . the boldness of reaching out to me this way, not to mention the fact that they must have seen some of my work. I like it. I love the outré element this has and there’s just something about the way it’s filmed that’s got my head filling with ideas, angles. I sketched something for it. Picture the woods, a pile of tree limbs shaped like a mound, with an opening at the bottom. [shivers]

I’ll let you know about coming over tonight. But for now, are you in? I only need a couple of nights. Sorry to bail on you AND ask for help basically in the same breath. I’ll be fine on my own with something simple if need be, but . . . see aforementioned spookiness.

Also, there was this really tall Chinese guy in your surrealist film class back in school. He came out with us once. Blanking on his name, but that was, what, 6 years ago? He told me he was in this blog group that would go camp out at filming locations of cult horror movies. His face lit up the whole time he was talking. Can you put me in touch with him? I want to know if he’s heard of Pine Arch Research. They are ghosts online. Can’t find a thing and the URL I was given (pinearchresearch.com) doesn’t exist. It would be nice to know who sent this clip in which some person/creature/prop was REACHING UP TO MY BEDROOM WINDOW.

There was nothing outside this morning, don’t worry. I peeked. I told myself to actually go back there and check the ground against the wall, give the woods a good stern look, but I had to get to work early, haha. It’s totally fine, I promise. It’s my turn now so the only creep hanging around in the trees would be me, right? Although . . . this clip they sent is messed up. Just wait.

Let me know!

-A

From: Bobby Power <bpower@gsu.edu>
To: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
December 18 2017 5:52 pm
Subject: RE: Shoot this weekend

It would be cool if you answered your phone.

Okay, fine. I’ll help . . . even though if some blood cult stuff goes down, you’d be better in a fight than I would. But you’ve won my interest, I admit it. Pine Arch Research rings zero bells for me. Big surprise, I know. 🙂 But hey, unacceptable recruitment strategy aside, it’s totally possible they’ve seen some of your stuff and were impressed!

And the Chinese guy’s name is Wes Cheung. Or was. I haven’t talked to him in forever but a mutual friend told me earlier today that Cheung disappeared a couple years ago while investigating . . . wait for it . . . a creepy YouTube video. Him and the other guys who ran that blog. I have no idea how much of that is true. You’ve seen the video, but maybe refresh your memory before you go shaky cam. Under the House, the one where the men are sitting outside and staring into the camera until you want to yell at your monitor for them to stop, then they go into that freaky basement with the loud humming noise. It went pretty viral for a while. Anyway, see a pattern here? Yeah, probably not, but be careful.

I wish I could ask Brit. She lives in this wheelhouse. You remember her, unfortunately. She’s deep into this stuff (anything occult in film, really) but I didn’t exactly deal with her well when you came along. And, well, you might remind me that I did inadvertently get her kicked out of school (and a festival!) when I let slip that she’d plagiarized that horror author for her final project.

How about we do your shoot Thursday and Friday nights? I can make that happen. I’m assuming your place? In the meantime, I hope you’re still coming over.

Send me the video clip?

Bobby

From: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
To: Bobby Power <bpower@gsu.edu>
December 19 2017 7:42 am
Subject: RE: Shoot this weekend

Don’t get mad but I worked late and was tired . . . then I went ahead and did some filming last night. And I don’t know how to describe it. Let’s meet up tonight after work and I’ll try. That way we can both watch together. But to tide you over I’ll attach the Pine Arch clip and mine, too. (The latter of which is rough as hell. No editing. Hint: It’s not what it should be.)

-A

From: Bobby Power <bpower@gsu.edu>
To: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
December 19 2017 5:23 pm
Subject: RE: Shoot this weekend

Aly. Why won’t you answer your phone or text me back? And why did you shoot thirteen minutes of darkness? Is that the woods behind your house? It’s just that I don’t remember it being foggy last night. What the hell is with all the breathing and that laugh? And the clip these people sent to you. The way theirs ends and yours begins. How did you manage that continuation . . . editing? Or you met up with them? Come on, we need to talk. That THING under your window is the creepiest shit I’ve ever seen.

I’m sitting at home. Tre is out with friends. A bad feeling here. Come sit on my couch, let Sebastian purr on your lap, and let me see that you’re okay. For solidarity I’ve got my camera right here. It’s waiting to lend a hand.

B

From: Aly Duarte <alyalyoxenfree@gmail.com>
To: Pine Demon <demon@pinearchresearch.com>
December 19 2017 10:12 pm
Subject: The Pine Arch Collection

I need to bow out. I don’t know what your game is here but this is too out there for me. Yes, I’m stubborn. Yes, I’ve tried shooting this scene four times now, even in the morning when the daylight fills the trees, but in playback it’s still night with thick fog and someone (plural?) that’s not me breathing just off camera. There’s a cold sort of gleam on everything, but it’s underneath the dark, somehow, I can almost see the pile of limbs the shot is approaching back in the woods. I saw it fine when I was shooting it in, you know, the DAYTIME. It’s like a hut that’s collapsing. Did you Pine Arch people build that? It’s basically what I had in mind for my friend and me to put together this weekend specifically for my segment. I have the story notes. SO . . . how is it there already?

There’s not much land behind my house. At this point, where the stick pile is, you’re not far from the creek, then the slope down to Camp Mile Road and up again toward the old nature reserve. I picture your crew with a black van parked down there on the ribbon of road, hiking up the hill in your dark clothing with a fog machine and a roll of twine to lash all those limbs together. I mean . . . at the very least wait until I say yes before you go into production design on my property.

Bear with me. We’re parting ways at the end of this email.

Four times I filmed this. Night, day, morning, evening. Each was a little different but not different enough. I did a test shoot of my kitchen and on playback it’s my regular kitchen, morning light streaming in, like the bland establishing shots at the beginning of a found footage movie. “I’m a normal person with a normal life, look at me before I start this fateful day.” So it’s not the camera, is it? You can kind of see things happening on the screen, out in the woods, you can hear those long half-whistle breaths I should have felt on my skin they’re so close, but it was just me in the milky daylight walking through the woods with nothing but leaves crunching under my shoes. And then that fucking laugh. Christ. I didn’t actually hear that, so how did it get into my camera? How did the fucking night get into my camera, for that matter?

I kept trying, and on the fourth attempt I figured I’d turn the night vision on even though it was 4 p.m. and it was business as usual. I get back to the pile of limbs and everything’s quiet, no creepy laugh, only the sun corroding out to the west and this calm cold. Except in the footage. In the footage there’s this laugh and when I approach the pile of limbs something is crawling out of the hole in it. It’s low to the ground, a green-dark shape, another lump with the night vision failing to stick to it, as ridiculous as that is to say. Not so ridiculous when I watch it now though.

Click here to read the full story at The Dark Magazine:

http://thedarkmagazine.com/pine-arch-collection/

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