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The Crooked Man

By Sara Bowler

Olivia’s lifeless body was faced down, her rosy cheeks now pallid and sunken; dug into the gravel of The Mount Coonowrin hiking track. Clothes soaked through to the skin. Was Coonowrin’s spirit really seeking revenge on people in his presence? 

Some of those who have attempted to ascend the Mountain have returned traumatised, hands blocking their face and unable to speak. People have also died, and others vanished. Ghastly stories that circulated about the young hiker’s body, spread through the small community of Glasshouse like wildfire. 

The adventurous Glasshouse High School student, Charlotte Lockwood, had found the deceased remains only two days ago. An eerie story emerged that the perished girl’s hiking boots were placed unharmed beside her malformed body, with the shoelaces neatly tied. Four girls ascended the Mountain that day. Only three returned. Charlotte, Sophia, and Connie were hiking together with Olivia.  “He was at the tree line,” Connie had claimed to the police “An abnormal disformed figure, Charlotte tell them that you saw him too.” 

Charlotte had already confirmed to the police that she hadn’t seen anybody as she was further ahead of the group. She tried to catch up to Olivia, who stated she heard dark and distant voices. “Sophia, tell them, tell them you saw him, it wasn’t just me!” exclaimed Connie. Sophia had timidly nodded to the police, still in shock from the whole ordeal. Sophia’s mind on the stranger’s unblinking gaze that lingered upon them. As well as suspicion that lay upon her and the girls. 

Days after the mysterious death, Connie’s older brother Damon, drove the three girls to Mount Coonowrin. Damon was a kind, intuitive, and good looking 17-year-old. Damon insisted on staying with the girls for their hike. The girls needed to find clues to clear their names and prove their so ‘truthful’ stories to police. 

It was a weary late afternoon, the bush loomed in front of them, dark and watchful. Charlotte was uncomfortable with the hike, her curious mind switched back to that day when she discovered Olivia’s body. Triggered with emotion, another wave of visceral flashbacks rolled through her. The twisted corpse, an unnerving expression, and her hideous ‘soulless’ stare. 

“Who knows what we might find,” said Sophia encouragingly. “Clues, maybe? Evidence, answers”. 

“If the crooked man appears, don’t show him your fears,” whispered Connie to Charlotte. 

An hour into the walk, Charlotte felt anxiously nauseous, she trembled with fear and pleaded to her friends to turn back. She was unsuccessful in her attempts. Damon desperately wanted to join Charlotte and head back to the car. Instead, he stayed with his sister, as she would act foolish without him around. Charlotte, turned from the group, and charged back down the steep track. 

Charlotte felt like she had been descending the Mountain for longer than it took to climb. Disoriented and ragged with exhaustion she dragged herself through the thick, dense, and rugged terrain. Charlotte in her confused state had found herself off the trail. 

Her legs trembled; her pulse throbbed in her ears. She paused to gather herself and try to make out her surroundings. The moon rested on the sun’s perch. Like natures clock, time ticked away, and the night was closing in. 

A luminous mist obscured her view, she could just make out an opening in the cliffs edge.  She had come across a depressed, harmless cave. Drawn to it. Inside the cave she noticed strange aboriginal markings engraved on the stone walls. The drawings expressed a gloomy storm … “Down in these caves” …. A blood curdling scream in the distance stopped all suspense, an ominous silence overwhelmed her, threatening to consume her. 

Impending danger quickened her pace, she followed the sounds of her friends’ ear-piercing shrieks. Now in a frenzied run, Charlotte made her way through endless pencil pines making it back to familiar territory. 

In front of her was the cliffs edge, the scene set an eerie mood. A nightmare so horrifying, fear and pain so deep, she tried to wake up! except... her eyes were wide open and no asleep. Two perfectly placed pairs of hiking shoes belonging to her friends sat by the edge. 

Cold, trembling hands grabbed hold of Charlottes shoulders. Startled, she let out a loud pitch scream, she turned around and glanced into his eyes. His lips parted in silent terror and his eyes were transfixed with numbed horror. 

Damon gripped tightly and pulled Charlotte away from the edge and drew her in close. 

His voice apprehensive. “I looked into his eyes Charlotte, I looked into his eyes, and I realised I was lost ……… lost to him. 

“HE. IS. REAL.” 



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