The third bag was smaller yet. Opening it, I reached in and pulled out a wristwatch. The face was cracked and the hands frozen in place at 6:12. I turned it over in my hands, and saw a dark gooey residue on my gloved hands. I rubbed it between my fingers, and lifted them to my nose. It smelled similar to motor oil, and had the same viscous cohesion.
The three bags closed and to the side, I pulled out the fourth. I opened it and reached in. I felt something odd, and pulled it out. My eyes widened. It was West's small micro cassette recorder, and a small tape. I laid the recorder down, and took the small tape, looking at it.
I went over to the nearby stack of equipment, and pulled down a small cassette player. Bringing it to the table, I slipped the cassette in and swallowed dryly. I reached out and pressed play…
The sound of West's voice chilled me. As well as the sounds of the outdoors behind him. These would be Crawford West's thoughts, unsterilized through a transcript. And certainly unedited.
He had a deep voice.
"October 28, 2:14 p.m.… I'm missing George already. " The sound of his breathing puffed into the microphone. "From what I can tell, I'm on the right trail towards the cabin. The compass… " He paused. "… it isn't working very well. I think there could be some kind of interference, perhaps the same materials which are at Coffin Rock…" He was quiet a moment. "It's useless, Gordon. I'm putting it away and going on instinct."
There was a small click, and West's voice came back. "7:12 p.m. Gordon, I see it! Maybe 20 yards away! Damn… sundown in less than two hours."
I swallowed and heard the next message click in. "7:31." I could hear the soft thuds of feet on wood in the background. "Gordon, my god! Inside… I've-" There was a pop and hiss next, which continued. I frowned, and hit the scan button on the player. The sound sped up, and finally West's voice returned. I rewound it a little in order to hear him.
"October 28, 1:02 am. Gordon, I'm outside of the cabin. I've noticed my recorder making an odd sound, and checked it out. The last twenty minutes I've been talking isn't even on here!" He sighed. "I can't explain it. It's too odd a coincidence, the static at the Rock, the compass' false reading, and now this. I….I…Gordon! I… I… wait!!" His voice called out into the recorder, and then it clicked.
His voice soon returned. "I thought I saw someone, Gordon. No… did see someone. I went after her, and trailed her for about twenty minutes, but lost her. Or she lost me. Damn! I'm an idiot! I went after her, and all of my supplies are back at the camp outside of the cabin!" He took a deep breath. "I don't dare go back there. They already know I've been there, if they've been watching. I need to…what?" The tape continued playing, as West did something. His voice returned, shakily.
"Gordon, I'm looking up into the trees. I… I see… up in the trees, some of the branches have been twisted. They look like… " There was silence. "They look like one of those stickman figures from the video." He groaned, and there was a faint sound. "I'm getting out of here, Gordon! I've seen more than enough to know there's something out here. I've got my gun, if anything should arise. If I'm right about my location, I could reach Black Rock Road in five hours. Once there, I could flag down a car-hell, I'll walk back to town, if need be. This is too-"
The tape clicked off. I blinked and looked at the player. The time had just slipped past; both sides of the tape had been played, and it had reached the end of side two. I recall hitting the table, frustrated. It all happened again-I'd been teased with the possibility of a resolution to the case, only to be left empty. I pulled out the tape and tossed it back into the plastic bag. I then picked up the recorder and looked at it. Its surface was battered and scuffed, and I turned it over. One of the small buttons at the side was set at automatic: sound activation. Had West turned it to that, or did it happen accidentally? Was-
I froze. In the small window on the front of the recorder, I saw a cassette still inside!