For the majority of my adolescent life, I lived in Hope, British Columbia on Kettle Valley Road. My residence was a house past the graveyard, on top of the mountain. With no car to speak of, I often had to walk home after my days’ events had concluded. The trek had become so familiar to me by the time I reached my teenage years that eventually, the darkness of the journey no longer fazed me: or, at least, it did not scare me. I believe, looking back on my life, that it was this false sense of security that led me to that fateful night when I first encountered the Kettle Valley Creature.
I try not to remember much about the event, but I do remember that it was the summer of 1983. The heat was making the hairs on the back of my neck stick to my skin. Of course, it would be dishonest for me to say that this was the only thing making me sweat; the sickening amounts of whiskey I had just pounded back at my friend’s house that overlooked Kawkawa Lake certainly didn’t help matters. In the aftermath, I was attempting to walk down the road that led to my mountain, although it quickly became less of a jaunt and more of a stumble.
I could not see much farther ahead of me than where my feet were placed on the ground. I was nothing if not experienced with the path in front of me, sober or not; in fact, the walk went off without a hitch. Unsurprisingly, it was pitch black, and the weariness of watching for bears was in the back of my mind; such a trivial thing to me after living in such an isolated place for so long. So, I simply tried to force my mind shut to such unsavory thoughts; and it worked, thankfully. Until, that is, I got about halfway up the hill.
I cannot even begin to describe the strangeness of the feeling that suddenly hit my body. I guess you could compare it to having ice cold water poured on your head whilst in a hot tub, but even that wouldn’t do it justice. Although it greatly bothered me, I played it off as an effect of both my fatigue and intoxication. I thought it would dull down, that the rushing in my head would cease, but it only got stronger; so much so that I had to pause in my walking.
I never had a flashlight when I walked home, so I didn’t see him approaching until we were nose to nose. His skin, if he had any, was translucent; I could have counted all of the bones that he was made up of from where I stood, and they looked so cracked and fragile that if I had put my hand on him, they would have instantly snapped. He was little more than said bone; so starved and narrow that if he had turned to the side he would have all but disappeared. And his eyes, oh his eyes, still present in their sockets and a darker black than the devil’s himself. Worse still was his smell: like a piece of metal left in the blazing sun, but further mixed with something chemical.
The encounter couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but time seemed to stop. I held my breath as he passed by me, brushing my shoulder as he moved, causing the most intense explosion of goosebumps. After a few seconds, I turned my head to glance back. I saw him slowly cut down the mountain’s bank in the direction of the Coquihalla River, vanishing. Immediately, my fuzzy vision, which had become distorted while I had held him in my sights, reappeared. I ran home as fast as my sloshed body would allow me, and never told anybody, especially not my parents, about the situation. I feared I would be ridiculed for such a ridiculous, stupor induced hallucination. Although I tried to convince myself of just that, something in my heart told me that such a happenstance was more than your basic pipedream.
It’s been years since the incident. Hell, I haven’t even lived in that town for years. When I was offered work after high school in another province, I readily agreed. I told myself it was just the prospect of good money that pushed my wills; in reality, it was the constant prickling under my skin that I felt every time I walked my path up the mountain. And it did help. I barely even remembered my experience with the unknown Kettle Valley Creature once I was finally settled in; he only passed my mind when I sat alone in the moonlight, or put back too much whisky.
Eventually, I did begin returning for holidays, in the company of my wife and children. They love the area, and in a strange way I too always feel the need to return to my hometown; like some unseen force is always pulling me back. However, whenever I come back to Hope, so does that itch I used to feel as a young man.
I’m not sure why it had to be this summer, thirty-seven years after our original encounter that he found me again. Maybe with the pandemic in full swing and so many people staying at home he finally had the privacy to wander the town again.
It was nearing the end of our yearly summer visit, and I decided to leave my wife and children safe in our motel room to go for a late-night drive. In the mood to reminisce, I headed to my old address. Of course, I didn’t make it all the way to the top of the mountain I used to call home, not wanting to disturb the current owners. I parked my car along the Pipeline Road, looking out onto the path leading to my old residence that I used to walk daily; and where I had first saw that hideous creature. This time, however, I had an advantage I hadn’t years before: my headlights.
It’s how I saw him coming, not that it did anything to stop him heading towards me. With my brights on I could make out all of his features: the same haunting eyes and breakable frame. The only thing that did catch me off guard about his appearance were the wrinkly looking creases on his frontal bone; almost as if he was aging as a human would. His advance was as gradual and unrushed as it had been the first time we met, like he had nothing but time and nothing to fear; and I suppose, in hindsight, he didn’t.
I wasn’t surprised when he approached my car, nor when he motioned for me to roll my window down; I did so, less reluctantly than you might have thought, with my hands shaking and blurry spots invading my vision. He smelled of the same chemical scent, too, although it was a bit muskier; almost like the inside of a retirement home. What did surprise me, though, was when he placed his bony hand on my shoulder and mumbled the words “It’s been a long time, Chris”. After that, he simply walked over the edge of the Pipeline Road, and just like all that time ago, vanished.
My drive back to the motel was on autopilot, my skin throbbing the entire time. I never told anybody about my encounter. Thankfully, I was able to convince my wife to leave for home a week earlier than we had planned. I needed to skip town before I lost my mind. My shoulder still itches, even now, months later. I do feel lucky that I haven’t spotted the Kettle Valley Creature again since I returned home; unless, of course, you count the continual playing of his voice in my head.
This tale is not a ploy to try and cause fear within your residents; or to drive housing prices down enough for me to be able to purchase an additional house in your scenic town. I just know I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to those unknowing, if I hadn’t at least tried to get my message across. In the end, my conscious is now clear, and in this statement I heed my final warning: Beware of the lonely Kettle Valley Creature.
This fictional account was submitted to the Hope Standard by Sydni Lane. The Winnipeg-based author’s father grew up in Hope and Sydni and her family holiday here every summer. The story is loosely based on parts of her father’s childhood, Lane said, yet whether this Kettle Valley Creature truly exists we shall never know for sure.