The story I am about to share with you is one I have never told another living soul ~~ until now. It is up to you to decide whether or not you believe it, but it is a true story. It was something I experienced as a child, and as every child knows, not all their stories are necessarily accepted as the truth. And that is why I have never told my story. I convinced myself, as well, that it was something that I had imagined, it had not actually happened, and it was consigned to that area of my brain known as ~~ perhaps ~~ unreality. But now that I am of *a certain age* I can remember that it did indeed happen; I did not imagine it.
When I was growing up on Vancouver Island, my parents decided to build a home on the edge of a dense old growth forest. It was a beautiful old forest of Sitka spruce, western red cedar and Douglas fir. Every weekend we cleared the trees and burned the underbrush in a bonfire. My mother loved roasted potatoes, so she used to bring potatoes and throw them into the fire to roast. We would have a picnic of cold chicken, hot coffee and roasted potatoes from the bonfire. It was delicious. My mother kept some of the giant ferns growing in the underbrush and later planted them in her garden. My father saved a couple of the old growth trees, and they shaded our house when it was built. My mother designed the house, and my father and his friends built it by hand. Some of the two-by fours were planed from the wood of the giant trees, and it was wonderful to watch the house taking shape. I was allowed to choose which corner of the house I wanted for my bedroom. I love the afternoon sun, so I chose a corner facing west.
We moved into the house in the middle of winter, when I was 11 years-old. There were still natural ponds in the forest, and my friend Sherry and I used to go ice skating on them. I taught her how to do figure eights, and then we would trek off to her place for hot chocolate and some of her mother's world famous cinnamon buns fresh from the oven. Afterwards I would walk along the forest trail that connected her house to mine. I never felt comfortable walking through there alone, and I was always aware that I was not entirely alone. I could feel things watching me. There were eyes on me, and they didn't necessarily have my best interests at heart.
Every morning my father woke me up for school before he went to work, and one morning he said, "Be careful, kidlet, there was a cougar out there last night. I could see its footprints in the snow, and they were the size of tobacco can lids..." But this was the forest, and cougar, deer even the occasional bear were to be expected. This was their territory, and we were encroaching on it. We had learned to respect those animals, and they left us alone.
But I knew something else was out there.
Then one morning I saw it, just beyond the edge of the forest, and its tracks were still visible in the snow. At first I thought it was a bear. The tracks led from the forest to my bedroom window, and then back to the forest. They were not cougar, deer or bear. And they were not human. They were barefoot and they looked like a flat-footed ape. With very big feet. The Coast Salish have a name for this creature ~~ Sésquac which means "wild man". The Cowichan People gave him the name Thumquas which means "hairy giant". They believe he is omnivorous and nocturnal. And real. The Coast Salish also believe the Sésquac steal salmon from the fishermen's nets. He is seven to nine feet tall and there have been hundreds of thousands of sightings of him in Western Canada, and 700 footprints collected. There is folklore of these creatures living on every continent except the Antarctic, however, no one has ever found one of these creatures, nor any of their remains. Scientists claim there are still over five million species waiting to be found on our planet. Could the elusive Sésquac be one of these creatures?
Slowly the forest receded from our house, as more people built homes in the area, and now it is a residential district. Some of the old trees still remain, however, and I can still feel the spirits in them. And when I am walking through an old-growth forest, I can still feel something watching me ~~ and it isn't animal, and it isn't human.