The Backpack Thief

I once found a sculpture in the woods, made from hikers’ lost backpacks. It was about twice my height, and quite wide around. It was old and sort of smelly, leaning to one side. I didn’t count the backpacks, but there must’ve been a hundred, all lashed together.

I went through a few of them, and they were still full. I found clothes and camping gear, and old mouldy food. Some of the gear was quite new, some rotted to bits. I didn’t find anything worth stealing, and after a while, I stopped looking. It had dawned on me, see, that was too many backpacks for the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t on a trail, or anywhere near one. I’d been on a canoe trip, and I’d got lost. I’d climbed up a hill to look for the river, and that’s where I found it, miles from anything.

I found my group again, and I told them about the backpacks. They didn’t believe me. They hadn’t noticed they’d lost me, and didn’t believe I’d gone over the hill. They’d gone the long way round, in their canoes. I’d caught up at the campsite, none the worse for wear.

I thought I’d stay up that night to keep watch on our backpacks, but then I thought, what if it’s, like, a ghoul? A ghoul or a wendigo, stealing backpacks? I didn’t want to see that, so I went to sleep.

In the morning, nothing was missing. This girl Heather saw me checking and told everyone else. They laughed at me, but I still think we got lucky. The thief didn’t hit us, but he could’ve. It could’ve. It could’ve drowned us in the river and taken our backpacks for trophies. It could’ve chopped off our hair and used it for rope. (Well, probably not. But it could’ve peeped at us through the flaps of our tents. It could’ve peeped and run off, and thought scummy thoughts of us as it added our packs to its shrine.)

It could’ve, but it didn’t, and…that was a stupid story. Still, that’s what happened, and I still remember it sometimes—the moment I quit my rummaging and a chill walked down my spine. The moment I realised that was just too many backpacks.

Pictured above: probably the culprit.