Friday, November 16, 2012

The Baykok

Forests have long been believed to contain supernatural evil, and the forests of America are no exception. For centuries, Native American tribes have told stories of monsters and demons that hunt in the night for human prey, and they are still whispered about in modern times. One such creature comes in the form of a walking skeleton that hunts for human victims at all hours, day or night. It was once human, but now nothing remains of the man it once was. This monster is known as the Baykok, and it is driven by a ravenous hunger to feed on humans.

The Baykok is an evil spirit or a revenant that originates from Chippewa mythology and folklore, although this harbinger of doom has been encountered by the Ojibwa and Algonquin Indians as well. Among these people, the Baykok is an unstoppable killer. It stalks and murders people without even a trace of remorse, for all such human sentiments left it when it arose as an undead creature. In other words, the only things that this monster cares about is hunting and feeding. Morality plays no part in this creature's existence.
The Baykok’s origins aren’t completely understood, even to this day. However, some evidence suggests that the Baykok may once have been a proud hunter and a fearless warrior. One day, he was out hunting, but his quarry led him far, far off the game trail. Eventually, not only did he lose his prey, but he became hopelessly lost as well. Several days later, on the verge of death from starvation and angry at being deprived of the privilege to fully enjoy his life and the glory that he felt he was due to be given, the hunter swore that his lifeforce would never leave his remains. A number of months passed, with the proud warrior now being presumed dead and mourned by his family. Sometime after his body had decomposed, he was roused from his eternal sleep by hunters. Angered and vengeful, the hunter arose from his unmarked grave as the Baykok, craving the flesh (and livers) of man.
Many Native American tribes fear the Baykok, and there are many names for the creature as well. Among these are paguk, pau’guk, baguck, bakaak (Ojibwa), and pakak (Algonquin). The word baykok may be derived from the Anishinaabe word bakaak, meaning "skeleton". But the name refers to the sense of the creature being "bones draped in skin," rather than being merely bare bones. The name also lends itself to other words, like bakaakadwengwe ("to have a lean or thin face") and bakaakadozo ("to be thin, skinny, or poor"). The word bakaak itself may be a shorter variation of bekaakadwaabewizid (a long word, eh?), which means "an extremely thin being."
The Baykok is said to inhabit the forest territories of the Great Lakes, especially if those places were once inhabited by the Chippewa. The Baykok is anthropophagous, stalking and killing humans so that it may devour their livers. However, it is likely that the Baykok consumes the victim’s flesh from time to time as well. Once it has fed, it will leave its victim to die and return to its gravesite. It is unknown if there is only a single Baykok, or if there are multiple creatures that lurk within America's forests.
According to legend, the Baykok appears as a skeletal being that is covered in a translucent layer of desiccated skin, and has a truly horrifying skull-like countenance. It may or may not have some hair remaining on its head. The creature’s eyes usually glow an unholy red, although some legends have claimed that the revenant’s eye sockets are empty black pits, soulless and wholly evil. Those who gaze into those empty, black sockets find themselves paralyzed with horror. They are then easy prey for the Baykok.
The Baykok is known to be a silent hunter, stalking and killing human prey without a hint of guilt or remorse. However, this ghoulish creature never appears to more than one individual at a time. Furthermore, the monster only preys upon hunters and warriors. The Baykok prefers to hunt at night, moving silently through the brush and the darkness in search of lone individuals. The darkness, combined with the creature's silence, makes it nearly impossible to detect the monster before it has a chance to ambush its victim. It is said that the only way to sense an impending attack from the Baykok is by hearing the popping and creaking sounds made by the creature’s bones. Even then, sensing the threat is no guarantee of survival. Although the Baykok occasionally uses a heavy war club to bludgeon its victims to death, the creature prefers a bow that fires invisible arrows, which are tipped with a poison that induces a deep, dreamless sleep in those hit by the arrows. In this state (which lasts several hours), the unfortunate victim cannot feel any pain. All the better for the Baykok, as it can now feast upon its hapless victim.
Before it eats, the Baykok unsheathes a small silver knife, and slices open the victim’s abdomen. The revenant then thrusts its bony hand into the cavity, removes the liver, and greedily consumes the organ. After dining, the Baykok shoves a rock into the empty cavity, and finishes by sewing the wound shut with a magic thread that heals any and all superficial signs of the incision. The unsuspecting victim then wakes up the next morning in the middle of the woods, most often with no recollection of their encounter with the ghoulish creature. Surprisingly, the unfortunate individual often lives for days or even weeks without any adverse side effects, despite having unknowingly lost such a vital organ.  Then the victim suddenly becomes violently sick, inevitably wasting away and dying. Doctors will be at a loss to explain the cause of death and, even if they do figure out that the deceased is missing their liver, how will they explain that and how the victim managed to live for so long without it? There are no exceptions, nor is there any cure or a way to restore the lost organ. But fortunately, the Baykok never willingly approaches a human civilization, as the creature itself is extremely reluctant to leave the safety of the forest it calls home. The Baykok knows its forest domain better than a seasoned woodsman, using this knowledge to set ambushes, to track prey without being detected in turn, and to escape those that may be hunting it.
Although a skeletal entity, the Baykok retains the same degree of strength as it possessed during its lifetime, probably through mystical means. The creature is far more agile and much quicker than it was in life, being free of the limitations of heavy muscle and flesh. To make matters worse, the Baykok is impervious to most weapons and attacks (including blades and firearms). In addition, the Baykok is highly proficient with the bow and arrow, and is skilled in the use of its war club. To even have a chance against this creature, one must be an expert in armed combat (or just plain lucky). And even then, it is very unlikely that any attack against the revenant’s unliving body will actually be effective at all.
One of the most horrifying aspects of the Baykok is that the creature has no known weaknesses that may be used against it. Holy water, religious icons, and perhaps even blessed weapons have no effect on this revenant. However, like most of the corporeal Undead, the Baykok may have some sort of susceptibility to fire. And, since this revenant is little more than a dried-up skeleton, some sort of bludgeoning attack is advisable if a fight is unavoidable (use the creature’s own war club for this, if necessary). And since the Baykok is clinically dead, one cannot actually kill the creature. However, despite what the legends say, there may be a way to destroy it. It may be necessary to hunt down the Baykok to its lair deep in the forest, confront it, and break its brittle bones to splinters with a heavy bludgeon (a flanged mace works best). Then, the remains of the creature (every single fragment) should be gathered up and placed in a pile of dry wood, and then salted and thoroughly soaked in gasoline or lighter fluid. Then, a lit match should be thrown onto the pile, igniting it. The fire should be constantly fed until nothing remains of the Baykok except for ashes. If luck holds out, this should permanently destroy the creature and prevent it from ever rising again. However, be aware that this is only a theory, and has never actually been tested.
Is the Baykok still feared today? Quite possibly. Even if cultures die out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the horrors of the night that they feared die out with them. Although reports of encounters with this creature are very rare in this day and age, hikers in the woods still go missing with alarming frequency. Who is to say that at least some of these disappearances are not the work of the Baykok? And even more disturbing is that the remains of many hikers are never found. This points to one possible conclusion: that the Baykok lives, and it still hungers for the taste of human flesh…
Blackman, W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Monsters: Everything You Need To Know About Encountering Over 100 Terrifying Creatures In The Wild. New York: Three Rivers Press. Copyright ©1998 by W. Haden Blackman.
Brown, Nathan Robert. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies. New York: Alpha Books. Copyright ©2010 by Nathan Robert Brown.