It was the smell that first put his hackles up. A pungent, sweet smell of rot and decay. It was faint at first, but his body knew that there was reason to be wary. His brain did not. It quickly grew stronger, and he found himself inhaling deeply, pulling the smell inside his head where he could tumble it and smooth the edges. But it wouldn't smooth. It grew more pungent and, gradually, he came to realize that something was drastically wrong.
He was struck by an urge to turn around and head back to the cabin. Pretend he had never smelled it. Pretend he didn't care, that morbid curiosity didn't compel him to keep walking, keep sniffing. Some deeply buried part of his lizard brain was taking over. He could feel it happening. He wanted to rut the smell out. He wanted to roll in it until he was a part of it, and it was a part of him.
Still, beneath this curiosity there was a growing terror. He knew that whatever he found would demand action. There would be phone calls to make. The whole day would be burned into his memory. It would become something he dreamed about. Something that lived inside him. He wondered briefly if the smell itself would make him ill, corrupt him. Scramble the wires in him.
He was so focused on the smell, that he didn't hear the shuffling sounds - the reordering of dead leaves. It wasn't until a branch snapped that he realized he wasn't alone, and by then it was too late. He had time only to think, "I should have turned the fuck around and went back to the cabin." Then, there was a flash of pain, the sound of bone rending.
And he became part of the smell.