Tag Archives: woods

In the Woods. Short Story.

Josh reached a large outcrop of rocks, feeling a little hungry and tired he sat on one and took his lunch from his bag. It was nothing fancy, just a sandwich, a thermos full of tea and a bag of crisps. He ate slowly, enjoying the view and the warm sun on his back. The trail he was walking was easy enough but he was still struggling a little, he wasn’t used to much exercise these days. He looked at the mountains and forest that stretched out before him, he snapped a quick photo with his phone maybe if he could show Melissa how beautiful it was out here she’d be more inclined to join him. Once he finished he tidied away his things and started walking again, the trail should take him another two or three hours depending on how often he had to stop for breaks.

He never realised how loud the city was until he was out here, it was so peaceful without the constant rumble of traffic, the screaming and shouting, the thick smell of car exhaust. Out here he could hear birds chirping to one another, the rustle of the wind through the trees. It really was beautiful, even though he was feeling a little tired he felt strangely invigorated. There was something about being out here, alone with nature, it felt, good, right.

Josh pulled his phone from his pocket, he opened the text from Melissa, “Looks beautiful! Hope you’re having fun xxx” he typed out a quick response and started to put his phone back into his pocket, it slipped from his fingers, landed on the ground then bounced into the bushes. Fuck. He chased after his phone, which had slid down a small hill. He could just see it’s screen glinting in the sunlight. Cursing to himself he made his way down the hill, it was steeper than he expected and he almost slipped twice. Finally he picked up his phone and started wiping it off. Somehow the screen wasn’t cracked and it seemed mostly unharmed with only a few scratches and dents. He looked up the hill, it really was much steeper than it looked coming down, he was lucky he didn’t fall and break his neck. He started to climb it, but a few feet up the soil became loose beneath his feet sending him sliding backwards, he wasn’t going to be able to climb the hill. He looked around for a moment, he knew where the trail was, he just had to walk parallel to it until the hill dipped a little and he could climb back up. He started walking, as he went he kept his head down to watch where he was going, the last thing he needed was a root or branch to snag his ankle. He was almost in the bushes when he noticed that they weren’t just bushes, they were thick brambles with sharp thorns. The hill was still too steep and he couldn’t see where the brambles stopped but they couldn’t last forever. He could go around them easily enough and circle back.

Josh wiped some sweat from his forehead, the brambles were blocking off more and more the further he went, they were growing up the small hill and blocking any path back to the trail. He knew he just had to keep going but he was starting to get frustrated. It had been such a nice day out until he dropped his damn phone and since then things were just getting worse and worse. He stood for a moment, debating his options, he could continue trying to skirt these brambles, or he could go deeper into the woods and have a clearer path. He turned and moved into the woods, it was the fastest way to get back to the path.

Josh paused, had he heard something? It sounded like something large falling into a bush. After a few seconds he started to walk again, it was probably just some animals looking for food. He moved back towards the direction of the path, he’d been walking through the woods for a good twenty minutes now, there was no way the brambles would extend this far. He was starting to feel a little better, after all this was just a short detour and the view, though limited, was still nice. A breeze blew through the trees bringing with it the scent of sweetness, Josh breathed deeply and smiled.

Had he gotten turned around? Josh spun slowly in a circle, he thought he was walking back to the path but he’d been walking for almost ten minutes and he should have come across the brambles or the path by now. He turned and started retracing his steps, it was this way, right? He stopped. No, it was the other way. “Fuck!” why had he spun around like that? He’d gotten himself all mixed up. Josh spotted a tree and smiled triumphantly, he recognised that tree, he’d seen it only a few minutes ago, it had a reddish moss growing on it. OK, good, great, that was the way he came, he could just go back that way and it would bring him to the path. He felt a faint thread of unease in his stomach as he started to walk.

Half an hour later Josh stopped walking, he had to admit it now, he was lost. He had managed to get himself turned around somewhere, feeling a pit of dread in his stomach he pulled out his phone. It was going to be so mortifying to call for a rescue, but at this point he didn’t see what his options were, he couldn’t just traipse around the forest and hope to run across someone after all. He unlocked his phone, well that was just great. He’d no signal, of course he didn’t have any god damned signal. He took a slow breath, he just had to think this through. He had been going downhill, there were trees and mountains around it had to be blocking his signal, he just had to get higher, that was all. To his left the land sloped gently upwards, Josh started walking.

Three hours later and he still had no signal, he had tried yelling for help about two hours back but all that got him was a hoarse and dry throat. He didn’t want to drink his water too quickly, he had brought two litres of it and some tea but he didn’t know how long he’d be out here. He had to start thinking properly, he couldn’t afford to make any mistakes again. To his right he heard a branch snap, Josh turned and saw a man standing in the trees. “Oh thank god. Hi, can you help me? I’ve gotten a bit lost out here.” The man nodded, Josh started walking towards him. “I’m so lucky I ran into you, god only knows how long I’d have been stuck out here, I’m not getting any signal on my phone. If you could just direct me back to the path that would be great.” Josh stopped, the man hadn’t moved at all since that first nod and now that Josh was looking at him properly something was off. He wasn’t dressed for hiking or exercise, he wore a pair of suit trousers and a grey shirt. He looked younger than Josh had first though too, he looked to be in his mid-twenties, with a round, wide face. The man smiled at Josh, “Don’t worry, I can help.” his voice sounded strange, like it was coming from far away. Josh smiled and started walking towards the man again, he was just being silly, besides he needed help and it wasn’t like he was going to run into anyone else out here. When Josh reached him he stuck out his hand, “I’m Josh.”
“Fred.” His grip was firm and warm, Josh noticed he wasn’t wearing any shoes.
“What trail were you on?”
“I was on the green one, starting in the west car park, it’s supposed to loop around.”
“Wow, you really have gotten yourself turned around, you’re practically on the other side of the park, how long have you been out here?”
“about three or four hours since I left the trail.”
Fred shook his head, “Rule number one man, don’t leave the trail.”
“I know, I know. I dropped my phone down a hill and went after it, then I couldn’t get back up because the soil was too loose. I tried to get back but brambles were blocking me then I managed to get myself turned around.”
“It happens, easy to do out here if you’re not used to it. You’re lucky you ran into me, there’s nothing in the direction your going for miles. Assuming you kept a straight line and didn’t end up going in circles you’d have been out here for five or six days before you reached another trail.”
“Wow yeah.”
“C’mon lets get going, we should reach the trail and get you home before dark.”

Josh took a swig from his water bottle, “can we take a break for a second, just so I can get my breath back?”
“Sure, no problem, we’re almost there.”
Josh drank another mouthful of water, Fred leaned against a nearby tree and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, “You want one?”
“No thanks.”
“Yeah I don’t blame you. I don’t smoke all that often though, hard to get them out here.”
“Do you live in the woods?”
Fred chuckled, “No, not quite. I don’t make trips into the city all that often though, try to avoid buying them when I do. I mostly go in for shopping, get some food.” he smiled at Josh, “sometimes I get lucky though and the food brings itself to me.” he lunged at Josh, Josh yelped and dropped his water bottle, before he could do anything else Fred slammed into him, dragging him to the ground. Josh felt something hot splash across his legs, there was a deep heat coming from his stomach a second later the pain came and he started screaming. Fred stood and tucked the knife back into the back of his trousers, “Scream all you like.” He bent over and grabbed Josh by the legs then he began to drag him through the woods.

The Only Choice. Flash Fiction.

John walked through the streets, he was the only one out. The midday sun shone down on him, the heat making beads of sweat pop out on his forehead. He glanced at a house as he passed, they, like the others, had their shades drawn, no one peeked outside. No one would look to see who had been chosen, no one ever did. The town was eerily quiet, not even birds sang from the trees, nor was there a breeze to rustle the branches. It felt like the entire town was holding its breath, waiting for that moment of sweet release. John carried nothing with him, he wore the old jeans and the ragged t-shirt he had thrown on that morning, there were a few things he needed to do around the apartment, assemble those shelves from Ikea, give the walls of the office a lick of paint. It was all sitting out in his apartment still waiting for him to start. He would never see any of it again. Up ahead he could see the trees above the buildings he was close to the forest now. He wanted to slow a little, to dawdle and spend more time taking in the town, but he was compelled to walk forward.

He walked between the trees and into the cool shade, he moved through the forest, the only noises were the crunch of leaves and the occasional snap of twigs as he walked. He could feel a pressure building up around him, pressing in on him from all sides. He reached the river faster than he expected, it looked different somehow, but he couldn’t figure out why. He quickly stripped from his clothes and waded into the river, enjoying the refreshingly cold water against his skin. He quickly splashed water over himself, washing away the worst of the sweat and dirt that had accumulated through the day. Once that was done he walked out of the river on the other side, leaving his clothes behind.

Though he walked through the woods barefoot, he didn’t cut himself, nor did he need to pay attention to where he was going, his body knew and still he felt that pressure building and building. Finally he reached a small clearing, in the centre of it was a man sitting on a tree stump. The mans face was bland, nothing about it made him stand out, however from his head sprouted two large twisting antlers that reached up towards the sky. John stopped walking about two feet from the man.
“You came.”
“Did I have a choice?”
“There is always a choice.”
And just like that the pressure seemed to evaporate, he could control himself again, he wanted to turn and run but he couldn’t. He knew what would happen if he did.
“Will it hurt?”
The man shrugged, “I imagine so but I can’t say for sure.”
“I never thought I would see a God. You’re shorter than I expected.”
The man grinned, it was a friendly grin, and stood. John moaned, he couldn’t help it, the man seemed to take a long time to stand, his body stretching upwards and widening. Then it all snapped back and the man was sitting again. John was shaking uncontrollably. “I try to make it easier for you. This doesn’t have to be difficult.”
John didn’t say anything.

The man lunged forward, his mouth growing impossibly large, in one bite John was gone. The man chewed for a moment, his mouth and cheeks slowly shrinking until they were normal again. He belched, then stood from the stump he was sitting on. He walked a few steps and a slight breeze picked up, as though the forest was exhaling. The branches of the trees shook in the breeze, throwing their shadows over the man. As the shadows touched him he began to shift and change and as the breeze died he was simply gone. Back in the town people began to emerge from their homes, faces turned towards the cooling breeze and as one they breathed a sigh of relief, it was done for another year.

The Delivery. Short Story.

Doug pulled the body from the back of the car, he let it drop to the ground with a heavy thud. He grabbed it by the legs and dragged the body into the middle of the clearing, he looked at the trees nervously then quickly went back to the car. The sun was setting, it would be night soon. In the car he turned up the radio and waited.

He didn’t see it, but he could hear it, tearing and ripping its way through the body. He kept his eyes focused on the steering wheel the entire time. He continued to wait after the noise died down, around him the trees rustled and whispered to one another. He took a deep breath then stepped out of the car, he had done this many times before, but still he feared the creature would attack him. He moved around the car and into the clearing, there he shone his torch over the patch where the body had been. Dark glistening patches covered the ground, there was no sign of the body, no bones, no skin, nothing but splashes of blood and that dark liquid. Satisfied the body was gone he hurried back to the car. Once inside he locked the doors and began to drive. He had never seen the creature and anyone who had wouldn’t talk about it much, the most he could ever get out of them was a simple, “you don’t want to know. I still get nightmares.” Doug took them at their word.
As he left the woods he felt himself relax a little, he had always hated them. Growing up nearby his childhood was full of stories about them, about the things that lurked inside. Even as children they were forbidden to enter, every now and then a child would disobey. When he was a child it was a young boy named Evan. He was a loner, never really made friends with the other children. He would spend his evenings playing at the edge of the forest, climbing trees, catching bugs. He had even started to build a little fort in one of the trees, though when the parents found out they tore it down themselves. He went missing a week later, it looked as though he had been trying to rebuild his fort, this time he had moved it a little deeper into the woods. Doug had heard that they had found a mangled hammer at the base of the tree and that was the only trace of him that was ever found. Even now as an adult he hated the place, even though the few overgrown roads were supposed to be safe enough. As he drove he swore he could see things looking at him from the dark shadows, quick glimpses caught in his headlights as he drove by. He didn’t look too closely, nor did he slow down. Bobby, the man he replaced, told him of the things in the woods that would try to lure him from his car, beautiful women that beckoned to him, the sound of children crying or screaming. Doug always made sure to have the radio as loud as he could stand it. Once or twice he caught sight of someone standing just beyond the trees, he could have sworn that one of them was his father, though his father had been dead for the last fifteen years.

The trees started to thin a little, something darted across the road, his didn’t slow, nor did he stop as he drove over something, he didn’t look in his mirror. What ever it was he didn’t want to know. The creatures that lived here were clever things, on more than one occasion he had seen a small bundle lying in the middle of the road, they always looked like small babies, wrapped in old, faded cloth.

As he pulled onto the main road he felt himself relax and he lowered the radio a little, the road itself was empty of other cars, most of the people in the city didn’t like to be out here after dark, strange things could happen. He knew he was safe enough, they had never directly attacked his car or anyone who was dropping off a corpse, but still the fear remained. They were animals after all, and sometimes instinct was too strong.

He pulled into his driveway and sat for a moment, he turned off the car and stepped out into the cool night air. He moved around his car with the torch, looking for any damage, there was none. He bent over and peered under the car, torch light shaking in his unsteady hands, there was nothing there. He stood up again and moved towards his door. What ever that thing was it had stayed in the woods. He let out a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding, sometimes the stress didn’t seem worth the money, but it was an easy enough job and someone had to do it. He liked to think of it as a public service, that it helped keep the creatures satisfied, a tribute to them in return for staying in their woods. He didn’t know who the people were, he didn’t care, they were already corpses when they came to him and he was fine with it once he didn’t have to do the killing himself. He unlocked his door and went inside, there he kicked off his shoes and continued on to the kitchen, turning on lights as he went. In the kitchen he opened the fridge and grabbed out a beer, he opened it and downed it in a few gulps, then he grabbed another, opening it as he let out a loud belch. He took a sip of the second one, feeling some of the tension ooze out of him as the first beer got to work. He went into the sitting room and sat down heavily on the couch, it was small but it was just him in the house, he flicked on the TV and found something to watch, a comedy, these days he watched little else.

Laketon. Short Story.

“I’m dead and I have been for a long time. Before we begin properly I really need you to understand what that means. I have not seen friends or family, I do not know what they look like now, I don’t know how they’re living their lives. I don’t even know if they still live in the same city, but I know they had a funeral for me. I know they mourned for me. I left on the day I died. You might think it’s overkill, hell I even wondered that myself when it happened, but you’ll see. You’re new to all this, aren’t you? Have you seen them yet?”
“Seen who?”
The man chuckled and shook his head, “You’ll know them when you see them. It’s none of that men in black suits bullshit, they look like regular people but they’re not. You won’t notice it at first, but as time goes on you’ll be able to spot them. They move oddly, they don’t seem to eat, they tend to stare for just a little too long before they blink. I’ve seen groups of them in a restaurant with full plates of food, they move their forks around, it’s almost like they’re pretending to eat like in a movie. You’ve talked to one or two people so far, but the more interest you show in what happened, the more interest they’ll show in you.” The man took a drink from his coke and set it back on the diner table, “You won’t know my name, someone will probably be able to figure it out eventually, but I’ve taken steps. I’ve changed how I look, I’ve taken great pains to disappear, but I think they know where I am. They’ve been content to leave me alone for the most part, I think because they know I’m scared.”

He took a deep breath, then shook his head. “Sorry, I’m rambling. Ok. I’m going to start at the beginning.

It was Stephens idea to go camping, he loved camping, always spending time in the woods and trying to convince us to come with. That weekend we were all free so we decided fuck it, why not? It had been a while since we had all gotten together properly and had a laugh. The plan was simple, grab a few tents and some food, a couple of beers, maybe a few joints and Stephen would help us with all the outdoorsy stuff. We arrived early enough and started out, the hike was longer than I expected it to be, and I was in worse shape than I thought. All of us were really, except Stephen, he was laughing and joking the entire way, trying to keep up morale. When we got to the camp site he chose we were all tired, but we took a short break and got everything set up with minimal fuss. The weather was nice out, sunny and warm but not too hot. The night was supposed to be cool, but not cold. We all had our jobs to do, get fire wood, help set up the tents, that kind of stuff. Nothing too interesting happened really, it was just a normal day. That night, after we had a few beers and smoked a few of the joints I had to take a piss. So I left the camp and started walking. I always needed a bit of privacy to go, if there were people around I just couldn’t. I made sure to keep an eye on the fire and what direction I was going in so I wouldn’t get lost. One of the others, I’m not sure who, called out they’d send a search party if I wasn’t back in ten minutes. It didn’t take me long to find a good spot.

I was finishing up when I looked up at the sky, it was a clear night and there were so many stars out, it was beautiful, I’d never seen anything like it. Most of the time if you looked up you’d see a couple of stars, and even then they were most likely satellites. I don’t know how long I was looking up at the sky, it was kind of hard to keep track of time at that point, but then I noticed something. A sudden burst of light to my left. I looked out and could see it over the trees, it looked like light pollution for a town or city, but I knew that couldn’t be it. Stephen had guided us out here and said there wasn’t anything around for miles and miles. Whatever it was was close. I moved my way through the trees, until I came to a ridge, and I saw it. A town. It was so close but there was no noise of traffic, nothing. Just silence. I didn’t notice the quiet at first because I started to laugh. Stephen always bragged about being an experienced outdoors man and he had managed to get us all turned around. I was looking forward to making a few jokes at his expense.

I found my way back to the campsite easily enough. I sat down and waited for a moment, finally it came and I casually asked about the town. Stephen got a weird look on his face and he told me there wasn’t any town or village anywhere near us. I started laughing then, I made a few jokes though I don’t really remember them. He was so insistent that I must have imagined it that I stood up and told him to follow me.

We stood on the ridge, Stephen was staring in disbelief, the others were cracking more jokes. Stephen hadn’t said anything since we got to the ridge, he looked at us, his eyes were slightly wide with fear and he asked why there wasn’t any sound. The others didn’t seem to take much notice of that, they shrugged it off, it was late, the town wasn’t terribly large, everything had probably shut down. But I could see cars sitting on the roads, they weren’t moving, but they weren’t parked up either. One of the others suggested that we go and check it out. I felt a little  scared, but I figured we’d be safe enough, probably just some small backwards town where everything closed at sundown. Stephen didn’t really want to go, which I found strange, he was always the brave one, pushing us all forward. As we made our way down the ridge he trailed along behind all of us. He didn’t say anything, but I could feel the unease from him. It was around this point that I realised that Stephen and I were by far the soberest in the group. The others had practically started drinking and smoking as soon as camp was set up. As we got closer I could feel it, something heavy in the air. The guys ahead were being too loud, too disruptive. I kept trying to get them to quiet down, I told them that we didn’t want to get hassled by any cops out here, but really I just didn’t want them breaking that heavy, oppressive quiet.

It didn’t take us long to reach the outskirts and everything seemed normal at first. Houses with blinds closed but lights on, cars parked in driveways. As we went I felt more and more uneasy, even the guys had started to keep it down. They stopped making stupid jokes and were talking in half whispers. We had also started to walk in more of a group formation, pulling in closer to one another, whereas before we were spread out.

It was when we reached a group of shops that we saw what was really wrong with the town. There were cars in the road, with drivers sitting up behind the wheels but not moving, there were people inside the restaurant, frozen mid-bite. At first I thought they were wax dummies, the others seemed to agree. We looked around for a little bit, but I was really starting to freak out. I approached one of the cars and gently tapped on the window, the person inside didn’t move and I started to feel a bit silly. Obviously they were just wax, it was some weird new amusement or something. But then I noticed that the wax dummy was breathing, her chest was moving up and down so slowly I had almost missed it. The other two didn’t want to go, they wanted to stay and explore, take pictures for the internet, after all we were the first people to get a look at this. I tried to tell them about the breathing but they dismissed it. Me and Stephen eventually convinced them we should get out, that there had to be security in a weird place like this and we didn’t want to get caught. We turned and started to go back the way we came. We had gone maybe ten feet before there was a high pitched whine in the air, we all winced and covered our ears. I turned to look for the source and saw that the people were starting to move. Slow, repetitive and jerky, but they were moving. I felt like my breath caught in my throat, I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. The others hadn’t noticed yet, I wanted to call out, to warn them. That’s when I saw her. She was about average height with long brown hair and white skin. She looked normal enough but there was something off about her. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it was in the way she moved, like she was still learning how. The noise stopped as suddenly as it began and we could all hear her footsteps, heavy and kind of dragging. There were noises, snippets of music coming from the restaurant, a weird mechanical rumble from the cars. Like everything was stuttering and trying to start properly. The others had spotted her too, one of the guys raised his hand, he was about to call out to her but Stephen grabbed him. I could barely hear the scuffle over the sudden noise, but she had heard it. Her head whipped around. We could all feel it, that heavy gaze. She shouted something at us, but none of us could make out what she was saying. We all turned and ran.

The entire town seemed to be waking up and I knew with absolute certainty that we needed to get out before that happened. We were at the outskirts when everything finally started again. I was the last one out, behind the others, making sure no one tripped though they seemed to have sobered up considerably. I felt this awful, piercing pain in my head, it was like my head was in a vice that was trying to break open my skull. I kept running and the pain became worse, it was blinding. A few minutes later I came to, I was being half carried and half dragged by the others. I had passed out at some point and had thrown up on myself. The others were pale and shaky, but I had seemed to have gotten the worst of whatever it was. I could still feel it as we walked, though the further away we got the less it hurt.

We got back to our campsite and quickly packed, starting the trek back to the car. When we got home we tried doing some googling, to find out anything about the town, but there was nothing, nothing at all. It didn’t exist. We figured it was just some weird government thing, they couldn’t of known who we were so we figured we were in the clear.

Then we started seeing them. More people like that woman, they looked normal but there was just something off about them. I died two weeks after that camping trip. We were going away again, it had been planned for months. Stephen was driving, we were supposed to go across the country for two months, see what there was to see. I wasn’t feeling great, I was jumpy and nervous since I had seen that damn town. The others seemed to have moved past it better than I had. The other two had taken to saying that it wasn’t that bad, that we had just been too drunk and high and we had half imagined most of it anyway.

I cancelled going on the trip that morning. They drove to my house to convince me to go. Stephen even loaded up my half packed bag and everything, but I refused. They got a little pissy with me, not that I blame them. They drove off, my bag still in the car, there had been a bit of an argument and we had all forgotten about it. It was an hour later that I realised my phone had been in the bag, it wasn’t anything special, I was never big on carrying a phone around anyway. I figured I’d just pick up something cheap the next time I was out shopping.

I saw the news report a few hours later. The car had been in a pile up, no survivors. They could barely even identify the passengers of Stephens car. Mostly it was down to guess work. There were four of us that were supposed to go on the trip, there were four bodies. I was still in shock, the cameraman panned over the mangled wreckage of cars and I could see them, every emergency personnel there gave off that vibe, that they weren’t really people. It was then that I knew I had to run. It sounds crazy, even after everything that happened, but I could just feel it. I didn’t want anyone else in danger, so I didn’t tell anyone.

I don’t know for sure who that fourth person was, but I have a suspicion. There was a hitchhiker in the area, around our age, looked kinda like me, same height and everything. We were all kind of friends in that we’d always pick him up if we saw him hitching. I think he was the fourth body. I don’t know if they knew it was him at the time, I don’t even know if they know it now. They know it wasn’t me though. I was able to hide for a few years before I saw another one of them. They spotted me, their eyes never leaving me as I ran. The story broke not long after. It’s weird. I could see it happening on the news, the way the story shifted and changed. Do you remember the absolute panic in the early days? The droves of people that went out there looking for their loved ones? No? Of course you don’t. No one really does, but it’s out there if you look. Footage that’s floating around on the internet, photos. Little bits and pieces that were missed out in the clean-up. They’ve left me alone for the most part now that they see everyone is buying it. But I can’t go back, not now, after all this time. How could I even explain it to my family? I’m trusting you here, that you’ll be able to tell my story, but screw it up a bit more, change the details. I only named Stephen as it was his car that crashed and everyone knew he never let anyone else drive that car of his, even though it was a bit of a shitbox.”

The man took another drink from his coke, this time draining the glass. He reached across the table and shook hands with the man sitting across from him. “I’m not going to see you again. I’m not going to answer any questions. Good luck, you’re going to need it.” He slid from the booth and walked out of the diner.

The man sitting at the table, turned off his small recorder. He took another sip from his coffee. If he had this meeting two months ago, hell even a month ago, he would have dismissed it all as the ramblings of a mad man. He looked out the window and a man sitting on the bench across the road caught his eye. He wasn’t sure why at first, the man looked normal enough, grey suit, newspaper in hand. It took him a minute to spot what was wrong. The man was turning the pages of his newspaper every ten seconds. He watched as the man finished it, then opened it from the front and started again.

He shook his head and smiled to himself, he was just on edge, that was all. When he glanced at the man again the man was looking right at him, his eyes flat and emotionless. As he watched the man continued to turn the pages every ten seconds. Not even looking down. He stood from the small booth, not bothering to finish his coffee, he threw some money on the table, enough for what was ordered and a tip and he quickly left the diner. As he walked he kept glancing behind himself, expecting to see the man with the newspaper following him, still turning pages, but there was no one there.

No Good Deed. Short Story.

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday!

Unfortunately I’m a bit under the weather at the moment (actually everyone here seems to be, be warned for this is a house of sickness. Maybe we should throw a red cross up on the door to warn people away.) I’m hoping I’ll be back to full health in a few days, thankfully the worst of it seems to be over! My nose has stopped dripping like a leaky tap and my head feels like the vice has only been tightened a little bit rather than all the way. As an aside, can we just take a minute to appreciate whoever invented Solpadine? My hat goes off to you, wherever and whoever you are!

Hope everyone else is doing well and is having a wonderful time!
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No Good Deed.

Deborah looked up at the sky, she loved the stars at night, millions of them all shining at once, she always had, but they weren’t much comfort tonight. She was huddled against a tree, shivering slightly. It was a cold night and she was tired, too tired to run any longer. Her legs ached steadily and she knew they would be cramping horribly tomorrow, assuming she lived that long. Somewhere a branch snapped and her breath caught in her throat. She slowly eased out the breath, then inhaled just as slowly. Mentally she cursed at herself again, why had she been so stupid? She hadn’t been thinking, she had just run, she had thought that trees would provide cover and protection, but he had followed her. She had kept going until everything looked the same and she was hopelessly lost. Every time she moved forward she remembered the first rule of being lost, stop and wait for someone to find you, but then that was the danger, wasn’t it?

She had been driving to her boyfriends, a normally pleasant enough drive, when she came across the man lying at the side of the road. She pulled over and got out of her car, she was careful to keep some distance as she called out, “Hello? Are you ok?” there was no response. As she moved closer she realised that the man wasn’t breathing. She turned to go back to the car, to her phone, and froze. Another man was standing between her and her car, he was grinning at her, his grin was wide and jovial but his eyes were flat and dark. “You startled me. That man over there, I think he’s in trouble, I was just about to call for help.” She hadn’t heard another car pulling up, she hadn’t seen another when she had stopped either. The man nodded, “Yes, I saw him too.” His voice sent shivers up her spine. She needed to keep him talking, another car could come by any second. He looked her up and down, his eyes examining every inch, “Do you have your phone with you?” Deborah nodded once, “Yes, I wanted to move out of the road, in case someone came speeding by. People come up and down this road all the time, usually going pretty fast too. They’d be on you before you realised it.” She thought she was babbling but she couldn’t stop, she was too afraid. He shrugged, “You’d be surprised how lonely this stretch of road can be, especially now.”
“I guess. I wouldn’t be too worried though, my boyfriend is expecting me soon, so if anything happened I know he’d call someone or come check on me.”
“Oh, you’ve a boyfriend? How nice. Tell me, are you one of those good women who keeps her purity? Or one of those floozy’s who spreads her legs at every opportunity.”
Deborah’s heart was hammering in her chest. She couldn’t show she was afraid, she needed to be confident. She needed to get to her car. She moved slightly to the left, he shifted with her. “I don’t think that is an appropriate thing to say to someone.”
He smiled at her, “So you’re one of those whores? I get it, you just don’t want to admit it. Or maybe you’re just shy and virginal.” She shivered as he said virginal, the way he leered over the word made her feel dirty, soiled, his voice sounded wet as he said it, almost as though he was salivating. “There isn’t anyone around here for miles you know. Even if your boyfriend is expecting you it would take him a while to notice you were missing.”
“That man over there needs help, do you know CPR? I’ll dial 911, maybe you could check for a heartbeat?” She needed to distract him, but his eyes never left her.
“Oh, don’t worry about him. He’s not going anywhere. How can he? He’s a mannequin after all.” Deborah felt coldness flooding through her. She had to get to the car. She had left the keys in the ignition, if she could just get there she could lock the doors and drive away. She could make a run for it, try to duck around him. Her eyes moved to her car, it was just a quick glance, but he caught it. He held up a set of keys, “Oh, I wouldn’t if I were you. I made sure to grab these while you were distracted.” The entire time they had spoken that smile had never left his face. It felt like she had been standing on this road for hours. He took a step closer, “I’m a fast runner too, who knows. Maybe you’re faster. I like a good chase.” He winked at her and Deborah ran.

Her only thought was escape, the road was long and straight, she’d be able to run on it easily, but then so could he. There was nowhere to hide and he was right, it could be a while before another car came along. The woods were her best chance.

Deborah wrapped her arms around her knees, trying to keep herself warm. Somewhere in the darkness she could hear someone yelling, though she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Part of her wanted to run towards the voice, though she knew that would be a mistake. She lowered her head to her knees, whoever it was they were far away and their voice was fading. If it was that psycho he was moving further away.

Deborah woke with a start, at some point she had fallen asleep. Her entire body was stiff and sore and she was covered in scratches she hadn’t noticed the night before. Slowly she stretched and stood, trying to work out the stiffness. As she did she looked around herself, making sure no one could sneak up on her. There was no sign of anyone. Part of her felt relief, but at the same time she knew she was in trouble. She had no experience with the outdoors, she didn’t even know what direction she should be heading in. How big were these woods? After all she had only ever driven through them and it felt like she had run for miles the night before. After a moment’s hesitation she started walking.

About two hours later she had found a road, she didn’t recognise where she was but the road looked like it was well maintained. That was good, it meant people used it. She moved back into the trees, using them as cover. She heard a car coming and she stood, getting ready to wave them down, then she stopped. What if it was him? He had to get into the woods somehow, she didn’t know where he was, it could be him driving towards her. The sound of the engine was getting louder, she needed to make a decision. She took several breaths and stepped out to the side of the road.

Deborah was crying silently in the passenger seat, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The woman beside her kept reassuring her it was ok, that she was safe, and she knew the woman was right, but part of Deborah was afraid she’d wake up and find herself sitting in the woods again, that the man would be standing over her, leering, and then he’d pounce.

Into the Woods. Short Story.

Stephanie shivered, it was getting dark and she was getting cold. Bruce had told her to wait here, but he was supposed to be back hours ago. He had promised her he would be back before dark and they’d find somewhere safe to bunk for the night. She took a slow breath, she needed to stay calm. He was probably just delayed, or maybe he needed some time to himself. They had been arguing more and more lately, though that was to be expected. Maybe Bruce was right, maybe she was spoiled. They had been sleeping outside for the last few weeks and she was getting sick of it, and she let him know. It had been an argument that was building for a while now. They both needed to blow off steam. She knew she was right though, and Bruce would see things her way soon. It was getting too cold to be sleeping outside, if they weren’t careful they could easily freeze to death, or worse, be caught. At least if they were in a house they’d hear someone breaking in, it’d be a bit warmer and they could plan a few escape routes. Outside like this they were vulnerable, they could be surrounded and she didn’t know why Bruce couldn’t, or wouldn’t see that.

Stephanie was getting nervous, shapes started appearing in the gloom, what once were trees became menacing figures, bushes became crouching forms. She knew she was on edge from the week before when she had almost been caught. She had stupidly allowed herself to get cornered by some feral looking kids, it was only through blind luck that she was able to get away.

It was fully dark now and Stephanie had moved to the trees. Where she had been felt too exposed. Here she could wait for Bruce and make sure it was really him before revealing herself. Maybe he wasn’t coming back. She pushed the thought away, no, he had to be. They had already been through so much together. Besides he was the only one she knew from Before. She knew she could trust him and he knew he could trust her. It was the only way to survive out here.

Stephanie snapped awake, at some point she had dozed off. The day was beginning to start, dawn giving light to the dark world. There was still no sign of Bruce, no evidence that he had been here at all. How long could she afford to wait? It had been two days since she had last eaten, she’d need to find something soon. Bruce had been the one to suggest the forest. He had come here every year as a child and he knew what was and wasn’t safe to eat. Without him she was lost here. She froze as someone stumbled into the clearing, her heart started beating faster. It was him, it had to be. The figure was moving slowly, weaving slightly as though drunk with one arm clasped tightly around his stomach. She watched as he fell against the tree stump she had been sitting on. Every part of her screamed to run and help Bruce, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t safe. The figure groaned, a weak noise, barely heard over the rustling of the leaves. She still couldn’t tell if it was Bruce, whoever it was seemed to be badly injured, she could probably get closer without being in too much danger. Unless it was a trap, designed to lure her out. Carefully she stood and started moving.

She had circled around the clearing, trying to move as quietly as possible. She had made some noise but the figure didn’t notice, she wasn’t sure if he was even still conscious. She saw no one else, no signs that any one was preparing to attack her. She studied the figure, she needed to make a decision, she had wasted enough time already. Stephanie took a deep breath then stood and strode into the clearing. Her heart thudded wildly in her chest but she needed to appear strong, confident. She stood a few feet away, she could make out features now that she was closer, it wasn’t Bruce.
“Who are you?”
There was no response. Was he conscious? She leaned in a little closer, his breathing was shallow, weak. She could see the blood now, it had run through his fingers, soaked into his clothes. If he was faking he was doing a damn good job. She kicked his foot, almost gently, there was no response. She leaned a little closer and reached out slowly, ready to snatch her hand back if she needed. Stephanie grabbed his shoulder and shook. He felt cold and thin, the baggy clothes hid how emaciated he really was. He groaned but didn’t open his eyes. She glanced around then squatted beside him, carefully she pulled his hand away. The wound was ragged and deep, it needed stitches at the very least and was probably already infected.
“Hey, can you hear me?”
His head moved slightly, almost bobbing up and down.
“What happened to you?”
Silence. She needed to get him talking, make sure he was awake. Or was it sleep that he needed? She sighed in frustration, she was way out of her depth.

A few hours later he was bandaged, she had used one of her t-shirts. He still hadn’t said much of anything, just random words and gibberish, though now his forehead felt hot to the touch and he was sweating heavily. She had managed to give him some water, tiny little sips that seemed as though they were making no difference.

He opened his eyes ,they were wide, fearful and a deep shade of blue. Stephanie rested her hand on his shoulder, “It’s ok, you’re safe here. What happened to you?”
“Stabbed.”
“By who?”
“I don’t know. It happened really fast.”
He took a sip of water, Stephanie had to pull it away from him before he downed the entire bottle.

He frowned at her, “Are you Stephanie?”
a ball of dread formed in her stomach, “Yeah.”
“I was with Bruce when we were attacked. I don’t think he got away. I didn’t look, I just kept going. He told me about you, about his plan.”
“Oh?”
“Yeah.” He closed his eyes and took a slow breath, “I’m in a bad way. I don’t think there’s going to be any coming back from this.”
“You’ll be fine, you just need to rest a little.”
“No, they’ll be coming. Sooner or later. They know which way I went, you need to get moving. Leave me here.”
“I can’t do it by myself, I don’t know anything about surviving out here. Bruce was supposed to teach me, we were supposed to be out here together.”
He shook his head, “You’re going to have to learn quickly. I had a book. I don’t know where it is. I think I dropped it. It was for foraging, maybe you could find it.”
His breathing was getting heavy. The makeshift bandages were already soaked through with blood. He looked her over once, “You’ll be all right. You’ll survive.”

Stephanie went to the trees and took her backpack from its hiding spot. She needed to get moving. After he was dead she removed the bandage she had wrapped around him. It couldn’t look like anyone else helped. She searched through the woods, following his path, but there was no sign of a book. There was a library in town, was that where they had been caught? Maybe one of the bookstores on the outskirts. There, a flash of blue. She stooped down and pulled the book from the bushes. She turned off the path and started walking into the woods. She had some supplies, not many, but enough. She knew she could die out in the wilderness, but she was just as likely to die anywhere else these days. At least with the book she now had a fighting chance.

The Woods. Short Story.

Henry was walking through the woods when he noticed the strange spot on the tree. Just moments ago he had been lost in his own world, thinking about the fight he and Sarah had just had. He didn’t notice the tree root sticking out of the soil and he tripped, stumbled then grabbed onto a tree. He looked down at the root then shook his head slightly, heart still hammering. He should have been paying more attention. He knew better than to storm through the woods angrily. He could have tripped and broken his ankle, then where would he be? Stranded in the woods until he either dragged himself back or someone stumbled across him. Stupid. He had left his phone sitting on the kitchen counter, right beside his keys. He groaned, he’d have to knock on the door now so she could let him back in. Wouldn’t that be a laugh? He could always knock in to next door and ask for the spare, but then they’d know that he and Sarah had been fighting. If they didn’t know all ready. They had shouted a little, not a lot, but enough. He let go of the tree and stepped back, well, the entire point of getting out here was to calm himself down and it did seem to be working. Already he had forgotten about what had started the argument. It was probably something stupid, it always was when Sarah got like that. Picking fights for the sake of fighting. Usually Henry just kept out of her way when it happened, it seemed easier for everyone, but she had ambushed him when he came in from work.

Henry leaned against the tree again and took a few slow breaths, considering if he wanted to go to the pub for a pint or two. Not enough to get drunk, but enough to mellow him out a little and by the time he was done in an hour or so Sarah would have calmed herself down. It would solve the problem of getting back in. He could see it now, that look she got when she was sorry and didn’t really want to admit it, that embarrassed little half smile when she was ashamed by what she had done or said. He shook his head again, it was cute, but it was starting to grate on him. They needed to sit down and have a proper discussion about it all. He loved her, but he didn’t want to come home every day worried that she was going to blow up at him for no reason. He had suggested therapy for her before, for them both as well, maybe now was the time to insist upon it. It would be good for them to be able to talk things through calmly and rationally, without letting things simmer until they became too much. He stood, feeling better and turned. He paused, there was something strange on the tree to his left. He took a step closer. There was a dark red streak dribbling down the bark. Odd. Harry moved towards it, had someone started spray painting in the woods? If the kids started mucking about with graphiti it might get out of hand. But it didn’t look like paint. Not really. If anything it looked like sap, slightly shiny and almost solid. He reached out to touch it, but stopped before his fingers hit it. He bent over and picked up a stick, muttering to himself. It wasn’t a good idea to start touching random things in the woods. What if it was some kind of animal blood or some nasty chemicals or fungus? He prodded it with the stick, the stick sunk into it with a little resistance. He pulled it away dragging long, sticky strands of it with it. Huh. He brought the end of the stick to his nose and sniffed. Beneath the smell of damp wood there was a sweetness, a sweetness and a faint tang of something else. He looked up at the tree, Harry was pretty sure it was sap, but what kind of tree had red sap? Definitely none he knew about. He wasn’t quite sure what kind of tree it was, but it wasn’t exotic looking, there were other types of them all around him. Harry dropped the stick and looked around the ground for a rock, finally he found one that suited his purpose. Mostly rounded, but with a slight point, he studied the nearby trees and chose one that looked practically identical. He apologised to the tree, then realising what he had done and feeling a little foolish Henry brought the rock down on the bark, again and again until there was a small hole. Harry waited for a moment, watching a clear sap oozed from the hole. He looked back at the first tree. Maybe the sap wasn’t from the tree itself, maybe it was from something else? Some kind of fruit or berry that a bird was eating. He approached the tree and carefully hit it with the stone. If the tree did have red sap, that could mean there was something wrong with it and if there was something wrong with it, he didn’t want to get some weird, exotic infection. Besides that, it probably wouldn’t be all that great to return home with hands that were stained red.

When he was done he watched as the dark red sap began to dribble out of the hole, it almost looked as if the tree was bleeding. That smell, the one that had been underneath the sweetness filled the air, he recognised it now, coppery and with an unpleasant tang. It actually smelled like blood too. He picked up another stick and prodded at the sap, it was so bizarre. Part of him wanted to reach out and touch it, see if it had the same slippery yet sticky texture that blood had. He searched in his pockets for anything he could use to take a sample. He wasn’t sure where he could bring it for someone to have a look at, maybe the local council would know. If it was some weird tree disease he didn’t want it taking out the entire wooded area. Henry yelped and jumped backwards as something slithered against his ankle, still gripping the stick tightly he used it to prod at the leaves on the ground, after a second he stopped. What if it was a rat, it might attack him. He shuddered and let the stick fall to the ground. It was ok, he didn’t need to get a sample now. He knew where the tree was roughly and it wouldn’t be all that hard to find again. There was a kind of trail worn through the trees not too far away, he’d mark that with a few rocks to make it easy to find again. Plan firmly in place, Henry turned from the tree and began to walk. A second later he stumbled over an upturned root, this time he didn’t regain his balance. The wind was knocked out of him, he lay where he fell for a moment, trying to get his breath back, then he sat up and began to take stock of himself. His knees were a little sore, and his palms were all scratched up. He stood, not bothering to wipe himself off. He started to walk again, as he did pain flared in his ankle and he stumbled again, letting out a yell and falling against a tree. He pulled himself up and tried to put weight on it. It hurt, but he could still walk. He pulled up the leg of his jeans to look at his ankle, he knew not to take his shoes off, it would help reduce the swelling. He could already see a nasty bruise starting to form, he felt a warm damp spot on his sock, the tip of his finger was slightly red when he took it away. A stick or rock must have cut him. There was a small hole, but entirely too large in his opinion. It was perfectly round, but there wasn’t nearly as much blood as Henry would have expected from a wound that size. He straightened up again, it didn’t seem to be bleeding too badly. He rested his weight onto it slowly and he began to make his way out of the woods, limping.

Henry returned the next day, a cane firmly held in one hand to held support his weight. It stung his palms but it was better than the pain in his ankle. He knew where the tree was roughly, even if he didn’t mark the path like he planned. He had taken the day off work, still feeling a bit off after his spill yesterday, a little weak and tired. He searched for almost an hour before giving up, he couldn’t find the tree with the gouges he had made, and though he found the normal tree with its hole and regual sap, there was no sign of the tree with the blood sap nearby. He stood in the woods for a moment, wondering if he wanted to bother finding a rock again, his hands gave a little pang of pain. Henry let out a brief scream as he felt something gently slither over his shoe, when he looked down it had already gone. He made his way out of the woods carefully, watching out for any roots sticking out of the ground.

Lovely, Dark and Deep. Short Story.

I hope everyone had a fun new years, mine was interesting. Went to my sisters (still there actually, leaving in a few minutes!) where I destroyed one of her christmas trees. Yeah. I knocked it over. Twice. While completely sober I might add. I stood on a wire and it pulled the entire thing down, that was the first time. The second I was unplugging something from a plug board and again the wire was tugged causing it to fall. Twice in as many days. Smooth eh? Luckily it wasn’t her main tree, that’s still standing, though the other one broke, the top of it sheared off by the table. Really, I think she’s living in a death trap. Well, it solves the problem of what to get her next year for christmas.

We also didn’t really notice when new years passed, we were sitting around, watching telly and I looked at my phone to see it had passed twelve. Still it was fun coming across to her and the dinner was delicious, extremely delicious and we had pancakes for breakfast too.

Hopefully everyone else had a less destructive time than I had, On with the show!

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Lovely, Dark and Deep.

Mike was making tea, waiting for the kettle to boil. He had been working all morning and needed a break. It was stupid really, he had rented the cabin to get a break, to get away from all this, but he couldn’t seem to stop. It was almost compulsive, just one more thing and he’d stop. He didn’t even know why he brought stuff with him, thoughts of perusing documents at night and relaxing during the day had run through his head, but once started, he couldn’t stop. He’d been out here for a few days and hadn’t yet properly relaxed. He would though, just a little more work, that’s all. He was almost finished anyway.

He wondered vaguely what he’d do when the work was gone. He had brought a few books but they probably wouldn’t last long, there was no TV here, he wasn’t a great fisherman, he had only gone fishing once as a kid and barely remembered it. His main memory consisting of catching a small fish, then letting it go because he didn’t want it to die. It seemed unlikely fishing this time would be any more successful. He could meditate, but on what? It had seemed like such a nice thing, when he was looking at the description on his computer. A nice break from everything, but he was quickly learning it was a complete break from everything. At least there was electricity, he had gone for that much, a few of them didn’t. He wondered if anyone actually rented those, but someone must.

The last few nights past quickly enough, he had worried that the strange noises of the woods would keep him awake but that wasn’t the case at all, for the first few minutes it was odd, the animal noises and creaking trees but it quickly became soothing and he slept through the night, feeling refreshed and restored when he woke. He poured the boiled water into his cup and took it with him back to the desk. He sat, looking out the window, sipping occasionally. This was peaceful, almost relaxing. Mike looked at the papers on the desk and had lost all interest, it could be done later. He was lost in his thoughts, not really paying much attention to anything when she appeared. At first he assumed that she was another renter, like him from the city and out for a week or two in the woods, but that didn’t seem quite right. She moved along the tree line, staying close, as though nervous by the empty open space. She froze, her head slowly turning towards his cabin. She looked directly at him.

He continued to stay where he was, not knowing what to do, it was kinda creepy that he was looking at her, but then she was the most interesting thing outside the window. She turned slowly and started to walk towards the cabin. He wondered what exactly she was going to do, she didn’t seem like she lived in the woods, she looked nervous, but at the same time she wasn’t running. Maybe she had gotten lost and feared wild animals and was merely surprised to see a cabin. But if that was the case surely she would have been eager to get there, running towards it. Though they were in the woods and as far as she was aware his could be the only cabin for miles and what if he was psychotic. Maybe he would act the same if there positions were reversed. Rather than going to the door, he continued to look out the window, she didn’t seem to realise he was there, not yet anyway.

She paused a few times when crossing the short clearing, but she reached the porch quickly enough. She climbed the stairs slowly, pausing in front of the door before he could hear her heavy footsteps moving around the porch. He waited, listening. Suddenly she was at the window, he jumped, almost spilling his tea. She pressed against the window, hands against the glass, staring in. she looked around the room, though she never looked directly at him. She stayed there for a few minutes, staring in, before moving back slightly. He took the time to study her, she didn’t appear to be able to see him and though he had waved at he,r she hadn’t responded. Her skin was pale and she was quite beautiful, high cheekbones, full lips. Her eyes were an odd shade, slightly purple, behind the bright blue. Her hair was brown, a few strands blowing across her face in the light breeze.

He stood and went to the door, wondering if she was ok. He was about to open the door when something banged into it, he jumped and moved back slightly, wondering if he should open it. After all, she might be insane. Something again banged at the door, he turned and looked towards the window she had been standing at, she was still there. Again the banging reoccurred. She didn’t seem to hear it at all. He wondered if maybe she was a distraction, that he was to open the door to find someone standing there with a gun or something. She moved her head back, as though sniffing the air, then she darted out of view of the window. He couldn’t hear her moving, the silence seemed heavy and oppressive.

There was a light knocking on the door, a soft voice, “Is anyone there? Please. Please let me in.” He moved closer to the door, listening carefully, he could hear the fear in her voice, “Please, before it gets me. Oh god, if there’s anyone in there, please, please let me in.” He wondered what he should do. It could be a trap but she sounded frightened, he couldn’t just abandon someone like that, could he? He could hear her sobbing faintly. “Who are you?” “Oh thank god, please, let me in, there isn’t much time, I’ll explain when I’m inside.” “Tell me who you are first” “My name is Sandy, I was staying in a cabin not too far from here, I was walking through the woods when something started chasing me, please let me in, quickly.” He debated himself for a few seconds then opened the door. She pushed past him and slammed to door behind her, almost immediately something hit the door again. She locked the door then turned and threw her arms around Mike, “Thank you, thank you.” He heard something moving outside, toward the window. Sandy released him from her grip, he moved toward the window, she grabbed his hand “Don’t.” “I have to see what it is, once I do I can call someone and they can tell us how to deal with the animal.” “It’s not an animal. I don’t know what the hell it is, just don’t look at it.” There was a scurrying noise outside, “wait, you have a phone?” “Yeah, over there.” “We can call for help.” “Ok, you go call someone, I’ll look and see what animal it is, they’ll need to know.” “Who should I call?” “Park services or something. I’m not sure, the manager left a number in case there was trouble, we could call him.” He stood at the window, craning his neck trying to see what ever had been chasing her, but there was nothing. Sandy started dialling, the phone rang once, twice. Then went dead. “The phones after dying.” “What? How?” “I don’t know. Do you have a mobile?” “No, I was told there would be no service here so I didn’t bother.” Damn, I thought the same.” “So we just wait here until it gets bored and finds easier prey. There’s enough food for the two of us for a few days at least.” again something banged against the door. Sandy jumped, “If you’re sure.” “Yeah, it’ll be fine, some animal will wander past and it will get distracted and leave.” The banging continued more frantic than before.

The day passed slowly, they tried to talk but that banging kept interrupting them, constant noise. He had tried to look out the window to see it, but he couldn’t. He had tried to open the window to look out but Sandy stopped him, fear bright in her eyes. Mike tried to reassure her but it didn’t work. He decided that once she was asleep he could have a look then. The animal didn’t come near the windows, probably unaware it was a weaker point.

They waited and waited, but the animal never seemed to tire, Mike began to wonder if it would eventually break through the door. That or the constant banging would kill it, surely it must have a concussion or something at this point. There was a latch on the door and he figured that he could latch the door and open it slightly to look out. That way he could slam it closed again quickly and if he couldn’t the chain would prevent the animal from getting in. It was a thick chain, sturdy.

Sandy was lying on the couch, resting. She had been running for almost two hours, wandering for a few more, she was tired. He eased the handle open, the animal seemed to have grown slightly bored, there hadn’t been any banging in a few minutes. The lock clicked, Sandy sat up, looking around for the noise, she spotted Mike, “No! What the hell are you doing” She got up, running around the couch to stop him, he pulled the door open slightly, peering through the gap, unaware of Sandy moving behind him. He peered into the darkness, trying to make anything out. Something leaped towards the door. He froze, his mind trying to decipher what it was. He stared at it, unable to comprehend. It slammed into the door, the chain breaking as if it was made from paper. Sandy screamed, turning from the door she ran towards the window, hoping to escape while it fed on Mike. She had seen bright spurts of blood, it was too late for him. She could hear tearing as it ate, then the crack of breaking bones. It watched her as she opened the window, it was in no rush, it had just fed but now it would continue its fun. It finished its meal and stood, licking the blood from its maw, nothing remained of mike, everything had been consumed. It stretched, then moved forward toward the window, following her scent.

Beneath the trees. Short story.

The trees were swaying in the wind, back and forth, dancing to and fro. Their leaves rustling together, almost as though the trees were talking and laughing. Taking part in some divine festivity only they were aware of. The sun bathed their branches, leaving them warm to the touch. Nearby a river rushed passed, paying no heed to the dancing trees, it continued on its journey as though carrying an urgent message to a master far out to sea. Sunlight bounced off its surface, glittering in the tiny currents and waves that populated the river.

The calm and order of the place lulled visitors, relaxing them as they walked, or picnicked. The pleasant days gave no indication of the terrible nights that passed. Of the evils that stalked the forest and of the obscene celebrations they would hold. Leaping and dancing, screeching and laughing. They would feast on a thousand delicacies, foods too rare and wonderful for man. They would sing songs that were sweet and would draw all those who heard them. Bringing them closer until they wandered into their party, uninvited, and were set upon by claws and teeth and biting things. nothing to mark their passage from life into the darkness, the only evidence of their presence were the small flowers that would bloom the next morning, where their blood had fallen, but by nightfall, these flowers would already have withered and died.

When the first rays of light began to grace the world with their presence, waking those from slumber, the creatures would flee in terror, ending their festivities; they would dive into their dark places beneath the ground, to escape. The sunlight on their skin burned their flesh and melted it from their bones. They resented those that could walk unharmed in the daylight, those who could frolic freely to their hearts content both day and night.

Once they had been able to walk in the light, unhindered and unharmed, they would cavort throughout the day and into the night, resting only briefly before starting again.

A beautiful youth was walking through the woods, when he heard their singing, he began to follow the sweet sound to find its source.

He wandered amongst them unseen for a time as already their minds were twisted from the poisonous concoctions they consumed.  At first he remained quiet, content merely to listen, until he became drunk from the sweet melodies, and he began to join in. They accepted him in their games for a time, before realising he was not one of them. In their horror and fright, they attacked him, ripping him apart. As they were bathed in his warm blood a frenzy took hold, they grabbed and fought for the meat, cleaning the bones before consuming them too. Once they had finished, they continued their celebrations, coated and covered in gore. Unknown to them, the youth was the son of a great king who sent out messengers to every corner of the world to try and find him.

News had spread that the youth was seen wandering into the forest and despite warnings from many to stay away, the king’s messengers entered the forest.

Of the ten that entered, only one returned. He was delirious from fever, his many wounds infected. As he lay dying he told those looking after him of what he saw and what he suspected had happened to the prince.

When the king heard news of this his anger was great and terrible. He amassed a giant army in which to destroy the vile creatures and the place they called home. His army marched day and night, the ground shaking beneath their feet until they arrived at the forests edge. There the king gave orders for the forest to be destroyed.

The flames took hold of the forest quickly, devouring everything it could, sending animals fleeing, trying in vain to outrun the spreading flames. The smoke was thick and heavy, filling the sky and blotting out the sun, shrouding the surrounding lands in darkness. The creatures enjoyed the destruction, teasing the flames, darting closer before twirling away. The fire, enraged by their calls and jeers raced faster, the creatures, seeing the fires rage began to fear him. Their dancing turned to running, their jeers to panting breaths as they tried to escape the flames.

The fires burned for twenty days, but still the creatures survived. The rivers ran black with ash, the smoke turned days into night. Burnt and twisted the creatures howled for vengeance and invoked the ancient gods of the forest. The king’s men marched through the wreckage, killing everything in their path, animals or creatures, dying or healthy. Each was destroyed. Still not satisfied, the king ordered that the earth be salted so nothing would ever grow in the accursed land again. After the lands had been salted, the army began their march home. Each was covered in soot and ash, almost invisible in the darkness that surrounded them. As they marched the ground rumbled, then cracked. They were used to their marching causing the land to shake and paid no heed, few noticing as the rumbling became louder. The earth groaned as the land twisted and spewed forth walls, surrounding and trapping the warriors and their king. Though they had stopped marching the rumbling continued. A great river rose from the depths of the earth and flowed through the destroyed land, the vast wave washing away the salt. Once the forest was clear, the water became a great, winding river, which continued to flow in the direction the king had come. The walls around them began to crack and crumble, and the men began to fear, they prayed they wouldn’t be washed away in the torrent and cursed their king for leading them to destruction.

When the walls had crumbled, they looked around in awe, the forest had begun to grow once more, threes sprouted from the ground, growing tall and mighty before their eyes. From the darkness strode the gods, great beings bathed in light, their eyes aflame. Beneath their gaze the army trembled and gibbered. The king, reckless and bold, strode out to meet them. “I am the king of the greatest city in the word, I control this army and I have ordered them to destroy this place. They acted under my orders and as such, they are not at fault.” Their attention shifted from the army to him, “why have you done this? Committed such a heinous act?” “The forest was home to evil creatures, depraved beings that destroyed my son and in repayment, I wanted to destroy their homes and their lives.” “The creatures lived in the forest, but it was not their home, it was ours. You have destroyed that which is precious to us and we have done the same to you. Your kingdom, once the greatest in all the world has been destroyed, its people dead, in a hundred years its existence will be forgotten, no one will remember you, or the greatness of your city, drowned beneath the waves of salty water. You had completed your task when you destroyed their home, but you salted the earth. We could have forgiven you had you not committed this act. We did not know of the creature’s sins, but you tried to destroy our realm permanently. For that you and your people shall suffer. Already those of your city have been cast down into the realm of the death gods. Who will see to it they are justly punished for your actions as you acted on all of their behalf.” “Please, no, they are not responsible for what has happened here” “but they are. You are their leader, you represent them, you committed acts of atrocity, as did they. Once their punishment has ended they will be judged on their own merits. Though many will have gone mad and will forever be locked in torment.” Behind him came the sounds of screams and tearing flesh, he turned to look at his army and saw them on the ground, a heaving mass, ripping at their skin. “Please, stop, what are you doing to them?” “They are becoming that which you tried to destroy. We cannot stop it, they were infected while marching through the ashes. This too is your fault.” “What of me? What is my punishment?” “You shall become a powerless god. You will live forever knowing of what you have done to these people and those under your command. You will be doomed to wander the earth alone and broken for all eternity. You will know of every pain that your people endure. You will feel every lash of the whip, every torture. You will hear every anguished cry and be unable to stop it. You will be responsible for the creatures you tried to destroy. Every life lost will be a life lost due to you. You will be unable to intervene or stop them. You will only be able to observe.” The king dropped to his knees to beg, but the gods had turned their backs and began to walk away. His army once faithful, now twisted, set upon him, ripping him apart. So ferocious were they that parts of his flesh flew up into the heavens, taking their place in the sky as stars, so they could watch for all eternity but unable to help. Part of him was cast into the realm of the death gods where he was forced to watch the torture of his once loyal subjects. Parts of him that were consumed lived on inside the creatures forever forced to endure their evil deeds. And his spirit, the last part, the part that could not be consumed, was tied to earth, where he was forced to wander alone. Aware of each part of him but unable to reassemble his body or stop the pain. The gods had lied to him. His people had not been killed yet. He watched helplessly from the heavens as the great wave washed over his city, frothing and bubbling, as people vainly tried to flee the waters wrath. The river continued to flow, filling the area with water, creating a deep sea from which dark creatures rose, created from the spirits of those who hated their king and sought revenge.

The kings army was further punished, from them was taken the day, the sun would burn their skin. As they cavorted with the other creatures, the sickness spread and soon none could venture into the light. The smoke cleared from the sky, the rivers ran clear, the forest was reborn, the gods returned to their slumber, and the creatures continued their insane rituals, their hatred growing.

Though the trees of the forest grew back, taller and greater than before, the area was never used for logging, no hunters dared to stalk the woods, there was something worse than their guns and bullets, things which would not take kindly to their intrusion. During the day, the beasts were held at bay, but at night, they were free to reign.