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A Walk In The Dark
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A Walk In The Dark
A man goes for a walk in the woods.
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|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (4)
Eye For Eye (Short Stories) A man commits murder and suffers no ill effects [2,758 words]
Nine Eleven (Poetry) Something that occurred to me after September 11, 2001. [94 words]
Outside (Poetry) A haiku about winter [12 words]
Square Peg (Short Stories) A short snapshot into the morning routine of a public-transit user. [1,254 words]
A Walk In The Dark
He paused at the entrance to the woods.
The woods weren't primeval. They didn't grow wild over an undesignated territory. The area they covered was perfectly square. They were city woods. Domesticated, tame woods. Woods that you could lead on a leash and expect them to obey.
But they were dark, so he paused. It seemed like the right thing to do.
After a moment, he took one step into the gloom. He shivered. There was something cold and elusive about trees, he thought warily. Grand, unbounded forests, or polite, well-behaved trees like these all seemed to have an inimical quality to them that made him uneasy.
He began walking up the path into the heart of the trees. The damp in the air seeped into his bones, making them ache. The path where he was walking was covered with crushed limestone, but off to either side of him lay deadfalls of tree branches like the forgotten bones of large animals.
Walking alone in the woods didn't seem like such a good idea anymore. He had to make a conscious effort not to speak out loud, to reassure himself with the sound of his own voice. The path was wide and spacious, and only a few hundred feet behind him, he could hear traffic passing on the road… but the sound of the cars was muffled, and it was getting dark. He realized with a sudden pang of breathless anxiety that he wasn't going to reach the end of the path before it was full dark.
Above him, the moon glowed bright and impassive, like an unblinking eye. He stopped for a moment and looked up at it. He felt his fear fade a little. The moon was reliable. It had not changed or become threatening. He could count on the moon. But the moon was always so cold. Had it always been so? He felt his comfort drain away slowly, and he began to feel dizzy. He could draw no water from the moon. He tried to begin walking, but his legs felt so heavy that he could hardly lift them. Finally, he tore his gaze from the moon. Grimly, he began to pick up his feet and put them down again. After a moment, feeling returned to them, as though they had fallen asleep.
He began to walk faster. He felt foolish doing so, but he was frightened. The scuffing of his feet seemed very loud against the ground, and the sound they made was bouncing back from the undergrowth around him in a peculiar way. It almost sounded like there was more than one set of footsteps. He suddenly felt compelled to run, but he forced himself to maintain his pace.
The light from the moon made everything glow silver; it made everything change. Everything was different and twisted. Even the flowers that appeared comforting by the light of day were sinister and forbidding. He could imagine dark, formless shapes rising from the gloom beside the path and engulfing him without making any sound. Somehow that was the worst - that they would make no sound.
He shook his head - he was being foolish, giving himself the heebie-jeebies. But the knowledge that he was being foolish did nothing to make him feel less frightened. He tried to calm himself by controlling his breathing. But the more he tried to steady himself this way, the louder his body screamed for oxygen; it left him weak and trembling and terrified. He stopped, his heart thumping queasily in his chest, rested his hands on his knees and took a deep, shaking breath. His chest felt too small, as though he couldn't get enough air to satisfy it. His nose and fingers were tingling.
There was a sudden snap in the underbrush, and his heart leaped into his mouth and began to hammer wildly. He broke into a shambling gait that was nearly a run, stumbling once as he tried to look over his shoulder, but his brain was so overloaded with terror that his feet became tangled and he tripped. He scrambled up, his palms scratched and bleeding, his breath rasping in his chest. His mouth was filled with the dull iron taste of fear. His feet seemed too heavy to lift, and when he looked around him into the woods, he realized with despair that he had stumbled right off of the path, and he couldn't see where it was. Clouds had covered the moon, and he could make out no shapes in the darkness around him. There was not a hint of moonglow. There was no light to guide him. There was nothing. It was as though the shapes he had imagined coming from the gloom had materialized and swallowed him
He tried to call out, but all that came out was a moan. The thought of daylight finding him here, curled up on the forest floor between the rotting carcasses of trees was almost too much for him to bear. He could feel his sanity fraying like a worn rope.
There was something coming from behind him. It had a dark, savage animal smell. He couldn't see anything in the dark, and he was so terrified now that he was blubbering. Each heartbeat pulsed in his eyeballs, and he seemed to see phosphorescent vapors twisting like jet contrails across his vision.
He tried to crawl, but with a fresh burst of horror he realized that he couldn't move his feet. Something cold was holding them. He tried to scream, but all that would come out was a whisper. He tried to struggle, but something was moving slowly up his leg toward his belly…
…and then his mind was mercifully gone, drowned in his own madness like a tidal wave.
In a tree, an owl watched impassively. It blinked and turned its head once, as though testing the air, then spread its wings and glided away.
|READER'S REVIEWS (2)
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"wow this sound like it could become something so creepy. that feeling like you sit on edge of your seat." -- Bug off.
"Oh my gosh that was soo scary! I mean just the thought of what could happen next...wow sends chills down my spine. But I can relate to this story about being freaked out like that and my luck if I did go far in the woods at night something would get me...I think you should write something that tells what happens..." -- Jordan.
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© 2001 Steve Drost
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