Shadows and Fire


They say a lot of things about this place. Things only the irrational and superstitious would believe. It is a forest, and forests often conjure fear in the uneducated, or so I thought. It is easy to dismiss other people’s experiences with the unknown when you haven’t seen what they have. Until now, I never believed in anything I couldn’t see or touch. I thought everything that exists would one day become knowable, that it was only a matter of time. I used to not believe in true good or evil. They were mere constructs of human cultures, and ultimately the human mind. There is an evil here. The first thing I saw, as many others have reported, was a dark shadowy mass.
Knowing the brain is very capable of conjuring phantoms that aren’t real, I ignored it and continued along the hiking trail. Tall spruce and white pines grew beside me, and the nearly-full moon shone, adding to the eerie, Halloween-like atmosphere. Yet, it was Spring and All Hallows Eve wasn’t even close. Since things were feeling spooky, when I saw the shadow-mass run across the trail, I told myself it wasn’t real. The mood of the evening was playing tricks on my mind, tapping into the primal fear that still remains in all of us.

I decided it was late and probably time to make a fire for warmth, and I hoped to eventually fall asleep next to it. The forest grew colder by the minute, and goosebumps ran down my body. I grabbed some tinder and kindling, along with a few small logs, and piled them up to make a fire. Once the fire was lit, I held my hands over the flames. I felt as if thousands of unfriendly eyes were watching me, but there was nothing there. Again, I told myself I was being paranoid and silly as I stirred the fire some more. The flames started dying down more than I liked, so I got up to gather some more wood. Armed with a hatchet, I set out. My heart raced as I hastily searched the nearby woods for something dry and large enough to keep the hungry flames fed for a while. There were a few big branches on the ground that looked like they would suffice, and after several hits, the wood was in short enough chunks for my fire.

Beside me there was a rush and leaves crushing beneath something. Thinking it was probably a deer or something, I paid it no mind, but then whatever it was let out a terrible gurgling growl. I tripped over my feet, gazing into the wilderness. I didn’t see anything, so I gathered my wood and ran back to my fire. The flames came to life upon receiving the parched logs. I threw in a handful of leaves for fun, but as the fire grew, more shadows began to dash back and forth overhead, no longer bothering to conceal themselves. Terrible screeching and hissing echoed around me. I felt surrounded and unsure of myself. Should I run? Should I stay by the fire? Either decision was really no decision at all, so I stayed and waited, hoping the shadows of fear would pass. Instead they multiplied, blacking out the stars and moon in the sky. Hideous low-pitched laughter came from some, while others vocalized animalistic sounds. It was strange and terrifying at the same time, mostly because I didn’t know what these shadows were or what they wanted.

I kept my head angled upward, huddled as close to the fire as I safely could, watching those things. Then, I saw an army of them amassing before me, taking vague shapes of people while still retaining their black, non-corporeal appearance. I knew that was time to leave. Not bothering to douse the fire, I grabbed my hatchet and flew through the forest as quickly as I could. To my left there was a loud “snap,” and a tree toppled over. Distant laugher echoed, sending chills down my spine. Indescribable sounds were everywhere. I kept running, not even sure where, because I had already lost my way, but that didn’t matter in the moment. Getting away from those things that haunted the woods was the only thing I cared about. It was around the time that I realized I was lost that I also remembered the campfire I made was still burning. I slowed enough to safely check behind me. The faint light in the distance told me the fire was still contained, and for a moment I was torn between putting out the flames and continuing to run. My internal debate didn’t last long. I don’t know how long I ran, but the forest thinned, and I saw a town in the distance: my town. The ghastly beings that tormented me were gone and the forest was still and silent. Then the wind returned, and the soothing chirping of crickets made me wonder if anything I just experienced was real, but I know that it was, despite what I wanted to believe.

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