I’d walked the trail many times before. It was straight, paved, and let out at a small park. Once at the park I would stop for a drink at the water fountain, then make my way back the way I had come from. It was a short walk down the trail. Not even five minutes.
Today I was tired, and the way back was uphill. So when I spotted an extension of the path, that seemed to be a straight path to the road, I decided to change it up.
I felt uneasy only a few steps into the cover of the trees. The unease grew as I reached a fork in the path. The paved part running to the right turned from black asphalt to concrete sidewalk. At the transition was a ten foot fence, with barbed wire along the top. Though the gate was open, it screamed residential property in my mind.
The path to the left was unpaved. Wide enough for two people to walk through, but led deeper into the forest. I took out my phone. Pulled up a map of the area. The map clearly showed the path to the left as a walking path. The one to the right seemed to end at a house.
So, I took the path to the left. My shoes sinking somewhat in the wet earth. I walked for a while, keeping an eye on my phone confirming I was still on a path to the main road that ran alongside the woods. After a while I stopped checking the map, and began to look around at the scenery.
There is something breathtaking about woods. The heavy scent of damp wood, and greenery. The way the sun filters through the leaves and dances on the skin of my arms. I relaxed. The tension in my shoulders relaxed. I unclenched my jaw and felt a wave of relief flooded through me.
I came across another fork in the path. One side was shaded by a large tree that must have recently fallen. The rack in the trunk showed clean, light colored wood. No moss, or dirt on the jagged break. The angle of it made it so that I could still comfortably walk underneath it without so much as grazing my head. The other path was overgrown and seemed to veer back to where I had come. So I took the path under the tree.
This is where I made my first mistake. I didn’t know it as I stepped underneath, but it wasn;t long after that I realized something was wrong. There was a swamp. Thick algae coating the water. Something about the water made my stomach twist. I felt sick. Thankfully the path lead me away. I picked up the pace.
Careful not to trip on any roots, or branches. I didn’t notice it at first but the path began to narrow. Twigs snagging on my clothes. Tearing small holes in the fabric, and in my flesh. My heart beat grew faster, as the path grew narrower still.
The only sound I could hear was my heart, and my own heavy breath. Something was wrong. I couldn’t see what it was. But there was a heavy scent growing stronger in the air. Like iron and rotting meat. Something was dead in here. The thought slammed into me, and I drew to an abrupt stop. I twirled around.
Gathering my fear and twisting it into anger I scanned my surroundings. Gritting my teeth I focused on my breathing. The smell stinging my throat with every gasp.
Nothing was moving. I spun around, surveying the area. Nothing.
“Shit.” I cursed. Not even the path was visible from where I stood. I reached into my pocket, drawing my phone out once more. Pressed the button on the side. The screen didn’t light up. I pressed the power button again. Still nothing. “Shit, shit shit!”
I put the phone away again. Closing my eyes I strained my ears. If I could hear the traffic from the road I could find the way to go.
Silence rang in my ears. I held my breath. It struck me. Almost funny at first. Not only could I not hear the road. I didn’t hear any bugs. The annoying screech of the cicadas was no longer there. No wind in the leaves. Absolutely nothing.
Then a twig snapped. The sound echoing all around me. A creaking of wood. A tree groaning, as if being bent by a great weight. A thud from behind me. No, beside me.
I whipped my head around. My eyes not recognising the lumbering mass before me. It stood still, but shifting. Not shifting. Wriggling. A wriggling mass of darkness. Bigger than any living thing I had ever seen shifted towards me.
I screamed. A wretched fearful sound. I ran. Nevermind a path. I just ran. My feet stumbled over anything and everything.
The thing behind me laughed. It just laughed.
I didn’t make it far before the first strike hit home. Something sharp thudded into my back. I screamed again as pain lanced down my spine. White hot. I fell forward. The second hit was to my legs. Like barbed wire snaking its way around and up..
I clawed at the ground. Trying to drag myself forward. Felt my nails break off. My face slammed forward. I drew in a gasp, but only succeeded in filling my mouth with mud and leaves. Something struck my head then. A ringing in my ears. My vision tunneled as my eyes became unfocused.
The thing crouched beside me. At least I think it crouched. The wriggling mass that I assumed was it’s face loomed in closer. A part of the darkness lashed out. Stroked down my cheek. I felt like cold wet meat. I gagged at the scent of it. That meaty death smell from earlier. It laughed again.
A sound like buzzing bees and also deep and sultry. Like a lover in the night. The buzzing grew louder. My eyes rolled into the back of my head as I slowly slipped into unconsciousness. I could barely hear the soft cooing from the creature. As it lifted me. Cradling me.
I felt it touch my cheek once more before I was gone.
I awoke in the middle of the road. It was dark. The air smelled of rain. I was cold, wet, and utterly naked. Headlights snagged my attention. I winced at the bright flash. Tires squealed on pavement as the driver braked hard.
The sound of a car door opening.
“What the Fu …”
I fell to my knees.
“Hey, hey, hey …”
Footsteps running towards me.
“It’s okay. You’re okay.” A panic voice called. “… Call for help.”
They were talking so fast. I looked at them confused. Their mouth was moving. But I couldn’t hear them. Not fully. Just snippets.
“Okay … You are going … Okay.”
I was out again.
The next time I awoke was in the hospital. Doctors tell me I’m okay. I just got lost in the woods. I’m a bit banged up. But they were working to get me better.
They won’t tell me why they have me handcuffed to the bed.
All I know is the taste of iron in my mouth. And the buzzing. The horrible buzzing that is now somehow in my head.