There is a vast stretch of forest that runs at the back of our property. It’s sprawling, covering several square miles, the trees forming a vast maze constructed to make a hiker lose their way. During the day, the woods are harmless enough, but at night it becomes a menace. People who manage to escape the woods after dark swear the trees moved around, disorienting you. There are rumors that the place comes alive with creatures straight out of Hell. Ghastly deformed specimens that roam the forest feeding on the unsuspecting. The people who live near the woods believe that these creatures are demons, wreaking havoc on those who dare to enter. They claim you are safe so long as you don’t go into the woods. The demons have never come out, for there are plenty enough curious souls that wander in after dark.
Tonight I will venture into the woods to see if the rumors are true. I want to see the abominations that supposedly live there. That afternoon, I pass the time by the edge, preparing for my trip and planning my escape route. The forest looks benign with the oaks and maples slightly swaying in the late afternoon breeze. I hide my supplies in a bag behind a large rock and check to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I packed a snack, bottle of water, compass, pocket knife, rope, and flashlight with extra batteries. I look at the 200 feet of rope that I got from my dad’s tool garage. I plan to tie it around me and anchor it to a tree at the edge of the forest, protecting me from getting lost. As I examine the rope, I wonder if 200 feet will be far enough, but it doesn’t matter. It will have to do for now.
After dinner that night, I go to bed a little earlier than usual. After I’m sure my parents are asleep, I grab my jacket and climb out of my window, and head to the edge of the woods. The wind is blowing, making the serene sway of the trees look ominous in the nighttime chill. I pull out the rope from my bag and tie it around me with a knot that wouldn’t come undone. I secure the other end to the trunk of a giant oak tree and yank hard to secure it. Grabbing the flashlight and hoisting the bag on my shoulders, I take a deep breath and step into the woods.
The night is lit by a half moon, struggling to throw its light between the intermittent clouds rolling by. I am in the dark more often than not, so I rely heavily on my flashlight to see. I tread further into the forest, careful not to get the rope tangled up anywhere. Every step crunches the ground, snapping small twigs and dried leaves like brittle bones. I wish desperately that the ground hadn’t been so noisy so I could move about without the demons hearing me. Wary of an ambush from above, I often glance into the forest canopy. The trees are black and diseased in the night light. I continue this way, painstakingly slow, for another half an hour, until I reached the end of my rope. Having witnessed nothing of interest, I sigh in disappointment and look around. There is no way to see the forest demons this close to the tree line. I’ll have to go deeper into the woods. After one final sweep with my flashlight, I turn back, winding the rope as I go, taking less time to reach the edge of the trees. I gather up my stuff and head back to the house, determined to go back out the next night with more rope.
The following morning, I dig around in the garage, eventually finding some more rope. I gather it up and estimate that I have a little over 400 hundred feet now if I join them together. I go back to my room and ready the rope. Double checking that everything is still in the bag, I ditch it where I had the night before, then spend the day with Mike and Steven, hanging out at the edge of the woods.
“Bryan! Time for dinner!” It’s evening, and my mom is calling me.
“Hey, are you going home now,” I ask Steven and Mike.
“We’ll be heading over in a second as soon as Mike finds his hat,” Steven replies. They had been throwing Mike’s hat around earlier, so there is no telling where it could be. Having worked up an appetite, I say goodbye and head back to the house.
Evening came and went, bringing with it rain. I’m unhappy about having to take the trip in the rain, but it needs to be done tonight. Everything is packed, and if I keep my dad’s rope any longer, he might find it missing and start asking about it. My parents go to bed later than usual, so I’m delayed going out. After they finally go to sleep, I grab my raincoat and slip out. The rain isn’t bad, but it’s just enough to get you wet. I run quickly through the field behind my house, hoping that the trees will provide a little more shelter from the rain. When I make it to the edge, I grab my bag and reach for the rope, but it’s not there. I couldn’t think where it could’ve gone. Did my dad find it? That didn’t seem likely as he surely would have asked about the bag and the gear at dinner. Did Steven and Mike find it and use it for something? Maybe Mike’s hat was in a tree, and they used it to retrieve it. With no lead, the adventure seems dangerous, but based on what happened last night, I decide to chance it, grabbing my compass instead.
I check my direction before heading out into the woods. The rain is starting to come down harder, and I’m having second thoughts about doing this tonight. I go ahead with the promise that the woods will be drier. The atmosphere grows ominous as I go deeper into the dark. When I realize that the moon will provide no help for me tonight, I grip my flashlight tighter, grateful I brought it. Thankfully the ground is too soggy to crunch like it had last night, so my footsteps are a lot quieter. As I push further into the woods, the sound of the rain is drowned out by the canopy. The forest smells of wet wood and a dead animal. As I swing my light around, my beam catches the sight of a ball cap hanging from the lower branch of a tree. Going in for a closer look, I realize that it’s Mike’s hat. Perplexed as to how his hat got this far in the forest, I stuff it in my bag with the intent on giving it back to him tomorrow.
Checking my compass, I decide to take another direction and head east. The woods open up a little more now, and the rain has stopped. The wind is still hanging around, so I zip my jacket back up to keep the wind out. I nearly gag from the potency of the dead smell now. Just then I hear a loud noise and I freeze to listen. The sound comes again a second or so later, followed by another and another. There is a distinct rhythm to the sounds, like footsteps. Footsteps from something big. It sounds like the source is far off and not coming my way, but the woods can be deceiving. I push on a little further, paying closer attention to my surroundings.
As I walk, I get an eerie feeling that I’m being watched, although I’m pretty sure it’s just my imagination. The sound has stopped, but I’m not comforted by the fact. Now that it is quiet, I don’t know where it is. I jump back, thinking I happened upon a snake, but at second glance, I see that it is a rope. My rope and it has been chewed off. The rest of it is trailing away from me into the dark and without thinking about my compass, I turn to follow it. There is no reason the rope should’ve been in here unless Steve and Mike are playing a trick on me. I don’t recall telling them about my plan, so how did my rope get here? I wind it up as I follow it into the unknown darkness.
As I meander through the forest, winding the rope as I go, I hear a growling noise. The sound is rather unnerving because it’s coming from something in close proximity to me. It doesn’t resemble a noise natural to any animal in these woods. It sounds off. No, not off, it sounds wrong, plain and simple. I stop where I am and swing my light around looking for the source of the growl. I really want to be heading in the opposite direction of the creature. I hear it again and it’s definitely coming from behind me. Then the steps start again.
I pick up my pace following the rope; hell bent on retrieving it and getting out of there. The noise is suddenly louder and I break out into a full run, the flashlight bouncing its light along the path. Right in front of me, the rope suddenly goes straight up a large oak tree. I hide behind the tree hoping whatever is following me will pass and I can cut the lead and leave. I try to still my breathing so I won’t be noticed and crouch down low. Hearing the creature approach, I cut my light off so it can’t see me. It comes close and stops just on the other side of the tree I am using as a refuge. It’s sniffing at something unseen, and I’m not sure if it’s me it is smelling or something in the tree. I wait silently as drops of rain fall on me from the leaves above.
A moment or two later, the creature finds what it’s looking for, which thankfully isn’t me. I can hear it eating on something in the tree, deep in distraction, crunching on its meal. Its commotion is shaking more water droplets from the tree. I dare to turn my flashlight on to get a look at the beast while it isn’t paying me any attention. Flipping on my light, I see several dark droplets fall on me. I realize then that the drops are not water, but blood. My pulse picks up rapidly and I fight to keep from hyperventilating at the sight. Raising the light up the rope, I follow a trail of blood all the way up to two bodies dangling about ten feet up from where I am. The beast has one of them in its claws, shoving the body into its round, gaping mouth full of teeth. Its bulging eyes roll around in its head as it feasts, one landing on me for a second before rolling off again. The creature looks vaguely like a bear, but much larger, its “fur” resembles a carpet of moss covering its body. It’s standing on stocky legs, which end in bizarre cloven toes. The tail of the creature is almost comical, an elongated rabbit tail that curls around itself. I watch in horror as the massive claws grab at the first body tearing it into chunks. I spare a glance to the second one still hanging in the tree and see that it is Mike. Losing my composure, I scream at the sight and flee for my life into the darkness, only to run head-on into a surly oak that steadfastly refuses to get out of my way.
I come to a few minutes later, as evidenced by the progress of the beast’s meal in the now present moonlight. Unfortunately, it is not the moon that has awaken me, but the horrific cries of the great bear beast as it’s attacked by what can only be explained as carnivorous flying goats. They have bat-like wings and heads that resemble goats, with small curling horns and were no bigger than a golden retriever. Their jaws protrude from their skulls much like a shark’s jaw, but much further. These things are taking enormous bites out of the bear from almost a foot away. They must have ambushed the bear while it was feeding. I decide I don’t want to see anymore and turn to make my way out of the woods.
Just when I think I’ve made it away unnoticed, I am being followed by a couple of the bat creatures. I start running full speed hoping that I am heading in the right direction to get out. Keeping just ahead of the bats I manage, by some miracle, to find the edge of the woods and break through into the field behind my house. I stop a moment to catch my breath about twenty feet from the tree line and turn back to see if the creatures are following out. I can hear them coming through the trees, but I feel somewhat safe because the demons don’t come out of the woods. I start walking toward my house, when suddenly, I hear the demon bats fly out into the field in pursuit of me. I cross the field faster than I ever have before and climb back into my window, slamming it shut behind me. The creatures reach the window right after and start attacking it with their protuberant jaws. I run to my bed and hide under the covers praying the window will hold up to their abuse. I know that the creatures will feast again tonight, when I hear the window crack, and finally give way allowing them access to their next meal.