Horror Stories of a sleepy little down that holds many hidden dangers.
It Waits in The Woods
Andrew never knew how cold it could be on a September evening. Earlier that day had held the traces of the last few days of summer, before they dissipated into the coming autumn. Now, with the sun disappearing behind the hills that formed the western horizon of Tukersville, a bitter chill had descended upon the town. As he waited beneath the humming light of the covered bus stop Andrew shifted from side to side. He was anxious to get home. He had agreed to cover the last shift of the day, not knowing the night air would be so chilling. Finally, the bus arrived; it would carry him to the last stop before leaving town. As Andrew roused himself from the bus stop bench, the thin doors of the vehicle whooshed open, and a smiling round face greeted him.
“Well, it’s you again tonight, huh kid?”, the driver said with a grin.
“Yup, me again Mr. Peterson.” Andrew ascended the steps, put his fair in the coin slot, and handed the driver a tall paper cup. “One large Dark-Roast, three sugars, hold the cream.”
“Ah, kid ya never forget about me. Ya know somthin’? Them franchise chains don’t hold a candle to Aleister’s—best donut shop on the whole East Coast!” The driver beamed warmly at Andrew as he moved towards the rear of the bus where he liked to sit.
As the bus glided through the crisp evening air, Andrew looked out at the passing buildings, ablaze with orange and purple light from the last rays of the setting sun. Tukersville was a small Northeast town, nestled in a cut of landscape between the western hills, and the Jerusalem Forest to the east. The bus continued onward to its destination, and as it did the woods which marked the edge of town came into view, closer…and closer. Andrew felt the pit of his stomach drop in anticipation of the looming dread he knew would soon be surrounding him.
Andrews parents’, being of quiet and relaxed minds, had made their home in a charming and rustic house situated in the forest, just off the main road. To them it was a sanctuary where they could breathe deeply and their minds could float beyond the everyday stresses of waking life. Andrew always felt his home was more like a settler’s homestead, cut off from what little civilization there was by a twisted enclosure of trees. The bus’s route ended at a stop built right at the mouth of the Jerusalem Forest, used by the few people whose homes where this far out of town. Andrew’s home was the farthest; about a mile down the wooded road, and he had to go this last mile on foot. What Andrew dreaded; what filled him with unease every time he had to make the night trip home were those woods.
“Alrighty, last stop of the local line!” the driver called out, as the bus hissed to a halt. “Same time tomorrow night, kid?”
Andrew got up from his seat near the back of the bus and slowly made his way to the front, attempting to delay the inevitable last stretch of his journey.
“Nope, I’ve got the morning shift tomorrow Mr. Peterson,” Andrew said, looking at the friendly round face of the driver, “I’ll be on the last shift again in two days.”
“Ah, no way,” Mr. Peterson shot back with a sarcastic smirk, “then who’s gonna bring me my large coffee from the shop?”
“Ok,’’ Andrew laughed, “How about next time I bring you your coffee, and I save you two Boston Creams; how does that sound? Will you forgive me then?”
The driver’s face beamed with a great smile that forced the bright eyes on his round face to squint slightly.
“Kid, you’ve got yourself a deal! Now be careful heading home, alright?”
“You bet!” Andrew said, waving back to Mr. Peterson as he dismounted from the bus and set foot on the edge of the road. He heard the creaking vacuum hiss of the doors closing behind him, turning just as the bus started rolling on back towards town…going, going…gone. Soon Andrew was alone standing beneath the light of another covered bus stop…the last stop. The Sun had set completely, and night wrapped around him. Andrew clutched at his light weight jacket in a futile attempt to warm himself, as he stared down the dark road ahead.
“Damn,” he said to himself, “I hate this.”
The woods held an ancient and wild atmosphere which cared not for the advances of human kind. They held a mysterious energy which was constantly evident to all who came close to them, let alone went into them. During the day, this timeless aura was immensely captivating. Yet the onset of dusk and the encroachment of night brought a shift to those old woods. Not a transformation—that would imply a change into something entirely new. No, at night another side of the woods intrinsic nature awoke, and filled the forest with a deep darkness. Every twisted shadow and shade became host to all the loose spirits and nightmares of the world, as they ran rampant through the ancient trees, calling and crying out in revelry.
“No, stop it!” Andrew said to himself, “There nothing to be afraid of! There’s nothing out here…old folks just like to tell tall tales to try to scare kids with…No monsters, no ghosts; just shadows and nothing more.”
A bitter, swift wind blew past Andrew from the direction of the town; it felt as if the woods were trying to pull him into its dark and tangled maw with a foul, inward breath. Andrew shuddered. Still, he was tired, it was growing colder, and he desperately wanted to be home. With a determined mind fighting against the deep sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he began his solemn march into the darkness of the forest.
With his pocket flashlight pointing at the ground just in front of him, Andrew continued down the road. He tried to distract himself by whistling, but stopped immediately after hearing the bone-chilling way his own sound echoed back off the twisted trees. For several minutes he walked, and all seemed well.
The sound of a large twig splintering underfoot rang out from behind him. Andrew whipped around, shining his light back and forth, trying to identify the source of the noise. He saw nothing.
“Just a rabbit, or an owl or something,” Andrew told himself, “just an animal.” Andrew resolved to pick up the pace a bit, and continued to make his way towards home.
The sound came again, louder and closer this time.
“WHO’s out there!” Andrew shouted, spinning wildly, looking all around franticly. Still he saw nothing.
With his heart pounding in his chest, Andrew realized that the sound was not coming from behind him, in front of him or from either side; it was coming… from directly… overhead. Slowly, he pointed his light up towards the overhanging branches above him. In the light, he could make out a tall and twisted figure, misshapen and gnarled. Its body was covered in something that looked like wet, black, matted hair yet not like hair at all. Its long appendages bent and contorted at odd angles, and ended in scaly digits tipped with broken, rough talons. Worst of all was its head; it looked like the skull of a deer, bleached white and shining in the darkness, antlers crowning it. Two sunken eyes burned like dying embers from its bony sockets, while a long prehensile tongue leaked out of its mouth. As the thing stared at Andrew, a hushed raspy word echoed from it unknow depths
Andrew crashed through the trees, running as fast as his legs could carry him. His heart pounded in his chest, his lungs filled with air, feeling like they were on fire, but he didn’t care; he had to get away. He could hear the thing scrambling after him through the trees, the noise growing louder and louder…
Closer now…louder now!
SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!
Andrew ran and ran, but his strength was waning.
I can’t die here! I can’t die here!
Was all he kept thinking over, and over again; he had to get away, he just had to! Then he saw it—a small rock formation creating a sort of shelter—a place to hide. With the last bit of strength, he could muster, Andrew sped up, putting as much distance between the thing and him as possible, and dove between the rocks. He heard the thing crash through the trees above, as it carried on into the distance…it passed him.
Wide eyed and alert, Andrew held his breath, desperately trying to keep from making any sound. He listened intently, straining to pick up any noise; any sign that the thing had doubled back. He heard nothing. The forest was permeated by the deafening silence. Andrew sank back against the rocks, breathing deeply. It was going to be alright. He was safe.
“I taste your fear…”, the raspy voiced hissed from just behind Andrews head, sending a shiver down his spine, “and...it...is… delicious!”
Andrew turned slowly, and stared into burning eyes, blazing out from deep tunnels within boney, bleach-white sockets.
Andrew’s parents found him the next day on the porch. He was just sitting on the bench his father had built the previous month, looking out at the woods in the gray, early morning fog. His clothes slightly tattered and muddy, but not torn. He had no cuts, or bruises. He appeared fine, but for the inexplicable gray tips to his normally dark auburn hair and a slightly glazed look in his eye. When his parents asked him what he was doing, he simply continued to stare, and said
“I will come back…. don’t leave me…such beautiful eyes…”
Over the next few weeks, Andrew would find any excuse he could to walk in the Jerusalem Forest. He would disappear for hours at a time and say nothing of where he had been, and upon every return he would glide through his surroundings as if they were a dream—as if he were walking through a heavy mist of shadow. Even when he was working at Aliester’s Café, he seemed oddly distant. And in those brief moments he was not occupied by his work, he would suddenly become transfixed with the distant woods, staring out of the large coffee house windows, eyes glassed over with a twisted smile stretching across his face. His head would bob and sway as if keeping the beat to some strange music only he could hear, and always the same cryptic words would escape his lips,
“I will come back… don’t leave me …such beautiful eyes …”
One day, Andrew vanished; simply disappeared without a word or warning. His parents called the police, who investigated and set up a hotline for any information. Nothing turned up. His friends at school had no idea where he could have gone, and neither did his co-workers. Some people said he just ran away, trying to start a new life in a more exciting place than Tukersville. Others said he was abducted or killed by some drifter; after all, you could never trust outsiders. There was even a rumor that the reason he had turned so strange was that he got involved in drugs, and that he had run off to some city where he could get a fix more readily.
The old folks new better though; they knew that no one would ever hear from Andrew again, or find any evidence of his whereabouts. They knew that the Jerusalem Forest was one of the old, wild places still left in the world, and that some of the secrets it held were terrible…and deadly.