Whispers of the Dark Forest
Nineteen year old Emily looked at her “friends” lounging about on the porch. A sledgehammer of truth hit her. She shrugged her shoulders and stepped out of the haze of dope smoke onto the rickety porch steps.
Emily looked at her beloved VW Bug. “I thought it would be such a good idea for a relaxing weekend before our first-year final exams. I should have known.” The midday sun blitzed off the Bug’s windscreen. She squinted, screening her eyes with her left hand and looked at the forest. A bead of sweat tickled down her temple on its quest to her chin.
A bitter thought raised unbidden. “The only reason for my inclusion is my car.” Emily stoppered the well of bitterness and sighed. Her thoughts drifted to the Halloween goodies she so carefully selected and packed. A last orphaned drop of bitterness plopped. “All for naught.”
“Hey mouse. Where you going?”
“Come on mouse, have a toke. Let loose. Have some fun.”
“No Adrian. It is not my thing.”
“She will need more than a toke to loosen up,” Lionel rasped.
The two girls giggled. Emily gritted her teeth. Her brain swelled, threatening to split her skull. Adrian’s eerie imitation of a wolf howl shivered through her. “Pull yourself together,” a stern voice in her mind berated as she stepped off the porch steps. She crossed the lawn to the forest.
“Careful of the Halloween Monster!” Morné shouted.
The girls’ shrill laughter splintered the air. It snagged and plucked at her nerves, sending a falsetto shrill traveling through her ears, spooling into her tight jaw, freezing its hinges.
She stopped at the entrance on the footpath. Unshed tears burnt in her throat. She rolled her shoulders, shucking the misery out of them. She untied her bandanna, wiped her face and blanked out their voices.
The cool forest air embraced her. She sucked in the loamy air, trailing her hand along the lush ferns sprouting in the undergrowth next to the path. She stopped at the sun-dappled fork in the path, staring at the illegible rotten path indicator.
A woodpecker shrilled, raising a rash of goosebumps on her forearms. She crossed her arms over her chest and stuck her palms into her warm armpits. “Left or right. Left or right.” A rustle arrested her swinging head. She looked down the right-hand side fork. A bush pig and her brood had stopped three meters away, blocking the right-hand fork. Emily’s back stiffened. The bush pig lifted her snout and let loose a resonant growl.
Keeping an eye on the bush pig, Emily stepped sideways down the left-hand fork. Satisfied that the bush pig did not follow, Emily walked on. The forest canopy above grew denser. The sun dapples grayed. Mindless, Emily forged on.
A breeze sprung up. The mournful notes of a flute ghosted along, dipping in and out of the sudden breeze. Consciousness tapped Emily on the shoulder. She stopped. Tilted her head.
Around her, mists swirled, hanging their limp skirts around the tree trunks. Mesmerized Emily stepped along the path, following the enchanting notes. Ever deeper into the dense dark woods. She stopped at the edge of a clearing, surrounded by a symmetrical faerie ring of mushrooms. In the middle of it, cloaked in a diaphanous white shroud, a figure rose and beckoned.
In the canopy above her head a bird fluttered. The flute’s notes swelled up, butterflying into a slow-moving waltz. Her feet itched and she stepped forward.
A branch cracked under her foot, snapping her back to the present. An out of rhythm cymbal clanged, disturbing the flute’s melody. In the middle the figure morphed, its cloak darkening. A face emerged above the cloak, rivers of blood streaking from its eyes. Behind her a footstep crunched the leaves. She turned. Electric shocks stung her cheeks. Her breath hitched. Her pulse started up a drum beat in her ears.
She stumbled back. Hysteria chased panic. Panic dropped its marbles. Sent it skittering against her skull’s solid bone walls. Entering a faerie ring on Halloween eve was especially perilous. Her feet knotted, thumping her into the circle, onto the bed of musty rotten leaves. Her elbow cracked against a rock. Red hot waves of fire raced up her arm.
Through a rainbow halo of tears blurring her eyes she watched the figure from the forest slide stepping closer. A wild cackle rose behind her. A chill whispered up her spine, dropping blocks of ice into her gut. Fear punched her in the chest. Her throat worked, strangling her vocal cords.
Her cry for help died, but for a wheeze on her lips.