I know they're hiding up there, in the woods. You can almost smell them when the wind blows past the trees. And some nights, you'd swear you could feel their eyes upon you. Maybe peeking out from behind a tree? Or snooping around the wood shed. You see, there used to be a cemetery up on this hill... and though the head stones have cracked, fallen over and sunk into the ground, the graves still remain...
It's not unusual to find dead rabbits, squirrels, or even a stray cat, along these trails. So readily the locals would dismiss them as the acts of wild dogs or a bobcat. Can't say I blame them... whatever helps them sleep at night. But there was something peculiar in the way these carcasses were devoured.
They were not ripped and torn, chewed up from one end to the other. Rather, skinned and picked apart, leaving their innards to the maggots and whatever else creeps along the ground.
These habits seem rather picky for dogs, don't you think?
Ah, but over the years, the population of critters has worn thin in these woods. I have feared for sometime, that they would soon overcome their shyness, and wander closer and closer down the countryside, in search of easy prey. It was only a matter of time...
Do you think I'm just trying to scare you? Or perhaps, I've had too much time in my hands, and decided to let my imagination run laps around my better senses? Let me assure you, what I have to tell is every bit as real as the chair you're sitting in.
I grew up in this cottage with my mother. As a boy, I would sometimes sneak out my bedroom window, with a mason jar to catch the fireflies. That was until one night when I dared to venture farther than I had ever wandered before. So far in fact, that I could no longer see the light from my window. As the fireflies grew thin, I found myself on a trail that ran alongside that cemetery.
The moon was indeed alive with an ominous glow, strange yet wise. It revealed to me, from thin vegetation, the tired, sagging tombstones that sat within a clearing. But there was something even more dreadful waiting at the trail's end. At first, I couldn't tell what it was, only that a foul lingering odor seemed to be coming from it. If only I had the better sense to turn back... I too could sleep peacefully, with casual wonder, of the creatures that lurk in nocturnal hills.
Quietly I crept closer to this shadowy mass. It wasn't long before I realized that it was moving... as if it were not one lump of mass, rather a group of bodies huddled close together. People... huddled around something laying on the cold ground. My hands began to tremble, so much so that the jar had slipped and fell... making a subtle, yet distinct thud in the dirt.
In a snap they turned, and laid piercing eyes that glowed like that of an owl's, in my direction. Their clothes, tattered and worn, hung as if death shrouds over pale, bony frames.
Startled they sprung to their feet, and nearly scattered, but their timid nature was overcome by curiosity. It was then I could clearly see what poor creature laid at their feet. A faun, strayed from its mother's side, laid helpless, still breathing; even though its insides were scattered across the blood soaked ground.
I can't tell you how much I wanted to scream... I tried, but all I pushed through was dry air. Soon my phantoms grew less timid, and cautiously, ever so cautiously, crept closer. With fingers spread wide apart, they extended their arms, reaching for me, with the hunger of despaired lovers.
With such a sight, could a bullet travel any faster, than I running down those winding trails. Never once did I look back, but the sound of cracking limbs and rustling bushes, ruled the canvas of morbid dreams within my head.
For certain, I was convinced they would catch me. Their legs were longer, stretching farther with every stride. And with those golden eyes... glowing like coins beneath murky waters, seeing deeper into the dark abyss than that of the common feline, surely my fate would be that of the stray faun, ripped apart and consumed, under the cover of night.
They did not grow tired, no.... They merely sought refuge in familiar terrain. As I told you before, they were shy creatures. They watched from behind trees and bushes. They dared not venture farther, I leaped back into my window, and locked it! Then I crawled my way, panting, to my bed. Only then, staring at the off balanced ceiling fan, did the absolute terror, wash over me, like a bucket of warm blood. I guess it's like not knowing you're going to fall, until you see the bottom. Funny how that awareness changes your reality.
I can't imagine as to how I fell asleep, only that eventually daylight came. And with it a false sense of jubilee. I was so ready to chalk this off, as one of my more disturbing phantasms, until I noticed my jar sitting on the windows ledge. Flies buzzed frantically, around its inner content... desperate to lay eggs in what's inside.
As I wondered nearer to the window's ledge, what began as vaguely familiar, became dreadfully unmistakable. Resting at the base, the eyes of the deer, staring wide into the vacuum of death... with all its ominous surprise.
I believe it was placed there as a warning. Maybe, never to speak of the things I've seen? Nor venture deep into the depths of the woods again. Ah, but a silent breeze passes through fresh timber. And so... a new treaty must be forged. If I cannot appease the dead, in a world continuously changing, how can I hang on to the memories of the past? You do understand? After all, this cottage is my home.
And so my weary traveler, it is most unfortunate, that you sought refuge here... in my company. The reason for your bondage to this wooden chair, that is placed in my backyard is self-explanatory... Tonight, I fear the dead, restless with famine, will dare cross the threshold into the land of the living. And you... You are to be my first offering. A bond that will tie me to both worlds, living and beyond. Light... to the nocturnal. So subtle it seems... yet profound. Feel free to scream... for only they will hear you.
I must go... for I can smell the wind, passing through the trees. Ah death, its scent never truly leaves you. For once you've smelt it, it always remembers... much like a photograph fading in the sun, it remembers... all that it has touched.