The Man In The Woods

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    Everyday of my 4 years of college I have heard people talk of what happened at “Agatha’s clearing”. Of course it wasn’t originally called that, but the story of how the name became has become warped and joked about to the point where no one remembers the true form of it, besides me of course. How could I possibly forget that day. It has been burned into my memories like a cow that has been branded with a glowing piece of metal. No one however, has ever believed the truth when I told it (although I was never really allowed to tell the story). Too strange and unbelievable I assume. All other matters aside (my task is to tell you the story, not state the obvious truth that you likely won’t believe a single word that graces my lips) The story,
    My first years of college had been strangely pleasant, if of course you get rid of the cruel amount of work that the lousy education system demand that I complete, and being the naive child I was back then every free moment that could be spared from my studies I, took to party and drink (luckily I escaped that terrible phase when I became a sophomores). There was only one place where I could not go to enjoy my free time, “The Woods”. It was a codename that could successfully sneak right past the dean’s ears without a lick of suspicion. The reason I couldn’t go there was that while the sophomores and seniors freely let people know that it existed so it could quickly become the best place to socialize around campus, freshman and juniors weren’t allowed in as they didn’t want any “babies” tattling to the dean. They even made the effort to hire lookouts to make sure no one could sneak in! Being a junior, I was excited for the next year, as I could party at “the woods” to my heart’s content. Unfortunately all fun things must come to an end. The dean, following the sound of unusually loud music and loud young adult spirit, discovered the college’s church of party and drinking, “The Woods”. Not many people went there after that, out of fear of being caught for expellable acts, but I did.
    After the dean discovered it and checked it regularly, “The Woods” became a quiet peaceful place that I and many others found refuge in. Bookworms went over to read in peace without their loud peers, those who were surrounded by the loud went here to collect their thoughts, poets came to imagine, artists looked for inspiration, and writers like me came to write about the sounds of the earth, the sky, and the forest. Of course to keep it as quiet as was needed, an unspoken rule emerged that no more than 5 or 6 people could be there at a time. I always tried to make an effort to get there early as no one was ever there at 8 o’clock through around 12 AM (nobody liked to be up early or had morning classes). I had not won the battle of waking up early everyday but whenever i’d succeed and be peacefully sat in the clearing, I always saw a old lady hobble pass. She had a thin haggard figure with a wrinkled face covered with her curled gray hair and a faded flower-patterned hood protecting her from the sun. Everyday at roughly 9 o’clock she would walk past me through the clearing. I always assumed that it was perhaps a shortcut to her house from the grocery store as she carried bulging grocery bags but, the path she took was covered with brambles and sharp pointed rocks (which was hardly suitable for a older person like her). It always made me curious.
    After a month or so of the same cycle every morning (wake up, get ready, walk to the clearing, watch the old lady walk past me until she was on the path, etc, repeat) A man appeared on the exact path. He wore a clean black preachers shirt with matching black pants and a pair of expensive looking dark dress shoes, which were hardly appropriate for these muddy woods. His hair was also black but it had thin gray strands running through it, despite the fact that he looked like he was only in his early thirties. When he past me through the clearing I gave a nod hello then reopened my book. The man just looked at me with a hungry expression, his eyes shining with a cruel silver light. We stood (or rather he stood) at a standstill. The hair on my neck standing upright and bumpy ranges of goosebumps appeared on my arms. I refused to look at him, I instead held the book close to my face, pretending he wasn’t standing right there above me, with the expression of a starved man in front of a feast. He took a step closer and asked “have you perchance seen anyone go by here? an old lady Perhaps?” his voice was like claws on a chalkboard. I abandoned all politeness and instead trusted my gut instincts and ran. I was lucky that the man didn’t put up a chase. I looked back and just see him staring intently at me with that same hungry smile. Needless to say for numerous days I didn’t go back.
    Of course I wanted to go back, it was a beautiful place to go to get away from everything but, my gut instinct told me that something wasn’t right and my nerves screamed at me, nearly giving me a panic attack every time I decided that I would get over this silliness and just go. To get rid of this silly fear, I decided that I would ask the regulars if they had seen the man go by. They hadnt. I asked about the old lady as well, but they hadn’t seen her either. After my questions, I decided I had just been stupid and paranoid. Tomorrow morning I would start my routine again because the weird man wasn’t the evil monster that i’d had saw him as that morning, my instinct just had to be wrong. Unfortunately if I had just listened to them there wouldn’t have have to be this story of bad luck. And everytime I look back at this memory I wish I just listened to them.
    Each step I took toward “The Woods” was an avalanche that barreled down thousands of thoughts of what might happen. Out of sheer will I had made it to the clearing successfully. I sat down and opened my book (a pleasant distraction from my thoughts) and read like there was no tomorrow. Then suddenly, As I suspected might happen, the same man from before stepped out into the clearing. He regarded me coldly. I set down my book and stared at him for a while, he stared back sending an icy wave of fear to me with it. “ I-I I’m sorry f-for running away that other day” I stuttered. “My instincts just told me to go and I did” I figured the truth might be the best thing to tell in this situation. He didn’t speak right away, I could practically hear him picking apart my words with a scalpel, then he smirked “Don’t. Worry.” he assured me emphasizing those two words slowly. “It happens often” the man shrugged indifferently. I shivered in a combination of fear, uncomfortableness, and uneasiness instead of the calm reassurance the man was going for. I was determined to not overanalyze the situation but, that was a incredibly strange response to my words. A strange but very quiet ruffling of the bushes disturbed me from my thoughts and the old lady from that I had seen a every morning walked into the clearing. Her eyes widened in fear when she saw the man, then she looked at me. We made eye contact. She mouthed one word at me, that word was “run”. That was the one word that it took for everything to spring into action. At that exact moment, the man saw that I saw staring at something behind him and whipped around just quick enough to see the old lady disappear into the bushes the way she came. The man gave a inhuman snarl and gave chase. I, with all my cowardliness and fear, did not pursue them. I instead ran.
    I didn’t stop running for what seemed to me to be hours (although it was likely only a few minutes). My legs ached, my nerves were frayed, and I was terrified. If even I heard the bushes rustle around me I would have peed my pants whilst pleading to every god in existence for my death to be swift. As I continued my strides I saw a small shack sitting in between the trees. It had a long graceful chimney of ashy brown bricks, old green painted wood that was peeling by the second, and there was a black door that resembled a plank of wood put on hinges. The door had intricate decals carved carefully into it. It was the only part of the shack that didn’t look old and decomposing. Being both curious and very scared I opened up the door to see if I could use it as a hiding place. The black door’s hinges creaked open loudly, as if they hadn’t been oiled for years. Inside the shack was just light darkness (which meant that it was quite dark and hard to see but there was definitely some light). There wasn’t much of the morning light coming out from the dusty cracked windows. I took a step inside the home and just a single footstep scattered thousands of white dust mites into the air making even harder to see and breath. suddenly I realized, as the particles sat on my taste buds, this was not dust, but actually flour. Someone had placed a clever trap here. I coughed the “dust” out of my lungs then held the sleeve of my sweatshirt to my mouth and nose to filter the air I was breathing. It was better, not great but objectively better. When the flour settled back on the floor I looked around from my vantage point, being very careful to not kick up anymore flour. There was a kitchen area, a ragged couch that was on its last legs, a old stairway that lead into what I assume was a bedroom & bathroom, and a large table that was covered in splotches of a sticky dark red substance. I had a second look at the table, my face became as pale as a ghost and I felt vomit rising in my throat. I contemplated running out, but I would rather not cross paths with the man again, so I sat.
    The place I sat was place that: wasn’t as affected by the flour trap I set off and was relatively cleaner than the rest of the room, was very far (or at least as far as it could be in this tiny shack) from the bloody table and it was right next to the door in case I needed a quick escape. I sat for at least an hour, getting lost in thought, then realizing what was happening and having thousands of emotions, terror, fear, basic uncomfortableness, sickness, guiltiness for running away, rush back to me. I checked my watch, it was only 10:16. Everything had happened so fast it seemed like it had been a lifetime. My thoughts dissipated as I heard a choir of footsteps running quickly, bushes pushing themselves out of the way, and huffs of tired lungs. A voice spoke, loudly practically yelling, “You can’t run from me forever Agatha. Even if you escape me yet again then I can simply find you again. You can’t escape the pentagon” it was the man. Another voice spoke, this one was slightly more high pitched, “ No I can’t run forever, but I certainly can try.” The man spoke up again “it seems like your old years haven’t amounted to any wisdom after all, you blathering fool.” In response to that, the old lady (who I now will refer to as Agatha) said “what’s that behind you?” the man, fortunately for Agatha, fell for the oldest trick in the book and looked behind him. I heard Agatha take off again, the choir of noise re-appearing.
    I sat for a few minutes thinking about what I had heard. Why was the man after the old lady Agatha? What was the “pentagon”? I realized I likely wouldn’t be able to hide in this place any longer, if they came across it once they could come across it again and the chase could continue inside. My plan was to make my way back to the clearing then, get on campus, preferably alive, and alert the police. I stepped out the door into the suffocating woods, then did a 360 to find my path again, and finally started down the ragged brambled trail that had been cut by my strides. I had run surprisingly far in my panic, at least half of a mile, and was carefully making my way down the hastily cut trail. It was very peaceful, I even saw a herd of deer through the thick trunks of the trees, or at least it was peaceful until I heard a voice.
    “I don’t have time for this imbecile to get away from me” the man huffed impatiently. I quickly ducked down so the man wouldn’t see me, but it was for naught as the delicate leaves around me moved from my sudden panic. The man gave a small laugh “Oh, I have longed for this moment Agatha you made a terrible mistake betraying pentagon like that and you know what we have to do to traitors don’t you?” I heard him drawing closer, each step like a earthquake across the wet mud of the forest. He couldn’t be more than a couple feet away now, time slowed, my heart kept skipping beats, but I couldn’t make myself get up and move or even tell the man it was not I who he who he was looking for. A hand jolted out from the bush next to me and grabbed the shoulder of my hoodie. The hand pulled me toward its body. The man spun me around to face him. Had it not been a life or death situation I would have laughed at the ridiculous expression the man made as he saw that I was not Agatha. “Why-wha why are you here?” he asked trying to keep his composure. I said nothing. The man threw me to the ground and held his creased brow exasperated. “You have got to be kidding me” the man cursed “I figured you would have run back to your little campus by now! I should have just gotten rid of you from the start”. He took out a shining platinum knife. It shined with a slight rainbow glow from the light coming through the tree canopy. “but, I only came here to kill one person not two, unfortunately you’ve heard me say way too much”. He gave a huff of distaste and looked me in the eye. “This is quite a humiliating moment for me you understand, poor old Agatha gets away again, I mistake you for her and then I reveal too much information to you. I suppose I was getting a little too excited and cocky too early…” the man started to inch closer “honestly you’ve surprised me, I the second in command of pentagon, almost fooled by a mere child. I also admire your bravery though, you haven’t even begged for mercy as i’m coming at you with my knife. It’s just too bad that bravery leads to heroism and other reckless decisions. The man was towering over me no more than a single foot away, his voice turned into something quieter than a whisper. “But perhaps to make up for my newest failure I could bring in something else. Something other than the head of a pitiful old lady. So, why don’t we turn that foolish bravery into something useful, eh?” a bright and shining cruel light lit in the man’s eyes. It was the light of someone who had seen many horrible things, and instead of fixing the parts of him that were destroyed his soul hardened into something tougher than bedrock so, it couldn’t go through any more pain. My heart skipped yet another beat while looking at it and I started backed away slowly but, the man took another step toward me. He leaned down so our faces were level to each other. “Now sleep” the man commanded authoritatively. I could feel consciousness slipping from my grasp. Then the world went completely dark.

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