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The Appetite Of The Forest

It sleeps sometimes. But the days before the full moon, it is awake.

By Stephen Kramer AvitabilePublished 3 years ago 8 min read
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

The car teeters back and forth on the uneven road. The driver’s eyes dart from the road to the rearview mirror, wide with concern.

The car halts. “This as far as I go!” The driver exclaims in his thick Romanian accent. Eve and I look out the window. The sky is so dark that it is gone, but with a near full moon, the light illuminates the road.

“But we’re still not there.” I state.

“I don’t go any farther.” The driver says plainly.

“We agreed on a destination… I paid you to bring us to the exact spot—” As I highlight the plans the driver agreed to, he cuts me off.

“Then I give you money back!” The driver throws half of the fare back at me. His brow glistens with sweat. His pupils dilated like a shark that tastes blood. “You should not even be here. Let me drive you back to town.”

Eve interjects. “We told you what we were doing and you were fine with it. Why are you changing your mind now?”

“I forget what point of the month we are in.” The driver nervously grips the wheel, the material is creaking and likely going to disintegrate inside his grip. “It is never a good idea to go into this forest. This is the worst time. The forest, it is alive, always. It sleeps sometimes. But the days before the full moon, it is awake.”

Eve and I vacate the car. We’ll walk the rest of the way.

Why are Eve and I heading into Hoia Baciu Forest? Because we’re fucking crazy. Actually, it’s all for our latest contract. Not that the previous statement isn’t true. We have a specific base of clients. They’re collectors, they’re enthusiasts, they’re massive bank accounts with expensive tastes. And we set out to get them what they desire. Whether it’s an artifact, a sculpture tucked away in long-forgotten caverns. Or in this case, something believed to be a previously undiscovered element. We’re sort of like modern day Indiana Jones’s.

“Chris, is that it?” Eve points ahead. The entrance to the forest. I nod. We stop, deep breath, and prepare to head into this forest at 2:30 A.M. This forest that countless people have disappeared into. This forest that is said to be home to more spirits than anywhere else. This forest that may contain the entranceway to Hell, or to another dimension, or to a reality so awful, so dismal, so soul-devouring that a mere mortal brain cannot even fathom a small percentage of its horrors.

So, in we go!

“You got the instructions?” Eve checks with me as we traverse the path towards the line of trees protecting the darkness. The darkness of the forest waits for us, in its silence, it is electric with unseen activity. I hold the instructions in the air.

“Is that a yes or a no?” Eve doesn’t like charades.

“I have them.” I satisfy Eve with the verbal answer. “You sound like my dad.”

Eve glares at me. “If I sounded like your dad, I’d be screaming at you and reaching for my belt—” She catches herself. “Sorry, I shouldn’t—”

“It’s alright.” I’m not mad. “I shouldn’t compare you to him. He was an asshole. The same belt he used on me he used on himself just hours before I returned home from my first sleepover.”

Hi belt used to torment me. And then it ended him. I think it was his version of irony.

We cross the threshold of the first line of trees. The air suddenly gets cooler, yet thicker. It feels… active. Immediately upon our arrival, far in the distance, a high-pitched note skips through the branches. It resembles a poorly-tuned piano while simultaneously sounding like an operatic singer. It sounds lonely.

“Was that a bird?” Eve scans the branches. Nothing. “There better not be birds here.”

Her vice, birds. Spirits with evil agendas, creatures of the underworld, Eve doesn’t care, so long as there are no birds. That’s what a traumatic experience does to you. We trek along. The forest is unsettling, whether you believe in the paranormal or not. These trees are strange, crooked, they lean forward like they’re trying to smother me.

A gust of wind pushes past us. Yet, there is no sound of wind. It blows by again and suddenly, “Ow!” Scrape marks on my arm. Crimson red, three of them, like claw marks. There is nothing. It’s just me and Eve. “Uh, let’s just keep going.”

We trek on, the forest thickening, trees closing in. Through the eerie silence, we hear children giggling in the distance. We search for it, unable to detect the direction that it comes from. From even farther, a woman screaming… now sobbing…

“No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO!”

We don’t see her. Her voice is shaky. I look to Eve. Se twists her bracelet like she wants to rip it to shreds. I turn the other way and suddenly an old woman flies into my face, ghastly mouth stretched open more than is humanly possible screaming at the top of her lungs. Her eyes sunken and completely black.

I stumble back and then, she doesn’t vanish, but then she just isn’t there anymore. Behind us we hear her screaming again. We spin, pointing flashlights, leaves and branches rustle and move, but there is no one to be seen. Children giggling again.

“Never. Never.” The children sing. “NEVER!”

“Let’s keep going.” Eve pulls me along. Suddenly, another hand grabs my other arm and pulls me back. It is my father, wearing the same red and green plaid shirt he died in, belt around his neck, black veins erupted beneath his skin.

“Useless waste of space!” He shouts. He shoves me to the ground. Eve screams. A giant crow atop her head, biting her ears. I sprint to her and swipe at the crow. It bites back, getting my hand. The crow digs its talons into Eve’s skull. I swipe again and the crow dissipates into a foggy black mist and evaporates into the air around us.

Silence. Nothing.

I check the map. We’re close. I grab Eve’s arms and pull her. We race through trees. Children giggle.

“Never! Never!”

As we run on, we reach the clearing and burst out of the forest into the open area… no vegetation, just dirt.

“What the hell is happening?!” Eve is losing it. I’ve never seen her like this. We both notice blood dripping from her head. My hand is warm, wet. Blood drips from a fresh cut.

I throw my backpack off and grab ointment and bandages. I apply ointment to Eve’s cuts. I try to open the bandages, but my hands are too sticky. I dry my hands in the dirt. It is warm and trembles as I slide my hands in. I open the bandages and patch Eve up.

“Okay. We made it to The Dead Zone. We have to wait for the green light, 150 paces towards it and then 120 paces to the left.” I have memorized the instructions. The Dead Zone, said to be a portal to another dimension, or Hell. We sit right in the middle of it. Plants, trees, bushes, everything refuses to grow here.

We wait for an hour. As our client, Aaron, mentioned, the green light will only shine at this time of the month. And it’s the only way to find the place to dig. The forest is too disorienting without it. But Aaron has seen readouts showing massive energy here. He hopes to harness what he believes to be an undiscovered element for a new source of energy. We just now hope to get out of here alive, element or not.

And there it is. Shining a green color that I’ve never witnessed. Straight ahead of us in the forest. Is it floating? It quivers. It hovers. Another deep breath. We head towards it.

Back into the forest. Eve grabs my sleeve. She refuses to let go. 150 paces. We turn left and start our count to 120. The green light stays in my peripheral vision, moving behind me as we walk. I hit 60, when suddenly, the green light is now it is in front of us. Is it another green light? I turn back. No, this is the same green light. Quivering. Hovering. We keep walking, pass the green light and start our count again. We hit 60 and there is the green light in front of us again.

“Let’s go back. This isn’t right.” Eve tugs my sleeve. We head back the opposite way. And inevitably, the green light is ahead of us again. We pick up our pace and start running. We pass the light only to see it appear in front of us again. Eve yanks my sleeve, which she has not let go of yet. She redirects me back towards The Dead Zone.

We pass tree after tree, branch after branch. We’ve run more than 150 paces. The Dead Zone isn’t getting any closer. I look back. The green light is just as close, if not closer.

“We aren’t going anywhere!” Eve screams in panic. I lose my footing and fall. I accidentally pull my arm out of Eve’s grip. She stops and turns back. “Chris!”

“Keep going! I’ll catch up!” I pull myself up and Eve races ahead. She advances through the forest. She nears The Dead Zone. I turn back and the green light floats closer to me, hovering just feet from me. I see now it is an orb. A closer look reveals… a face? A familiar face. It’s me. Dirt being shoveled over my face. The very dirt I’m standing on. I look down to see my face, half-covered in dirt below my feet. My body submerged, the worms feasting on it.

I spin around and sprint to catch up to Eve. I pass tree after tree, branch after branch. I am moving past the trees, but I am moving nowhere. Meanwhile, Eve has reached the clearing. She is able to advance through the forest… now that she is no longer touching me. I’m trapped. I run forward but I move nowhere. That’s not true. I’m sinking down. Something has happened to me. This forest is slowly trapping me. But Eve is free as long as she isn’t in contact with me.

“Don’t turn around Eve! You have to trust me and don’t ever turn around!” I call out. She is so good, so trusting. She doesn’t turn. I have to get her out of this forest but if she turns back for me, she’ll never get out. “I’m right behind you. Just keep running and don’t stop until you’re out of the forest. And don’t ever turn back!”

Eve sprints through The Dead Zone and towards the other tree line, back the way we came from. For some reason I’m still running I’m on a treadmill sinking into the ground. I have never run this fast. I have never been so unable to move. My waist is level with the dirt now. Eve is barely in my sights. I see her move through the trees. And then she’s just a silhouette. And then she’s gone.

I feel the dirt hugging my sides. It is warm. It is pulsing. This forest is alive.

“Never! Never!” The children sing and giggle.

I’m still running. I can’t tell you why. The dirt surrounding me begins to feel hard, rocky, sharp. The element we’ve been looking for? I gather the strength to look down. My body, my arms, slowly solidifying into a silver-gray rock-like material.

There you go, Aaron. Found your element.

Short Story

About the Creator

Stephen Kramer Avitabile

I'm a creative writer in the way that I write. I hold the pen in this unique and creative way you've never seen. The content which I write... well, it's still to be determined if that's any good.

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