I used to go into the woods–alone–a lot. Sometimes I’d take my dog, and he would spook if a branch snapped. Of course, the dog wasn’t used to being taken out for walks in the woods. I was.
My weapon of choice was a broken golf club (essentially a stick without the club on the end; some kids called it the light sabre), and with it I was invincible. I would bang it on a rock or a tree trunk every once in a while. Some of you may scoff or shake your head, but never once did I see a bear. Once I saw a racoon, but those don’t count.
I made the most noise.
Therefore I was the biggest.
The biggest, damnedest beast in the woods.
There was a lake in the area I once haunted. A small lake, but no less unsettling. It was always eerily quite. The lake trickled off into marshland if you went so far in the opposite direction of it (the lake was north-west, roughly). The lake made me wary. The marsh unsettled me. I avoided it altogether like it was a plague.
One day I decided to try a new path, one that I’d ignored for years. Why not? In the spirit of adventure I took it, finding out for myself where it led. Countless other paths branched off it, some that I took afterwards. There was one path with the largest widow-maker just waiting to fall; it was essentially a third of massive maple that had partly broken off. Racing to get past that was fun. I only did it twice, and then stopped. Common sense, you know . . .
But this story is not about the gnarled trees that resemble humanoids, it’s not even about the small hut beside the lake (which I only saw once, and then couldn’t find afterwards), or the lane of maples . . . or even the oddly placed pile of stones beside the hollow oak . . .
I followed the path until it ended with a curious abruptness. In front of me lay the other end of the marsh, the end covered in shadows around midday. There was no possible means of getting to the other side; no reasonable means I should say. There was an odd hedge of trees which grew in clumps that spanned across to the other shore. I have a thing with dark water, so crossing that was never going to happen. Also I had no canoe.
Any hopes of getting across were quickly ruled out. To be honest it was never an imperative. Who cared if I didn’t get to the other side?
I tried to find a way to a piece of land further along my side of the shore, but it was not going to happen. The mud was thick, and there were no real openings, it was just bush and trees.
I found myself staring at the other shore deep in thought, when I heard a wail. At first I assumed that it was a moose nearby. When it repeated itself, closer this time, I decided to take a look.
Standing on the piece of land I had eyed just a moment before was the biggest, damnedest beast in the woods. It was a huge thing, hairless by the looks of it, with sickly sallow skin that appeared to be luminous in the shade. I couldn’t tell what was head or limb, the thing was just a demented mass.
Somehow I knew that it regarded me. I retraced my steps back up the path. I don’t like to run, but that day was a good day to run.