The Light in the Woods

by Jonathan Paine


After getting home from a night's drive, Walter Harrington hears a distant voice calling for him. This call makes him think back to when his mother would call him. After some time, he looks into the woods, where the call was coming from, and notices a light emanating. He tries to ignore it the best he can, but curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to go check it out.

It was early September of 1974 in the little town of Barriville in central Massachusetts. It seemed that summer had ended a bit too early and autumn had taken its place, showing no mercy. The wind was brutal and the trees swayed as the cold wind passed through them.

Nearing midnight, Walter Harrington, a tall, thin man at about forty years old with his short, brown hair just starting to gray, was driving home from one of his nightly drives, which he used to help with his insomnia, in his 1972 Plymouth Duster. He was wearing a black suit above a white button down shirt, the top button undone and his tie loosened. Beside him on the seat was his black fedora hat that he brought everywhere with him. In the corner of his mouth was a cigarette that had gone out, but he didn't bother with it because he just wanted to get home and not waste time.

He began to think about what he had done in the past twenty-four years. Since he was sixteen, he had been involved with killing many people, including his own mother. It was about mid-winter in 1950 when it all started. His mother had been yelling at him for hanging out with a bad crowd and killing small animals for fun and he just wouldn't listen. She decided to just lie down in the living room for a while and rest her throat while leaving sixteen-year-old Walter to think about it. She ended up dozing off while listening to Frank Sinatra and that's when Walter decided to make his move. He crouched beside the couch that she lied upon over by her head, just in case she awoke while he was about ready to do his deed, and wore a pair of latex gloves to hide his fingerprints. In his right, he held a sharp butcher knife and he cupped his hand over her mouth. He lifted his right hand up and looked away as he let it back down into her face. He only stabbed once because it frightened him at first. That's when he ran away and joined his group of wanna-be gangsters, who were inspired by people like Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde, and he was never caught. But he realized he was too deep in thought when he almost hit oncoming traffic in the opposite lane and had to swerve out of the way.

"Crap," he mumbled to himself in his gangster-like voice, "I really oughta get back home if I'm gonna dream like this."

Just as he rounded the corner to his block, he heard a distant voice calling for him. The voice was emanating from the woods across the street from his house. It sounded like his mother when she would try to get his attention when he was an infant. He jumped in his seat and dropped his cigarette on the floor. He cursed at himself for letting his imagination get the best of him and stomped on his cigarette not knowing that it was already out. Shortly thereafter, he pulled into his driveway and got out of his car while staring into the woods.

In staring into the woods, he noticed a light blue light gradually getting brighter as it began to cover more and more land. He dug a cigarette out of his breast pocket and used the cigarette lighter in his car to light it. He began to lean against his car and smoke. He heard another ghostly call for him and all at once, he dropped his cigarette and ran inside to get ready for bed. He figured it was just his imagination getting to him again.

It wasn't long before he was out of his black suit and in bed with his eyes closed. Walter figured that he was just overtired and needed rest very badly. Within about half an hour, he was sound asleep and dreaming. He was dreaming about that mistake he made back in 1950 when he murdered his mother. As he stabbed his poor mother, he awoke and saw how bright the room now was.

"It can't be morning' already," he mumbled feeling for the clock. He took one look and saw that it was only five of two. He got up and looked outside the bedroom window, now seeing how bright the whole neighborhood was.

Once again, there was that ghostly call. Only this time, it seemed to say something more. "Walter," it said, "follow the light into the woods. We have a surprise for you." This played again and again in Walter's head, waiting for him to comply.

He paced back and forth, thinking about what he should do. That voice calling for him soothed him so much. He spent perhaps ten or so minutes trying to just think. After a short time, he finally decided. He had decided on obeying the voice and going into the woods. He grabbed his black pants, button-down shirt, and black jacket, and headed for the front door where he put his hat on. He stepped out the door and, seeing how bright it actually was, grabbed the sunglasses he had in his car before finally heading for the woods.

Once in, Walter felt like he was in a different world as if he had passed through some kind of portal. All around him, he could hear people whispering, the kind that would make one's spine tingle. The temperature felt like it dropped drastically and Walter had to hug himself to get warm. One thing that Walter found funny about the woods was the fact that they weren't as bright as they appeared to be. He took off his sunglasses just so he could see all the sticks and dead branches that crossed his path. The whispering continued and raised the hair on the back of Walter's neck.

The deeper Walter got into the woods, the louder the whispering got. This whispering seemed to fill the surrounding area and formed a complete circle around him. The whispering was now loud enough where he could hear what was being said, though he didn't understand it because it seemed to be in some foreign language. The temperature continued to drop rapidly and Walter was so cold that the slightest touch would hurt.

Walter continued to walk toward this light's source for about an hour and eventually reached his destination. He heard the voice once again and it said, "Go ahead, Walter. Just walk right through it." He felt mesmerized by it and just walked right in. Once again, he felt like he passed through a portal.

The light disappeared and the temperature was back up. He couldn't see much of anything due to the clouds covering the full moon, so he didn't know where he was. He leaned back against the nearest tree and pulled a cigarette from his breast pocket. He struck a match on the bottom of his shoe and it lit with ease.

Upon lighting the match, he saw something on the forest ground, though he ignored it. He brought the match up to his cigarette and began to suck in the tobacco smoke. Right as he went to blow the match out, he saw something move in the corner of his eye. "Who goes there?!" he exclaimed. He stepped forward and heard something squash. He bent down and, when seeing what was on the ground, dropped the lit match and froze in fear.

The clouds began to pass and the moonlight poked through, lighting up that whole section of the forest. Walter lifted his head up and jumped back at the sight. What Walter was now seeing were tons of human remains, from all of his victims, just lying on the floor. There were dismembered limbs and decapitated bodies all around him. The smell of the remains finally began to reach Walter and he had no choice but to open his mouth, but just enough to let the cigarette hang from his lower lip.

Opening his mouth wasn't enough, though. Not only could he still smell this unbearable odor, but he could taste it, too. The odor was starting to make him feel nauseous and left his eyes watery. Eventually, he took his hat off to fan the odor away a little bit, but it wasn't enough. He began to feel his stomach throw a temper tantrum and, on instinct, put his hat in front of his face and began to vomit into it. Once he was done, he threw his hat like a Frisbee into the woods and fell against the tree behind him.

After a few moments of just sitting there, there was a sound of rustling leaves behind Walter, though there was no wind to move the leaves. He stood up and turned to look behind him as his eyes continued to water. He could hear footsteps coming toward him, but he couldn't see anyone there. His heart began to beat faster and faster with each passing second. It sounded like someone playing an African drum.

Sweat began rolling down his cheeks and his breathing got a little heavier. The sound was getting closer to him, but there was still no sign of life. Not even a silhouette or a shadow. When the sound got close enough to him, he hugged the tree, closed his eyes and began to beg for his life. The sound was still getting closer and Walter's praying was getting a little quicker with all the fear that was filling him up.

Then, the sound ceased. Except for his heavy breathing and his heart pounding, there was complete silence all around. He slowly opened his eyes, watching for any sign of movement. There was nothing, not even the bodies he had seen earlier. With a sigh of relief, Walter turned around.

Little did he know that standing right beside him was a tall, dark figure wearing a dark cloak with a hood. Underneath this cloak, the figure was nothing but bones, a skeleton. Though there was no face to show expressions, it could be told that this skeleton was very angry with Walter.

As Walter turned to lean against the tree with that sigh of relief, he saw the figure and nearly fainted at the sight of it. "Please don't kill me!!" Walter shouted at the thing. "Please don't take my life! Show some mercy!"

In a low, monstrous voice, the figure spoke up. "Why should I listen to your plea?" In one bony hand, this being held what Walter thought was a scythe. Walter took a look at the face when the moonlight began to shine upon it and he knew it was the end by the look on the being's skeletal face. He closed his eyes once more when the scythe was raised.

Next to him, he heard his mother's sweet voice calling him again. He opened his eyes again and saw his dead mother in her burial dress. "Walter," she said to him, "you've been a very naughty boy. Time to be punished." She gave the figure the cue to do with Walter as it pleased. Walter looked at the figure and was just speechless. He was scared stiff. The scythe struck his neck, decapitating him.


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