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I won't pretend for the sake of the story that I think what I felt that night was real. I will not exaggerate, nor will I omit or withhold anything from the experience. Times had been rough. I was searching for a job, my girlfriend of four years just dropped out of college because it was far too stressful on her, and to top it off, she was awaiting a phone call from her doctor. She hadn't been feeling well; uneasiness and dizziness were daily ailments. We don't know what the results could be.
One night, she was feeling particularly nervous about the impending diagnosis. I hadn't gone to bed that day, as usual for me. I decided I should probably go to sleep seeing that it was seven in the evening. I sent my girlfriend a text message letting her know that I was retiring for a nap, and that I had set my alarm clock for nine o'clock – two hours – then I would rise, dress myself, shower, and go visit her. We were still young, both of us living with our respective parents still. I did not have a drivers license yet and her car was broken, so I was going to have to walk.
This was not unusual for me, because it wasn't that long ago that she did not have a vehicle and I'd have to walk to her house anyway. She lived about half a mile from my house, so the walk was never longer than ten minutes. I had a long driveway to march down, then cross one small road into a field that spanned the majority of the overall distance between our homes, then finally a short path that was in an “S” shape through a thin patch of woods. Upon exiting the woods, there'd be a long, uphill, road to walk, and the journey would be over.
After falling asleep immediately, it felt as if only a moment had passed when I jolted up from the obnoxious and overwhelmingly vexatious buzz buzz buzz of my alarm clock. Upon turning it off, I felt absolutely miserable. From head to toe my body ached and all I wanted was to sleep again. I suppose that's what I get for forcing myself to stay awake for 24 hours at a time, then interrupting the deep sleep after a mere two hours with the most jarring sound imaginable. But a promise is a promise, and I send another text to my girlfriend letting her know that I am up and preparing.
Sluggishly, I gathered my clothing and slipped into the shower. From then until I stepped out my front door, I was on autopilot. After brushing my teeth, ignoring my wet hair by simply putting on a hat, and grabbing my phone, wallet, and keys off my desk, I stepped out of my home into the dark.
It was warm out; not uncommon for a summer night in the mid-Atlantic states of the US. Something was off though, something was strange. I figured it was just because I felt like a zombie, trudging down the gravel path from my home. I sent one more text message to my girlfriend, telling her that I was on my way and that I wouldn't be texting her anymore until I had arrived because the flashlight application on my phone did not allow me to use any other function on the device while the light was on. I closed out of the messaging system and opened the flashlight application. It made a generic and cheesy click noise to imitate a real flashlight before the bright light dispelled all darkness in front of me.
I stood at the end of my driveway on the corner of the street that intersected it. There were three ways to get to my girlfriend's house. There is the only way cars can go, up and out of the neighborhood, looping around from the main road. That way was too far to walk. I could follow the street up until it ended (it was a dead-end) and take the even shorter path through thick woods and end up right at her back door. That route was more common of me to take in the Winter because it is shorter and if there's snow on the ground, I can walk on the pavement most of the way. The only problem is that since it is so dense through there, in the Summer bushes and other tall and thick vegetation grows to engulf the entire path. My only real option was the typical path, through the field and into the woods. For some reason, I stood there for a moment, looking into the field. It was so dark and it was fairly often that small animals such as skunks and opossums would show their faces at this hour. I decided to walk on the dimly lit street that ran parallel to the grassy field in case a skunk or something (even possibly, a bear) crossed my path.
There was still something off about that night, but I just couldn't think of what. I patted my pockets to check for my keys and wallet to be sure it wasn't a sense of missing something that I was mistaking for eeriness. Both object were present, and my phone was in my hand lighting my way, so I dismissed the sensation of forgetting something as a cause for the strangeness.
I passed between lampposts on the street swiftly. They were old, and I hadn't a clue when the last time they were cleaned or the last time their bulbs were changed. The light they provided was barely sufficient for more than about a fifteen foot radius, so I kept my flashlight on. About half way down the road to the entrance to the forest, a small bush in the front yard of someone's home rustled violently for a moment before settling down. I ceased my brisk march abruptly and presented my light unto the bush. Scurrying out was a medium sized opossum. It ran into the street, about two yards in front of me. I lowered my light and watched it as it turned its head to look at me. It stared at me for just a second before I stomped my foot on the pavement hard enough to scare it off. It jumped and quickly darted off into the yard on the other side of the street. Seeing an opossum was nothing strange in the least where I lived. Skunks and bears were common as well (in addition to a rare appearance of cougars).
I continued moving down the street until, presented in front of me, was the last lamppost. Not far from there was the gap in the trees of the forest that was the mouth of the path. The light of the final lamp was twice as dim as the others. From where I was standing, it appeared that the entire world just ended there. A dim light, some more road, a patch of gravel, then nothing at all. As I approached what seemed to be the void, I held my light up to it. I was now standing on the graveled area that separated the road from the tree line. As a stepped onto the tiny rocks, the loud crunch startled me. It was then that I realized what was so strange about that night.
If you've ever been in a wooded area or a neighborhood surrounded by forest at night, there is always the ear-piercing sound of insects making their various noises. But, the high-pitched chirps and squeals of the tiny nocturnal creatures were absent. My entire walk had been in near complete silence and I hadn't noticed until a loud sound invaded my ears.
This unnerved me. I had thought at first that I was still sleeping, dreaming, and that bugs would soon erupt into their usual incessant shenanigans, the sounds doubling as my alarm clock and I would get up and do it all again for real. But I can distinguish reality from a dream, and I pondered as to why the choir of immense aggravation decided to remain silent this night only. Despite living in the southern US, surrounded by “country boys”, I knew nothing of forests and bugs and nature. The fact that I agree to walk through a patch of woods is a bit out of character for me, because the thought of being dirty repulsed me.
Just as my mind was about to get back on track and my legs were about to move forward again, I caught a feint dot of light out of the corner of my eye; two, actually. Being the ever-so-cautious person that I am, I held my flashlight where it was, purposely not moving it in the direction of the specks so if it were the eyes of an animal, it would not suspect that I know it is there. But then a chilling thought came over me. In this pitch black, how could they be eyes? They would not be glowing or reflecting light because there is no light source shining into them.
I turned my head slowly, and only a few degrees, so that I could see the specks better. I maintained the light's position in front of me as I examined as best as I could the dots. As my eyes met with the light specks, my grip on my phone-light tightened, and I froze perfectly still. Those dots were most certainly eyes.
The horrid creature that housed them was something unlike anything I had ever seen. It was humanoid in shape, about three feet tall, and it had no facial features – no mouth or ears or nose – other than the two eyes... and they glared at me with such disgust it terrified me. It sat perched, eh, more like squatted as it stared and stared. I looked for subtle movements like its chest expanding from respiration or a blink of the eyes, but nothing happened. It remained completely stationary. My eyes were beginning to tear up and my nose started to burn like when you hold back a soda-based belch.
At this point, my initial reaction was to run into and through the woods and not stop until I was inside my girlfriend's house. Then I thought to run back and take the long way around after all. My girlfriend would understand if I merely mentioned I didn't want to go through the bear-infested woods at night. But then my senses came over me. I am not a spiritual or religious person by any stretch, so the words “demon” or “ghost” did not come to mind when thinking of this creature. I knew it had to be some kind of animal. I felt like whatever it was, it wasn't watching me for the same reason I was watching it. I was observing. It seemed to be waiting.
I thought for a moment to turn off the light altogether. I figured if I can't see it in this darkness, it can't see me. But that idea vanished almost as soon as it came, because this thing was not human, it could likely see just fine in the blackness.
I am a big guy. I'm not obese, not built, just big. I feel as if I could take this thing on if its intentions are hostile. I don't want to have to deal with that, though. I decided on what to do. I want to see what it really is. My eyes haven't moved from their positions staring at it, and it hasn't moved even in the slightest either. If I had blinked at all during this time, I didn't notice it.
I drew in a deep breath, and spun around quickly and aimed my light directly at the creature, and what I saw next was more terrifying that what I had expected to see...
Absolutely fucking nothing.
I exhaled my held breath and pointed my light all around me to find where it had gone, but it was nowhere. I scanned the tree line and did multiple 360 degree spins in search of the thing. I shined the light directly where it once stood again, but there was nothing there at all. The grass under where it stood looked unchanged. Did I imagine it? No, I couldn't have! It was there.
I decided to continue through the path cautiously, but quickly. My mind raced as my legs did. How could I even think that something was there? Nothing could have moved that fast. I let my fear cloud my judgment and intelligence. I knew better.
At the end of the path, I stopped. I turned off the flashlight application and opened my in-box to tell my girlfriend that I had arrived. I decided against telling her about the situation. After all, regardless if it was my imagination or some actual horror out there, I had avoided it.