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The Chanting in the Woods

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I don’t sleep with my window open anymore. No matter how hot outside it gets, that bastard stays closed. It’s been this way for a long time. Since I was very young. It’s not a real hit with the ladies during summertime. People usually recommend air conditioners, and I usually go with the prospect when I have company. But when it’s in, I don’t sleep well at all because I can only imagine how easy it would be for anyone to bypass them.

There is a single perk to an AC though, well, besides the relief from the hot stickiness of the summer’s humidity, and that’s the steady hum which stifles the silence. I don’t like the silence you see. There was a time when it brought me an almost zen like level of peace and tranquility, but now, I find it invasive, dangerous. Silence never comes alone. From time to time, I can still hear the chanting, from my youth, I can hear them all, wordlessly and yet with prestigious synchronicity and harmony with one another, their conjoined voices echo out from the woods like the gentle and yet threatening breeze that proceeds a violent hailstorm, rhythmic yet senseless. It never went away, and yet I know they’ve all moved on or died. I know this is all very well.

When I was about nine years old, Me and my dad lived in this old rented two family apartment house in a town called Bridgewater in the state of Massachusetts. We lived on the bottom floor, The second floor wasn’t used. It was recently vacated by its prior residents. It was a very quiet neighborhood, very suburban and with plenty of woods. Behind our house, there was a backyard that proceeded into a large forest that spanned for miles out. I used to play in them.

My dad and my mother were recently divorced, so there were just the three of us living here. Me, him and the dog Cash, who was named after the late country singer Johnny Cash. He was an old Scottish Terrier. You know the type, ankle biters with the really ugly bearded faces. They got him as a pup when I was still in diapers and he was my lifelong friend. He may have been something of an idiot, but at the time, he was all I had. I cried and cried when mom tried to take him. In the end, he was left in my father’s care for my sake.

Me and Cash would spend a lot of time playing in the woods. When you’re young, your imagination is a very powerful thing, and the woods had an almost magic quality in terms of supplementation for my imagination. I would play army, Build forts, climb trees. One time me and Cash traveled in so far, I actually got lost. We were losing daylight as it was October and the light was fading at a much faster rate, I began to panic, afraid I’d be trapped out here in the pitch black. As we walked around, frantic for landmarks, anything familiar, That’s when I saw it. The clearing, with a large rock in the center.

It wasn’t exactly uncommon to see graffiti and vandalism in the woods. A public forest is known quite well for trees with messages carved into them, names, swastikas, brad and Jen 4ever in a nice cute heart. Stuff like that, not to mention the pseudo gang names spray painted on rocks. That was the impression I got of this place, a hangout for older kids. But something wasn’t right. Me being only 9, my mind wasn’t exactly capable of comprehending the connotations of symbols and other things, and yet there was something really off about these images. I’ve never seen anything like them before. The surrounding trees had crudely shaped images of what appeared to be a goat man hybrid, like a stick figure, with an unnecessarily detailed goat’s head imposed over where you’d expect to see a very basic stick figure face.

These images were drawn over and over and over again, all over the trees that surrounded the clearing, almost obsessively so, and not just at the basic human height level, but all up the trees, as if whoever carved them, had to use a ladder. The rock itself had red markings all over it, letters that I have never seen before. Underneath though, was written in black spray paint a message I actually could read. It said “Behold the wisdom of the Horned” and below that, there were five painted lines. They were all the same height except for the two outer lines that were twice the height and spiraled outwards at the top.

What really scared me about this place though were the dolls. They were hanging from the branches around the clearing. They appeared to have been woven out of sticks, and poorly so. Taking a closer look, I realized what was so scary about them. While the stick dolls were clearly constructed with the grace of shitty arts and crafts students, the heads of them were dry and clean skulls of animals.

I didn’t know what of, but they were bleached white, dry and clean, and their hollow sockets…I can’t explain it effectively without sounding insane, but there was something sentient about them, watchful, and pleading. I could feel their eyes on me, though they had none to watch with. I felt fear, not my own fear, mind you, but something, an aura of emotion that made absolutely no sense. Have you ever been at an underage drinking party that got crashed by the police? It’s that kind of fear. The fear that comes synonymously with trouble.

I can’t explain why I did it, but I reached up and touched one. Maybe it was a child’s general inquisitive nature that compelled me, maybe it was fascination, or an intense desire to quell my fear and convince myself that they were just dolls and not the watchful spirits I would eventually come to believe they were. When I touched it, the skull fell off. The doll unwound itself. Only a piece of it remained attached to the rawhide rope that it was suspended from. The Skull cracked when it hit the ground. When it happened, there was a certainty that quelled inside me. As Naïve as a nine year old could be, there was also a certainty that remained with me to this day. I don’t belong here.

Cash immediately started barking when the doll fell, and it startled me so effectively that I let out a scream. I looked up, the sky was glowing red with the darkness not too far behind. The sun was going down, and I had to get out of here. Cash was staring at me, black eyes wide open and tail wagging violently. He was barking at me, insistently. He began to growl at something, maybe air, maybe ghosts. When I approached him, he turned and ran. Cash was my only companion in this unnatural place, and I would have been damned if I was going to let him betray me to solitude here, so I gave chase. I ran for my life.

The last thing I saw before I chased Cash, was something that really messed with me. All the other dolls that were hanging, when I first arrived, they were dangling, some even spinning lazily in the breeze, and yet as I ran after Cash, I saw every single doll on the sight were completely stationary, staring and facing me directly. I was dismissive of this detail as I was more afraid of being alone.

I never let Cash out of my sight. He led me straight home. I never loved my dog more than when I realized what he had done for me. Dogs are never lost, they always know the way.

Before I went to bed, I told my dad what I saw. He laughed it off and told me it was just teenagers being punks, and that I should just let it go. I found it comforting and was almost willing to let it go. I even fell asleep without any trouble.

That night was when I heard it for the first time. The noise that’d haunt me to this very day. I woke up and could hear noise coming through my window. I got up and looked out to listen closer. That’s when I realized it was chanting. Voices, dozens maybe. They were coming from in the woods. I could hear them, loudly and rhythmically. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I could tell it was ceremonious, like a hymn you hear people sing in churches, except it felt dark, violent even.

I immediately thought about the clearing with the rock. The dolls. The fear. I knew in my bones that the chanting was coming from there. What scared me the most was that it wasn’t far. It wasn’t far at all. The Chanting went on for hours. I just lied there in bed, wide eyed with fear listening to it, praying that it’d stop. It wouldn't though. It went on until four in the morning when the early birds began to wake up.

I stopped playing in the woods. My dad noticed the behavior immediately and asked if I was alright. I told him about the chanting and again he shrugged his shoulders and said that it was probably teenagers drinking beers and having a party. I asked them why they’d drink beer and chant the same sound for five hours. He told me they weren’t chanting, that I imagined it, and that I should close the window from now on. I probably should of listened to him, but I didn’t. Curiosity got the better of me.

The next night, the chanting began again at exactly eleven o’clock. It seemed louder than before. I couldn’t sleep hearing it, but I couldn’t bring myself to close the window. I don’t know why I thought this way, probably because I was just a child. I dimwittedly thought at the time that if I closed my window, I wouldn’t be able to hear them coming if they decided to break into the house. The logic is flawed I know, that they would still be chanting as they emerge from the woods and cross my yard, and not be nice and quiet about it, but that’s how I thought back then. That’s why I couldn’t close the window, because I had to know if they were coming.

This went on for several days. Every night, from eleven to four, exactly on the dot. Sometimes I could see in the woods, way way way out there, a faint glow, like the light of a fire. But it was so faint and far in between that I didn’t know whether to acknowledge or dismiss it as a trick of my own eyes. Other times, I would successfully fall asleep due to exhaustion, only to wake up several hours later in panic, still able to hear it. I asked my dad if Cash could sleep in my room on the third night, and he said it’d be fine. It felt better knowing I had the dog to keep me company while I would hear the noise. And better yet, if I could hear them coming, he would too and then be a dog about it and start barking out the window at them. I anticipated a good night’s sleep and even felt silly for not thinking about this solution earlier. I fell asleep at eight with Cash sleeping at the foot of my bed.

I woke up at quarter past eleven, to Cash barking. He was on his two hind legs, tail wagging spastically, and he was barking out the window, ears pointing up. Barking, growling, howling out the window. I immediately got out of bed and looked out the window towards the woods. Nothing. Nothing at all. Cash was very agitated, growling and looking at me, then back out the window and barking. The chanting was still going on, same as the last couple of days. I remember feeling uncomfortable that Cash was barking at the noise, that if he was in danger of getting their attention. I tried to calm him down.

That’s when my dad came in, he stumbled in groggily and picked up the dog and turned to walk out the door with him, mumbling about him shutting the hell up. I called his name, but he was so asleep, he was practically dead on his feat. I screamed at him “DAD, THE WOODS!” that god his attention. He turned around and walked up to me, looked out the window and then back at me.

“This again?” he mumbled, “Look boy, it’s just your imagination,”

“No listen, that’s what Cash was going crazy about, there are people singing in the woods! Just listen,”

He looked carefully out the window. Cash was growling in his arms as his head turned out the window. I listened too, but there was nothing. No sound. Total silence. I couldn’t believe it, could this had been a coincidence?

My dad told me to go to sleep and left the room, mumbling insults at Cash.

The silence chilled me far more than then the chanting ever did. At least when they were singing their malicious hymns, there was at least a sense of distance between them and me, but right now, I know they’re out there, but I don’t know where. I had no bearings whatsoever. What was even worse, what wrought unprecedented terror upon me was that there was no nighttime ambiance in those woods. No crickets. Evenings brought them out in droves this time of year, and even when they were chanting I could still hear them…but now it was quieter than a bone chilling winter night. Pure silence. How long did I stare out the window at those woods across my backyard, I have no idea. But when I woke up the next day, I was still sitting in the chair I planted right by it.

That morning over breakfast, I insisted that there really was chanting out there, but my dad wasn’t hearing any of it. He put his foot down and told me that he won’t hear any more of this, that I need to grow up and take responsibility and stop being so afraid all the time. You know, typical tough guy dad shit. I didn’t even bother to bring up the lack of crickets, knowing full well that he’d have made up an explanation for that as well. So I kept quiet, and ate my breakfast.

Later that day, I was waiting for my mom to pick me up at the end of my dad’s driveway to bring me to my grandma’s house where she was currently living, it was Friday and My mom had me on weekends. As I was waiting, a large black pickup truck was passed by the house very slowly. It came to a stop right in front me. There were two men in the truck, older, about my dad’s age. At first I thought maybe they were friends of his, but this thought didn’t last. The driver rolled down his window and looked at me, he was bald and was wearing abnormally slim sunglasses.

He was smoking a thin cigar or a cigarillo, I remember the strong smell of it. He looked at me, as if he were sizing me up, investigating for a moment until finally he smiled at me reached over and hit his friend on the shoulder and pointed me out to him. He too was bald and wearing the same sunglasses. They said something to each other and then the driver looked back at me with a terrible smile and drove away, waving slowly at me as he did so. They passed me by three more times before my mom finally picked me up. I didn’t give those two any thought, and just took comfort in the thought that I’d be sleeping somewhere else for the next couple of nights.

The weekend went by without a hitch, and sleeping over grandma’s house was such a relief. When I told her and mom about the voices in the woods, they just looked at each other and told me to tell dad about it. Frustrated, I argued that I did, but it was pointless. She too used the “It’s just your imagination” crap, same as dad. Not once during the whole experience did the memory leave my mind, of the two men in the truck or the distant chanting. Soon enough I would have to return.

Sunday night came along and I was dropped back off at my dad’s house, where I would spend the whole day dreading the inevitable nightfall, dreading the answer of whether or not I would hear the chanting in the woods, hear the strange people sing their dark songs in unison. I begged my dad to let me keep Cash in the room with me tonight, but he said no, leaving me to face what happened next alone. So, come bed time, I was sitting on my chair, by the window, staring into the darkness until the hour came, I stayed up until eleven, expecting to hear it, but what I got was silence. No singing. No crickets either. Just pure silence. I couldn’t tell if I was relieved or terrified, maybe they all moved on. Maybe they went somewhere else to play their creepy games. It took some self convincing, but I managed to calm myself to such a state of mind where I could actually go to sleep, knowing that I was safe. Reluctantly I crawled into my bed and closed my eyes.

I woke up to the most bone chillingly fucked up thing I had ever seen. It was surreal, the fucking image of it, every time I sleep….

My brain immediately surged itself into full function, beyond consciousness and straight into full fledged fight or flight mode as a cold rough hand forced its way over my mouth and shoved my face into my own mattress. I felt a body much larger than mine bare down on me. I felt the jagged kneecap ram itself directly into my stomach as I was then Pulled out of my bed and wrestled into a standing position, the cold hand still holding my mouth shut, another hand wedging my left hand directly behind my back and pulling upwards until the pain became so unbearable, I thought my arm was going to come off.

“SHHH!” a voice whispered into my ear. His breath was ice cold.

“Yes,” Said another voice across the room. My eyes were well adjusted to the darkness as it was, and I could see, through the moonlight shining into my now opened window a man wearing a horrible horrible mask. At first I thought he had the head of a goat, but I knew better. The goat stared with lifeless marbles where its eyes should have been, its head was a mask made out of the severed head of a goat, or a ram, not properly stuffed, and half rotted. It’s horns curled into spirals jutting out of its head, and random patches of the fur were missing, simply to show raw blistering skin. I tried to scream but the hand over my mouth tightened its grip, my arm behind my back, pulled to near breaking point.

“Scream, and we will kill you,” The voice whispered into my ear. My eyes couldn’t, no, they wouldn’t break away from that horrible person wearing the severed goats head as a mask. He was shirtless, wearing a necklace of what appeared to be bones, he was horribly emaciated and there were markings all up and down his torso. In his right hand he held a knife about the size of my forearm. It’s build wasn’t like any knife I had ever seen. It took a step closer to me and pressed it up against my throat, the steel was bitterly cold, and the tip of the blade was sharper than anything I ever felt. It would take less than four ounces of pressure to open my throat it, and they knew that I knew it. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t even breath. In its other hand, it held a basic candle.

“Tomorrow,” the thing said, his voice muffled by the lifeless dead goat mask “You will exit your house at midnight, you will light this candle, place it on the ground in the center of your yard, and you will sit behind it, legs crossed, right foot on top of your left knee, and vice versa,”

“If you don’t do this,” The voice whispered into my ear, “The blood of your loved ones will be on your hands”

The goat man quickly retreated the blade from my neck. I don’t know remember what happened next.

I remember waking up in my bed, panting and crying. My dad came in to see what was wrong with me, and when I told him, he told me it was just a nightmare.  At this point, he sat down at the end of my bed, he looked very wary, like he didn’t want to say what he was about to say. He rubbed his eyes with his fists and wearily explained to me that this was all just me stressing out over the divorce, that maybe we should look into talking to a therapist about these voices and hallucinations I’ve been having.

I remember feeling so betrayed, so alone by the unfairness of that. I argued with him that everything I was seeing and hearing was true, but it was too late. He and mom talked it out, my behavior, my claims. They think I was losing my shit over the divorce. Their minds were made up, nothing I was going to say would have convinced them otherwise. And of course, in hindsight it only made perfect sense. Who would believe a nine year old when they say that they’re were voices…

I was silent the whole day. Cash sat with me in my room as I wasted the daylight playing video games. I didn’t speak to my old man not once. I could see the weary looks on his face when he’d walk by my room, but he didn’t want to press the issue. He looked just as defeated as I did. He spent most of his time on the phone.

It wasn’t until later that day, I found myself recalling what the goat thing said to me before everything went dark. That I had to light a candle at midnight. But when I woke up that morning, there was nothing in my room. There was a sudden sense of hope, because when I searched around my room, trying to find his candle, it was nowhere to be found. Never, even to this day, have I searched so hard for something only to be frantically pleased by the end results.

It was gone. Have I been alleviated from the duties imposed on me by these strange interlopers? The relief was unbelievable, like I was severed from a horrible burden. Even the thought of being forced to see a shrink didn’t seem so harsh compared to the prospect that maybe these attackers really were just a bad dream, a severely realistic dream, mind you, but a dream never the less.  Maybe, maybe the whole situation really was over. Maybe these horrible people did move on, and that the goat man was simply a mental projection of my own imaginative expectation towards whatever it was that those unnatural proceedings just beyond my sights were. You know… speculation.

Nightfall came, and for the first time in a week, I felt no fear at the prospect of it. That felt good, like things were going back to normal. But I was wrong. I was so wrong.

When I placed my head on my pillow, eyes already closing, consciousness already drifting away, I felt a lump under my pillow. Curiously I reached down there and felt something, something long and smooth. I pulled out a candle, a tall thin wax candle with a nice long wick. It was red, just like the one that the goatman was holding.  My heart sank, my mouth went dry, tears ran down my cheeks, and in that moment, I relived the entirety of last night all over, down to the very last detail where the guy holding me whispered in my ear how the blood of the ones I loved would be on my hand. Suddenly I was back in hell. I was back in the realm of terror. How did they get the candle under my pillow? Had I overlooked it this whole time?

I lie in bed until midnight. I didn’t dare close my eyes for fear of being held at knife point again, for fear of coming face to face with that horrible goat creature. The night was silent, no crickets, no birds, nothing, dead silence. I could see that it had turned twelve o’ one. The memory of the goat mask in my mind uttering its instructions to me over and over again, go outside, light the candle sit behind it, do it or the blood of my loved ones will be on my hands…at the time I didn’t know what it meant to have blood on your hands. The following day I would learn exactly what it meant.

Around ten minutes in, I mustered up the courage to walk over to my window and look out it. What I saw choked me on the spot. Side by side at the entrance of the woods, I saw men. Shadowed by the night, standing side by side. There must have been twenty of them. None of them were saying anything. They were all dead silent, and I could feel their eyes on me. It was just as strong as when I felt the eyes of the dolls on me back at their sight. In a way, they felt like the same presence, the same intelligence. I can’t explain… and then I saw him, the goat man. Or rather, the silhouette of him, standing in the center of the figures. He was still, still as a stone, but I could make out that face shape, the jutting horns…I could make it all out.

I chickened out. I couldn’t go out there. I just couldn’t. I hid in my bed, blankets over my head and I shut my eyes tight, crying all night. I didn’t fall asleep until I heard the early morning birds.

I was awake by eleven thirty. Shortly after breakfast, I heard my dad shouting in the front yard. I went out to check and see what was happening, what it was that had him so upset. As I went out the front door, I could hear him more clearly, I could hear pain in his voice. A knot formed in my throat, and a harrowing sensation crawled across my skin. I was not ready to learn about the events that transpired, and that was truly the scariest part, the moment before actualization. These people have mentioned blood on my hands, I didn’t know what it meant, but I had a very vague idea that it meant my family getting hurt. I thought they got my dad.

When I got to him, I saw that he was on his knees, crying. Cash was killed. He was hit by a car. There he lay, goofy pointed ears, his absurdly silly dog beard, black staring eyes, and hanging tongue, stationary… forever. I saw that his center torso had been collapsed, and I could see openings in his rearside, his ribs jutting out, his entrails-

“SON!” my dad cried out as he turned to hug me. “It’s okay!” he quickly led me back into the house, away from Cash’s lifeless body. Away from my best friend, dead and mutilated on the side of the road. The last thing I remember seeing as I was brought into the house was a large pickup truck driving by slowly. I saw the same two bald men, as old as dad, staring at me through oddly slim sunglasses. I saw blood on their front right tire… and I saw the driver point directly at me.

Cash’s death was my fault. As I said it out loud, my dad held me tight and said with stone cold certainty that it wasn’t my fault, that sometimes these things happen. He told me exactly what you would expect a father to tell his kid when their pet is killed in a random and seemingly pointless accident. But I knew better. The people in the woods killed Cash, and it was all because I didn’t do what they said. It was because I was a coward. His blood, was on my hands. Just as they said it would be.

When I went into my room to cry, I saw outside my window, a man in the center of the back yard. A man with no shirt on. He was wearing a mask made out of a severed goats head, hollowed out on the inside. In the daylight it was far more disturbing to see, because I could almost smell the lack of sanitation it had to have exerted. I could see that it was surrounded by flies, but even worse than that, I saw a note it was holding up.  A piece of paper with a single word written across it.

MIDNIGHT

I couldn’t handle it. I ran outside, to chase him down, but when I got outside, it was gone. My hate and anger somehow superseded my guilt and sadness because I ran far into the woods before realizing that this time if I got lost, I wouldn’t have Cash to lead me back to the house. I would be all alone, no, I would have whatever was in here with me. I could feel eyes in here. I could feel eyes everywhere. My every move was being watched, from the autumn canopy, to the bushes just yards away, I knew I was surrounded in here, and as my senses came more clear from the adrenaline fueled rage I was experiencing, I realized that it was getting stronger by the minute.

Then I noticed the smell. The stench. At the time I thought it smelled like bad milk, or bologna left in the refrigerator for too long.  It was strong, too strong. My eyes began to water, and I could feel my stomach begin to turn. How could a smell be so painful to endure?

Then it occurred to me…They killed my best friend. There was only one more life they could take. My dads. The presence became stronger, I could hear whispering in the wind, the smell grew more powerful with every breath. Any second, I was certain I would be overwhelmed by god knows what. I realized that if I didn’t do what they demanded of me, I would be taken here and now. What could I have done? I shook my head and began to cry. “Okay, I’ll do it…”

The relief was instantaneous. The woods became brighter, the smell gone, the feeling of being watched, replaced by what could only be described as serene. The forest went from a den of unspeakable terror, to a place of…well, it was just woods again. Just as it always was.

I came back home and helped my dad dig Cash’s grave. We said our goodbyes and buried him. He made up a cute dog bone shaped tombstone out of leftover wood from his old workshop and that was that. My mom came over that day, and all went out to dinner at *Undisclosed* the food was the best I ever had. We gave Cash a little toast, and that was that. In the back of my mind…midnight…midnight…

I spent another silent night, staring at my clock, watching the numbers transform into the next every sixty seconds. The wait was agonizing. Each passing minute was like a minute removed from my life. That night, I was certain that I was going to die. And I was trapped. They would have killed my parents if I tried anything. Killing Cash made that entirely too clear to me.

Eleven fifty-five

Eleven fifty-six

Eleven fifty-seven

Eleven Fifty-eight

Eleven fifty-nine

I looked out the window. There they all were. Side by side, shadows of people, and the goat man in the center. All their eyes were on me. I looked at the clock.

Midnight.

I looked back out the window, they were all gone. They knew, they knew I was going to come out tonight. They Killed my dog, and then threatening to kill me on the spot after I followed them into the woods, they knew I was broken. My spirits shattered, and that I was more afraid of what would happen if I didn’t come out over what’d happen if I did. 

I grabbed the candle and walked into my backyard. The darkness was thick, thicker than usual, and the smell. Sour milk, spoiled lunch-meat, blood, rot, decay, shit, puke, bile, death... my skin began to crawl, and a shiver took me over. Breathing became difficult. I could scarcely make out the forest before me. It wasn’t just an entrance or a boundary, it was a living breathing thing, and it was anticipating my every movement. As I took a step into my yard, I jolt of terror shot through me as I passed through the motion sensors and activated the backyard light. There was relief in the light. Safety at least, for a little while anyways.

I used my father’s lighter to spark up the candle, I planted it into the cold dewy grass and sat down nice and slowly, ready to cross my legs. I never sat in the full position that I was instructed to because as I was in the process of sitting down, I saw it.

Two green eyes.

Have you ever shined your light directly on an animal’s face way off in the distance in the dead of night? At a distance where it was too far away to make out what it looks like, but not far enough for their eyes to not catch and reflect the light? This was exactly what I saw. Except it seemed to be high above the ground, higher than a coyote’s height, and higher even than a human’s height. 

It appeared to be pacing back and forth in the woods. I could hear the leaves shuffling with each step it was taking. Constantly coming in and out of existence due to the unseen trees eclipsing those glowing shards of light, those glaring eyes. They must’ve been reflecting off of the backyard light. I could hear it breathing. It sounded painful to me. The air came out in short sporadic breaths and when it did, I felt the huffs of frozen air rank with that rotten stench go right through me. I don’t remember how long it paced like this, never leaving the outskirts of the woods, never breaking eye contact with me. Every now and then, it would stop, and lower closer to the ground, until it’s eyes were level with me. It would remain in that position, like a cat low to the ground, prepping to pounce its prey. It would only stay in this position for ten seconds at a time before it would rise back up and pace more. After it did this several times, I realized Something was stopping it.

The light. 

I was dumbstruck, frozen in place. My throat was so tight, the air was barely getting in me, barely getting out of me. There was a powerful sense etched within my soul that any sudden movement would have sent this unspeakable thing into a frenzy at me, light or not. I didn’t know if it was going to outright kill me here in the backyard, or if it was going to drag me into the woods and eat me alive there. I didn’t know what the relationship was between this and the psychopaths that ordered me out here. What I did know was that with each moment it wasn’t getting me, it was getting madder.

I couldn’t let it get me. I couldn’t let it take me away. Theoretically I was safe in the light, except the thing was that this motion sensor light ran on a timer. I knew that timer would soon run out, and when it did, the light would go and nothing would stop it from getting me. With all my courage, all my willpower I forced myself to stand up, letting out a horse breath. The eyes immediately stopped moving when it saw me stand. I couldn’t tell you for certain, but I was almost positive they narrowed. The prospect of me escaping infuriated it to such a level that it began to stalk towards me. I could tell it was moving forward, threateningly, showing a willingness to brave the light. I took a step back, and when I did, it took a swift step forward. I could almost see its shape, tall, thin, boney, too dark to distinguish any specific features, except well, it had horns. Large curled spiral like horns. Or at least it looked like it did.

I don’t remember running back to the house. I don’t remember making it inside. I don’t remember anything after the point where the light shut off. It was sudden, as if death caught me. The timer was up, the light shut down and enveloped me in darkness, and I recall  hearing it scream. It sounded like a child denied its toy. Or was that me? When the light died, I fucking ran!

It was hours later when I came to my senses. My dad was holding me. My mom was there too, I was crying. Later they would tell me that I was screaming “Don’t let it get me!” over and over again. “Don’t let it get me,” I don’t remember myself.

I never saw that creature again. I never saw the man with the goat mask again. The two old men in the pickup truck, I never saw them again either. That day forward, I always slept with the window shut.

The next day my dad and my mom took me outside to explain that nothing had happened. We saw displaced grass, mixed with mud. We even saw gore marks on the trees. I thought this would be evidence enough to plead my case, but it didn’t. My dad immediately laughed at me, telling me he figured the whole thing out. I had an encounter with a deer. Those markings in the tree were from antlers and it charged at me because it felt threatened. This was such a convenient explanation that I fucking wished to god that it was true. But I knew otherwise.

Several weeks later, I heard that there was a  missing person search that took place in those woods, but I myself haven’t seen nor heard anything at the time. My dad and my therapist insisted that this knowledge would only enable my tendencies as a schizophrenic so they stopped me from looking into it.

Yes, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia disorder, they said I got it through my inability to cope with the divorce. They told me that I had retracted into a delusion because I felt responsible for the family's collapse and that my youthful undeveloped mind couldn’t process the guilt properly, that these cultists and their beast were just agents of personal symbolism. Something like that. For awhile I believed everything they told me. The lies felt safe. The lies were comfortable.

Several years later, they would tell me that I would have made a full recovery. It was an easy process since I never had another encounter again. At that point in time, I was so angry, I just told them what they wanted to hear.

When I became old enough, I severed all ties with my parents and I moved out of the state. Once I was on my own, I looked into the towns archives and researched as much information as I could about that era when I was nine. The missing person report, the manhunt in those woods lasted several days, and all they found was one man. He was torn apart, his limbs removed, his organs missing. They found that he was wearing a peculiar mask. The head of a ram, but its innards were carefully carved and hollowed to fit over a humans head. When they removed the helmet, they saw that he had died with an expression of absolute horror. I took pleasure in that.

I would like to believe that these men were cultists, that they were attempting to appease some unseen, unnamed god. A god that absolutely should not have existed, a god that had no right to walk among man. And that during their attempt to appease it, I had botched their ritual by breaking an important piece of the process: The doll, and in their attempt to salvage it, they forced me into offering myself up as a sacrifice to it. But its failure to do whatever it was going to do to me that night destroyed the whole operation. I would prefer to believe that in the name of vengeance this angry thing turned on its own worshipers. Killing them all and dragging them all back to where ever it came from. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

There is just one thing I still couldn’t figure out. Why is it, that no matter where I go, when I’m all alone, in quiet places, in the dead of night, Why can I still hear them chanting that unholy sermon that I heard so long ago in the woods when I was nine?

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