If you're ever in Canterbury or its surrounding areas, I suggest you stay away from Clowes wood. It's fairly small and remarkably unexceptional compared to some of the other woodland in the area, so most people tend to avoid it. This made it the perfect place for an impromptu camping trip for me to get away from it all—it's actually quite dense woodland when you get right into it, giving you that feeling of utter isolation from the rest of the world. This made it the perfect spot, or so it seemed. You see, there is a reason why Clowes Wood has been left nearly untouched for decades. There's a reason why the local people choose to avoid it. Hell, the road leading through it hasn't been used in so long the overgrowth has claimed it. But we'll get to that later. The day had dawned, the car was packed and the drinking had begun.
Of course, as is the way with most things, the journey wasn't as smooth as one would have hoped. The road which leads through Clowes Wood was actually a lot worse than I had anticipated—it was in a state of complete disrepair, with weeds and brambles completely immersing it. I had to leave my car in the closest spot I could find and walk the rest of the way, which wasn't easy with the gear I had. This really was a laborious task; the forest was thick and unforgiving, leaving me scratched and bruised from my battle with the foliage. I had a small knife with me which I used to hack through the brush, but it was still a challenging task. I was beginning to get a bit nervous at this point.
I had never been camping by myself before, especially not in the middle of the woods, but I decided now was as good a time as any to prove to myself that I could do it. That and I had just watched twenty episodes of Bear Grylls the night before and figured, "Hey, if he can do it, why can't I?" Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of unease. Clowes Wood is very quiet—almost silent, in fact. You'd expect to hear birds singing and local wildlife going about their day to day, but there was nothing. It seemed as if I was the only living thing in forest. It was a hard feeling to shake, but I stayed rational and told myself to stop being stupid. So I kept going.
As luck would have it, after only about an hours walk, I managed to find a great clearing to set up in. It was probably about thirty feet in diameter and almost a perfect circle, with one solitary tree off to the North, just breaking the line of other trees. There was also an interesting rock formation about thirty feet away from it, it looked like some sort of sceptre. It had a large black spherical rock atop a long black cuboid. I marveled at it for a few seconds before moving on. I decided to set up camp here—darkness was creeping in, as was the general panic at the very thought of having to set up my tent blind, so this seemed the like best spot I would find.
I'm not even sure of what time of day it was. The forest canopy is so dense not a lot of light manages to seep through. Luckily, my tent was just a pop-up which you needed to peg down, so it was set up in no time. "I'll call her Lucy," I said, chuckling to myself, "She was big enough to fit three men in as well!" I giggled to myself for a little while, cursing the fact that there was no-one around to hear my spectacular joke. I then grabbed my chair, started a fire and got to drinking. The tent was on my left, the fire was dead ahead, the place where I, you know, "relieve myself" was behind me, and the thick tree line was all around.
I still cannot believe how dark that night was. The darkness was suffocating—I'm not sure if it was because I was nervous or what, but I felt as if I was gasping for air. I couldn't see past the fire, I could barely even see my own tent for that matter. I tried to take my mind off things by carrying on with roasting the marshmallows and listening to music, but lo and behold, my phone was dead.
Have you ever experienced a silence so intense it's almost deafening? There was literally no noise anywhere. I could almost hear my insides working as scoffed the marshmallows down, desperately trying to fight off the overwhelming panic I could sense dawning upon me. All of a sudden the silence was broken—there was a rustling of leaves about ten feet to the right of me. Dim lights appeared around the clearing. I'm not sure if it was just my mind playing tricks on me or if it was just ambiance from the fire. I can't even begin to imagine how much I must have looked like a deer in the headlights at that moment.
My head turned faster than a bullet leaves a gun. Seriously, I should have sprained my neck or something from that because it was inhuman how fast I turned. I was straining my eyes and craning my neck, desperately trying to identify the cause of the noise, when I saw it. It was only because it moved again that I noticed it, had it stayed still I would have missed it forever. There was a tiny little bunny rabbit on the floor, hopping around without a care in the world. I breathed a sigh of relief, cleaned the metaphorical shit from my pants, and chuckled to myself about being such a coward.
I didn't sleep at all that night. It was too dark, too quiet, you know? I felt, I don't know, watched. It's hard to explain. I felt as if at any moment someone or something would come crashing through Lucy's flap to ambush me. But nothing came. My hand didn't leave the knife I'd placed under my pillow for one second. I was ashamed, I felt like I had let myself down. Like a frightened child calling out to his parents in the night, I felt that I had to talk to someone, get out of my own head. I summoned all of my courage and decided to stay another night, get over my child-like fear of the dark. So that's exactly what I did.
It's a good thing I was already on my way to my makeshift toilet, because what I saw when leaving my tent that morning would have caused my bowels to evacuate faster than a house on fire. The rabbit, which was so merrily hopping around my tent that previous night, was dead. Cut in half, in fact, and left at the base of the isolated tree. I couldn't look at it for too long, it was making me feel ill. How could I have not heard it? It didn't make any sense. How could I have heard it hopping around but not getting sliced apart? Whatever did it must have been bigger than the rabbit, so surely it would have made more noise. I assumed it was some sort of bird nesting in the tree that killed it and it must have fell. That's really the only plausible explanation.
I decided to kill time by having a look around the surrounding area. Like I said, I had never been camping before on my own, so I had no idea how to pass the time. So, I decided to go for a quick explore. And what do you think I saw? You guessed it. More trees. There were a few interesting things though. For example, I had only walked about thirty feet or so before I stumbled upon a large, perfectly spherical black rock. It was about the size of your average football, nesting itself atop another larger rock. This other rock was similar to the first—it was black and smooth but it resembled more of a cuboid that a sphere.
A strange feeling washed over me. Had I got myself lost? This was an extremely similar formation to the one I had seen yesterday but I had gone the opposite way from my camp. I ran back through the brush to where I assumed the other formation was. Luckily, I found it. I let out a sigh of relief, realising I hadn't gone completely insane. I was intrigued now, though. I started wandering around the edge of the clearing looking for more of these formations. I managed to find two more—there was one to the north of the camp, one to the east, one to the south and one to the west. I'll admit, I should have been more wary, but I thought nothing of it and moved on. Besides, the darkness was creeping in again, so I wanted to get back to camp. Back to safety.
Darkness had well and truly come. It was awful. I wanted to leave, get back to my home, but I'd never find my way. The darkness had literally enveloped my camp, it was heavy, thick, suffocating. The silence was back as well. Something was different about tonight, though. It was hard to put my finger on it—I had this overwhelming sense of dread. The fire was much smaller than last night as well, so I felt even more blind. The feeling of helplessness was getting to me and panic was starting to take hold, so I decided to have a little look around and see if there was anything interesting. You know, I've never seen an owl before, so I was scanning the trees, seeing if anything at all caught my attention.
As I was scanning the tree line, something caught my attention. There was a dim light coming from the edge of the clearing, roughly about thirty feet away from me. My peripheral vision just about managed to pick it up. I strained my neck to see what it was, but unfortunately it sunk back into the darkness. I hoped, for some reason, it would be another person. My naivety was getting to me. Another speck of light appeared. I could only see it in my peripheral vision as I turned my head, but it was roughly ninety degrees away from where the first one was. Again, I turned to look, but I couldn't see it any more. Wild thoughts started running through my head at this point—who were these people? What were they doing here? What did they want from me? I even began to wonder if it was the rock formations that were somehow emitting light, but I dismissed it. I had another scan of the tree line and my heart stopped.
Something had caught my eye. It was heard to make out exactly what it was, what I thought I'd saw, since I only caught it for a brief moment. There was a silhouette of a person peering out from behind the tree. The lone tree which I had chosen to camp with. As soon as I looked at it, it disappeared, sneaking back behind the tree. I leaped out of my chair. My heart was racing, my limbs felt like jelly, Jesus, I was a mess. I felt all the blood rush out of my head. I decided the best thing to do was to turn back to my tent and try and get some sleep. I turned towards the tent and nearly blacked out. There was another one peering out at me from behind my tent. Again, I only caught it for a brief second, but it was much closer than the last one. I couldn't make out any features; it was just a black, humanoid mass. This thing was dark. Darker than anything I had ever seen before. It seemed to emanate hatred and anger, in the same way that at that time I must have been emanating fear. I ran into my tent, pulled the sleeping bag over my head, and tried to sleep.
Sunlight was burning my unopened eyes. I opened them, dazed, confused, delirious. It took me a few seconds to remember where I was, but my surroundings were off. I wasn't lying down, I was leaning against something. It took me a moment, but I eventually realised what was wrong. I was still in my sleeping bag, but I wasn't in my tent.
Frightened, I looked around. My heart felt like it was about to explode it was beating so fast. My tent was dead ahead of me. The flap was ripped open and some of my stuff was strewn around the clearing. It finally dawned on me. I realised where I had woken up. I turned my head upwards towards the sky and confirmed my fears. I was sat at the base of the tree. I sprung to my feet. I was blind with terror at this point. There, sticking out of the tree, was my knife. Carved into the tree was one word. Leave. And that's exactly what I did.