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  • This is a story I recently finished writing, inspired by The Willows, written by Algernon Blackwood and personal experiences.

    ==

    Nature is perhaps one of the greatest things in this entire world, if not the greatest. But for me, one forest, in particular, remains my favorite. The one in my hometown where I grew up.

    Straddling the edge of town, Algernon forest is cut in two by a road that goes straight through both it and the town. Not that it ever bothered me. Both sides of the forest were truly magical places. My family used to go on long walks through it when I was just a child. The cool stream which ran from one side of the river and under the road was something I had always been careful to avoid falling into without fail, though I had on occasion stepped into it by accident. But I did savor being able to run my hand through it and feeling the chills running up my arm.

    On this particular day, the sun was unusually intense for an Irish summer day, let alone the entire week. Almost as bad as Texas. I had been at college there for some time and had finally returned home to visit on break. One thing I had always missed was a good walk through the forest. Sure, Texas had much in the way of natural scenery that's absolutely beautiful, but I never had the chance to experience them up close. Far too much work for that.

    Coming back, I was looking forward to exploring one of my favorite childhood haunts. Algernon Forest is a small place, by the standards of your basic woodland. But it still seemed huge for one person. It's amazing to think of a single person can become lost in any park - as long as there are enough trees.

    I have very fond memories of this place - sometimes, I would pretend to be a dinosaur, either a T. Rex or some kind of raptor, stalking through the undergrowth for prey. Other times, I was King Arthur, leading the Knights of the Round Table into battle against the forces of evil. As I grew older, the times would when I would get lost became less and less, learning to just stop roaring battle cries while running through the trees and instead become an observer - in short, a part of the forest, listening to the quiet bird songs and the winds blowing through the trees, shifting fallen leaf litter while the ash, birch, scot pine, and willow trees swayed and creaked, holding in place against the battering winds. I learned long ago

    Today, I would be taking my dog for a walk. It had been months since I last saw Cleo. She's a black and white Jack Russell Terrier, and a better rat slayer than any cat I have seen. Twice, I have come into the backyard to find a large, massive rat laying in the grass, neck twisted horribly. She's hyperactive but a loveable thing. Ever since we got her for Christmas though, I don't think my family has treated her well enough. Not abuse, just outright neglect. We simply don't know what to do with her. I've tried to figure something out, but...

    For this walk, like always, she would tug and pull on the leash, trying to go wherever she pleased. She hadn't chewed this one to pieces like the others, but I knew we would eventually have to get a new leash. Again. It could be hard, but nevertheless, she did listen to me - very much like my infant sisters.

    I hadn't gotten lost in Algernon since I was a child and had walked Cleo through it several times before without trouble. This time, I decided to take her on a path I hadn't used in ages but was still familiar to me. It was right on the edge, running parallel to a rusted chain-link fence that separated the forest from the farmland. Worn down by years of joggers, people on their bikes, dog walkers or just people who liked hiking through the woods, the path twisted and turned with some spots of mud here and there. Just as I remembered it.

    I had to first walk up a gravel road to reach it. I found it just as I remembered, green shrubs, rotting leaves, flowers and small, thin trees which had joined their branches together, forming a canopy above the entrance. I noticed an odd growth on a tree trunk but thought nothing of it.

    Cleo was as adventurous as always, running through the mud and tugging on the leash with all her might. I never let go of the leash, though, no matter how much she pulled. I didn't meet anyone else on that trail for the whole walk, but after a short while, I realized something.

    It didn't feel like we were alone. No matter how much I tried to ignore this feeling, I couldn't shake it off. It just gnawed at me, gently, whispering in my ear. Nonetheless, I kept going. I wanted to enjoy this walk, and I did. How I had missed the bird songs and the quiet stillness of nature.

    Then Cleo stopped suddenly, staring off into the forest. The first thing I noticed was how her ears had perked and her body completely tense. It only lasted a few moments before she began walking again, but it caught me off guard. So much so, I stole a quick look in the direction she had been facing. I didn't see anything at all, only endless, green ferns and a ground coated now in a mix of pine needles, twigs and other litter, like the occasional plastic bag or an empty pack of Tayto. I have to figure out some way to clean Algernon of all that trash.

    I thought nothing of it, just something dogs do, ya know? But as we ascended a small mound, marked with bicycle tracks, she stopped again and looked back over her shoulder, ears perked and muscles tense. I looked as well, expecting nothing out of the ordinary.

    Then one of the ferns moved. It thrashed wildly then stopped, all in the space of a second. And I mean that. Just a single second. I could still hear the birds singing, so my first thought was that there was just some randomly animal, maybe a chipmunk or some kind of robin, hiding in the undergrowth. But it was only a single fern which moved. I would have expected a long line of ferns being pushed aside before snapping back into place as something darted off.

    Ah well. Must have been very small. Cleo turned back around and kept moving, but there was a noticeable edge to her now. She was more alert and kept pausing to glance over her shoulder, eyes darting this way and that. All the while, the sense of unwelcome company lingered. It didn't grow and become unbearable, but I was starting to pay it more heed.

    We were descending down a steep incline towards a muddy stream when I randomly glanced up at the treetops. I don't know why. I guess I just felt like I should, otherwise I would miss something important.

    I know I saw something up in those trees at that moment. I'm sure of it. But...at the same time, I didn't. It's impossible to describe. There was nothing out of the ordinary, just branches swaying in the wind from one side to the other and a leaf falling to the ground. But after that single glance, something changed. Because now, throughout the entire forest, I could feel a presence.

    This wasn't like knowing someone had just walked into a room while your back is turned. This was like I finally realized why it wasn't just me and my dog in these woods. It was a presence that I had never, ever felt before, at all. I finally realized how different Algernon felt to me, how out of place everything felt. And yet, my eyes saw the exact same scene I had grown accustomed to since my childhood. I think Cleo felt the same way, because, while she didn't whine or bark like a rabid animal, when I turned to her, I saw she too was looking up at the tree branches. I've only ever seen her look that way at other dogs which she barks at fiercely - like she's itching for a fight.

    We kept walking. I know some people would have turned back, but I didn't want to. I loved this forest and wanted to experience its beauty again after so many months away. Nothing was going to stop me. Besides, Cleo, while primed for anything, wasn't tugging on her leash and demanding we leave. I was sure we could handle whatever might happen.

    I was relieved to find there was still a small handmade bridge on top of the muddy stream that hadn't rotted away like so many others. While I walked across it, Cleo happily plodded through the murky waters, collecting a fine layer of mud when she came up on the other side. She shook herself off, getting a little mud on me to my annoyance, then began sprinting upwards before I could stop her. I followed, still keeping in in arm's reach thanks to the leash while also trying to make sure my pants weren't mud-soaked.

    I kept glancing off to the side, just in this case this presence did anything else. Problem was, I had no idea what I was looking for. Something had happened in those tree branches that I didn't understand. I began to wonder if I had missed anything else from before, and was drawn back to the strange growth on one of the trees. It was some kind of fungus if I am not mistaken.

    The path changed on the bank, now filled with large stone cubes that had been buried in this earth for who knew how long. There didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary with any of them, but one had some kind of symbol on it. I'm not sure what, but it almost looked like a spiral. I would have taken a better a look at it but Cleo was urgently trying to keep going. I ignored her at first, bending down to touch the spiral, then she began whining. When I checked to see what was wrong, the look in her eyes was something I had seen from her far too often.

    Pleading. Pleading when my family wouldn't give her enough affection, leaving her in the backyard because we didn't know what else to do with her. She just loved to play with others, but none of us had the time for that. Only, she wasn't pleading for herself. She was pleading for me like I was in some great danger only she could understand.

    So I did. I didn't question it then, nor do I question it now. I just listened to my dog. Even as I stood up, I took one last look at that strange spiral, somehow drawn to it. I probably would have remained longer, but Cleo was very insistent I kept moving.

    It was just the three of us - me, Cleo, and that strange presence. I'm still not very sure what to describe it as except a presence. But it didn't feel old. Quite the opposite, in fact. I had long since realized this didn't feel human in the slightest, but that was all I could determine about it. It wasn't old and it wasn't human. And it wouldn't leave us alone. It followed us, by our side with every step. Never in front, never behind. Always right beside me and my dog.

    I don't know why it had taken such an interest in us, this thing I couldn't understand. But the hairs on the back of my neck stayed straight up and I had goosebumps all over.

    I felt a respite, however, when we came to the old warren. I had found this place about two summers ago when my aunt and uncle had taken all of us for a walk - me, my siblings, and Cleo. They were visiting from America at the time and when we came across these holes in the ground, we obviously decided it was dug by rabbits. Nothing lived in them now, only spiders and other arthropods. Sometimes we tried to peek in and see if there were any mammals in them. There weren't.

    This time, I decided to stop and poke a long stick down one of the holes, just for old time's sake. It wasn't hard finding a good, firm branch, just right for the job. Cleo wanted to keep going, but I didn't see the harm in just having one little poke.

    The hole was large and underneath a thin willow tree, whose roots marked the entrance like a castle wall. There were some old cobwebs cluttered with dead insects and discarded leaf litter. I was careful not to touch them, however, just because I didn't want to get any dirtier than I already was.

    As I bent down and aimed the stick, getting ready to thrust it in and see if maybe a hedgehog had moved in, a twig snapped behind me. Startled, I turned around and saw nothing there. Just a large expanse of ferns, oaks, and pine trees, minding their own business. I kept watching for just a few more seconds before looking back to the hole, then jabbing the stick down. It didn't go very far, as it got stuck against the walls of the burrow. As I could see, it took a sharp turn in a little way down. I swung it around, smacking it against the earth as if I was teasing something.

    Then I heard something start moving. I froze, having not expected for there to be anything actually down there. But now I could hear it. There was something scuttling about in the burrow. It was a low, unearthly scratching sound, but it didn't sound like the claws of an animal. These scratches almost had a kind of artificial quality, like stones scraping against each other. And it was getting louder.

    When Cleo barked, the scuttling stopped abruptly and I instantly dropped the branch. Standing up, I began brushing myself off, to make there wasn't any dirt on my pants, but that was only the reason I gave myself. That presence was stronger now, almost overbearing. I could feel it crawling all over me, like a centipede. I was on the verge of just running out of the woods entirely, but I didn't want to. Algernon forest was one of my favorite stomping grounds as a child, I couldn't just leave it. I had so many fun memories of this place.

    "If anyone is out there," I said, trying not to shout, "could you show yourself?"

    I don't know what prompted me to do that. I guess I was just nervous and trying to relieve tension. But right after I said that Cleo looked up the path, and I swear it seemed like she was sizing something up. I followed her gaze and saw the deep green of Algernon forest stretching before me. I knew that path. There were more rivers with bridges over them, mud, brambles, nettles, dock leaves, thousands of other plants whose names I didn't know.

    In there, deep in the forest, I felt it at last. Something other than the presence. Something that was very, very old, older than me, Cleo, or whatever was following us. If the presence made my skin crawl, this made me want to tear it off and scream. I could hear Cleo growling, yapping occasionally like she was putting on some farce to protect us both.

    Two things happened next. First, that strange presence bolted, almost as if it had never existed in the first place. The second was that Cleo turned around sharply and began running.

    Without a word, I followed, holding the leash tightly in my hand, so tight it hurt. We ran over the old stone cubes as if they were nothing more than pebbles, the strange spiral forgotten. I sprinted across the bridge, Cleo bounding through the muddy stream to the other side. When she came out, she stopped to shake herself clean then looked back over her shoulder before running again, sprinting back up the mound.

    I didn't hear any birds or even the sounds of cars on the highway, just a great blustering wind punctured by the sharp snapping of wood behind me, or a heavy crunch as something crushed the ferns beneath it. I could feel something boring into my very soul, displeased with my intrusion. If I stayed any longer, it would catch both me and Cleo. I didn't want to know what would come next.

    I was panting when we finally came upon the gravel road at the trail's entrance. I couldn't help glancing off to the side, looking to my left and right, unable to see, only feel, something old and otherworldly. When I saw the tree with the strange markings, almost like some kind of fungus, the first thing it reminded me of was if something was trying to make a human face, but had never met one. Any other time, I would have tried to study it, but not this time.

    Cleo was the first on the road, but she didn't stop there. I kept pace, panting while my heart beat against my rib cage. I thought it might burst. We had just passed the gate that led into the forest and back into the town when I finally stopped to catch my breath. Cleo did as well, staring up at me with large brown eyes. I needed a drink. Thankfully, there was a shop nearby, one I went to a lot as a kid. I had enough money to purchase a Sprite at least. That would work just fine.

    But before I left, I took one last look back at Algernon forest, at the part I had just sprinted out of like the Devil himself was after me.

    There was a stout, black figure, standing right at the start of the trail, with no discernable features of any kind. It was short and plump, standing on two stumpy legs with thin arms dangling against its fat body. The head was tilted at an angle, but even though I couldn't see its face, I could still feel it staring at me.

    I blinked, more out of surprise than anything, and it was gone. For a moment, I thought I had imagined it, but when I turned to Cleo, she was looking at the exact spot I had seen it as well, before turning around and walking away, tail tucked between her legs.

    I went home after going to the shop. Cleo wasn't as jumpy when I hooked her leash onto the chain in the backyard as usual. I never told any of my family about what happened. I don't think they would believe me.

    I still visit Algernon forest. Sometimes by myself, sometimes I take Cleo on walks through it. But never on that trail. On the trail, nobody uses anymore. But even when I pass it by, I sometimes still a small glance, just in case.

    One thing has changed about it though. The fungal growth on one of the trees. The one which looks like a bad imitation of a human face.

    It's gone.

      Loading editor
    • Run your story in some of the online grammar programs. I see in the first 5 paragraphs problems like no periods or misspelled words.

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    • I put that in Grammarly, nothing ever came up.

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    • Spelling and grammar issues: this story suffers from slightly too-short sentances, awkward wording, and in some places a comma would work better than a period. I honestly find it hard to believe grammarly did not pick up any issues with this story. Ellipsis is three periods and a space. I usually point out the spelling and grammar issues themselves, but this one had too many that I'd probably be copying most of the story if I did.

      Plot issues: A good bit of the story (especially the first five paragraphs) is a bunch of pointless anecdotes. When starting a story, it is best to try to grip the reader in as soon as possible and try to hold their interest. The story itself falls flat and is reminiscent of Slender Man (the woods, symbols, a figure "with no discernable features" who stalks the main character). There is no conflict when we finally get to the monster himself, he literally just stands there then dissapears. Why did this creature stalk the main character only to let him turn around leave? The biggest plot issue this story has is that seemed like it dragged on longer than it should have.

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    • Honestly, whatever version of Grammarly I used doesn't pick up on the spelling errors described. I firmly believe something is wrong with it.

      I wanted to first give a feel of the main character and who he is before he goes into the woods, showing how he comes back to this place of his childhood only to find something there that ruins his memories of it.

      As for the creatures, I was actually going for the Fair Folk, with the first one being non-malicious while the second is actively trying to hurt them. When they leave his land, he shows himself and lets him live. I totally should have included something about the old stories of Ireland, just to imply that.

      I also agree, maybe I could have compressed some parts down. I wanted this to be a story about a boy and his dog whom he and his family neglects, not out of heartlessness, returning to a childhood haunt of his but finds that things have changed completely and he is no longer welcome.

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    • Look up DrBobSmith blog about grammar on this site. DrBob blog goes over different websites you can use. Some sites will not catch everything so you use a different one.

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    • Link?

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    • KingSparta300,

      Basic Spell and Grammar Checking

      Give it a try.

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    • This needs some work. It's really confusing at parts, was the narrator speaking about his childhood or his present life? Because one sentence its an irish summer and the next he's in Texas. One sentence he's playing make-believe and the next he has too much work and has to pay bills.

      Some sentences come off really weird like, "Today, I would be taking my dog for a walk. It had been months since I last saw Cleo" how is it his dog if he doesn't own it? Unless you just butchered the intended meaning of this sentence. This keeps on happening here and there. 

      If it sounds weird for you to say, it's probably not the best English.

      Something just did not make this work for me, perhaps the way your sentencing is like of disjointed. Like something was making me stop, at almost every second and I had to rewind back into the story. Something about the technicalities is just not working. It kept throwing me off. I am certain it would work better once you fix the problems with the language itself. 

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    • Yeah, I agree. Some parts need to be reworked.

      Out of curiosity, did you find any parts creepy? I did enjoy writing about the two presences, both of which are supposed to be the Fey Folk. I should make it more clear.

      As for the parts where he plays pretend, the main character is remembering his childhood before it progresses to him having grown up, no longer playing pretend. This is one theme the story should explore more thoroughly, growing up and how things you enjoyed as a child change along with you.

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    • KingSparta300 wrote:
      Yeah, I agree. Some parts need to be reworked.

      Out of curiosity, did you find any parts creepy? I did enjoy writing about the two presences, both of which are supposed to be the Fey Folk. I should make it more clear.

      As for the parts where he plays pretend, the main character is remembering his childhood before it progresses to him having grown up, no longer playing pretend. This is one theme the story should explore more thoroughly, growing up and how things you enjoyed as a child change along with you.

      I didn't find anything creepy really, because again, I had to re-adjust myself every other sentence. 

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    • BloodySpghetti wrote:
      KingSparta300 wrote:
      Yeah, I agree. Some parts need to be reworked.

      Out of curiosity, did you find any parts creepy? I did enjoy writing about the two presences, both of which are supposed to be the Fey Folk. I should make it more clear.

      As for the parts where he plays pretend, the main character is remembering his childhood before it progresses to him having grown up, no longer playing pretend. This is one theme the story should explore more thoroughly, growing up and how things you enjoyed as a child change along with you.

      I didn't find anything creepy really, because again, I had to re-adjust myself every other sentence. 

      I see. So, horror is dampened when the writing is of poor quality.

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    • KingSparta300 wrote:

      I see. So, horror is dampened when the writing is of poor quality.

      YES! Very much it is! When your brain has to stop to pick out what a sentence is trying to say, you lose suspension of disbelief. You try to gain it back but when you hit another rough sentence you have to try all over. Soon, you give up entirely.

      Your words shouldn't serve as a barrier to expressing your story.

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    • DrBobSmith wrote:

      KingSparta300 wrote:

      I see. So, horror is dampened when the writing is of poor quality.

      YES! Very much it is! When your brain has to stop to pick out what a sentence is trying to say, you lose suspension of disbelief. You try to gain it back but when you hit another rough sentence you have to try all over. Soon, you give up entirely.

      Your words shouldn't serve as a barrier to expressing your story.

      Thanks for the advice. I think the big problem is too much is going on at the same time and those there isn't much focus.

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    • KingSparta300 wrote:
      BloodySpghetti wrote:
      KingSparta300 wrote:
      Yeah, I agree. Some parts need to be reworked.

      Out of curiosity, did you find any parts creepy? I did enjoy writing about the two presences, both of which are supposed to be the Fey Folk. I should make it more clear.

      As for the parts where he plays pretend, the main character is remembering his childhood before it progresses to him having grown up, no longer playing pretend. This is one theme the story should explore more thoroughly, growing up and how things you enjoyed as a child change along with you.

      I didn't find anything creepy really, because again, I had to re-adjust myself every other sentence. 
      I see. So, horror is dampened when the writing is of poor quality.

      Definitely. It's hard to take a story seriously when the writing makes it look like a trollpasta.

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    • NedWolfkin wrote:
      KingSparta300 wrote:
      BloodySpghetti wrote:
      KingSparta300 wrote:
      Yeah, I agree. Some parts need to be reworked.

      Out of curiosity, did you find any parts creepy? I did enjoy writing about the two presences, both of which are supposed to be the Fey Folk. I should make it more clear.

      As for the parts where he plays pretend, the main character is remembering his childhood before it progresses to him having grown up, no longer playing pretend. This is one theme the story should explore more thoroughly, growing up and how things you enjoyed as a child change along with you.

      I didn't find anything creepy really, because again, I had to re-adjust myself every other sentence. 
      I see. So, horror is dampened when the writing is of poor quality.
      Definitely. It's hard to take a story seriously when the writing makes it look like a trollpasta.

      Damn. I know I can write better than this too, like with the Headless Fairy. That was easily the best thing I ever wrote.

      Something went wrong here, and I have only myself to blame. I tried to make the story too many things at once when it should have just been one thing only - a boy and his dog going for a walk through one of his old childhood haunts but finds things aren't as he remembered.

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    • I feel like I should mention this now.

      The dog featured in the story, Cleo, was an actual dog my family had for Christmas when she was a puppy.

      When my parents split, we had to leave her behind in Ireland as my mother went to America. This week, I learned my grandmother put Cleo down without telling any of my family because she nipped my grandfather. I'll miss that dog.

      Now I know what the key focus of this story will be. A boy and his beloved dog.

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    • A FANDOM user
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