The Curse I know
The rifle gave him confidence, but he feared that nothing could fight the things that skulk about in these dark cold woods. He had followed a deer deep into the forest and started talking to himself to fill the deafening silence.
“Stupid deer. We don’t need deer. It’d be nice to have deer but I’m a fine enough farmer. We got plenty to eat... I’m a fine enough hunter, too. I’d like to see her catch somethin like this.”
He spat on the ground and looked at the small fox in his hand that he’d barely managed to catch. He wasn’t a very good hunter and his wife knew it. She would mock and scold him from time to time for not bringing home anything of consequence. “We have growing boys,” she would tell him. “And you can’t man up and catch anything more than leftover bird food."
“This is more than lefto -”
There was a crack in the distance that stole his attention. His feet stopped and his head spun in search of where the sound came from. With hesitation, he started creeping back into a walk. There were none of the cricket or bird sounds that normally decorated the night; only silence. He thought it unnatural and even though he wasn’t devout to his religion, he knew about the world. And he wouldn’t put it past the world to make demons and things of that sort real.
Something soft sounded in the distance and raised his hair. He tried to keep his focus on the trees so he didn't lose his way, but it became difficult as the sputters and quiet cowls of the mysterious sound grew and took over his thoughts. Is someone crying? he wondered.
He attempted to speak, but fear kept his mouth from opening. He tried again.
“Hello?” He questioned, hoping no one would answer back.
A groan amidst the cry rang out as if to call him for help.
What was a woman doing out here in the middle of the forest? He clutched his rifle and looked at the trees ahead, trying to burn them into memory. It’s not safe to leave the path, let alone in this kind of darkness. But his concern for the woman forced him to step deeper into the unknown.
“Go away,” the hoarse voice replied and continued weeping. The man could feel her breath in the way she shrieked. He felt they were cries from someone truly lost.
“What’s, what’s wrong? I can help you just, I just can’t really see... where are you?” He walked closer to the cries, but as he walked, the source became less clear. All around him was a sea of black and blue silhouettes with no indication of where the nose was coming from. The trees were shuffling about like tricksters trying to hide the path. Where is that tree? He thought about the path again. He clutched his rifle tighter and waited for a reply amongst the cries. He missed the silence now. “Ma’am if you just tell me where you are… Just tell me what’s wrong and I can -”
The crying stopped and the silence exploded around the man’s ears. He stood like a tree trying to blend into the forest. The only thing that might have exposed him was the thumping of his heart. He let the heel of his boot step back onto the ground and the sticks that broke beneath it sounded like the cries of the woman that still rang in his head.
“Why are you in this cursed forest?” the woman whispered over the man’s shoulder. He turned and backed away from the now calm and deathly soft voice. Catching his foot on a stump, he fell backward and both his rifle and fox fell on the ground. He raced for his gun and got back to his feet as quickly as he could and took aim. At what he didn’t know.
In every direction, there was only darkness.
The crying started up again but this time farther away than before. His finger shook near the trigger of his gun and he pointed his scope and barrel all around but saw nothing. Every wail that she cried out in the distance raised the hairs on his arms. Each shriek scratched at the inside of his head like fingernails carving out a riddle that he couldn’t solve.
“I’ll shoot”, he yelled and tried to find the tenor in his voice. “Stay away from me, witch.”
He stumbled again as he backed up, this time he looked down to see the fox he’d dropped before lying under his boot. To his disbelief, it had decomposed since he’d fallen. The man stared at the carcass and all the little flies that now flitted about it in the dark. Its skin had flattened and contoured its skeleton and there were small holes where animals and bugs had been eating at it for what looked like weeks.
A moment passed and he hadn’t noticed that the crying had disappeared once more. Overwhelmed with cold shivers, he took his rifle up and mumbled, “what is this?”
He felt the voice over his shoulder again like a goodbye kiss, “this cursed forest is no place for you.”
The rifle felt heavy in his hands but the presence of the spirit stood heavier and made the rifle impossible to lift. Pinpricks and needles ran underneath his skin and the hair on his arms moved about as if to find out where the voice was coming from. Then, as if a hypnotist had snapped his fingers, the presence of the woman vanished. In the same second, the chirps and crickets and crackles of the night flooded back into the man's world. Having learned a new meaning to the still of the night, the farmer stood with his rifle half raised and looked back at the fox. The flies were nowhere to be found and the rot was gone. Everything was as it should be except for the man. Shaken, all he was able to do now was to grab his fox and his rifle and run. Far away from this cursed place.
“This forest is cruel”, the soft voice of the spirit whispered to herself. Standing at the mouth of the clearing in the wake of the running man, she watched as he made his way out of the forest. Her tattered clothes shook softly in the wind and her porcelain cheeks mirrored the soft moonlight. Run far away from this place. Back to your home and your family and your comfortable happy life and know that you’re safe. Safe from this cursed forest and these treacherous woods. Safe from the fear that I’m stuck here with; trapped inside these dark and lonely woods wondering what life was before? Stuck with no memories of the warmth or of how I came into this hell. This forest isn’t for you. No. No, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. The forest here traps only me and me alone.
She didn’t know how long she’d been in this cursed forest. She didn’t know anything; anything about how she had gotten here or why such dreadful feelings haunted her. Stranded with them, they pressed on her heart like a vice grip. Trying to crush it but never hard enough to pinch the last bit of life from her and release her from this prison. Every day was a torrent of emotions and sometimes ………