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  • Shelly Desjarlais

Her Woods Bleed

It was your idea.


Those words ring in my head like wind chimes. The noise is shrill, resonating. I dwell on the echoes. They seem to go on forever. This was me. This was my choice.


Twenty-four hours ago, I believed it was a superstition. I sat in the corner of a gritty dive beneath the haze of tobacco smoke and neon lights. A group of barflies bought me a drink, telling me that it was one for the road. They didn’t want me to come here. I called them gullible drunks and laughed at their stupidity.


I want to tell those boys how sorry I am, but I know now that I won’t get the chance.


It started the moment my foot hit the ground. I could feel the temperature dropping faster than a rollercoaster, screaming down and down and down. Fog hung above the lake in a thick, murky layer. It began to enrobe the crumbling structure ahead. I hesitated.


"You’re wrong, pal. We don’t believe it because we’ve seen the movies,” the barfly spoke as he lit a cigarette. It hung loosely from his flapping lips. “The movies exist because it was here first.”


The planks of the wooden porch were rotted and stained. I ran my hand across the faded door to find scratch marks dug in the paint. I compared the breadth of my fingers to the scars in the wood. It lined up perfectly, which could only mean fingernails were the cause. Whoever did this would have left this place with bloody stumps instead of nails—if they left at all.


I popped open the door with the gentle nudge of my knuckle. The stench of mold and decay hit my nostrils like a wrecking ball. Still, I entered the cabin. I tried the light switch once or twice, but I wasn’t expecting the electricity to work. My flashlight was already in my pocket.


Room by room, I checked to be sure I was alone. I didn’t want to be surprised by horny teenagers or deadly snakes. My research depended upon having the place to myself, and it appeared that I did. I chose to set up in the main room by the fireplace. The flames would provide a fantastic light source, and I needed the warmth. That’s strange to say, seeing how it’s the middle of August.


I didn’t want to wander into the woods to gather firewood. There was something unsettling beyond the fog, something unnatural. Thankfully, there were plenty of sticks beside my car. I gathered them and hurried back inside. Embers crackled and popped as I sat on the stone hearth. I spoke into my tape recorder.


“I’ve arrived at the cabin. I can see why the locals are afraid of it. It’s a spooky place. I found a few strange things on the door and the porch. I’ll have to wait until I have natural light to check the rest of the cabin thoroughly. Surely, there’s something. One hundred years of homicide can’t just wash out like coffee stains on a button-down shirt.”


That’s when the shutters began to thump violently against the side of the cabin. I assumed the wind had kicked up. When I looked outside, the trees were still. I heard creaking on the floor next. It was as if something was inside with me. Carefully, I treaded towards the noise. I flicked on my flashlight and pointed the beam down the hallway. Nothing.


“Hello?” I called out. Then, I shook my head with a chuckle. “Like anybody would actually answer that.”


“Hello,” a hiss returned.


I gulped. There was no way that I truly heard that. It had to be the sound of leaves against dead branches, a rattle in the wind. I went to a window to check. However, the trees were still stationary.


The floor behind me shifted as if heavy steps were approaching. I flipped around to see who was there. I was met only by shadows, ones that came from the fireplace’s furious flames. My shoulders relaxed slightly, but it didn’t last. I felt something brush against my spine. Breath was on the nape of my neck. Every hair on my skin prickled.


Gradually, I turned. A woman’s festering face was inches from mine, her flesh falling from the bone. Her teeth were caulked with crimson and filth. I fell backwards from the shock and landed harshly on my hip. My flashlight rolled away. I could only make out her silhouette then, and it was coming for me.


I scooted towards the fire, mumbling. “This isn’t real. Those guys psyched me out. That’s all.”


“There is no reality in my woods,” the woman’s gravelly voice replied. “There is only death.”


My eyes snapped shut. I tried to will her away, as I was convinced it had to be in my mind. It was impossible for the legends to be true. When I finally looked again, the woman was gone. I sucked in a deep breath. What a relief! I stood back up and confidently retrieved my flashlight.


“Some sleep. That’s what I need,” I told myself.


For a moment, everything seemed all right. My heart rate had almost returned to normal. Naturally, that’s when my flashlight began to spasm. The fresh batteries had already died. I had extra batteries in my car, so I headed for the door. When I tried the knob, it wouldn’t open. One by one, the shutters slammed over the windows. I rushed to check them. Like the door, they wouldn’t budge.


After an hour of banging on the windows and screaming for help, I returned to the stone hearth. Here, I sit quietly. The fire is almost dead. My watch stopped right after my flashlight went dark. Time is lost. I observe as the walls around me begin to bleed. Red puddles form at the baseboards and pour towards the center of the room. I feel them closing in, ready to engulf me like a ferocious wave. Her voice is everywhere.


“You’re in my woods now,” she whispers, “and I don’t let go.”

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