In The Woods

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: New to Booksie?//SHARE YOUR STORY HERE


A boy begins to see things in the woods behind his grandparents home. Something is following him but he can't figure out what it could be.

Submitted: July 31, 2018

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Submitted: July 31, 2018

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A cold morning breeze blew through the forest of eastern pines, obscuring anything beyond the sides of the road. Eleven-year-old Nathan Finnick woke up from whatever dream he’d been having to the sound of his parents arguing in an attempt to find his grandparents’ house. His mother had been toying with the radio most of the drive up and he’d about had it. She almost made him miss the turn onto Drake’s Branch. Who knew it’d be so difficult to find a house with 217 on it. All he knew was that they lived in Virginia, far enough away from any kind of city life. He’d assumed before coming up there that there wouldn’t be a lot for him to do unless he kept up with his “vivid imagination”, as his parents put it. Such imagination should prove useful once he was out of the car. It had been going into overdrive the entire ride up.

  He always carried a notebook with him in case his imagination went a little bonkers. He’d just write down whatever he was seeing in his head and add to it later on. With him being stuck in the car all night long none of that had been possible. He was itching to get behind a desk and get to working on a story he’d jotted down earlier in the week. It was one among the many of ideas he had. Conveniently enough most of them took place in forests or places isolated on all sides by them. They were a mysterious force not to be messed with in his eyes. They were also a place that held a lot of secrets.

  They had been on the road for at least twelve hours by the time they spotted a tall white house with an outdoor staircase leading upstairs standing out amidst the trees. Big and bold were the numbers 217. It was a two-story house surrounded by the dying pines. It really was a wonder as to how they even managed to find the place if it weren’t for those numbers being there.

  The woods interested Nathan more than the house though, he knew they held secrets and wanted to know what they were. Now while they interested him, he was also equally afraid of them. He could see himself standing alone in the woods surrounded by nothing but pines and dead leaves. It was that kind of imagining that tended to get him into trouble with his parents. They eventually gave him an idea about writing everything down that he’d imagined. It also brought something he remembered happening the previous summer, a time where he first felt that kind of fear.

  There was a set of woods near his house back in Florida that he and a few of his friends liked to go adventuring through. One night he remembered they were playing manhunt in his neighborhood and he’d decided he’d hide in this bamboo forest around the block. When he’d hid there, no one had been able to find him. Instead he found what looked to be the remains of someone’s “home”. A tarp covering a three-foot hole in the ground along with a dirty pillow and cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and Pepsi scattered around it. Some homeless guy lives here, Nathan turned back quick as he could to get out of there. He could feel the homeless man watching him from somewhere hidden. When he’d returned after his friends couldn’t find him, he told them what he found, and they agreed the next day they’d go check it out. When they did decide to go, the tarp, hole, and cans were still there but there was no sign that anyone stayed there the previous night. Nathan remembered looking into the faces of his friends and felt the uneasiness coming off them. It was time they found a new place to play.

  Nathan shook his head of the memory and zipped his grey hoodie up to the neck. It was freezing that late into October, but he loved it. His grandma and grandpa, surprisingly along with his uncles, stood in the driveway eagerly awaiting their arrival.

  Nathan’s parents exchanged the usual pleasantries with them after they pulled the van into the long gravel driveway. Nate watched the woods while listening to the typical “hello’s” and “how are you’s”. Was that one of the neighbor’s standing there amid the trees? It was so hard to tell as they seemed to be fading into the forest. That was also when he found out that his uncles were living with his grandparents. For how long I wonder, Nate glanced back once it was his turn for hugs and “oh my God you’ve grown so much’s”.

  His grandfather, who after all this time decided to finally keep only a mustache, took one of their bags and motioned to the house. “Y’all will feel better once we get inside and get a nice fire going.”

  Nate couldn’t agree more, his hands felt as though they’d be numb forever.

  Before they could go inside though, Jonah, Nathan’s cousin, sprinted down the driveway to give everyone a big hug hello. Jonah had always been a hyperactive kid, yet it still seemed his old cross-eyed ways never changed. Whenever he’d get himself worked up talking about something his eyes just naturally ran into each other.

  Nathan ruffled Jonah’s hair. “How’s my coz doing?”

  “Better now that y’all are here,” his eyes went crossed again. “Did you bring your Xbox?”

  “Yep, we can get it set up later though.”

  Nathan handed Jonah the bag with his system in it and followed everyone inside. He stopped at the base of the few steps that led into the house and took one last look at the woods. Just who was that dude standing in the woods? Nathan went inside where everyone was taking off jackets and gathering around the large dining table.

  His grandparents had set out a huge bowl of scrambled eggs and two pans of pancakes for everyone. Their dining room was just a single literal step above their living room where a large tv sat playing episodes of Law & Order on a constant rerun. God how he hated that show, so very dull and boring.

  Once everyone had eaten the adults just sat around talking while Nathan threw on his jacket and went back outside with Jonah to get an idea of what kind of fun they could have. More so, how much could Nate let his imagination run wild?

  While Jonah continued to spit out ideas of games they could play in the woods, Nate kept staring into the woods in an attempt to find the stranger he saw. He wasn’t too big a fan of unsolved mysteries, and this one was getting annoying for him. With all his attention on the woods he didn’t realize his one of his uncles had come out of the house and was talking to him.

  “Sorry, what?” Nate tucked his hands into his pockets.

  “I was saying ‘did you want to see something cool’?” his uncle was tall, like the other brothers on his dad’s side of the family. “Might even inspire you.”

  “Sure, why not.” He assumed his mother must have been talking about him again. She was always wont to do that, especially about her son.

  The crunching of dead leaves that had fallen from the pines echoed around them as they stepped up a steep hill. Nathan could hear a hawk screeching over its kill somewhere nearby. Gunshots fired in the distance, signaling the opening of hunting season. He had been warned by his mother on the drive up to always wear something bright on his jacket in case he saw any hunters. She didn’t want him to get shot.

  He wondered what else could be out in those woods. Most likely something bad but he didn’t care, he wanted to know. They ascended one last hill and came upon a large, crimson, wooden house. It looked old, old enough that Nathan knew if he touched its rotted wood it would disintegrate. How the place could still be upright was anyone’s guess. It definitely had an eerie feeling about it. Nate just couldn’t place it. It was pretty cool despite it being weird. Nathan followed his uncle around a corner of the house where the red paint had flaked away. A single door hung ajar, allowing them to take a peek inside. The flooring was torn out and replaced with poles that were laid crisscross above a hollow space filled with ashen-colored dirt. “Come on, time to go home,” his uncle pulled them away from the house.

  As they took the same path back to Nate’s grandparents’ home his uncle told him the story of the smokehouse. “From what I read up was that the place was used in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s for smoking meat. Hunters would bag their game and, after gutting and cleaning it, they would hang it over a low fire to dry it out for cooking or for jerky. To be quite honest, I also heard another story but I’m not sure I should tell you guys. Jonah doesn’t even know this one.”

  Nate glanced back at the smokehouse while it was still in view. “Tell me, I want to know.”

  Jonah jumped in at the prospect of hearing a good tale. “Please tell us!”

  “Alright, but don’t tell your parents or they’re gonna kick my ass,” he stopped them just out of sight of their grandparents’ home. “There was a story I heard about someone who was using that place for a different kind of hunting. In other parts of Virginia he would kidnap people, men or women didn’t matter, and he’d chain their hands together. From there he would let them go for a run through the woods at night and attempt to escape. While they were running he would hunt them down with a crossbow and hang them over the fire in the same way the other hunters would. Once the police got wind of this, they went scouring the woods for him and found only the remains of his victims. One day they decided to search this lone smokehouse one last time and found him hanging from a chain he swung over the rafters. So yeah, that’s that.”

  Nate was speechless. His mind flew to the stranger he saw earlier. The idea for this story stormed into his mind like a SWAT team breaching a house. This was the story all of his previously written down ideas could connect to. He’d have to wait until after dinner though. That was the only exception his father made with his writing.

  “Come on, I’ll let them know we’re back. You guys can play out in the yard,” his uncle went back inside, leaving them to find something to do.

  As much as Nathan thought the smokehouse was cool, Jonah took his mind off it and onto hunting Nazis in the woods. Nate watched Jonah sprint into the house and back out like the Roadrunner.

  They ran through the eastern pines and scrambled over the fallen ones. Nate could see themselves in the snowy forests outside of Berlin, searching for Nazi patrols that were hunting for escaping Jews. As they snuck out of their cloister of trees Nathan stopped in his tracks. In his mind’s eye he could see the smokehouse in the distance. Only this time snow covered it and it didn’t look so rotted. To his right someone stepped on a pile of leaves that sounded like crunching snow. As he turned he saw the stranger again.

  It’s body was obscured by such heavy snowfall that he couldn’t make out if it was a man or woman. Nate felt off about playing soldiers anymore. Before he turned to find where Jonah ran to he saw the stranger eying him weirdly, like it was trying to gauge something about him. Jonah called from his grandparent’s house for dinner. Nate shook his head of the snowy landscape and opened his eyes to where the stranger stood. Problem was, it was still there. He dropped the toy gun, realizing it wouldn’t do any good in the real world, and ran back to the house.

  He stopped in the yard and looked back at the smokehouse. It was gone, camouflaged by the dense forestry surrounding his grandparents’ home. The story mixed with seeing the stranger again drew him to the smokehouse, a wanting to know what was happening. God, he needed to write this whole thing down.

  When he burst through the front door he nearly gave his family a heart attack. “You alright bud?” his father stood from the table and walked over to him. “Something happen?”

  Nathan shook his head. “No, I just rushed back here when I heard Jonah call. I didn’t realize how far in I had gone.”

  “All right, well let’s get some food in you then you can get back to playing.” His father ruffled his hair.

  When he finished his dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn, the story had disappeared from his mind. He could get it back, he felt it in his little bones that he could. Jumping on the only computer in the house he fired up their old version of Microsoft Word and tried typing what he could. It was crap, complete utter crap. Nothing as good as he’d normally written down by hand. He slid back from the desk and stared out the window to the yard where they could play. What did the smokehouse have to do with the stranger? Was the stranger that crossbow guy? Was his uncle lying to him? He didn’t know.

  He saw something shift in the darkness beyond the window, out by the trees where he and Jonah had waited to go kill pretend Nazis. Was the stranger there now, watching him?

  “I need to go back there before we leave,” he whispered like a prayer as he climbed into bed.

  Thoughts of the stranger following him and the need to return to the house receded to the back of his mind as he got out early the next morning. Jonah tried asking him to play war again, but he just waved him off. He didn’t want a repeat of the previous evening. He watched Jonah trump off back into the house.

  As he sat on a bench they had in the yard his uncle came out of the house holding a rifle. “How come you aren’t playing with Jonah?”

  “Not in the mood to,” Nate stared straight ahead at the forest of pines and drifted back to the connection of the stranger and the smokehouse. “That a real gun?”

  “You bet it is. Your dad wants to get some shots in later so I figured I’d come out and make sure nothing’s wrong.”

  “Could I shoot it?” Nate’s eyes went big.

  “Yeah, just let me get fire off a couple rounds to make sure it still works.”

  Nathan grew ecstatic as his uncle set up a jug of water as a target and took a couple of shots at it. He kept pacing back and forth. He was finally going to get to shoot a gun, and not just any one, but a real one! His uncle waved him over and set the rifle on the bench next to a box of .22 rounds. “You ready?” he looked Nathan in the eyes. “Not a toy anymore, remember that.”

  Despite his almost unstifled excitement, he understood that this was a responsibility thing. He had to make sure that nothing went wrong, and he didn’t accidentally shoot anyone.

  His uncle handed him the rifle and stepped back. “Pull the bolt up and back, slip a round into the chamber, and close the bolt back in place. Then you’re ready to fire.”

  Nate slowly pulled the bolt back and dropped a round in. He’d seen it done in plenty of movies, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous as a kid about to tell a girl he thinks she’s pretty. Returning the bolt home he pressed the stock against his shoulder and took aim at the jug. In that instant it became the obscured face of the stranger. He squeezed the trigger which jolted his shoulder slightly. When he looked at the jug, it had a clean hole through it where it leaked out bluish water. “Good shot, kid,” his uncle clapped him on the shoulder. It became the first fantasy of his that he’d been able to accomplish. He’d finally gotten to shoot a real gun, not one of the toys. Throughout the rest of the day his uncle let him have a small competition of who could shoot better with his father. By the end of the competition Nate had managed to decimate the jug better than his father had.

  That night he went back to the window and stared into the woods, willing something to shift again. after a while he gave up and went to bed. It was probably just his being tired the night before that made him see something.

  The next day the idea of who the stranger was came back to him. He continuously wrote down notes and other musings about the story his uncle told him and compared it to the stranger with the smokehouse. The story of the killer reminded him of some movies he’d seen like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. He knew they were just movies, but their tales of killing were just the same.

  That same day his cousin Sarah and her family came to visit. She and Jonah found Nathan outside on the bench staring into the woods with a notepad on his lap. “What’s up coz?” she hugged him. “Why are you out here by yourself?”

  Nathan shrugged. “Just writing down some ideas.”

  “Yeah, Jonah said you were always jotting things down in that pad of yours,” she brushed a strand of brown hair out of her face.

  Nathan didn’t want to tell her or Jonah the things running through his head about the stranger and the killer story. “As much as I can at least.”

  As his gaze went back to the woods an idea occurred that would get him back to the smokehouse before they had to leave that day. “You want to see something cool?”

  She eyed him suspiciously. “Sure?”

------

  A grey sunlight peeked through the trees as they made their way over the first hill on the path covered in dead leaves. “There’s a place back here called a smokehouse that hunters used to use,” Jonah could barely contain his excitement. “It’s a pretty creepy place.”

  Nathan hoped he wouldn’t say anything about the story his uncle told them. If he did, then Sarah would most likely take off running back to the house and get them in trouble. The strange feeling of being watched came back to Nathan. There was something else though, the feeling that something with the smokehouse itself wasn’t right. It could have been the dilapidated look or it could have just been his overactive imagination, he didn’t know. He’d always been told he had a vivid imagination, yet the thought of the smokehouse brought on nothing but a weird nauseous feeling. He chose to ignore it. It wouldn’t kill him. Besides, he didn’t want to lose breakfast in front of his cousins. That would be something they’d never forget, much like the time he threw up at school in the middle of class.

  As they crossed through the woods, Nathan brought up a story he heard about a forest in Massachusetts that was an Indian burial ground. “The Indians believed that the place was sacred land. However, once settlers began buying the land it became believed that the land had been cursed by some ancient spirit.”

  He needed to say something to break up the eerie quiet of the forest around them. The silence became toxic.

  On their approach to the formidable crimson rot-wood, Sarah stopped. Her face contorted into a panicking fear. Her eyes darted back and forth on either side of the smokehouse, like she was seeing something neither of the other two could. Yet there was nothing there, nothing coming out of the house. Then she began to step back, away from the smokehouse. “We should go, there’s something off about this place.”

  Jonah took her side in the situation despite not seeing anything. “Maybe we should, Nate. This place is really creepy.”

  He looked at them, then back at the smokehouse. “I’m just going to go inside and look around more.”

  “Listen Nate, I’m getting some bad vibes from this place. It’s not good at all.” Sarah took a few more steps back. “Why don’t we just go back? It’ll be more fun.”

  Nathan cocked his head. He’d never heard of a vibe before. “What’s a vibe?”

  “Does it really matter? We should just get the hell out of here.” When she saw that he was still going to press the issue she rolled her eyes. “It’s a bad feeling, can we go now?”

  Nathan shook his head. “I’m not ready to go yet. I have to see what the mystery is behind this place.”

  Jonah and Sarah looked at each other and started walking back. Nate watched them go. He secretly wanted to go with them. It would have been better to, but he wanted to see what the connection was with the smokehouse. The hairs sprung up on the back of his neck as he walked up the steep hill that was the walkway to the smokehouse. The feeling of being alone was enough to tell him he should go. But was he really alone? He almost turned and ran when he heard a clinking noise come from the house. He had to see what it was. It couldn’t have been much worse than seeing the stranger in his imagination and in real life.

  Peering inside he saw an ancient chain swinging from the rafters. When he looked in the corner of the room he saw the stranger facing the wall. Now he understood Sarah’s strange vibes. That was when he turned and ran, jumping down the hill as he went. He stopped as he hit the dead leaf covered ground. He wanted to face this thing, to see his hunter. So, he turned. He wished he’d been able to bring the gun with him. Maybe it could have changed things, if only he were older.

  Standing on the hill was the stranger, obscured in darkness. He couldn’t see its face but he could make out the orange vest, jeans, and hunting boots. It wasn’t standing, at least not how normal people stood. It was as though it was hovering. Then it revealed its face. A thing grey as ash with a stitched mouth and no eyes. That was when he was done with everything. He was ready to just be a normal kid again playing war games. Never again, he burst through a cluster of still growing ferns. If I had the gun I would have shot it just to never see its face again.

  His uncle had told him something about that place was evil and Nathan had gotten to see it. One question remained for him: was it real or just in his head? He didn’t know, hell, he couldn’t know. He was just a kid that enjoyed a little fun and writing his little stories and notes. He just wanted to get back to the house and drive the long way home. He also knew he couldn’t tell his parents. They’d never believe him, then again, his cousins probably wouldn’t either.

  It was late after noon by the time he came out of the woods. His parents had already packed the van up. He went to his cousins and hugged them tightly. “What’s wrong Nate?” Sarah asked.

  “I’m sorry,” his voice barely a whisper. “Don’t go out there again, ever.”

  He let them go and hugged the rest of his family. He was going to miss them, but not miss that house. That was something he would remember the rest of his days. He didn’t plan on ever coming back though, this trip was enough for him.

  They got into the van and began their drive home. It was going to be a long trip, but he was read for it this time. As they cleared the driveway, he thought he saw something in the woods. Was it the stranger? He couldn’t tell. When he turned his attention to the road ahead, something moved out of the corner of his eye. The stranger was with him. little wisps of black rolled off it as Nathan turned to face it.

  What he saw could almost be described as excitement despite not having a mouth. It was joy in the thrill of the hunt. That’s exactly what it was, a hunt.


© Copyright 2018 Zach-V. All rights reserved.

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