Well off the Trail

Contributor: Tim Sullivan

- -
There is much we cannot explain hidden out in the woods and wildernesses. Well, at the very least, there are people out there behaving in ways that cannot be explained. Not long ago, I came upon such individuals myself. I had taken it into my head to go for a jaunt into the relative unknown and so headed to explore a forest some distance from my house, well outside of town.

A certain famous horror movie had been filmed there; I won’t say which, but suffice to say they all died screaming-- quite a twist. Despite this fictitious blot, the region has quite a good name among locals for being idyllic in its seclusion and challenging in its hiking. The latter is due to the lack of established trails beyond a simple right-on-through job about as satisfying to hike as a sidewalk.

After arriving, I picked a direction and began walking. For two hours I blazed my trail--whatever that means—-over rocky hills and along more than one ravine. I was good and lost. The sun was not yet going down, but just passing that teasing azimuth where it giggles and flirts as a shy date with her skirt. Realizing that I had best begin the trek car-ward, I produced my trusted GPS, and, after ordering it to conduct me home, spun on heel and marched.

I had gone no more than twenty paces before the ground gave way and I slipped over the edge of a short cliff I had not noticed earlier. The fall proper was short, but the ground I landed on was steeply declined and I immediately began rolling down through brush and over branch.

When gravity was finally through with me I had accumulated only a few scratches and bruises. Nothing was seriously hurt; I once come out worse after an ill judged hop over a puddle. My GPS was not so lucky. The green “on” light shone happily, but the screen was black--likely due to the crack right in its center. There was no chance of climbing back up, and I had, of course, lost my bearing in the tumble and possessed no compass. Orienteering had never been a strength of mine, thus the GPS. My cell phone would be of no help either; it was in my glove box.

With the sun now on its way down, I picked a direction and set about extricating myself from this suddenly too exciting adventure. Before long, I came upon a narrow trail. I followed it for sometime before I found myself standing before a large stone monument. The shape of a man on his knees in supplication had been carved from a rock just larger than I. He appeared old and weathered, his features were indistinct.

Puzzled but aware of the setting sun, I continued on. Much to my shock, I soon came upon a ring of small, stone people in mid-dance. These statues were carved of old limestone and had clearly been brought here from elsewhere. They were much pitted from age and acid rain.

By now I was both unsettled and curious, conditions that were exacerbated around the next bend when I noticed all manner of shapes carved into the trees; some seemed recent. A wailing then reached my ears, accompanied the slow thudding of a drum. Curiosity trumped unease, and I followed the sounds up the trail. At the source, I was awash in bewilderment.

The wailing proved to be a harsh harmonica--the drum just a drum--both played by old men wearing suits. Gathered around them, a ring of some twenty individuals danced in a decidedly, well, tribal manner. They were all dressed quite modernly, there were more suits, jeans, t-shirts, polos; near them a fire burned in a pit. Strange blue and green flames leapt about and the profuse, wind-blown smoke made me lightheaded and dizzy. The scene was made no less surreal by the raucous colors of the setting sun behind them. I was not thirty feet away and could do nothing but stare.

Finally, I came to my senses and ducked behind a large tree. Strange wilderness cults demand caution. Soon after, the dancing and playing ceased. The ring sat with their backs to me and faced a tall hill with a tremendous boulder at its peak. Harmonica climbed the hill to stand near it, while Drummer moved to the fire pit. He fed the fire long varicolored logs and the flames grew and grew. The wind was blowing the heavy smoke into my face and I was having trouble seeing straight.

The sun continued to fall until it was obscured by the hilltop monolith; its great shadow fell like night on the scene. Harmonica began to play once more and the ring, joined by Drummer, began to chant words I could not discern. The harmonica’s manic call sliced the air and I could feel dread spreading through me. I longed to feel simply uneasy again.

The monolith had a hole cut through its center and suddenly the descending sun passed behind it. Strong orange-red rays shone through the hole and all over us; it hit me hard—I could FEEL it--and I dropped to the ground. The wind gusted and the ring of people began howling and screaming. I never knew humans could make such noises.

At this moment, I felt something. The acrid smoke, setting sun and the screams lead by the harmonica combined to manifest a presence. It was a density, a palpable SOMETHING, all around me. I could feel it pressing in tighter and tighter. I’d had enough.

I sprinted away, not following the path, just running. I fell many times; the smoke had made me feel as if I were rocking on an ocean. Eventually, I could never say how long, I burst on to a wide, flat trail and immediately recognized where I was. I turned left and followed the path right-on-through to my car.

- - -
Tim recently began writing due to a frustrating dearth of gainful employment following his college education. Writing hasn't helped that, but it's more fun than sending out resumes. He also has a cat.
Read more »
These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Furl
  • Reddit
  • Spurl
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

Help keep Linguistic Erosion alive! Visit our sponsors! :)- - -