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Don't Go into the Woods

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Don’t go into the woods. I have heard this constantly for thirteen years, from the very first day I can remember. Don’t go into the woods. Why? The wolves will get you. You’re also not supposed to go outside of your home past 10 ‘o clock in the evening because the wolves come through Loopsknot every midnight. This policy isn’t as stressed, though, it’s more assumed. So guess where I am, bright and early in the morning on this summer day: The very mouth of the woods, standing tall with my long blonde hair pulled away from my face. My mother would probably kill me if she knew I was here. Most of the town would. I take a deep breath and take my first steps into the tall green trees, then pause. Even though I’m frustrated by the constant superstition surrounding this place, the forest scares me a little. I think like this for a few more minutes, and then do my best to stop. I sing a little song to make myself feel braver, and force my feet forward. I walk for hours, not thinking about anything. Then finally I stop. I look around, trying to figure out the time. Afternoon, I think, but I can’t really tell with all the tall trees crammed into the space around me. I turn on the spot, not sure where the opening of the forest is, let alone Loopsknot. Panic wells up inside of me. Holy cow. I’m lost.

I start running, the panic tearing through me now, turning me numb. Which way did I come from? Am I going the right direction? Why did I even come here? I keep running, turning around and changing course whenever it seems I’m not going anywhere. Naturally, I end up more lost than before, and it’s gotten much darker. Is it dusk already? I stop running and sit down. I check my pockets, hoping I brought something useful with me. I hit something squishy: a roast beef sandwich. Great. Watch while I find my way out of here with a sandwich! I’m stuck here, I’m gone, I’m dead I think, when I hear things moving through the undergrowth. A deer, perhaps? No, its multiple things, I’m sure. I stand up, sandwich in hand, hoping I’m just imagining things, when I see one. I see a wolf, gray fur speckled with white, tongue poking out of its mouth, yellow eyes scanning the plants for a sign of life. But it hasn’t seen me yet. Slowly, I attempt to back away soundlessly, step by step. I get to five before tripping. Because the wolf is not chronically deaf, it hears me. It sounds the alarm to its buddies while I stumble to my feet. If I wasn’t panicking before, I am now. Mauled, gone, dead, I think. The wolves start bearing down on me –five of them, to be exact- and I stand there like an idiot. Mauled, gone, dead, I think again. Their growls sound like the gears of a rusty old machine still just barely managing to turn. Mauled gone dead mauled gone dead mauled gone dead, when something occurs to me. Throw the thing in my hand. The roast beef sandwich, useful? I’ve got to try. I raise my arm and hurl the thing at the gray monsters. It flies mere inches over their heads in slow motion, and I watch with dread, but then they race after it, crazed. Apparently roast beef, sourdough and mustard taste better than terrified thirteen-year-old girl. I stare after them for a second, then run in the other direction like a madwoman until I’m too tired to even think. I stop, panting and more exhausted than I have ever been. I need to rest. I climb the tree nearest me that looks like it will support my weight. It seems safer than staying on the ground. I sit on the thick gnarled branch trying to make myself fall asleep, but I’m still too freaked out by everything that’s happened. I end up just staring out at the other trees, countless shadows, and the bits of the night sky that I can see. But then the trees, shadows and night sky start turning on me. The trees turn into long bony hands that want to impale me, and take my brain and eyes and eat them. The shadows are the people from my town, if they had been turned into zombies and worse, and they are yelling at me and taunting me! “Stupid girl, idiot girl, proud girl, look what you’ve gotten yourself into! You should stay in there and never come back. We don’t need fools.” And the pieces of the sky…wolves! The night sky is made of wolves! I scream hysterically. The wolves will get me this time, I’m sure. I see it in their malicious glinting eyes. I scream and thrash around until I manage to get myself into a position that causes me to fall off the branch. I’m barely hanging on to the thinnest part of the branch. I look down. There are about five feet of thin air between me and the grass and bushes and weeds below. And then all at once the plants rise to meet me.

I land on my back, staring up at the starry sky that was horrifying just seconds ago. There isn’t any pain besides a slight pang in my head yet, and I take it as a good sign. Suddenly, a feeling washes over me: I am so tired of this. I am so tired of being lost in these woods, even though it’s barely been a day. I’m tired of wandering around, hoping that I might find a way out by chance. I’m tired of the stupid awful wolves, and I am tired of being afraid of them. Wait a minute…the wolves. The wolves, the wolves, the wolves! The wolves that parade through Loopsknot every single midnight. Of course! They know the way to Loopsknot. I’ll follow them to the edge of the woods…they can’t have left yet, they howl so loudly you can hear them long before you see them when they come through the town; not to mention that it can’t be that late yet, it was dusk only hours ago. I should hear them in the forest, indefinitely. Quickly I get to my feet, wincing slightly at my throbbing head, and, I suspect, a sprained ankle.

The howling starts about an hour later. I hobble as fast as I can towards the sound while being extremely careful on an injured ankle. In twenty minutes I can see dark figures moving away from me on my left. I’m extremely careful now, and trying to stay as far away as I can while being able to see them so they don’t smell me or anything. I follow them for another twenty minutes -maybe longer- when the trees start to thin out, and my forward vision is less obscured by them. We keep going like this for a few more minutes, and then I start to see the edge and the slope of the hill that the forest is placed on, and seconds later I see the dim street lights of my town in the little valley. I am again at the very mouth of the forest. I decide that following the wolves down the hill and into the town might be a little dangerous, so I move along the edge of the woods until a safe distance away and wait.

Nervously, I walk down Wright Street, taking in the identical boxes that are people’s homes and the antique streetlights as if I’d never seen them before. I don’t know why I’m nervous, I mean, I’ve lived on this street for forever, and I’ve just been through the most terrifying day of my life, spraining my ankle, throwing a sandwich at wolves, and hallucinating. Maybe I’m afraid my parents will kill me. Maybe I’m afraid they’re worried sick. Maybe I’m going through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Good god I hope not. I reach the door of 1205, my house, and, with great caution, knock on the door, holding my breath. Nearly immediately the door bursts open and my mother strangle-hugs me, brown hair flying everywhere. It’s settled. I’m never leaving home again.



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