I know you're all going to think I'm crazy.
Unfortunately, this has become an unavoidable truth. Certainly all of my neighbors, even my friends, have decided the very same thing of me. I can't, however, keep it in any longer. If even one person who reads these accounts believes me, then perhaps I will find solace in that. Although I can't imagine what actual help the trust of a stranger somewhere out over the Internet will provide. Regardless, I will endeavor to start from the beginning, if for no other reason that to order my own chaotic memories.
I have not always lived in Pale Forest. This fact I know, yet I hardly remember a time when my house wasn't surrounded by the sickeningly white trees this place is so unimaginatively named for. My parents moved here when I was five. The city had just been "blessed" with an addition to its paper mill and my father needed the work. I'm told that there was a great migration to Pale Forest at this time, though most everyone I know has roots that run deeper than the damn trees. The mill still remains, along with its unbearable smell, though it operates on a much smaller scale now.
My earliest memories of this place are hazy at best. Whether I owe this inability to make sense of the past to the natural act of aging or to something more sinister, I do not know. Either way, the result is that thinking back too far is akin to trying to remember a dream the morning after. Bits and pieces come to mind, but there is an impenetrable fog over the central themes. It is unbearably frustrating. What I can recall, however, is possibly more troubling than the things that I can't.
What I am about to write, I haven't shared with anyone fully. What I have told others has only succeeded in making me a virtual pariah, so I have learned to keep things from those around me. It is for that reason that I now bring this to you, since I can't very well be disowned by people I have never actually met. Whatever you decide of me, please read the full account before making that call.
Though the exact order of events escapes me, I know of at least five occurrences from my past in which I opened my eyes to the same shape playing against the back wall of my room, illuminated by the He-Man nightlight my aunt had given me. It was never there for more than a few seconds. Despite this transient nature, its image is, unfortunately, burned into my mind. Though not human, it did seem to be the shadow of a creature that stood upright, its long, gangly arms apparently outstretched as if reaching for something. I shudder to think what it was trying to find, there in the dark. It is impossible to guess its exact height using only a shadow, but it did seem to be at least the equivalent of an average sized man. (You'll excuse me if I stop my recollection here, as putting this in written word has made me feel somewhat queasy. I often wish this memory would join the host of other I have lost over the years.) I tore my room apart each and every time it appeared, vainly trying to find what could have produced it but, to this day, I have no idea of its origin.
The memory of the sound is more vague, still. It was a kind of grinding noise that was wholly foreign to me then and now (if I am indeed remembering it correctly). I would hear it as a low humming at first, followed by a gradual growth in volume until it was about as loud as an electric drill. I never went in search of the source, however, as it didn't seem to have one. It wasn't as if it came from within my head, though, so please don't think that; it's origin was simply everywhere. Regardless, it never lasted more than thirty seconds which was hardly enough time to investigate. I only asked my parents about it once. My mother's look of worry combined with the frustration on the face of my father quelled that curiosity.
Now, I know most children experience scares similar to these, but at this time I must point out I was a painfully practical youth. One might have even labeled me as boring. I did not play with toys or watch cartoons (the He-Man nightlight was a gift), choosing instead to draw. And there was nothing whimsical about my artwork which consisted of diagrams and random blueprints for buildings that did not yet exist. Looking back, it could be concluded I was fashioning the engineer I am today, but at the time it was a point of concern for my parents who were no doubt worried I would become a shut-in. Perhaps it is best that they did not live to see me in my current situation. All of this is to say that my own "bumps in the night" hold more credence than those of other, more childish children.
More than either of those explainable memories, however, was the pervasive feeling of always being watched. This I list as something from my childhood and my present day as I can't recall a time since I have lived in Pale Forest where I did not have the uneasy feeling that a thousand unseen eyes were always upon me. I am not referring to the tingle in one's spine that causes an involuntary need to turn and look behind you, either. This sensation was and is far more visceral, as if everything I do is on display for some cosmic, disapproving audience. Even now I feel as if those same eyes are watching as I share things they'd rather I keep to myself.
But I am not going to suffer alone any longer. No one in Pale Forest will listen, but hopefully someone, an outsider with no preconceived ideas, will. It is exhausting to recount my experiences, much more that I anticipated, but I will do my best. I had wished to share more this first time out-- about the mill and how it runs at night now, about the unnatural quiet that hangs over the forest itself, and the creature in the woods, but I can't bring myself to write anything else, presently. I will do so, however, as my time permits.
If you have not yet labeled me insane, or at the very least detached from reality, I thank you. I assure you that your patience with my sanity will yet be tested. There is more to share. Please read it-- only then will I experience any form of closure.
Until next time...