Two days ago I was sitting at my computer, half asleep, when I heard a very distinctive creaking sound. It was the pet door made into the house's back entrance (I don't have any animals, but the actual owner of the place I'm staying does). Unfortunately, my mind immediately went to the end of "The Monster on Browning Street", which made it difficult to check the noise out. Eventually I did manage to pry myself out of the chair and cautiously creep into the back hallway. To my great relief, there was nothing there, and a quick search of the house turned up little more than empty rooms. My guess is that the wind, which I have known to sometimes move the pet door, was responsible.
Despite this explanation, my imagination had now been unchained and was already creating all sorts of wild tales. It eventually drove me from the confines of the house and out into the world to try and distance myself from my irrational fears. Though I had been drowsy before, it was actually still a little before dusk, and my mind was fully awake now.
Not wanting to go into town and risk meeting my shadow, I decided instead to merely drive around for a while. This lasted for about half an hour. Slowly, my nerve returned to me as I wove through the back roads of Pale Forest. In fact, I'd made up my mind to turn around and head back home when an odd sensation came over me.
Passing what at first appeared to be little more than another stretch of nothing on a road surrounded by such, I was suddenly overwhelmed. It felt very much like the hazy experience of looking at an old photo from before your first real memories. Was this road, this place, somehow connected to my past? Almost involuntarily, I found myself pulling over. I sat there in my car for a minute or two, mulling over what it was I'd just experienced, but was unable to make sense of it. Eventually it become clear I'd have to investigate.
Stepping from my car, I was immediately greeted by some rather long, wispy grass, this portion of the road having been long forgotten by the city. There was a somewhat steep embankment a few feet away (though not so much that I couldn't climb it) and then the forest itself. I shivered at the sight of those hideous trees despite the fact I knew my path would take me into the very heart of them.
Though it was by now beginning to get dark, there was still enough light to pick my way through the forest with little trouble. I marveled at the eerie silence as I made my way deeper into the woods; even now, as hundreds of nocturnal animals should have been waking, there was only the sound of leaves crunching underfoot. It was fascinating and a little unnerving at the same time. This was about the only interesting observation I was able to make, however, as my sense of nostalgia seemed to be growing farther away with every step. Stopping, I realized I was alone with nothing more than the trees for company, and they would share no secrets.
Now resolved to chalk the experience up as a worthwhile yet fruitless effort, I turned around to head back to my car. However, as I started my return trip, I quickly noticed something was wrong. The forest I had just traversed appeared different in some way. I had taken careful note of landmarks to help guide me back, but now I couldn't find them. It was as if the trees themselves had been sneaking around while my back was turned.
I wandered for another fifteen minutes or so, growing increasingly anxious. I had not been very deep inside the forest, I reminded myself. Why was it I couldn't see the edge of the trees? Eventually I found a cleared strip of woods that appeared to be a path. Though I had not noticed it earlier, I rationalized following it would probably be more advantageous than blindly circling around, so I did. I admit, I was curious about who would have carved the path, but my options were few and the minutes before pitch dark even more so.
It wasn't long before I had confirmed it was indeed an actual path, though I had no idea where it was leading me. To make matters worse, after just a few minutes of following it, I came upon a fork. Not wanting to stop and truly contemplate the choice, I simply turned left and picked up my pace. I was by now quite confused as to what direction I was going and which would actually get me back to my car, so there was little logic used in my decision.
The path now took me through a sort of grove where the trees were densely packed and the light scarce. Rounding a cluster of these, I stopped, practically mid-stride. There in front of me was bridge, and though it was short and looked stable enough, there was no way I was going to cross it. I am not afraid of bridges, so that played no role in my inability to set foot on it. There was something else-- a sort of dark, foreboding. The weird feeling of deja vu was back and even stronger, though I don't know on what occasion I would have visited this bridge before. I stuck around just long enough to take a picture before heading back from where I'd come.
I made good time back to the fork, this time choosing the other direction. It was now dark and I was having an increasingly difficult time keeping my footing. Thankfully the path had apparently been cleared recently, though I was hopeful I wouldn't run into the person responsible for its upkeep. A few frantic minutes later I emerged from the forest, thankful to see the night sky. I am still unsure how I'd failed to see the edge of the woods from the fork, as it was actually quite close. Even more curious, however, was the fact the path actually brought me to within twenty feet of my car! I am almost certain it should have been in plain sight when I first entered the forest, but I have no explanation for why I missed it.
I drove back out there yesterday with the intend of forcing myself to cross the bridge, but though I am relatively sure I found the same spot, the path to the bridge was no where to be found. Not wishing to once more become lost in the forest without the path to guide me, I didn't venture inside. Perhaps I was simply looking in the wrong place, though. I'll expand my search for the path and the bridge it leads to at some point in the new future, though I'm wary of what I might find on the other side.
Until next time...