I don't think I've ever been more thankful to post. Here in the light of day, I'm actually just glad to be doing anything at all.
Last night was the most terrifying few hours of my life, and I'm certain the number of gray hairs on my head has grown exponentially. I will do my best to recount the events, but I admit my memory is a bit foggy.
Well after the sun had set, I made my way to the spot where I'd first encountered the hidden path some time ago. This went as planned, though there was an instance in which a police car pulled out behind me and seemed to be running my plates. With the mayor making it quite clear he's unhappy with me, this kind of thing represents a very real risk. The squad-car eventually turned off onto another road, though, and I continued without incident.
The forest was as creepy as ever when I pulled up along the side of the road and exited my car. Though I've had the distinct displeasure of being hemmed in by them many times, I'm still amazed at how fully removed from the rest of the world I feel when surrounded by those trees. I proceeded to wander through them for a few minutes, a flashlight my only company, until, amazingly, there it was: the path! I had a hard time containing my excitement even though there was no one around to share the moment.
I immediately set off along the path, determined to reach the end this time. It wasn't long, however, until I discovered the way seemed different this time. There were hills and bends I didn't recall and I came upon several forks (I must have chosen the correct ones every time, though, since they kept leading me further into the woods). I guess there's a chance I entered the path at a different point, but that doesn't explain how everything seemed to have changed. I wasn't about to turn back, though.
It was probably around midnight when the sounds started. They were faint at first, but I still noticed them because the forest had been, as always, eerily quiet. More than anything, it was the sound itself that bothered me. I'm certain it was the same as the one I heard outside and inside of the mill, though less mechanical and a bit more like what I remember from my childhood! It was all I could do to not turn and run back towards my car, but by then I was probably further from where I started than I was the bridge. Or so I hoped.
The sound continued to grow so I kept moving to push it from my mind. Eventually, though, it'd become too much to ignore; the sound was all around me, as if coming from everywhere. It wasn't yet in my mind as it had always been as a child, but the threat didn't seem any less real and the tumult was growing painful. Eventually I couldn't go on-- the bridge was still no where in sight and my head was pounding from the migraine the sound had caused. I remember stopping in the path, kneeling with my hands over my ears, and then closing my eyes.
Then the noise stopped. It didn't fade gradually as it had grown, but died like a plug had suddenly been pulled. I slowly lowered my hands but hadn't yet opened my eyes when the newly found silence ended far too soon.
This is where my memory fails me. There were words spoken, there in the woods, but I can't for the life of me recall what they were. I only know there was a voice. From the shadows of the forest, born of whatever noise had preceeded it, a single voice spoke to me. And it was angry.
I discovered this morning that my shirt and pants had been torn to shreds from catching on branches as I blew through them. And all the way back to my car, that voice shouted at me. I never saw the person, but I swear I recognized the voice. I can't put a face with it, but it was definitely familar. Perhaps it was the "watcher" mentioned in the poem I found, though the prospect is rather fantastical.
When I got back here, my first acts were to bare the doors and then post the frantic message you've all probably seen by now. I'm actually a little embarrassed by it, but at the time it was all I could manage. By the way, "Steve" is the name of one of my few friends here in Pale Forest. And no, it's not his real name. I then waited the darkness out, afraid of "bumps in the night" and the proverbial "bogeyman" as if I were a child.
In retrospect, posting my plans here was probably my undoing again. I desperately want to include everyone in this, but at times I guess I should keep certain things to myself until afterwards. Hopefully I haven't blown this opportunity. Either way, thankfully I'm still around to lament these kinds of mistakes.
Until next time...