• Laura

Alone, In the Woods

In honor of Halloween, something a little different on the blog today. Read on for a spooky story... if you dare!

A flash of light blinks through the window and you freeze. No one should be here. No cars should be coming down the long gravel driveway on a Tuesday night in October. You feel your heart beat faster. Your eyes dart to the door. It’s locked. Your heart skips a beat.

You are so vulnerable here, a fresh college graduate living alone, in the woods. No neighbors to notice if something is awry. No one will hear you scream.

Grabbing your phone, you drop to the floor. You know the light in the window is a giveaway that you are here, but you don’t need to confirm your presence with your shadow. You crawl past the window to the dark bathroom, slowly rising so you can peek.

An unfamiliar car parks next to yours. The headlights go dark and the car door slams. Was that twice? Are there two people?

Your heart stops. Leaves crunch under footsteps getting closer and closer to the end of the lodge where you reside. The sounds change to steps on gravel. Yes, it’s definitely two of them. Yes, they are getting closer.

You look at your phone. You should call someone. But will the sound of your voice betray you? Maybe you should send a text instead. Your fingers shake, your mouth goes dry, your heart beats faster and faster, your vision blurs. You can’t put a coherent string of letters together right now. You need to focus on what’s outside, try and think of a way out.

You’ve gone on a string of first dates lately; nothing special but nothing that set off red flags either. You’ve been careful, never telling anyone that you live alone out in the woods, answering questions with generalities instead of specifics. Did you slip up?

It doesn’t matter–you can figure that out later. If there is a later.

Your mind flashes back to summer nights, sitting outside on the picnic tables after the campers are asleep, listening to staff talk about the ways camp is the perfect horror movie setup, how easily someone could come in and do damage; that delicious scary feeling when a shiver runs down your spine but you know nothing is going to happen, none of the camp ghost stories or legends are actually going to come true.

But this–this is different.

You are about to become one of the stories, a haunting tale told by the light of the fire, only to the oldest, bravest campers.

The footsteps are closer, louder. You strain to listen–are those voices? In your terror, it’s impossible to distinguish the familiar sounds of nature from those of the intruders.

Why did you ever think this was a good idea, living by yourself in the woods? So what, it saves some money? It’s not going to do you much good if you don’t live to spend it.

The footsteps are on the deck now, just outside your room. This is it. You have to decide what to do.

Focus. Focus. You know this property like the back of your hand. And it’s dark. You certainly don’t have the advantage of speed, but maybe you could crawl out the window and get to a hiding place.

No. You should call someone. If you leave the line open, then there’s a chance they can figure out what’s going on, maybe get some help. Who, though, is the best bet?

A knock on the door.

You hold your breath, paralyzed with indecision. This is it. Fight. Flight. Or curl up in a ball on the floor of the shower and wait to see your fate.

They are calling your name.

The voice is familiar.

You know them. Or is this some kind of a trick?

Maybe you should have given up reading psychological thrillers while you are living alone in the woods. You take a deep breath. Walk across the room, avoiding the creaky floorboard. You still aren’t sure what to do.

Your name, again. The familiarity of the voice gives you courage.

You open the door. See two familiar faces, camp counselors you worked with all summer long. You sink into a puddle of nervous laughter and tears of relief.

They look at you, confused at your display of emotion.

“Y’all scared me,” you manage to croak out, silently promising to remove psychological thrillers from your reading list while living alone in the woods.

You take a deep breath to steady yourself. You are safe. Everything is fine.

“Let’s go check the dining hall freezer for cookie dough,” they suggest.

You nod–cookie dough is the perfect comfort food after the terror you've just experienced. Heart still racing, you follow them out into the dark night, eagerly anticipating the sweet taste of chocolate-chip studded frozen dough, forgetting to lock the door behind you.

Written during an Exhale Creativity workshop taught by @calliefeyen and @sonyaspillmann

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