If you go down to the woods today ( Zoran Krušvar )

Posted by Barabal on Wednesday, April 29. 2020 in April 2021

fariyring.jpg

If you go down to the woods today

 

"Do you see this Bob? Do you see?" a chubby man with cheeks red and round like a pair of tomatoes whispered to his pal. "It's beautiful! Beautiful!"

"Yes, Pat! It's breathtaking!" a thin man with thick glasses agreed, catching breath as if he were trying to prove his point. They have been walking for hours now, getting deeper and deeper into the forest, drowning in the scents of resins, clouds of pollens and shadows of tall trees. Their feet sank into the soft soil, blades of grass vainly scratched against the Gore-Tex of their expensive hiking boots, while the particles of big city smog evaporated through the pores of their skin. With every new step, they felt more connected to nature, more alive, more… well, just more!

"Well, let me tell you Bob… the nature really recovered! I mean, just listen to all those birds!"

"Sure thing, sure thing, Pat… It really did… ow, is that a squirrel?"

"Where, Bob? Where?" Pat grabbed a pair of binoculars, that he always insisted on calling "a binocular" usually followed by a long speech explaining how using the plural just doesn't make any sense here, and started frantically turning his head around as if his life depended on spotting the critter. 

"Over there, on top of that… err… what kind of tree is that one? Anyway, there!" Bob pointed with his finger, which he was unable to fully extend because of an old computer games related injury.

"Well, I can't see… oh! It's there! Oh Bob, that's one fine specimen, let me tell you! Such a beautiful tail!"

"Is it fluffy?"

"It sure looks fluffy to me!"

"Isn't this great Pat? Who would have imagined that just one year of coronavirus pandemic could do so much for mother nature?"

"Oh, Bob… you haven't seen anything yet! Wait 'till we move past those trees…"

"Which ones?"

"Those… oh, just follow me, Bob."

So they walked for another while, enjoying the freshness of air amidst the lush greenery, far away from the vile stench of civilization, until they reached the edge of a meadow and Pat gave Bob a sign to get down and be quiet. They were peeking through a thick bush, Pat with his binoculars (It's a binocular!) and Bob with eyeglasses almost as powerful. 

"Look", Pat whispered "It's over there. Do you see it?"

"The mushrooms?"

"Yes, but look at them! They grow in a perfect circle! Don't you know what that is? It's a fairy ring, Bob! A fairy ring!" 

"Wow! I've never seen one of those… well, shall we go closer?"

"No, Bob. Not yet. Now we wait for a surprise."

"What kind of surprise?"

"Well, it's a bloody surprise Bob! I can't tell you what it is, right? Just wait and keep quiet."

Bob wiggled his nose and adjusted his glasses. Yes, the woods were wonderful, but he wasn't really in shape for such an adventure. Even the long ride in Pat's SUV across the gravel road proved to be demanding enough, and not to mention all the walking they did afterwards. So he was absolutely fine with just sitting down for a moment and waiting for that big surprise. He leaned against a tree, and was ready to close his eyes and take a nap, when Pat started tapping on his leg like crazy and waving to look at the meadow. Bob looked, at first everything looked normal.   

And then he saw them.

"What the… Pat?"

"It's fair folk, Bob! Pixies! Look at them, look!" he shoved the binoculars into Bob's shaky hands "Oh my God, it's a bloody Tinkerbell, oh my!"

Bob focused the binoculars and there was no mistake – a handful of pixies were flapping above the mushroom circle, fooling in mid-air, doing little loops, rolls and spins. Soon the meadow started to glitter from all the pixie dust they were sprinkling around.

Bob nodded his head towards Pat and said: "Wow!"

Pat nodded back and took the rifle off his back. He placed it firmly in the pocket of his shoulder, calmed his hands, controlled his breathing and focused on the target. His finger squeezed the trigger and a shot thundered through the forest. The flock of pixies shrieked and disappeared so quickly that neither Pat nor Bob could tell where they went. Bang and they were gone. 

All but one.

Two friends crossed the meadow carefully, with a long, warm barrel swinging threateningly from Pat's hands. In the centre of the fairy ring, still covered in sparkly dust, there was a beautiful, tiny, winged body, it's head completely shot off by Pat's bullet. The blood was flowing from it's neck like red ink from overturned vial.

"Pat… you shot a Barbie doll."

"I know, right?"

"Wow, man. What a shot! You could be a sniper or something!"

Pat was dripping with pride when he took the dead body and placed in in his bag:

"I'm gonna have this thing stuffed and placed right on my desk! I know a great taxidermist; he'll give me a discount."

Bob picked a mushroom from the circle.

"What are you going to do with that? I don't think that's safe to eat!" Pat warned him. 

"Oh, no, no… I just wanted… it sparkles."

They headed back towards the car, one of them carrying a shiny mushroom, the other a doll-sized female corpse. The shadows grew as the hours passed and the afternoon light turned golden when they finally reached the place where they were parked.

"What a day, a Bob? What a day!" said Pat as he was opening the door.

"You can say that again, Pat. I never expected to have such a great trip to the forest. Thank you for taking me!"

"No problem, pal. You are welcome to join me any time. If you want, I can teach you to shoot! I'm not saying every man has to know how to shoot, but you know… it's a valuable skill. Now get inside and let's go, it's getting late."

They sat in the car, fastened their seatbelts and Pat turned the key.

The car remained silent.

"What the…" Pat turned the key again but to no avail. He cursed, pulled the lever and went back out to open the hood. Bob heard him yell and shout obscenities in furious anger.

"What happened?" Bob asked and stepped outside to take a look. There where the motor was supposed to be, stood a pile of metal scraps. All cables were cut, bits disassembled, plastic parts shredded to pieces. There were scratches everywhere, they looked like little…

 "Claws?" Bob looked puzzled. "Does this look like some kind of little claws?"

"Yes Bob", Pat cowered his face with both hands "Those were claws. The car is ruined. It was a gremlin."

"What???"

"A gremlin. They do this kind of things; they love to destroy engines and machines. Obviously, gremlin population also recovered… Fuck!"

"Shall we call some help, Pat?"

"Do you have signal here? Cause I surely don't! Bloody gremlins! Fuck, fuck, fuck! Now we're screwed!" he banged his fist against the side of the car. The remains of the engine cluttered.

"So… I guess there's nothing much to do here but start walking towards the main road. Once we're there, we'll find someone…" Bob shrugged.

"Walking? We drove for an hour straight from the main road here. If we are supposed to walk there, it's gonna take us… I don't know… eight hours or something like that. We're not gonna make it!"

"Oh, come on. Yes, it's a lot, yes it's going to be painful but it's not like we're doomed! We will walk those eight hours, get some sore muscles… hell, mine are sore already! And in the morning, we'll be home." 

Pat stared at him, his face pale, his mouth open. He stood like that for a half a minute, and then he said: "Let's go."

They grabbed their bags, the rifle and started walking down the gravel road. Pat was moving his lips and cursing their luck, gremlins and mother nature. He was pushing the tempo and Bob had a hard time trying to keep up with him:

"Pat, slow down a bit. This is not a race, I can't go this fast."

"We have to move, It's getting dark."

"I know Pat, but It's not like we can do anything about that. We still have hours to walk, it will get dark eventually. The gravel is white, if there is any light from the stars or the moon, we'll be able to see the road."

We'll have plenty of light. Fuck! God damn it!"

"Oh… you seem to know that for a fact?"

"Yes I know, Bob. I check those things. The moon will be fucking full tonight!"

Bob stopped.

"Is that… Pat, is that what bothers you? The moon? Is that why you are so upset?"

Pat said nothing.

"Pat… answer me, please! We have seen pixies and the gremlin chewed your engine. Is there… is there something else in the woods… that has recovered? That has to do… with the moon?"    

 Pat took his rifle and started loading it, still not saying anything.

"Listen Pat, you are scaring me. Say something, please!"

"Bullets won't stop them, Bob. They won't. But I have to ask you one thing; if they come… can you shoot me? Because I don't think I can shoot myself."

No one said anything else. At some point they started walking again, as fast as they could, and soon the night was upon them, and the bright moon spilled its silver from above. Their hearts were banging, the sweat soaked their clothes and the blisters blossomed with blood on their feet.

Bob was thinking about shortness of his breath and swore a silent, solemn oath that he will start exercising regularly once he returns home. He was so consumed by fatigue and pain, that he forgot why they were rushing in the first place. But the sound reminded him.

It started as a low, distant tone, echoing through the darkness. Then it turned to a growling rumble and finally the pitch changed, and the sound became a nightmarish, blood chilling howl.

Pat started running. Bob tried to follow, but his legs betrayed him and he fell, unable to stand up.

The howling became louder, clearer, closer.

The nature really recovered, Bob thought.

It really did. 

 

THE END

           

 
 
 
 

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  • Ruben
    Very creative! Your stories remind a little bit of the tales from Brothers Grimm we heard as kids. They start innocently but end with a nightmare! Great stuff :-)
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