It's in The Trees
DescriptionMy first attempt at horror, and the first thing I've written in a few years. Grateful for any feedback
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‘There are parts of town you just don’t go to at night,’ Jack said in a low, deep voice. His eyes met with those of each of us in the circle as he continued, ‘Cranston Wood hides a dark secret. You know why they call it that, don’t you?’ The three of us looked at him inquisitively. As if our bodies were no longer under our control, we instinctively leaned towards Jack, to better hear the answer. We knew of those woods, of course, but no-one ever questioned the name. It was simply Cranston Wood. ‘One October night,’ Jack continued, ‘Sergeant Andy Cranston was in those woods. Alone. Alone, with just a rifle for company. Sat with his back against a tree, he glanced up at the starry sky above him and took a deep breath in. The crisp autumn air carried the smell of dead leaves to him. All was quiet. All was calm. Had this been any other autumn night, he would have been in his element. His wife would go on to say he loved the autumn.’ ‘What was he doing there?’ I asked. I was unable to take my eyes off Jack as he spoke. ‘I’m getting to it,’ he replied abruptly, apparently annoyed at my interruption. ‘Though it is a good question. Over the previous six months, there had been more and more reports of attacks on people’s pets. Owners would come into their yards, calling their dogs inside, only to find them mangled, no more than bloody corpses that had been ripped apart. Whatever killed them didn’t discriminate. The breed didn’t matter. Even strong, fierce dogs like Rottweilers were found with their flesh torn open. It always went for the neck first. No noise that way, you see. A dog can’t bark for help when its throat is locked in another beast’s jaw.’ ‘That’s fucked up, man,’ came a voice from my left. I turned to see Tommy, with his mouth open and his face pale. ‘That was just the start,’ Jack replied with a grin. ‘Some of the owners, after finding their pets, reported hearing a howl in the distance. The kind of howl that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The kind of howl that plays in your head, over and over, keeping you awake at night. Even with all these killings, still there was no sighting. Still, there was no idea what this thing was.’ ‘For a while, the beast was happy finding pets and strays to feast on. Until it got hungrier. Until It craved sweeter meats. Once it picked up the scent of the girl, there was no going back to animals.’ ‘Oh shit, what girl?’ Will said on my right. ‘You haven’t heard of little Sally Jenkins? Oh, I’ve got to tell you about little Sally Jenkins. Cranston Wood lies just past a field round the back of the Jenkins’ house. Sally’s mother used to take her for walks around there. It’s perfect for a nice walk; there’s a little footpath that slithers along the edge of the woods. It was there that Mrs Jenkins let go of Sally’s hand. It was there that she turned away, just for a second, to gaze up at that perfect blue sky. She took a photo of the field with the noon-time sun high above. It was then that she turned to see that Sally was gone. She called out her name, getting more and more panicked with each call that went unanswered. Without thinking, she raced into the trees. She was no longer in control of her legs; they just kept carrying her forward. She called out for Sally time and time again... still no answer.’ ‘The deeper she went into the woods, the darker it seemed to get. It was like the trees blocked out the sun in there, covering the place in a permanent nightfall. Eventually, she stopped to take a breath, her heart still pounding in her chest, and it was then that she saw her. Lying on her back, next to a big, thick oak tree, was the bloody remains of her daughter, little Sally Jenkins. The mother let out a blood-curdling scream. A scream that could be heard from miles away. She ran over, sank to her knees next to her daughter and wept. She looked around for any sign of what had done this, but the beast is clever. When police asked her what she had seen, she could only say that she had seen nothing. There was no trace.’ ‘Which brings me back to Sergeant Cranston. He had been briefed on these attacks, and his task was simple: find and kill this thing. The snipers had taken up positions all over the woods, not fully taking their job seriously. It wasn’t their job, after all, to investigate horror stories. Cranston thought it was a joke, just a scary story, until he heard about the girl. Even then, as he sat there in the dead of night, he questioned what he was doing there. ‘There’s nothing here,’ he said to himself. He was a grown man, way past believing in horror stories. He just let himself enjoy this crystal-clear night, the naked branches giving him a clear view of the night sky. ‘I suppose there are worse places to be tonight,’ he thought.’ ‘At that moment, the silence was broken by a twig loudly snapping somewhere behind him. His hands automatically reached for his torch. Switching it on, his eyes darted around his line of sight. He tried to keep the torch steady in his shaking hands. Then, another noise. Something was brushing past low tree branches. And then, silence again. His torch shone on his rifle, lying there next to the tree he had been sat at. He took one step towards it... the lightest of steps. As soon as his foot hit the ground, a low growl came from his right. Frozen to the spot, he turned his head and shone his torch to the direction of the growl.’ ‘The first thing he saw was a pair of large red eyes, illuminated by the light of the torch, getting brighter as the beast came closer. Then, its mouth opened to reveal razor-sharp teeth, dripping with the animal’s saliva. It growled again, even louder this time as Cranston made another step towards the rifle. As if it knew what the weapon was. He decided to go for it. He had to. He made one last desperate lunge towards the rifle, but before he could grasp it, the beast pounced. It let out a sickening roar, and in a split-second... it had him.’ ‘The other snipers heard the roar, and then a scream. They raced from their positions to the direction of the noise, as best they could in the darkness, but just like Mrs Jenkins, they could see nothing. No trace of the animal.’ ‘They only heard a sound. The sound of leaves rustling on the floor. With their rifles held tight, the men slowly crept towards the noise. Something was dragging itself along the floor. They tried to hurry towards it, without making any noise themselves. Then, as they came close to the edge of the trees, they saw their fellow soldier, pulling himself along the floor, and onto the very same footpath where Sally Jenkins had been taken. They rushed over to him. They turned his body over, and were horrified by what they saw. His body was covered in blood. A stream of it flowed from a large wound in his neck. The work of something savage. Gasping for air, Cranston looked one of his comrades in the eye and said only, ‘It’s in the trees.’ Then, as the last breath left his lungs, the light in his eyes faded, and Cranston was gone.’ There was silence in the group. The three of us took a second to absorb what we had just heard. ‘Alright, not bad,’ Tommy finally said, breaking the silence. ‘Not bad?’ Jack replied with a look of incredulity on his face. ‘That was no ordinary scary story, that actually happened.’ ‘Bullshit!’ Will exclaimed. ‘Come on, man,’ I said, ‘’this one is actually a true story’, that’s the biggest cliché in horror stories.’ ‘I’m telling you, it’s true,’ Jack insisted. ‘Whatever, man,’ I laughed. After a glance at my watch, I realised I was going to be late getting back home. ‘The third time this week,’ I thought, ‘mum’s gonna kill me.’ I said my goodbyes to the group, but before leaving, I turned back to Jack, ‘Oh and by the way, Sally Jenkins? Talk about clichés, you couldn’t have come up with a better name?’ ‘Believe what you want, mate, it’s true,’ Jack answered with a smirk. I laughed again before leaving Jack’s house. We were constantly trying to outdo each other with stuff like that: ghost stories, horror, fantasy, we loved it. I have to admit, though, mine were usually the worst. I’ve never been good at coming up with stuff on the spot like that. Jack was though, he was probably the best out of all of us with that stuff. I have to say though, the whole ‘this story really happened’ and ‘Sally Jenkins’ kind of ruined it for me. I don’t like that kind of stuff in stories. It takes me out of it. Knowing I’d be grounded if I didn’t hurry up, I ran home. Even though I knew his story was just a story, part of me was cursing Jack for telling it; the route home took me past Cranston Wood, right along that footpath where ‘Sally Jenkins’ was attacked. ‘That’s why he included it,’ I thought, ‘he knows I go this way. Bastard!’ I finally came to the footpath and carried on running. Every hair on my body was now standing up. ‘It was just a story’. Despite telling myself not to look into the trees, I just couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to it. Every time I did, I swear I got a sudden surge of adrenaline that pushed me forward faster. Just as I let my mind wander, imagining the exact spots where Sally and Cranston might have been, a low rumbling sound suddenly stopped me in my tracks. I stood rooted to the spot as the night’s air around me seemed to get even colder. It happened again. A low rumble. A growl, clearer this time. It was getting closer. With my mouth agape, I turned to my left, facing the trees. Cranston Wood stared back at me. Among its trees, only darkness. All was black, apart from two large red eyes that glowed in the night, brighter and brighter as they approached. Below them, an open mouth revealed teeth that could tear flesh with ease. Massive paws moved the thing closer to the edge of the woods. I tried to shout for help, but there were no words. It let out another growl. As it started to move even closer, a loud snap of a twig in the distance stopped it in its tracks. Those red eyes now looked to the creature’s left, before coming back to me. It now slowly backed off, the glow of its eyes getting dimmer as the beast was once again consumed by the darkness of the woods. Feeling my blood rush back to my legs, they whisked me away as quickly as humanly possible. To this day, I don’t know what it was made the noise that caused the beast to turn its attention away from me, and I don’t really care. If it was prey, rather it than me. Adrenaline carried me home, where I’d be safe. For now, at least.