First Night in the Woods
As Barnaby pitched his tent in the woods, he felt a wonderful excitement in braving the unknown. He didn’t expect to encounter anything supernatural, but he knew others feared the woods or at least steered clear of them and though the kids might drive by them for a late night thrill, never would they consider sleeping amongst its trees. Yes, he secured a sense of pleasure in being more daring than others. His wife’s broad smile as he walked out the door indicated her admiration. Such a smile could fuel him for days.
The light among the trees began to dim but Barnaby had no problems throwing up the tent as he had done many times before. He pitched it not far from the road so he could make a quick escape to familiar surroundings if required and he felt the mosquitoes would be too fearsome the closer he moved to the pond.
In the distance, through the trees, he could make out a faint glow coming from the old woman’s home and the knowledge she somehow had electricity comforted him.
He considered making a fire to both pass the time and provide light but he decided not to risk it without any available means in which to put it out and he had promised Maxine that he wouldn’t.
He sat outside his tent for a few hours listening to the sounds of the insects and peering through the darkness every which way before turning in. He considered using his flashlight to walk through the woods but he didn’t see the point. He experienced the creepiness of the woods to full effect sitting next to his tent. He didn’t feel it would be any creepier or less creepy if he walked to a different area.
He lied on his side and read a book with his flashlight. The walls of his tent billowed with a rising wind and the tall slender pines began to sway and crack against one another near their tops. The outside noise soon drowned out all other sounds and he feared someone could sneak up on him if in fact ghosts even made sounds.
Every few minutes he peered through the screen door of his tent and shined his light through the trees. He worried he might glimpse the gloomy apparition of an old pirate or Spaniard staring back at him but to his shameful relief, he did not see any. Again, he was conflicted over whether or not he did wish to see a ghost.
In no time he drifted into sleep, rolling and turning with his flash light and Bible in hand.
He shot upright, cocked his ear but heard no sound that could have woken him if indeed one existed. He tried to listen over the pounding heartbeat in his ears. The wind had decreased but the trees still groaned as they swayed in the gentle breeze. He considered shining his light into the woods to investigate but revealing his position concerned him.
He heard a loud snap as a tree branch broke and then another coming closer towards him. Whoever approached had no concern for stealth. Another branch broke and within a minute Barnaby surmised they would discover him. His breathing quickened and his eyes darted everywhere in panic. He thought about the validity of the old woman’s words concerning the frightfulness of the woods at night.
He scrambled out of his tent, deftly broke down the poles supporting it so that it lay flat on the ground, then dragged it through the pine straw until he and it rested behind the overturned roots of a fallen tree.
Mere seconds passed when several men appeared out of the darkness at the spot where Barnaby once camped. Barnaby listened for voices but he could hear from their rapid gasping they had not the breath to speak. These were no ghosts. He rolled out from behind the fallen tree and tried to make out the three figures standing doubled over with their hands on their hips. They knew exactly where Barnaby had slept and had ran with haste to his location. Huffing and puffing they paused to catch their breath.
“I swear I thought I saw his tent over here,” said one, a voice familiar to Barnaby.
“I did too,” said the other and he leaned back to inhale another gulp of oxygen.
“He was definitely here,” the third said, a voice Barnaby knew all too well, “but he probably ran away when he heard us coming. I figured he would do that,” he grumbled.
Barnaby wanted to emerge from his hiding spot to confront his father but he chose to remain still and not allow him and his friends to have their laugh.
One pulled out a flashlight and shined it around and Barnaby ducked as the beam brushed over his spot.
“You think he’s still about?”
The others looked around.
“No,” his father answered, “he probably took off and never looked back at the first sound he heard. He’s driving home like a bat out of hell I guarantee.”
The other two chuckled and once again Barnaby wanted to emerge from his hiding spot to prove he had not run away, but the fact he hid in the first place would do little to help his case.
He remained motionless for several minutes as the mosquitoes’ terrible hum and biting began to madden him. Barnaby’s father and his friends, bothered in the same fashion, left in as noisy a manner as they had appeared.
“Let’s go get drunk!” one said.
Barnaby, hiding there in the dark, felt ashamed of his cowardice. So much for my daring he thought. I hope they choke on their beer.