A Full Moon Encounter
Levi, annoyed with his father, and feeling a bit inadequate for hiding from his father’s friends, decided he needed one uninterrupted night in the woods to exorcise the disappointment he had with himself. With his wife’s blessing he entered the woods again during a full moon so he had sufficient light with which to see. He of course left out the detail the ghost soldier had returned but she would have doubted Doris’ story regardless.
He was uncertain how his father and friends knew exactly where he camped but he figured his proximity to the road didn’t help. This time he decided to move deeper into the woods confident his father would not return to the woods immediately after their fearful encounter. Levi wanted to get into the woods during this open window of opportunity before they re-summoned their courage.
He followed the same routine he had during his previous insertion into the woods and after listening to the trees sway and bugs hum, he decided to retire. This time sleeping did not come easy as he worried the lost traveler would appear but he had a hunch the ghost stuck to the road. Regardless he remained on guard for several hours until he passed out.
He dreamt of his wife as he often did. He married her because he could not take his eyes off her and because he knew for certain how much she loved him. He could not ignore an opportunity to spend the rest of his life with someone who genuinely wanted to spend the rest of their life with him. He did not have to romance Jules but rather she romanced him and he felt like a champion because of this.
Little by little, year by year, the nagging feeling she did not love him so much as she once did crept into his mind and spoiled his dreams. The paranoia spawned from his own sense of self-worthlessness because of how little he thought he had accomplished in life. He had not yet reached the standards he held for himself or the ones he thought his wife held for him.
In his dream they were apart. She stood kissing her lover against an expensive car in front of a massive house. He did not know the rich man she kissed but he held no anger towards him. He resented his wife for choosing money over love. He did not beg her to stay. He remained still and observed but did not hide his presence. He no longer wished to be with anyone who did not want to be with him. Ruining his wife’s love for him saddened him the most. His father stood behind the car, beyond the kissing couple and smiled at Levi with satisfaction.
Levi sprang forward in the dark as he had during his previous incursion and held his watch up to his eyes. The glowing hands indicated he had slept for only twenty minutes but he felt almost dizzy with fatigue. A bad dream he thought. He grabbed his phone lying near him and considered calling Jules but decided against it. Let her have her time alone.
Clearing his eyes he peered through the screen door of his tent as he had done often before falling asleep. He spotted the soft glow of a light many yards away and a creeping figure darting from one tree to another. Levi watched while his heart banged against his chest. The figure approached him in a zig-zag pattern pausing behind trees as he crept towards Levi.
Levi refused to let his father sneak up on him once more. He slithered out of his tent and crawled several yards through the thick matting of pine straw until he crossed over a large fallen tree. He intentionally left his tent up this time because he hoped it would be found and when discovered he would jump from his hiding spot to scare those who wished to scare him.
He lay crouched behind the rotted log while the figure tip-toed over sticks and around pine cones. The moonlight provided faint visibility but this thin figure was not his father. Rather than a flashlight he appeared to carry a lantern and it created a yellowish glow about the creeping specter.
A minute passed and the figure came within several feet of Levi’s tent. He paused behind a nearby tree and cocked his ear to the night. Levi considered revealing himself but had second thoughts on scaring someone he did not know and knew of no other way to subtly reveal himself so he remained still and watched. He thought he heard a cough but that could have been the clash of two tree branches.
The man lowered the lantern to the ground, then with the sound of metal on metal, he withdrew a sword and ran towards the tent. Levi scrambled backwards a couple of feet but maintained his view of the man.
The attacker rushed forward with his sword high in the air and assaulted the tent. He slashed to and fro sending pieces of the vinyl flying over his shoulder and then stabbed the heart of it with such a roar that his sword stuck into the roots.
Levi considered fleeing in the opposite direction but knew he would be detected and he feared the ghost, or other specters lying in wait, overcoming him.
The excessive attack lasted no longer than sixty seconds; but more than enough time to hack a person to bits. The man took no chances of leaving survivors. Once done he grabbed the material of the tent to see what lied beneath but threw it as though it felt alien to him. His coughed echoed around the campsite as he pushed through the carnage with his sword and upon not discovering remains, grew alarmed. He snatched his lantern and held it out in front of him and surveyed the trees with its limited brilliance.
At this range, Levi needn’t be fearful the lantern would reveal his location but the light did reveal the face of his attacker.
He saw nothing more than a skeleton dressed in an old garb. He clasped his hand to his mouth to avoid uttering a cry and sunk even lower behind the tree until his face lay flat against the soil. The creature’s bones appeared not white but stained like the bone of a chicken leg. Levi didn’t dare raise his head high enough to peer over the log. Above he saw the gloomy light slide side to side through the trees as the skeletal soldier moved his lantern around trying to find who might have slept in the tent.
Levi fought to catch his breath as frightful madness thundered in his chest. His instincts told him to break for the road but he feared he might trip or hit a tree in the dark and then he might be ruined. The moon illuminated the way only twenty yards in either direction and he feared other specters lurking in the dark.
He did not know the dead person but he had no illusions about his authenticity. No mask could deliver such a frightening image. The man had not a cell of skin left and only pits of darkness remained for eyes and yet he had sight.
Could this be the same specter who terrified the young traveler years ago as he changed his flat tire on Old House Woods Road? How could it not be? How many dead soldiers wandered the woods and road at night? Was it the same man who one night earlier walked past Doris’ home? He did not appear to be carrying a gun as Doris had described and Doris did not depict her ghost as possessing such a vicious nature. Also this ghost did not appear to be clad in plate or chain mail and Doris described her ghost as wearing armor.
Levi’s fear subsided when he realized the skeleton remained still. Summoning his courage, he pushed off the ground to take another look but in doing so he snapped a stick with his hand.
The skeletal soldier stood at attention and Levi dropped to the soil once more. The soldier remained rigid for a beat and then ran off in the opposite direction. Levi listened as he heard its noisy footsteps and coughing fade away. He climbed to his knees in time to catch a last glimpse of the soldier’s lantern as the dark swallowed it.