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Haunted Woods

"Don't go into the woods alone."
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The walk seemed different today. I lived near these woods almost all my life. I played in the woods. I built many little hovels using branches and undergrowth as cover. Instead of going through neighbor's yards to get to the woods, I walked down the street to the private road that bisected the woods. A local university owned the woods and the road. The university received the woods in an endowment as a place to study and develop botanical species.

As I walked carefully in the deep grass covered ruts of the road, I looked around at the trees. Their gnarled roots poked out of the ground and snaked across the landscape. It was extremely difficult to tell where one tree ended and another began. Overhead the branches wove together and made an arched canopy protecting everything below. Filtered sunlight splashed through creating eerie shadows. The shadows twisted and moved as if they were living enigmas stretching.

I felt uncomfortable in these woods. Something was wrong. I had my camera with me. It hung loosely around my neck and flopped against my chest, as I moved. I explored these woods weekly seeking interesting flora and fauna. I looked for interesting plants and trees that resembled animals or human gestures. So many times, I found bits and pieces that looked animated.

Today I looked for trees that grew near the road. I wanted to find a tree that grew straight and tall. I found one tree, which stood alone in a small clearing. Leaves littered and covered the ground at its base obscuring the roots and the thick other tree like vines that snaked up the trunk. The vines encircled the tree, as if it were a snake squeezing the life out of its prey. The vine started from under the cover of the littered base and wrapped around the trunk. I lifted my camera and walked around snapping pictures.

The vine was dark green, but in the filtered sun, it seemed to stretch and move like a snake. The shadow and filtered sun gave the illusion that the vine undulated and moved up the trunk. It tightened its grip as if squeezing the life from the tree. The tree looked as if it moved to escape the deadly vine. It struggled to get free of the encroaching menace. It was futile. The vine had a strangle hold on the tree.

This scene was not what made the woods scary today. Several stories existed about these woods. The road was really a private drive to a mansion at the top of a small hill. In earlier years, the woods were a well-maintained arboretum. A wealthy doctor lived in the mansion with his wife and two children. The road stretched beyond the estate to the rear of a small private hospital.

The hospital was a school for teaching future nurses. The nurses lived, trained and worked at the hospital. The doctor, who lived in the mansion, ran the hospital. His wife was the head of the nurses training program. Its graduates were the best, sought by other hospitals. The hospital performed the same functions, as a hospice care unit.

Students spent their time in class or working. This was good until several students died. The ruling by the doctor was that all the deaths were accidental. With the students dying, the school closed and the patients transferred. The doctor went to work at a large university hospital in the city. His wife was a suspect in all the accidents, but killed herself.

None of these stories bothered me. I walked all around the area. No ghosts appeared, but I felt the presence of a menacing spirit. The hair on the back of my neck prickled. Strange noises rang out. Winds appeared blowing and swirling in the area. Trees grew at odd angles and spread in and around the mansion. The area grew wildly and engulfed the mansion and hospital.

Today as I exited the woods after exhausting my film, I came upon a car. It was not there on my earlier trips. It also was fairly new. Some of the vines covered the hood and trunk. The vines snaked around the car making it seem like a cocoon. Again, the filtered light, subtle breezes and color of the vines resembled a living undulating mass of snakes. It enveloped the car more, as I watched.

Approaching cautiously, I looked in the window of the car. I saw what looked like a teenage boy and girl inside. Their bodies huddled in a corner of the back seat, a look of terror and fear etched their faces. Something in the car shredded the seat around them. Their bloodied bodies gave rise to a violent slow death. I reached for a large stone near the car. I pounded on the window to no avail. The bodies stayed immobile.

I looked around the car. The locked doors confirmed that no one entered the car, but the couple. The vines looked more deadly in the waning light. I backed away from the car, as the vines seemed to move. I watched as they engulfed the car and hid it from view.

I turned away from the car. As I did, I thought I saw several women dressed in white hovering close by. Smiles of evil delight painted their faces. Grinding crunching noises came from the vine encrusted car. The women moved closer to the car with arms outstretched. Chanting filled the air. I watched, as two people joined the women. They were the spirits of the teenage boy and girl.

I reached for my camera, but remembered I used up all my film. I stood rooted to my spot. The spectacle continued for thirty minutes. It ended, as quickly as it began. I ran down the road as daylight vanished. I went home that night and vowed not to return to the haunted woods.

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