“The soul never thinks without a picture.” -Aristotle
Michael Lejeune says:
If there was one thing he could go the rest of his life without ever seeing again, it was the woods.
A lot of shit goes down in the woods.
Lots of scary movies happened there. Cityfolk trekked out to secluded cabins to drink, smoke pot, have sex, and be stabbed by a maniac, or roasted by backwoods cannibals, or torn to shreds by flesh-eating trolls. Why the woods? Because that’s where those things were. That’s where they lived.
He knew. He’d just seen one.
No. No, no and extra no. Didn’t happen. Exhaustion, that’s what it is.
The hike was supposed to be good exercise, and it had been, all morning long. The new house was nestled in a beautiful parcel of upstate New York back country, and Sharon kept telling him to go out and explore it. “It’ll be a work out, and you could use a bit of that, honey.” Then always the pat on his belly. Any time she mentioned exercise. Belly pat.
Next time I’ll pat those dangly sacks under your upper arms.
The idea was sweet.
The next time she told him he should spend more time hiking and patted his belly, he would tell her she should spend more time cleaning, and then he’d grab her underarms and jiggle them.
Her face would twist in horror. The thought stoked his fire, and that was good. He needed it. He’d been slowing down. It was damned cold out here, and he’d been lost for the better part of the day. Ten hours. Had to have been at least that long. Four hours he’d intended to spend out here, then another six trying to find his way back home. No wonder his legs felt like they were made of jelly.
He was only staying on his feet by gritting his teeth and concentrating. But he couldn’t stop to rest. Tried that. The thing was stalking him. The log, it looked just like…
No. You were dizzy. It didn’t move.
He hadn’t seen it move. Of that he was sure. But every time he looked away, then looked back, it was closer.
Not possible. Wood doesn’t move. It sits on the forest floor after the tree falls, and it rots. It doesn’t grow a snout. It doesn’t have teeth. It doesn’t look like a…
He looked back again. There it was. One foot over a felled tree, watching him. Keeping pace. He’d walked miles today, but it was always there. Statue-still while his eyes lay upon it.
It can’t be following me. I’d hear it rustling the leaves.
The thought soothed, as though having some bit of logic lending support to the impossibility of all this would stop it from happening. But what was happening already defied logic. He couldn’t rely on his mind, because it only told him that all this was impossible. That it couldn’t be happening. The only thing he could rely upon now was his legs.
And not for long.