By: W.B. Vogel
How many times had he felt like this? Lately, it seemed to be
more and more. Mark's feet wore a path in the floor. He wasn't
nervous. What did he have to fear? It was a feeling-an escalating
sensation that he was ready to claw his way out of his own skin.
As days went on it only got worse. A quickening heart rate and
a growing angst were surfacing just below his conscious level
of thought. Just below the skin it raced like razors through
He spent increasing hours in the woods, just wandering at first
to pass away the small hours. Then as time ticked forward something
changed. His senses seemed to heighten...the smells, sounds,
and sights around him became more vivid. Every detail sharpened
like the edge of a blade. It was all there; the chase of the
quarry seemed the only thrill that excited him. He was alone,
but not still.
Silence gave way to dreams, and dreams gave way to visions.
Even in his sleep his spirit roamed the forest. But it was different
somehow, more feral and savage. The moon rose high over the trees
as ashen grey turned to blood red.
Mark woke-up suddenly, his heart pounding feverishly. Startled,
he pulled on some clothes and was out the door. He had taken
care not to raise the family. There was not enough time to answer
question or give good reasons. Mark had felt an urge that predated
civilization...an impetus soon primal that words would truly
never describe but barely show the sign of meaning. Into the
dark woods he went.
Every step took him closer to the calling. Silent, serene, and
dreadfully he walked deeper into that ebon night. The distant
sound of howling wolves rang like music in his ears. Their cries
were as old as the stars...as old as what drew him into that
utter abyssal black. And still he walked onward.
From the woods behind his house he exited, crossing a wide clearing
and into a field. Soon enough he stopped, as if the fear had
shaken the thrall from his mind momentarily. He peered into that
unhallowed place, the Bleek Woods, where he had sworn he would
never go. For a century that dense forest had been the local
urban legend. Stories of witches, evil spirits, and gruesome
murders had vexed the area. There was a look of madness there.
No one went into those trees and ever told of it.
As it haunted the hearts, it haunted the soul. Mark was horrified
even by the mere sight of it, as its branches scratched at the
heavens. And still, he continued on.
His feet carried him forward. Soon he was again in the trees,
but now something was fiercely different. The wind stirred violently,
assaulting Mark with a cold, unnatural touch that chilled him
to the soul. Limbs and leaves rustled in a creaking echo. The
stiffening gale began to shriek, howling like a madman at the
moon. This was a lunatic's endeavor. Mark could feel the unholy
staring deep within and through him.
The sky was afire. The aurora borealis rippled in iridescent
waves over his head as the shadows moved like specters about
him. It all seemed like some twisted psychedelic nightmare being
stirred into reality. What Hell was this?
Echoing voices swam around and in him.
At first sounding like many, but then centering into one, demonic
whispering that tormented Mark's mind. It said, "I am here. Waiting for you in this
darkness, I will have you. I will have your soul, and then I
will destroy your body. Struggle all you will, and it will give
me pleasure all the more." Then there was a cackling laugh.
The shadows tore at him, as the spiritual
assault began. Ripping and clenching, the fearsome thing clawed
at him with formless rage. "You are mine!" the voice shrieked...it was a
woman's voice. It was torturous and shrill--the voice of a very
old woman screaming at him from the darkness. "I will have
Awash in the black, Mark weathered the abuse silently. Still
the sky was burning overhead, drowning the stars in torrents
of glowing, frenzied light. Mark growled under his breath as
the pain wrenched his body in agony.
His eyes were almost shut, clenched tightly in defense. In the
distance he could see the glimmer of red eyes. At first two,
and then several pairs, running low amongst the shadows. They
were coming towards him rapidly. What dole awaited him next?
The pack of wolves came charging through the trees. Each baring
his teeth, growling fiercely, took position for the siege. They
encircled Mark, arching their backs and tensing every muscle.
Their growls sounded like a war engine storming the ramparts
of the night.
Mark's body seized by pain and succumbing to the preternatural
battering, fell limply to the ground. His mind fazed in and out
of consciousness. What was to happen next he would not clearly
The pack had surrounded him, facing outward against the seizing
darkness. They had formed a rampart around his broken form. Teeth
glared and their eyes burned with primordial rage...no one or
nothing would pass their line. Fear would not enter here.
The shrieks gathered into the one voice.
It said, "Be gone.
He is mine, you have no power to challenge me here. Every shadow
is my minion in these woods. I will destroy you all!"
The wolves did not flinch. The pack mind shared no terror, and
death was a human dread. Their only answer was the mixed cacophony
of moon mad howls and growling ferocity.
The shadows whipped and struck at the pack. Their fangs tore
at the ethereal beasts, not giving them a single free inch not
stained with night drawn blood. The branches shook as orange,
red, and yellow leaves fell beneath a graceless sky. The darkness
was racing to the underworld, and the fiend's time would soon
Her frenzy increased as the end of her wretched power came nigh.
The sun was cracking on the horizon. The night was giving way
to sun swimming cerulean day. Sunlight broke the horizon, as
day was reborn like the phoenix rising from its charnel ashes.
Rising from the underworld it rampaged across the sky as the
red bled into the blue. With a purging howl daylight rushed through
the woods, as the ethereal cast of the shadows there changed
to a sepia shade of peaceful tranquility.
The thing was gone now. The wolves' demeanor relaxed, as the
alpha male approached Mark's crumpled body. Prodding him gently
with his nose, he stirred him softly trying to awaken him. Mark
groaned quietly as he first moved.
The alpha snapped, biting Mark's arm. The blood flowed as the
pain charged his nerves. Then the pack was gone. Far from sight
they ran on quiet foot, leaving him to make his way to safety.
He struggled to his feet. Holding his arm tightly, he staggered
towards the edge of the woods and to the road.
Sheriff Harper got the report a few hours later. Old man Helsing
had found Mark Colridge wandering along Moreau Road aimlessly.
Battered and bruised, he had loaded the young man into his truck
and had broken every speed limit to get him to Doc Gallagher's
office. The Doctor had patched him up as much as he could for
the trip to the hospital. It was a thirty-mile trip to the emergency
room in Jefferson. But they got him there, and he was stable.
The three days he spent in intensive care he slept. The dreams
were vivid and horrific. He saw the living shadows hanging from
the trees, and the crone's face. Her pale, dead eyes haunted
him. Those colorless irises stared deeply into him, into his
very soul. There they found darkness, but no fear. The terror
had been purged from his essence, leaving only a pure heart of
Dan, Mark's father, came to see him in
the hospital. He sat down slowly, his old bones creaking like
rusty hinges. The fact was that he really wasn't an old man,
just a well-worn one. His fingers interlocked as he brought
his hands together. "You
are blessed," he said in a deep, almost raspy voice. "God
was looking out for you."
"I know," Mark said. It wasn't
that Mark disagreed, because he didn't. He knew God was there
when he was in the Bleek Woods. ...There had been strange angels
sent to protect him. He believed that; he knew that.
The Sheriff walked through the door then.
The door was ajar slightly as the sterile noise of the halls
flooded in like soft, white noise. "They're referring to you as Lazarus around
here." He laughed loudly. "Seems they've never seen
one heal as fast as you have with that severe of injuries. Scratches,
scrapes, a severe bite wound, and best as they could figure at
the time, massive internal trauma. They swore that you had risen." His
fingers fumbled with his hat in his hands.
He had been to the darkness, and stared deep within.
"We're going to set traps along the
edge of the woods. Don't you worry, we'll get those wolves."
The hair stood up on the back of Mark's
neck. "DON'T!" he
said in an aggravated tone. "Those wolves saved me. I owe
them my life."
The Sheriff clearly didn't understand,
and Mark could never tell him all of the story. Not at least
without landing a private suite in the madhouse. "They saved me..." His mind
raced for any reasonable explanation. "There was a grizzly." It
was weak, very weak, but it would have to do.
"That's too small a bite for a bear," the
Sheriff replied. He wasn't convinced yet. Not nearly convinced.
"This bite was the only thing that got me up and out of
those woods. My anger gave me strength. It kept me from dying
there." He raised his arm into the air, showing row after
row after row of stitches. "These scars will be my crown." But
they were so much more.
Days would pass before Mark returned home. His shattered body
mended quickly, but even when the healing had finished he was
different. Eyes once as bright as day had now taken a darker
hue, as if cast in storm clouds and the tumult of its thunderous
dirge. Behind those orbs the lightning would flash with a graceless
fury. The windows of the soul now stared upon a starker view.
The shadows of a man's soul often reveal more than any dream
that he has ever had. Mark often found comfort in the night now.
He had never met even the most mundane criteria necessary to
be considered remotely normal by anyone's standards. But still
he felt sane somehow. He bore no ready guilt or self-doubt. What
he was never troubled him. And even now as a new creature he
felt no wondering or hazy logic.
Soon after his return home, Mark began to have a hunger to prowl
the woods for hours at a time. It was at these times that he
truly felt free. As he ran in the woods he could feel the surety
within his spirit grow. Little by little his old self passed
away, and a new self began to emerge. This nature that began
to thrive within him was of a wilder sort than that he had previously
known. It hungered for the forest, the night, and the hunt. He
longed for it; there was no resisting what he was.
The sun would set, and into the outer darkness he would disappear
for days at a time. It was like he no longer thought like a man.
Running through the brush he chased his quarry until they surrendered
their will unto his. Rabbits and squirrels gave the best chase,
and they were his preferred hunt because of it.
The hunt had never been about the kill. These were all the subtle
changes, like growth, that came upon him. Play was the way to
sharpen the skills, because the art of death had no means of
practice. The beast had become a part of him, but even before
there was something wild within.
He could smell the cool night air, the dry dead leaves, the
scent of animals, and the fragrance of blooming plants. This
barrage of aromas grabbed his attention with a mesmerizing awe.
All of his senses were alive with tangible assaults. He could
hear the rabbit's heartbeat as it hid beneath the fallen leaves.
The wolves howled in the distance like the lunatic's song. Mark
could sense them now and always.
In these moments he felt truly alive, at one with wildness within
his deepest nature. He could tell the change had come. He could
feel it crawling just under his skin...
Fall had almost passed away. Late one night he left the house,
and took his fateful journey again. The stories, the legends,
of the Bleek Woods scurried bravely through his thoughts but
they did not slow his step. The memories of that night flooded
his consciousness, and he felt no fear. There could be no terror
in the heart that's full. The darkness had made a kingdom there,
and it strode from every void and expanse.
There was no room for even a lurking fear. The beast had changed
him, and now he looked upon the world with new eyes of old. And
still the night engulfed him.
Mark came to the edge of the Bleek Woods and glared deep into
it. Unto the utter shadows he peered, and he saw nothingness.
But he knew that she was there waiting for him. Formless and
wicked, she had only time to lose in the lingering. So she waited,
He spit at the darkness there, and raised
his fist in defiance. Yelling, he said, "You and I, wretched hag, shall meet again.
And next time I will have bigger teeth to bite you with, sharper
eyes to see you with, and a fiercer heart to hate you with. I
no longer fear you. These woods may be yours, but the night is
mine. Next time, things will be different...very different." He
closed his eyes.
Then there was a howling through the forest. His tongue washed
against sharp fangs. Raising his hands towards a blood red moon,
claws scratched at the sky. Mark opened savage black eyes that
glimmered in the light of the stars. Heart pounding tirelessly,
his blood was now awake.
Under a funereal moon he had been reborn. The
wind spoke to his blood, carrying the discordance of the primordial
past. And as unto his birth was oblivion, and he and the night