Shadows In The Rain

Shadows In The Rain

A Story by Kirby Inc.
"

It's a dark night, quite late, and a boy is making his way back home. But the path is longer than he remembered...

"

It’s quiet, too quiet. And it feels like I started walking hours ago.


The rough gravel road had given way a while back, my sneakers moving silently over tufts of grass breaking the dirt trail. It was only a short walk up to my parents’ place, but the sun had nearly vanished over the horizon. The trail was growing darker and darker with every passing second. And I was already late.


There were no landmarks on the path, so if darkness fell I’d be s**t outta luck. All I had to guide me was the faint outline of the dirt running over twisted roots, through patches of grass, and around rough, scarred trees. It was hard enough to see already, with dark branches stretching far above, intertwining. I didn’t think it could get any darker. But the more I walked, the smaller my field of vision grew. That’s okay. It shouldn’t be much longer.


A sharp splash cuts through the silence. Looking down, I saw the toes of my sneakers submerged in a murky puddle. The rain had long stopped, but the uneven road hardly drained well. And now my sneakers were ruined. Lovely. Just freaking great. I liked this pair. Whatever. Can’t stop here, though. Before long, the path will take its familiar upturn and open up into that clearing. And then I’ll be home free.


That's how it always worked, right? Something about the imposing darkness made the path ahead feel foreign, unclear. What was it? Why did everything look more menacing tinged in darkness? The trees pressed in closer the further I walked, shifting and creaking - Or were my eyes just playing tricks on me? I stopped and stared into the distance, just to make sure. But the trees were still. Nothing but rough, flaky bark, stretching back into the dark. Exhaling, my shoulders slumped in relief. There’s nothing to be afraid of in here. Just the same woods I grew up with. Sure, the trees got a little older, but all the old hiding places stayed the same. It’d been some time, but this place was home.


Okay, perhaps it’d been too long since I was home. That same winding trail I’d tread so many times had been worn away at parts, taken over with tufts of brown weeds in others. To make matters worse, the dirt path seemed to be spreading the longer I walked. Did the path always branch here? I can’t remember. At this point, I could only move on instinct, just pick a path and go. As long as I kept going the right direction, I’d get there eventually - hopefully before the sun comes up. Come to think of it, my family’s probably wondering where I got to by now. Would they come looking for me? Did they still keep flashlights in the basement for when the power goes out? In this light, I should be able to see them coming from a while off. Taking a deep breath, I resumed my walk. It shouldn’t be much longer now until I’m home, and safe.


Just long had it been, anyways? Growing up, I counted the years by the leaves on the trees - growing green, paling, and falling, leaving the trees twisted and barren. It wasn’t a lonely life, per se. No, many a time these woods were filled with bright and cheery voices, leaves crunching underfoot. Even alone, this was a place of peace, sunlight filtering through the tops of the trees, dancing on the forest floor. Tonight, though, there was only darkness. A deep, ever-thickening darkness. My eyes darted upward, looking for any sign of the moon in the sky. Any sort of indication as to how much time had passed. It was getting harder and harder to tell. My watch? Way too dark to read. My phone? It just figures that I’d forget to charge it before I left, huh. As I slipped my dead phone back into my pocket, my foot was stopped in place, snagged by a loose root. Unfortunately, my momentum sent the rest of me tumbling forward, straight into the cool, wet ground.





A damp, slimy feeling against my cheek brought me to my senses. The next sensation to return was pain - dull and throbbing, all down my side. As I opened my eyes, I was greeted by a tree, stretching off into the distance. Standing perfectly horizontal. My breath caught in my throat. With a start, I scrambled to get my hands under me, scraping across wet mud. The ground gave with each motion of my arm, moving and pulsing, threatening to swallow me. Each movement only brought more and more of the mire with me. I kept rolling, trying to escape. Before long, I felt the cool embrace of grass tickling me. I was free. Safe.


After catching my breath, I push myself up to my knees. My head was pounding, and my wrist ached. Did I land on it? Must’ve been a rough fall. Hell, my entire side is sore - from my arm down through my leg. What did I fall on, a rock wall? My clothes felt heavier than normal, and reeked of a musty sulfur. Disgusting, sure, but nothing too bad. Nothing a good hot shower couldn’t fix. All I had to do was just get up and keep walking, and-


When I attempted to stand, my ankle screamed in pain, nearly sending me tumbling back to the earth. But I caught myself, putting my weight on my good leg. It hurt like hell, but as long as I was careful, I should be able to make it home. As long as I stayed on the path. Was it still there? Night had fallen fully, though the occasional flash of light cut through the darkness, briefly illuminating the area. Just glimpses - scarred bark and glistening leaves, standing out against the dark backdrop. The more I looked, though, the more I realized…


I couldn’t see the path anymore.


Just grass, and trees. No landmarks, no mud… Had I rolled down a hill or something? No, the ground looked entirely level as far as I could see in each rumbling flash. Each one pushed the darkness back just enough to get a faint glimpse of my surroundings. But just as quickly the dark flowed right back in, swallowing the trees right back up. The shadowy blanket had grown closer and closer in the time I was out, it seemed. Wherever I looked, there was no clear way forward.


But with each step, the blanket seemed to follow along with me. Keeping its distance, it seemed to allow me some passage when I took a shaky step. Good, so at least I could still move. That was promising. If I could just get back on the path, I could make it through this. I could make it out. So I moved forward, passing between a pair of thick trees. The ground was at least level, and lined with grass, so the going wasn’t too difficult. Even with my bad ankle, I could at least make progress. Just kept picking a point around or between two trees, and kept walking. As long as I kept my direction consistent, I would eventually reach the end. I just had to keep telling myself that.


The longer I stumbled on, the more my vision started to blur. This pain was gradually spreading through my head, making even the slightest movements difficult. I made to reach my hand up to rub my eyes, but the faintest movement sent daggers running up my arm. Once that pain reached my head, the already faint image around me began to spin. No, not now! I need to keep my head straight. Reaching my free hand out, I leaned my hand against a tree to steady myself. Just breathe, now. Just breathe. Feel the rough, cool bark and breathe.


Just when my vision started to clear, I felt the tree against my hand begin to give. The coarse bark slowly folded inward, thin tendrils spreading over my hand. I froze, afraid to move my hand. Cool, yet oily, these tendrils continued to spread, tickling my skin. Before their grip grew tight, though, I tugged my hand away, freeing it from the tree’s grasp. Clutching my hand to my chest, my eyes darted around the area, looking for any sort of escape. But the dark, this curtain of darkness kept billowing about, pulsing and swirling. At least it still kept its distance. As long as I kept breathing, and kept away from the trees, I could get through. So I picked up my pace, as much as I was still able. The only sounds in the night were my ragged breathing and the off-beat sounds of my footsteps on the grass.


As I turned a corner, my footstep was met with a deafening crack. Freezing, I looked down at my foot. The grass was swaying faintly, and there didn't seem to be anything caught underneath. Then came another crack, distinctly in front of me. Taking a deep breath, I looked up. Before me was a tall, thick tree - thicker than most. It spread up into the darkness, as far as I could see, and yet - it stood at a disjointed, unnatural angle. As I watched it, another crack cut through the night. The tree shuddered, twitching, before bending sharply forward. My eyes widened, and I stumbled backwards. But the tree fell still after that. Hesitantly, I stepped towards the twisted tree. Aside from the odd angle, nothing really seemed off. I could see the faint outline of the rough bark on the tree, a pattern of bumps and divots. Everything looked normal. It would be easy to forget about everything, if the tree hadn't been twisted like a pipe cleaner. Just then, something caught my eye. The bark, it was moving. Hundreds - no, thousands - of tiny threads were pulsing, twisting, pulling across the surface of the tree. What... was this? I took a shaky step closer, watching. With a stretching sound, threads seemed to pull tight, constricting, and another crack rang out. The tree careened towards me, bringing the wriggling mass of tree bark mere inches from my face. Letting out a whimper, I stumbled backwards, falling onto the ground.


The tree continued to crack and contort, oily branches sprouting and spiraling upward as I looked on. With every passing second it seemed to grow bigger and bigger. Flailing my legs, I pushed myself backwards as fast as I could manage. The pulsing darkness followed suit, engulfing the abominable tree. Instead of vanishing, though, the tree exploded into a shower of threads, each of which weaved itself into the encroaching dark. Once I stopped moving, though, the shimmering mass came to a stop.


For a while I sat and stared, trying to make sense of the darkness before me. I needed to calm myself and think if I wanted to get out of here. Just breathe, and think. For the time being I appeared to be safe. But who really knew how long that would last? My ankle was on fire, my sides ached, and I could hardly move my arm anymore. I didn’t even remember hurting my arm, but in all this mess it wouldn’t surprise me. Running my free hand over my arm, I at least tried to assess the damage. Like the rest of me, my arm seemed to be coated in wet, slimy mud. When I touched my elbow, though, I winced. Yeah, that was definitely a gash. It felt deep, though I could barely stand to explore that much. Pressing my eyes shut, I tried to focus on something positive. My parents’ house. My sisters. Anything to dull the pain. My happiest memory…


We were sitting on the porch, watching the sunset. Yeah, myself, my parents, and my sisters. Just sitting, enjoying each others’ company. Eating… watermelon? Yeah, of course. Why is that so fuzzy? It was our favorite weekend pastime growing up. We talked about… We talked about… family things, yeah. We would joke, and mom, she would smile with her… her…


Why can’t I remember her face?


The realization made my skin crawl. Opening my eyes, I looked down to find the gash on my arm squirming, wriggling.


Letting out a yelp, I scratched at my arm. Nothing gave way. No worms, no threads, just blood. I didn’t care anymore. I needed to get out of here, before I lost myself completely. Fueled by nothing but fear, I forced myself upright. When I stared into the dark mass ahead of me, I could’ve sworn several glinting beads stared right back. But when I started forward, the mass parted, letting me move. I couldn’t pass this up. There had to be something I could cling to. My family, my mom. Just needed to keep her face in my mind. I needed to remember. Whatever happened here, I wouldn’t give that up. You can’t take that from me, those happy days growing up… Where? Where was I going-?


The darkness kept parting, allowing me passage. Why? I didn’t understand. Everything was becoming blurry now, and my pace was slowing. But the shivering mass kept folding away in front of me. I couldn’t forget them. Trees melted into the mass as I stumbled, ever forward. Their faces are nothing but white blurs, bright lights now. I don’t understand. I couldn’t lose them. Not like this. Creaking, even the grass was ripped away, disappearing into darkness. No, not like this. I needed to remember them. If I focused my eyes, maybe…


Is that a light I saw?


It was faint, but there was definitely a light ahead of me. Hard to say how far. It was something for my tired eyes to focus on, at least. The billowing mass still parted before me, flowing around and filling the space behind me. There was no going back. If I stopped for a moment, I would most certainly be consumed. But there was light ahead of me. Any moment, I'd emerge into the clearing, the slight incline leading up to my house. Back into the light, where they were. Where I could be safe. Even if I could hardly remember their faces anymore, I knew they were in the light. I knew I still had them. And they were safe. That's all that mattered, anymore. The light was slowly growing, taking a faint shape. Beady eyes piercing the dark began to flow together as I moved, forming tiny streaks of light amidst the bubbling mass. Threads of light, flowing toward the shapeless light ahead of me.


Safety. Home. Home? The word was planted firmly in my head as I moved towards the light. Home. What did it mean? It was there. It was there, ahead of me. If I got there, I'm sure I could figure that out. I needed to know. As much as I searched my head, no answer remained. Just a longing to be there. That was it. The streaks of light around me were beginning to thicken, tinged with red. My eyes followed them ahead, twisting and weaving all the way to the growing light at the end of my path. I narrowed my eyes, trying to pierce the veil. But it took no form. All it did was give off a growing warmth. A pleasing warmth, enticing me, beckoning me.


I had to get there.


I broke out into a run, no longer hindered by my injuries. The light drew ever closer, widening and offering me its embrace. This was almost over. If I could throw myself into this warmth, everything would be okay. I would be home. Safe. The two words resonated with the growing warmth emitted by the mass of light, and I picked up my pace. I could hear something coming from within the light - muffled noises my ears couldn't identify. But they filled me with a pleasant tingling that lightened my steps. It was so close now, surrounding me on every side. If I tried, I could reach out and touch it. I stretched my hand out as far as I could...


And the light engulfed me.


When I came to, a large house stood at the top of a small hill, smiling down on me. A slight wind tickled the branches of the surrounding trees, rustling the grass. The sun peeked out from behind a thick, white cloud, spreading its warmth across the blue sky. There was no mistake. I was home.


Looking up, I shielded my eyes from the sun as I took in the scene before me. The light of the sun caught the house above me, making the white siding shine far brighter than I remembered. But there was no mistaking it. I was home. Safe. A small, bright figure in the distance noticed me, and started running my direction. Turning to look, I tried to make sense of this person in the distance. Long, flowing hair, a bright smile, and a simple dress... I knew her, right? Everything was still somewhat hazy. Blinking, I stood still as this girl approached. She stopped in front of me, holding out her hand and mouthing some words. Blinking, I slowly reached my hand up and took hers.


In that moment, my body was overcome by a numbing warmth. I didn't have to worry anymore. Everything was alright. I was safe.






Lights cascaded through the dark woods, reflecting off the trees in patterns of blue and red. In a gap between the trees ran a simple, one-lane road, where a single car sat parked. Its headlights were off, though a pair of lights on its roof flashed red and blue, casting the lights through the dark night. Leaning against the car were two men, wearing dark blue ponchos which glistened in the rain. The taller of the men looked out into the woods, fiddling with a cigarette lighter.


"Man, this weather sucks."


His smaller companion crossed his arms, replying with a sigh. Silence fell over them. A gust of wind rustled the trees, sending a small shimmer of water splattering onto the earth below. The tall man groaned, pocketing his lighter.


“Is that backup gonna get here anytime soon?”


His younger companion sighed again, before replying.


“Fat lotta good that’ll do, huh?”


Both men fell silent for a beat, slowly looking down the road a ways. Two small flares cast a faint glow over a few twisted pieces of metal, scattered across the road. Faintly visible between them were a pair of skid marks, running off the side of the road into a dark ditch. A faint trail of smoke rose from the dark, quickly dissipating into the night. The taller man shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head.


“Fair enough.”


The men fell silent once more, only looking up once a faint drizzle started up. Shaking his head, the taller man pulled the hood of his poncho a little tighter. The smaller man was staring out into the woods, tapping his hands on the side of the car. Just tapping out an aimless rhythm, tapping away the seconds, passing the time. Some time later, the smaller man spoke up.


“Oy… Y’feel like there’s somethin’ out there… watchin’ us?”


The taller man looked up, out at the woods for a brief moment. Shrugging, he looked back at his partner.


“I don’t see nothin.”


His partner rubbed the side of his head, closing his eyes for a moment.


“You sure? I coulda sworn I saw somethin’ beady out there.”


“Hah!” His partner grinned. “We’ve been out here too long. Probably just a raccoon or something.”


The smaller man narrowed his eyes, before relenting.


“Eh, whatever. You’re probably right.”


Shrugging, he returned his gaze to the road at his feet.

“Dunno what’s the point of us standin’ here and doin’ nothin’.”


The taller man cast his gaze off the side of the road, thinking before he replied.


“I mean, it’s not like anyone could’ve survived that, right?”


Both men fell silent. The smaller man’s eyes gradually wandered to the dark ditch on the side of the road as well. The only movement from it was the occasional trail of smoke, quickly dissipating. For a while, both men stood and watched, afraid to answer the question.


At long last, the smaller man worked up the nerve.


“If that’s the case… Then why’re we watchin’ over an empty wreck?”


© 2017 Kirby Inc.



Author's Note

Kirby Inc.
First proper piece of writing I've finished in some time, hoping to start posting here again...!

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Added on August 24, 2017
Last Updated on August 24, 2017
Tags: original writing, short story, woods, supernatural

Author

Kirby Inc.
Kirby Inc.

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After almost a year of activity (and inactivity) on this site, I'm proud to say I finally changed the crappy "About Me" I had up here! I hope to stay more active on here from here .. more..

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