Terror in the Eastern WoodsA Story by Samuel Dickens
What evil lurks there?
On the road to the village, Enoch crossed paths with Thaddeus Fugate. Mr. Fugate paused and told him, nearly in a whisper, “They found another one”.
Enoch sat down his heavy basket of beets and said, “Another one?”
“The oldest Woolbright boy.”
“Where? Where did they find him?”
“Eastern part of the woods, near the mounds.”
Thaddeus moved on without saying another word. He’d said enough. Enoch stood motionless in the road, trying to come to grips with the news.
How can this be? Everyone knew the old woman was responsible. She’s a witch, they all said. At the full moon, she changes into some sort of cruel beast, they said. Indeed, many good village folk noticed her odd ways. That gnarled, strange-looking walking stick of hers and the way she went around tapping it all the time. As much as anything, though, were those eyes! Yes, she cast spells with the evil, glazed eye, while the other seemed benign and innocent. Treachery! Deceit! A jury of wise men found her guilty beyond all doubt and sent her to hang, and hang, she did. We all heard the crack of her neck and saw those wicked eyes go dim. Justice was served and a problem solved, we all thought, but now……now, it has happened again!
Enoch delivered his beets to the market and quickly returned home.
Tea! I must have tea!
His hands shook as he filled the pot with water.
Where are the tea leaves? I can’t find the…oh, there they are. I fumble, I fret!
Chaos ensued, and it was only by some miracle that hot tea finally found its way into his cup.
Tea gives comfort, heh, heh. Yes, I’ve always thought so.
Several sips brought a measure of comfort and eased the shaking of his hands, but still, Enoch was beside himself.
It has happened again, but how? Has the witch returned from the dead? Could another have taken her place? The villagers have suffered too much already--they can’t endure anymore!
Enoch Tolliver, a man of slight build and unsteady nerves, fretted and drank tea far into the night.
The good folk of the village---what grief they suffer!
Glancing at the crude portrait on the wall of his late mother, he winced and looked away.
I know your picture isn’t very good, mother, but I thought the beet I used as a model was a good likeness. Okay, I’m sorry. Yes, yes, I know your hair wasn’t that leafy!
Enoch pretended to drop his spoon and quickly dove underneath the table after it.
Heh-heh, she can’t see me down here. Mother was always so critical! Uh-oh, the tea is up there.
Enoch sat back in his chair, smiled nervously at the portrait and jiggled his spoon.
She thinks I’m just a simple gardener, but she’s wrong. No, I’m a man to be reckoned with!
Enoch guzzled tea straight from the spout and pounded his fist on the table. Glaring defiantly at the picture, he announced, “There have been a series of brutal murders in the eastern woods, so it’s up to me to handle the situation!”
Heh-heh, I’ll escape mother’s ill gaze for a while, go over to Thaddeus’s cottage and get him to brew up a pot of that Earl Grey!
Having no bow or other weaponry, Enoch constructed a sling from two long lengths of his mother’s yarn and the tongue from an old boot.
What missiles shall I lob? I know---beets!
Armed with a sling, and his pockets full of beets, Enoch charged out into the night.
Thaddeus lives over that way…..I think. Heh-heh, evil menace, your doom is at hand!
Caffeine-rich blood speeding through his veins, Enoch ran through the forest, hopping over fallen logs, rocks and other obstacles as he went.
Thaddeus lives just over that hill. I’d best approach quietly so that nagging wife of his doesn’t wake up.
Enoch moved stealthily toward the hilltop.
Ha, I’m so quiet; no one will know I’m coming. Just a few more steps and I’ll see his cottage. Uh-oh, I need to drain my water.
Enoch leaned against a tree and began to relieve himself. As he enjoyed the soothing relief, he peered over the hilltop.
What the……? I must be lost---those are the mounds down there!
Curses! The witch!
Fear-stricken, he threw himself on the ground and tried to cover up with leaves.
These leaves are wet. Oh, what misfortune I suffer!
An hour passed and the horrible sound not only continued, but seemed to come nearer.
Tap, tap, tap!
Oh, terrible tapping sound, how I fear you! Dear mother, your son is about to join you on that far, distant shore…….
From the darkness came an angry voice, saying, “Oh, no you’re not!”
Enoch shook with fear and squeaked, “Mother, is that you?”
“Why, of course it is!”
“But, why are you here? Shouldn’t you stay in that nice pine box I made for you?”
“Hear me, Enoch Tolliver!”
A cold, invisible finger poked Enoch in the chest. “Where are my grandchildren, Enoch?”
“Uh, I guess you don’t have any, mother.”
“And why not?”
“Well, uh….. I’ve never found a wife?”
“You break my poor heart, Enoch! Thirty-nine years old, and still unmarried!”
“There just aren’t any good ones around here, mother.”
“Liar! You’ve never found a wife because you’re a coward!”
“Me, a coward?”
“Yes, just look at you--you’re lying in your own urine.”
“Oh, that’s not fair, mother. I drank too much tea, that’s all.”
“Alright. If you’re not a coward, then prove it to me. Stand up and face your fears!”
Enoch whimpered, “But mother……”
“Do it now! If you don’t learn to be a man, find a woman and give me some grandchildren, I’ll put a curse on you! For the rest of your life, every drop of tea will taste like rotten potato peels!”
With great effort, Enoch held to the side of a tree and raised himself to about three-quarters height.
“Mother…..the terrible tapping!”
“Be brave, son! Show me that you’ve got one drop of your mother’s blood in you!”
Enoch grabbed a beet, loaded it into his sling, and began to vigorously twirl it around his head.
Woosh, woosh, woosh!
“Son, you really, really disappoint me.”
The next morning, Bessie Grissel picked mushrooms in the forest and heard a moan. Warily looking all about for the source of the sound, she eventually discovered Enoch tied to a tree in quite an awkward manner.
Being a kind, helpful sort of woman, she asked, “Sir, would you like for me to untie you?”
Enoch looked up at her with grateful eyes and replied, “Could you, please?”
Bessie unwound the yarn from around Enoch’s arms and neck, and then, with a small stick, dislodged a quantity of woodpecker droppings from his hair.
Enoch grinned sheepishly and asked her, “D-do you know of the evil that lurks in these woods? I fear it nearly got me last night.”
“Oh, you must mean the troll."
"Yes, it often comes to this area after dark, searching for something to eat."
“Oh, horrors, I could have been an easy meal for that thing, tied to this tree, as I was!”
Bessie flicked a woodpecker dropping from Enoch’s ear and told him, “No, Gumhold only eats sheep and goats, but being blind, he does accidentally step on people sometimes. He sticks to open spaces, so you were quite safe here in the woods.
“Do you like tea?”
© 2013 Samuel Dickens
Shelved in 2 LibrariesAdded on December 30, 2011
Last Updated on May 7, 2013
Lick Skillet, AR
AboutGreetings, all. I'm a sixty-five year-old father of three sons, amateur writer, artist, musician and sometimes cook. Also a motorcycle buff, I've been riding/working on them since my teens. Retired fr.. more..
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