A hush dropped upon the autumn-browned marsh like a root cellar silence when the trap door has fallen shut. The birds stopped their mournful notes, the grass-stirring breezes died away. Into the stillness came a muffled shrieking from the far tree line.
While the shrieking continued, we stood rooted to the ground, a congregation to a hellish sermon. The sound dissipated soon enough, returning the land to a chill hush.
Released, my fellow hikers and I raced in the direction we had all been staring. As we approached, we fanned out, each disappearing into the underbrush and trees. Nolan, I think it was, called out a choked “Hello! Who’s there?” I, like most, kept reverent silence, perhaps in mimic of the still and silent birds.
It is the nature of woodlands that you can sometimes see and hear a man forty feet away and suddenly find yourself completely alone. Beneath the somber dusk of the forest canopy, I felt I had stepped into a great, empty cathedral, the atmosphere cold, dank, and funereal.
I found one of the crisscrossing animal trails, laid down by centuries or more of deer and boar, and turned to the east where I quickly came upon a small clearing and a leg, stripped of clothing except for a bloodied, yellow sock. It lay near an old, fallen tree, as if dropped absentmindedly by its owner.
I had hardly registered this sight when, from bushes in the shadows of a great oak, came a rustling, a stirring. A revelation stood before me and I fell to my knees in its presence.
When it moved, it rattled like sticks in a burlap sack. When it spoke, it clacked like keys on an unstrung piano. It reeked of toadstools and decaying leaves. Its face was glorious, beauteous–indescribable except by such platitudes. Its innumerable eyes, bluish yet pale and clouded like sea glass, shone in every direction, every time, its gaze penetrating every atom.
It scuttled like a spider, like an unholy saint, and in its thousand-fold eyes, I saw eternity, infinity, forever and the distant, bitter, covetous stars. She, or He, or It, came to me, graced me with Its terrible proximity. There was a caress, a clacking sigh, an intermingling, before I watched, helpless, Its departure.
I returned to my friends and fellow hikers, still searching for the source of the scream. They could not see the alteration I have undergone. Did I hide it from them? I chose to for the time being. But I am not covetous or vainglorious. I knew my revelation was for a purpose and that my friends now have a purpose as well, though still unknown to them. Some might join me in my rapture, others would be fodder, their minds and bodies like Ambrosia.
Make no mistake. I have changed. The meeting in the woods was providence. My glimpse into immortality. My resurrection from life’s mundanity. My instantaneous apostolic journey. Now, the stars sing their vengeful psalms to me. The darkness whispers Its grave liturgies in my ears. The scattered pieces of my mind are now far afield but all are bent on a single purpose. My journey. My pilgrimage into a new paradise.
Levi Krain rose from the depths of a clear, cold northern lake and enveloped a small midwestern city. Since then, he has moved on to bigger and better things and now resides in the heart of Lovecraft country where he spins tales and refuses to drink the water from the well. He also writes weird microfiction on Twitter @LeviKrain.