by John Grover
He ran through Murk woods, fighting his way through the darkness, the tree branches reaching for him like hands. Behind him he heard their wails, their sorrowful wails calling to him, demanding that he give up his body, vacate it, exit it so they could experience the physical world.
The mist crept all around him, Mat could not see his hands in front of his face but he stumbled on, through the void. Cold filled him, dampness clung to him, Mat felt them closing in on him, he turned to look over his shoulder.
Hundreds of them floated out of the mist, onyx eyes piercing him, gaunt arms reaching for him. Their touches caressed his hair, their moans filled the woods.
They gathered around him, there was no escape, Mat fell to his knees, unable to scream or see and--
The door to his bedroom flew open.
Sweat soaked him as he watched his wife, Sharon, stroll into the room. “You’ve slept all morning. Aren’t you going to get out of bed today?”
“Huh.” Mat rubbed his eyes and sat up. “Wow, I didn’t realize how late it was. I’m up now.”
She pulled the shades up allowing the sunlight to bath the room in warm gold. “Have you seen this?” She waved the newspaper she held in front of him. “Two people have gone missing in the town in the last two days. Isn’t it incredible? They say nothing has happened in this little town for over fifty years.”
Fear swelled inside of him again, remembering that what he’d gone through the other night was not just a bad dream. “Honey, throw that away, it’s morbid.”
“Morbid?” she giggled. “This coming from you, your life is dedicated to the dead.”
“I know, that’s exactly why. I think I see and hear enough of it.”
“Well, it must really be something. There’s a town meeting tonight, every one is going. Do you want go?”
“No,” Mat answered immediately. “And don’t let the kids read that, toss it out.”
“Mat, honey why are you being so sensitive? The kids aren’t babies, they know there are bad things in the world.”
No, no they don’t. Mat thought. They had no idea. None of them did. Mat could not bring himself to tell them what had gone on recently, he couldn’t accept it himself, he didn’t know what they would think. There was no need to panic. Just as soon as he found another house he was moving them out of this town any way.
“Sharon!” the call came from down the hall, a tapping accompanying it.
“Dad needs me, I’ve got to go. Come you,” Sharon called to her husband as she plopped the paper down on her night table. “Time to get out of that bed.” The tapping thudded again. “Coming Dad!” she called as she hurried out of the room.
Mat rolled his eyes as he threw his covers aside, avoiding the newspaper on the table. They had been taking care of Sharon’s father for eight months now, ever since his heart attack. It left him totally dependant on them, and he took full advantage of it. Mat hadn’t remembered being able to spend fifteen minutes alone with Sharon without her father needing her. A nursing home was out of the question, just starting a new job and buying a new house left money rather scarce. Mat swore, as soon as he made enough money, he would be looking into it.
He walked into the kitchen and poured himself some coffee, lifting his head, Mat stared out of the window into the backyard. In the far distance he saw Murk woods, it was as dark and foreboding as ever, its mist seemed heavier and appeared to move or was it movement of something else that he saw?
Shapes formed, shadows writhed, something solid moved in the mist.
“What are you looking at, dad?” Seven-year-old Collin stood behind his father.
“Nothing.” He yanked the window shade down. “Why don’t you go play with your sister. But stay in today. Okay?”
“Aw Dad, what did I do? Why can’t I go outside?”
“Nothing son, I heard a bad storm is coming. I don’t want you two getting sick, now just do as I ask, play video games in the den.”
“Really, okay.” A smile broke on his face at the thought of the electronic pulses and flashing lights mesmerizing him and his sister, the outside was forgotten. They weren’t allowed to play the games often so this would be a treat.
Mat watched him scurry out of the room as his attention drew back to the window shade. His hands were quivering already.