Readers Gazette Short Stories


Short Story The Dark Woods

The Dark Woods by D E Howard Ghost short story

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She had heard the stories, well everybody had. Hardly a child in the town old enough to have been told a ghost story was unaware of the history surrounding the woods on the outskirts of town.

Over the years the tales of “The Dark Woods”, as they had become known, had passed from rumour to folklore and finally into urban myth. Everyone knew the stories, but nobody ever believed them, not any more.

Which is why when Katy Adams had been dared to walk through the woods alone and at night she had agreed. Although the seven shots of tequila may have also influenced her decision somewhat. It was unlikely a solo trip into those woods would have been something Katy was likely to consider sober. Sobriety, however, had been lost long before she downed the seventh shot and she had felt momentarily invulnerable.

Katy shivered slightly, wrapping her arms around her body as she walked slowly beneath the shadow of the trees, regretting her decision not to take a few minutes to get a warmer jacket as the heat of the quickly consumed alcohol started to dissipate.

“Idiot,” the dark haired girl muttered to herself as she kicked through a pile of fallen leaves on the path that led deeper into the woods. It has seemed like such a good idea less than an hour earlier, a laugh, a good joke, but now, as the tall trees blocked out most of the illumination from the full moon Katy’s enthusiasm began to fail.

She should turn back now before she ran the risk of getting lost. It’s not like they would know, she very much doubted anyone at the party could even remember where she was by now, the shots were still being consumed even as she had left the house a few minutes earlier.

Yawning loudly Katy rubbed at her eyes, the weariness that overcame her was sudden and absolute, she had always been able to handle her drink, the effects of alcohol being enjoyable before, but with no warning she felt herself beginning to stumble as she walked, her feet tripping over each other causing her to wander from the path.

Patting at the pocket of her jeans Katy cursed, the image of her mobile phone perfectly clear in her mind, and its location on the coffee table, just where she had left it. “That’s it… I’m going back… this is stupid!”

Turning around Katy hesitated, she had been sure that the way back out of the woods was directly behind her but it now looked frighteningly unfamiliar, the branches of the trees clawing at the sky or reaching out to her making her shudder and step backwards, a small yelp escaping her lips as her heel connected with a rock causing her to stumble and fall heavily to the cold damp ground.

“Great!” Katy slapped the ground with both palms, the sound echoing around the silence of the woods with surprising volume. “OK game over! I just want to go home now!” Katy’s voice rang loudly through the trees; resounding back to her in a taunting mockery, frustration beginning to blend with fear and exhaustion as she dragged herself to her feet.

Rubbing the dirt from her hands Katy took a deep breath and began a deliberate march forward; logic dictated that if as she maintained a straight path she would hit the edge of the woods eventually. Wouldn’t she?

Minutes ticked by, marked only by the sound of Katy’s feet crunching on the ground beneath her and the heavy panting of her breath as the young woman’s weariness increased with each step until she felt she could go no further.

Her shoulders hunched over in defeat Katy stopped, surprised how dark the woods had grown, only the vaguest hint of moonlight now managing to pierce the canopy of branches and leaves overhead.

“I need five minutes,” Katy said to herself, her words muffled inside a loud yawn that made her feel even more tired. “I’ll just have a quick sit down.”

Looking around Katy spotted the base of a large Oak that seemed the perfect location for a quick rest, a hollow in the front, which provided shelter from the cool wind.

Crawling into the hollow Katy sighed, her eyes falling closed the instant her body came to rest, sleep taking her in a matter of seconds as the comfort of the Oak embraced her.

“What the..?” Katy awoke with a start, a single beam of bright sunlight almost blinding her as she shaded her eyes and looked around in confusion. A quick rest had turned into a night-long sleep and Katy’s head throbbed as the after effects of the tequila lingered in the back of her brain.

Stretching her muscles Katy frowned and looked down at her feet, curious as to why she seemed unable to extend her legs fully. During her sleep it appeared that Katy had managed to get her feet hooked beneath the protruding roots of the old Oak, their hold surprisingly firm as she struggled to free herself.

With a grunt Katy strained with all her strength before falling back against the trunk, her feet still bound in place.

“I am never doing this again.” Closing her eyes Katy rubbed her hands over her face, her skin felt oily and dirty and the urge for a shower made her shudder.

Leaning forward again Katy’s eyes shot open, she could move only a fraction of an inch before something restrained her. Looking down she saw a strong branch across her chest, a branch that wasn’t there moments earlier and a branch that seemed to be inexplicably pulling her closer into the tree trunk, tightening against her ribs until she thought they would break.

Clawing her fingernails against the branch Katy’s face was a picture of fear, her breath coming in gasps as she fought to free herself, but all efforts were fruitless and she let out a high pitched scream of terror as the Oak parted at her back, pulling her inside, her screams stilled as the trunk engulfed her leaving nothing behind but a broken red fingernail.

Everyone had heard the stories of The Dark Woods but nobody believed them, people didn’t just disappear.

To see more of D E Howard's work, click the link to her website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view her member details Visit Dawn Delivers Website

Images used for the story are Spooky Dark Fog at pixabay.com

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Short Story written by D E Howard

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She had heard the stories, well everybody had. Hardly a child in the town old enough to have been told a ghost story was unaware of the history surrounding the woods on the outskirts of town. Over the years the tales of...

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