Just Beyond the Edge of the Woods

By H. Adam Ruffalo

She wanted serenity. Work had been a bitch lately. Her boyfriend was a liar and a cheat. She just wanted to get away from everything and everybody. A walk through the state park would do her some good. She wouldn’t take her cell phone. She wanted no means of contact with the “outside” world.

After parking her car, she headed for the path. It was a simple trail of worn earth. A pathway into a beautiful, peaceful forest, free from stress. The birds sang to each other. Butterflies flitted about. The sunlight was filtered through the green canopy of oaks, maples and pines.

As she walked, she used her senses to absorb every bit of nature. She stopped frequently to close her eyes, take deep breaths, and suck in the clean, pine-scented air. She ran her fingers along the bark of the towering trees. She stopped walking and just listened to the wind as it whispered through the leaves. She looked above and around constantly; not wishing to miss any beautiful view or amazing act of nature.

She suddenly realized that she was beating back more and more branches and vines just to walk. Her bare calves were being scratched by the thorny underbrush of the dense forest. The ground beneath her wasn’t worn from years of trampling humans. Oh crap!

She didn’t know which way to head. Had the sun been at her back when she had ventured out? Had she been heading east? If moss grows on the north side of trees, why did this tree have moss covering all its sides?

She turned a complete circle looking for a sign to lead her in the right direction. Heading downhill seemed like the best idea. She walked. Mosquitoes swarmed. She walked. A snake slithered across a dead log. She walked. She swatted at insects she couldn’t identify. She walked. She thought she could see a break in the trees to her right.

Just beyond the edge of the woods she spotted a small clearing of wildflowers. As she walked through the tree line toward the meadow, she saw something metallic shimmering in the distance. She stopped and allowed her eyes to adjust to the bright light. Could it really be? Yes! It was her car in the parking lot! All she had to do was walk through the sea of waving flowers, and this little adventure would be over.

She took her first step into the field. Her right foot sank down several inches. A putrid odor like rotting meat wafted to her nose. She tried to pull her foot out. Her shoe was firmly stuck in the sludge.

She bent down to untie her shoe. As she tugged at the laces, two gargantuan, web-fingered hands attached to scaly forearms shot up through the foul-smelling muck. Before she could scream, she was quickly dragged into a new serenity.

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