Etymology: German Animismus, from Latin anima soul
1 : a doctrine that the vital principle of organic development is immaterial spirit
2 : attribution of conscious life to objects in and phenomena of nature or to inanimate objects
3 : belief in the existence of spirits separable from bodies
The evil in the trees
Is really the insanity in the mans mind
The insanity in his mind perverts the mans life
The perverse life that crawls out into the woods
And becomes the evil in the trees
I hate the woods at night; they scare the hell out of me. I know there is something inside of them, something dreadful. I can stand just outside of a woods looking in at the shadows and silhouettes of the trees. Though I see that nothing is moving, my heart tells me that there is a presence just beyond my vision. My mind screams to me that one of the shadows is alive, malevolent, perverted, and hungry. I instantly become aware of what a Junco must feel after its eyes trace out the form of a Coopers hawk from low in a near by tree. At that moment my face grows flush as hot waves of fear crash into me. Sometimes my muscles seize as the panic consumes me. I become a statue, though my blood boils, praying that my stillness will mask my presence and keep the predator from charging. At other times I have enough courage left to turn a walk away without looking back, terrified.
Obviously, I can never enter the woods at night if alone; if I am in the company of friends I might, but never alone. It is ironic too since I spend so much time alone in the woods during the day. I would be incomplete without the forest. However, night happens, and it happens occasionally while I am out there. Again, if I am with my friends, terror does not strike me, caution does. As long as I stay with the group and do not let myself become separated, I am safe. To me there is strength in numbers.
Please do not ask me what I think is out there because I do not know. I do know, however, that it stands just beyond the limit of my night vision, or crouches behind a bush where even moonlight can not reach. Waiting to pounce. It follows me when I am out there. It waits,…waits to find me alone and not paying attention, which I will never let happen. I may not be able to see it, but I know exactly where it is standing. I can feel its gaze upon my Soul.
Maybe this feeling of mine is just a remnant of ancient instincts that were meant to protect us from ancient predators. If so then horror should confront me during the day as well. Surely ancient man was at risk from predators any time he left the protection of the clan. Yet, this feeling of mine does not act to split my attention during the day. It belongs strictly to the night, the night in the woods.
Yet, oddly, one night something happened. After years of guarding myself from this Evil lurking fate that roams through dark woods, I did what I always thought impossible. After staring for an hour into woods I was only familiar with during the day, I entered them, at night, and alone. This was not just any night, but a dead night. Winter had settled in and nothing that lived was in those woods,…except me, and all things that do not live.
A wet snow was trying to bury the Earth, but I had dressed for it. Many lose layers of clothing kept me warm. I wore a wide-rimmed leather hat to keep my head dry. The snow was covering all of the days animal tracks, including mine as I made them. If I stood still long enough, all evidence of my having walked through the area would vanish. No matter where I went, it looked like I had never been there. The snow was also piling up on the tops of tree limbs as well as my shoulders and hat. I felt as if the night wanted me to become part of it. It is no wonder why I felt a little less human that night.
Before I walked into those woods, my personality had already begun to change. I know now that it was changing into something strange, old, and predaceous. I wanted to find my demon, hunt him down, challenge him, force him to strike me. If he could draw my blood, then he was real. I would know that some fears should never be pushed. When, however, his strike caused me no pain, nor drew my blood, would his power over me be betrayed. I would no longer fear this demon or his woodland domain.
Yet I wanted more than just a release from fear. I wanted revenge for all of the fears that had ever victimized me. My confidence was waxing. It occurred to me that if my demon proved to be weaker than I, that with vengeanced-spite I would harm and hurt him beyond the degree that he had damaged me. This was my plan, regardless of what I may be forced to suffer, the haunting would cease.
The sky was closed-off by the clouds of a winter’s storm. The light pollution from town made the night sky ash-grey. The millions of gorged snow flakes falling through the air consumed all sound. The only remaining noise was my breath wheezing past my ice-covered lips, and my heart beating as loud as a calving glacier. All I could see were the boles of the sleeping trees, their silhouettes seeping out of the ground and spilling into the night. It was as if the night had rooted itself to the earth.
So I entered, and not as cautious as usual. Instead of scanning for the reflection of carnivorous eyes, my signal to flee, I just walked forward with raised brow, as easy prey. Baiting its hunger.
After several minutes, I stopped beneath a small tree. I scanned all around the woods with my eyes, and saw only night. A few areas that seemed dark enough to conceal my demon I openly investigated. He was not there, just night, trees, and snow, so I continued marching through the dark woods.
I made my way by marching between the gaps in the trees. For there are no paths where people never walk. This went slowly. One step, wait as bait. Another step and search for movement. When I came up to the thicket I did not stop. Not now. I simply crouched down on all fours, then continued hunting. Under the brush. Like an animal. Hidden by the night.
When I came to a low, flat area something began to growl ahead of me. I became as still as a rock, except for my head which mechanically pivoted towards the sound. I stopped breathing and calmed my heart to hear better. It then called out with a low muffled bark, though more like a menacing gruff. I could hear the dog pulling its chain trying to break free so it could engage me.
I remained still, and thought of what the dogs owner might see when he looked outside his window. From the sound of it, the dog would be standing on its haunches against the pull of the chain, barking and pawing at the air towards the black woods. I am sure the hair on the back of the dog’s neck would be standing straight up as well. What effect this would have on the owner I did not know, nor did I stay to find out.
Out of the thicket, and once again on my feet, I was now headed towards what was the deepest part of the woods. It was a place I had never been to before, not by day nor with my friends. Seeing only in grey and mostly black, waiting for something to reach out and gut me, I alone would enter this area for the first time.
And still I walked. In dead silence. Except for the snowy crunch of my footfalls and my fear laden breath
As I openly crossed the Natural Gas line into the unfamiliar woods, I again felt different. Besides what affect the snow and the night had on my mind, the dog had aided in making me feel like a true denizen of these woods. My fear was slowly ebbing away as my interest, for this night-shrouded woods, climbed. I was becoming comfortable in the dark veil that was these woods.
Near the center of these deeper woods, I came upon what was left of an old forgotten house. Only its foundation remained standing. Encompassing it were the old trees that had once been part of the house’s external grace, but now were decrepit and venerable in appearance.
Hung from those trees like a spider’s web made from thick steel cable, was grape vine. Its giant knotted mass undulated its way beneath the snow, attacking every tree like cancer. Young trees stood mummified by tendrils while older trees had entire limbs torn from their trunk by the weight of the vine. Near its heart, and like a black candelabra, its eight inch diameter arms climbed skyward into the ugly trees. The vine set upon the woods even though it was winter, a time when trees and vines should be asleep.
Looking at this vine, I somehow felt it was alive, sentient, and aware of my presence. Without fear, but with awe, I walked into its space and began to examine it, to see if it was real. I pulled off my gloves and stuffed them under the epaulet of my jacket. Touching the vine, it was cold, stable and rough. I impulsively climbed onto a lower arm of the vine; it held my weight well. I spotted above me where two arms were narrowly crossed, and began climbing up to them. Only a trace coating of snow had found its way onto the vines, so climbing was easy. When I had gone high enough, I straddled both vines with my legs. Then sitting, I leaned back into the crossed arms of the vines. It was much like a natural hammock. I put my gloves back on before folding my arms over my chest. In this way my silhouette sank into the form of the vine and trees.
From my perch I saw no demon in the woods below me. I felt no fear from the night surrounding me. I recognized no existence of malice or death. All that I could perceive were the vines, the woods, night, snowstorm, myself, and silence. All of us alive and sharing in an intimate peace. Communion. If there was a demon, then he was not interested in me that evening. Everything in the woods made sense to me now. I knew what was behind the trees because I had been there myself, and found nothing. At that point I did not know if the woods belonged to me or if I belonged to the woods. Whichever it was, I felt good, like something that is natural and instinctual, and is just always suppose to happen.
I remained on my perch, staying as still as the trees, watching the storm blanket us in snow.
Later, while still cradled in the arms of my vine, I mused to myself about a group of deer that might wander into this area. They would not sense me; of course I would be part of the night, a section of vine. The deer could scratch through the snow and begin to browse. I could watch, long, and in silence. Or, while staring directly at one, I could whisper a small unnatural hiss through my lips. Of course the deer would immediately raise its head, stop chewing, and freeze in movement. Its eyes would quickly scan the woods for the threat, while its heart began to pound a little harder. Its instincts would tell it that something unseen was watching it. Something that could be hiding in the shadows behind the trees. Something dreadful.