Dead Trees

December 22, 2007


Pronunciation: \’a-nə-,mi-zəm\

Function: noun

Etymology: German Animismus, from Latin anima soul

Date: 1832

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 is inside of them, something dreadful. I can stand just outside the woodline 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. Instantly I become aware of what a Junco must feels after when its eyes trace out the form of a Coopers hawk from low in a near by tree. At that moment My face grows flushes as hot waves of fear crash into me. Sometimes my muscles seize Left paralyzed as the panic consumes me I become a statue; though my blood boils.  I praying that my stillness will masks my presence and keeps the predator from charging pouncing. At other times Sometimes, though rarely, I have marshal enough courage left to turn and 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 snowand 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.

quod erat demonstrandum.jpg



  1. This is a wonderfully written piece, dramatic and full of dark visuals. You have created quite the winter mood.

  2. Although not as sentimental, the story reminded me of O’Henry, the way it ends…very nice. My first thought when I began to read it was that by day the forest is open to you, but at night its territory of someone else, sort of split shifting…I really like where you went with it.

  3. When your heart races with the writer’s, when all senses are engaged, when you can read it several times and gain new awareness each time, when you feel you must read it again to uncover inner fear & how it manifests itself in your life, you know you’ve been “Polar-ized”.

    Wonderful writing…..

  4. A great piece of writing here. You are an expressive story teller, capturing our imaginations and pulling us in within our senses and emotions.

    I like what Chantal said, “Polar-ized.” My journeys here gladly result in my being POLARized.

    Happy Winter, Merry Christmas, and a Great New Year to you!

  5. Polar, thought I would stop back and see how your holiday was! Hope it was great! Also, I wanted to return and read the story once again. It amazes me how many different things I discover when we I read your words again and again.


  6. That was a great story. You know, when it started out, I instantly could feel your trepidation about the night, as mine also exists at night. I am truly fearful of water, dark water, at night. All of those things you describe, the panic, the hesitation of going closer, the heavy heartbeat, the unknown dark thing that will spring up and snatch you into your watery grave.

    Yikes, I better stop ’cause I’m freakin’ myself out!
    I did get brave once, and went swimming at night…
    in the ocean! That was creepy, and I haven’t done it since.
    Thanks for a great read and the reminder to face our demons!
    Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year too!

  7. another dark shiver story!….the hunted becomes the hunter….full circle…my heart is still beating fast…i wonder what your return journey was like…thank you for an engaing read, gail

  8. Sorrow,
    I’m not yet sure whether I’ve conjured up a Winter Mood or if Winter conjured up me? My favorite part of this little hike of mine was that being at night the whole trip was in living (or Dead in this case) Black & White. I will always love how Night draws out the color leaving only Texture & Contrast. Like Life; Feeling our way between Good & Evil. Dobry

    Dear Harley,
    Holy-Crap! Did you just compare this just a little to O’Henry? I do not know what to say to that. Except for, Thank you so very much. I guess I need to brush up on my O’Henry now. I believe that we Humans are natives of the day by birth, mostly. So the forest by daylight is beauty & grandeur for we share the light. Kin. Yet at night we become separated by birth, so to say. Alien, strangers. This piece somewhat records the journey from Light to Dark. Something all of us can do. sometimes to easily. Again, Thank you.

    You are so good for my ego! “Polar-ized” I’ll take that as a compliment not a condition. I’m thrilled to hear that you fell into this piece. My poems are snapshots of time but with the narratives I try to move through time. Thank you for joining me on this little walk through the Woods. I so enjoy the company.

    Sitting in that grape vine nest I guess I got a good dose of what it’s like to be a Owl. You Raptors have all the fun! If you Toss a pool-table, dartboard, & humidor into that Great mansion you’re going to build we can get “polar-ized” every Friday if you want.

    Thank you for the Christmas wishes. I hope yours went very smoothly & without unneeded stress. We nixed the canoe plans for Xmas day settling for a Waterfall instead. Ho Ho Ho!

    I am quite possibly more terrified of Natural bodies of Water than the Dark Wood if the conditions are right. That Damned Dark Soup is far to removed from me to be inviting. Yet I own a canoe? Go figure. I think I might need to write a piece about this terror as well. Thanks for the idea. When you went swimming in the Ocean were you alone? When I did that it was with friends at a beach bonfire. Plenty to drink plus there were Shooting Stars that night as well. I just plum forgot to be terrified. Merry Christmas to you & Happy New Year. May ooold De-mons beee forgot…

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. The walk back? Well… I will gladly write an ending for this just because you asked. You can either go to my “Note Pad” page or click HERE to see it in progress. I love writing challenges like this. I’ll come back and finish this over the next few days. Thanks Gail. This is a blast! 🙂

  9. good Polar…we have only begun! i look forward to reading your next…

  10. p.s… how do you know when you get new comments on older posts?

  11. Gail,
    First I’d like to thank you for your persistence. I tend to occasionally need a reminder or a swift kick in the butt. I am working my way back into writing mode. Please don’t give up on me ’cause I have the ending, I just need to write the words.
    I am alerted to all new comments whether on old or new posts so I’ll see where you’ve commented. Thanks so much. Dobry Den.

  12. How could i ever give up in you White Bear, not possible…and thank you for appreciaating my persistance cause lately i am wondering if it makes peole run from me…at least i know you accept this trait of mine, helps me accept it myself…

  13. Wonderful writing. I admire the way you give deep thought to all angles.

    The fear of the woods at night I overcame as a boyscout. The process was the same as you describe.

    Happy 2008

  14. Gail,
    Don’t be troubled because I’m not. Plus I’d rather write than run anyway. Hoping all is well your way. Thanks.

    Yes, with this, the irrational fear subsided. However around here there still remains worry about the occasional Bear or absolute fear of drunk poachers. Good to hear from you. Give Buddy a biscuit from me. Dobry Noc.

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