The Wood Crier
The Wood Crier
The popping and crackling of the campfire filled the air and my senses. The smoky air swirled all around me and the warmth encircled me like a wool blanket swaddling me like a baby. The light cast by the fire seemed to bounce off of the darkness but it never could penetrate the pitch black of the night. It gave me a sense of false security as if I had an invisible wall protecting me from what is out there. I know differently however. As I looked around the campfire at all the waiting faces, I prepared myself to tell the story. The story of warning of what awaits us in the woods if we stray too far from the warmth of our homes.
“There are things in the darkness that you conveniently forget that is there or maybe you even think the strange stories your grandparents told you were just told to you to make you stay out of the woods.” I began slowly. Each of the young teens squirming under the tension. “Maybe you think that adults just want to tell you what to do and that they don’t want you to have any fun.”
“Well it’s true! I heard from a kid at school that there is nothing out there and when he went into the woods; nothing happened. You just don’t want us to leave home!” Stacie said as she wrinkled her eye brows and crossed her arms.
“Yeah!” The others teens started to say one by one, each still looking uncertain.
“Is that what you think Stacie? What about you Tommie? Makayla? Abigail? Robert?” I looked around and waited for them to respond. Each one took turns staring at the other and one by one resuming their waiting stare at me. Some wrapping themselves in their blankets nervously looking around into the unforgiving black night. I began again slowly once more. “I am the only one who dares to speak the name of this powerful being. No one really knows where it came from. Some say it was a beaten slave back for revenge and some say it is a broken spirit that was a human once and came back from the dead to avenge its killers. Well I say it doesn’t really matter, all we need to know at this point, is that it is real.”
“What is its name Erica?” Makayla asked timidly.
“Its name is… The wood crier.” I looked around as some of the teens started to snicker and passed loaded looks at each other. “It may not be the name you expect, but that is the name you hear before you die. The legend started hundreds of years ago. Many tales of young people going into the woods and never come out. The first being a tale of the young pioneer family who settled right here on this very spot that we have our campfire burning tonight. Elijah and his beautiful young bride were in love. They came to the new world expecting to find a new life without the strict rule of the queen and most importantly the strict rule of their parents. Elijah went into the woods to hunt for food while his young bride waited at home. After a week of no word from Elijah his young bride went in looking for him and she never came out of the woods. Then there is the tale of a widow named Victoria. Before she had been widowed she had been blessed with ten beautiful children; four boys and six girls. They all had the beauty that other people could only dream of. Oddly enough the widow was not so blessed, she was worn down looking with mousy brown hair that she could barely tame into a reasonable bun at the nape of her neck. She was plump with wrinkled hands and the only thing beautiful about her was her smile. When she purchased the land she thought that she had finally earned a break in life from all her heartache she had endured. She had big dreams of grandeur. She dreamed of a house with many rooms for her children and occasional guest. Maybe open a bed and breakfast for travelers. But those dreams slowly started to fade. Her sons built a cramped wooden house so that they may survive the winter. Victoria watched in horror as one by one the sons as they headed into the woods would come back short a brother. They told the tale of hearing someone crying and tree limbs snapping as if someone were pacing back and forth. Then the screaming and wailing would begin. First in the distance, then it would get closer and closer. Fear would close in all around them and they would begin to run just to come up short one less brother. After the loss of the first three brothers the sisters had to take their place out of desperation for food. Until one day the widow found herself with one daughter left. The two of them went days, maybe even weeks without food. They tried to survive on birds and rabbits that may wonder into the yard, but it was rare to hear a bird chirp in those dark woods much less have one wonder into their front yard. They had no choice but to wonder into the woods… helpless. Well as you know, they never came out either. The list goes on and on.” I looked around at all the fear on their faces as they mustered up the courage to ask questions. It was Tommie who spoke first.
“I don’t understand. I mean why do you still live here? If it’s so dangerous why don’t you move?”
“Well that is a great question Tommie. Look around… it’s a beautiful piece of land nestled in the heart of the Smokey Mountains. The land of waterfalls, lush green trees and plentiful fish and water. Its serenity alone draws people here away from their busy lives. I had the opportunity to start my own cabin rental place and I took it. Simple as that.” I smiled gently.
“How long have you lived here?” Asked Abigail with wide innocent eyes.
“If I told you how long I would be giving my age away. You know what they say… never ask a lady how old she is.” I smiled with a wink.
“Have you ever heard anything out in the woods?” Asked Robert
“Well I have heard some things.” I said as I wondered how far to take this story.
“Like what?” Makayla asked as she eagerly soaked in every detail.
“Well things like limbs snapping, howling of wolves in the distance. You know, wolves can sound like crying, even screaming.”
“Do you think these stories were made up? I mean… don’t you think if these stories were true the disappearances would be reported; like on the news? I mean in this day and age things like this just don’t go unnoticed.” Stacie said as a matter of fact. She tossed her hair from her shoulders to her back with the back of her hand in a snotty huff. “I mean come on guys. She is just telling us this crap to scare us. Think about it. We are here staying in her cabins in the woods for our senior spring break. She is just trying to give us our moneys’ worth.”
“Stacie you are always a skeptic. I mean… my mom used to tell me ghost stories all the time and she said if they raise the hair on the back of your neck they are true. I don’t know about you guys but I have hair standing up on the back of my neck and chills going down my arms. There has to be some truth to her stories. I can just feel it, can’t you?” Makayla asked as she looked around the camp fire.
“I feel it running all through me.” Robert said as he stood up to stretch. “I mean look around, these woods are as old as time its self. They were here since creation, who is to say there isn’t more out there? I don’t want to ever say that I know it all and that there isn’t evil as well as there is good. I think there is something out there just waiting.”
“Oh my gosh Robert, you can’t be serious. Here I thought you were the most level headed guy here.” Stacie said as she rolled her eyes. “Erica, please tell everyone you’re joking. No one will be able to sleep tonight.”
“Why Stacie? You scared? I bet you are!” Tommie said as he poked her in the ribs.
“I’m not scared. I just know all of you are buying into this fairy story she has weaved just to scare us for entertainment! Which I don’t think it’s right! We paid good money to come out here and relax, not to get lied to!” Stacie stood up and looked over at me. “Now out with it! It’s not true is it… you made it up! Tell them!” Stacie said as she waved her hand at Makayla, Tommie and Robert. “Tell them the truth!”
A slow smile spread onto my face as I stood up and stretched my legs. I looked at each teenager and motioned for them to sit back down. They did as they were told reluctantly; eventually Stacie gave up and sat down as well. “Now aren’t we all comfy. Your right Stacie I didn’t tell you the whole truth, there is more to the story that I usually keep to myself and for good reason, but I won’t call myself a liar to suit you. I know the truth about the wood crier. It is a real entity that exists.” I walked over to the darkness and stared into the woods and then I looked up into the sky.
“Tell us Erica, you can trust us.” Makayla said quietly.
“I don’t know that I should. The fear may take you in the end.”
“She’s doing it again guys! Come on! I for one don’t want to listen to this B.S.!” Stacie said as she started to stand up.
“Shut up Stacie! You’re the one who wanted to come all the way out here into Gods country and relax. We all wanted to go to the beach, but no! Your daddy was paying for it so we let you decide. Now that we are having fun you want to end it? It’s just like you to control everything!” Robert said as he motioned for Stacie to sit down.
“Come on you two, stop with the lovers spat so we can hear the rest of the story. We’re sorry Erica please continue, these two do this all the time. We want to hear the rest, honestly.” Tommie looked around and each one took turns shaking their head in agreement, even Stacie.
I tore myself away from the heavens and I turned to look at them. “There is another story to add with the tale of the wood crier. There was a Goddess named Achlys, she was the Goddess of eternal night. She was beautiful but her true beauty was never truly seen for what it was because she was always in the dark. Only those who waited for the first light of the sun could catch a glimpse of her before she disappeared. She fell in love with a human man his name was Lukas. He was a settler that had come to the new world with his family as a baby. Achlys knew no bounds of the world the way the humans did, she traveled from one continent to the other. One day she found herself on the edge of these woods as the sun came up. Lukas came out onto the door step of his parent’s modest cabin and it happened. Lukas saw Achlys staring at him. The romance began. Achlys stood every morning on the edge of the woods waiting for Lukas and everyday he was standing in front of his cabin waiting to see her. This went on for months until Achlys could take it no longer. She decided to break the rules and talk to Lukas. She waited patiently for the dawn and her heart felt light as air as she saw Lukas step outside to wait for her. Achlys held her hands out to Lukas and he ran to her and fell into her embrace. They made love as they were meant to, like soul mates that were finally joined forever. Achlys lost track of the time and her father found out. She was cursed. Her beauty was stripped away, she became covered with boils and scabs and cuts that would ooze dripping blood for they would never heal. Achlys feared what her lover would think of her new appearance but she had to try. Achlys waited in her usual spot for Lukas and her heart soared when she saw him coming out the front door looking for her. As the sun rose however Achlys appearance fell onto the eyes of her beautiful lover. Lukas froze on the edge of the woods staring at his once beautiful lover. He wanted to scream but couldn’t do anything but shake his head and whisper over and over “no.” Grief stricken, Achlys heart seemed to implode in on its self. She was filled with rage. She vowed to never allow young beauty to grace her with their presence.”
“What happened to Lukas?” Tommie asked.
“She killed him of course.” I said as I smiled at all the confused youthful faces staring back at me. Horror began to fill their faces as my nails began to grow five inches longer. My skin began to crack and peel open and ooze with dripping blood. Puss filled boils began to grow and drip down my skin. My hair began to fall out in clumps. “Why the long faces? Don’t you know true beauty when you see it?” I laughed hard even though I truly felt nothing. “You with your doubt Stacie…am I real now sweetie? You all with your beautiful faces full of hope for the future… and what do I have? Eternal darkness that’s what! I get cursed for what? For love? He didn’t even love me back!”
I screamed at the top of my lungs. “I am the wood crier!”
Stacie screamed at the top of her lungs as the rest of the panic stricken teens began to scramble to their feet.
“You can’t escape… I’m hungry.”
After the ripping and tearing of flesh and yes the feast. I looked down at my blood soaked body. I eyed my swollen belly full of beauty. They were beautiful but not as beautiful as me. I thought to myself as I licked my fingers clean. I smoothed out my blood soaked hair and headed back to the woods where my eternal night continues whether you believe in me or not…