The Woods Know Everything

Introduction: um, okay. Today’s prompt was squirrel. There is no squirrel in this story. I started planning one thing and then it went in a very different direction which, I admit, defeats the purpose of using prompts. A story is a story, though, right? This one is longer than all the others because I got carried away, but I hope it’s enjoyable all the same.

A whisper in the wind and a rustle in the leaves had Jamie looking over her shoulder anxiously. Was there something there? Or was she imagining it? The sun was starting to set, and it was easy for shadows to take on a life of their own in the half-light. Why on Earth had she agreed to meet him here?

‘You alright?’

Jamie nearly leapt out of her skin, the soft voice coming from behind the shoulder she’d been peaking over seconds before catching her completely off-guard. That only made him chuckle, a casual sound that almost came across as mocking.

‘Sorry, did I scare you?’ He pushed his scruffy hair out of his eyes, making Jamie’s heart twist and turn inside her chest. She hadn’t been aware it was capable of doing that until he’d asked her out, now it seemed to be doing it constantly.

‘Yea, but it’s okay. I didn’t hear you coming. You must have quiet feet.’

There was that chuckle again. He always seemed to be laughing, taking joy in a joke that the rest of the world hadn’t heard yet.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to.’

‘That’s okay. It’s the woods. They give me the heebie-jeebies.’

Heebie-jeebies? Had she really said that? God, she was such a child.

‘Yea, why’s that?’ He leant casually against a tree, smiling a half-smile at her that made it difficult to think.

‘I don’t know. They’ve always felt secretive, I guess. Like they’re in on things that I’ll never understand.’

‘Oh, they definitely are.’ He smiled, ‘the woods know everything.’

It was Jamie’s turn to laugh, although it was more of a giggle than a chuckle. The kind of giggle that instantly made her hate herself and curse her inability to retain control in-front of this boy. It was made even worse by his face, which made it apparent that he hadn’t been joking.

‘What do you mean?’ She desperately tried to get back on track, hoping she hadn’t offended him.

‘Come on. I’ll show you.’ He reached out for her, and she only hesitated for a second before clasping his hand, sending tiny sparks of electricity firing through her skin at his touch. Thankfully he didn’t seem to notice the blush that had spread across her face as he’d already turned away, leading her gently but firmly deeper into the woods.

‘Do you know where you’re going?’ Jamie asked, slightly worried as he pulled her away from the path.

‘Of course, I know these woods like the back of my hand.’

‘Did you grow up nearby?’ Jamie desperately tried to remember if he had told her where he was from, but it wouldn’t come. It was entirely possible it had been lost in the blur of starting college and falling head over heels for this beautiful boy.

‘Something like that. We’re nearly there, so you’ll need to be quiet.’

Jamie was confused now, quiet? Why? She did it all the same, what was the harm?

They pushed through a bush and came out on top of a hill. Although after a few seconds it became clear it wasn’t a hill and more of a valley, the ground dipping down to create a bowl in the land, at the bottom of which was a beautiful clearing that Jamie stared at open-mouthed. It was stunning, and she was about to say so before a squeeze on her hand reminded her not to.

‘Just watch’ his mouth was right next to her ear, and his warm breath sent tingles scuttling over her body.

For a few minutes, they crouched in silence, Jamie unsure what she was supposed to be looking at. It was nice to sit next to him, her hand still held in his, but it didn’t change the fact that this was getting a bit boring.

And then she was there. One second there was nothing, the next a beautiful woman was sliding into the clearing, tall and pale with features that reminded Jamie of the boy gripping her hand. She turned to look at him, desperate to ask a question but cut off by him placing a finger on her lips, quietly shushing her.

Over the next few minutes, a steady trickle of beautiful people entered the clearing, slowly forming a circle without a word to each other. Eventually, they ringed the area with only one gap remaining, which coincidentally was directly in front of their hiding place. Jamie was beginning to suspect she knew who it was for.

Before she could protest, he stood up, leading her down the hill in a way that didn’t seem to present much of an option. The hand that had previously felt warm and exciting was starting to unsettle her, especially when, with a deft movement, he swapped their places, moving Jamie in front of him as he stepped into the open gap, leaving her in the middle of this pale and beautiful group.

‘Em, what’s going on?’ Jamie decided silence was no longer an option.

‘Hush child,’ the beautiful woman spoke, ‘you’re safe here.’

‘I’d hope so,’ what had felt like a promising date was beginning to get weird, and the romantic fugue state that had muffled Jamie’s brain was lifting.

‘We’re here to welcome you, Jamie, into our family.’ That was him. He was looking at her with a hungry grin on his face, one which made him a lot less attractive.

‘Seems a bit much for a first date,’ Jamie tried to joke, hoping a bit of light humour would make the weirdness go away. It didn’t work.

‘You’ll become one of us, living here forever.’ That was one of the men, and as Jamie turned towards him, she noticed the same ravenous look on his face. They were all a lot less attractive than she’d thought.

‘No, I don’t think I’d like that, sorry. I’ll probably just be heading home.’ She walked towards the edge of the ring, determined to push her way out and go on her way. Her beautiful boy was there to meet her, though. Raising his hands to push her back into the circle, which was quite enough of that.

Without even thinking about it, Jamie lashed out and kicked him, as hard as she could, square in the shin. It was quite a hit, and she felt a moment of pride as he hopped on the spot. It wasn’t any more than that, though, as the second her foot had connected something had changed. Her beautiful boy was no longer so beautiful. If anything, he’d grown monstrous, and the look of hate on his face made her realise that she’d made a big mistake.

‘You bitch!’ He shrieked at her, spittle flying out of his mouth.

‘How dare you!’ Jamie didn’t aim for this shin this time, going a bit higher and in-between his legs with a well-delivered knee, delighted that her Mum had insisted she go to self-defence classes before leaving home to move to the big city. With a satisfying crunch, he doubled over, gasping for breath.

She turned to look at the rest of the circle, all of whom were staring at her with varying degrees of shock. ‘I’m leaving now, okay? Whatever the fuck this is, I want nothing to do with it.’

To her surprise, they seemed to accept that or were so shocked they didn’t get a chance to come up with an answer, and she’d taken off at a run before they had a chance, sprinting through the woods until she stumbled upon a path, bursting out onto it to the shock of an elderly couple walking their dog.

‘Are you okay, dear?’ The woman asked, wide-eyed at her sudden appearance.

‘Oh, yea, I think so. My Mum was right about boys in the city, though. Fucking weirdos, the lot of them.’

They stared after her in shock as Jamie headed for home, vowing never to follow a beautiful boy into the woods again.

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