I remember when I was a kid, about 12 or so, I had a couple of friends. They were a little younger than me. We lived on separate cul-de-sacs, but it wasn’t hard to reach the other one for either of us. You see, there was a small forest-like area between the two and we’d simply weave through trees and find a beaten path in order to get to one another. There was even an old treehouse that we would all sit in. We’d tell each other stories, some scary, some silly, and often spend hours there, but… As time went on, things seemed stranger and stranger.
I remember chatting with Dylan. He was always a bit of an oddball. When his brother and I were about to walk through the forest to head to my house, Dylan just shook his head. “Dad told me this is a bad place. We should take the long way.” Trey, his older brother, just laughed.
“Don’t be such a chicken! We’ve been through here a lot. If nothing bad happened before, why would it happen now?”
“But… What about the law of probability that you told me about?” Dylan looked at me almost pleadingly, as if begging us not to go through.
“I’m willing to take my chances.” Being the big sister figure of the group, I was usually the one the two boys looked up to. They both followed me without question.
“Ew! Something smells like rotten eggs!” Dylan complained and covered his nose.
“Dylan, don’t complain, you just farted.” Trey held his nose and made a face at his younger brother. As for myself? I just had this weird feeling that something wasn’t right, so I stayed quiet. I didn’t want to scare them.
“We’ll skip the treehouse this time. I’d rather not be stuck in a tree with someone with gas that noxious.” Both of the boys laughed and I gave a half-hearted smile. We went to their house, owned by their grandma, a very religious and preachy type who was all but shy about disliking me. I never understood why she hated me so much, but I never will. She’s six feet under, now.
“What’s that smell?” The grumpy old woman mumbled.
Trey and Dylan just pointed at each other. Laveda, their grandmother, just gave me a hateful glare.
“IT’S HER! SHE BROUGHT THE DEVIL INTO THIS HOUSE! SHE NEEDS TO BE BAPTIZED AND PRAYED FOR!”
I just stared blankly at her. She was holding her crucifix necklace and mumbling something as she walked, or waddled, back to her bedroom. Some televangelist program was on. She flopped down on her bed and was reading a romance novel while her television was blaring.
“Sorry about that,” Trey said with an embarrassed grin.
“It’s alright, I’m used to it,” I rolled my eyes and we did the usual. We all just plopped down in the living room and played Tekken. Dylan and I would take turns. When Dylan didn’t play the PlayStation, he was playing with his G.I. Joes and when I wasn’t playing, I was drawing dragons.
When it was time for me to go home, since we had school the next day, they came with me through the forest. I could tell Dylan was scared. His jaw was clenched shut and his big blue eyes were shifting around. Trey just kept giving him hell. It was starting to get dark, but there was just enough light for me to see the path I would follow. I thought I saw… Hoof prints? I disregarded it, just mentally writing it off as prints left by a deer, despite their size. The deer in the area weren’t very big. I just felt the hair on the back of my neck rise. I knew I couldn’t fool myself.
“Let’s hurry,” I said as calmly as I could. Trey and Dylan both hated when I got that sound to my voice. They knew something was up.
“What’s wrong?” Trey always got worried about me when I sounded serious.
“I’m hungry and my mom probably made something good for dinner.” I tried so hard to dismiss his worry. It seemed to work. I just started walking faster and the two boys caught on. They kept up with me, and when we finally arrived at my house, I just told them to stay until my dad got home to drive them back. Surely enough, my lie wasn’t exposed. My mom made pretty awesome meatloaf, so we all ate and the pair forgot all about how strange I acted in the woods. When my dad got home, I just told him to drive them home so they wouldn’t get in trouble.
“What’s wrong?” My mom asked me. I froze in mid-bite of my dessert. She could always tell with me when something was off. I was much closer to my mother than I was my father at that time. I was never very good at lying to her, so I just said it and got it over with.
“Well, you know the woods we cut through?” She nodded to me. “Well, everything about them seemed weird today.”
“It smelled weird. Like… Like bad eggs.”
“Is that what makes eggs smell bad when they’re rotten?” She nodded again. “And… I felt like someone was watching me when we left.”
“You know, that reminds me of reading about demons when I was a kid. I don’t believe in those sort of things, anymore. I’m sure it was just your imagination.” She curled her arms around me in a gentle hug. “Now get to bed, at least tomorrow is Friday.” I knew she was trying to reassure me, but I was still nervous.
I had a restless sleep. I couldn’t help but toss and turn and I kept waking up. Every time, I swore I heard scratching on my window. My cat even got irritated with how much I was wiggling and hopped off the bed, giving me a baleful glance. It was 5 AM. I got ready for school two hours early and just drew until I ate breakfast and had to get on the bus. Trey and Dylan sat with me and we just chatted casually until Dylan piped up with something that threw me off.
“What do you know about demons?” His blue eyes were wide with youthful curiosity.
“I know they’re bad and we should stay away from them.” He just nodded and leaned on me drowsily.
After we got off the bus, it was a normal day at school. Boring. When Trey came to sit with me, he just said that he’d need me to come by to help him with his math homework. I didn’t mind so much. When I arrived at home, I asked my mom what I should do to defend people from demons. She gave me an odd look and just handed me a salt shaker.
“Just sprinkle it around if you get scared, okay?” I nodded. These were the days when I thought Mother always knew best. I don’t always think so, now that I’ve gotten older, but being a child gave me so much faith in my elders.
Trey and Dylan showed up at my door before I could start heading towards the forest.
“B! Something is weird in the forest. Like… Really weird!”
“Stop screwing around, Trey.”
“No, I mean… It’s all dark and stuff!” Trey was always trying to pull pranks on other people, so it was normal for me to disregard something like this. I turned to look at Dylan, who never liked playing along. He nodded. I was always the brave one. I stepped out in front of them, armed with my salt shaker.
He was right. The forest felt so oppressive, and everything looked considerably darker. “I’m spending the night with you guys tonight, okay?” I didn’t want to cross back through there anytime soon. I sprinkled salt around before I stepped anywhere.
“Why are you doing that?” Dylan asked.
“My mom said it keeps the bad things away.” Dylan clung to my arm as any child of seven or so would do. Trey kept close behind. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rise again. I turned my head and I still can’t explain what I saw.
A large pair of golden eyes were staring out at us from a dense thicket. They were too large to belong to any local animal. The low light reflected off of them, making them gleam ominously. I heard the crunch of branches and leaves crushing under the weight of whatever it was that was watching us so intently.
“Run.” I demanded. The two boys gave me wide-eyed stares.
“You heard me! RUN!” They didn’t argue, they bolted, and I was directly behind them. I felt myself tremble slightly as I could swear I felt fiery breath on the back of my neck and the swiping of claws at my back. I thought I heard the fallen leaves and twigs crackling and crunching beneath its feet, but as I stepped out of the forest and into the sunlit street, it felt as though a cool breeze blew away my pursuer. Peering over my shoulder, the forest still looked shadowy and unwelcoming. Needless to say, Trey, Dylan and I never went back that treehouse again.
When I showed up on their porch, I was short of breath, panting and finally dropping down to the wooden surface so I could rest. Both of them seemed really concerned, so I was helped up and led inside. I was pretty sure my eyes had even watered. I was scared, and that was rare for me. We did our best to act like nothing strange happened, all in vain, because none of us ever forgot.
We never went through those woods again. We would take the long way around just to avoid whatever was there. Shortly before I moved at 15, someone bought the plot of land that we decided to call “Axaram’s Keep”, partially because we thought it sounded cool and scary. ‘Axaram’ was what I went about calling the being living there after experimenting with one of those Ouija boards. I don’t know what happened to Axaram’s Keep since then. It exchanged hands several times, or at least that’s what my mother tells me, but to this day, I still remember everything so clearly. For all we know, the whole plot of land could’ve been cleared by now.
Now, albeit more than a decade since the incident, I occasionally have dreams in which I see him. A charred face with glinting yellow eyes gazes maliciously into my window, gnarled and blackened fingers clawing at the glass. Rows of pointed, half-rotten teeth expose themselves to me in a menacing grin as he tries to beckon me forth. The silhouette of his twisted horns is clear in the moonlight. He attempts to make me open the window in every dream. His voice hisses to me in mock playfulness, “Let me in…”
Sometimes, I think I smell sulfur when I wake, only to stare out my window and see nothing there. In the morning, I sprinkle salt outside my window, hoping that will be enough to keep him away.
Written by Shinigami.Eyes.