Whenever my brother and I came home late for dinner, our Dad would tell us about the hide behinds. These creatures, he would say, would follow hikers as they walked through the woods. At the crack of a branch you’d turn around, but there’d be nothing there. Then out of the corner of your eye you might see a dark shape sprint behind a tree. Soon, your paranoia escalates, and you’re running through the woods. But there is no escape, he’d say. The hide behind would follow you until your heart stopped from the fright.

And I believed him, the child that I was. For a while, I’d never stay in the woods for too long or too late, and I was never late for dinner. But I soon grew out of such fantasies. There were other, real dangers of the woods to fear: getting lost or preyed upon by bears; the hidebehinds seemed so immature now.

Yet every now and then when I’d linger in the woods after twilight, a dark shape darting behind a tree would catch my eye. For an instant, my heart would skip a beat, but I dismissed them as deer or simply paranoia. I didn’t want to believe.

I should’ve listened to my instincts. There’s a reason people have an innate fear of the woods. There’s a reason we feel like something is following us when we hike home after dark. Like my childhood nightmares come to life, I found myself lost in the woods one day as the sun went down. I walked as fast as I could through the thick woods, trying to get my bearings. No, that’s the wrong way—I doubled back, just in time to catch a glimpse of something behind a tree. Perhaps that was the right way after all; I turn around and continue, faster. I look back, and there it is again—but this time, he lingers in the open for a while before disappearing behind the trees. Now I’m running. My heart races, the thorns tear at my legs. I need to go faster; I need to go on, but my legs won’t run any further. So I crawl. I crawled through the thickets until my hands were bloody and raw, and when I could go no further, I prayed for it all to be over.

I don’t know how I survived that night, what willpower kept me going. But somehow, I evaded those terrible creatures until sunrise and found my way back to civilization. It was a while before I went into the woods again. There’s a reason people have an innate fear of the woods. These creatures, these incarnations of paranoia, have haunted man for as long as he’s walked in the woods. My advice to anyone in the woods after dark: don’t look behind you.

Credited to Anonymous 
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.