The Fairies

By Chef Tom

//Source.

I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown, particularly creatures of the unknown. I don’t know when this obsession of mine started. It probably started when I was a young kid and would watch documentary series on aliens, Bigfoot, Yeti, unknown sea monsters, and the like.

My obsession earned me my share of names and bullying in school. Like a good nerd I pushed up my glasses and shook it off and moved onto college where I earned degree in zoology and eventually my masters and PhD. Along the way I had discovered the gym, alcohol, women, contacts, and other things life had to offer. However, my main love was cryptozoology.

I spent two years of my late 20’s running around the world with well known and respected biologists, zoologist, marine biologists looking for new species and studying others that we knew little about. My colleagues and myself found new insects, fish, reptiles, but never anything that would fall under the strange or mythical. I made a name for myself in the science community. People liked to say I could find anything but Bigfoot. I enjoyed my small notoriety.

After those exciting two years I decided I wanted to work somewhere more traditional. While creating footprints around the world was fun, I was tired of never being in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. I also wanted to spend more time trying to research and find these storied monsters than work on someone else’s expedition.

I landed a job at a big state university in Ohio teaching in the biology department. I also started a cryptozoology club, which attracted a large following of students. With permission from the university, I would take students to so-called haunted places, hot spots for unknown creatures, and the like. We would always come up with some crazy disembodied EVP, blurry video, or grainy photo. We never had anything conclusive but it was fun for the students and myself and it got them to think outside of the box and question what we really know about our world. The passion for trying to discover the unknown that I saw in the group’s members is what kept my interest in it strong.

Like I said before, my main love was cryptozoology until one faculty Christmas party. There I met Diane. She was this beautiful brown haired woman about my age who worked in the English department teaching creative writing. I knew I needed to meet this woman. I wasn’t a scrawny nerd from high school anymore. I was in shape, successful in my field, and not too bad looking (at least I told myself that). I used a corny pickup line to introduce myself, she had a cornier comeback, we laughed, talked the entire party, exchanged numbers and the rest is history.

A few months after we started dating, we moved in together. I had never fallen so hard for someone. We shared a lot of common interests but had a lot of differences. I liked the outdoors and she preferred to stay in. I was a busy body and she was more relaxed. We both liked wine and a good book. She was a published writer who wrote these amazing stories about make believe creatures. I read several of her short stories and one of her books which all seemed to be centered on forest fairies and children.

“Diane,” I said closing her latest published book as I was sprawled out on the couch one evening. “Have I told you that you are an excellent writer?”

Diane was in the kitchen making her famous chicken alfredo. “Yes, but you can tell me again if you like,” she playfully responded.

“Can I ask you a question? Where do you get your inspiration for these stories?”

She walked out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a dishcloth. “I get them from the stories my grandmother told me when I visited her in Canada when I was young.”

I sat up on the couch and she gracefully took a seat next to me. “Tell me more, please,” I asked inquisitively.

“When I was young,” Diane began with a look of remembrance on her face, “we would visit my grandmother every summer in Alberta. She lived in a town called New Village. There weren’t many people there. It was a beautiful town shadowed by snowcapped peaks. There was a great big pine forest that lay between the town and the closest mountain. It was probably a few hundred acres or so. At the base of the mountain was this crystal clear lake that was full of fish and that emptied into a small river. All the kids in town would play in the forest, lake, and river but were strictly forbidden from staying out past sundown. This was enforced harshly by the towns people including my grandmother.” Diane paused for a moment.

“Go on,” I urged her with a smile.

“So, my grandmother would tell me about the fairies in the forest and how they liked to play tricks on people. If I disobeyed my elders they would take me away forever. Those stories always freaked me out. My parents didn’t like her telling me those stories but they agreed that I should listen to my grandmother and be inside before dark. The stories didn’t bother me too much until one of the young boys I played with each summer went missing in the woods. He ran away one night into the forest after a fight with his father. They never found him and the town’s people didn’t bother looking for him till after sunrise. I just can’t believe the people wouldn’t go looking for a boy in the forest until it was sun up unless they all truly believed in the fairies. The fairies in my books are mischievous but much nicer than the ones in my grandmother’s stories. They never take people away.”

Diane’s face was now a half smile. “Kind of your thing isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” I looked at her slightly confused.

“You know… Imaginary creatures that live in the woods.” She looked at me with a smartass grin.

“Well, I’ve heard and read up on fairy folklore but it’s not something that many cryptozoologists spend a vast amount of time on. However, I’ve never heard of a town afraid of fairies, especially from a first hand account. It would be interesting to investigate something like that.”

Diane smiled a mischievous smile that stretched from ear to ear. “Good. My parents want to meet you and I want you to meet them. My grandmother passed away when I was young and my parents inherited the house. They retired there a few years ago. You can come with me this summer when I visit them and solve the town’s fairy problem.” By this point she was standing over me, giving me the puppy eyes to agree.

Just like that, our summer plans were made and in early June I found myself on a plane from Ohio to Alberta with Diane and a bag full of some of my recording equipment I took on my excursions with my student group. Once there we picked up a rental car and drove what felt like hours into the forest covered mountains. At one point we left the winding highway to exit onto an even more treacherous two-lane mountain road. 15 min from the highway we arrived at what looked like a ghost town. There were several small shops that were closed and what looked like an unfinished hotel from the 60s.

“This place has become a ghost town since I was a girl,” Diane said as we drove past the abandoned buildings.

A few short minutes later we pulled into her parent’s driveway. Her parent’s house sat on a short dead end road of a few dozen houses. Behind her house lay the thick pine forest she had mentioned to me. In the distant background loomed a majestic snow capped mountaintop.

Her parents greeted us with smiles at the door. Diane excitedly hugged her mother and father. I, trying to hide my nerves meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time, quickly shook their hands and introduced myself as John, the guy that was here to fix their fairy problem. They both smiled and paused before saying through their teeth, “The fairy problem is under control. Come in, dinner is about ready.”

My nervous attempt to be funny appeared to have become a strikeout. Dinner went well and we talked about our trip up and what I did at the university. With our bellies full, Diane’s father invited me on out to the back porch for a beer.

“So you teach cryptozoology at the university?” Diane’s father asked before taking a big swig of beer from his bottle.

“No, I teach animal behavior and social interaction. I would like to teach cryptozoology at some point but I need to have the class curriculum written and approved before I can.” I slouched in my porch chair and began to enjoy my beer.

“I suppose Diane has told you a bunch of crazy stories about fairies in our woods?” I looked at him and gave a small nod as I took another sip from my bottle. “They’re all true. Sounds stupid crazy but they’re all true. My wife told me those stories too and I wouldn’t have believed them if I hadn’t seen some crazy stuff or experience our neighbors’ niece disappear one night two summers ago in that pine forest.” He pointed towards the wood line just off his back yard while taking another swig from his bottle.

“We’ve had a drought the last few years. The forest used to be dark and green. Now it’s just a sad brownish color.” Diane’s father finished his beer and looked up at the sky. The pines were brown and looked all dried out, even in the setting sun. The air wasn’t filled with that typical pine wood smell. In fact the air was cool and stale.

“You want to see a magic trick?” He asked me excitedly.

“Uh… sure,” I said half expecting him to pull a coin out from behind my ear.

“Watch the back gate. The sun sets at about 9pm today. About that time the latch will pop up and it’ll swing open. No hands,” he said waving his in the air.

Diane’s parents’ yard was fenced in with a single back gate, which lead directly into the forest. Some of the forest pines’ branches hung just over the gate. I wasn’t quite sure how to take Diane’s father’s statement. So I waited. The sun slowly crept behind the mountains and the clock reached 9pm.

I finished my beer as we quietly sat on the back porch. As I was about to get up and tell Diane’s father that this was the longest trick I’d ever waited for, the sound of scraping against the opposite side of the fence caught my ear.

It started at the back corner of the fence. It sounded like a child was dragging a stick across its pickets as they walked by. The sound accelerated towards the gate. I was laser focused on the gate, paying no attention to Diane and her mother who had walked out on the deck with us. “Ching” went the gate latch and the gate swung open slowly as if pushed softly by an invisible force.

“No way,” I muttered to myself as I slowly began to walk off the deck towards the back gate. A strong forceful grip pulled me back up on the deck. My head snapped around to see Diane’s father gripping my arm with force.

“Don’t go over there,” he said in with a stern voice and look.

“Robert, let him go,” Diane’s mother chimed in. “John, stay here. Don’t go anywhere near the woods or the wood line after the sun has set.”

“Mom… dad… stop.” Diane strongly pulled me away from her parents. “You’re embarrassing me.” She turned to me and said, “I’ll take you into the woods tomorrow. It’s fine. You’ll see. Come inside.” She turned and graciously stormed back into the house.

Feeling awkward, I pretended to take one last drink of my beer and began to follow Diane.

“You can go into the woods all you want during the day, but as soon as the sun sets you must be out,” Robert said, cutting me off before I could walk inside. I stopped and looked at him. His face showed genuine concern. I glanced back at Diane’s mother. Her face had the same expression.

“Diane really likes you, John,” her mother started. “We would prefer if you left with her when your visit here is done. Explore all you want but please listen to us about the woods.”

“Yes, please listen to Mary and me,” Robert said, almost pleading.

I looked down. “I understand. I’ll make sure to heed your warning. I brought some research equipment with me. Is it ok if I place a camera on the fence to capture this tomorrow?”

“That’d be fine,” Robert said. “Just do it early when it’s still light.”

I agreed, and with that I went inside feeling a bit confused at Diane’s parents insistence.

As I laid in bed that night with Diane’s head on my chest, I tried to piece together if her family really believed in “fairies” and if the concern on their faces earlier was genuine.

“Your family really believes in the fairies, don’t they?” I asked Diane.

She rolled over and picked up her head to face me. “It’s embarrassing. Not the fact that they believe in that stuff but that they are so adamant that the woods are a bad place. If I had been rebellious as a kid I would have run off into the woods many times. They are beginning to act like my grandmother when I was a child. I don’t know how my dad does that gate trick but it’s getting old. He pulled it on me two years ago and insists it’s not him.”

Diane was getting more annoyed the more she talked. “I’ll take you into the woods tomorrow. You’ll see. I used to play there as a child. There is nothing wrong with it.”

I pulled her in tight to my body and kissed her good night softly. “Ok, we’ll go have an adventure tomorrow,” I said before dozing off.

The next morning Diane took me into the pine forest after breakfast. She showed me all the things she could remember from her childhood. She showed me her favorite trails, which had become slightly overgrown. She showed me her favorite spot on the river and her favorite shore of the lake. The lakeshore was littered with dead fish here and there, but strangely no rotting fish smell.

“It’s a shame that they died. I remember the lake being healthy when I was young. We used to fish here as kids,” she explained to me as we navigated the shores.

On the lakeshore was an old foundation to a building that never started. Diane said that it was supposed to be a lodge for visitors to the lake in the 60s but it was never finished. The crumbling foundation was covered in moss and looked more like a pathetic version of Stonehenge than anything else.

It was about noon and we agreed to head back through the woods to get some lunch at her parent’s house. We walked hand in hand through the woods on trails that I was surprised she could still navigate from her childhood memories. I noticed that almost all of the pines were brown or brownish green. Their trunks were rather large, swollen even, as if stuffed with something, and most of the underbrush was dead or looked like it was dying.

Diane mentioned that there had been little rain during the summer and spring of the last few years. I thought it strange that the forest would be dried out but the river and lake didn’t seem to be at low levels.

At lunch, Robert brought the topic of cryptozoology and my interests in what they felt were fairies in the forest.

“You should talk to Daniel Whitefeather. He’s a detective with the county and lives a few houses down. He’s also the last of tribe that once lived here. He’s sort of an amateur historian for the area and has plenty of stories to tell about the fairies in the woods. I’ll give him a call and tell him you’re coming over.” Robert gave me his address and at the encouragement of Diane I ventured to his house that afternoon as Diane and her mother had planned to do some shopping in the next town over.

I knocked on Daniel’s door, unsure if he would be home or not. The lock unlatched and the door slowly opened to an older man with a weather beaten face.

“Are you Daniel?” I asked, reaching out for a handshake. “My name is John, and…”

“You want to know about the woods, correct?” He cut me off. “Robert called and told me about you. Come in, please. I’ve got a few hours before I need to head to work to cover a night shift.”

I entered his house. It was large and filled with mounted animals, fish, and a variety of what appeared to be Native American memorabilia. He led me to his living room and motioned for me to sit. His living room was walled on all sides by filing cabinets and bookshelves. There was no TV and a thick layer of dust caked most flat surfaces.

“So what can I tell you,” Daniel stated slowly taking a seat in the chair across from me.

“Well, whatever you know about the forest, or the supposed creatures in the forest,” I started. “I study unknown creatures, mythological creatures, or whatever you want to call them. I’m familiar with fairies in folklore but I’ve never encountered an entire town that seemed to fear these creatures like they do here.”

Daniel sat back for a moment and looked up at the ceiling as if to pull his thoughts down through the tile.

“My tribe, or rather my ancestors, was the first to settle this area. As the oral tradition goes, we were once a large and proud tribe that numbered greatly in Alberta long before the white settlers came. A harsh run of winters and warring with other tribes cut our numbers down and our enemies pushed us out of our original land. We wandered until we found this place. Cold, starved, and desperate for shelter we felt blessed to have come across a place with good hunting, the mountains to shelter us, and a river and lake to supply us with fresh water.”

I looked at him eagerly as he took a small break to remember his words. He sat up and leaned forward in his chair.

“The story goes that when we found this land, we were forbidden to enter the forest by the some strange creatures that lived there. My people would call them the forest walkers. They said they were guardians of the pine forest here. The chief seeing his people starving and without a place to live struck a deal with the forest walkers. We could hunt, fish, live here, and they would protect us as long as once every moon cycle, we agreed to give them one of our own.”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “So… like a sacrifice?”

“Yes,” Daniel continued. “Each full moon we would send one chosen person by lot into the forest. Their screams would fill the night sky. It was a horrible thing but for us to survive the chief made the deal and we kept to it. Many years would pass as we sacrificed one after another of our own. Our numbers would slowly decrease over time but those who remained were always safe, had food to hunt, and fresh water to drink.”

Daniel got up from his seat and walked over to his bookshelf and pulled out a leather bound book whose page edges were yellowed from age. He plopped the book down in front of me on the coffee table between us. The book landed with a thud and a dust cloud filled the air.

“Sorry. I’ve been busy and haven’t had much time to clean,” Daniel stated fighting back a cough and swatting the air to clear it.

“It’s no problem,” I calmly replied as I sat back, trying to avoid the allergen heavy mushroom cloud. “But how does what appears to be an Indian legend turn into a town of people fearing the woods?”

“That book,” he stated pointing at it, “Contains all of the stories about the forest walkers that have been passed down from generation to generation in my tribe. I started writing them down when I was young. I got them from the elders, my relatives, and many others before they all passed. I’m the last one and I figured someone should document this so others can know what we witnessed.”

Daniel sat back in his chair again now that the dust had settled.

“Everything changed when the white man came into our land. First it was one man. He was an explorer. We did not see him as a threat so we let him pass. However, he found gold in the river. He told others. Soon many others showed up looking for gold in the river. They brought furs, meats, beads, and guns. They were willing to trade for small pieces of land so that they could live here while they prospected. We agreed. The prospectors were supplying us with new things and we were trading small parcels of land for them. The white people cut down trees to make the clearing in which out town sits now. They built houses. They hunted and fished. We no longer sent one of our own into the forest every full moon.”

“So the sacrifices stopped because you were getting what you needed from settlers?” I questioned. “What about your deal with the creatures?”

“We lived peacefully along side the white man,” Daniel started again. “The forest walkers were angry that we had broken our deal. They would watch us from the tree line in the shadows. Their anger could be felt. One night several prospectors who were fishing the lake came home through the forest late. The walkers took one of them violently in front of the others. Their screams filled the night air. The survivors fled and never returned. They left their belongings and even their gold because they were so scared. Soon people who were in the woods past dark began to disappear. No trace could be found.”

Daniel sat up and took a deep breath. “When people started to avoid the woods after dark they started to trick people into coming into the woods. They would mimic the cries of children or loved ones during the night. Anyone who ran into the woods to save them would be taken. They took three mothers of our tribe once because the walkers cried like babies on the forest line. The women ran to save the “babies” only to be taken away. They only took one person at a time but they started taking them more often as revenge.”

“So they can mimic sounds or voices?”

“Yes,” he began while rubbing the side of his head. “They can take anyone’s voice or sound like anything that would entice you to enter the woods. The greed of gold was greater than the danger of being taken and more and more white people showed up until so many had disappeared that the word got out that this land was cursed. Many people left but those who were widows with small children stayed. Everyone who lives here now is a relative of someone taken. My tribe helped them and welcomed them to stay here. It became forbidden to enter the forest at night.”

“So why are there people still living here?” I questioned. “Why not pack up and leave this place if it’s cursed?”

“My people made a pact with those who were left from the prospecting rush. We agreed to guard this place and keep people from the evil here. We would tell no one about this place. We had made a deal and broken it. We had put others in danger. However, no matter what we did or said the word always made it out about the fishing and hunting or the gold in the river. People would come and disappear. Together we would warn them but they would disappear in the woods after dark. Once in the 60s a group found out about the fishing and tried to build a lodge on the lakeshore. They are all gone. We tried to warn them but they called us insane. It is only recently that this town and forest have gone unnoticed by the outside. There have only be a few disappearances in the last 10 years.”

“I’ve seen the foundation.” I sat up in the chair as I was drawn into his stories more and more.

Daniel got up and walked over to one of his filing cabinets. He pulled open the top drawer, creating another small dust cloud. He reached inside and pulled out a black binder that was stuffed full of paper work.

“Here,” he said, motioning for me to take the binder.

“What is this?”

“It is all the open missing persons cases that I am in charge of. They are all from here.”

“That’s crazy,” I said as I opened the binder. “There must be hundreds of cases in here.”

“Some people say I am a shit detective. I know what happened to those people but it’s not something you can put on an official report and still keep your job. If you look at the reports they all have the same pattern. These people were all last seen before dark in the forest.”

I ended my conversation with Daniel, as he was about to get ready for work. He was working a missing person case from two towns over. He let me borrow the case binder and the book of his tribe’s stories.

That evening I set up a small camera and microphone on the opposite side of the fence in Diane’s parents’ backyard. If I could get something on tape I might understand better what I was dealing with. I paired it with my laptop, set it to record, and left the laptop in the bedroom while I got ready for dinner.

While sitting on the back deck after dinner I eagerly read through the stories of his ancestors. The only interruption was the sound of a stick being drug across the fence and the pop of the fence latch coupled with the Robert’s voice repeating “Right on time,” as the sun set behind the mountain. I had forgotten about my camera at this point.

That night I excitedly discussed with Diane what I had discovered during the afternoon.

“You should interview the neighbors. Most of them are older and are retired so they’ll be home.”

“I think I’ll do that tomorrow,” I said excitedly. The idea of having discovered a legitimate cryptozoology find that I could present to the community raced through my mind like a blazing wildfire.

“Only if you take me to a fancy breakfast in the morning,” Diane said with a devilish smile. “Mother and I are going to go pick blue berries tomorrow evening to make pie. It’s her specialty and I think you’ll like it.”

“Deal.” I went to shut off the lights and realized my camera was still recording through my laptop. “Diane, let’s see if my camera caught what popped open your back gate!”

Diane slid across the bed as I swiped my fingers across the track pad to remove the screen saver. The camera screen popped up and the camera looked like it was facing up at a window on a house rather than down the fencerow.

“That’s our bedroom window,” Diane said quietly. I stood up and walked over to the window. I could see the power light on my camera looking back at me. Something had moved it. No one had touched it since I set it up that I could recall.

I hopped back onto my laptop and rewound the captured footage. At 8:57pm the camera started to wiggle and then it violently drops at an awkward angle to the ground just as the fence is starting to be scraped. We watched and listened as the gate latch unlocked and the gate swung open. What ever did it was just off camera.

“Did you hear that?” I asked intensely.

“What?” Diane replied.

I bumped the audio level up and skipped back on the video. In a hissing tone the words “No. See. Yet.” sounded. It was quiet but clear.

“What was that?” Diane asked with a quiet shocked tone.

I fast-forwarded through the footage until I saw the camera start to move. From there and unseen figure picked up the camera and put it on the post where it was now facing our bedroom window. Our bedroom light came on and in the background of the footage you could hear a faint giggle like a small child would make.

“John, that’s creeping me out.” Diane reached across my lap and shut my laptop.

“Turn out the light, we’re going to bed.” She rolled over into bed and pulled the covers over her body. I shut the light off and followed.

The next day after taking Diane to breakfast in the next town over I went door to door asking people what they knew about the forest. Many were hesitant to talk to me until I explained who I was, what I believed, and that I intended to study what was going on. Once that was out of the way, I was warmly welcomed into many of their homes.

The town’s people had a wide array of stories. I wrote down as much as I could in a notebook. Their stories ranged from relatives disappearing to hearing strange voices at night to seeing groups of travelers go missing in one night without a trace. Many were older stories of loved ones who wandered into the forest late or failed to make it out before sun down. Everyone seemed to believe in the creatures that populated the pine forest but no one had ever seen one. One older gentleman mentioned his sister had gone into the forest on an afternoon stroll and never returned. For months afterward he swears he could hear her voice calling every evening to him from the woods but he dare not enter. Eventually the voice stopped.

The rest of the afternoon I dedicated to taking notes on all of the missing persons cases. I only stopped to kiss Diane goodbye as she and her mother left to get blue berries from the forest. She had promised to be home in an hour or two. I was fine with her going since it would be several hours before the sun went down.

“You feel ok going into the woods after the video feed from last night?” I questioned.

Diane shuddered and then sighed. “Nothing bad has ever happened during the day. My mother will be with me. I’m sure it was probably my dad playing a trick on us.”

“Just come home safe to me.”

She smiled and closed the door. I returned to my reading.

Each case had the same set of circumstances. The person was last seen going into the woods before dark or just after dark and not returning once the sun had set. Several of the cases mentioned witnesses hearing strange sounds from the woods. One case in particular mentioned that a county police search group went into the woods after dark. None returned. There was no good explanation of why the people went missing. News clippings placed the blame on people getting lost in the Canadian outback or the possibility of these people running into bears or wolves.

Exhausted after all my note taking I closed the binder full of cases and sat back in my seat in the living room. I breathed deeply and stood up, collecting the binder and book that Daniel had let me borrow.

The front door swung open slowly. I looked up hoping to see Diane and her mother but to my surprise Robert walked in.

“Hey… I didn’t even know you were gone,” I said in a tired tone.

“Yeah,” Robert started as he took his shoes off at the door, “You were buried so deep in your reading that you didn’t notice I left for town. Just went out to get some gas for the mower. Yard is getting kind of long and needs to be trimmed.”

“Keep an eye out for Diane and Mary. They went to pick blueberries in the woods and haven’t returned yet.”

“Ok. The girls still have time. Sun won’t set for another 3-3 ½ hours.” I could hear a slight worry in his voice.

I finished gathering my things and walked to Daniel’s house to return his items. When I arrived he was sitting on his front porch, still in his police uniform with a beer.

“John,” he said with a smile holding the beer up in salutation. “I see you’ve come to return my things. Did you find what you needed?”

I handed him the book and binder and took a seat beside him.

“I found a lot of interesting stuff. I interviewed many of the neighbors and I believe everyone feels like there is something in the woods. All the missing cases are similar. All the Indian stories are intriguing, but tell me something… Why are there people still living here? I understand your ancestors made a pact, but why not just up and leave?”

Daniel put his beer down on the porch and sighed deeply. He raised his hands up and placed them behind his head before sinking back into his chair.

“This will sound stupid but it has been an oral tradition and agreement of all those raised here that we would stay and make sure nothing would be built on this land beyond what has already existed. We didn’t want other folks to suffer what our ancestors have gone through. Everyone here is a relative of a prospector or settler that came here many years ago. Everyone has lost someone to those woods. All those boarded buildings in town belong to someone here. They’ve just agreed to never sell them and let them fall into dust. Most people couldn’t afford to move away anyway. Some of the houses up the street are the same way. Why give something to someone in the horrid place? We grew up here. We know what it’s like to hear the noises in the night and fear for visiting relatives. If the towns people all die off and this place falls off the map, it’d be best for everyone.”

He took another deep breath.

“We are the last of the people who will live here. Diane’s parents were raised here. She wasn’t. When they are gone the house will sit abandoned. Just like the rest.”

I sat in silence trying to wrap my head around what Daniel was telling me. Sure none of the houses in the town were extravagant and no particular person seemed to be wealthy, but how could they live in a place that they all seemed to fear?

“What do they look like?” I asked.

“Who?” Daniel replied, sitting up a little straighter as if surprised by my question.

“The forest walkers or the fairies or whatever you want to call them. What do they look like? I have no descriptions in any of the text you gave me. The only indication of someone talking to them was your ancestors.” I sat up and looked at Daniel with a stern look.

“Tonight is a full moon. Only a few people have been lost in the woods during the dark in the last ten years. They are angry. You can feel it in the air. I’m going to retire in two years. I spent my life trying to find those missing people. I’ve been in the woods during the day. They are hard to see. They are tall and very skinny. If you look hard you can see their outline among the trees. It’s very hard to make out, but there are hundreds of them. They are in the woods now. They won’t move until dark but even now you can look among the tree line and see them standing still.”

Daniel pointed towards the woods that were across the road from his house. I looked hard but could see nothing but pines in the fading light. I thanked him for his time and resources and made my way back to Diane’s parents house in the waning light. The sun had set and a cool breeze blew over the road and into the woods as if the forest itself was inhaling. I walked along the broken sidewalk looking into the dark pines to see if I could catch a glimpse of what Daniel was talking about. The moon was full and extra bright. It almost looked like day out with a slightly bluish tint. There was no noise. No bugs. No birds. Only the breeze and my footsteps filled the night air. I would be home in just another 100 yards or so.

“JOHN!!!!!” A blood-curdling cry sounded from just inside the forest line.

That voice. I knew that voice. It was Diane. The hair on my neck stood straight up. My heart began to pound with a violent fervor. Diane hadn’t come back with her mother when I left. What if she hadn’t made it out of the woods? What if she was hurt? What if she was being taken?

“JOHN!!!!” The scream sounded again. This time it sounded like she was in agonizing pain.

I was in the woods twenty yards deep before I realized what I was doing. My eyes scanned everywhere frantically. “DIANE!” I called out. There was no answer only dead silence. The moon was so bright I could make out almost everything from the light that shown through the pine branches. “DIANE!”

I was breathing through my mouth now. My breaths matched the frantic pace of my heart. I stood there in silence. I looked hard at the dense pine forest in front of me. Movement caught my eye. I wasn’t alone. There was movement everywhere but I couldn’t see exactly what it was. Whatever it was made no noise and it appeared translucent, almost invisible. As if out of nowhere the translucent shapes melded into reality.

They were human height. They had thin legs, arms, and body structures. Their white skin looked dry but ridged like a worm’s. Their heads were large white sideways cone shapes with no features, only a small black hole in the front.

My muscles tensed as pure fear flowed through me. I couldn’t move. I was awestruck and fear consumed at the same time. Dozens of these things were in front of me. They all looked horribly the same. I wanted to run. I couldn’t. One of them moved slowly towards me. 20ft from me it stopped. It was dead quiet. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it.

The hole at the front of its head grew larger as if something was pushing out of it. Like the peeling of a sausage casing the skin of this thing pulled back and out of the black appear to be a young woman’s head.

My jaw dropped. I could feel my heart beat in my ears. Her hair was black and greasy looking. Her eyes were black ovals. Her skin was pale. She looked up at me. It felt like an eternity as I looked at this human head upon this monstrosity. Her mouth opened.

“John,” her voiced echoed. But I knew that voice. It was Diane’s. Confusion took over. The woman head on this monster twisted sideways in horrible manner while looking at me with a blank facial expression.

“John… John… John…” Diane’s voice repeated faster and faster. Then an ear shattering maniacal laugh echoed from its mouth. Tear streaked down my face as my lips began to tremble. It stopped. From jaw to forehead the woman’s face split in half, opening from side to side as if it had been sliced through, revealing a mass of razor sharp teeth and flailing tentacle like tongues.

The creature shrieked. It was so high pitched and growling that it made the forest shake and my ears ring. I fell onto my back with a hard thud and for the first moment since I saw the thing I could move. I began to shuffle frantically backwards kicking my legs to propel me away from this monstrosity. The creature dropped to all fours and began to rush me in the most inhuman way possible. I knew there was no way to get up and outrun it in time. It was about to be upon me. I raised my arm to cover my face.

“No!” I shouted as I looked away. Nothing. I felt no pain. No creature landed on me.

“JOHN… MOM… DAD… NOOOOO!!!!” A cry rang out in Diane’s voice but only this time it sounded as if it came from the direction of her home. I immediately stood up trying to comprehend what was happening. The creatures were gone but something in the underbrush moved violently away from me tearing up ground and shaking branches as it went.

“Mary, NO!” Another voice rang out. It was Robert’s. I was still confused and scared but I wasn’t going to stay in those woods any longer. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to Diane’s parent’s house.

Robert was in the backyards restraining Mary who was sobbing, “Let me go… Let me go…”

“She’s gone. They might take you too,” Robert replied hugging his wife with all his force.

“What happened?” I demanded.

“Oh my God, John,” Robert said as he turn to me in shock. “Diane swore she heard you screaming in the woods and ran in after you. We tried to stop her.”

A scream of pain from Diane rang out in the distance. My fear and adrenaline rush turned to anger. They took the woman I loved. Those hideous things took Diane. Without thinking I ran to the garage and scooped up the gas can Robert had filled earlier in the day. I scanned the garage frantically and found a propane torch on a shelf. I quickly made my way to tree line in their back yard.

“Robert, hold this,” I commanded as I shoved the propane lighter into his arms.

I began pouring the gas carelessly on the trees and the brush along the forest line.

“What are you doing?” He asked with a puzzled look on his face still trying to comfort his wife.

I looked him dead in the eye and cold stated, “Give me the torch. If they want to take her, I’m taking the forest from them.”

He reluctantly handed over the torch I had just forced him to hold.

The forest was dry. The breeze was blowing into the forest. I opened the propane valve, lit the torch, and tossed it into the brush. In seconds there was a towering inferno before me. I grabbed Robert and Mary who were in shock at what I had just done and drug them to the front yard. The fire raged quickly and moved faster than anything I’ve ever seen before. Soon the entire town was standing on the road watching the blaze consume the pine forest they had always known. I stood silent among them with rage in my eyes.

Suddenly inhuman screams of horror and pain filled the air. They were piercing like a knife causing many people to hold their ears. The town’s folk held their ears tight to block out the sound. Many ran back to their homes in fear or gripped each other for comfort. The screams roared deafeningly on and on as the fire raged until suddenly as quickly as it started the screams went silent and only the blaze could be heard.

Someone called the fire department, which alerted the forest rangers. There was nothing they could do. The flames spread so fast that the entire forest was burnt to the ground before they could enact a plan. I admitted to starting the fire and was arrested that night by the county police.

I spent three days in jail with little or no human contact. The cops moved about the office in a frantic matter as if they were swamped with more work than they could handle. They ignored me for the better part of my stay there, only feeding me and checking in on me before night.

When I awoke in my jail cell the third morning, Daniel was there to greet me.

“Good morning,” I said groggily.

He opened the cell. “You’re free to go, John.”

“What?” I was confused and a little shocked.

“Come with me.” He motioned for me to follow him. I stood up and did as he asked. “They found Diane.”

“Is she ok? Is she hurt? How…?” My heart was over joyed in my confused state.

“She had some burns, cuts, bruises, suffered from some smoke inhalation, and seems to be in shock, but she’s alive. Get in the car and I’ll take you to the hospital. I would have told you sooner but I’ve been busy with everything that has been going on.”

“Thank God!” I shouted. “But wait. I’m confused. Why am I going free?”

“Get in the car. I’ll tell you about it on the ride over.”

The car ride to the hospital was about an hour. On our way over Daniel explained that I was the least of the problems the county had to deal with now. None of the houses in the town were damaged. The wind blew the fire in the opposite direction. Search and rescue teams combing the forest at night and early morning found Diane on the lakeshore. She was nude and in shock but alive.

The biggest issue the county had to deal with was the hundreds of skeletons found in the forest. They weren’t scattered about like victims of a forest fire would be. The burnt out pine tree trunks contained dozens of skeletons as if they had been stuffed into the trees. Daniel showed me a picture on his phone that he had taken at one of the scenes. The photo contained a swollen looking tree trunk that was burnt out. Inside the trunk you could clearly see a human skeleton contorted in a horrible fashion with the tree growing around it. What looked like wooden veins of bark fused to the skeleton as if they were growing together. Some of the skeletons had been identified by dental record as people who had gone missing in the woods form the 60’s. Others were determined to be hundreds of years old.

The coroner was now trying to figure out whom the skeletal remains belonged to and how they could have possibly been encased in a tree.

“Most of my missing person cases will probably be closed because of this,” Daniel said breathing a heavy sigh of relief. “I’ve only slept a few hours the past few days because of all the paper work I have to do.”

Daniel dropped me off at the hospital and I made my way to Diane’s room. Her parents were there. She was bruised and cut up, but alive. Sitting there in her bed, looking forward, jaw agape, not blinking at all. When I walked in she turned to me slowly, not blinking. When our eyes met she began to sob. I ran to her and embraced her warmly.

“They took me,” she said through heavy sobbing. “They ripped my clothes and tried to put me in there.”

“Where?” I asked fighting off tears of my own while continuing to hug her tightly.

“In the trees… In the trees,” she said through sobs. “They feed the forest with us. The forest was dying and it hungered.”

Not another word was said. I just held her tight till her sobbing stopped.

When Diane was released from the hospital we left for home. Her parents boarded up the house and bought a condo close to where we work. It’s been years since this happened. We don’t talk about it. Her parents don’t talk about it. Yet I’m still obsessed with whatever these things were.

With the forest gone a development company bought all the land that the town sat on cheap and turned it into a housing development. No one has since disappeared in that area, to my knowledge. There are some reports that the place is haunted and that at night you can still hear strange voices and screams.

My camera had been recording the night of the fire. I watched the video once before I deleted it. Right before Diane was taken, the latch on the gate was popped by something transparent that my camera couldn’t make out. The camera is then suddenly turned to the forest. My voice… My voice can be heard calling Diane’s name in a scared tone. Diane can be seen running into the forest calling for me. As she disappears beyond what the camera can see there is a voice that giggles like a small child and then states, “We take,” in a raspy high voice. The brush all around moves violently towards where Diane was last seen before you can hear her screams.

I still run my cryptozoology group at the university and have never come across another story of such creatures. As obsessed as I am at trying to figure out what they were, if I ever came across another place that talks about fairies in the woods whom take people, I would probably pass on investigating those stories.

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