A Most Unfortunate View

2 Apr

Woods Lights.png

Alan had just moved into an eight story apartment in a new development on the outskirts of town. He was attracted to its proximity to the major highway on ramp that led him to his job, thirty miles away. It also had a lower price given its distance from downtown. What really closed the deal for Alan was the view.

From the laundry room window, he could see the skyline of downtown in the distance, off to the left. Situated right in front was a legally protected swath of woods. It measured around half of a mile in length and maybe a hundred yards in depth. A little stream ran through the middle so it was teeming with life. On the other side of the woods was a wall that delineated his middle class bubble from the outside world.

Immediately on the other side of the barrier was a trailer park, surrounded by a fence that time and a lack of funds had eroded. Beyond that was farmland as vast as the sea. Due to the highest trees in the wooded area, these features did not compose Alan’s view. These trees were seated on a slight incline that ran through the middle of the woods. This gave the impression they were a lot deeper than they were, as if they went on forever. Alan’s universe, from inside his apartment was the far off city and these immediate woods.

Alan smoked cigarettes in the laundry room. In the morning, the woods were green, lush and full of life. At night, they were black, eerie, yet still full of life. The distance from his 8th floor window gave him the bravery to stare at length into the woods for he knew that he wouldn’t even have the courage to stand at the edge by himself at night.

One night, while smoking, something in the blackness of the woods caught his eye. An isolated light would dance, momentarily, before going out only to reappear a few yards over in any direction. At first, Alan thought nothing of it but it had gone on long enough for Alan to chain smoke two cigarettes.

Alan called the guards at the gate. He fathomed there might be some kids playing with matches in the woods. The guards assured him they’d look into it and wished him a good night. His was pleased with his citizenry and decided to go to bed.

A half hour into slumber, the urge to urinate aroused him from bed. He decided he’d sneak another cigarette before going back to sleep. He saw a flashlight at the edge of the woods. It must be the guards, he thought. He saw the strange lights dance closer and closer to where the guards were. He almost called out to him but he remembered he was paying a premium to live far away from people who shout from windows.

The next morning, as Alan drove towards the gate, a group of police cars caught his attention. As he rolled by, he slowed to a stop and asked what was happening. He was told that one after another the guards went to investigate possible arson in the woods and all three failed to return. A chill rushed through Alan’s body. He didn’t even think to mention it was he who called it in.

At work, Alan could only think of the dancing lights. Wherever there was black, he saw them. Before turning on his computer, he saw them in the screen of his monitor. When going to the bathroom, he saw them in the moment of darkness before the automatic lights turned on. He went to smoke in the dark warehouse and he saw them at the other end. Those were moments of sheer terror before he found the light switch and made then go away.

Alan was jumpy all day. He decided he was not being productive so he shut down his computer and headed for home. He told his boss he was not feeling well and that he’d tie up some loose ends from his laptop. Given Alan was an excellent employee, his boss wished him well and told him he’d see him tomorrow.

When Alan pulled up to the gate, he pressed the remote opener but nothing happened. A guard came out from the booth and manually opened the gate. He was informed there had been no power since the morning. Having been on edge all day, this information made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

Alan parked his car in his designated spot and walked towards his building. The street lights in the parking lot were off so it was exceptionally dark. There wasn’t an iota wind, yet the woods sounded as if they were being blown around by a storm. As he approached his building and the woods became visible, he was shocked that not a single leaf stirred.

Alan was forced to take the stairs. As the fire door slammed behind him, he found himself in complete blackness. He waved his arms around to activate the motion sensors of the emergency lights and nothing happened. Fear paralyzed Alan. He turned to open the fire door with the intention of running from the building. He pushed on the bar and nothing happened. He was trapped.

He ran to the first floor in the dark. He pushed on the door. Nothing. It, too, didn’t open. He looked down from where he came. Tears filled his eyes when he saw the dancing lights. He wiped the tears away and ran to the second floor. The door wouldn’t budge. Although he didn’t feel anything, it sounded as if there were a strong wind blowing in the staircase. He looked back, the lights were already halfway between him and the first floor. He cried out in horror. He ran up the stairs in the dark, tripping over his heavy, clumsy feet. The lights continued pursuing him.

He reckoned he was around his floor and with all the faith he could muster he pushed on the door. It opened. He was, in fact, on his floor. The last dwindling day light crept in through a window at the end of the hall. All of the doors to all of the apartments were wide open, including his own. The windows of all the apartments were open as well and curtains were being sucked out and blown around by a wind that could not be felt.

Alan ran into his apartment and slammed the door. He turned the deadbolt and ran to the laundry room. Wind was pounding on his door. Alan squatted down in the darkness and hugged his knees, sobbing uncontrollably. With a crash his door flew open. The dead bolt was ripped right out of the jam.

The lights were dancing in his doorway and in those of his neighbors. He couldn’t move. A thousand memories flooded him at once, yet instead of being overloaded by the passing images he was able to distinguish each one individually and give each one a little attention, all at the speed of light. He came to the disappointing conclusion that this was it. It was all for naught, his life, so he thought he’d take the matter into his own hands.

His whole life he did the right thing; studied, worked hard and deprived himself of many pleasures and it was going to end like this. The lights danced towards him and with a primal scream, he threw himself through the window.

He braced for impact but after a few moments, re realized he was not falling. He opened his eyes. He was suspended in the air. He looked towards the woods and they were alive with the dancing lights. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, coming and going with unnatural spontaneity.

He felt himself being pulled towards the woods. He wept in defeat. As he was gently landed in the middle of the woods all went black. The dancing lights disappeared at once. The sound of wind immediately stopped. All the lights of the complex came back on. The three night guards from the night before emerged from the woods, naked and screaming. Alan was never seen again.

8 Responses to “A Most Unfortunate View”

  1. Eric Tonningsen April 2, 2019 at 6:11 pm #

    Audibly exhaling. Remind me, please, not to have you read bedtime stories to me. 🤭

    • Ryan April 2, 2019 at 6:58 pm #

      Thanks Eric! This is one of three stories that made the hairs on my forearms stand up while writing.

  2. Bruce Goodman April 2, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

    Eek! That was the most riveting thing I’ve read in yonks.

    • Ryan April 3, 2019 at 12:47 pm #

      Thanks Bruce!!!! How long is a yonk, exactly?

      • Bruce Goodman April 4, 2019 at 3:34 am #

        The length of a yonk apparently varies.

      • Ryan April 18, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

        LOL!

  3. umashankar April 13, 2019 at 4:57 pm #

    I have to thanks Bruce for sending me here. The atmosphere of the story has been built up steadily and deftly till the point where differences between the real and unreal, the living and the dead blur and vanish. I look forward to visiting again.

    • Ryan April 18, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

      I must thank Bruce for sending you here as well! I also thank you for taking the time to read it and offering such kind words. I am really glad you appreciated the atmosphere of the story. I got goose bumps writing it. Thanks again! I will surely take a look at your writing as well. Have a great day!

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