The Woods

Submitted by Noah Schwartz

A thin, wispy line of yellowish-orange light stretched across the
horizon. From the vantage point of a nearby hilltop, one could make
out the glint of the rays of light reflected off of the surface of
the expansive lake. The forest of red oaks remained dark as the
sunlight was not yet strong enough to penetrate the thick canopy of
leaves. The air was chilly and unforgiving, and the slight breeze
would not allow it to be easily forgotten. The only sound in the
woods was the solitary call of a Crimson Rosella; a sharp, shrill
chirp.
Josh skidded to a halt. He stooped, placing one hand against the
rough bark of an unusually large red oak, gasping for air. The tree
served him less in the way of physical support and more as a way of
focusing his mind. He needed something tangible. His mind was
racing. He desperately tried to latch onto a coherent thought. He
needed to calm down. He closed his eyes and began to breathe
slowly. Deeply. He needed to focus.
“Had anyone seen him?” The question lingered in Josh’s mind like
an old but painful bruise on his knee. That single question made
panic rise up in his chest and his heart beat so fast he feared it
might leap out of his mouth. He straightened up and gave a quick,
furtive look around. The woods were empty apart from the lonely
bird that had yet to cease its cry.
Upon realizing that he truly was alone, Josh calmed down enough to
continue running. He tore through the remaining trees until he
reached the edge of the woods. He wondered how he could return to a
life of normality. A life he had only eight short hours earlier. By
the time he reached the lake he had gained enough composure to
think rationally.
He told himself that nobody would ever know what had happened in
those woods. He told himself that nobody would ever know because he
had to.
The sun had risen to its pinnacle in the sky and the thin, wispy
line of yellowish-orange light had faded away.

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