I had walked several miles and the path had insidiously narrowed until I came to the sudden realization that it had become little more than an indistinct track. I wondered if the barber had led me astray? I discarded those thoughts as counter productive, irrational even. I doggedly stuck to the path, making haste trying to beat the swiftly deepening gloom around me to my destination. It was a race I was doomed to loose: the trees that bordered the path seemed to block the diminishing rays of the setting sun. Soon enough, I found that I had lost the path. I gritted my teeth to keep from as I stumbled in the pitch black forest worrying about falling into the lake that had to be somewhere nearby. I knew for a fact that there should have been stars and a sliver of moon above the trees to guide me on my way, but the leaves let no light in and locked me in oppressive blindness. Figuring I could only worsen my situation by wandering blind, I decided that the best course of action was for me to find a relatively comfortable tree to sleep against. I tripped a few times but quickly groped my way to an appropriate tree. Sitting against its trunk with my arms tucked into my jacket to fight off the chill, I let weariness overtake me.
I slept thus for a few hours. I’m not sure what woke me, the crick in my neck, the pine needles pricking me through my pants, or something else altogether. I realized that the darkness I had experienced earlier must have been due to clouds because I could make out vague outlines of trees in the darkness. Everything was eerily quiet. Then, the death scream of some animal I couldn’t identify cut through the silence. I thought to myself that surely there were no predators in this forest large enough to threaten me, surely that was but the sound of a fox or a badger catching some small unfortunate furry mammal; but for all my reasoning, the sound had awakened a primal apprehension within me, or perhaps it was some sort of intuition. The scream seemed to have come from some ways off, and though I figured I was in no danger, I felt that I would not be able to fall asleep again.
I was debating whether I should try to take advantage of the semi-darkness to find the path when I first heard it, the strange far off sound of piping notes… probably from some manner of flute-like instrument. The music was played in a scale I did not recognize, and though weird it was certainly, in its own peculiar way, beautiful. Where there’s music, there’s a musician, I thought to myself. I ran in the direction I judged the music to be coming from but soon discovered that it made no difference in which direction I ran: the music seemed to be coming from all around me. A trick of acoustics, the sounds echoing off of the trees, I told myself. I briefly considered calling out, but again some primal sense made me think better of it. Then the music stopped… There was utter silence for a few minutes and I imagined that the gloom deepened. I heard faint rustling in the trees above… More than the wind could account for surely, besides I felt no wind cooling the nervous sweat upon my face. Suddenly I was surrounded by the shrill sound of demented laughter. The shadows were filled with it, and it seemed to me that the laughter brimmed with inhuman malice. Gripped with fear I ran, ran blindly from the sounds that pursued me.