It was dark. The night was cool. The air was crisp. A sliver of the moon hung in the sky above, and the stars burned brightly. The trees rustled quietly. The bugs sang their twilight songs.
He walked alone down a path at the edge of the woods. Sure, it was late, but he felt safe here, just a stone’s throw away from his apartment with the security lights burning brightly behind him. He was pleasantly buzzed from his night out, something well deserved after his long day. He enjoyed walking near these woods, especially in the quiet of the night. He had no reason to fear.
Or so he thought.
TAP. TAP. TAP.
He froze, cocking his head to listen. What the hell? He took a step closer to the trees, wondering. It’d sounded a lot like someone knocking on a door — but who else would be out at this hour? And who the hell would go knocking on a tree?
Leaves crunched under his feet as he took his first steps off the path. A branch snapped — somewhere off to his right. He stopped, his heart pounding. What was that? Who was that?
He was moving again before he knew it. His hands bunched into fists at his sides. His breath came in rapid pants. Too late, he realized he was moving deeper into the woods, and the apartment lights were getting faint behind him. He stopped, swiveled around and jumped when something — God, what? — crashed through the underbrush to his left.
What now? What now?
“Who’s there? What do you want?” His voice sounded oddly flat, muffled by the thick growth in the woods.
There was silence — even the bugs stopped singing — and then, slowly, the noise built, a creaking, groaning roar that sounded like a demon from hell.
Panicked, he twisted, turned, ran. Branches snagged his hair, scratched his face, ripped his clothes. Roots grabbed his feet, tripping him up. He lost all sense of direction. The apartments, once so close, grew only farther away as he ran. He tried to scream, but he couldn’t get his breath. His neck prickled, and he felt the danger bearing down on him, suffocating him. The darkness grew; the stars waned.
Death had him now.
The trees sighed with content. They had their sacrifice. It would keep them quiet for a few weeks, maybe even months. And then they’d hunt again, drawing the unsuspecting, the unwary into their trap.
The breeze shivered through their branches, and the night was quiet once more.