Monday, October 12, 2009
Ghost in the Torchlight
After nightfall, I walked out into the black forest. I carried four torches up the grassy road to leave them, one by one. We call it the "Spooky Walk." A haunted walk from one halo to another. Little islands of orange fire with gauntlets of watchful woods between. It was a whim years ago, but the kids never forgot. They clamored for it this time again, so I carefully crept through the dark. My breath fogged in the cold.
When we were ready. Our younger daughter wanted to carry a lantern flashlight, but that would be cheating. She turned it to a dim red. No help at all.
Walk slow. Walk slow. You can trip. You can easily wander off the road. Then, the trees take you. Get lost, and you just wait. Wait for the unseen to claim you.
As we approached the fourth torch, the deepest in, two of us saw a shape fly in the dark. Our younger daughter declared "a bat," and swore it landed in a tree. I agreed, a bat, but scoffed at the idea of it landing.
We stood and talked by the torch. Shapes sparkled off in the darkness. But something bothered me about the ghostly flutter in the air. A little too big. A little too bright. We talked again about it landing in the tree above us. I looked into the starry branches. I felt a hazy presence up there.
I turned up a flashlight I'd stowed in my pocket. A pale barred owl stared down. Less than ten yards away. It cocked it head. Curious. Not flying despite our intrusion. Our clamor right under its tree.
A few minutes later, we took back the torch. We unlit the forest. We sat by the campfire back at the cabin and listened to the owl's sleepy serenade.
(Saturday, October 10th, 9:00 p.m.)