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.)


Margaret said...

These are the beautiful memories that will stay with your kids for a lifetime Jason. A walk in the dark always has something spooky about it. It sounds like you had an awesome time.

Shadow said...

this is perfect in its reality...

Aine said...

Such a perfect visit from Hedwig on such a magical night!

Thanks for capturing it here. I love how CoN is a sort of cyber-scrapbook.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Your tale has just the right amount of foreboding for a family's night of exploration of the fall woods! Loved the tension and then the attenuation, as we learn that the forest phantom is a wonderful barred owl. How exciting and wonderful! I love your pacing and word choices. Always a pleasure!

Unknown said...

Beautiful imagery created, loved it!

How nicely you created the evening spent in the woods, I think I heard the rustle of winged flight.

Dottie :)

Nevine Sultan said...

Owls are enigmatic creatures, aren't they. And don't they always say that truth is more powerful than fiction? Or something like that... That was powerful, and fun!

Jean said...

"We unlit the forest." Brilliant.
Superb throughout.

PhilipH said...

Elegant story.

Owls, I love them. At night around here one can hear them hooting and whistling non-stop. I think they are just warning the others not to come into their manor.

DILLIGAF said...

Put me in mind of C S Lewis did this. The Parliament of Owls from 'The Voyage of The Dawn Treader'

Nice read old bean.

Cheers, 4D

Anonymous said...

You've created the right amount of detail to provide a sense of being there; walking through the forest, feeling the atmosphere of it all. I like the last line: "We sat by the campfire back at the cabin and listened to the owl's sleepy serenade."

PS: I see you work in Philadelphia. I'm from there but live outside of the city limits now.

Amias (ljm and liquidplastic) said...

Beautiful story, I felt like I was right there. I love Owls, and I too loved the ending.

Anonymous said...

Margaret, thank you. :) I'm glad I recorded it too. I don't usually just write what happens on our adventures, but this time was a good exception!

Shadow, the reality was the best part.

Aine, yes, I did want to scrapbook it! Later, I thought that we should've checked the owl for a letter. ;)

Kaye, I'm glad that I could foster a bit of drama in the retelling! Thanks for the feedback. :)

Dottie, the owl was so secretive, yet bold. A true gift.

Nevine, yes, sometimes we stumble on some delicious truths. :) Of course, it helps to put ourselves in rich times and places.

Jean, I wonder what we look like walking the forest with our torches.

PhilipH, that's amazing! We used to hear them more years ago. Now, perhaps they've gone silent.

Four Dinner, some wonderful comparisons! Thank you!!

She Poet, I'm glad my word choices could add a little extra spark. :) And yes, I work in Philly, but take the trains in from the 'burbs.

Amias, in a way, you were there. As is anyone who shares the moment with us.

PixieDust said...

*sigh... this is what it's all about, yes? Now, imagine your children retelling this to their children...



JR's Thumbprints said...

Let it be, the unknown, until it opens its wise old eyes.

RustyNeurons said...

I was quite scared to know if it were really a 'bat'.

Beautifully written. Have been lurking around for sometime now. I enjoy your stories immensely.

Karen said...

This is a beautiful piece of expository prose. It should be published.

Anonymous said...

PixieDust, I'm hopeful that they will relate it. :) I try to do extra so that our adventures rise to that level. Thanks!

JR, that first moment is when we sense whether its going to go for the good, or for the ill.

RustyNeurons, we've had our share of bats up there! Some, up close and personal. And thanks so much for delurking!! I'm very grateful that you enjoy reading The Clarity of Night. :)

Karen, thank you kindly! Now we just need to get those editors to feel the same way. ;)

Vesper said...

A magical reality...

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.

This gave me chills, but the piece is beautiful throughout.