So we're camped out and gathered around the fire and you know the drill by now. For summer, it's cold. No-one can relax. The fire we've got going isn't warming us. We're all just staring out into the black of the woods. The treetops block out the stars, and so beyond the shy glow of the fire, the wood is a gaping maw of blackness. Every sound amongst the mass of trees feels cacophonous. Every rustling leaf sends us pointing our Maglites into an unremitting layer after layer of tree trunks. Sometimes I think I see movement from one to the other, or even the outline of a tall, thin figure.
But it's just my imagination. You look for something long enough, you're gonna see it, whether it's there or not. Anticipation does odd things to the brain.
I had a dream about him last night. I dreamt that I was in the woods at night, just like I am now. I'm wandering through, alone, my torch much like it is now, a pin-prick amongst the blackness. Wandering aimlessly, searching for something I can't recall. The trees are bare, as though it's winter, and the mesh of their branches loom over me like giant fingers flexing. My eyes pass tree after tree. They surround me, growing tightly next to one another. Suddenly, ahead of me, a movement. A tree's branches droop, and the bark of the trunk and the white wood inside unfurls itself to form a torso and head, and the roots disengage themselves from the ground to form legs, and before I know it, the tree is him. Ahead of me. Staring in the total darkness. My torch light finds him in the black.
And then to my right, and to my left. And soon every one of these trees abandon their petrification and become like him. I can't run. I can't fight. I feel myself overwhelmed with something beyond fear - a simple concept of utter, all-consuming hopelessness.
And then they begin, slowly, to move towards me.
When I awoke, my throat was raw. I'm told I was screaming.
The forest tonight is dark, and I can feel him out there. I look on every one of those trees, and I don't see the woods we're sleeping in. I see him. I see him in each and every one of them.
We'll be at the car tomorrow, which means we'll hopefully be in a new squat before nightfall. I won't miss the trees.