by Elliott Bell
You shouldn’t talk about the way the forest looks at night, they won’t like it. They lurk in the shadows, always creeping past my window at night, and although I’m the only one who can see them I know they’re watching. And although I know I just said you shouldn’t talk about it, I have to, I simply dying inside not talking about the things I’ve seen. So I’ve picked up this blank notebook to write it all down, and hope that they aren’t reading over my shoulder as I scribble here at my desk. …are you watching me? Do you see these words?
I waited a few moments, and nothing seemed to change. When I tried telling my friend about it on the phone the other day, the wind whistled through the chimney and a painting on the wall slid down crooked, so I knew they were there, listening, and didn’t approve. But nothing’s happening now, so perhaps they can’t see. Hell, maybe they can’t read – wouldn’t that be convenient! I might even try sealing this up in an envelope and sending it off, but who knows if they’re watching the mailbox.. I bet they are. They’re far to diligent to overlook a detail like that.
Anyhow, what I really need to talk about is the way the forest looks at night. From my bedroom window – my bedroom is in the attic of the cabin, technically, though it’s quite spacious and comfortable despite it’s sloping ceiling-walls – I can see over a nearly endless expanse of the forest, all great beautiful pines and firs as far as the eye can see. The cabin is on a slight rise in the land, just in the foothills of the mountains towering over to south, but to the north and east and west it’s nothing but thousands and thousands of trees. Sometimes I have nightmares that the trees come to life and act as their minions, creaking branches and sighing leaves rustling towards the cabin, surrounding me, holding me to the soft earth, pinning me there with their creeping vines and roots until I can hardly breathe.
In the day, it’s a sea of green, and although breathtakingly beautiful, looks perfectly ordinary. It could easily be from a postcard or a travel book, or perhaps on the cover of an austere book of poems about the beauty of unfettered nature, at it’s full and wildest. In the day.
But at night, oh the forest at night – it’s a sea of shining lights. They bob up and down at the tree tops, just faintly at twilight, and then growing in intensity as the night wears on, like a giant hand from the sky is draping Christmas tree lights over the entire forest. And I mean the entire forest, too – I can see for miles and miles from my cabin, and the lights dance all the way to the horizon. It’s beyond breathtaking, beyond beautiful – it’s awe, it’s wonder, it’s terror. I do not know what they are. I am afraid, I am mystified, I am obsessed.
I took a walk the first night I saw them, drawn down and into the forest. I will not make that mistake again. From the ground, you can just barely see the lights, skipping around above you in the treetops, like little birds or squirrels jumping from branch to branch. But they do not come to the ground – I don’t blame them. Within ten minutes I was running back to the cabin myself – I’m not ashamed to admit I was scared witless. You would’ve been too, I guarantee it. No one could face them and not be terrified.
It’s funny how they protest when I try to talk about the lights – just the lights. I wasn’t going to mention them at all, they needn’t worry about that. But the lights, they are so beautiful, so innocent and wild, like stars come down to play in the trees every night. I thought perhaps I might be allowed to just talk about the lights. But I’m no fool, I know better now than to ignore their warnings, as subtle as a crooked painting and a whistling chimney might seem to some, I can read between the lines. I’m no fool.
I just wanted to tell someone about the lights, is all.