Why My Father Went Into the Woods

📅 Published on March 26, 2021

“Why My Father Went Into the Woods”

Written by Brandon Faircloth
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 9 minutes

Rating: 8.75/10. From 4 votes.
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My father was a careful man, meticulous even. He lived a life that was well-measured, and if some considered him bland or dull, he didn’t seem to mind. He was moderately successful in his business. He was moderately well-thought-of by the community we lived in. When my mother went missing, he was, to anyone that might observe him or inquire, moderately worried and sad.

He was the same with me. Reasonable, patient, and generally kind in the unfocused way you might expect from a pleasant doctor or taxi driver. A detached civility and courtesy that had more to do with how my father was than how he felt about me.

Not that I complained. Even when I was younger, I had enough sense to know so many kids had it worse. When my mother was around, they got along well enough, though he seemed to feed her the same brand of love as me—a bland, almost flavorless thing with an artificial aftertaste. I was twelve when she disappeared, and as much as I missed her, I was somewhat preoccupied with what would come next.

Because I had known for some months that occasionally, just every few weeks or so, my father would go out into the woods.

It never occurred to me to follow him, or to even question internally why I didn’t consider doing so. My fear of my father was like background radiation—invisible but ever-present since I was old enough to understand that something was wrong. Eating and mutating me slowly enough that I never stopped to wonder if everyone lived so tight with tension and foreboding, perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When I saw him going into the woods one winter afternoon, I wondered if the time had finally come. He never went into those woods. He wasn’t the outdoorsy type, as he was quick to point out as he pulled his lips away from dry, polished teeth and nod in that precisely affable manner that he had, a mannequin making the motions of a real man.

He was just home from work, but an hour earlier than usual, which was odd in and of itself. When he parked and turned toward the trees instead of the house, I couldn’t help but watch from my upstairs window, heart beating a little faster as a voice whispered to me that this was it, this was it, he was starting to unravel and now we were going to see the thing that lay behind those placid smiles and cool pats on the back. The thing that made Mom flinch when she heard the door open at night and made me stay in my room when I was home alone with him. I was terrified, but also relieved, because at least it would be over.

Except it wasn’t. He went deeper into the woods until I couldn’t see him, and after an hour I gave up watching. When he came inside later that night, we didn’t comment on his lateness and neither did he. I went to bed half-expecting to wake up to screaming or not at all. But no, everything was fine. It was the same, except that occasionally, just every few weeks or so, my father would go back out into the dark that lay between the trees.

That continued until my mother vanished, and after a period of disruption where people searched and questions were asked, our lives went back to a form of normal. The dread I felt was constant now, but it was also an old and familiar friend by that point. I escaped to school or friends’ houses when I could, and TV and books when I couldn’t. For his part, my father left me alone past the threshold of attention and affection he felt he needed to show.

His trips into the woods continued as long as I lived there. As soon as I graduated high school, I moved out and across the state to college. I went home that first Thanksgiving and Christmas, but after that, I never went back. He didn’t mind. He’d call to check on me once a month, always the first day of the month at eight o’clock, and other than that, we never spoke or saw each other again.

I went back home to see to his funeral and put his affairs in order, but nearly everything had already been done for me. He’d died in the backyard of a sudden embolism, but you’d think he’d known the moment he was going to go. Every corner of his life had been tucked and folded, lines even and corners crisp, much like the envelope he had left for me.

It wasn’t some heartfelt message of love or loss, and it wasn’t a confession of some dark, secret life. It was just a single line, written in my father’s small, neat script.

It begins with the dreams.

* * * * * *

I rented a hotel room for the two weeks I planned to be back in town. The house just wasn’t an option. I couldn’t stay in that place again. Just walking in felt like putting my foot into quicksand, and I could feel the hands of that past me reaching up and grasping at me, hungry to pull me back down.

So I slept in a hotel room that could have been like any other hotel room in any city in the world, somewhere far away. And for the first couple of nights, it worked.

Then I started dreaming of the woods.

I’d toyed with the idea of going into the woods since I’d gotten the call of my father’s death. It had been years since I’d gone deeper in than the edge of the yard—I already spent most of my playtime away from home, and after I saw my father go there, it wasn’t even a consideration. That was his place now, and whatever he did there, I didn’t want to know about it.

Maybe I would have just chalked up my dreams of picking my way between those dark and tangled trees as residual trauma dredged up by stirring the muck of my childhood, but on the fourth day, the day after the first of the dreams, the estate lawyer gave me the envelope with my father’s last words. When I pulled out of the parking lot, I headed away from town and back toward the house. I was a grown man and I wasn’t wasting another day being afraid of letting that strange man poison my life.

My heart still hammered as I stepped into the woods, but I was determined. I could see the ghost of a trail ahead of me, and I followed it further and further, past a small creek and across a field to a deeper part of the wood that was thicker and swampier. The mud sucked at my shoes as I went, and the air was more humid, but also deathly still. I’d have expected insects, but there were none. No bird sounds or furtive motions beneath the strange plants that grew here. Everything was silent. I had the thought that I had stepped back in time, a frozen moment from some ancient swamp, oxygen-rich and teeming with unseen life. Life that was hungry and powerful, lying just beneath the black mud watching me perhaps, or suspended from the enormous boughs of the gargantuan trees that twisted overhead. The nightmare king of some dead dinosaur’s forgotten memory, but somehow alive and ready to be remembered.

I blinked and looked around. Where was I? What was I thinking about…?  I…

My eyes fixed on the muddy bank I was standing in front of. In the middle of it, as though it had been excavated like a fossil, was the thing I felt sure my dream, and my father, had sent me to find.

It was a brass fortune teller machine.

I glanced around again. I had to be miles away from the house. How was that even possible? The woods weren’t that big. Less than a mile and I should have hit the highway.

I tried to swallow, but my mouth was too dry. My body felt desiccated and hollow, just bone and dry skin and terrible will as I walked closer to the thing half-buried in the hill.

It was five feet tall, all polished wood and brass, though the metal was tarnished and the wood had begun to bleach and speckle after time in the wet and the sun. The top three feet were a glass cube containing the torso of a puppet woman dressed in a headscarf and gold jewelry. Her painted green eyes regarded me from beneath arched, knowing eyebrows that told of knowledge of things unseen.

Above the glass, the brass arched into an arabesque roof framing a small sign of red and gold stained glass. I couldn’t read it at first, but then it lit up as a soft violin began to trill from a speaker grill below the fortune teller. I was startled, but I didn’t jump or step back. I was transfixed. Looking at the red lettering of the glass, I read the words glowing there:

The Voice of Aradat.

I let out a small scream when the fortune teller began to move, waving metal arms over a glowing crystal ball resting in front of her. The violin picked up speed, growing louder and more insistent, the insectile trilling of some long-dead song. My skin prickled as excitement began to grow in my belly, spreading up into my heart and head, down into my groin.

A small tray popped out on the front of the machine, and from it, a milky white card jutted out. I didn’t hesitate in reaching out and grasping it, pulling the card free from the silky strands that held it in place with some effort. On one side there was a strange symbol that I didn’t quite recognize, as though I’d seen it in a dream. On the other, there were only two words:

Offer yourself.

I let the card flutter to the mud as I saw motion next to the machine. There was a hole beside it—somehow I hadn’t seen it before, but it was there now. Less than half the height of the fortune-telling kiosk, and thick with shadow and more strands like had trailed from the card when I took it. There was no fear or confusion. I knew what had to be done. Of course I knew. I was doing something as old as rain or the sun rising. As sacred as being born or taking a life.

I knelt down and crawled toward the hole, keeping my eyes lowered as I reached it and lay down, rolling over onto my back as I scooted myself forward, pushing my head into the moist darkness beyond. Once my shoulders touched the sides, I waited, holding my breath as I began to worry that I had done something wrong.

But no.

A coolness came to rest against my cheek as an inner darkness within that gloom came to greet me. I began to cry as that coolness dug into my skin as a voice told me to keep my eyes closed, not to look. I couldn’t see it, not even a shadowy glimpse, or I’d be lost forever.

I lay in the muck, head surrounded by shadows and webs, as its icy weight settled over my face.

* * * * * *

When I left the woods, I saw a sheriff’s patrol car parked behind mine. I was going to try and ignore it, but Sheriff Haverlin got out and met me at my car. We had met briefly two days earlier when I’d run into him at the funeral home, and he had seemed a jolly and affable man at the time. Now, I could see beneath that, and I knew why he was there.

“Everything going alright, Kenneth? Need anything for the service tomorrow? My offer to give you an escort from the church still stands.”

I nodded. “I appreciate it. I don’t think many people will be at the funeral, so traffic shouldn’t be a problem.” Raising an eyebrow, I studied him. “Is that why you came? To offer help at the funeral again?”

He shrugged and gave me a small smile. “Partly, yeah. That and well, I just thought I should warn you.”

I felt my jaw tightening. “Warn me of what?”

The sheriff puffed out a breath as he looked down the road. “Your dad, well, he’s your daddy and he’s passed, and I don’t make a habit of talking bad about the dead. But…” He met my eyes again. “He was a strange man. And I’d be lying if I said me and others around here didn’t wonder if he was up to more than he let on.”

I frowned. “Up to what, exactly? You talking about my mom? You never found any sign he did something to her, did you? Or that she had done anything but abandon us?”

Shrugging again, he nodded. “No, you’re right. But it was still odd. No one that knew her expected her to leave like that, and we never saw any sign of how or where she could have run off to. It’s natural to suspect foul play involving the husband in something like that, you understand.” He pulled at his bottom lip thoughtfully. “But it wasn’t just that. These last twenty years, we’ve had people go missing. That always happens sometimes—people move, run away, or get themselves killed. But since I was a deputy, we’ve had three times the number of people go missing here than in any of the surrounding areas. I know because I’ve checked.”

I stared at him. “Okay. So what are you saying? Do you think my father had something to do with any of that?”

Haverlin let out a short laugh. “Naw, I’m not saying that. Though I admit I did wonder a few times over the years. He always gave me an odd feeling, your dad. Nice enough fella, but I could never tell what he was really thinking.” His smile fell away. “You look like him, you know. I didn’t see it the other day, but I do now.”

I glanced past him to the swaying green of the woods. “I appreciate the sentiment. And the offer of help. But I really do have a lot to do today. Was there more that you needed to tell me?” When I looked back at the man, his face was troubled.

“Just…if you find anything, going through your dad’s stuff…things that don’t belong or don’t make sense, something that might belong to someone missing or…well, I don’t know. Anything that feels wrong.” He swallowed. “If you find anything like that, let me know, yeah?”

I gave him a smile—not too friendly or happy, but not too cool or hard—as I nodded. “Sure thing, sheriff. I’ll be sure to do that.”

Seemingly satisfied, he stepped back from my car. “Well, I’ll let you get back to it. I know you want to get done and back to your life. Living in Colorado, right?”

I paused in opening the car door to glance back at him. “I did, yes. But I’m going to be staying here now.”

Haverlin raised his eyebrows. “Really? I got the idea the other day you were hot to be done and on your way. What changed your mind?”

I studied him a moment. “You know how it is. The past is a powerful thing. I guess I just realized where I am.”

A distant wind kicked up behind the man, rustling the trees and pushing him hard enough to make him have to catch his hat. Fumbling with it awkwardly, he looked back at me. “Where’s that?”

I sucked in a deep breath. The air smelled rich and thick with a dozen different scents. I smiled slightly at the fear I smelled coming from him.

“Home.”

Rating: 8.75/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Brandon Faircloth
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Brandon Faircloth


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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Shydon A
Shydon A
5 months ago

I dont get it did he turn into like a monster or get powers or something?

Zalika Trufant
Zalika Trufant
5 months ago
Reply to  Shydon A

Right! I don’t get it either!

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