Dark Forest Shining

By Froberg

The forest seemed darker than ever before, as the little girl made her way past the tall trees. They seemed ever threatening as she wandered on the dusty path. Nobody ever came to this part of the forest, not even at daytime. They said it was haunted, that a witch would curse the children who made their way into the shadowy depths. The little girl giggled at this. She was smarter than that.

An owl called out to the night not far from her. She stopped and looked around the shadows trying to find the creature. It was nowhere to be seen and the girl sighed. She'd really wanted to see the owl. It wasn't a creature you saw everyday. Last time she'd seen an owl had been when her older brother had first taken her for walks here. Even when they'd been running, and she'd giggled at him for being out of breath, he'd always been good at spotting these things. She sighed and wondered if she'd ever get as good sight as he had.

Before he had to go away, her brother had told her that she was more likely to see the animals if she remained quiet. She sat down and turned off her flashlight. The moon was out tonight, and combined with the stars, it was enough to cast a blue light onto the forest. She sat there for a few minutes letting her eyes adjust themselves to the darkness while trying to scout for the owl she'd heard.

Again, it howled. She looked in the direction she figured it came from, but there was nothing there. The little girl tried to control her breathing, letting only the faintest of sounds escape her young lips. She wouldn't let the owl be scared off that easily. She really wanted to see it first. She scouted the area, her eyes running from tree to tree examining each leaf for the creature.

It howled once more, and this time, the girl had time to see it before it suddenly took off. The grand, brown bird flew up high, letting the wind soar past its magnificent wings. The little girl smiled widely. She'd seen it, finally. Her brother would be so proud if he'd been there with her. He wasn't though.

Suddenly, the owl started downwards, and for a second, the little girl thought the bird was going to attack her. Then it shifted direction and suddenly smashed into the nearby grass. The girl got up and ran to it. It'd attacked something, she realized. Loud howls mixed themselves with cries of another creature. She finally got there and saw the owls magnificent body covered by blood. She knew not to come close to a fight like this, so she picked up a stick from the ground and poked the creatures. The bird immediately flew upwards to the nearest tree and looked down upon the girl. Then it flew off.

The girl looked down at its victim. It was a cat, she realized, although its wounds made it hard to identify. They could have rabies, she remembered her brother telling her. Still, seeing the cat staring at her, she couldn't stop herself from creeping closer to it. Surprisingly enough, it didn't seem to fear her. That was another sign of rabies, she remembered. The little girl hesitated and retrieved her flashlight. She pointed it at the cat. It was completely black, only its yellow eyes preventing it from looking like a shadow.

She knew to run, but she didn't. The cat could have all kinds of diseases. Heck, it most likely did. This was the kind of situation when the girl should praise knowing this, but she didn't. She considered her options. If she left, the cat would die. If she decided to stay, the cat might attack her. She took a sandwich from her backpack and took the meat out of it. "Here you go, Kitty," she said and carefully placed it not far from the cat.

The critter attempted to stand up, its wounds still bleeding. It instantly cried out and fell once again. Seeing this, the girl placed the meat a little closer to its mouth and it began eating, making no attempt to attack the girl. She sighed, not knowing what to do. Then she got the band aid from the backpack and carefully got closer to the cat. Maybe it was tame, she realized. Cats made long walks, and the town was only about half an hour's walk away from them. Seeing as it accepted her touching it, she decided that her theory had to be true. If it had rabies, it would've hissed the moment she got there. She carefully covered the wound with her little Mickey Mouse illustrated band aids. The blood still managed to through, though.

She realized that she couldn't apply band aids because of the fur. She took some napkins and pressed them against the wound before using the remaining Disney band aids as duct tape to hold it in place. She let out a relieved sigh and stood up looking at the cat. She felt rather proud of her own actions.

On the other hand, she couldn't leave it here or wild animals might attack it. Somehow she had to get it back to town. She quickly pondered if it'd be okay to move it. If she did, she'd have to be careful. She sighed, wishing her brother hadn't left. He had always been good with nature stuff. He would've known what to do. Still, he'd had to leave and she knew that he wouldn't come back until he was well again. The little girl felt a tear form in the corner of her eye but blinked it away. She had to be strong now, if she were to save the cat.

She decided that she had to move it carefully. She placed both her hands under it before lifting it. It gave a pained "mreow," letting her know that it wasn't satisfied with its treatment.

"Sorry," she mumbled to the cat. She began walking as fast as possible. Running was out of the question since she had to make sure the napkins stayed in place. Still, she walked much faster than she normally would have. She was no longer glancing the forest wondering what enigmas might be hidden behind the shadows. In less then fifteen minutes, she'd reached the edge of the woods. She was tired and thirsty but at least the cat was still alive. In fact, it seemed a little better. Its breathing had returned to normal.

"Stop here," mumbled the cat.

Surprised, the girl dropped the cat and fell to the ground herself. She began kicking the ground in a desperate attempt to get up, but it only served to push her away from the creature. "You..." she mumbled. It had to have been the wind, she realized. Cats didn't talk.

"Don't go home," said the cat.

It couldn't talk, she told herself.

"Don't go home tonight," it repeated.

"You..." she wasn't sure what was going on. The cat seemed fine all of the sudden. It had to be her imagination. Her mother always said it was her imagination.

The cat sighed. "Yes, I talk. Now, if you could get past the initial surprise, I guess I can get to make my point. Don't go home tonight. In fact, stay away from the whole damn town. At least until tomorrow, when they capture him."

"Who?" asked the little girl not sure what was going on.

The cat seemed delighted that she'd decided to take part in the conversation. "Your brother. Now, you saved me from the damn owl, so I guess its only fair that I at least give you a chance to survive this," is said and looked at the nearby town. It noticed the house on the opposite side of the street. "Christ, you even placed us right in front of your house."

She didn't reply.

The cat let out another sigh. "Okay, you know why your brother had to leave?"

"Mommy said that he wasn't well. So he had to go to a place where he could get better," she said.

It nodded. "Right, that's only a vaguely retarded way of putting it. Now, your brother is back, though, and the place didn't make him anywhere close to 'well'. So, you see, you'd best not return to your house tonight," it told her. Then it began wandering off leaving the little girl utterly confused.

Then came the screams. Horrible, high pitched screams seemed to roar from the house across the road. The little girl didn't move. She couldn't. As she heard her mother's screams mix with those of her father, she found herself too petrified to even cry. She frantically tried to find her flashlight, but realized that she'd forgotten it when she picked up the cat. Instead, she stared at the house. The light was on outside, and focusing on it, her eyes quickly became used to the light. She looked behind her where the cat was slowly walking away. Her eyes were no longer used to the darkness. Having lost the dark forest shining, she began to cry.

The cat stopped. "One more thing, by the way. When he comes into the forest to find you, you have two options. Either you can hide, or you can run. Whatever you choose, you better do it now. He knows all your hiding places, and he can run much faster than you. I don't know what will save you, but I have a feeling one of them will."

Trembling, the little girl tried to speak, but was quickly interrupted as her mother screamed again. She looked towards her house just across the road. All the curtains were down. Only faint shadows and loud screams remained to tell her what was going on inside. She had to run. Or hide. She didn't know what to choose. She watched as a man exited the house with a flashlight. He called her name a few times, and she recognized his voice. It was her brother. Through the shadows covering his face, she saw him smile, as he began walking towards the forest. His bloody clothes, a final proof to what had happened.

She had to choose. She could either run or hide.

The little girl got up and began to run. At first, her legs refused to listen, and she fell. Across the road, her brother laughed and quickly pointed his flashlight at her young body. She'd made up her mind, though. She would run now. Run until she passed out from exhaustion. Regaining control of her legs, she began darting through the forest, a cone of light constantly shining on her. She didn't know if she'd made the right choice, but that didn't matter. She'd made her choice.

And far from there, an owl flew high above the forest, its eyes eternally accustomed to the dark. It picked up a scent it recognized. It came from the cat, there was no doubt. Quickly descending from its flight, the giant bird collided with the tall grass it suspected its victim to hide in. There was no cat, though. Only a long cylinder shaped object which smelled like the cat. It looked closer and began poking the cylinder with its beak.

Suddenly, the cylinder began shining out of one end. Surprised by the flashlight, the owl jumped back. That was the moment the cat caught it off guard, quickly ripping its throat open with its teeth. The owl gasped a few times before its heart finally stopped beating. The cat looked down upon its victim feeling proud of itself. It'd been a good night, it decided. It would hide the body of the owl and live off it for the next couple of days. Its small paws carefully made their way through the forest as the dawn illuminated the scene. Its finely tuned hearing picked up the sirens from police cars back in town, and wondered if the little girl had survived. It found a safe hiding place and closed its eyes to sleep. Perhaps the next night would turn out just as profitable as this one had.