Nightmare in the Silent Forest

A well maintained Crown Victoria police cruiser pulled off onto the side of the road. Inside the front seat of the car sat two officers. The driver was slightly taller than his partner. His face was clean shaven and narrow. His hair was cut just shy of being completely shaved. His hat and uniform were without a speck of dust or crease. An old scar from some previous laceration was located on his left hand. His brown eyes turned to see his partner, who looked very different than he did. Officer Ted Henderson sat on the right, holding a cup of coffee in his hand. He wore a thick coat over his normal uniform, and still shivered despite the heater being on in the car. He was shorter and had a more gaunt appearance. He had blond hair and green eyes, and turned to face his more stoic partner.

Corporal James Archer sat staring aimlessly in front of him. He took a quick glance to the woods behind them. The cold December winds had left only the most stubborn of the brown and red leaves on the trees. Above them, the sky was ominously overcast. Light flurries were expected soon. The only colors that seemed to be present were gray, brown, and drab shades of the spring colors. Henderson sipped his coffee and turned to his partner.

"So, this is near where that woman said she saw someone following her?" Henderson asked as he put the coffee into the cup holder.

"Yes," Archer replied emotionlessly. "It was at seven thirty last night when she was walking down a nature trail in the park. She sighted a dark figure moving at a constant speed towards her, hiding in the foliage and ignoring all warnings directed at him."

"Probably just some drunken frat boy," he muttered. "Too many of 'em live in the development behind the woods and park here."

"We can't make a call like that," Archer looked at his younger partner. "That's the investigative unit's job. Or even the K-9 patrol. These woods, though, had a serial rapist attacking women over a decade ago. We're just here to wait for that park ranger to explain more of what happened."

"Think it's the same perp, Jim?" Ted asked, taking another sip of the coffee.

"They caught the perp, and he's not seeing daylight for a long time," Archer replied. "Still, people do seem to get bad vibes from this place."

He pointed to an opening in the woods along the side of the road. A trail of wood chips and mulch emerged from the mouth of the dead forest, eventually connecting to the sidewalk near the street. Archer glared at it for half a second, then went back to staring ahead. He knew more than just shadows lurked within.

"Again with the local history, Jim?" Ted asked. "I guess I'm lucky to be your partner longer than anyone else. I've learned a lot more about our town here! Sometimes more than I want to know."

"You can't protect something if you don't know its flaws," Archer leaned his head back. "Where the strong points are, and where the weak points are. When you patrol this town, or hell, any town, you'll know there are some good parts and bad parts."

"Speaking of patrol," Ted sipped down more coffee. "Why'd you turn down promotion to Sergeant?"

"I prefer more time behind the wheel to more time behind a desk," Jim replied. "You get more of a feel for the town that way."

"Yeah, but no one sticks to the shitty patrol routes like you do," Ted added, leaning forward. "It's not like the rest of us don't appreciate it, but you're so uptight all the time. You always turn down me asking if you want to go to the bar after our shifts end!"

"It's not you, Ted," Jim replied, glancing for a moment out the window. "I just don't drink. I always want to be in complete control of my actions. Discipline is good for maintaining a clear head and keeping your cool. Especially in this job."

"You just seem like you're wound up pretty damn tight," Ted relaxed into the seat. "You getting enough sleep?"

"Of course," Jim replied. "Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise, as Ben Franklin said."

Just then, Ted's head jerked to the side. His eyes grew wide, and he looked out the side window of the car. His eyes tracked something moving rapidly. At first, Jim considered his partner saw a speeder on the road, but there were no cars on the road. His gaze went wild, tracking an unseen object that seemed to dart between the road and the forest.

"Hey, you see that?!" Ted Henderson let his coffee cup fall onto the blue-carpeted rug of the patrol car. The brown sludge splashed all over the floor. "It just went into the woods!"

"No, I don't," Jim inhaled slowly. If this was what he thought it was, it was time for another change of partners. He didn't want to drag anyone else into his fight. Hopefully, it was just a bird or bat. Somehow, Jim felt it would not be that mundane. Most of the birds were gone, and it was the middle of the afternoon.

"It just went into the woods," Ted stood up, and got out of the car. "Wait here. I'll be back soon."

Jim cursed to himself, but the displeasure barely registered on his stoic face. Instead, he watched his partner vanish down the nature trail. The park ranger wasn't anywhere nearby, and Archer figured he'd have to go in after him. He turned the ignition on the car off, and slightly lowered the window. He waited for his partner to scream from the woods, and then silence. If this was the first time sometime like this had happened, he would have panicked and called for backup. Hopefully, he had not gone in too deep.

There was one surefire way to ensure his partner was returned alive and sane. Jim Archer slowed his breathing to a slow tempo of inhaling and relaxation. He allowed the tension to completely vanish from his body. He was now a rubber band, releasing rigidity from his form. He closed his eyes, and envisioned a place that was always safe to him. He pictured his apartment, with everything well organized and in its place. He imagined himself peering out the window, opening, and embracing what was beyond.

He exhaled as he walked to the small bedroom mirror in his room. Above it was a Tarot card. Athena sat on a golden throne, with a blindfold covering her eyes. In one hand was an upright sword. In the other hand was a golden balance scale. This was a symbol that he had see plenty of times in his line of work. The label below it read "XI: Justice." Beneath it was a set of three block letters, reading "T-Y-R." Corporal Jim Archer began to focus on himself in the imaginary mirror, and saw himself changing.

"By the eleventh arcana, I invoke Tyr as my Avatar!" he instinctively recited to himself. "There is no order but that which man imposes upon the world. It is only with Justice that order holds value!"

He envisioned a black ski mask appearing on his face, with dark goggles covering his eyes. He envisioned a black Kevlar helmet around his head. Just above the forehead was the image of an arrow within an octagon pointing upwards. A tactical Kevlar vest covered his blue uniform shirt. Black combat boots appeared on his feat. Patches with similar arrow insignias appeared on his shoulders. His right hand was covered by a black glove. His left hand had transformed into a black prosthetic that had the same substance and texture of Kevlar. In both hands, an HK MP5 submachinegun appeared. A belt holding a baton, a Glock pistol, and different grenades materialized. Now almost completely subsumed in the armor, Archer opened his eyes.

He was sitting back in his police car, but clad in his supernatural SWAT armor. He stood up, and walked outside of the car door. He did not bother to open the door. Instead, he just walked right through the door to the car, leaving his unconscious material body behind him. Now free from the tyranny of matter, it was always tempting to assume the realm of metaphysics had no rules.

If Archer had not done this before, he would have spent time staring at his surroundings. Most of the area around him looked identical to how it was in the material world, save with a darker hue and more insidious gray sky full of rapidly moving clouds that seemed like they were fleeing something over the horizon. The policeman turned towards where the entrance to the nature trail was in the material world. In this surreal world, the path leading into the forest resembled a slick, organic membrane. As Archer slowly walked down the path, it would bleed and moan as he stepped around. He raised his submachinegun, and envisioned a flashlight under the barrel. The light would be useful at locating his partner.

Each step down the moaning, bleeding trail took Archer deeper into this world's version of the forest. There were large, cylindrical bodies around him. A quick glance up showed that they were not trees. Instead, each of the large objects was a tender, pink phallus easily a dozen feet in diameter. They were slightly curved, and sickly veins pulsated from the sides of each. Some moved up and down slowly, with a gentle sobbing and moaning audible through the wind. Jim continued through, searching right and left with his muzzle-mounted flashlight. Just then, some dark fluid fell from above, splattering across his goggles. It blocked Archer's vision with an opaque, viscous crimson. He rubbed his left hand across the goggles, removing the blood from them. A quick glance upwards confirmed that some of the massive phallus trees were ejaculating blood into the air. A narrow, but still notable path lead deeper into the forest.

Just then, dark shapes fluttered in front of his weapon's floodlight. They were dark, bat like shapes that traveled in a swarm. They emitted high pitched squeaking noises like a bat, but Archer knew these things were far more surreal. Some of them flew down to investigate the intruder to their home. This Niche was full of all manner of creatures that could overwhelm him in large numbers, and Jim knew he couldn't let the biting horrors get too close.

He could see the creatures much closer as he illuminated the swarm with his light. Instead of wings, they had two clumps of tangled hair on opposite sides of their bodies. They had no eyes, no nose, nor legs. Instead, they had a body made of narrow flesh, and a vertically opening mouth with razor sharp teeth. The flying toothed vaginas would try to swoop down like insects and devour anything en masse, which was why Archer struck first. He began to fire his manifested submachinegun into the massed swarm of the creatures. There was a confused, high pitched squealing as the creatures fluttered confused through the air. Those that were shot bled a white, clear secretion as they fell dead onto the ground.

The remaining ones were now regrouping, and began to swoop down at Archer. The flying vagina dentata creatures flew into his face and chest, trying to bite through his armor and head gear. He fired wildly with his gun, spraying bullets at the ones approaching while swatting at the ones in his face with his left hand. He continued moving forward, using gunfire and erratic physical movements to force his way through the swarm. He felt small bites along the few exposed parts of his skin, but pressed on. The chittering and squealing faded as the cop moved deeper into the Phorest Niche. Behind him was a trail of dead creatures, all bleeding the same transparent white secretions. The most ground began to absorb them.

The phallic forest had worse predators dwelling with it than the vaginal beasts. Jim Archer knew the deeper he went, the nastier they got. It was fortune that he found his partner lying just off the path in front of him. It was less fortunate that his partner laid unconscious on the ground, with a strange creature sticking a pair of phallic appendages into his mouth and sucking out his bodily fluids. The creature itself was humanoid, and easily four feet tall. It resembled a slippery, gaunt naked man running on all fours. The creature's wrinkled and withered flesh sagged. It had a mouth and nose resembling a human, but had two phallic tentacles protruding from where its eye sockets would be. Upon closer examination, each of the fingers and toes could also be seen to be phallic. The creature made deep, orgasmic noises as it sucked Henderson dry.

Normally, the creatures that Archer dubbed the skull-fuckers traveled in packs. Taking advantage of this one's isolation, he fired a blast of rounds into the creature's torso. The skull-fucker withdrew both of its eye-phallic-tentacles, and got up on its rounded phallic finger and toe tips. It was bleeding, but at least a familiar shade of red blood than the transparent secretions of the other creatures. The creature charged at Archer, who stood his ground and unloaded as many rounds he could into the skull-fucker's head and torso.

The creature leaped at him, ramming its two phallic protrusions towards his mouth. Having fought these things before countless times, he merely brought his baton out with his plastic left hand and smashed the monster in the side of the head. Stunning the skull-fucker, he emptied the gun into the creature's head, spraying its blood all over. Stomping the creature's head into red mush, Archer knelt down towards his comrade. Ted Henderson was moaning, and beginning to recover. He lifted the officer up over his shoulder, and then shifted his focus. Jim Archer exhaled, centered himself back in the car, and opened his eyes.

He was back in the police cruiser, with only his normal uniform and gear on. Archer's left hand had returned to normal, complete with his scar. He had a slight chill from leaving the window opened. He quickly closed it and looked back at the forest. Henderson staggered out of the brown expanse, clutching his head in pain. He walked around to his side of the car, and sat back down. "Damn, what the hell happened?" he asked. "First I think I see something go in the woods, I pass out, and then I wake up with a splitting headache."

Jim shrugged. "You might want to get checked out," he suggested, trying to get Henderson to relax. His stoic tone slipped, revealing a slight bit of concern. "If you want to take a few sick days off, I can have McKenzie fill in your shifts for you. Take a break and get whatever's stressing you out of your system."

"That'd be great," he said as he leaded back into the seat. "You're a good guy, Jim."

"I try," Jim Archer replied. "Listen, I'll go talk with the ranger. Just take it easy. It's no use if you wear yourself down."

Henderson nodded, and Jim waited for the park ranger to arrive. A few minutes later, the ranger emerged from the woods, and explained the situation. A woman walking through the woods had noticed a dark figure running after her on all fours, and come to a nearby ranger for help. The ranger had seen no traces of any other person, but had told the police to check out the scene the following day. Jim put in a request for K9 and the investigative unit to take a look at it, but he doubted they'd find anything.

That night, Jim returned to his apartment. He preferred to think of his dwelling as his personal sanctuary, his bastion of order in a chaotic world. His sheets were well pressed, and clothes were all folded neatly in his drawers. He had the image of the Justice card above his mirror, and the letters "T-Y-R" beneath it. He sat down at the clear desk in front of it, and opened his laptop.

The machine came to life, and he loaded up an interactive map program as soon as the desktop appeared. He loaded a map of Greenfield Township, showing all the roads, bodies of water, and notable features. There were also small dots of different colors, with most of them clustered around a few locations. He clicked a toolbar at the top of the screen, and placed a red pin near the park. He typed "Class 3 Encounter: Two Witnesses, One Attacked in Phorest" as a label for that incident. Acting on a hunch, he pulled down a menu on the computer window. He had it remove all incidents except those over the last six months. He compared the averages to the standard, and cursed to himself. Attacks and encounters had gone well above their average levels.

He added another comment on the map file. "Levels similar to Gallagher University incident some years ago. Warrants investigation." Sighing to himself, he closed the program and turned the computer off. He closed the laptop and climbed into bed. Picking up his little brother from college and babysitting his youngest brother for the holiday season was going to be the least of his worries for the upcoming holiday season. The fact that their parents weren't returning from business abroad until after New Years was also stressful. Jim just sat back in his bed, and let the negative thoughts leave him. Tomorrow would be a busy day, and it would be best to have an early start.