Copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
People find treetops, especially when the branches are devoid of leaves, to be eerie. A gray sky, glimpsed through twisted limbs, is rather uncanny. The foliage of a weeping willow, seen against the light of a moon in an otherwise dark night also frightens. Fog, of course, is unsettling as well. For possible explanations of why such images are disturbing to many, we could consult Dr. Freud--but, then, he’s surely bones himself by now. We will have to do the best we can ourselves, it seems.
The thick stands of trees in a forest, blocking the horizon, form a partition of sorts--a barrier that walls us inside the woods, where we do not want to be, trapping us so that we are at the mercy of the animal--the thing--howling in the darkness. The trees shut off the ambient light of the stars and the moon (if there is a moon), blinding us with the inky black of darkness, of, it seems, nothingness. The susurration of the foliage, when the trees are thick with leaves, is unnerving and strange, like unseen giants whispering about us in the dark. Surely, such beings mean us no good, else why would they be whispering? Why would they not show themselves?
The trees of the forest conspire with the forces of darkness, shutting us in and shutting other men and women out. We are not only trapped, but we are also alone--apart, that is, from others of our own kind, from our fellow men and women, from human company. Judging by the sounds we hear--the hoots and fluttering and rustling and howling--other things are present. Ethereal entities, perhaps, as well as wild animals, which mean us harm. Attacks can come from behind, from either side, from before, or even from above--or below! There could be anything in this dark, close forest of thick trees: owls, bats, snakes, wolves, even, perhaps, werewolves! Something, certainly, is howling in the distance--and the cries seem to be getting closer each time they sound.
Deprived of vision, our hearing seems to sharpen, and even the hairs on our heads and necks and arms seem able to feel the evil in the air. Something threatens us, we are sure, something hideous and bestial and fierce. A twig snaps, and our hearts faint. We tremble, fighting the urge to run, the feeling of panic that surges forth, for, if we run, we might stumble; we might fall, and then--
--it might be all over, except the pain and the seizure of terror and the bursting of our hearts.
We stand, immobilized with fear.
Overhead, the trees begin, again, to whisper, and we despair.
In the morning, when day breaks, they will come.
They will find our dead bodies, stiff and cold, staring at the sky, dead of heart attacks.
They will know, at least, that no one killed us.
They will know we’ve killed ourselves.
That, at least, is what they will say. . . .