Not your story
You run farther through the woods.
The dark trees flash by, the trees that hold so much terror for you. Onwards faster as the pads of your feet rip themselves open to the thirsting thorns and brittle bones that litter the ground. But your mind is oblivious to the needle sharp pain that would otherwise be incapacitating.
You are only mindful of the mounting dark and fear behind you. The crushing, killing, guttering souls of those things. You wanted this, you came all this way for it, but not like this. Not the dripping fear that clings to the back of your throat. You never believed in this stuff.
You were careless, and now they’re here for you.
You pull up to the white lined parking space.
The cracked pavement of the parking lot leads up to, and abruptly ends at, the edge of the forest. You get out of your car. A nothing-much looking, second hand preforming, cat piss smelling hatchback. It’s a rental but you think of it as your own, you have some subconscious connection to the small vehicle. You won’t admit it now, but you think of the car having some life of its own. Perhaps rubbed off from the years of lives it carried and watched and protected. An old soul.
The car is not important to the story. It is only a car and nothing happens after this point involving the car. Nothing at all.
You take only a water bottle with you to the woods, your friend assured you that everything would be taken care of. People can generally be trusted about such things. You didn’t have much else to bring anyways.
It is the middle of summer, and coincidentally it is nearing nightfall. You hate clichés. Everyone does, that is why they needed a word for them. So people could all talk about their hate for them. However, clichés are not important to this story. You look around at all the varying quality of sedans and SUVs scattered around the parking lot. Souless. Some still containing those that brought them here. Srrounding them safely in strong laticeworks of steel and platic. Seeming protection from the lengthening shadows, stretching fingers from the forest. Some bleed light out over the vegital wall of the forest. Indifferent to the headlights, growing darker with the creeping night. solidifying, strengthening with the seeping black. You hear a voice call your name. You see your friend. He walks over and greets you. Time to go.
Several hours of time, and several miles pushing through the forest, bring you to a clearing. Several dozen others also join you and a man sets up the chrysalis-like structure of the summoning fire. The man wraps a gauze-like material around the bundles of dried tree flesh. He then, seemingly at random, sticks small twigs and painted leaves into the weave. After a handful of minutes and handfulls of twigs it resembles a dog sized pile of wood covered in twigs, gauze, and pained leaves. Exactly like it should. He does good work. The man himself is nothing special to you. Shallow of chest and middling of years. The age at which people can start to feel the end of their road. They can look back at their path to this point and some find themselves content with their journey. Some suddenly see the time thrown away into a despised career or a drowning relationship. They feel more passion to change their life then they have felt for anything in a long time. But now they have settled too far onto the hooks of the life they have built and pulling them out requires too much sacrafice. All they can do is trash against the bonds and satisfy themselves that they did something. He is about that age.
He isn’t important to the story. You quickly forget him. Anyways you won't have the chance to remember him.
The sky darkens as the others settle in around you, waiting for the flame to be set atop the masterfully constructed cocoon that is the center piece of the clearing. The dome of the world is thick with stars and absent of human light. You think of how much sense it makes to map the stars, you could get lost in that ever-expanding infinity without a guide. Someone comes around to offer you some food. You take the meal and eat it slowly savoring that iconic flavor it’s country of origin is know so well for. It is not important to this story.
Everyone is full of food and hungry for things to begin. That’s why they drove all this way, set aside all this time. For this. For now. For them.
At midnight, because when else are you supposed to preform rituals? A man, not the man who built the sack of wood and leaves, a different man walks up to the pile with a flame. The flame sits on a candle made of red wax. The red in the wax has a depth and flowing marble liquidity. The man likes to tell himself and anyone who will listen, that the red is the blood of a three-legged lamb. Killed during a full moon in december with a knife made of bone and star fire. But it’s food dye. He did make the candle all on his own, though. Credit where it's due.
The pillar of flame reaches for the burning eyes of watchful gods you can see above the topmost fingertips of the trees. The chanting begins. It swells with the roar of the flames. The ritual sacrament of narcotics, mixed with the colorful paint on the leaves, is consumed by the fire and flows out to anoint those in the clearing. The chanting grows louder, heedless in a headlong race around the flames. Tangling with the smoke. The smell of sweat. The warmth of blood. Incense is offered, incinerated in the heart of the burning passageway. The scents fill the clearing and hang from the branches at the edges of the circle. Shadows dance on the trees. Shadows wait, and shadows watch beyond the light shed by your fire.
You cannot tell who is who and who is you. Many wear masks, doglike and birdlike demons from the book. You have no mask so you join those that smear charcoal across their visage. Darkening, Mixing with the night. Dead limbs are added to the fire, it searches for a place to catch hold in the sky. Sending sparks amongst the blazing holes in the canvas stretched over the furthest reaching of the trees. The chanting of the dozens seems to grow to the chanting of hundreds, thousands of voices calling in a language unknown to you. Calling out to something unknown to you but felt by all of you. Reaching for the crack in the door to your world. Pushing at the door, howling to be let through. Out of the fire pour the tortured husks of things long forgotten. Called by the gathering.
You are the first.
Still others are consumed.
You run farther through the woods.
You must find your car. You must leave, flee the woods and flee the damned. Flee the night sky itself. Run until the burlap of this midsummers night gives way and rips open to the gates of dawn. The light will drive away the summoned. It must. You will not make it to the car. You will not make it past the dark wall of trees. It does not keep the world out. It keeps them in, and now you as well. How close you get is not important to this story. No one could tell you how close you got, no one could tell you a thing.
Your mind flares. Your eyes burn. Tear stained gaps into your soul, through which the blackness flows. It covers your heart, and fills you mouth. Settles in your stomach and stiffens your legs. You are no more. You are them. You are dark. Baptized in black.
You were, Now you’re nothing. You are not important to this story. This story is theirs.