October is one of my favourite months of the year. It’s a time of seasonal change, of shorter days, darker nights and bright colours. It’s a time when the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead is meant to be thinner and there’s a lot of creativity to be mined from that sensation.
Sinister things can happen in the woods. Forests instil an ancient kind of fear. It makes us imagine stalking predators and monsters hiding in bushes. This concept inspired me to create a collection of photographs and a story called Haunted Woods.
When the traveler entered the woods, the first thing he noticed was the closeness of the trees. Gnarled, grasping things, surrounding him on all sides. No matter where he turned the branches reached out, countless arms plucking at his clothes.
As the traveler continued to walk, he felt unseen eyes watching him. He looked behind him, he looked in front of him. But there were only the trees, silent secret keepers withholding knowledge.
The traveler got the feeling they were mocking him. His heart rate quickened and he picked up the pace until he came across a tree that was different from the rest. Strange markings were carved into the trunk. Symbols he didn’t recognise. Symbols that filled him with dread.
After what felt like hours of walking in the same direction, the traveler saw something through the trees. It was a structure, some kind of home. Civilisation at last! As he approached, he saw that it was a hut. The traveler could see no signs of life inside, save for a faint glow.
Getting closer, the traveler noticed the dying flames of a fire at the back of the hut. Whoever called this place home had been here recently. Despite his uncertainty, the traveler had never let the fear of the unknown stop him.
He peered inside the hut, towards the ashes. A flash of white. A hint of bone. The traveler leaped back in fright, falling over himself.
The mouth of the hut loomed over him, dark and hungry and for a moment the traveler was transfixed. He willed his body to move but it refused to obey him. He could do nothing but stare into the jaws of the hut that consumed his courage one sliver at a time.
A crack of twigs. The rustling of bushes. The traveler came to his senses, stood up and fled.
The traveler ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Everything was a blur, shapes that held no form or meaning. All that mattered was getting out of this bloody forest. He was so focused on what was in front of him that he didn’t see the rock that jutted out beneath his feet.
The traveler tripped and rolled down a hill, landing roughly in a patch of leaves. Adrenaline forced him up and he staggered through a gate. The traveler leaned against a wall to catch his breath, only to realise he’d stumbled into a graveyard.
Tombstones sprouted from the earth, weeds of the damned and departed. Wide-eyed, the traveler glanced at the nearest tombstone and read the epitaph. Be. A. Fraid. Be very afraid. He was. Goddamn it, he was.