"Foggy Spooky Autumn Forest" photo courtesy of andreiuc88 under Creative Commons License (andreiuc88)
"Foggy Spooky Autumn Forest" photo courtesy of andreiuc88 under Creative Commons License


The Hangman

February 17, 2019

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The whispering in the woods is melodic and enchanting. The winds drift through the autumn air, plucking leaf from branch like child from mother. It’s a fascinating thing, the noise of silence–how nothing can’t actually be nothing. I find peace in the deafening harmony of the fall winds. The crackling of brush under foot, the subtle swaying of the trees; all this beauty is a facade, a trap, used to lure in the naive and lost. It’s easy to wander off into the woods, and even easier to lose yourself.

But one fateful September evening, those whispers of nothing grew louder than ever before, mulling over the chaos of my abysmal life. The woods were calling for me like a siren, the musical cry of brushing branches and winding winds like an irresistible pull on the mind.

I stared out of my bedroom window when the yelling started. watching leaves being thrown around by the wind, like the words being shouted a floor below. The dull voices hit deaf ears, my focus on the balletic movements of the treetops, swaying with each gust of the chilling wind.

For but a moment, something caught my eye out between the heavy trunks of the trees. A figure, walking through the forest. It must’ve been my neighbor, Lyn, heading to the hideout.

Or so I thought.

I grabbed my navy blue hoodie off my desk chair, sliding it on as I grabbed my black Vans, which naturally had a layer of black mud and wear lining the white bottoms.

As I swung the door open, the silence that had enraptured me broke, as the intense and thunderous arguing had finally arrived at my ears.

I winced at the sudden change in atmosphere, stopping for a moment and looking down to my feet, as if I were in trouble or as if what was happening downstairs was my fault.

Brushing aside the instant anxiety, I briskly headed off down the stairs. Fourteen steps–I counted each as I hurried down them–of ancient wood creaking beneath my light steps.

Turning right, I passed the source of the fracas, not even acknowledging my estranged mother and father as I entered the yellow-tinted, luminescent kitchen, then promptly exiting through the back door. The heavy door slammed shut as I descended the few gray concrete steps, jumping past the final two, and landing in the muddy leaf covered ground.

The silence took reclaimed its sovereignty, filling my ears with nothing like a light breaking the darkness. The nothing that surrounded me rang a soft hum. It was soothing.

Walking, seemingly without a motive of my own, I stepped down the dirt-covered path before me, descending into the forest.

I reached the hideout after about ten minutes of walking, the comforting feeling of my foot sinking into the the damp mud, sliding across the dry moss, and crunching on the fallen leaves. The hideout was actually an old treehouse, one that Lyn and I stumbled upon when we were younger. The tree that held it aloft was just as aged, with its black sap-covered trunk, almost ink-like in nature, scattering brittle pieces of darkened bark onto the forest floor.

There was something that was always a little unnerving about these parts of the woods; things were just off. Nonetheless, I grabbed the rungs of our twice-replaced ladder, ascending the slippery and rickety entrance.

“Lyn?” I called out. “You up here?”

No response.

Pulling myself into the much-smaller-than-I-remembered room, I glanced around, revealing that I was all alone. I paused, feeling the damp wood floor pressing against my black jeans, which were surely going to stain.

I crawled over to a corner, and glanced out one of the tiny windows that were cut out for our viewing pleasure. I rested my head on my tucked-in knees, reminiscing about all the fun times I had had here. Like that one time Ryan came over, and we played down by the river. Or the time when Saige and Lyn chased me with a dead cricket. Or the time when–

The silence I so enjoyed was interrupted with an instant feeling of shock and fear. A gruff voice called out, releasing a gurgling croak.

“Are you lost?” the voice said.

I froze, slowly sinking down below the window. That wasn’t Lyn’s voice. How could I have not noticed someone coming in behind me? It wasn’t exactly easy to move stealthily through the woods this time of year with all the dead, crunchy leaves on the ground.

I slowly peaked my head up over the window, my eyes shooting across the ground below me. The breeze had stopped, the leaves frozen as if there had never been any wind at all. The swaying of the branches, the sound of running water–it all stopped.

The noise of nothing was really nothing.

Sudden movement from behind a nearby tree caught my attention, as my gaze shot over to catch whatever was revealing itself.

Someone stepped out from their hiding place. A dark black cloak covered their body, including their head. Their back was bent in a large curve, as if it were about to take off on all fours. Its head turned in the direction of the hideout, its shaded face staring directly at me.

“This forest is no place for children,” it spat.

“Who are you?” I replied, “Were you following me?”

The person chuckled, a choking, sputtering laugh. It straightened its back, meeting the height of some of the lower branches on the tree. Throwing the hood back revealed the disheveled face of a man. Spindly pieces of patchy black hair drooped down in long curls like a dying flower. His skin was similarly spotty, scaring across his face and upper neck wrapping around his visage. Piercing, snow-blind eyes with no eyebrows stared at me above a bare space where a nose should have been. The hideous figure let out a smile that was both toothy and toothless.

“Me?” he responded, trying to catch his breath. “They call me the Hangman, but that ain’t important, really.” His voice had a certain southern drawl to it, oddly inviting. “Why don’t you come on down here and we’ll get you home?”

I paused. I was trapped up here. The only way out was down. I reached for my phone, pulling it up only to see that I had no service.

“Come onnnnn,” the Hangman spewed out, reaching a hand upwards from under his cloak. It wasn’t as much a hand as it was a claw. Dark black liquid flowed down, dripping off and down his arm, as the very same inky liquid came pouring out of his eyes and mouth. Closing the clawed hand into a fist, the Hangman wrenched his arm back, as if some invisible force were restraining it.

In that instant, the sound of a thousands of pieces of wood snapping cracked through the air. Black, dripping branches of trees shot into the tiny wooden treehouse, bending the aged tree like a straw.

I began to fall through the wall that had previously been my safe haven, the pieces of it blackened and streaming to the ground like a massive inky raindrop.

The Hangman caught me by the arm as I fell, towering above me.

He cackled as a breathy moan released from his maw. Hot air glazed my face like a dog’s tongue.

“Now. Let’s get you home,” the Hangman said, as two spider-like arms protruded from his back, shooting directly into my shoulders. Pain shot through my body as the black sludge pierced my bloodstream. The arms lifted me up into the air as the Hangman began to walk, deeper into the forest.

And then, nothing.

I awoke in a dark room, or maybe a cave?  The area was lit by the light of a single torch in the distance, its small flame dancing with each crackle of the fire.

A table was placed a bit further in, shadowed and hidden. The only noise that filled the chamber was silence. I tried to move my legs, but could see and feel the black sludge wrapping around and securing my ligaments. Whatever it was seemed to flow, like black ink in water, slowly slithering across my body like a snake. The binds were tight. Too tight to break.

“Ahhh. You’re awake,” the Hangman’s voice slipped out from above me. More torches ignited, sending flames cascading up the dirt walls, revealing the source of the Hangman’s voice.

Above me was a web. A spider’s web. Massive and intricate in design, made from the same black sludge that constrained me.

Hanging from this web were bodies, in various states of decay. Animals and long-missing pets were wrapped neatly in black nooses that hung them by their necks. Shocked speechless, I saw Lyn’s lifeless corpse staring down at me.

In the center was a large, black, writhing mass. It stirred, each leg sliding out of its body and out onto the web. A head emerged from the front, the same human-like face of the Hangman I had seen before, but much more massive.

He laughed, gurgling and choking. “Welcome home my child,” he said with a cough, the sludge dripping out of his maw as he spoke, “can I get you something to eat?” The Hangman began to descend in spider-like elegance, each leg connecting to a dripping web, slightly shaking the whole construct.

I couldn’t do or say anything. I was frozen. Wide-eyed and afraid.

“Well, we can’t have you going to sleep with nothing to eat, now can we?” the Hangman said.

His face contorted, as if in pain. With a wheeze and a cough, the Hangman vomited out a large pile of black sludge which began to pour in my direction, then began to intertwine with my restraints. It wrapped slowly and delicately, cocooning my body.

I began to scream, flailing wildly against the liquid that was consuming me, as liquid rope formed a noose around my neck, draining into my mouth as I began to drown.

The Hangman laughed and sputtered. “I’ll save you for later, my child.”

The last sight before the sludge consumed me was the wide toothy maw of the Hangman whispering, “Goodnight.”

Carefully, a web reached down, collecting the cocoon, as the Hangman returned to the center, admiring his collection of meals.

Police sirens rang out all across Jamestown, Ohio, that evening. A mother and father reported their child missing when he never showed up for dinner. Little did they know, he had left the house hours ago, never to be seen again.

The TV blared a report of the missing child, Oliver Marley, as well as Lyn Hersher. They are suspected to have fled their homes sometime during the afternoon together. Although no foul play is suspected, police are investigating the forest behind the children’s homes after a clue was discovered.

A set of footprints deep in the forest that left a black sludge behind in each step.

About the Contributors
Photo of Blake Berry
Blake Berry, Fluco Beat Editor

Blake is a Senior and this is his second year in Journalism. He is the editor of The Fluco Beat. He likes to play video games and likes memes.

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