“THEY SAY THE SHADOWS DANCE in those woods.” the voice came from behind her. Camille turned around to see an old woman sitting on a porch in a weathered rocking chair. She wore a pink floral housecoat and white fuzzy slippers. She seemed like the stereotypical old woman except for her eyes, they were unnaturally blue.
“Dancing? That doesn’t sound so bad.” Camille said with a smile, trying to humor the old woman.
“Maybe so. But seein’ as how shadows aren’t supposed to dance, I wouldn’t go in there all alone.”
Camille looked back at the trail entrance. It looked well worn as if it were used all the time. The tattered, wooden trail marker matched the name her friend had told her, Haven’s Passing Trail. “Thanks for the concern, Ma’am. But I’m just going for a quick run. I’ll be Ok.” she said as she resumed her jog towards the trail.
“Suit yourself.” said the old woman “But may God bless and keep you.” Camille turned and waved to the old woman, put in her headphones, and made her way onto the trail.
Haven’s Passing was everything her friend had described. A huge grove of spindly birch trees surrounded the trail and created a thick canopy of leaves which provided a cool shade. Between all the white bark was a lush green carpet of ferns. But Camille’s focus was on the tree roots, rocks, and loose stone chaotically arranged throughout the trail. Her worries melted into the complexity of the run as she found her pace. She was making good time when suddenly she felt the stringy mess of a web in her face and hair. As she swung her arms wildly, she lost her footing and fell face first towards a pile of jagged rocks. She braced for impact, but it never came.
Camille could feel her body, but she couldn’t feel the weight of it on the ground. As she opened her eyes, she found she was face to face with the jagged rocks, but hovering above them. What the hell? She reached out and put her hands down on the ground and her body gently lowered to the ground. But lowered by what exactly?
Sitting up, she looked around but found nothing around but ferns and trees. A few strings of web tickled her neck and she brushed them off as she got to her feet. What just happened? She took a few steps towards home, when a large shadow stepped out from behind the trees. Stunned, she took a couple steps backward and leaned up against a tree. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The darkness that stood before her had no face or any other discernible details, except for the outline which revealed it was a man.
The shadow stepped towards her and offered a welcoming hand. Is he helping me? Her curiosity outweighed her fear and she took the shadow’s hand. It was cold and smooth. Instantly, she levitated a few inches from the ground and all of her questions were answered. He had saved her.
They stood silently for a few moments before he began leading her down the path. Camille was in awe as she effortlessly floated above the treacherous trail. It was magic. Real magic! As they made their way deeper into the woods, they came to a clearing. The shadow led her to the center and then graciously took a bow. She curtsied back. He drew her in close and put his other hand on the small of her back. They began to dance.
Soaring and twirling, it was more like flying than dancing. They gracefully slipped in & out of the trees as Camille’s toes lightly skimmed the tops of the ferns. The shadow spun and swung her around but made sure not to let her go. She was having so much fun she didn’t notice it had gotten dark. Her watch read 8:57pm.
For the first time, she spoke to the shadow, hoping he would understand. “It’s getting late and my family will be worried about me. But before I go I have to thank you for saving me.” She leaned in and placed a kiss where his cheek would be. “And thank you for the dance.” she said. The shadow stood in silence.
Camille let go of the shadow’s hand and lowered to the ground. She took a few steps away when the shadow bolted in front of her blocking her path.
“Sorry, I have to go. But I can come back again tomorrow.” She tried to walk around him but he grabbed her arm. “Hey! I said I have to go!” She tried to break free but his grasp became tighter. “Please! Let me go!!” she screamed.
The shadow began to change. It morphed into a shapeless force which slowly spread up her arms. She struggled to break free, but the darkness was enveloping her and headed straight for the blackness of the forest. Camille’s screams echoed, but there was no one to hear them.
They came to the base of an enormous oak tree. In the darkness she was just able to make out a face in its trunk.. Tightening around her waist, the shadow started lifting her up into the crown of the tree. She kicked and struggled, but without success. “NOOOOOO! Please let me go! I trusted you!! Why did you save me?!!” The shadow spread around her face and covered her mouth. Camille was completely helpless. She couldn’t move, couldn’t scream and when she struggled, the shadow just tightened its grip. All she could see was the moonlit trail below her.
Finally accepting her fate, she thought about home. She saw her Mom & Dad’s faces. She heard her sister’s laughter and smelled her Nana’s chocolate chip cookies. She thought about them all moving on with life, without her. But what struck her most was the thought of her Mother dealing with the loss of a child. Her Mother was such a good woman. She didn’t deserve this. I don’t deserve this! She began to cry.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps coming down the trail. She looked down and saw movement on the path below. As it grew closer she heard growling and snarling – it kind of looked like a dog. It was on two feet, but it was not human. A werewolf?!! The beast began sniffing the ground frantically moving in circles, locking onto a scent. Her scent.
Her heart began to race even faster. She tried desperately to break free from the shadow but instead broke a small branch off the oak tree. The branch landed right in front of the beast which stopped him in his tracks. He sniffed the branch and then slowly turned his head straight up the tree. The beast’s glowing blue eyes locked with hers. She tried to scream, but the shadow tightened until she could hardly breathe. Crouched and ready to pounce, the beast’s sharp white teeth glistened in the moonlight. The shadow drew her up higher into the tree when – CRACK!! A thick limb of the oak came down like a giant fist and in one fell swoop, crushed the werewolf.
Camille hung in stunned silence. A few moments later the shadow began to loosen its grip and gently put her down on the trail. She looked down at the werewolf’s still body. Returning to its friendlier form, the shadow put a hand on her shoulder. A wave of emotion crashed over her and she turned to the shadow and hugged him tightly. He had saved her life. Again.