The puritans' vision was similar to what many of the people that live in the present felt as well. Especially in the small town of Passion, North Carolina. Granted, their vision of the woods was not as dramatic and outlandish as that of the puritans; however, their view of what evils it held still stood by the same principles. The woods weren't evil to them, but they held evil. Dangers of a more realistic sense, instead of supernatural. Dangers such as harmful, diseased creatures that inhabit it from within the shadows and dark figures with devilish desires to commit harmful deeds to the first living creature that crossed their path. It was a haven for evil instead of purely evil itself. In fact, instead of being conceived as a haven for “evil” in its traditional sense, it was more of a haven for banefulness for the residents of Passion.
Most of the adults felt this way about the wooded area that surrounded most of the small town and would normally forbade their children from spending any of their play time near it, especially during the night. The teenagers thought nothing of it; they were usually too engulfed in the solace of their social lives to pay it any attention. The only residents of Passion that could tolerate the woods and recognize its true sanctity were the children, more specifically a boy by the name of Radcliffe Munday. Rad, an 11-year old African American boy, saw the woods through a transcendentalist's eyes. The woods were his home, his sanctuary. He felt at home when he was surrounded by the immensely tall trees, embracing the mixture of nature that danced around in his eyes as he inhaled the aroma of the pine scent in the air. Even at the tender age that he was, he was able to understand the importance of nature and spent as much time around it as he could.
It was on a rainy Saturday morning that Rad had planned to go out with his best friend and play in the woods for as long as possible. His friend, Jerry Stout, was a Caucasian fellow with large blue eyes. The night before, Rad mentioned to Jerry that the two should sneak into the woods early the next morning. Jerry enthusiastically agreed and the two decided to go for it the folowing day in spite of the rain.
Rad crawled out of bed as the rain pounded on his window. For a slight second, Rad wanted to drift back to sleep with the help of the mesmerizing sound of the shower that pounded on the roof of his house, but he decided not to. He didn't want to leave Jerry in the woods and rain by himself. He had to go meet with him, even with the thought hanging around in his mind of the possibility that Jerry might chicken out the same way he was about to. No, he wouldn't do something like that, Rad said to himself. He went into his parent's room and cracked the door open carefully. There wasn't much room for him to see, but from what he could make out, he figured his parents were still asleep. A figure with long black hair, his mother, lay on her side, her face away from Rad's view.
He closed the door back and tip-toed back into his room to get dressed. He moved as quietly as he could, giggling softly in excitement with the thrill of knowing that he had a chance of getting away with this. He stepped into a pair of jeans and threw on a t-shirt and a hoody. He slipped on his sneakers, grabbed a few of his toys from his toy box, and threw them into a thin cloth bag that had been given to him by his mother. He was all set.
Rad, once again, tip-toed to his parent's room, this time as fast as he could. He cracked the door open and saw that no movement had been made since the last time he checked. He closed the door back and tip-toed away very noisily, as he was caught up in the excitement and adrenaline rush that came with committing the crime. The feeling almost rivaled the ecstasy he felt when he was in the woods. Rad opened the front door, stepped through, and cautiously closed it. He was out. After a short victory dance, Rad pulled his hood onto his head and splashed through the rain puddles of his front yard, making his way to Jerry's house. He ran a couple of blocks before finding him standing on the front porch of his house, waiting.
“Jerry!” Rad yelled from the street. Jerry turned his head to the sound of his name and smiled. He stepped off of his porch and ran to Rad, who had already begun his trek to the woods that lay outside of the neighborhood known as Belleview Place. Like Rad, he was wearing a hood, but instead it was a silk jacket as opposed to Rad's cotton hoody.
“What took you so long?” Jerry asked as he approached him.
“Don't complain,” Rad said, slightly annoyed. “I almost didn't come. I wanted to stay in and sleep.”
“But this was your idea."
“Yeah, but I didn't know it was going to rain.”
“Excuses, excuses,” Jerry said shaking his head with a smile. “We're here now and that's all that matters.”
“Shut up,” Rad said, shoving Jerry, who immediately lost his balance and fell into a puddle of mud. His jeans were now heavily stained and he knew they would irritate him later on. Rad knew this and knew that Jerry would come back in retaliation, so he broke out in a run. Jerry got up as fast as he could and chased after him. Rad laughed, almost maniacally with each step. Jerry was chasing him, not in anger, but for simple boyhood revenge. He didn't care about messing up his jeans; his mother would be the one to worry about it later. He only wanted to even the score for pride's sake.
Jerry was considerably slower than Rad, who was amazingly fit for his age. Rad led Jerry all the way through the quiet neighborhood until they reached the wooded area that surrounded it. As soon as Rad stepped into the shelter of trees that only allowed a few drops of rain to fall through, he stopped in his tracks marveling at the pine structures around him. Letting his guard down, he allowed Jerry to run up behind him and tackle him to the ground. While Rad's face lay in a puddle of dirty water, Jerry looked up also to take in the amazing spectacle that surrounded them.
Rad pushed Jerry off his back and got up, covered in mud and dirty water from head to toe on his front side.
“Thanks a lot,” he said sarcastically.
“You're welcome,” Jerry responded with a smile. Rad took a couple of the toys from the bag and dropped the bag behind one of the trees. The toys were two machine guns, with a small knob on the side of both. When pulled back, the knob would lock in and when the trigger was pulled, the toy would make a loud and somewhat realistic machine-gun sound until the knob slid back to the front. Rad walked over, handed one of the toys to Jerry, and began setting the rules for the game they were about to play. The two were going to be working together, fighting against alien invaders that were using the woods as their base of operations. As the game began, Rad found himself immersed in an imaginary world that, to him, seemed eerily realistic in the environment he was exploring in reality. But this wasn't a concern for a kid like Rad, who saw the pretend world that he and his friend created as a safe haven to control with his own mind.
The two continued to play for nearly half an hour. Their activity showed no signs of letting up until something brought them out of their imaginations. They heard a sound coming from one of the bushes that wasn't familiar. Rad and Jerry looked at each other in confusion. It was a guttural growl that sounded nothing like any animal they had ever heard before. For a moment, the two actually believed that they were walking through a forest that was being inhabited by the very aliens they pretended to kill. A sudden movement in the bushes caused Jerry to jump in fear and run next to Rad. They were genuinely scared. They held up their toy guns menacingly, hoping that they're false protection might scare the creature away. They could sense that whatever it was, it was set to pounce on them at any second. Their adrenaline was unimaginable high. It was only a matter of time....
“GRRAAARRRGGGHH!!” yelled a figure that jumped out of the bushes, startling the young boys into a cowardly protective stance. The roar was immediately followed by a fit of laughter from what seemed to be multiple people. Rad and Jerry came from behind the safety of their arms to see what was going on. Four boys stood in front of the bush that held the vicious alien. They were all howling with laughter at Rad and Jerry's reaction to their ferocious high jinks. The two weren't as familiar with the other boys as they were with their leader, the person that frightened them in the first place. His name was Connor Edwards, a 13-year old menace that possessed an unhealthy habit of torturing them as well as a variety of other kids in school. Even during their summer vacation, which they were currently enjoying, Connor found ways of reacquainting himself with his victims and continuing his bullying.
Connor was the first to return the mist-filled air into his cramping lungs to speak through the laughter. “You guys should have seen your faces!!”
“You should see your face when I get done pummeling it,” Rad said boldly. Rad's demeanor was similar to that of a wolverine's. No matter the adversary, he wouldn't hesitate to stand up to them. In other cases, this would be a good thing, except for the fact that Rad had no means of defending himself, and wouldn't wait for someone to come do it for him. He would stand up to the wrong person and face the consequences later, which was a frequent occurrence that he and Jerry, who sometimes regretted his friendship with Rad for that very reason, were forced to go through. From the look of it, it seemed that Rad was about to jump into that end of the pool once again.
“You're going to do what now?” Connor said, deliberately cuffing his ear in Rad's direction. “'Pummel my face'? Have you forgotten about all of those times I showed you that dealing with us was the wrong idea? Or is your memory really that bad?”
Jerry put a hand on Rad's shoulder. It was his one and only warning to Rad, a warning that had been given countless times before, but was disregarded just as it was about to be done once again.
“Come on, kid,” Connor said, trying to reconcile with the aggressive child, a once and a life time event. “We go through this every single time we bump into each other. You just can't learn to take a joke, can you?”
“I don't appreciate your jokes, Connor,” Rad said threateningly. “It wasn't a joke when you said all of that stuff about my mother, was it? You went too far.”
“Ha,” Connor said, recalling the event. “I remember. You still mad at me for that? You're a sensitive little bitch, aren't you?”
“Shut up, Connor!” Jerry said, stepping in front of Rad.
“Oh and now you've got your little boyfriend standing up for you? This is priceless. You act like you're tough, Rad, but really you're just a scared little boy who's afraid of being picked on. Nothing but a little cry baby. You deserve every beating you get.”
“You take that back!!” Rad said, walking all the way up to Connor until his face was inches from his. He was hurting inside and he wasn't doing a good job at concealing it.
“Well at least you're bold enough to stand up to me. But like I said, you just can't take it when someone hurts your pride, can you? You're so pathetic. And you're actually getting madder because I'm telling you the truth about yourself. Look at him! He's turning red!”
Connor and his friends laughed again. It was true, Rad was growing red with anger and embarrassment. His ego was being hurt. He wasn't going to stand for it much longer. He looked back at Jerry who gave him a look of reassurance mixed with the anxiety of knowing that Rad was about to lose control of himself. It didn't help at all. The anger was burning within him, heating his face, ears and most importantly, his fists, which felt like fire in the tense fingers that were now boiling with the sweat from his palms. He was about to explode.
It was inevitable. Rad threw the first punch with as much force as he could muster right into Connor's face, but his weak 11-year-old stature took a toll on him. The punch was slow enough for Connor to dodge it. In return, Connor grabbed Rad's arm, pulled him onto his shoulders, and finished him off by slamming the young boy onto the wet ground. His back made contact with a thick tree root that had been protruding from the grass. The slam felt like it was enough to break his back, but instead, the shock from the blow traveled through his nervous system and activated a trigger in his brain that shut it down completely. Rad had blacked out.
The first sense to hit him was the smell of metal in the air. It was a sour but somewhat sweet scent that Rad couldn't comprehend at first. This first realization that he was now conscious, put him in alert mode. He couldn't open his eyes fast enough. He jerked his head to the right and paid for it. A surge of pain traveled through the right side of his neck. He had been lying at the base of a tree with his head tilted to the left and a crick had formed as a result. Rad rubbed it with pressure but he wasn't feeling what he was expecting to feel. He'd anticipated the feeling of the skin on his neck but instead rubbed his fingers across a slick, slippery substance. He believed for one second only, that it was only sweat or water from the rain that had been pouring (which had now stopped), but as he pulled his hand out to look, he was shocked at what he saw. Red liquid. Blood.
He gasped, reaching for his neck again to see if there was more. He didn't feel much pain, only the crick that developed. Why was there so much blood? He pulled it back, but no more blood was on his hand than before. That was good. That meant the blood wasn't his. Wait, he thought. That's not good. It's not my blood. Then who's is it?
It was at that moment that Rad's eyes laid upon something that would traumatize him for years to come. Lying around him in the surrounding forest that he saw as his refuge throughout his young life, were the bodies of the boys that he saw just before blacking out. All four of them, including Connor, had been brutally torn apart. Their blood decorated the green grass in a sickening pattern. Many of the boys had been dismembered with their limbs strewn across the ground in puddles of blood. Connor had been decapitated, and his head was lying dangerously close to where Rad had been resting.
Rad hastily staggered to his feet, wide-eyed and frightened. He was hyperventilating. The images that were appearing around him seemed unreal and yet there they were right before him. Four mutilated bodies lying in the middle of the forest. But where was Jerry?
Rad was moving rapidly. He tripped over the protruding tree root that had kept him from witnessing the events that unfolded when he was unconscious. It was a blessing to him. Rad ran through the area, looking for his friend. He called his name several times but received no answer. His eyes darted back and forth, desperately searching for any sign of his friend's presence in the area. Maybe he ran away and got to safety. Maybe he had gone to get help. He could have been anywhere.
It wasn't long before Rad found him. It was entirely by accident. Rad was about to walk out of the woods. He took one last look at the carnage before him and felt a bitter taste form in his mouth. His stomach muscles began to move on their own. In reaction, Rad turned his head and vomited near the side of a tree. He coughed several times and felt beads of sweat fall down over his face. He wiped them away and put his hand back on his thighs as he doubled over.
That's when he noticed the sweat on his hand. Only it wasn't sweat. It was red. He soon felt another bead of sweat on his forehead. Then he noticed that it wasn't beads of sweat that were falling over his face. It was something from above.
Rad looked up and a drop of blood landed in his eye, but this didn't stop him from seeing what he had gazed up to see. Above him, hanging from the tree he had emptied his gut near, was the disfigured and decomposing body of Jerry Stout. Rad screamed at the top of his lungs. The scream echoed throughout the woods. Throughout the town of Passion. Throughout the world.
He started running. He didn't know where he was going but he didn't care. He needed to run. Running kept him from losing his sanity. He didn't want to be in the woods anymore. It was no longer his safe haven. It was as evil as his parents said it was. Within minutes, Rad lost his sense of direction and knew that he was lost. He stopped, looking up at the dark trees that surrounded him. In his eyes, they all looked like oversized knives, trying to cut into his body. They sickened him. The woods were quickly becoming a prison. A torture room for his conscience. He had to get out of there. But how?
Rad saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and noticed a dark figure squinting at him from a few yards away. He was a pale-skinned man, wearing a long black leather coat that swayed in the wind. His eyes were dark but tempting and his hair was black and short. He appeared to be fairly young, maybe slightly younger than Rad's father, who was in his late 30's at the time. Maybe this man knew how to get out of here, Rad thought.
“HEY!” Rad called out to the man. “Do you know the way out of this place!?”
The man didn't respond. He began to walk to his left, near a tall thick pine tree. Rad thought the man was leaving. He called back out to him. “Wait! Don't leave! I need you!”
But it was too late. The dark man had disappeared behind the tree and didn't come out. Rad took a few steps, preparing to chase after the man, when he heard a voice behind him. It chilled his bones, like a gust of winter air blowing on his bare skin.
“Why do you need me?” said the dark man. Rad turned to see him. How did he get there so fast? He thought. The dark man slowly walked toward Rad, causing him to back up as he came closer. Rad had been taught the rule of not speaking to strangers but in a small town where many were well-acquainted with each other, it was easy to forget. It was now coming back to him and he was regretting ever getting this man's attention. But he was already deep in by now.
“I-I'm lost,” Rad stuttered in a near whisper. “How do I get out of the woods?”
The dark man smiled. “Why would you want to leave the woods? It's the greatest place in this world.”
Rad hesitated. “M-My f-f-friends....”
“They're dead, aren't they?” The dark man said, his face growing somber.
“How did you know?”
“I know everything that goes on in the woods, my friend,” the dark man said with a lazy smile that grew as he continued to look at the boy. His teeth were yellow and rotten, as if he had been smoking for most of his life. “It's a shame what happened to your friends. I don't have many friends. Would you like to be my friend?”
“Y-yeah, whatever,” Rad said, complying to whatever the dark man said.
“Alright then.” The man extended a hand to Rad, who reluctantly shook it. The man's hand grew increasingly warm, the longer he held it. It felt almost like it was burning him. It was starting to hurt, but Rad continued to hold contact, in fear of upsetting the mysterious man. It wasn't until Rad actually saw steam rise from the connection of their hands, that he pulled his away from the man as fast as he could. He looked into his palm and expected to see his flesh slightly singed but it was as normal as always. He looked back up at the man in shock.
“What's wrong?” he asked with a look of concern that seemed genuine.
“Nothing,” Rad said, avoiding eye contact with him.
“What's your name, friend?” the man asked.
“Radcliffe. Well....I'm Robin. Robin Goodfellow.”
“What happened to your eye, Rad?” Robin asked curiously.
“My eye?” Rad touched the bottom of his left eye tenderly. It stung when he made contact. The drop of blood must have irritated it, he thought.
“Its red. You might have pink eye or something,” the dark man laughed at his own comment but stopped when he saw that Rad wasn't laughing. He tilted his head upward, examining the boy. Seconds later, he was smiling again.
“The way out is that way,” Robin said, pointing in the direction behind Rad. “Just keep going. You'll make it back to Belleview Place.”
“Okay. Th-Thank you, Robin.”
“You're very welcome,” Robin said coldly. Rad turned and began to run.
“Rad!” He called. Rad turned around to see what he wanted, making instant eye contact with Robin's soulless eyes. “Tell your mother I said 'hello'.”
Rad couldn't figure out why the man told him this but he nodded in return anyway. He turned and started running again. He looked over his shoulder a few times and saw that Robin was already gone. He was glad. He felt extremely uncomfortable in his presence. Rad continued to run until he saw the forest dissipate enough for him to see the remnants of the neighborhood. His confidence grew. He was out.
He continued to run down the street, shocked and in disbelief as he reflected on what he had just seen. It was a bad idea from the start to go into those woods. He realized that now. Everything that his parents had told him was true. He had to get home. He didn't care what his consequence for going was. He had to tell someone what happened in there.
He finally strolled up to his own house, out of breath from running for so long. He walked into his house leaving the door slightly ajar. By this time, they must have known that he snuck out. He had left his toys in the woods, but he didn't plant to go back there and get them. All he wanted to do was go up stairs and tell his parents what happened and have them do something about it.
As he walked up the stairs, he heard sounds coming from the room. It was a constant heaving, the sound of someone softly crying just out of view. Rad cautiously pushed his parent's door open and saw his father leaning on the wall beside the bed. He had his hands pressed against his temples, his face twisted into an expression of anguish and pain. Tears were streaming down his face and his breathing was sporadic and unpredictable. At the sight of his son, his father's expression turned hostile and angry.
“Look at what you did, you little shit!! Look at what you did!!”
Rad was in a state of pure confusion. That is until he looked at the figure with long black hair that was laying in the bed, the same way she had been lying when he'd left. He hadn't opened the door wide enough to notice the blood that was seeping through the sheets and onto the floor. Rad walked into the center of the room and saw a knife protruding from his mother's stomach. Her eyes were closed; her face peaceful, as if she were asleep. Rad knew better.
"Look at what happened," his father said in a near whisper before screaming at the top of his lungs. "LOOK AT WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!"
Rad's father slumped against the wall and began to cry hysterically. Rad did nothing but look into the room with complete shock in his eyes.
And so ended, the dismal and shockingly gruesome memory that has plagued Rad's mind for years now. As expected, it took a toll on his life thereafter. It changed him, as it would any other human that would be forced to endure a horror such as his. The only difference is that any normal human would have lost part of their sanity with those lost that day. But Rad was strong for his age, psychologically. He used it to his advantage. In the years that followed, Rad realized that it was most likely his manically depressed father who committed the crime against his mother and it was Rad who paid the price for it in the long run. This disturbed him, but not as much as what had happened earlier. What he couldn't accurately grasp was what the dark-looking man who called himself Robin Goodfellow had uttered to him. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Robin Goodfellow had already known that his mother was dead, but the questions that surrounded that fact were what troubled him.
Many things happened in Rad's life following that day that would rival what he witnessed, but would never come close to letting him forget it. That day led him into a forest that he felt was far worst than the one he had trekked through that day. A forest that he wouldn't be able to escape from as easily as he did with the one in Belleview Place. He had to endure it the best way he could. And to do that, he needed to adapt. This forest was the world of the supernatural...