It was a day like any other. I was sitting in a small booth beside the entrance of our local public forest. The forest was located in the outskirts of Kingsham and marked the edge of the city. The other woods nearby were dangerous, dark, unguarded and rumored to be haunted. I always thought people to be idiots to come visit the forest where I worked, as the other forests were free, but the events I encountered only left me to imagine what horrors occur in the dark, awful forests where no one went. The forest where I worked was a well-kept park of sorts, surrounded by a head-high fence. The perimeter of the woods could be circled completely in around two hours, so the forest wasn’t all that large. It mainly contained of a small, grassy centre surrounded by various paths radiating out from that centre. Like veins tracing out of the centre towards the various extremities consisting of an array of various types of trees and foliage
My job was to oversee the people entering and taking care of the obligatory entry fee. The fee wasn’t much at all, but because of the amount of people that enter it was enough to pay me and the overseer as little as we got. Well, it used to be enough. People didn’t visit that much any more, and those who visited reluctantly parted with their coins in order to enter the forest, and sometimes I let people in for free because they were excited to enter, and who am I to lower their excitement. But the forest was nice.
The entry booth was less nice. It was small and made of rotten, damp wood. A dankness filled the little space I had, accompanied by a small gas lantern and my cold, claustrophobic self. I was seated in a chair, chest almost pressed against the counter and the back of the chair was against the back wall. The enclosement was horrid, and the lack of a window thoroughly enforced that feeling. Right, next to the forest, was a solid, windowless wall, and left was the door that locked me away from the breezy, blue-skied outside world. The heavy wooden door locked from the inside to make sure that no people could forcefully enter their way in. The room was cramped, dark, horrible, yet safe. But could never have been safe enough.
The day it all started, as far as I recall, the skies were monotonously grey, and the colors of the woods inspired no will to enter. As not many people did that day, besides the regulars who visited every other day. I didn’t always ask them to pay, it would not feel right to ask them every time they entered. But they were only three folks, no one else entered during the endless amount of hours we were opened. Except for one man: a tall, athletically built man dressed in a nice, long, black coat. The sling of a large, black duffle bag was thrown around his right shoulder, and both hands were keeping the bag from swinging too much as he walked. He reached the entrance and only gazed at me with piercing, brown eyes. He never slowed his pace as he entered. I did not think much of it, as getting out to chase him would have taken too much effort. I was happy to have some folks in the forest.
As the dark night started to take over the greyness of that day, the sky turned a golden grey and it got darker and darker. I had forgotten about the man in the forest, but during the late twilight he reminded me of his presence by leaving the forest. Bereft of his bag, and with his once pristine coat dirtied, he walked quickly out of the forest, only to swiftly disappear in the darkness of the road, too fast for me to call after him. It kept me awake throughout the night. Had something in the woods attacked him? Was it a beast? Had the regulars, two women and one man, felt it necessary to throw him to the ground? But there were no beasts in the forest, and the three regulars were elderlies, too crippled to even think about a physical conflict. Come to think of it, the regulars never left the forest. Not as I closed the gate besides the booth, and neither as I opened that gate which was also the only entrance to the forest.