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Not Your Bedtime Stories

What Lives Beyond the Treeline

Art by Schnup009

Where do I begin?

I guess the very beginning is a good start.

It was about four weeks ago, I decided to clock out of work early in order to have time for window shopping at the town's new strip mall. Just like any other day, I exit through the back of the pizza joint for a smoke break.

Why the back?

The pizza joint I work at is basically on the edge of town, which is surrounded by dense pine forests. The front of the building faces towards town while the back faces the forest. I'm a man of nature, plus the pizza joint had a great view of the never ending forest.

You can spot some of nature's wild life back there. Just a few days ago, I happened to spot a family of raccoons. To be honest, I really never enjoyed seeing this building because it stuck out like a sore thumb.

The red brick exterior, the obnoxiously yellow sign, and the terrible color scheme just throws you a curve ball. Especially the fact that it's placed in a terrible location. It made the part-time job seem longer than it actually was, so as a way to pass the time, I would sit at the back of the building and just watch the treeline and see what woodland creature will visit the dumpster.

But, now that the business is booming, the constant flow of customers and the roar of engines chased away the wildlife.

So, on that day, I was surprised to see a deer waltz out of the forest. I watched silently and limited my movement, the deer slowly walked into the opening before it finally seen me. It stopped in its tracks and stared at me, like anyone else I just stared back.

It took a while for the deer to finally feel comfortable enough to start grazing. It didn't last long, something in the woods spooked the poor thing and it took off, back into the forest.

I put the cigarette butt out and made my way to the bus stop in front of the building. My co-worker, Ashley, jogged up and sat down next to me. Her wild red hair pulled back into a bun, stray strands poked out in different directions. She turned to me and furrowed her brow.

"I know, my hair just doesn't want to cooperate with me today," Ashley said with a sigh, I chuckled and offered her a cigarette.

"Thanks, man. I don't know what happened to my pack, I'm sure Keith stole it." She lit the end and took a long drag and expelled the white smoke from her chapped lips.

"He really just gets on my nerve, did you know he stole my lighter just a few days ago." I nodded and just listened to Ashley rant about Keith and how terrible he is.

"Wow, you two must be in love," I joked, but Ashley's face turned beet red. I didn't know if it was from embarrassment or from anger, because the 6:30 Greyhound stopped just in time for me to escape a barrage of punches.

I feel bad for Ashley, she has the graveyard shift and you don't want to be on the graveyard shift. Well at least if you're impatient when a group of buzzed and stoned teens walk in. They can be a hassle, especially the stoners, alway trying to order everything off the menu but don't have the cash to pay for said meal.

I looked back and watched Ashley send a quick wave and jogged back into the pizza joint. I smiled and shook my head, Ashley can handle herself.

For a girl that only weighs 120 pounds, plus she can almost talk her way out of anything.

I hopped off the bus and stood in front of a darken strip mall, the bright LED light of the mall lit up the small parking lot with ease. Confused, I walked up to the sliding doors and peered inside, there we're no lights on nor is there a janitor. I furrowed my brow and checked my phone, it's 6:50 and the sign said it would be open until 9:00 pm on Fridays.

I cursed and began to dial my father's phone number, it rang four times before my dad picked up. His voice hoarse and gravelly.

"Chris, are in you trouble?" His voice was filled with concern, our family has a system. If I were in trouble I would call my dad but if I need a ride I would call my mom, but today my mother can relax and rest for a day. After all, she does work on the local wheat farm.

"No dad, I'm not in trouble. I just need a ride home, the strip mall has closed early and I don't want to disturb mom," I explained quickly, my dad sighed on the other end with relief.

"Alright, I'm on my way." The phone call ended and I slid my phone back in my pocket.

I turned on my heel and walked back to the bus stopped, I pulled out my pack of cigarettes and lit one up.

I looked out into the tree line, my eyes trained on the shadows casted by the sunset. The clouds above were painted pastel pink and purple, I smiled and just relaxed on the bus bench.

Something caught my eye, a dark shadow darted between the tree trunks and would pause before it started to move again. I stared with confusion, then the mysterious creature walked out into the open. It was a deer, it's black beady eyes stared at me.

I froze on the spot and watched as it began to graze, it's tail will twitch as it went along. In the distance I can hear the hum of my dad's truck, the deer perked its ears up and took off into the forest.

The rumble of the engine vibrated the ground as I walked up to the the faded blue truck. Rust slowly eats away at the truck's sides, I shook my head in disbelief, even after all these years it still manages to run smoothly.

Country music blasted through the speakers and my dad tried to hit every single note, I chuckled when his voice cracked while he tried to hold down a long note.

"What, you don't like my singing?" My dad made a pouty face and I couldn't help but let out another chuckle.

"Yeah, if you call that singing," I said and looked out the window while my dad told me jokes along the way.

My mom was already in bed by the time my dad and I came home, the radio was on still on. While my dad goes to turn off the radio I head upstairs and got ready for bed.

I fell asleep around 1:30 in the morning after a long game session. Something woke me up, I sat up in my bed and glanced around my room and tried to determine what woke me.

I glanced at my alarm clock on my night stand, 3:21 am. I shrugged my shoulders and laid back down and tried to go back to sleep, but for some reason I couldn't. I felt like I was being watched, I sighed and rolled onto my right side and stared out my open window.

Then I heard it, the sound of twigs breaking and a low whistle that would follow after. My body stiffen and I stared out the window, thoughts raced through my mind. What ever is out there had stopped moving, at least that's what I think.

Another low whistle, this time closer.

I slowly sit up and peered outside from my bed, I can see a dark shadow move at the edge of the backyard. I squinted and try to make out what it is in the low light. Just when I thought it had left the moon broke through the clouds and there stood a massive buck.

I stared amazed at the sear size of the beast, he lifted his head and let out another low whistle as he walked closer towards our house. I was captivated that nature can make such a monster.

What I failed to notice that there were more than one deer, another one walks into the yard this one another buck but with a smaller rack, a doe followed behind and more continued to come forward into the light. I gasped and my eyes nearly bulged out of my head.

But something seemed off about the small heard, the deer seemed to only move a few feet forward and stop. I watched as the big buck moved closer and let out another low whistle. Almost as if on cue the rest of the herd moved forward.

My heart rate picked up as the beast tilted his head upward, it felt as if time slowed down. The next thing I saw made me bolt of my bed and slam my window shut. I stared down in disbelief as the deer took another few steps forward, triggering the motion sensor yard lights. Another low whistle carried through the air and it sent a chill down my spine.

My dad must of noticed the backyard lights come on, because the next thing I knew our golden retriever, Oscar, bolted out from the sliding doors below my window. Oscar barked and charged at the deer, startled the herd took off into the forest with Oscar hot on their heels.

I blinked and watched the tree line, waiting for Oscar to come back out but he didn't.

The next morning my dad stood at the edge of the yard calling out Oscar's name. After about five minutes my dad came back inside and reassured us that he'll be home by dinner time, he wasn't back by the time I came home from work. I know why he didn't come back, I know why my dad called me downstairs the next morning with red puffy eyes.

He held out his hand and in his grasp was Oscar's collar, covered in blood splatters.

What ever was in our yard last night, wasn't a deer. I can still see its empty eye sockets and pointed teeth, I can remember how emancipated the other deer were, I remember how their eyes were gone. What ever it was, had control over the herd like a puppeteer.

That thing had lured Oscar into the woods, I know because that night I saw it again. This time it was barking like a dog.

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