The Edge of the Wood

This is a piece that I wrote and performed at my local open mic night. It took place at a small coffeehouse that I haunt in Illinois, in southwest Chicagoland, in the western suburbs, south of the rivers and canals, and northeast of the westernmost Cook County forest preserves. I went early to work with the group that runs the sound and lights so they could help, as this is a team effort. The items in brackets are queues for the lighting team to flicker the spotlights on the reader to simulate lightning. The writing in braces are for the MC or person reading the story. The plain text is to be read to the “audience”. The “columns” to which I refer in the first paragraph are the way the audience is grouped at this event, if you wish to adapt this story for your own audience, just split them as such; two thirds to one third, rain to thunder, respectively. I attempted to read it in a tone similar to how I thought Tom Waits might read modern, hardboiled, noir thrillers.
Now please, enjoy, either in public, or at a house with friends. 

{First, I want to start by asking for complete vocal silence, this can’t have any talking. I would also like to ask for some audience participation, left and center column, I want you to either rub your open hands together or lightly snap your fingers. You are my rain bringers. Right column, anytime the lights flash, I want you to pause, then stomp your feet with your heels a few times. You don’t have to keep going through the whole story. You will know when we begin.}

Now, I want to welcome you to… The Edge of the Wood. [Lightning]

[Lights down low]

He was in the house when he saw it.

The first time.

Sipping his tea, he glanced out of the kitchen from his aging wooden English cottage.

Through the condensation of the old window, past the cracked paint of the sill and into the lush backyard, he watched the fine rain mist down from the billowing clouds above.

It was almost dancing in the shadow of the day, against the rickety old fence, gyrating with every passing of the wind, returning to its dim structure of light with every lull.

The little flint of green flickered, with each flicker following every bolt of lightning as it sprinted from the sky.

[Lightning]

The mellow sunlight, that could, just barely, ease its way through the foggy sky, bounced from the falling mist and transformed the outside air into a soft golden glow. It illuminated the arborous wall that bordered the yard…

…from the darkened Wood.

The underbrush was visible thanks to the occasional cracks of light.

[Lightning]

Not enough to count the blades of grass or the groups of weeds he’d neglected.

Neither squirrels, chipmunks, nor even wayward foxes, sought the dry cover of his lawn, nor the snacks of dandelion weeds, nor the dry home of the billowing trees or thick bushes in the yard.

It was completely empty.

All of it.

Except for that faint… little… flickering… green glow.

His curiosity slowly lifted him from his seat and goaded him to look closer.

Flexing wooden panels creaked under his feet as the soles rolled over the old maple planks that layered the base of his cottage, glossing with their amber varnish.

He did so, as you do, when you’re curious, eager not to lose any details of what he had seen.

He was very quiet, even though nobody was around.

[Lightning]

He was careful, not to make even the faintest sound.

Every creak sent a small shock through his nervous system, fearful any movement or sound could disturb the oddity that he had witnessed.

Traversing the wooden floor, he made his way to the larger window in the living room, the one that faced the yard. He slowly eased his knee onto the cushion of the couch and let his weight lightly crease the plush leather. There, he thought, he would have a better vantage point of the glow, that same green glow, now slowly coming into his sight line.

[Lightning]

When he got to the window, the sky had darkened further, and the glow began to pulse, slowly at first, but increasing in frequency the longer he stared at it.

[Lightning]

His heart rate quickened at the thought of this glow having a mind of its own.

He felt that he knew that it was watching him.

Which was silly. These dark clouds were playing with his fragile old mind.

He scoffed at himself.

Fragile, Ha!

He was far from finding himself fragile.

But what was this thing? He had to know more.

He had to see it for himself.

He nimbly shuffled, for his age at least, away from the window, across to the living room to the closet, where his raincoat hung on its hook, draped above where he left his galoshes to dry.

Slowly and deliberately, he slid on his rain boots and donned his jacket. Grabbing an umbrella and a flashlight, he made his way outside. Having two things to grab onto made him feel safer. Having something in his grip was a morale booster. The confidence in being able to bludgeon anything that came after him, was irreplaceable.

Unfortunately, having one’s hands full can make opening and closing a door difficult.

Especially now, with his hands.

Especially now, with his balance.

Clutching the umbrella and torch with one hand, he made his way to the door and out into the foggy world. He carefully stepped out of the small house and into the misty cloud that covered the little village, that sat so quietly on the edge… Of the wood.

[Lightning]

His life was different now since he’d retired, and she had passed.
Nobody breaching perimeters. Nobody with bad test results.
No having to worry about what went on “outside of the wire”.
No dodging incoming ordinance or memorizing new languages.

No more dodging well-intended calls with bad news.

Here it was all English. Here there was nobody from whom he thought he’d need to defend against. Certainly, no green glows that didn’t originate from starlight scopes or even his pic-mounted ANPEQ2, but fifteen years away from the job, those instincts to defend still returned to him, flowing through his blood. Blood he’d seen… decades before.

[Lightning]

Turning around the left corner from his door, he peered from under his hood as the water dropped from the shaking of his Umbrella, his flashlight reflecting off rain drops, illuminating them like sparks from a grind wheel.

His garden that ran along the fence that divided his from his neighbor’s property, was still intact. The delicate leaves hadn’t been blown away by the wind. Nor the dainty petals on his roses.
The glow was still faint, still close by.

He moved forward, peering closer with each step, the green glowing brighter.

As he grew closer, a lime colored beam projected up into the fog and rain. Emitted from a perfect circle and shooting straight up, it emanated itself into a pillar of the soft green light. The sudden protrusion of the light forced him to look up, and witnessing the green light slowly darken.

As his gaze was returning to the earthen backdrop of the wood, he noticed the trees.

The trees were getting larger.

They were also getting darker.

A faint glint under the corner of his eye pulled back his gaze.
The very reason he ventured out in this weather, on this day, at this time.

The bright glow at the base of this pillar emitting from his carefully manicured lawn.
“Oh, what fresh hell is this?” he grumbled.
He went to touch the glowing pillar in front of him.

Pulling his hand back in shock, the dry warmth he felt!

He moved closer.

Growing brighter, it drew him in, and he moved even closer.

He got close to the light, finding himself having to squint, the emerald beacon searing his eyes.

His bones creaked as he bent down, feeling the sweat on his back trickle down his skin.
The light grew in intensity, the closer he got to the lawn, fighting through the rain to see it.

Dropping the umbrella and flashlight, he extended his arms, his now free hands squishing into the healthy, wet grass.

Bending down and craning his neck further to see inside the pillar of green, even closer.

His eyes widened.

His jaw dropped.

His heart stopped.

[Lights full blast, then kill the lights, before slowly bringing them back up]

{I want to thank all of you for participating in my story experiment and I hope you’ll all join us at the next open mic, were you can hear the SECOND INSTALLMENT OF…?}

The Edge… …of the Wood.

[Lightning]

Ending the first.

Published by Chaotic Lazy

Life exists in the inverse of your ego.

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