Before I begin let me give a piece of advice that is of the utmost importance. If you ever find yourself walking alone in the woods or anywhere remote and away from other people, and suddenly everything goes completely silent around you, stop what you are doing immediately.
You only have a few seconds to act. Stop and drop to your knees. Put your face in the dirt and curl your arms around the back of your head. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Do not move a muscle, and whatever you hear, do not open your eyes. The best you can hope is that you will be ignored.
It should pass within a couple minutes. If you hear birds chirping, or wind rustling the trees, then you should be okay. When you feel ready, slowly uncurl your hands from your head. Open your eyes, and ensure that you are in the same location you were before it began. If you open your eyes and suddenly find yourself somewhere else than where you were before, then the rest of this is for you.
I sincerely hope it helps.
This method isn’t foolproof, but it’s the best advice I’ve got to offer. And I sure wish I would’ve known it when it happened to me. It may not have made a difference, but it would’ve been better than nothing. I’ll warn you now, this is a long story, but I’m going to try and encapsulate it all into just a couple posts to hopefully reach as many people as I can. It’s taken me a long time to prepare myself to tell this, but now I feel I have to, because I know I’m not the only one.
12 years ago, I was a camp counselor for a Christian youth camp located in the mountains of Colorado. I was 20 years old, and that was my fourth summer working out there. I loved the place, and had been attending annually since I was 12 years old.
It was your standard youth summer camp, with a nearby lake, arts and crafts and hiking expeditions through the woods. Pay was minimal, but that wasn’t really the point. I did it because I truly loved the job and actually looked forward to doing it every summer. The kids and staff that kept the operation going were wonderful, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. I think some of them may still blame themselves for what happened, but they shouldn’t.
No one could’ve possibly known what was out there.
I was an early bird. Used to wake up at dawn, and take some time to hike the local trails before the daily activities began. That day was much like any other, and after filling my thermos with some freshly brewed coffee I set out just as the sunrise began to bathe the land in a reddish-orange effulgence.
There was a path out there known to everybody as Rendezvous. It was about a three-mile circle through some unkempt terrain. The trees folded into the path in a way that made it difficult to see where you had been, or where you were going.
This made it a bit disorientating to try and ascertain your location at any given time. As long as you stuck to the path you would be led right back to the campsite, but it wouldn’t feel like it. Just as you’d be sure you were hopelessly lost and about to call in the search team, you’d arrive back at camp. That was the motto: just stick to the path and you’d rendezvous at the camp eventually.
Part of the trail crested at one point to give a marvelous view of the rolling Colorado plains from an elevated spectacle atop the Rocky Mountains. That was the main reason I enjoyed hiking it. That day I was walking along the trail alone as I had done dozens if not hundreds of times before. Came up to the crest, and rested to enjoy the view a moment before continuing on the trail.
On my way back around, I suddenly became aware of something which struck me as unusual. It was a summer morning, early august and quickly warming. Despite that, the birds weren’t chirping, and the usual sounds of rustling insects and forest ambience were not present.
I paused and listened for a moment and my confusion grew more pronounced. There was nothing, just absolute silence. I could almost hear my own heart beating. A feeling of what I can only describe as some sort of uncanny, existential sense of déjà vu then struck me out of nowhere. I always find the next part difficult to describe.
It began as a sort of dizzy sensation in my eyes, and discomfort in my chest. The trees and path around me seemed to rumble, then twist and elongate, and the ground looked like it was breathing in and out. My initial thought was that I was having some kind of seizure or stroke, despite never having any serious medical issues like that before or since.
It just felt like everything had suddenly stopped being real.
I felt an aching begin in my head, and in seconds it became so agonizingly painful that I collapsed to my knees. I pressed my hands hard to my face, and prayed it would end. I felt immense pressure from all around me, pushing on every square inch of my body.
The whole thing happened so quick, and the memory is so clouded. It felt like my body was about to implode inward on itself. Like I was being turned inside out, slipping through a black hole, or being folded like origami.
Despite how unpleasant that may sound, the only real pain was my throbbing head which culminated in severe pressure between my eyes. The whole world was just completely discombobulated beyond anything describable for a few moments. I thought I was dying, but then it stopped.
I suddenly regained composure to find myself on hands and knees in the dirt, and suddenly the world had gotten dark. I hobbled to my feet, and nearly collapsed back down again. The previous sunlight was gone and there was no sign of the trail I had been walking on. I was in a grove of woods, but it wasn’t the same place.
Everything was different.
The environment was dark, but despite that I could see perfectly fine. I looked to the sky and realized the sun was gone, and the sky was entirely black. I thought I’d just passed out for a few hours, but then I realized that there were no stars in the sky. No moon either. There was something else though.
It looked like a giant green ring surrounding a dark orb. The black orb center might’ve just been empty space, but in the moment, I thought it was some kind of weird solar eclipse. It was too big for that though, and neither the sun or moon have ever appeared that large in the sky before. The iridescent green from the ring beamed across the vicinity, giving the landscape an oddly earthen glow.
I looked harder at the vegetation, and the trees around me. They looked different than any trees I’d seen before. The bark on their trunks were almost like scales. Sleek and jagged, meshed in an almost perfectly symmetrical pattern. They protruded in little semicircle shapes, and lined the entire frame of the trees like armor plating. The leaves were almost leathery, feeling more like fabric than vegetation.
I almost had a panic attack in that moment, as I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was or what had happened to bring me there. My initial thought was that I had died and awoken in hell, and that was what scared me the most.
The area around me seemed to contradict that notion though. I had always been taught that hell is hot, with endless fires and smoldering brimstone spewing out toxic fumes. I didn’t see any of that, or anything at all really except for the weird trees. The air didn’t even feel particularly hot, or cold for that matter. It just was, with no temperature too severe in either direction.
I was wearing a pair of tan cargo shorts, a simple black t-shirt and my hiking boots. In my pockets there were my sunglasses, a tube of Chapstick, a pocket knife, my pocket Bible, a folded-up packet of gum and my compass. At least that all had remained the same.
I didn’t even have my phone on me. I doubted it would’ve made much of a difference, but still I should’ve been more prepared. I took the compass out and found the needle was pointing directly behind me. The location where I last remembered being was south of the campsite, meaning in theory I should be able to head north and get back. As I spun around though, I realized the compass didn’t reorient itself. I shook it, and the needle just twirled around aimlessly.
It wasn’t pointing north; it wasn’t pointing anywhere.
I didn’t know how to explain that, but just figured it must’ve been damaged somehow. Regardless, I still felt I had to do something, so I began to walk. There were no sounds of animals there, no wind or forest ambience of any kind. Just complete silence, except for the sounds of my boots on the dirt.
The entire area was coated by the eerie green light, courtesy of the strange ring in the sky. Made everything look kinda like the bottom of a murky pond. It felt almost like a vivid dream as I made my way through that strange place. The trees seemed to distend and curl upwards further and further, taller and more twisted than any I’d ever seen before. I found myself almost getting lost staring up at them, and I was paranoid that things up there were staring back and waiting to strike.
Suddenly in the distance, I heard something arise. I couldn’t tell where or what it was, but I could hear something moving far off. I heard it ascend upwards, but the tall trees blocked my sight. I could tell it was coming closer, and it scared the hell out of me. The trees began to rustle ahead of me, and quickly I ducked down into a small depression of the land. I curled up tight into a ball, and prayed I wouldn’t be seen.
I then heard what I can only really describe as a ‘whooshing’ sound. Like some huge bird suddenly flew overhead. I saw the trees rustle voraciously, and heard the snapping of twigs as something enormous soared overhead. I clutched up tighter, and prayed it would pass. Apparently, my prayers were answered, because the thing- whatever it was, simply flew past. I heard trees rustling and snapping further away, and soon it was silent once again.
I stayed hidden for several more minutes, but eventually the sight of something caught my eye. About thirty yards ahead of me, a dense greyish fog emerged and began rolling forward. It took only a second for me to realize it was coming towards me, and fast.
I got up, and began to jog away from the advancing wall of fog. I thought maybe it was actually smoke, but I didn’t see a fire or smell anything burning. It was moving quick, and it soon became apparent that I would not be able to outrun it.
With little other option I quickly scrambled to a tree and began to climb. The jagged bark of the tree scuffed into my hands, but it barely registered at the time. I saw the fog closing in from the corner of my eye, and tried to quickly ascend the tree. It was on me in a matter of moments, filling the area and screening out everything.
I felt woozy then, and my eyelids became heavy as dumbbells as the fog enveloped me. The strength seemed to be sapped away from my arms, and my legs trembled beneath me as I clung to the tree trunk. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to surrender to the beckoning slumber.
I was seconds from giving in, when suddenly I felt something grab my ankle. A hand, cold and rough like sandpaper. A sudden surge of adrenaline struck my heart like lightning, and somehow gave me the strength to fight back. I kicked viciously back and forth, as adrenaline and lethargy battled it out within me.
Finally, I kicked free of the hand’s grasp, and bolted up the tree. I just kept climbing, and didn’t stop until I once again saw the green light in the sky above. I looked back down, and saw that the fog had engulfed everything in the vicinity. I have no idea what that was that had grabbed me, and I hope I never find out.
The drowsy feeling had dissipated then, and I climbed a bit higher to ensure I was out of reach of the fog. It churned below me like some unruly, grey sea. Sounds came out of it too. Weird sounds, almost whispers, sudden shouts and gurgles just at random intervals and from all around. I don’t know how long I waited up there, but it had to have been a few hours at least. At some point I looked down and realized the fog was finally beginning to disperse.
After I was sure it was gone, I cautiously climbed back down. I still had no idea where I was, but I knew I had to keep moving. My footsteps seemed even more unwelcome then they had before. I was on constant edge for the return of the fog, but luckily, it never came back. The eerie silence had returned, and I was truly alone.
It stayed that way for hours, with me walking aimlessly through an empty and silent forest. I first began thinking then that I had to be in some sort of weird, ultra-lucid dream state. Maybe I had fallen into a coma and simply dreamed up the entire bizarre world I found myself in. Or maybe I truly was dead, and that place was some kind of purgatory or limbo.
A lot of things rushed through my mind during that time, but something told me to keep going. Basic survival instincts I guess, as I knew eventually, I would need to find some water and something to eat. I ended up finding a lot more than that though, when the trees of the dark forest finally grew thinner.
I hustled and broke through the treeline, only to find a large open field in front of me on a slight downward slope. The elevation must’ve been relatively high, because I could suddenly see for miles all around me.
That moment, was when I truly understood that I was a very long ways from home. Of course, I suspected it all along, and part of me still thought the entire thing was some vivid dream or wild hallucination. However, the sight that unveiled itself in that moment seemed entirely beyond my imaginative capabilities.
In front of me, was a vast open field with long albino grass, and beyond that was what looked like a swamp. The area around it expanded outward into immeasurable distances. I saw mountains, probably one-hundred miles away, and an enormous lake just before them. I saw things flying in the air, and things moving far in the distance in strange, unsettling motions.
Luckily, they were far away, but something curious was much closer; the tower. A massive looming obelisk jutted from the earth and towards the black sky. It was at least several miles away, and a couple hundred yards tall. It’s architecture was one of obtuse spirals, green glyphs and spines, and the obsidian nature made it seem altogether foreboding beyond mere description.
In that moment, I was so stunned and confused that I actually laughed. Maybe it was my mind beginning to fracture, or maybe the ridiculous notion that I had somehow stumbled my way into Mordor, or an oblivion gate from the Elder Scrolls series. The thought passed quick though, as the tower truly looked nothing like either of them. It honestly looked like nothing like anything people had ever built either, but that seemed impossible.
Someone had to have built it.
I felt drawn to it somehow; like it was my one and only hope of safety. It was the only thing I’d seen even vaguely reminiscent of human civilization, so I began the trek towards it. I hadn’t gone more than twenty steps into the prairie, when I heard something stir within the woods to my left.
Branches snapped and trees quivered. A low frequency then thudded against my ear drums, droning and sounding almost like a rolling belch on the lowest possible octave. The sound immediately produced goosebumps on my skin, and the hair on my neck stood erect. It was as if my body was biologically predisposed to be terrified by that noise.
I wasn’t about to stick around and see what had produced it, and I took off running towards the long grass. Despite my initial estimate from the treeline vantage point, I found the “grass” was as tall as corn stalks when I reached them. I turned back, and heard something crashing through the trees behind me at a torrid pace. A large silhouette on two thundering legs then burst from the trees, snarling and grumbling. The ground quaked at each of it’s footfalls, and it was headed right for me.
I dashed into the tall grass, panting and feeling around blindly as the grass gave way around me. There was no sense of direction in there, but anywhere was better than facing whatever was on my tail. The blades of grass slapped against me as I ran, cold and almost sharp to the touch. I felt scrapes against my face and arms, but never for a moment did I let the pain overcome me.
The grass broke away after a minute or two, and I stumbled out into an open marshland. In front of me was the expansive swamp I had seen previously, and behind me the dreadful fiend continued it’s pursuit. It’s bellowing grumble seemed to rattle the bones in my chest, and the ground quaked at each of the titan’s thundering footsteps. A titan, or something far more unusual.
I desperately searched around me, heart stampeding in my chest like a dozen elephants as the thing grew nearer. I then saw it; a small gulley off to my left-hand side. With the beast closing behind me, I took the opportunity and ran towards it. I dove headfirst at it, landing awkwardly on my shoulder in a clump of muck and rancid vegetation.
I heard the beast break through the grass stalks, and I ducked down underneath the quagmire to escape it’s hungry gaze. I heard that dreadful droning sound it made rumble again and again, accompanied by footsteps. I saw yellow chatoyant eyes swivel about in the skull of some monstrous reptilian creature, but luckily, they did not glance in my direction.
I ducked further down into the bog. It smelled terrible, but better that then the smell of the leviathan’s stomach. I heard it trample about for another couple minutes, before finally, it seemed to lose interest and saunter off. It’s footsteps grew distant, and my mind began to turn on itself.
“This can’t be real. This cannot be real. This is a nightmare; it has to be.” No matter how many times I screamed it in my mind. No matter how hard I pinched my flesh with my finger to try and wake myself up, the vision would not fade.
That thing; that monstrous lizard that had pursued me. I knew what it was, but I couldn’t dare believe it. It sounds even crazier now as I type this then it did when I thought it in the moment, but there can be no mistake. It was a dinosaur. A T-rex; was what I thought at the time, but likely a different species as the crest on it’s head was different from modern paleontologist’s depictions’.
I know it sounds insane, but I know what I saw.
Before I could truly ponder what I had seen, I felt something slither against my leg in the water down below. I didn’t even question it, and in about half-a-second I had leapt out from my hiding place, almost forgetting about the lizard entirely. Luckily for me, it was already gone.
Silence had returned once more, but it only seemed to further disintegrate my rampant mind. It felt like my heart was in a vice grip. My limbs grew numb, and I felt my vision swimming. I thought it was a heart attack, but looking back now I realize it was actually a panic attack.
I fell to the ground crying, begging and praying with all my might. My heart hurt so bad it felt like it was about to burst from my chest. I thought I was going to die then, and was desperate to stop the pain. It felt like I was going insane, like my mind and body had been severed. I refused to believe it was real, and decided to take drastic measures to awaken myself from the coma or dream state I believed I was in.
I drew my pocket knife, and flipped the blade open. With trembling hands, I pressed it against the inside of my forearm, and slid the blade horizontal. It stung like a thousand hornets as the skin split open, and blood oozed from the wound. The pain was intense, but was nothing compared to the horrible realization.
It was no dream, it was real.
Had I fallen back in time somehow? What madness had created so destitute a world such as that? The more I pondered the questions, the less sense everything made. I don’t know how long I lay there in my pitiful state, but eventually my mind abandoned any rationale for the situation, and refocused on the only objective that really mattered.
“I have to get home.”
…to be continued