The Rattle Of Teeth

I’ll never forget what I found walking through the woods on that crisp spring evening. There was a moderate chill in the air that night. The season hadn’t finished turning. The night came quicker than it would in the long summer nights ahead. That should have been my first clue to stay clear.

I had been cooped at work, taking so many extra hours I had become stir-crazy. I needed to get out for some exercise and fresh air, so I took the first opportunity I could to get out. I ended up going far later than I normally would, but I didn’t think any of it at the time.

Now it’s all I think about.

The local forest preserve consists of a shelter house overlooking a large gully of wooded areas, with trails cutting through the forest to lead back to the shelter house. Usually a typical walk only consisted of a few miles, averaging out to a little about an hour-long hike.

When I was walking that evening, the sun still loomed over the trees, but I knew that night was falling soon. I estimated I only have about forty-five minutes of daylight left, so I would need to walk at a brisk pace. When I turned the corner onto the next path, that’s when I spotted it in all its tragic natural glory.

A deer laid on the path, unmoving. I crept up beside it and ensured it was indeed dead. I certainly didn’t think it was sleeping. The deer was on its side. I saw no entry marks - that I could see anyway. I stood several miles from the road, so I don’t think it perished from an accident. The deer itself looked gaunt and bony. Its fur appeared thin and faded, and I could spot some white on its breathless muscle. I’m not a wildlife expert by any stretch, but I judged it probably perished due to natural causes, most likely disease or old age.

I stept of the deer and kept on my way, but I knew I’d see the carcass on the way back. This particular pass looped around and then intersected with the original pass. I knew I’d see the deer’s dead body again near the conclusion of my walk. I tried not to think about it. 

Still, one thing haunted me. I’d never previously stumbled upon the body of a deer, or really any animal, before in the woods. And how long had it been there? Shouldn’t there have been crows and other carrion animals going to work on it, unless it had died shortly after I’d arrived? Either way, something seemed very weird about the thing.

Regardless, I kept on my walk. I couldn’t see the sun through the cascade of trees, but I knew it was setting from the dimming light pouring through the kaleidoscope of trees. The path jutted forward to the spot where I found the dead deer. I braced myself to see it again, with several crows probably pecking at its flesh by this point.

I turned the corner and found…nothing. No deer lay on the path. I scanned the area. Was I mistaken? Had I taken a wrong turn somewhere? However, everything seemed so familiar I knew this must have been where the deer had been.

And yet, it was gone. I searched the area for tracks. Had I just caught it during a nap? It seemed very unlikely given how still the deer was. And I didn’t find any tracks.

The deer had completely vanished. A stirring broke through the still sound covering the forest. It sounded like distant chattering. It was as if someone’s teeth were rattling in the cold. 

“Hello?” I managed. The only response I got was the chattering of teeth growing more and more closer.

I decided I wasn’t hanging around to find out what exactly was. Any thought of the deer had completely evaporated, replaced by what I had been hearing. I started to move out of there, first at a brisk.

The sound of teeth rattled behind me, and I broke out into a jog, until the sound repeated once more and I started running for my life.

The rattle continued. It sounded like one of those annoying baby toys, but there was something far more uglier and primitive about it. I almost pictured someone grabbing a bunch of bloodied teeth off the ground and shaking them in their hand to produce the ever-closer sound. I looked over my shoulder to see a dark shadow in pursuit, bouncing from darkness to darkness within the treeline.

I kept running, faster and faster. I hadn’t run this fast since gym class, but I had no intention of stopping. I saw the shelter house coming into sight. I kept running until my feet hit the hard stone pavement of the road leading to the parking lot. Once I reached the lot, I unlocked my car and hopped in, shutting the door and locking it.

Adrenaline surged through my body. My breath sounded like a muffled machine gun. Once I laid my hands on the steering wheel, I wondered if I had just been paranoid the entire time. Maybe I had just been spooked by an unfamiliar sound. The hard metallic shelter of the car, as small as it was, sheltered me from the primal thoughts of just a few minutes ago.

I sighed and laughed at my stupid silliness. I then inserted the key and twisted it, turning on the car. My headlights immediately were swallowed by the darkness right outside my car. Only night had barely fallen. A dark, black thing stood in front of my car, the same thing that had followed me. I couldn’t see much save for two yellow eyes looking right back at me.

Even from within the car, I would hear the sound it made.

The rattle of teeth.

I didn’t need to see or hear anymore. I threw the car into reverse, pulling away from the thing, before it could give chase. I slammed my foot on the accelerator, speeding into the night.

Fortunately, it didn’t give chase. It couldn’t keep up with a car. Or at least, that’s what I like to think. Perhaps it was just toying with me. Believe me, the thought still keeps me up at night.

I don’t go hiking in the woods any more. I keep to the well-lit suburbs and the occasional gym visit instead.

When something dies in the woods, this thing takes it and probably eats it. At least that’s what I think. Does it eat other things? Maybe. It definitely chased me. So take my advice - if you see a dead thing during a hike and woods - turn and run the other way.

Like I said, I don’t go hiking in the woods anymore. But sometimes I still pass the forest preserve on my way out of the town. And on the the wind, I still hear the unmistakable sound…

The rattle of teeth.

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