I woke up to the first light of morning with the drone of instruments still ringing in my ears. I wrote it off as just a weird dream, but for the next week I kept having it over and over again. The voice formed by the invisible instruments always said the same thing, “the woods nearby, you must go and go and go.” With each dream the strange instrumental vocalization became louder and louder, to the point where, when I woke up, my hearing was dulled as if I’d slept between a pair of large speakers at full volume. With all this, it was hard to put the dreams out of my head.
The week went and the weekend came. Out of boredom I decided to drive to the small nearby forest, to see if there was any sort of coincidence in regard to my dreams. The day started out sunny and almost cloudless, but after I drove past the sign reading “Longcord Limits,” the clouds moved in from nowhere, making the sky a sad shade of gray, paling the yellow grass of the plains and shading the lush green pines of the far off forest in a hard and bleak emerald.
I’d pulled off the deserted highway and was following signs pointing to a camping area when both of my rear tires blew, and, caught unawares, I skidded off the road to the edge of the forest. When I got out and looked at my destroyed tires, I found bent and rusted pieces of metal protruding from the shredded rubber. Looking closer, I saw they were shards of a broken flute.
“What the hell,” I muttered to myself as I looked around and tried to figure out where they’d come from. Looking around, I saw the dull gleam of something at the base of a tree near the road. Walking over, I saw it was an old trumpet missing its bell. Not far away there were the smashed pieces of a clarinet and more broken musical instruments, all forming a trail leading into the trees.
Guided by a strange feeling in my gut and telling myself that it was all just a strange coincidence, I decided to follow it. I had a theory that a truck carrying a shipment of instruments had crashed, throwing its cargo everywhere. That theory proved to be wrong, as the trail of debris lead deep into the woods.
The clouds thickened, darkening the woods. From time to time I could hear something skittering on the edge of my hearing, but it was too distant to catch my attention. But as the light waned, the skittering gradually got closer. At first I thought it was a deer or two, but the skittering always came in steps of five. I began to imagine five feet belonging to something bad moving through the trees and closing in on me.
When I found the end of the instrument trail at the door of a small decrepit brick shack, I decided to hide in there from whatever was trailing me through the woods. The cobwebs filled the place like grey and decaying hair. My eyes followed these webs to the corners of the room, where I saw a crowd of spiders scurrying into cracks in the wall. All those little bodies moving fast on wispy legs made my skin itch, made me want to go outside, but I didn’t think it would be worth facing whatever was out there.
Waiting for whatever it was to come and go, I saw a closed door set in a dark corner. With nothing better to do, I opened it and found a room heaped high with more instruments. These were different from the ones outside because they weren’t broken or rusty, they were just old. They were mostly woodwind and string instruments, but the wood of them were so old that when I picked them up, they crumbled in my hand. After I picked up a graying violin, I noticed something pointed and bone-like protruding from the pile of instruments.