As promised in my ACOTAR recaps, here is my spooky forest story. Now, if you believe in spirits and fairies and whoo hoo, as I do, then I have no disclaimer for you. However, if you don’t believe in all that stuff, feel free to read this as fiction. However, it is not fiction.
Another disclaimer: I was smoking weed when this happened, but I’m always smoking weed and this is the only time this has ever happened to me. This type of thing is not a usual occurrence triggered by weed. I have never experienced hallucinations or out of body experiences from weed.
My cousin has a cabin in the Upper Peninsula, and this cabin is amazing. It’s on a lake in the middle of nowhere, in a huge forest. There are other cabins on the lake, but they’re not always occupied, as most people can’t live year-round in this particular location. Once it snows (and in the Upper Peninsula, it most assuredly does), the road to the lake is inaccessible to anything other than snowmobiles (or sleds or snow machines, depending where in the midwest you’re from and what you call them). Even in the summer, the “roads” in this forest are not what most people would call roads. They’re sandy paths carved through the forest floor, with hip-high banks in some spots and deep gouges from storm run-off. It is a bumpy and exciting ride, but should you meet someone traveling the opposite direction, you have to do some fancy maneuvering. This hardly ever happens, though; on a recent week-long stay, we saw one human being unaffiliated with our party. We’re talking a sense of true isolation, here.
The forest itself is pure magic. It’s on top of an enormous network of fungus that grows and lives and dies rapidly. You can take a walk in the morning and see all the mushrooms and toadstools and witch butter that popped up overnight, only to return after lunch and see an entirely different fungal landscape. The birds have no fear; they’ll whizz directly past your face and light on branches close enough that you can see their individual feathers. There are times when the woods are alive with their chatter, and times of eerie stillness. The roads wind vaguely around the edges of land parcels, like a labyrinth.
It’s my favorite place to walk. It’s so peaceful. Sometimes, I put on the Stardew Valley soundtrack and pretend I’m the farmer walking through Cindersap Forest. And I was out for a walk when the spooky forest happenings occurred.
After gorging myself on pasties, I decided to take a little stroll and enjoy my dessert: a fat joint and little apple hand pie. As I wandered around, enjoying the light filtering through the trees and feeling a general sense of peace, I noticed something interesting just a couple of feet off the path. It was a dead tree. Not unusual in a forest. Just the rotting stump of a tree that had died and fallen over, about six feet tall, jutting up from the side of a perfectly round mound of earth. Beside it was a young birch tree, exactly the same height and thriving. Red bark was strewn like a path up one side of the mound, through the space between the two trees, and out the other side.
I wanted to go to these trees so. badly.
The thing is, when you’re in a forest, it’s best not to go off the trails. It’s so super easy to get lost. But this was maybe ten footsteps. There was no chance I would lose the road, and there was really nothing between me these trees but forest detritus and a few may apples. I stubbed out my joint, slipped it behind my ear, and headed toward these weird trees.
The second I stepped off the path, all the birdsong stopped. Not just in the area. There was no sound whatsoever. There was, however, a weird, creepy feeling. Curiosity with underlying dread. I was right, though; the trees weren’t that far off the path. The birch was in front, the dead tree behind. I munched on the hand pie as I scoped everything out. The thing that puzzled me most was the red bark. None of the surrounding trees had red bark. Birch has red heartwood, but the birch wasn’t wounded or anything, and the other tree, which I guessed might have once been a maple, was already completely hollowed out, with no red material inside it at all.
Just as I finished my last bite, something snapped loudly in the trees. At this point, I was standing in front of the birch. I turned my head, just my head, in the direction of the noise, and when I looked back, the path between the trees was in front of me.
So I walked around it again. I stood in front of the dead tree, looked away, looked back, and I was in front of the red bark path. No matter how often I walked around the trees, the moment I turned my head or closed my eyes, I was in front of the path, with the dead tree on the right and the birch on the left. Even if I intentionally faced the path with the birch on the right and the dead tree on my left, if I looked away and looked back, the trees switched.
I have no explanation for this phenomenon, but I know it wasn’t the weed. I have never in my life smoked weed so strong that it made the world around me defy all known laws of physical space. I wasn’t on anything like mushrooms or acid. Just a single joint I only smoked halfway. And a little apple pie that I was eating when I walked up to this anomaly.
The apple pie part is important.
It was at this point that I spotted something I hadn’t seen on my walk from the path to the trees: a ring of white mushrooms, completely surrounding the mound of earth. And despite being superstitious and having no intention of doing so, I felt deeply compelled to walk between those trees. It really took a lot of effort to get that thought out of my mind. Totally freaked out, I backed out of the ring of mushrooms and decided to head back to the road.
And the road was now much further away than the distance I had originally walked. And instead of just the usual sticks and leaves and may apples on the forest floor, I was surrounded by brambles with big thorns.
I just started walking. I kept the road in sight and went straight through the brambles. And they put up a fight. And there were so many of them, I started to think of the end of Sleeping Beauty, when Prince Phillip had to fight his way through the thorns to get to the castle. They were ankle high, then knee high, then waist high, and when I made the mistake of looking back to see my progress, I hadn’t moved away from the trees at all.
“You were just high, Jenny. You said so.” At that point, my friends, I was no longer high. I was clear-headed and fully panicked. And there is no weed on this earth so strong that half a joint of it would create a prolonged hallucination so powerful it could rip pants and snag skin. You’re going to go back to the cabin and eat another one of those apple pies and feel much better.
I just kept pushing through and finally, I was on the road again. It felt like I had walked miles, but the trees were exactly where they had been when I first approached. There were no thorns, just the may apples and forest carpet. And I stood there, fully terrified, not really wanting to move or really look at the trees.
I walked away from the area, back toward the cabin, consumed by how weird this whole experience was, and I started noticing trash along the road. It looked like someone had tossed those little single-serving applesauce containers, still sealed, into the edge of the woods, just far enough you’d have to step off the path to retrieve them. I could clearly see the top of one, where a label should have been, but it was totally blank. No brand name, no indication of the contents, though it was visibly applesauce.
Who the hell would have so many misprinted applesauces out there, and why would they toss them into the woods? And how did they do it without passing where I’d been, because the applesauce wasn’t there when I’d started out on my walk.
My walk with an apple pie in my hand.
I looked down the road with a sense of dread like something invisible was chasing me. The anonymous applesauces lined the road on both sides, leading right back to the trees I’d just escaped.
I ran. And I can run fast. You wouldn’t think it to look at me, but I can really haul ass. I got back the cabin, told my husband he needed to come see something, and we took back off into the forest.
All of the applesauce was gone. The trees were still there, but without the red bark path between them, and no compelling power to go and check them out. I was freaked, Mr. Jen was freaked, but for a different reason. He worried I hadn’t been taking my epilepsy meds and had suffered a seizure and some kind of post-ictal hallucination all by myself in the woods. But I knew what I saw and experienced, and I stuck to my guns.
Nothing weird happened on the rest of our daily walks, though I chose a different direction to wander rather than pass those trees again. Mr. Jen never saw any of the applesauce cups on his solo walks in that area. I was beginning to think his hallucination theory might have been correct.
On the morning we left, as we pulled out of the driveway, Mr. Jen noticed something at the mouth of one of our walking routes. “Looks like somebody dropped their lunch,” he said.
There, in the middle of that path, was an applesauce cup.