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Estimated reading time — 11 minutes

The bus hit a sharp bump in the road, ripping me from my somewhat peaceful sleep. I groggily look out of the window to see a sleepy village with small cottages, looking as if they were pulled straight from the 1800’s. Dark clouds loomed overhead making the sky an imposing shade of gray.

Before I had fallen asleep on the drive through the Romanian countryside, it was a picturesque landscape with grass and trees as far as the eye could see. But to wake up to this gloomy, somewhat eerie town was disheartening to say the least. I had been planning this trip for months but to get here and have it turn out like this saddened me. Despite my sadness for my current situation I tried not to let it ruin my time.

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When the bus came to a stop, the brakes made an ear piercing screech indicating that the bus was very old. I stepped off the worn down stairs of the vehicle and walked toward the only inn in the small village. I stuck out like a sore thumb receiving several stares from Romanian natives who made up the overwhelming majority of the village. I paid for a room in the inn and made my way up to it. I dropped my suitcase on the floor of the age old inn. I was physically and mentally drained from the full day of being in an uncomfortable seat on the bus but nonetheless, I wanted to learn a bit about where I was headed in the morning. I put something more comfortable on and went to the small bar only a few minutes from the inn.

I entered, sat down on a wooden stool, and ordered a whiskey. After sitting and drinking for a bit an old husky man approached me.

“You aren’t from around here eh?” The man said in a thick Romanian accent.

“No sir, I’m visiting from the Midwest.” I said in response.

The man said in reply “Ah I see. So what brings you to this shithole of a town, my friend?”

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I was taken aback for a second at his blunt comment but nonetheless, I told him “I came here to go backpacking in the Hoia Baciu Forest. I’ve heard that it may be haunted so I-”

He suddenly and firmly gripped my right forearm which was resting on the bar top. He said in a fearful yet commanding voice, “My friend, if you care about your safety and the safety of all of us, you will not go to that place.”

I pulled my arm out of his tight grasp and looked at him with a shocked expression. The man said “I’m sorry but you just can’t go-”

I interrupted him to say in a demanding, almost angry tone “But why? Why can’t I go there? What will happen?”

Without an ounce of hesitation the man picked up the glass he had been sipping from and slammed it on the bar top while simultaneously saying, “Because you can’t!!”

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This caught the attention of everyone in the small bar including the bartender, who seemed to curse the man in Romanian and told him to get out. Before the old man did what he was told, he looked at me with fear in his eyes and said “Don’t…” before rushing out of the bar, blood pouring from the hand he used to slam the glass with.

Once everything had calmed down, the bartender came over to clean up the glass and apologize for what happened. “Sorry about that one, he is known as the village idiot.” He said while laughing.

“It was strange. We were having a normal conversation until I mentioned that I was going backpacking tomorrow and he blew up on me.” I said.

The bartender paused for a moment and with a concerned curiosity in his voice he asked, “Where are you going backpacking?”

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I told the bartender exactly what I told the man, that I was going to the Hoia Baciu Forest. When the bartender heard this, his once joyful demeanor descended into one of great sorrow and anger. He dropped the dust pan to the floor, re-scattering the glass. Very quietly and with no emotion in his voice he said “You have to leave sir.”

I looked at him very confused and was about to say something but before I could, he said, “Forget the bill. Just leave right now.”

I was so confused as to what was happening but to save myself from anymore of this confusion I picked up my coat and walked out. I could feel the penetrating eyes of the customers on my back like hot daggers while I walked out. As I lay in the bed staring at the plain white ceiling of my hotel room, I went over the night’s events over and over again in my head. The old man was so frightened at the mere mention of me venturing into the forest. Though his outlandish reaction to my plans did perplex me quite a bit, it wasn’t going to stop me from going through with it. Thinking back on it now, damn do I wish I would’ve listened to that old bastard.

I awoke before first light, feeling much better than I did when I went to sleep. I packed all of the essentials needed for my journey into the forest and made my way to the road that led to the trail. Upon arriving at the trail, I was confused once again. It was overgrown with a thick brush and the wooden sign displaying the name of the forest and the map detailing the trail was destroyed. This would have been normal but with the close proximity to the village, it seemed weird to me that the trail had been so vacant of any sort of human interaction.

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The forest would have been damn near impossible to penetrate if I didn’t have my small field axe on me that made short work of the branches and overgrowth that blocked my way. Down the barricade of thick brush went with minimal effort of my own. Within minutes, I was completely through the brush to where the trail opened up again. I noticed that once through the initial brush, the trail seemed relatively untouched by any other thick growths of plants. It was almost as if that first influx of growth acted like a gate to intruders. Looking back at it now, I am afraid my notion was correct.

Completely undeterred by the thought, it quickly drifted to the back of my mind as I began my hike. I walked along the extremely vague outline of the trail for a few hours. The trees were tall, dark, and imposing. The shadows cast by them resembled that of exceedingly tall creatures with spikes on their frames. They loomed overhead as if to trap me in their arboreal prison, but at the time it was my sanctuary. I was having a blast just spending time with nature and myself. But at that moment, I came to a startling realization. Where is the nature? Yes of course there are trees and plants around, but throughout my whole hike thus far, I had not seen any sort of living creature.

Throughout my whole hike, I had been so focused on the scenery that I had not noticed there had not been a single ounce of wildlife. No birds in the sky and no squirrels on the trees. This was the first indication to me that there was something strange about this forest. I was confused for sure but I had come too far to turn back now. So even with the feeling that something is not right with these woods, I continued on down the trail.

As I continued down the trail, I found a clearing to rest for a while. I set my pack down and sat on an old looking log. I sat for a moment going over the day’s events in my head. This forest was strange to say the least but there was nothing happening that couldn’t be explained away, right? The frantic man in the bar was probably just crazy. The trailhead thick with brush probably wasn’t a gate to keep out intruders. It was probably just poorly maintained. The scarcity of animals was strange but could be explained away easily. I was a large person and my footsteps most likely scared any animals away in my vicinity. I said this out loud to reassure myself but a feeling of dread lingered within me. Just at that moment, the log I was sitting on became unstable sending me backwards onto the ground with a thud.

All the breath left my body as I came down onto the hard ground. I looked around for a second to catch my bearings and that’s when I saw it. A small leather bound journal. It took me another second to regain my footing, but eventually I did and I picked it up. Just holding the tattered journal I could tell that It was very old, perhaps centuries old. I decided to sit on the ground this time so as to not fall on my ass again. Opening the first page of the journal I noticed that it was written in ink on parchment. This gave me the indication that it was very old and I was immediately interested and began to read aloud.

Brother Sandor
1645
Journal entry 1:
My name is Brother Sandor and I have been sent to this accursed forest by my monastery. Many villagers from the village adjacent to this forest have come to our monastery and reported many strange happenings in and around the woods. Abbot Gabriel and the brethren have decided to send myself to investigate these happenings. Abbot Gabriel has instructed that I keep this journal to write down my findings. I have decided to ask around the village in order to gather some information before I make my way into the forest. I will write again soon.

Journal entry 2:
The villagers seem to not want to talk about the forest with me. When I inquire as to what strange events have transpired in and around the woods I am met with scowls and estrangement. But from the little I could gather, it seems that the forest is avoided by the villagers at all costs and they wish for nothing to come in or out of it. I was hoping to find a guide to make my way through the forest with but to no avail. At this point, I am considering just going into the forest without the help of any villagers but I am not sure. Something is not right here. There is a dark presence lingering. I fear what I may find in the forest. I will write again soon.

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Journal entry 3:
I have traveled into the forest. It has been days and as I feared before, these woods are not normal. For a forest so large, it should be teeming with life but there is nothing. No creatures of any sort to be seen. Along with that, I hear whispers in the night. They are not of this world. They are too faint to understand but too loud to ignore. The only words I can make out are Eliberare-Ma, which if I am not mistaken, translates to “Release me”. My dreams are plagued with images of Armageddon. End times. I am afraid that these dreams may come to fruition if anything is released from these woods. I am afraid that god was not able to follow me into this forest. I will write again soon if I am able.

Journal entry 4:
I have experienced the greatest evil. It takes many forms. It continues to speak to me at night but I will not speak the words that it speaks. All I know is that I must not repeat them. That is what it wants. That is what it needs. Speaking those words will bring unimaginable terror upon the world. Its voice is that of an old man, with a raspy hushed tone. I cannot see him but his voice manifests ever closer. Louder and louder with each unintelligible phrase. It is coming for me. At this moment I wish I had never come to these woods. I pray for the safety of Abbot Gabriel and the brethren. I pray for the safety of the villagers. I pray for my own safety but I fear that my prayers fall on deaf ears. I fear that God has abandoned me. This will be my last entry. Goodbye.

Journal entry 5:
TE ELIBEREZ

As those last words left my mouth, they seemed to hang in the air for a short while. I was stunned after reading this journal. I had so many questions. Did the monk survive? If he did not survive will I suffer the same fate? Whose voice was speaking to the monk? What is that last phrase? But before I could think through the questions I had asked myself, I heard a twig break under the weight of someone’s boot.

Terrified, I quickly turned around to see an older man wearing a backpack and holding a walking stick, coming down the trail headed back towards the village. I was relieved to see that it was just a fellow hiker. I greeted him saying “Well hi there. You gave me quite a scare.”

“Sorry about that.” the old man said in a quiet raspy voice while continuing to walk down the trail. His face looking down towards the ground the whole time.

“Well you have a good one sir.” I said, still questioning his strange behavior. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks, turning around. He angled his head up and looked straight at me.

“Oh, and I just wanted to say thank you.” he said.

His face had a genuine look of gratitude on it, but his eyes, oh his eyes. They had the most intense look of malice I had ever witnessed within them. I didn’t know what to say so I just stared at him in terror and nodded. He turned his body almost mechanically and walked down the trail towards the village.

Something was not right with that man. Something was not right with this forest. I knew I had to leave this place. I shoved the journal in my pack and started back down the trail. It was becoming dark so I started running. I was sprinting down the trail not looking back. I could’ve sworn that I was hearing whispers behind me. As I neared the end of the trail it was very dark and I was absolutely terrified. Finally making it back to the trail head I stopped to catch my breath. Standing there I was scared but also confused. I ran as fast as I could down the trail not long after I encountered the man. Why hadn’t I run back into him?

At this point nothing made sense and I was very scared. Something was very wrong and I needed to get back to the village. I got up and started to make my way back. The only light was from old street lamps that barely served to illuminate anything. I finally made it back to the edge of the village but it was bare. No people in sight. No lights in the houses. The only light again, was from the street lamps. Tired, scared, and emotionally drained I dragged myself to the inn. Just then I see a man standing under one of the dimly lit street lamps.

It was the man from the bar. His hand was still bandaged from his incident with the glass. He was on his knees. He looked at me with pure sadness in his eyes and said on the verge of tears “I told you not to go.”

Knowing I wasn’t the only thing that came out of that forest I said “I-I’m sorry” and rushed into the inn. Once in my room I sat on my bed and pulled out the tattered journal. I went over the monk’s words again and again. What did those last words mean? What is TE ELIBEREZ? Frantically looking for answers in the journal I accidentally flipped a page past the last journal entry.

There were new words. Well they weren’t new as they were obviously written in the same ink that the monk used for the rest of the pages but they were most definitely not there before. The phrase absolutely vexed me. “Oh, and I just wanted to say thank you.” At that moment I remembered what the monk had said about not repeating what the entity had said to him. I realized that TE ELIBEREZ were those words. Two and two were put together in that moment and I realized that the man that I encountered was no normal hiker.

I don’t know what those words mean but all I do know is that when I said them while reading the journal, I released something awful upon the world. My stomach began to twist into knots when I remembered one more thing the monk wrote in his journal “My dreams are plagued with images of Armageddon. End times. I am afraid that these dreams may come to fruition if anything is released from these woods.”

I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but sleep. I was exhausted. In the morning, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain pelting my window. Looking out of it, the streets were bare. Dismissing the events of the previous night as nothing more than hysterics due to exhaustion, I turned on the TV to watch. I was met with a breaking news story about a deadly virus originating in Wuhan, China killing millions. My stomach dropped. I turned to the next channel only to be met by another breaking news headline about the latest peace talks between North Korea and The US ending in disaster. “Nuclear war is imminent” the anchor said in a grim voice. Another channel talking about how a series of earthquakes has ruptured the Yellowstone super volcano causing it to become unstable. Scientists say it’s destruction of the Midwest is inevitable.

Hearing that, I turned off the TV and buried my head in my hands. I knew that I was solely responsible for all of this. I didn’t know what else to do so I decided to sit down and write out what transpired. I sit here now, wishing I would have listened to that old man in the bar. That I would have never found that fucking journal. But also knowing that I can’t go back and do any of that now. A loaded gun sits at my side. I think you can guess what I’ll be doing after I conclude this, this fucking nightmare of a story. I just wanted to say that this wasn’t an admission of guilt or a warning. But this was an apology.

Credit : Caden M.

Reddit : Accomplished_key_204

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