Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Wood Nymph

I wonder if anyone else would remember the eerie music that came wafting over the breeze for a few summer nights, years ago, in the Hartford Woods. It’s difficult, through the haze of memory, to ascertain what actually happened back then. From my adult perspective I am tempted to explain it away, much as I’m sure my parents must have done, when I surely came complaining of being frightened and unable to sleep. It was probably just some teenagers camping out in the woods, playing their radio by the fireside.

As a child of nine or ten, however, I was terrified by the mysterious night music. The woods at night were like a dark sea, the treetops moving, communicating in the breeze, nocturnal animals communing and commuting like fish under the water’s surface. The chirping of the crickets was a constant undercurrent on summer nights, providing a familiar lullaby. The curious music was an interruption of the night’s usual soothing song. In my horror film-addled mind I heard the singing of a wood nymph. I pictured a white gown blowing in the night’s breezes. She may very well have been beautiful, but her intention was pure evil. She existed to collect up the souls of children, like me, who dared to stray too far from their mothers’ gaze.

In the light of day, when my fear of the woods subsided, giving way to my boyhood explorer’s heart, I blazed the trails with abandon, at times looking for evidence to verify the other side of the story – smoldering embers and used condoms that would support the camping teenagers theory. But I found neither.

A subdivision was built in the Hartford Woods years after we moved away, and it changed the landscape somewhat. However for those children now living on Hartford Lane, where I grew up, the back woods still make up a large part of their world, I’m sure. I wonder if any of them have heard the Wood Nymph singing her songs, their strains cutting through the darkness, carried by the breeze of a muggy summer night.

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