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It Was Too Dark, I Started Running
Telling Scary Stories in October
I got up from the open meadow in the forest's center. The sunset had been beautiful. I had finished the last sips of hot chocolate from my thermos.
As I looked around, I realized the forest had gone dark.
Luckily, I am the only one still in this forest. How strange would it be to run into somebody in the dark?!
My feet made no sound on the sandy path. It was flanked by old chestnut and oak trees—no moon, no stars, embraced by a pitch-black forest. It would take me ten minutes, at least.
Just stay calm, Rudolf. Don’t rush. Breathe in, breathe out. Focus on the soft lantern light at the end of the path.
The wind made the leaves whisper behind my back. Branches were scraping each other.
What a strange silence. Just like in movies, when something is about to happen.
I controlled my breathing, pushing it back down to my belly. I kept my pace the same.
What if somebody is hiding behind one of these trees? That one over there, for example? To attack me when I come by?
How am I going to defend myself?
Something rustled in the undergrowth. I shivered.
No, it does not make sense. Nobody will wait in the forest for some crazy person to walk there in pitch dark.
Stop it, Rudolf. Control your thinking. You are strong. You are calm. You are not afraid.
I started taking giant steps. Faster. Faster toward the safety point: the lantern lamp at the big road.
Rarely somebody is attacked in the forest. What is the chance that right here, right now, somebody is hiding behind a tree to attack you? It must be less than 0.01%.
I stumbled over a stone.
What would they do to me? I mean…
Suddenly I started running as fast as I could.
To the light! To the light. Go, go, go. Maybe you can still escape.
It felt like an eternity.
Just keep going. It’s the only thing you can try. Run for your life.
I stumbled out of the forest. I grabbed, no, I hugged, the lantern post.
It took me a few minutes to calm myself enough to continue the short walk home.
October and November are approaching fast.
It is an excellent time for telling scary stories (at least in the northern hemisphere).
If you want your adult listeners to feel the shivers, I recommend taking your time in preparation to return to a moment when you were scared yourself. The moment I described is one of the scary moments I return to.
Be careful. Don’t revisit a moment that is traumatic for you. It’s not therapy.
When connected to what scares me, I can carry this feeling into the scary stories I tell.
This is a big principle of storytelling. It applies to all feelings and emotions: Joy, anger, sadness, shame, pride, delight, etc.
When you can connect to your deep feelings and allow them to bubble up and infuse your telling, your listeners will feel it, too.
This image is part of a photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash.