Solo Night - Leyla Ewald

The last waning rays of daylight peak through the tangled branches of the tree tops. The birches’ dark markings mimic a thousand eyes watching me through the woods. The leaves overhead soak up the last bits of the sun in a magnificent, fiery array, and the leaves hidden in the evening’s shadow form an assortment of murky shades of green.

As the voices of the rest of the group fade away and darkness creeps into the auburn woods, I question my reasons for staying out all night in the forest alone. Ominous shadows loom on the rocky road. Overgrown trees and thick bushes surround the site. A rotting branch decays on the ground, making for a not-so- comfortable bench. Located on a hill, the uneven ground is hard to construct a shelter on; however, if I want to survive the night, I have to begin building before the sun finally sets. My floppy, orange tarp is not cooperating with my flimsy rope, so I set out to find some branches for structure. Tripping on unseen crevices, ducking under the limbs of trees, and trudging through sticky cobwebs, I soon abort this mission. Dark chills surround my underdressed body, and the piercing sound of howling coyotes rings in my ears. Back at my “camp” I find a few sticks to support my tarp. My makeshift shelter will hold for the night, as long as it doesn’t rain.

As the sun takes its final bow, and the inevitable darkness floods in, the critters of the forest emerge. I am a city girl at heart, and the shuffling of leaves in a nearby bush makes my palms sweaty. The innumerable spiders and creepy crawlies inching around my tarp raise my heart rate. Darkness now rules the woods, and I am using my flickering headlamp to write these words. I am enveloped in pitch black eternity, surrounded by the eerie sounds of the night, alone with my thoughts. In the city, the bustling noises of yelling voices and honking cars lull me to sleep. But here, there is silence except for the occasional nocturnal animal scurrying about and the crickets hiding in the bushes. I miss my warm bed in my cozy room but am struck by the blanket of stars overhead. The same stars, faded by the city lights, watch over me in Boston. Twinkling in the night sky, they reassure me that I am not too far from home. I wriggle into my sleeping bag and try not to think of what animal is making the calls I hear. After a long time of twisting and turning, somehow sleep overtakes my body.

The cheerful chirping of the early birds awakes me from my surprising slumber. The light shines through the trees, illuminating the gold leaves glistening in the sun’s early rays. The eyes of the birch trees no longer creepily stare down on me, but now gaze out, protecting me. A frolicsome chipmunk scurries by; the woodland creatures no longer appear ghoulish and devious. The buzzing, bright woods seem unrecognizable as the spooky, hostile forest of the night before.