The Dark Forest Takes

Dawn Vogel

Wyld FLASH – August 7 2020

Somewhere out in the dark forest is where we lost track of Dad. One minute, he was there, and the next, he was gone.

Our stepmom didn’t seem surprised when we came back without him. “The dark forest gives, and the dark forest takes.”

Lara and I didn’t accept that. So we went back to look for him.

The problem was we didn’t know exactly where we’d lost him, and the dark forest is a big place.

It’s been ten years. Our stepmom is gone now. And Lara and I agreed that we’re not going to stop looking until we find him.

Lara borrowed a micrometer accuracy GPS device from the university where she’s a grad student. She says I don’t want to know how much it cost.

I’ve been saving up my money for mountain climbing equipment. There aren’t any mountains to climb, but we’re going to be tethered together with straps that can withstand a serious drop. The dark forest won’t take us.

Neither of us want to consider what it means if we cover every inch of the dark forest and don’t find him.

We’ve gridded out the entirety of the forest. We’ve eliminated the edges–if he’d been lost there, we’d have found him as teens. But we check there anyway, just in case.

Could he still be in the forest, alive? Or are we looking for a skeleton?

Lara’s frowning at the GPS device, rotating to sweep the signal across a chunk of the woods, somewhere in the middle of grid D-12. Her waterproof jacket and pants brush against each other as she turns, producing a faint whispery sound.

I can almost believe it’s Dad calling us from just beyond the edge of hearing.

“There’s an anomaly.” She’s turned on her LED headlamp and the halogen lantern, shining them both into the distance.

The darkness swallows the light like it’s just a pair of nightlight bulbs, not serious wattage.

We look at each other.

“Where is it on the map?” I ask.

We take a moment to spread out the map, find our location, and circle the portion of the grid we’re in. We both snap a photo of the darkness and the map with our cellphones, even though neither of us has a signal, and we can’t send them to anyone.

“We should check the rest, for other anomalies,” I suggest.

Lara nods. “Let’s flag this one first.”

We stake out the edge of the area with neon orange flags, giving the anomaly itself a wide berth. When we’re done, it’s a rough circle of fluttering brightness surrounding the dark spot in the center. It doesn’t seem like enough to contain it, but at least it might keep someone else from wandering into the area.

After the anomaly, the rest of the dark forest seems bright and cheery, with nothing else that gives Lara pause. Except for the utter stillness of it all. We’ve had to push that out of our minds.

There’s nowhere else that Dad could be.

We know where to go.

In spite of the tether between us, we take each other’s hand, like we did when we were kids, facing the anomaly.

“Ready?” Lara asks.

“No. Are you?”


I glance at her. “We gonna do this anyway?”

“I am if you are.”

Just like when we were kids, always trying to keep up with each other, to outperform, to be noticed and praised. Maybe that’s why we’re both so dead set on finding Dad.

I pull my phone out of my pocket, wedge it into a crook in a nearby tree.

“What are you doing?” Lara asks.

I shrug. “Maybe there’s a signal in there, and we can ping my phone from yours. Maybe my phone will be the only thing that gets us out.” I don’t say what I’m really thinking.

Maybe my phone will be the only proof that we were here.

Lara shakes her head, but she doesn’t dissuade me from leaving my phone behind. I think she knows what I’m thinking too.

We take each other’s hand again, holding tightly.

We’re going to find him.

We’re going into the anomaly, and we might not be coming back.

The dark forest gives, and the dark forest takes away.

Author bio: Dawn Vogel learned everything she knows about “micrometer accuracy” from listening to and editing reports for the archaeologists she works with in her day job. When she’s not working, she’s usually writing, crafting, gaming, or herding cats. Visit her at or on Twitter @historyneverwas.

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