Honors English 9
5 September 2014
A Distant Memory of the Dark Woods
Ghostly sounds resonated through the howling wind, the withered leaves cackled at my
fearful state. The strange slithering sound came closer and closer, and I wanted to scream, but
no sound came out. I looked around, petrified, lost. My parched lips were dry and cracked.
Where was I?
It was the summer of 2006, the sweltering summer I spent in the bustling city of
Bengaluru, India for my uncle’s wedding, as a pint-sized, adventurous five-year-old. I was
surrounded by my close relatives every day, and grew used to the searing hot, muggy
weather. I was especially close with my cousins, because they were of similar age to me. We
constantly sneaked off to play hockey on the dusty rooftop terrace or to feed roaming cows
whenever a snooping adult wasn’t looking.
One day, in the cool summer afternoon, we (with my parents, two aunts, grandpa, three
uncles, and two three cousins) traveled to my grandfather’s country house in the forest
village ninety miles away. We squeezed into twelve-seater white 90’s minibus. After hours
and hours sitting in the car and repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are
we there yet?” we reached our destination. Eager for a breath of fresh country air and
adventure, I ran outside as everyone else took our large portmanteaus to the big, traditionally-
My mom unpacked, while my aunts and I went to gather ripe red chilies, coconuts, and
tamarinds from the huge vegetable gardens nearby. After cooking the traditional way (over a
wood-burning stove), I devoured my spicy lunch and got ready for our hike. That was when
the real adventure started.
As we hiked through the stretches of tropical rainforest, I heard many bird calls and saw
numerous fruit trees, like some of the sweet, tangy berries. I even almost got bitten by a
gigantic fire ant! My uncle and older cousin tried to shake the mango trees, successfully
gathering a dozen mangoes. Meanwhile, my other cousin (a ten-year old girl) and I
innocently kept walking along the trail, not knowing everyone else had stopped. The place
seemed to get unfamiliar, the trail becoming dark, winding, and quiet. I started running
forward playfully, my excitement having reached its peak. And that's when the trouble
I ran and skipped with agility for minutes on end, never checking behind me to see of my
cousin was following. I walked and hummed until the unfamiliar trail ended abruptly, near a
creek. I looked around, frightened, and found myself alone. I could not remember which path
I had taken, since it was obscured by dark, fallen branches. The dark black creek was murky
and "swished" and "sloshed." Probably because of all of the monsters inside, I thought to
myself. I walked and tried to find my way back helplessly, until I heard an eerie slithering
noise. I caught a glimpse of a rusty brown, scaly object slither underneath something
distinctly cross my path underneath the bed of fallen dry leaves. It was a snake! I stood there,
petrified for five long seconds, as the alarming darkness taunted me and the slithering neared.
Suddenly, I screamed a raspy cry, “Aaaaaah!” and stumbled backwards, falling on my
bottom. Instantly up again, I frantically probed behind each tree, dwarfed by the daunting
spiders and their webs. Finally, I found an opening. In a minute, my pint-sized body had
nimbly squeezed through, and I sprinted my way away, far, far away. Out of breath, I
observed my surroundings. Light was peeking through the vivid green leaves of the banyan
trees, and blood-red hibiscuses with golden inner disks were frozen in the peak of perfection.
I slowly tread the path, awed by this amazing place. Clusters of fragrant night-jasmines were
in bloom, and I heard the elegant call of the nightingale. The whiff of sandalwood
mesmerized me. This tropical paradise was the most amazing place, but I could not enjoy it,
with what the worry of finding my way back.
I strode through the path, appearing before a wall of brush. Looking for a soft spot, I
squeezed through the largest opening, minty leaves and brush falling on my face. I heaved a
tremendous sigh of relief, as I had reached the edge of the huge clearing where the rest of the
family was. I started toward my anxious cousin, who was looking from side to side, waiting,
then I broke into a run. She lifted me into the air and we hugged, and just in time too.
My aunt arrived and stopped to look at our scraggly figures. “And where have you two
been?” asked my aunt curiously. “Oh, you know, around here. Looking for berries. She was
using the bathroom behind a bush and I was waiting for her.” She held out some of the
crushed, oozing bluish-purple mess in her hands. I was relieved to have an alibi and that my
cousin answered for me. In response, I nodded vigorously. Seeming doubtful at first, my aunt
lifted an eyebrow then nodded and left us alone. I breathed a sigh of relief and plopped down
on the ground. I sure had learned my lesson! Soon after, we began the long hike back home.
The rest of my trip was a breeze, but that day had been embedded in my memory like words
Looking back on this experience more than eight years later, I still remember it clearly.
Since then, I have been afraid of sudden noises and dark places, spiders, and of being alone.
Although I laugh upon it now, it impacted me as a person. I learned not to run off by myself
in new places, and to respect and fear the environment. I learned that beautiful things can be
in the most treacherous places. This hike was truly scary but it allowed me to see beyond my
little community, to explore nature and independence. And it is one of my favorite and