You pull your hair up into a ponytail for the third time and sigh. It’s going to be windy at the lake, it always is, and your hair blowing in your face is going to get on your nerves. Leave it up. You tell yourself. Your phone buzzes, Sharon letting you know they’re on their way to pick you up. ‘They’, being Sharon, her brother Troy, and his girlfriend Megan. You’d prefer to take your own vehicle but it’s still at the shop so you have no choice.
It’d taken you half the night prior to decide whether to go or not. It was, after all, your ex’s birthday, not to mention it was also the same road you’d hit the “bear” on, leading to the horrible nightmares that’d been plaguing you. However, Skyler had also been a friend, the two of you had known each other since pre-k and as far as the bear/wolf, you knew the only way to squash a fear was to face it.
You throw a hoodie on and bound down the stairs, the smell of pizza making your mouth water. You pull a slice from the pie and sit next to Scott, inhaling the cheesy treat.
“It’s very mature of you to go to Skyler’s party.” Your Dad kisses the side of your head as he walks in.
“Well, I’ll be stuck with Haley next year, I may as well play nice.”
“You never know, she may become your best friend.” Your mom chimes in as she pulls her own slice from the pie.
You shrug, “Maybe. I don’t see her taking Sharon’s place.”
“You can have more than one best friend you know.” Your Dad adds.
You manage to eat another piece and down a soda before you hear the obnoxious ahooGA horn from Troy’s car blaring in the driveway. You rinse your can, place it in the recycle bin and wave goodbye to your family as you head out the door.
The party has been a lot more fun than you expected and you smile as Haley puts her arms around both you and Sharon. She’s more fun than you expected too and even Sharon admits to thinking ‘she’s not half bad.’ You laugh as she pokes fun at Skyler, who’s taking the gang-up in stride.
Suddenly the pressure in your bladder comes to your attention, and you realize you’ve been holding it in far too long. The only place to pee is in the woods and the idea creeps you out, despite being at least three miles from the place where you struck down the wolf/ bear. Unfortunately, if you wait any longer you’ll never live down having an accident, so you excuse yourself and head for the tree line, all of your senses attuned to any sound out of the ordinary.
You finish buttoning your jeans and your shoulders relax.
See silly, nothing to fear.
You step in the direction of the bonfire you can see through the trees. Just as you go to take the next step you hear a twig snap behind you. You spin around with an inhale, losing your footing. Reaching your arms out, you try to catch yourself but a branch beats you to the punch, literally and your head bounces off the thick wood like a soccer ball against a wall. After a moment of seeing stars, everything goes black.
You become aware of a strange chorus of whispering. The hushed noise seems to be not only circling you but coming from all around you at the same time. There’s a pain in your head that’s not to be ignored and you realize either one of two things have happened. Either you hit your head so hard you are no longer able to comprehend English, or whoever is whispering nearby is not speaking English. Either way, a chill works through you and part of you, that instinctual, survival side, tells you to open your eyes, you must open your eyes. There’s another voice too, a quieter almost inaudible one, and it’s telling you not to look, because if you don’t see them, they may let you live.
What do you do? Do you open your eyes, praying the knock on your head is severe and it’s just your friends that you can’t understand? Or do you keep your eyes close and hope it’s all just a bad dream?
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