You choose not to open your eyes but instead squeeze your lids tight, afraid of what you might see.
You know that what, or whoever is surrounding you has to be aware that you’re conscious because your body begins to involuntary spasm with shivers. The leaves under your body rustle with the uncontrollable movements.
The whispering amplifies, separate words no longer definable, a deafening white noise taking over the realm of sound.
You clench your fists. It’s taking every bit of your willpower not to raise your hands, and cover your ears.
The noise continues, grinding at your nerves.
The foliage at your side moves, someone or something has stepped up to the side of your body. They are close enough for you to feel their presence but not close enough to actually be touching you.
A tear leaks down your cheek as terror grips your soul.
Something touches the side of your head.
You hear an inhale and feel the hair resting on your ear move with the breath. Whatever is at your side is sniffing you. The familiar scent of a dog tickles your nose. Not overpowering, just a hint of it.
You think of the animal you’d hit on the side of the road and left to die.
Your lips tremble and you press them together to prevent the sob, trapped inside, from escaping.
It didn’t die and now it’s come for me.
You know you’re holding your breath, and for a moment, you actually pray you’ll pass out.
Without warning, the white noise begins to fade into the distance. Then it’s gone, leaving stillness in its wake.
More tears roll down your cheeks but you remain unmoving with your eyes closed, unsure if the presence is still at your side.
It seems like you’ve been laying awake and terrified for hours. You’re on the very edge of the tree line. Why hasn’t anyone come looking for you?
The crickets around you began their chorus and you let out a slow breath. If they were no longer scared then perhaps you shouldn’t be.
You take a few deep breaths through your nose, trying to calm your nerves, and still yourself to open your eyes.
A husky whisper in your ear makes your slowing heart, speed back up. “Smart girl.” It states.
A moment later you hear the sound of something retreating through the underbrush.
You snap, unable to take the fear any longer. Opening your eyes, you jump to your feet and make a dash for the tree line.
Your steps falter as you realize there’s no clearing ahead of you where you thought the tree line was. You swing around, thinking for a moment you’d become disorientated. You’re surrounded by nothing but trees.
Panic snatches at you but you push it away knowing it won’t help.
A raven caws overhead and you look up, watching it swoop through the air. Your eyes connect with the rays of the rising sun and you squint at the brightness. A feeling of relief washes over you at the sight as you comprehend that dawn has arrived.
You have no clue where you are or how you got there, but what you do know is that people are going to be searching for you. Your curfew was at midnight and you’re sure that when your parents realized you were late, they’d driven to the lake themselves.
You let out a long breath, willing the muscles in your body to relax.
Probably Mom.She would have insisted, as she’s the one less likely to embarrass me.
You feel a smile tug at your lips at the thought, despite your circumstances. You mom was awesome.
Besides, as soon as Sharon realized I was gone last night she would have alerted everyone at the party, and when they didn’t find me she would have called my parents. I need to stay put.
That’s what you had always been told. If you get lost in the woods, stay put. It makes it easier for search and rescue to find you if you’re not moving.
What if they come back? You shiver involuntarily and wrap your arms around yourself as you do a circle. Everything from the night prior felt too surreal, like a nightmare. I hit my head and I wondered into the woods delirious, or whatever it’s called. You try to convince yourself. I need to go back to where I woke up. I’ll see there are no footprints but my own. Then I’ll know it was all in my head, and I can chill.
You look down at the forest floor. Just as you thought, your prints are visible in the shallow mud of the undergrowth. You’re actually quite surprised at how thick and spongy the ground is, and how clearly you can see your prints. You don’t ever remember it looking that way before. Then again you didn’t go wandering into the forest staring at the ground either.
You follow your footprints back to their origin, surprised you didn’t notice the cement building standing in the middle of the forest. As you approach another shiver works through you. It wasn’t a building, at all but rather a mausoleum. Nothing in there but skeletons. You shake your head at yourself and walk to the door. To your surprise it’s not sealed or locked, it’s actually opened a small crack. You stare at the door a minute wondering if it’d be some kind of sacrilege to go inside, to see whose remains occupied such a secluded spot.
Do you let your curiosity get the best of you and go inside? Or do you continue to try and convince yourself everything you’d experienced was nothing more than delirium brought on by a knock on the head, and ensure the only footprints around are your own?
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