Midnight. When the sky is pitch black and all is dead silent. A time when everyone hides away in their bed, letting sleep protect them.
As the moon’s dull light embraced the silent houses and the stars luminous shine promised a brighter tomorrow. No one dared wake from their slumber. No one dared open their eyes. No one dared move from their bed. No one… except her.
The girl with the bloodshot eyes and frostbitten hands, with purple bags on her face and tear-stained cheeks that no one ever noticed. Standing by her front door, she faced the twilight sky. With eyes shut tight, she released an icy breath and opened her eyes in time to watch as the clouded gas slowly disappeared.
Silently, she wished she could do the same. To disappear into thin air, no tragedy or disaster. As simple as a magic trick. But in this world, nothing was that simple.
While she stood in her doorway, contemplating her feelings, the girl felt a pull. It was like the air itself had grabbed her and was forcing her forwards. Maybe this is it, she thought, the escape I’ve been looking for.
Without wasting another second, she closed her front door quietly and let herself be pulled further and further away from ‘home’. Anxiety gnawed at her brain, but the prospect of finally being able to disappear kept her fears at bay.
There almost seemed to be a hint of a smile playing on her lips. Something that hadn’t happened, truthfully, in a long time. Being led into a large cluster of tall, dark, looming trees, the girl stopped. The eerie forest had her heart beating a mile a minute and the vaguely haunting howls and screams of the wind made her want to turn back.
Gulping down her worries, she thought about the stories she had heard about this forest. How many teenagers had lost their lives because of it? Supposedly, once you entered, it became almost impossible to do everyday, mundane things. It was like the forest had power over you, taking control of your senses until you were no longer the master of yourself.
It became hard to sleep, eat, breathe even. You become anxious, hopeless, stressed, sad. All the emotions that people spent their entire lives wanting to avoid. But the girl…she had already experienced all of this before. She often wondered if going into the forest would change anything. Moments of deliberation brought her to the conclusion that this forest, whatever sinister power it held, it could do her no worse than she had already felt.
Twigs, leaves and rocks, clawed at her cold, bare, blue feet. Leaving cuts and trails of blood in their wake. This didn’t phase her though, it was like she couldn’t even feel the pain from the gashes and grazes building up on her feet. She was too entranced with her journey she had chosen to take.
The girl hadn’t felt a change either, not that she was actually expecting one. However, she was surprised that the forest appeared oddly ordinary. Apart from the yelling wind and towering trees, things were normal.
That’s how it started out anyway. But as time passed the girl began to feel shivers travelling down her spine. Her composure finally broke when she found a lone shoe on the ground. Scratches covered the trainer and blood stained the white laces like red paint on a canvas. Images roamed in the girl’s mind, ideas, questions.
She wanted to know ‘why?’. So she walked on, heart in her throat and sweat in her palms. Soon the girl found the shoe’s twin, in a similar state to the first. The only difference is that next to this shoe lay a pair of ripped, dirt-covered, grey shorts. They were almost torn completely in two.
Suddenly, a snap of a twig had the girl on the ground gripping onto the damp mud for support. The tall trees were blocking the moon from sight, leaving the girl practically blind. Even so, she knew something was there, watching her every move. Stalking her like a wolf stalks its prey. She was terrified. Body shaking and eyes watering, she made it to her feet.
Freezing stiff, she slowly began backing away from where she assumed it was, whatever it was. Another snap of a twig had her moving quicker than before. Then another snap and another snap and another snap and snap and snap and snap, snap, snap, snap. She started running.
Praying her legs wouldn’t give out on her, she thought over the decisions she had made that led her here. Leaving the house at night, entering this godforsaken forest, ignoring the obvious signs of danger. Worst of all, no one knew where she was. Tomorrow her parents would wake up and she would have just…”Disappeared…”
The voice didn’t belong to the girl. Stopping suddenly, she came face to face with a young boy. Cuts decorated his bare body and blood plastered his skin. With his mud-caked arms, he leant against a tree, desperate for support.
“Who did this to you?” the girl asked, needing answers. The boy stared at her for a moment, before moving his arms slowly and painfully. He grimaced as his hand came to point at his chest. “Me,” he croaked “I did this.”
The girl blinked rapidly, confused and worried. Why would he do this to himself? She didn’t understand, it made no sense. Making a move towards him, she was startled by a gust of wind that knocked her off balance. It spun her around and behind her she saw a figure.
She had forgotten about what was chasing her and now it had caught up. Closer and closer it moved but the girl stayed still, unmoving in the shadows and darkness of the forest. Closer and closer it moved until a hand grabbed her throat and pulled her forwards. Then…she finally understood what the boy had meant.
In front of her, with a dark look in its eyes, stood her mirror image. The figure was her, her anger, anguish, hurt, jealousy, greed, loneliness. And It had won. The girl had given up and let it take over. That was perhaps, the saddest part of all.
by Lauren Bessant