A Shadow in the Darkness

July 10, 2008
By Sarah Rocco, Rochester, NY

A murmur outside my green tent woke me out of a dead sleep. Sitting up, I peered outside the folds of the tent into the wilderness beyond. My eyes darting, my breath quickening, my attention was caught by a light in the distance. The luminous moon creating a ghostly affect on the forest ahead. To quiet my now erupting stomach, I decide the dangerous journey in the dark would happen. Quickly, I scanned the dirt road that led in and out of the camping grounds. Nothing. I gulped. I hated camping by myself. Why did I allow my friend to talk me into this?

Creeping out of the tent, I slowly stood up. At the last second I remembered to grab my flashlight; flashing it up and down the path, I set across. A snap of a branch, the soft brush of wind, I whirled around—only to meet darkness. The sudden jerk ripped my footing our from under me: the flashlight went soaring into nothingnessThe night was still and dark. I felt around for the flashlight but my mind would not rest. I had to leave it. I looked at the distance to the bathroom and back to my tent, my stomach decided for me. Leaving the flashlight in the ditch, I slowly lifted myself to my feet; inch by inch I started creeping my way into the dense forest.

Caraaaaack!! What was that?? Something was out there.

Bit by bit, inch by inch, crumb by crumb, I forced my attention back to the dime light above the “door of security”. The eerie moon ironically lighting my path, I continued my journey to the bathroom. With every step my imagination grew larger. Branches turned into grasping arms; rustling leaves turned into an approaching monster; every crack of a branch, things out to get me. Stepping cautiously over every branch, my ears alert for any noise, I finally exited the opaque woods, holding my sides all the way.

Dashing into the pitch-black bathroom I sped into a nearby stall. I shut my eyes to keep out the grossness of public stalls—something you could never avoid. It was like the epitome of dirty diaper stench. I started to wash my hands and quickly started to leave, but a flash of a figure sweeping across the empty bathroom made me stop.

“H-h-ell-o?” I stammered. No answer.

Standing there in the darkness, I felt my eyes watering from concentration. I shook the feeling and headed to the door. The shady, bottomless jungle showed no mercy as my fear came dripping in from the edges of my psyche.

One. Two. Three. Go!

But I didn’t go.

A stall slammed shut behind me, me feet suspended in the door off the step. The breeze still only meant one thing: someone—or something—was in that bathroom. I took off the step into a full out sprint racing headfirst into the impenetrable, moonless woods. Through the escalating gloom, under outstretching “arms”, my attention constricted, I fell headlong into a ditch. I tried to scream but nothing came out. I head leaves crinkle behind me. My thighs were burning but I couldn’t stop now. Something snatched at my leg. I tried to tug free but I tripped over my clumsy footing; thrashing around to get lose, but I only achieved in kicking myself.

The moonlight dripping through the trees shone on my foolishness: my foot was caught on a branch. I fought the tree branch for my foot and pushed through the last part of the woods, not hesitating to run across the dirt road. I dove into my tent and under my sleeping bag. I laid there panting until mercifully, sleep came.

My friend Ali woke me the next morning for breakfast. The bright sunshine bringing out the beauty of the wilderness grounds.

“Hey, were you having a bad dream last night?” she asked me while pouring cereal for her and myself. Thoughts of last night’s events flooded into my mind. Her eyes penetrated my mind searching for answers that could only be spoken; my frizzy-red hair and freckled face only adding to my unconvincing face.

“No... Why do you ask?” I solicited. She hesitated before answers, still studying my face,

“I thought I heard someone scream....” I froze. Screaming....I wasn’t—

“Megan what is....?” she didn’t get to finish as her eyes glued to something in the distance. I twisted around to see that through the woods—and many flashing lights—police and FBI scattered throughout the public restroom area.

My heart started pounding as I headed into the once harmful woods. I made my way through the woods and walked up to the yellow tape marking off the crime scene.

Crime scene....what crime scene??

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed two cops talking to each other.

“.....poor girl. She didn’t even have a chance.” Perplexed, I snuck under the yellow tape and vigilantly crept over to the doorway of the bathroom.

“Miss!” The police officer called after me, “Miss,” but it was too late, “Miss!! You Can’t Go In There!!!” I ignored his calls, and slipped inside the door and stood aghast. Inside the stall closest to the door, was a woman’s distorted, mangle, mutilated body lying on the tile floor; a trail of blood leading away from the body, out the door.

As my eyes drifted around the bathroom, my heart stopped in my chest. My hands started shaking, but I didn’t take note. I felt my breakfast starting to come up and a scream erupted from me. On the floor in the middle of the bathroom was a message written in her blood:

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”

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