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In The Shadows
I ran through the woods as fast as my body could carry me and tried not to think about the burning pain slowly crawling up my leg. Every step I took brought horrible pain that squeezed my broken ribs, but I could almost overlook that suffering because every step brought me that much closer to refuge. The cold nipped at my face as I continued my frantic run, rapidly becoming a slow jog. It was eerily quiet in the woods in the dead of night, my feet and the first light snow of the season caressing the icy ground the only sounds. It seemed like everything went into hiding, the danger in the air was almost palpable.
I stumbled over a rotting log and failed to catch myself, my face and stomach connecting with the frozen dirt. I barely suppressed a scream of agony as my ribs met the ground with a painful thud. I laid on the ground taking deep, measured breaths, wiping the tears that were now flowing freely down my dirt crusted face. My ribs groaned in protest as my heart sped up at the idea of being captured. I was so scared of being caught; afraid of what they would do to me once they had me. There’s no time for a pity party, I reminded myself, dragging my body off the ground and carefully disentangling myself from a spider web I had successfully fallen through on my descent down. Shaking off the chill that was coating my body, I continued on my frantic race through the woods. My breathing took on a raspy tone as I carelessly made my way through the bare trees, not that it mattered, they could find me even if I were buried under the ice bearing ground. The tips of naked branches clawed and slashed at my skin, creating shallow scratches into my arms.
No longer able to carry my beaten body any farther, I stopped at the only tree still bearing dried, browning leaves. I slumped against the trunk of the tree and slid down to the ground, ignoring the burning cold that slipped into my pores and numbed my body. I tried taking a deep breath and almost screamed out in agony as my broken ribs tore up the inside of my body, making breathing almost impossible. But, the searing pain in my lower left calf surpassed any pain I had ever experienced in my life. The venom from the nasty bite they gave me made its way farther into my ravaged body and I was reluctant to know what would happen once it reached my heart. The night was so dark that I couldn’t see the bite, but I gingerly probed the wound and felt something hot and squishy gradually leaking from the swollen bite.
Thumping my head hopelessly against the bark of the tree, I prayed they would just leave me alone. After a few minutes of silence my heart finally slowed to a lethargic jog and the only sounds filling the night was the falling snow and my ragged breathing. The excruciating pain in my ribs slightly subsided as the cold chilled my bones and wrapped my body in a cocoon of ice and only the burning of the venom kept my dried, crusted eyes from closing.
I sat there and decided to close my heavy eyelids for just a moment, thinking about how I had gotten here, beaten, bloodied and petrified.
I snorted in disgust as I pulled my car into the driveway, parking as far away from Hanks car as physically possible. I turned my key in the ignition and waited as my car coughed and wheezed and finally turned off. I hopped out of my car and forcefully slammed the door shut, hoping my mom and her newest addition, Hank, would hear me and quit fooling around. I walked the short distance to the door, silently chuckling to myself as I passed Hanks Mercedes and imagined smashing in his windows.
The door was already unlocked when I turned the knob, and taking that as a good sign, I waltzed right in. I had to pass through the kitchen to get to the stairs and upon smelling burning candles; I stuck my head into the dining room where I saw Hank and my mom looking dreamily into each other eyes. My mom laughed at something Hank said, though I doubted it was actually funny, and he reached over from across the table and tucked a stray strand of moms auburn hair behind her ear, making her blush. I wanted to smack his wandering hands away from her face, but held myself in check and walked upstairs, away from the nauseating scene. As I walked into my room, I went over to the curtains and pulled them closed tight to keep those creepy shadow things from seeing me.
They had begun following me a month ago, lurking in the shadows, just watching, never showing themselves to me. They had started to freak me out, but when I brought my issue to my mom’s attention, she merely brushed me off, diagnosing me with a bad case of paranoia. I had begun to believe her when they had finally stopped following my every move and receded into the shadows. I’ve been stalker free for over a week now, but that still didn’t stop me from taking extra precautions. I slammed my book bag onto my desk and flopped down on my bed, casually flipping through my missed calls and texts on my cell phone.
I had snagged my phone off the kitchen counter on my way up to my room and considering I had had my phone taken away for a week for talking back to Hank, I had a decent amount of missed calls and texts from friends. I was about to just erase all of my voice mails when a message from an unknown number popped up on my screen. My eyebrows knit together in confusion; I clicked on the voice mail and saw it was from an hour ago. I brought the phone to my ear and held my breath, hesitant to hear the message. At first I heard nothing and was going to delete the message when heavy breathing interrupted the silence, unsettling me. My heart had begun to hammer inside my chest, vibrating into my ears. I didn’t have to wonder who was leaving this message, it was clear as day.
“Meet us at the cusp of the woods behind the park on 2nd street at 10,” demanded a thick, raspy voice that sent a chill up my spine, “and Abbey, don’t be late, we wouldn’t want to have to pay dear old mommy a visit, now would we?” the message ended with an abrupt crackle. I shot up from the bed like a bat flying from the gates of he** and was attacked by an onslaught of questions that were buzzing around in my brain. But I couldn’t grasp onto one long enough because it felt like someone had released a jar of butterflies into my stomach and head, making me dizzy and nauseous. My eyes darted to my bedside clock and my eyes bugged out of my head when I saw it was already 9:45.
In a haze, I pulled on a long sleeved shirt and running shoes and took the stairs three at a time. I poked my head into the dining room where my mom and the weasel were still having a telepathic conversation and said, out of breath, “I’m gonna go out for a while, I’ll be back later.” My mom mumbled an incoherent response, not so much as a glance in my direction. I looked at her a second longer, my heart squeezing painfully as I realized my mother never looked at me with as much love as she did Hank, or any boyfriend for that matter. Remembering I didn’t have time to mope, I dashed out to my car and slammed the pedal to the floor, trying to get to the park as fast as I could.
I arrived with two minutes to spare and without any hesitation in my step, sprinted to the edge of the woods. Now that I was here and the scents of the night penetrated my nose, clearing the fog that clung to my head like a life raft, my brain played catch-up. I was in the deserted park, alone; at night because of a phone call I got from the strangers that had been stalking me like I was weak prey. Definitely not my smartest idea, but I couldn’t let them get at my mom, even though she could care less about me. My eyes scanned the woods, attempting to pick apart the darkness, but I just couldn’t make out anything but the thickness of the night. Stomach churning with uneasiness, I decided I might as well make my presence known, “Hello, I-I, uhm, I’m here,” I stammered out, silently cursing myself for sounding so weak. When I didn’t get a response I began to pace back and forth, the cold air biting at my nose and the accelerating wind snapping my auburn hair across my face.
Feeling defeated, I was about to start my trek back to my car when I witnessed a shape form out of the corner of my eye. Before I could react, a black blur zipped through the air and tackled me to the ground, a sharp gust of wind carrying my scream away into the gloom. I smashed into the solid ground with incredible speed and my ribs took the impact of the fall. I heard something snap and was taken off guard by the blinding pain that spread throughout my body like wildfire. I couldn’t make out the figure that was on top of me, suffocating me with its weight, but from the horrible stench I knew that it couldn’t be human. The shape began to violently tear at my body, ripping and scratching anything it could get its hands on, and I was too paralyzed with fear to attempt to fight back. Abruptly, I felt a release in pressure and knew the thing had gotten off of me, but I was still seeing stars from the throbbing in my ribs to focus on its whereabouts. Suddenly, I felt sharp teeth sink into my left calf and my nerve endings were set on fire as it injected something hot and burning into my veins.
That bite was enough to spring me into action and I gave a feeble attempt at scrambling backwards on my hands away from the now hissing creature. I didn’t make it very far when the shape brought me to my feet and pushed me roughly in the direction of the woods, rasping out a single word, “Run.” That one word surged my body with adrenaline and I felt an overwhelming urge to run for dear life into the sinister woods. I ran into the woods as fast as I could, the cackling of the creature keeping me company.
A shrilling shriek brought me back to the present, prying my heavy lids open. The pain in my leg had taken on a life of its own and I fought the urge to scratch at it. Another screech drilled holes in my skull, and I hurriedly got up off the ground and shook off the thin layer of snow that had collected on my body. The throbbing in my side took a back seat as the wrenching pain in my leg intensified and I gasped in horror and puzzlement as I saw the bite start to glow a bright, fluorescent green. I heard the snapping of a branch and whipped my body around and came face to face with the shadow creatures that had been stalking me. They appeared in front of me cloaked in a cloud of pitch black smog, darker than even the night around me. At least ten clumps of black smoke surrounded me and I slid to the ground, at the mercy of their power. The smoke slowly dissipated and I caught sight of the terrible creatures that had escaped the darkest trenches of he**. They had followed me for weeks, lurking just outside my door waiting for the right moment to strike.
Now here I was, faced with ten of the dankest, most evil monsters of the night. They stood over seven feet tall, with boney bodies covered in decaying, sagging, leather like skin. No hair or facial features were present except for a gaping hole in the middle of their heads where a face should have been. The leader of the legion stepped out of the shadows and stood a foot in front of me, opening its gaping hole and pouring putrid breath onto my body that brought me down to my knees.
Having me right where they wanted, the shadow creature pointed at my infected bite with a five inch nail and let out a deep, raspy moan of approval. Without a moment of hesitation the creature came closer to me until all that was in my sight was the pure dank darkness of the gaping hole and my heart pounded and rattled painfully against my shattered ribs. The creature slid its mouth over my heart and began sucking out my soul like a leech as a screamed out in misery as the worst imaginable pain wracked my body as my soul was literally torn from my body.
I fell backwards and my eyes became heavy as the monster continued to drain my life and the realization hit that this was it, I was going to die at the hands of an evil monster and I didn’t even know the reason why. And the last thing I saw before I was finally graced with sweet death and an end to my pain wasn’t my life flashing before my eyes, but the first pure, beautiful, untainted snowfall of the season.