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Don't move. My body itches to move, I've been standing here with my back against a tree for who knows how long. The woods are quiet, but it's only a façade. There's something here, I don't know where it is. The monster is somewhere though. I can sense it here, somewhere around me. Maybe it can sense me too.
Don't blink. I stare blankly with my eyes wide, I swallow down my fear. My eyes water but I still don't blink; blinking is movement and I can't move. My heart thumps in my chest like the bass of some rap song.
Don't breathe. I feel my lungs start to burn, I need to breathe. I accidentally inhale with a sharp wheeze like an explosion from my lungs. A movement in front of me makes me blink. Whatever moved is gone in the blink of an eye. Now it knows I'm here, there is no hiding anymore.
I slowly rotate my head to follow where the movement was just a second before. Footprints trail away from a bush at least fifteen paces from me. I feel a scared little squeak escape my lungs, I move my statue-stiff arms to cover my mouth but the small scream has already burst out into the world. Tears pull at my eyes and my mouth opens, I scream again. What does it want from me? What did I do?
"You are an evil, evil little being." The monster laughs and I recognize that voice. I've heard that voice every single day but it can't be her. It's not her, I reassure myself, it's not possible.
"What do you want?!" I scream even louder, breaking the silence of the woods. It seems like the hazy dawn light that filters through thick leaves flees from the sound of my voice. "What do you want from me?!" I wrench my hands from my mouth and ball them into fists at my side. Sweat beads up on my forehead and drips down my nose and tastes salty on my lips. My meaty palms are slick with the same sweat that makes my hair greasier than lard.
I hear a laugh and exhale a whimper. "You evil creature, you will pay for your acts."
My mouth opens like a hunter's rusty spring trap. A small whine erupts from my lungs and before I know it, words are pouring out of my mouth. "No! I don't know what you're talking about!" I free my muscles from their locked position that holds like concrete. I count down in my mind so I can gain my courage. 1... I take a deep breath. 2... There's no turning back now. 3...
I make a run for it.
The air around me buzzes with movement and excitement from the monster. I feel the monster right behind me. It seems to enjoy the chase as it flies from one tree to another, always obscured from my vision. I don't look back. I don't need to look back because I can hear it smashing into trees and laughing occasionally. It knows this game of cat and mouse can't last forever. If I give into the monster… I don't know what will happen, but it won't be good.
I pump my arms faster and widen my strides. I jump over a rock here and a fallen log there. Beyond the monster and me, there is no movement. That's strange because this is a forest. I hear a small bubbling and determine that there is a river nearby. The hard-packed dirt gives away to mud almost too suddenly. I almost roll my ankles as I lose footing on a moss coated stump. I pick myself up and keep running.
Branches cut through my clothes and tangle up my hair causing it to rip out of my scalp. Thorns stick in my sides and rip into my delicate exposed skin. Blood beads up on cuts and smears against skin and fabric as I push myself to the max. Pain comes in little explosions like the scarce bursts of fireworks before the grand finale.
I feel my side tighten up and my calves begin to cramp; I'm staring to slow. No, this can't happen. I groan in terror and hear the monster laugh at me. I hear the river even more now. What will happen when I reach it?
I purposely ram into a tree and yank off a fresh green branch. Green buds and fresh new leaves are still attached to the supple stick. I slow for a single second and hurl it behind me so hard that an unintentional grunt echoes around the woods.
A crash and then an angry pained scream. Finally, silence. There's no more buzzing and humming in the air, just my heavy breathing and the crunch of leaves underneath my feet. The river seems to grow quieter itself before laughing along with me. That means the monster is gone.
I stop and lean against a tree. I rub sweat and dirty blood that smells like earth and iron off my forehead. Little cuts on my face sting like a trillion sweat bee stings. My chest heaves up and down while my lungs threaten to burst like an over inflated balloon. I lost it, I lost the monster.
I let out whisper of jubilee and then laugh. I thought a monster was chasing me; it was probably just my imagination. I mean, I'm already alone up here in the woods and I don't know exactly how I got here. I guess my imagination is just having a field day with all the possibilities. So it created a monster and monsters aren't real. Everyone but small children knows that monsters aren't real.
Suddenly, a hand with almost skeletal fingers wraps around my mouth and another around my throat. "Oh how wonderful that you thought I was imaginary. You know exactly who I am and you know exactly why I'm here. It's time you pay the price."
I try to scream but the skeletal hand with the vise grip around my neck squeezes. No sound escapes my mouth. It's not real, I reassure myself, monsters aren't real.
"Stop pretending like you don't know. You know exactly what you did." The hands spin me around to face the monster. I try to scream again as the face comes into focus, but once again the grip allows no sound.
"You sold your soul, you evil little cretin. Now you will pay." Its lips peel back to reveal a ghastly smile.
In horrified fascination, my eyes slide over its face so familiar yet so horribly disfigured. Skin peels off its face to reveal the skull and the remnants of long stringy hair cling to the scalp that peels away like bark. Its eyes are intact though, just blue orbs in skeletal sockets. The fingers tighten around my neck as she lets my gaze wander over her, she's still smiling.
I know who she is because of those eyes… those squinty little eyes that I hate so much. I know her more than anyone else. This is life's cruel disfiguration of my sins.
The monster is me.
"There's no more hiding. It's your turn to pay for this," she snarls.