I push the extraordinarily large leaf out of my face, wanting a better view of the massive canyon below. In this forest of misery nothing is small, especially not the monsters. I stare down at the crack in the ground, the rock seeping down lower and lower for what seems like miles. The canyon is the only barrier keeping me from escaping this eerie place. I watch as the sun begins to droop in the sky. The darkness will soon consume all of the surrounding landscape, turning harmless rabbits into immense man eaters. I squeeze my thin body through a crack in the hill. I scan the small cave, making sure that no matter how unlikely it is, there aren’t any monsters within my dwellings.
Something howls in pain, almost as if it were injured. It calls me to help it but I know better. The sound repeats again, this time in a much more dire tone. My instincts tell me to protect, but my mind tells me to hide. The creature is attempting to lure me out. I stand near the opening wanting to go out but knowing I shouldn’t. My body cowers away from the outside world when a pair of jaws snap angrily. I curl up on the cold stone floor, wishing I could be home. The calls stop sometime after I lie down, the horrible animal must have left.
I awake when I sense another presence. My mind is playing tricks on me. Nobody, and nothing is here. I double check to confirm. The constant paranoia someone is watching me consumes my thoughts as I stalk through the forest searching for a meal. An area of bright berry bushes comes into sight. I can’t eat those. If you cut one into fourths it’d kill a horse. I look towards the horizon hoping there’s actually something edible I can consume. I study the jungle around me, no lunch opportunities present themselves. I wander back to the cave with defeat. I haven’t eaten in days. I groan when my stomach gives an uncomfortable lurch as it begs for food. On top of all my other problems my mouth is dry and cracked from my lack of hydration.
This place is going to kill me. I stand against a larger than life tree, my seemingly microscopic body fits in-between the roots. A shrill shriek is the only warning I get before a colossal beast of death darts towards me. I sprint in the opposite direction taking flight over fight. Branches collide with the soft flesh on my face. My lungs begin to burn as though they’ve been set on fire. I can hear the creature stumbling through the forest behind me, knocking down small trees and shrubbery along the way. I can feel it’s breath on my neck. I urge my legs to pump faster before I’m eaten alive by this thing. Normally the animals don’t come out until night but I don’t have time to ponder it at the moment. I jump over a fallen log, just as I make it over my foot gets caught on a tangle of vines and branches. My body smacks against the ground as gravity wins the inevitable battle. I watch as the monster’s fang filled mouth reaches down to eat me whole. It’s over.
In a split second something dark flashes past the beast, I can’t recognize what the object appears to be. The thing turns around to face whatever had side tracked it from its meal. I don’t have time to figure out what the distraction was I just take off again. I finally stop when my feet hurt and my knees feel mushy. I stare with horror at the new landscape. How can I get back to the cave now? I sit down in the middle of my new surroundings wondering where I’m even going to sleep tonight. Once again I feel the strange paranoia of eyes watching me. I turn three-hundred-sixty degrees to check I’m just hallucinating. First glance I spot a shadow. That can’t be, it would’ve slaughtered me already. Unable to control the alarming thoughts running through my head I get up to find tonight’s shelter. I settle for a hole under a tree that I’d managed to squeeze through.
I lie in the dark attempting to block out all of the sounds that haunt most people’s night mares. I stare at the mixture of dirt and roots above me. I can’t seem to stop my peculiar illusions of being followed. I flip sides in hopes this position will be comfortable enough to drift to sleep. Apparently my mind has other plans for me, it plays scenes and scenarios of horrifying encounters. I attempt to block out the thoughts but with little success. The sound of bones cracking clears my mind for the time being. The familiar rush of adrenaline courses through my body until I feel fully awake and ready to run. I lie there in the dark waiting for something savage to attack me from the base of the tree. I don’t hear any noises after that, other than what closely resembles that of wings beating the air.
My eyelids split open with deep sorrow and dread. It takes a few moments for my eyes to comprehend the vision directly above me. I stare into another’s eyes, horror spreading from my head to my toes. The stranger peers down at me with question. Almost as if they were deciding whether to slit my throat this very moment or wait until later to finish me off. This person has not pinned me to the ground but my own fear has. He doesn’t speak but somehow I feel as though he’s in control of my deepest desires. At the moment I feel the urge to follow him. This strange person. I study him with curiosity, wondering how one human being could withhold so much power for appearing to be rather young. He is rather attractive with jet black hair almost so dark it gleams blue, brown eyes, and a golden olive complexion.
Is the forest tricking me again? It has to be. I have a hard time creating an escape route with my newfound inability to concentrate. I stare ahead at a cluster of bushes and large shrubs. Surely I can make a run for it through there. I make up my mind while following the stranger. On instinct I slip away from their sight to scurry into the tangle of leaves and branches in hopes of escaping. I take a sharp stop when the cliff comes into view. I’m at the edge again. Have I gone in circles? Or is this entire valley of death a circle itself? I wander along the edge praying the large leaves will hide me. Surely they would’ve given up by now. The echo of a branch’s limb snapping contradicts my wild assumption. This thing. It lures me to it. And no matter how hard I try I can’t stop myself. I find my legs making me turn back around to face a shadow on the bark of a tree. Deep down I’m afraid but on the surface it feels right.
My body begins to shake when a hand appears directly next to the shadow, just mere inches away from my face. How can this happen? All of this and the forest is going to kill me through slight seduction? But in all honesty the flesh before me looks perfectly human. Impeccably normal. I turn to face the boy. Based on appearance he can only be in late adolescence. But this is what it wants, something of innocence to swallow me whole. I trample away from him, a small part of me fighting against the pull. My entire body freezes when a laugh erupts behind me. I twist my neck to the side to study him.
“What are you afraid of?” He asks, his lips tilt unevenly in a small smirk. How could someone have that kind of humor after surviving in this nightmare?
“You.” I answer with whole-hearted honesty.
“Me? What’s to be afraid of?” He crosses his arms over his chest, waiting for an answer.