We trudged through the tall grass in what felt like slow motion or walking underwater. Nobody spoke but the tension in the air was thick, we were on edge, hoping to find our friend but afraid of finding her. 
The closer we got to the tree line, the darker it seemed to get, just beyond the trees, it seemed impossibly dark, staring into it was like staring into an abyss, it was mesmerizing. We stopped a few feet from an opening and what looked like a footpath leading deep into the forest, my pulse was racing and I was suddenly freezing despite the still, humid air that blanketed my skin with a thick layer of sweat, but I was shivering. We stood silently in a row, just staring into that abyss that we never even knew existed until a couple months ago. 

"Ready?" Max asked but he sounded far away, we only responded with a half nod, we weren't even close to ready but we made it this far. 

Nobody moved. 

Max blew out an exaggerated sigh and stepped toward the trees, without looking back he waved us forward with circular motion of his arm. We finally moved and followed close behind. 
Entering the forest, it was dark and dreary, the air was cool and still and smelled of moss and wet dirt. It was silent, not even animal sounds. "G..g..guys" Luke stuttered and cleared bus throat "it shouldn't be this quiet, should it? It's summer, animals should be out" his voice trembled, it sounded just how I felt. "Let's just go guys" Max's voice was quieter than I have ever heard it, that frightened me more than the silent dark forest. 
We continued on deeper into the trees, following what looked like an overgrown path. Up ahead, there was a small clearing, we decided to stop there and pass around waters and granola bars and rest for a few minutes. 

I took a granola bar from Luke and said "you know we probably have low blood sugar and that's making us so edgy and jumpy" I suggested. Max gave me a look of confusion. "What? My mom is a nurse" I offered, as if they didn't already know. In reality that look was probably more annoyed, he hated it when I offered explanations that were medical because my mom usually explained things that way. Luke smiled "I like your explanations, especially when the outcome means I need to eat" he laughed. I was glad to see he had lightened up. We goofed around for the next half hour or so, just to make light of the situation, it seemed to ease the tension. 

"We better keep moving, I don't want to spend the night out here" Max said "yeah my parents will send out a search party if I'm not home for dinner" Luke said. He wasn't wrong but the way Becca's disappearance was handled made me doubt they would try very hard to find us either, and that thought made me shiver...we were on our own out here.

 I was about to suggest moving on when we heard a loud crash and a growl, deep and guttural, I had never heard anything like it, we froze not knowing what to do next and trying our hardest not to freak out. For less than a minute, we heard crashes as if someone was coming into the forest, then they just stopped. "I don't know what is scarier, the crashing noises or the suddenly silence" Max whispered. I nodded my agreement and took a quick look at Luke, he looked scared, his ventolin inhaler almost hidden in his right hand. He is going to have a panic attack, I mention this concern to Max, who quickly looks over and nods. "We need to find someplace safe to hide for a little while.  "Hey Gabs, did you bring bug spray by chance?" Max asked, scratching his arms. I was looking in all directions and absently handed him a spray bottle of bug spray.  "Guys..."!i said and they both looked up at me. "That noise was behind us...what if it didn't just stop? What if it stopping means that someone is watching us?" Max handed me back the can of bug spray and said "not to mention that is our way out, we may have walked into a trap.  It or he or whatever is corralling is toward something, like a bunch of cows, we are probably dinner tonight" his voice had started to crack. I strapped my backpack back on my back and quietly said "let's go" and started walking. I wanted us to keep calm and think clearly, with Max on the edge of hysterics, Luke was surely to follow. I checked behind me to make sure they were following  

They had finally caught up to me and fell into step, Luke was doing breathing exercises to calm down and Max was constantly checking all directions, at least he was moving now. Suddenly, Luke stopped without warning and we had to turn around and go back to him. I got there first, he was just standing there, staring straight ahead. I remember thinking he had a stroke and it's all my fault, I should have said no to coming out here to look for our friend. I waved my hand in front of his face...no reaction. Then I noticed his eyes, the eyelids flickered and all that showed was the whites in his eyes. That image has been burned in my brain. I put a hand on his shoulder and talked into his ear, hoping to ease him out of this comatose state. 

Finally he blinked and looked at me "did you guys just hear that?" "Hear what, man?" Max asked. "That guy talking, at first I thought it was another language but the closer I listened, the more I understood what he was saying. You guys didn't hear any of that?" We both shook our heads "no, we were just walking along and you stopped there and had some sort of seizure" I told him. His face scrunched like he was thinking. "I heard it very clearly, I thought it almost sounded like it was inside my head but that's crazy.." he trailed off and stared at the ground. "Luke, what did the voice say to you?" I asked, not really wanting to know the answer but needing to hear it at the same time. Luke looked at me, his face now streaked with tears "he told me we are trespassing, and we need to keep moving...." he paused there, taking a deep breath "he asked me if I wanted to live forever, he knew my name even. I thought someone followed us and was playing a joke on us so I asked how I would live forever" Max and I exchanged worried looks. "Luke, what did he tell you?" I coaxed. He had begun crying again, quiet sobs. In between sobs, he said. 

"He said I have to kill my friends and bring him the bodies". He put his face in his hands and cried harder.

Published by Liz Zemlicka