I felt myself start to panic, "what do you mean he's talking in your head? Like psychically? You were having a mental conversation?" I felt my voice getting louder, Luke flinched away from me and Max put his hand on my arm. I took a deep breath and said "I'm sorry, I'm just scared, yelling at you was uncalled for" Luke eased up a bit and gave me a hug "I didn't mean to scare you, you know, I would never take that offer."  I hugged him back and gently pulled away "guys, we should probably head toward home. I think we are in danger out here" I said softly. They both just stood there, kicking dirt. It was Max who spoke first "yeah I think I've had enough today, I am in full support of going home" 

So we headed back the way we came, still shaken, our senses on high alert. We attempted to talk about something else to ease the tension but none of us were listening and the conversation died off into silence. 

Up ahead, I saw a small patch of light, I pointed it out to the guys and we all walk/ran toward it.  As we approached the entrance we came in, I heard it deep in my head yelling "STOP!" Over and over.  It scared me so bad, I almost tripped and fell. I caught my footing and Max caught my arm. I'll never forget the look on his face, it was terror in its purest form, I knew right then that he heard it too. 

We made it to the clearing and stopped to catch our breath. Max spoke first "Luke, you scared Gabby and she damn near face planted, if I hadn't caught her"  Luke looked up, confusion on his face "what are you talking about?" "When you yelled Stop! Was that a joke? It really wasn't funny" Max scolded. Before he could say another word, he saw in Luke's face what he had feared when he first heard it. Luke didn't yell anything. 

"I heard it too Max" I offered. "I think we should keep going before it gets dark" Max was upset, he walked off to the other side of the clearing in the direction we had come in. We followed not far behind him, nobody spoke and as we entered the woods that would lead us home, I stole a look back into the abyss and saw a large animal. I thought at first it was a deer and nudged Luke. It was staring right through us, then it stood on its hind legs and stretched to the sky. It was huge, its skin pulled tight enough to see the rib cage under neath. It looked up and made the most chilling noises I've ever heard. It was like a high pitched bark, with a deep guttural growl. I still hear that noise in my dreams. Luke and I ran faster than we ever had until we saw the way out and saw that Max was already on the other side. We didn't look back. We kept running until we felt we were far enough away. 

We stood at the park that begins our block, catching our breath. That is when we noticed the commotion. We slowly walked toward the yelling. 
There was a crowd forming near city hall, I could hear yelling and crying and hysterics and when I look back to remember that, it's all in slow motion, the commotion is muffled like they are all underwater or maybe I am underwater. I'm sure I was running by now, I was in panic mode. On some primitive level, I knew what I was about to see but I had to look. 

I pushed through the crowd without even looking up and stopped at the curb and dropped to my knees as adults were trying to drag me back so I wouldn't see my best friend laying in a pool of blood on the concrete. I was fighting the arms pulling me back with everything I had left in me. I think I was screaming but I'm not certain. Then Max was there, pulling me up and into a bear hug. "Come on, let's get you home, you don't need to see this" he said gently leading me away from the scene burned into my head. I broke down then, I don't think I stopped crying until after her funeral. They said it was suicide, she jumped off the top of the city hall building. I never believed it, I felt responsible. 

We never found out what lake was behind those dark woods, we had no desire to return there. It wasn't until after school started that things started really happening. 

The three of us were inseparable, we couldn't talk to anyone else about what we had seen so all we had was each other. 

It was the beginning of fall, leaves were starting to change and the air was crisp and perfect. It was a weekend. I awoke suddenly to a loud bang outside my bedroom window. My heart raced, it sounded like someone was trying to break in. I lay perfectly still, listening. Knock, knock, knock on my window. I jumped and as quietly as I could, crept to the window. Then I heard "Gabby!" In a loud whisper. "Max? What time is it?" I asked opening the window for him, he jumped in the window and whispered "Luke is gone, he was staying at my house, I woke up and he was staring at the door. I asked him what was wrong and he had that same look that he had in the woods that day, the one with only the whites of his eyes showing. I tried to snap him out of it but he kept repeating "I must obey or he will kill me too" then he got up and walked out the door. I followed him for a while but he went in the forest. I don't know what to do."  He was pale and had tears in his eyes. "We have to go after him" I said "I don't know if you remember but last time he was in a trance like this, he was told to kill us" now he sounded like he was getting angry. "What else can we do?" I asked. His shoulders dropped "I have no idea" 

We sat in silence, to terrified to even consider what we needed to do and too tired to do anything that night. 
Max slept on my bedroom floor, i dug out a sleeping bag and extra pillow for him. Neither one of us wanted to be alone that night. 
The next day, Max called Luke's parents and by the end of the day he was a missing person. 

By the end of the weekend, Gavin, Max's twin brother, was found mauled to death in the park. We thought it was supposed to be Max. 

We were right...

Published by Liz Zemlicka