The Woods

Chloe stood in the clearing, under the moon and the trees. She hugged herself, bringing the jacket, which she’d borrowed from her sister’s closet, around her. She spun around again, desperately searching for something familiar, some sign of her friends. There was nothing. No lights in the distance, no far off sounds of music or laughter.

The wind blew again and Chloe shoved loose strands of hair behind her ears to prevent it blocking her vision. Panic threatened to overcome her and she fought to stay in control. She couldn’t let herself feel fear, she had to be able to think straight. If she lost her nerve now she’d never find her way back to the camp sight. The bitter night air made it too cold to stay so far from the heat of the fire and her sleeping bag for too long.

She cursed under her breath. This was all Jack’s fault. He’d teased her about being afraid and in a bid to prove him wrong she had stomped deeper into the wood. Now she was lost.

A shiver scurried down her back. She could feel the intense stare of eyes on her back. The flesh on the nape of her neck prickled under the ferocity of that gaze. Turning slowly she searched the trees for the owner of those eyes. The only thing she saw was the empty forest.

“For God’s sake Chlo, don’t let it get to you. Stop being such a wuss.”

She shook off the feeling trying to dislodge the surging fear from her mind. She’d given too much to the panic and now she was imagining things.

A cracking branch pierced the air like a gunshot. Someone behind her was moving. Chloe turned to face the noise. Again she saw nothing.

“Jack!?” Her echoing words were visible in the frozen night air.

“Jack you’re not funny.” She spun again and placed her hands on her hips.         “I’m not afraid!” Her voice didn’t seem to belong to her. She was unable to stop it wavering and powerless to hide the fear creeping into her words.

Another snap, now moving away from her. In frustration Chloe marched through the fallen leaves towards the noise. The snapping began to increase its speed, and she instinctively took chase. Jack would most likely lead her back to the camp. She ran and ran and ran. Her breath coming rapidly as her legs worked hard to keep up.

She yelped suddenly as her foot caught on a tree root, bringing the ground rushing towards her. She was so numb with the cold that she didn’t feel the impact of the solid earth. The bitter chill slowed her movement and she struggled to get back to her feet. The forest circled round her and she closed her eyes tight as she waited for her surroundings to steady themselves. Her eyes flew open immediately as she heard the snapping again.

The freezing air rapidly stiffened her muscles and made raising her head a strain. Somehow she managed it. She began to stiffly push herself off the ground, stretching out a hand into the damp earth. The frosty wind and the fall had disorientated her. Battling with her own limbs she forced herself to sit. The snapping sound came back for her, stopping mere inches away from her hand, still sunk into the earth.  Finally Chloe’s head obeyed her and lifted to stare at Jack.

But even through her weariness Chloe could tell that the figure before her, with its hollow eyes, and haunting features, was not Jack.

In fact; she doubted it was human at all.

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