I run back and bend over to pick up my bag. It fell at the food of a sign. It reads ‘beware’.
“Just leave it!” He cries, tugging me along by the arm.
He’s silent. “We have to go. They’re after us.”
I look back. The woods seem so normal, so quiet. I don’t see anyone.
“Who’s after us? Where are they?”
“Far too close, come on! They’ll catch up to us in no time, we’ve got to get out of here!”
He sounds agitated. What did he see? What could have been so bad to have spooked like this? He’s never scared. And where is Paul. He was right behind us the entire hike.
“Paul?” I try again.
“Forget about Paul, keep going!”
I knew it wasn’t a good idea to go to that place, but he wouldn’t listen. He’s practically running.
I trip, he simply drags me across the ground.
“Danny, slow down! You’re hurting me!”
“That’s nothing compared to what they’ll do to you if you don’t move it!”
I nod. What else can I do? I try my best to keep up, it’s just that his legs are longer. So much longer than mine. He’s like a madman! Just look at him, shaking like a leaf, panting, he’s terrified!
I fall again and bruise my knee. It hurts. Blood trickles from the scrape.
“Don’t stop!” Danny says, not even giving me enough time to get to my feet properly. Now I’ve really had enough!
“You’re being ridiculous! Let me go!”
He looks at me intensely. I can see the conflict raging in his eyes.
“Fine!” He hisses. “But keep moving.”
I’m falling behind quickly. He marches like a soldier. I have to run to match his pace.
The sun is setting. As the light retreats westwards, the woods, they seem to come alive with lights of their own. They’re everywhere, glowing in the darkness between the trees, as if they are watching us, lurking.
It gives me goose bumps, then again, it is getting cold, but they are so pretty. So... alluring.
I find one close to me. It’s shining from behind the stem of a tree, a beautiful ball of floating fire. I approach it, I want to capture it, I want to put it in a jar and take it home with me, I... I reach for it, stretch my hand out I can almost, touch it, I...
Danny grabs my hand and pulls me away.
“Don’t! They got Paul.”
His voice breaks as he says it. I look at him, dazed.
We start out again. The road can’t be that far away, right? Stupid forest! It seems like it will never end...
The two of us dash through the woods, through the night, jumping over roots, trees, bushes, branches, there’s so much in our path, so much we can’t even see, we’ve got to make it, we’ve got to get to the road and then we’ll be safe, won’t we be safe, if we get out of the woods?
“Come on, we’re almost there!”
I can smell the road, just a few more yards... There is light seeping into the forest from an opening in the trees, we’re at the edge!
I’ve never felt such relief as when the artificial moonlight fell over my face and I could see the car by the edge of highway, just a few steps ahead of me. We slow down, my feet are blistered, my legs are heavy, but it doesn’t matter, we’ve done it.
We smiled at each other. We made it. The lights were glaring at us from the trees, they could not reach us, they can’t touch us, not in this light. Poor Paul...
A midnight breeze picks up. How soothing on my skin after all that running. I close my eyes. Then a dark shadow glides across my eyelids. What was that? My eyes fling wide open and I can just see Danny being snatched and hauled away by a grim creature. The thing wrapped itself in Paul’s jacket to protect itself from the light. Danny... I grope for him, it’s too fast. A gush of his blood hits me in the face as they pass me. He’s lost. I can hear him screaming, just for a few seconds but it seems like forever, screaming with all his might as they tear him to pieces in the shades before me. And still they keep glaring at me with want as they deal with him.
I cover my head with my hands as I hear a loud bang behind me.
A man calls out.
“Are you alright? Did you get hit?”
I have my back towards him. I don’t respond.
“Could you... Could you help me out? I think I’m stuck!”
Trembling in fear I turn around to see the damage. A car has crashed into something. The entire front is bent around something straight and long, now crooked. The idiot hit the light pole! It flickers.
I stagger towards him. I’ve got to get him out, we’ve got to keep that pole upright... A few steps and then the pole slowly uproots, putting out the light with one final flash.
I can’t see a thing. “Are you okay? We’ve gotta...” The man keeps babbling on, I stop listening. All I hear now is the low hissing breath-in-sound from the woods coming closer. Where are they? Every now and then I catch a glimpse of a pale glow, they’re gathering.
The man is squealing. He couldn’t move an inch. They got him.
All I know is that I’m next. I don’t where or when or how...
I turn and turn, but the sound comes from every direction.
I’m all alone and everywhere around are those hideous, terrible ghostly balls closing in.
My scream cuts through the night and will be heard forever more, trapped into the light.
And the villagers will for days and days come to hear my screaming and tell each other, their children, in their low conspiring voices, the curse, has struck once again.