Sammy wasn’t a smart girl. She had made it into High School by the grace of her perfect attendance and how many soccer goals she scored per match. She knew the principal and coaches had pulled some strings on her entry exams, so she didn’t care. Neither did her parents. They encouraged her to play and play well.
What she did care about right now was where she had woken up. It was cold. It was dark. It was damp. She could feel earth and twigs under her fingers. She clutched at the spongy ground, her head spinning as she tried to piece her last memories together. She felt terrified.
She sat up, squinting in the darkness.
‘Keep your head in the game, Sammy,’ she shouted internally.
Shadows of trees stood out in the dim light of the moon, straight and harsh, like so many burnt matches. She knew she was in the deep woods.
She wasn’t afraid. She had been in the woods many times before. Not under these circumstances, but the dark and the cold were familiar. She tried to feel the rest of her body, to make sure there were no cuts, no bruises.
Check – assess – keep your head in the game, Sammy.
Her back felt tender, her arms a little sore – but she could chalk that up into slamming into the other soccer team earlier this week. Was this a prank set up by them? Had they drugged her and left her here for a joke? It wasn’t very funny.
Or… Maybe it was a punishment… After all, God may punish her for her evil thoughts of-… …But no, she couldn’t think that way. She had to stay calm.
She stood up carefully. She could still barely see in the darkness. Maybe there had been an accident.
“Hello?” Sammy called out. There was an echo. A deep, booming echo of her own voice.
Sammy wasn’t booksmart, but she knew that the woods shouldn’t echo. She KNEW the woods. No echoes unless she was near a cliff. She knew there were no cliffs for miles where she lived. She knew there shouldn’t be any echoes if she could see so many trees in the moonlight.
She called out again.
“HELLO? Anyone?!” Another echo, loud and clear, it resonated so many times.
Sammy steeled herself. Her fists clenched and her stomach tensed. This echo wasn’t right. Nothing about this was right.
She stepped forward, the ground giving in a way she knew was soft mud.
Sammy stepped forward again. She could feel her pristine white sneakers – her favorite shoes – slurping into the mud.
She finally reached a tree. Wrapping her arms around it, she greeted it like a long-lost friend. Something solid. Something safe. Something normal.
The bark was rough against her cheeks. She didn’t worry about insects. She had never worried about dirt, truth be told. She clung to the tree and wished she could just hang on to it forever, that it would transport her home. Sammy closed her eyes.
She imagined herself somewhere safe. Somewhere… comforting.
…In her lover’s arms.
Soft and warm, full of love and passion. Her lover, whose legs were so soft, whose breasts were so full, whose hair was so curly and so easy to get tangled in. If only she were here with Sammy. If only she could take her away from all this… Take her in her smooth, beautiful arms and shower her with kisses…
But the tree was too rough to be her lover. And Sammy was so tired. She opened her eyes again, stumbling forward to the next tree. She knew if she walked in the same direction, eventually she would make it to: A road, river or room.
That’s what her momma had taught her.
Don’t stay put, Sammy, if it’s too cold. Keep walking, child, keep walking and find your way to one of the three R’s:
A road, a river or a room.
If you come upon a road, walk it but be wary.
If you come upon a river, follow it but don’t get wet.
If you come upon a room, knock upon the door but keep your wits against men.
Stumbling ever forward, Sammy gripped from tree to tree in the darkness. She hugged their slender figures as she unstuck her increasingly muddy sneakers from the pulling, sucking ground.
With each step, she heard the faintest telltale echo of her own her own trudging shoes popping out of the mud.
It shouldn’t echo like this, she thought.
It shouldn’t echo like this.
A brief excerpt from a short horror story I’m writing. To Be Continued…