“The Woods” by Samantha Schlegel

   The sky was clear, the moon lighting the only path that twisted through the trees. The crickets were chirping while an owl hooted in the distance. The wind blew, whistling its way through the trees, sharp and cold. I pulled my jacket closer around me, silently cursing my friend who led the way in front of me. Our feet crunched over the dead leaves laying on the ground as we moved further into the woods. I could be in my bedroom right now, wrapped up in a blanket and enjoying a good book. Instead, I was being dragged out here to some party in the middle of the woods. I’m all for parties but I preferred them to be indoors and not in the middle of the creepy woods.

   “I can hear you pouting from up here! Stop being so pessimistic,” Carissa called over her shoulder. I rolled my eyes at her back. Sometimes I couldn’t take her overly happy and bubbly personality. She was, what some people would call, the life of the party. If there was one happening within a twenty mile radius you could probably bet on her being there, and generally with me in tow. “We’re not going to let a little cold weather stop us from having some fun. It’s a Friday night, after all,” she said as she stopped and turned to me.

   I looked around nervously at all of the trees, which were just bare skeletons. The season had claimed their leaves. I couldn’t see the fire that signaled the party was close. “Having fun is great and all, but do you even know where you’re going? We’ve been walking for forever and I have yet to even hear music or see a fire.”

   She rolled her eyes at me, “Oh my God, Olivia, stop worrying so much. I know exactly where we’re going.” She flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder and continued forward. I glared at her and followed, praying that the night would just be over already. A snap of a stick to our left caught my attention and I stopped to peer into the darkness. I couldn’t see anything but the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. “Olivia! Let’s go!” Carissa called from a few feet up the path. With one more glance I hurried my way towards her.

   We walked for another ten minutes without coming across so much as a rabbit running through the trees. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched since the stick incident had occurred. If I wasn’t afraid of being attacked by a serial killer, I probably would have turned around and left her dumb ass out here on her own. “Look Carissa, I’m highly doubting your directional skills and I just want to go home. There will be more parties that aren’t in the middle of the woods.” I cast an anxious glance over my shoulder, a wave of irritation flowing through me. This time Carissa didn’t reply. I turned back, prepared to yell at her, but I came up short when I realized that Carissa was no longer in front of me. I turned a circle, yelling out her name. “Look, this isn’t funny anymore! Carissa! I want to go home!” I yelled at the trees, but there was no reply. I began to back down the path that we had just come up. Something wasn’t right.

   Another stick cracked to my left and I turned quickly towards the sound. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear leaves rustling. I backed against a tree, attempting to control my breathing. Where the hell had Carissa gone, and how had I lost her? I looked back towards the way we had come. I could possibly find my way back out, or I might get myself hopelessly lost. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, dialing Carissa’s number. It cut right to her voicemail. Cursing her again, I called both of my parents, neither answered. They were probably fast asleep.

   I suddenly realized that the rustling of leaves was no longer coming from in front of me. It was coming from behind the tree. I pressed against the tree and closed my eyes, trying to silence my heavy breathing. The sounds were too loud to be a rabbit, perhaps it was a bear and it would just leave me alone. The sounds came closer, the footsteps becoming clearer and clearer. No, it couldn’t be a bear. It was something with two legs. “Carissa?” It came out as barely a whisper, but the footsteps stopped.

   I opened my eyes slowly, feeling breath on my ear and then a whisper, “I have you now.” Suddenly I was running back down the path, tripping over stones and branches as I went. The only thing I could think of was getting the hell out of these woods. I didn’t even know where I was going but adrenaline and my flight response were carrying me away from whoever was back there. I was distinctly aware that there was a second set of footsteps to match mine and I could hear soft cackles growing louder. They were closing in. Was it Carissa playing a cruel joke on me? Or was she already dead and the person was coming for me next?

   I could barely breathe but I knew I couldn’t stop. I thought I could just distinguish the tree line in front of me. With the small bit of relief it brought, it cleared my mind enough to realize that my steps were the only ones echoing off the trees. I slowed a bit, attempting to catch my breath but still jogging towards the trees. I would not be one of those idiots in the horror films who ended up dying anyway. I could hear the cars passing by on the road now. This was stupid, it definitely was a joke Carissa had planned. I was going to kill her when I talked to her next.

   I was about twenty feet from the road when I stopped. I could just make out a dark figure standing between me and the road. Whoever it was raised a hand to wave at me. “Carissa, is that you? I hate you so much right now. Let’s get the hell out of here.” I started towards the figure, but it didn’t move. “Carissa!” I called again, irritation plain in my voice. Then I saw the metallic gleam of something in the other hand of the figure and my breath caught. This wasn’t a joke, and I was going to die. I turned to run but before I had a chance to even take a step a force hit me from behind and sent me sprawling across the ground, sticks and rocks tearing at my skin. A hand closed around my ankle and a scream ripped from my mouth. I clawed at the ground as I was dragged backwards. “Leave me alone! You can’t do this!” I yelled, kicking out with my free foot until it collided with something and I heard a soft grunt and my other foot was released.

   I scrambled to my feet, attempting to locate the road once again but all I could see was darkness. I had no sense of direction and my confusion slowed me down. I felt a hand grab the back of my jacket and haul me off my feet, throwing me to the ground. Before I could kick or swing a fist she was on top of me, her blonde hair hanging out of the hood of her coat. I could see her smiling and she laughed softly. “Finally, I have my revenge.” The moon glinted off of the blade as it swung through the air and I screamed.

   I sat straight up in my bed, gasping for breath and sweating. I looked around wildly. I was safe in my bed with my laptop open next to me. A glance at my clock told me it was only 9 P.M. I took a deep breath and ran a hand through my hair. I must have fallen asleep while catching up on my favorite TV show. I picked up my cell phone, seeing that I had a text from Carissa. ‘Party in the woods, you up for it?’

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