Dean crashed through the brush that grew thick under the black trees. How was he supposed to know Valerie had a boyfriend?! She certainly never said anything! A string of curse words ran through his mind as he heard Valerie’s boyfriend, Hank, shouting after him. Hank was far too close for Dean’s comfort. Dean plunged deep into the woods.
It wasn’t long before Dean was hopelessly lost in the dark forest. Every time Dean thought he’d lost Hank he heard something, a crash in the distance, the ear-splitting snap of a twig that sent him scrambling in the other direction. Finally, Dean’s legs gave way. He was on his knees, breathing heavily. The trees were so thick that he had no way of knowing the clouds had moved to cover the moon. A shadow shifted behind the exhausted man. It moved noiselessly towards Dean, until it was directly above him.
Dean’s scream echoed for miles before it faded away to nothing.
Hank’s anger had long since been replaced by fear. All he’d been able to think about was getting his hands on the rat who had been making out with his girlfriend. That had been hours ago. Now he wandered the woods, his cell phone out of range and low on battery. He really should know this area better! Hank berated himself. He was out there often enough partying. It was the only place he saw Valerie, since she lived out here. But Hank had never really gone into the woods alone… and never at night.
Hank jolted as something skittered away in the brush. Probably just a rabbit, Hank shook himself. It was eerie how clearly he remembered his grandmother’s stories about these woods. They always ended with a whispered warning to stay out of the forest. Hank swallowed. It was just a bunch of superstitious nonsense he thought he grew out of when he was nine. But here… It didn’t feel like nonsense anymore. Hank shook himself. Get a gri-
A scream pierced the night. Hank froze. That wasn’t an animal. Hank began to run. Blind panic dictated the direction. He had to get out of these woods! It was inevitable that he would fall. Still, he tried to move forward, using the trunk of a tree to pull himself up. Hank’s hands and knees were bleeding, but worse than that, his ankle twisted awkwardly when he fell. Hank could barely put his weight on it. He limped onwards. The moon appeared between the trees. Hank was grateful for the light, though it wouldn’t be long before it was covered by another cloud.
Suddenly Hank realized that if he could see the moon the tree must be thinning. He limped faster, hope surging through him. Hope that turned to ash when he realized that it was just a clearing in this endless forest. At least it would be out of these ominous trees. He’d stay there till morning. His path darkened as he made his way to the clearing. Hank glanced up. The cloud had drifted in front of the moon again.
Something hit hank from behind. He stumbled forward, he was struck again. Hank fell. The second he hit the ground he turned over to look at his attacker. He gaped. Valerie stood over him.
“Oh, thank god!” Hank almost sobbed in relief. Valerie began to laugh. Hank stilled. There was something wrong. Valerie looked different in the shadows. When Hank’s eyes dropped to her hands he saw they were coated in blood. Hank touched the back of his head. His hand came away wet and red. It was his blood on Valerie’s hands. His sense of dread increased as Valerie’s laughter grew.
The woods were full of her empty laughter.