The Whispering Woods

5 min
Volunteer at the summer camp, she said. It'll be fun, she said. So why is it I'm lost in the woods with my only company being a snivelling child curled up at the base of a tree, refusing to move?
I had just been having my daily existential crisis when I heard it. At the time it hadn't seemed that strange to hear such a small sound above the odd chorus of laughing children behind me, nor did I think it incredibly foolish to follow said sound into the woods without hesitation. In my defence I did have the noble thought of: 'oh god, if a child goes missing while I'm watch I'll never get a good reference for my application.' Truly, my main concern was the kid. For all my bragging about not being stupid enough to be one of those characters that die first in a horror movie; I had just done several things that would get me killed first in a horror movie. But hey, this is real life, not fiction, and as soon as I can get this child to stop sobbing and stand up, I'm certain I’ll be able to find my way around these identical trees.
"Look kid, we should go back to the others now, yeah? I'm sure you've got some, uh, friends that'd be worried. So... get up, let's go."
She only sobbed harder.
So maybe being a volunteer at a summer camp for kids wasn't my Aunts best idea, seeing as I seriously suck at handling them.
All I could do was let out an aggravated sigh as I looked back up to the barely visible sky. For some reason it seemed darker, despite the sun still dominating the sky. Looking up at the tall trees, I couldn't help but believe that they were watching me, laughing at me, whispering to me. Which makes no sense of course, I mean, trees only sound like they're whispering when there's wind. And this entire trip the only wind had been last night when the heavy rain turned the ground beneath my feet to mush. Thank god I hadn't worn my white converse.
If I squinted enough at the gaps between the trees, I swear I could see shadows jump suddenly from one place to another, almost as if they were following someone. But that's ridiculous, right? Our brains really do enjoy tricking our eyes. Just then, I heard the snap of a branch in the trees behind me. In a panic I jumped around with my hands raised in a pathetic attempt to defend myself against the looming shadow creature that was breathing down my neck. Except there was no shadow creature. Only the little girl who had now stood up, her head intently focused on the ground and her thin arm weakly stretched out towards me. Her sobbing was quieter now, although if the hand that clenched her pristine dress so tightly was any indication, then she was far from feeling alright.
Taking the hint, I gently took her hand and nearly recoiled in shock. Her hands were deathly cold. For once my thoughts were filled with nothing but worry for this small child who I had foolishly allowed to freeze on the damp floor, not even the thought of getting a bad reference entered my mind. Okay maybe it did a little, but it wasn’t my priority anymore. I pulled her along with me as I attempted to go back the way I came towards the warm, lively camp.
After walking for what felt like hours, I couldn't help the irritation that was becoming all the more evident on my face. The trees may have been tall, but that did not stop there being low branches that seemingly came out of nowhere to hit me in the face. My watch said it had only been twenty minutes since I had ran into the woods to find this kid, but it was becoming darker than ever; something that did little to stop my sadistic mind from taunting me with the haunting feeling of being watched, alongside quick flashes of the now worryingly familiar shadow figures running behind trees, the sounds of them snapping branches far too loud and all too real.
The muddy floor definitely didn't aid my irritation, nor ease my fear. I couldn't help but think of how hard it would be to run on such an untrustworthy floor. That and how smart I was to have worn black, not white shoes. Yep, that was my biggest concern right now. I focused on that thought as I pushed all others from my head.
Walking through the identical trees, the whispering only got worse, at times the whispers almost sounded like warnings. But that's just me being paranoid, it's not like I'm some foolish protagonist in a story or anything. My thoughts were rudely interrupted by a rising feeling of uneasiness that crawled up my neck. At first, I wasn't quite sure what had changed, but then I realized.
The crying had stopped.
Hesitantly I looked down at the kid that I had almost forgotten about and carefully released her hand, crouching down to her level as she raised her head. Where I had managed to stop myself visibly recoiling before, no amount of acting could hide the pure amount of shock and horror on my face as I pulled away from her. She simply stood and stared at me as I started to back away, or at least, it felt like she was staring. It's hard to tell when there’s nothing but a black void in place of her eyes. She tilted her head softly to the side, as if confused by my terror, before an unnaturally wide grin started stretching across her face. As if she felt this wasn't enough to truly horrify me, she then unhinged her jaw in a silent scream, revealing double rows of pointed teeth, all rotted and stained. She reached her small, hands out towards me once more, each finger twitching individually. Whatever this thing is, it’s definitely not a little girl anymore. Or maybe it never was.
Abruptly, the whispers of the trees started up again, louder and fiercer than before. As weird as it sounds, I now understood their warnings.
In mere seconds I was on my feet, sprinting towards where I hoped the camp was. If I could just make it there... Hearing no sound of pursuing footsteps I decided to risk a glance behind. Oh boy, I should not have done that. The girl was now crawling upside down, limbs crooked with bones ripping through her delicate skin and, worse yet, she was rapidly gaining on me. Once more I faced forward, pushing myself harder than before, to the point where the edges of my vision started to go black.
Of course, fate never was on my side. I tripped. Hard. Skidding on the ground before landing face first in the mud. I'm sure it would have been comical if it wasn't for the fact that my life was potentially on the line.
But looking up, I take it back. Maybe fate had sided with me for once. Just ahead, through the trees, I could see it. The shoddy looking tents I had helped put up days before and just beyond them, a circle of kids oblivious to my suffering. Never did I think I would be happy to hear their laughter, but now just the sight of them made tears pool in my eyes. I was right there, all I had to do was push up and make a quick dash for it. And I would be safe. But as I was putting this genius plan into action, I felt a heavy pressure on my back, forcing me back into the mud, the side of my face pushed against the ground, replacing my view of safety with a close up view of the void that acted as this monsters eyes.
I take it back again; fate definitely hates me.
I could feel my heart hammering as I struggled against the child, no, the monster that was holding me down. Its hands pushing me more and more until I started to feel my bones crack. As a last-ditch effort before my life flickered out, I painfully twisted my head to look at the camp again, my hand stretched out as if I could touch it.
Forever reaching towards an unreachable horizon.

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