The Girl Who Wasn't There
Rebecca runs for her life.
She isn’t really aware that she’s headed for the forest until it’s right in front of her. She just runs across the field as quickly as she can. It’s hard, because the wheat keeps trying to trip her, and her pants are completely soaked through from dew.
The full moon lights up the land, allowing her to see a little ahead despite her blurry vision. A few times she stumbles, but quickly gets back up.
She keeps looking back, expecting to see the creature come running for her, but so far that hasn’t happened, and by now the house and beech tree have turned into nothing but a tiny, dark blotch.
Yet she knows it’s coming.
She knows it won’t just let her leave.
She sees the forest and stops to catch her heaving breath. The puppy moves under the shirt, whimpering.
“I know,” Rebecca pants. “But you can’t get out yet, Doris.”
She considers for a moment if it’s wise to go into the forest. On the one hand she’ll be less easy to see once she’s no longer out in the open. On the other, she has a feeling the forest is where the creature moves most naturally. After all, it was in the park forest it was waiting for her when it took her. Perhaps it’s better for her to run around the forest. Maybe she ought to—
The wind whispers at her. It’s only the slightest breeze.
The name is just barely audible.
Rebecca spins around and looks in every direction. She’s still alone in the field. But suddenly, she doesn’t feel alone.
She runs into the forest, clutching the puppy against her stomach as she zigzags between the trees. It’s extra hard to see in here, because most of the moonlight is drowned out by the treetops, their leaves and branches creating flickering shadows all around. The forest floor is uneven and overgrown in ferns, causing her to almost stumble.
She reaches a clearing and stops, looks around, panting, straining her eyes.
The shadows from the trees play with her imagination, making it seem like one of them could step forward at any minute, revealing itself as the creature.
No, it can’t be here already, Rebecca tries to tell herself. I had a good head start and I ran as fast as I could all the way over. Unless, of course … unless it drove here …
The thought sends icy chills down her sweaty back. What if the creature knew she was headed for the forest? What if it just casually walked to the van and drove over here? Perhaps it’s already here. Perhaps it’s even waiting for her …
The feeling of being watched creeps up on her from every side. She wants to run, she feels exposed in the middle of the clearing, but she doesn’t know which direction to take.
“Hello?” she whispers, spinning slowly. “Is anybody here?”
No answer comes. At least not from a human voice. But the breeze stirs again, floats through the clearing, causing the ferns to rattle, and carries the creature’s squeaking little-girl-voice to her.
The breath is pulled from Rebecca’s mouth. She wants to scream, but can’t. Her entire body is trembling, her knees threaten to buckle. She turns and turns, desperately trying to get eyes on the creature.
“Where are you?” she croaks.
“Alice,” the wind whispers.
“Where are you!?” Rebecca screams.
The sound throws an echo and a flock of sleeping crows take flight from the treetops. Their shrill shrieks fill the air, and their flickering shadows flow across the clearing, before the birds are gone and silence once again descends over the forest.
Rebecca holds her breath and listens. The breeze is gone now. Everything is quiet. Rebecca feels a faint hope. She can’t hear the voice anymore. Maybe the creature got distracted by the crows. Maybe it’s—
This time, the voice comes from right behind her.
Rebecca spins around with a scream, just as the creature steps out from the shadows. As the moonlight hits it, Rebecca sees to her utter horror that it’s fully naked. The pale, greyish skin covers the thin limbs and gives it a sickly look. It moves in a strange, almost dreamlike fashion on the long, spiderlike legs, and the black eyes lock Rebecca in place.
She wants to turn, to run, to get away, but she can’t move a muscle, can only stand there like a statue and stare at the creature sweeping towards her, and she knows that this is it, knows without a shadow of a doubt that the creature will kill her now ...
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