Emily and Dean hiked deep inside The Fallen Forest to reach an area rumored to be a hotspot for unusual activity. A local had drawn a map for their use, but the elderly gentleman also issued a warning for them to stay away. Dean chose to ignore the gray-haired man and made his way far into the woods with his girlfriend.
They arrived at the alleged paranormal zone later than anticipated. Thousands of naked trees filled the otherwise barren area. Dead leaves covered the forest floor, leaving a colorless blanket as far as the eye could see.
The exhausted couple opted for the simplicity of protein bars for dinner instead of heating canned food over a fire. They sat on a large, flat log and washed down their bars with some bottled water.
“Pretty cool, eh?” Dean asked, his voice full of enthusiasm. He inhaled a long, deep breath and scanned their surroundings.
“Cool?” Emily countered. “Dean, I’m creeped out. Are you sure you want to spend the night out here?”
“Of course, Em,” Dean began. “You know I’ve wanted to camp overnight in The Fallen Forest for a very long time. I need to write an article about it for work.”
“But, you can write one without actually spending the night out here!”
“Too late now. It’s getting dark, and we’d never find our way back.” He shrugged a shoulder and tossed the emptied wrapper into a plastic bag.
Emily lowered her head and released a sigh.
They readied an area to set up their tent. Dean tossed rocks aside while Emily removed a few larger branches. The two spread out a tarp onto the ground before setting up their yellow and green tent.
“Interesting,” Dean mumbled.
“What?” Emily lifted her face and looked toward Dean with furrowed brows.
“I don’t hear anything–no crickets or scurrying creatures. That’s kinda odd!” Dean reached up to his chin and scratched at his stubble.
Emily offered no response. She stood in silence and swept the forest with widened eyes.
Darkness fell and ushered in a nearly moonless night. The young couple went inside their tent and climbed into their sleeping bags. A short time later, they drifted off to sleep in the eerily quiet forest.
A nearby branch snapped, and Emily’s eyes flew open. She lifted her head and looked toward the door flap just beyond her feet, but struggled to see through the blackness within the tent. She stilled her body and listened for movement. Brisk winds disturbed the dried leaves and brittle twigs; they tumbled on the ground, and the noise filled her ears. A faint sound, similar to gas escaping from an opening, hissed sporadically outside. A snap and a click followed the noise. Shit–there must be a raccoon or some critter rummaging through our trash bag.
Emily slithered out from her sleeping bag and crawled toward the zipped door. She inched the metal upward to peek outside. A dense fog filled the forest, so she squinted to sharpen her vision. Movement on her left grabbed her attention; a tall tree appeared to shift. Emily’s stomach sank, and she blinked to clear her vision. Trees don’t move like that!
She refocused her sights toward the left and realized the object wasn’t a tree; it was a silhouette of something exceedingly tall. It resembled the figure of a human, yet its body was deformed and far too fluid. The creature consisted of a smoky substance. It floated a few inches off the ground, and its height reached several feet above the tent’s roof.
Emily’s jaw dropped, and her heart raced. She fought the urge to scream as she watched the silhouette sway. She backed up and crept toward Dean to wake him. She reached toward his shoulder but retracted her hand. Rousing Dean while in a deep sleep, startles him and causes him to wake with a bang as if there’s an emergency. She couldn’t afford to make any noise and alert the creature.
She lay next to Dean, paralyzed with fear–struggling to slow her breathing. Emily detected movement and realized the silhouette advanced toward them. The shadowy creature stopped short of the tent and pointed a finger toward the roof. A charged streak emitted from its tip and sliced an opening into the top.
A scream tore through Emily’s throat and pierced the air. Dean bolted upright.
“What?” He shouted and whipped his head about in an attempt to orient himself. “What’s the matter, Em?”
“Th…there’s something outside!” Emily grabbed onto Dean’s arm.
An unseen force yanked Dean’s body into the air. She lost her grip on his arm as he vanished through the opening in the tent’s roof.
“Dean!” Emily jumped to her feet. She stepped on something and realized it was Dean’s swiss army knife, and grabbed ahold of it. Emily cut an opening into the side of the tent. Without hesitation, she sprinted outside, away from the unknown entity.
Emily ran through the dark and dreary forest for hours. Blisters and cuts covered the bottom of her shoeless feet. Exhausted and battered, Emily halted near a patch of clustered trees. She collapsed with her back against a trunk and wrapped her arms around her body. With her head bowed into her lap, she sobbed herself to sleep.
Emily woke and scanned her surroundings. She looked toward her left, then shifted her gaze toward her right. Her stomach plummeted, and her hand flew up to cover her mouth. Situated a short distance away was their tent. How the hell is that possible? Did I run in a circle all night?
Her heart pounded inside her chest, and she continued to look around. After tilting her head upward, she spotted several horizontal tree branches overhead. The eerie finger-like appendages made her skin crawl with goosebumps.
Emily stood then moved toward a parallel and leafless limb. She reached up to push it aside, and the branch sent a surge, similar to an electric current, through her body. Emily screamed and yanked her hand backward. Her mouth hung open, and she glanced at her singed palm. Tears spilled from her eyes, and her composure ebbed away.
Emily remained near the tree for a long while, pondering her options. Whatever that thing is–it has me running in circles at night, so escaping in the dark isn’t possible. And, it has the damn trees holding me captive during the day. There MUST be a way to get passed them. Eventually, hunger took over, so she headed back to the tent for some food.
She devoured a can of unheated SpaghettiOs and a protein bar then washed them down with several bottles of water. Before long, darkness settled in. Rocking back and forth, Emily contemplated whether it would be safer to sleep in the tent, or if she should head back out into the woods. She raked a hand through her matted, brown hair then decided to remain inside the tent.
Emily yawned, and heaviness filled her eyelids. The lure of sleep grew, and her head lolled back and forth until she unintentionally surrendered to deep sleep.
Emily jolted awake and sat upright. Her eyes and mouth froze wide open within the blackness of the tent. Before moving a muscle, she forced herself to draw in a long breath, then turned to face the slit she’d created with Dean’s knife. Menacing trees awaited her escape–yet enticed her more than the approaching evilness. Emily sprinted out the opening and headed in a new direction.
She ran through the fog-filled and moonless evening until her legs gave out. Exhaustion consumed her. In a blur, the ground appeared to approach her face.
Emily woke to a face full of dried leaves. She lifted her head, brushed the debris aside, and got herself to a seated position. After inspecting her surroundings, delight filled her. The area lacked ominous horizontal branches, and several trees contained pine needles. She looked heavenward, and a smile grew across her face. I made it out! I need to keep going until I reach the town!
The muscles in her legs put up resistance, but Emily succeeded in getting to her feet. Her body swayed, but the moderate breeze revived her. She looked through the fork of a nearby tree and spotted a hole at the base of another tree.
Emily’s gaze remained fixed on the deep cavity. She spotted movement inside the hole and narrowed her eyes to focus on it. What the hell?
A murky substance began to discharge from its opening. Dark matter spewed out into the air and fused into one entity–a deformed human-like silhouette.
Her mouth fell open, and the color drained from her face.
“No! No! No!” She screamed and stepped backward. Her foot stumbled upon a raised tree root, and she fell to the ground. She tilted her head upward to search for the creature’s location, and found it towering above, gazing into her face from its blackened sockets. Though devoid of physical eyes, she knew it saw her.
The shadowy creature pointed a finger toward her and emitted the same electrified jolt that sliced into the roof of their tent.
Emily opened her mouth to scream, but was sucked into the air then vanished inside the charged field before a sound escaped from her lips.
Rancid odors permeated the air and roused Emily. She scowled and raised a hand to shelter her nose as she examined her darkened surroundings. A small amount of light shone from outside, and she realized she sat inside a large, hollowed-out tree, trapped.
In the dimmed area, there were discernible shapes; human bones lay scattered amongst the ground. A few organs were left behind as well. Emily’s heart raced, and she struggled to remain calm. Oh, my god! That creature feeds off of humans! I need to find my way out!
She balled her fists and looked to her left. Sitting a few feet away from her was Dean.
“Dean!” She hurried over to him and placed a firm hand on his shoulder.
Dean’s head rolled off his body, and she was left staring at the bloodied stump of his decapitated head. Her scream pierced the air and alerted the shadowy creature.
The entity seeped into the room from the small hole that emitted sunlight. Once inside, It formed into a tall being and advanced toward her. It pointed its finger in her direction and sent a charged bolt through her neck. She collapsed, and her head rolled toward Dean’s head, uniting the two…until the entity’s next mealtime.