James woke to the crackle of his walkie talkie, and the sun of the new day on his face. A metallic voice came to his ears, “James, over.” James had been having a dream but he could not remember what it had been. Birds chirped outside his window, distracting him
“James, over!” James ignored his friend, focusing on the dream. What had it been? He knew it had been a new dream, not his usual nightmare of falling or ultimate wish of getting his driver’s license. And where had it taken place? He felt the memory just out of reach, it had been… at school? Yes, it was school, James was sure. But what had happened? Why did it seem so important that he remembered this dream in full?
“James! Over!” It was Timothy Watsler, his best friend. This train of thought brought to his memory a new2 detail, Tim had been in it. He… they had been at school and… the memories came back in a sickening wave and James’ eyes widened in horror. He lunged towards the walkie, his fingers reaching for the button to send back a message, he willed himself to move faster, he was reaching towards the small device, but it felt like he was moving through thick syrup. But he reached harder, pushing through, hoping as his fingers clasped the radio, it was too late. He woke up.
James shot into consciousness, falling out of his bed and onto the cold floor, looking through sleep blurred eyes quickly around his dark room. A bad dream. Rain pattered the cracked window above his bed. He wished what had really happened had been a dream. Tim’s kidnapping was by far the worst thing that had happened in his life. James was 17 years old and he had been friends with Timothy Watsler for almost 13 years of his life. Three days ago Tim went missing, he had vanished into thin air.
Though the authorities say he must have run away, James didn’t believe Tim would. Tim was the only true friend James had. They had known each other for their whole lives
The day flashed by like a dream, it was as if no one cared that someone had disappeared. Yes, the teachers would give James looks of pity and say they were sorry, and the principal gave a general announcement that Tim was missing, but no one cared. School was just the same as always, with that one exception, there was an empty chair beside James’s all day.
The wind howled that night with an abnormally eerie sound, it had been like this for days. It was almost as if the wind mourned Tim’s disappearance. But what made this noise even stranger was that no wind rustled the leaves outside his window. But the noise came nonetheless. A ghost wind. Almost like the sound of wolves, but more… otherworldly, more… frightening. A memory surfaced in the turmoil of James’s thoughts, the treehouse.
Three years before, James and Tim had heard of a treehouse in the woods that had belonged to a boy who had disappeared. Which in a way was ironic now. The treehouse didn’t belong to anyone anymore so the city was going to tear it down. James and Tim offered to take care of it themselves and the city said it would be fine as long as their parents were ok with it. They couldn’t care less. But instead of destroying the treehouse, James and Tim decided to move it. James and Tim used the old treehouse to make “The Fort” a secret place in the trees. It took almost a year, but James and Tim moved the treehouse piece by piece to a new, larger tree. They chose the tree because after a year of growth the house was completely hidden. The Fort was a place both of the boys went to hang out, or hide. This gave James an idea, what if Tim was hiding in the Fort? What if all this time he had just been hiding out. It would make sense, Tim used the excuse of being sick to leave. But what had he been hiding from? And why had he not told James? This puzzled him for a while until he put it aside, deeming it unimportant. Tim always knew what he was doing, he would have a reason. So James concluded that in the morning he would check the treehouse. Even if he wasn’t there then he might have left clues to where he went! And maybe, just maybe, Tim would be there and this terrible dream would be over.
The next morning, James opted to skip school and devote the day to finding Tim. He reasoned that he might know, no he did know where Tim was. Tim was there, he had to be, right? These thoughts coursed through James’s mind as he walked down the old hiking trail off 7th street, he was there, he had to be. James stopped halfway between two trees. He pushed aside the bushes and stepped into the small clearing in the forest. It was only about 5 feet wide at its widest point and could have been mistaken as nothing more than an old concrete slab from when a small part of town had been in this area. But it was much more than just that; for instance, if you looked closely you would notice that the bushes were neatly trimmed back and that a very unusual rock was placed perfectly in the center of the circle. A stretch of fishing line attached this rock to the canopy of trees above meant to hide the treehouse. The Fort. James grabbed the line and pulled, a steep wooden staircase fell to about three inches above the ground, silent as a whisper. As James stepped on the ladder, it sank into the fresh earth of the ground quietly. James made his way up and found himself in the one place in town that was truly his home. The Fort was incredible, it was a waterproof box in the trees full of life, five branches covered in oak leaves weaved in and out of the room making shelves, chairs, and a table. Tim wasn’t there. At least he wasn’t anymore.
It was a mess! This only confirmed that Tim had been there. James had been here the day before Tim disappeared and he cleaned the whole treehouse up. Someone had been there and only two people knew the treehouse even existed. James and Tim. James immediately got down on his hands and knees and started going through the mess that was the treehouse floor. He found his own silver pocket knife, looking down on it and the engraving in it with his fathers name. He put it on his belt where he normally kept it. Maybe it would finally have a use. It took almost half the day, but James finally sorted through and found everything out of the ordinary and placed it into a pile. The contents of the pile were pretty normal for the treehouse, but they hadn’t been there whenJames had last been there. A drawing, a peanut butter cup wrapper and an empty bottle of orange soda (Tim and James had taken all the trash back home to put in the garbage can). Tim’s favorites. James spent what felt like hours, but could only be minutes, his eyes getting heavy with the stress and difficulty of the situation. Then James heard the creak of wood as someone pulled the fishing wire, bringing the ladder to the ground.
James immediately shook the sleep from him and crept to the window. He began to climb out hoping that the person coming up the ladder hadn’t heard him. He sat in the window waiting wondering who it could be. He kept going back to the idea it was the kidnapper, that he was coming back to hide the evidence that Tim had been there. Shear panic began to consume him, now his mind racing at the idea that this man could be a crazed murderer, some sycopath whod broken out of a mental hispital somewhere. Then James realized that it couldn’t be, no one knew where the treehouse was. It had to be…
“Tim…” James whispered, climbing out of the window and moving toward the doorway just in time to see Tim scurry over the threshold. He was shaking.
“Tim! Where have you been!” James yelled in relief.
“I-I, J-James!” he sputtered. And then James noticed the dirt, Tim was covered in it from head to toe, he was covered in leaves and he smelled like pine.
“W-w-w-w-what are you wearing?” James says, mocking Tim’s stuttering, laughing until he met Tim’s eyes and notices his friend is truly terrified.
“Ummmmmm… you ok?” James is concerned now, he had never seen Tim like this.
“No, w-we need to r-run!”
His eyes widened as a hissing sound like snakes came from below.
He quickly shoves his hand over James’s mouth and holds his finger over his own. Quiet. The hissing stops and is replaced by a low growl. It’s the most terrifying thing James had ever heard. A . Then James realized. The ladder was still down. And that’s when he heard the sound of claws clicking on the ladder rungs. CLICK, CLACK, CLICK, CLACK. James started to be consumed by fear. It would kill them, he knew it would, he knew that whoever or whatever this thing was, it would kill them. He grabbed Tim and dragged him to the window, still trying to be as quiet as possible for fear of rushing the thing on its way. Tim got in first and began to climb down when James turned around. And found a nightmare in the doorway.
The thing was horrible, with its pale skin stretched over its boney frame. It had 5-foot arms sprouting out of its shoulders. The arms were about as wide as small saplings, and the fingers reaching towards him, long and branchlike, tipped with long black claws. Then James made eye contact with it, immediately, a cold tingling started in his toes and worked its way up to his spine. It nestled in his brain, bringing a numbness with it. He couldn’t hear, a buzzing static noise consumed him and he felt the outside world fade away. A smile danced across the creature’s face, a cold heartless unearthly smile. And its hand crashed to the floor as it took another step and out of the corner of James’ eyes, he saw a spiked tail whip around lazily in the doorway. It had quills, hairlike quills. They quivered, buzzing like bees. James couldn’t stop staring, they made every worry slip away and he forgot the terror that had coursed through his body. And then Tim’s hand was on his shoulder and James was flying out the window.
-The Thing From The Woods-
All the air went out of James’s lungs as he hit the ground. He landed on his leg and white-hot tendrils of pain shot up it, Tim gracefully landed on the ground beside him. They both scrambled to their feet running as fast as they could away from the treehouse, James pushing through pain that was slowly growing in his leg. They raced through the forest dodging the trees and rocks. Then a ringing in James’ ears started and a throbbing at the edge of his vision. Then the sound dropped to a decibel they could hear, and as James clutched his ears in pain he realized it was the creature. It was screaming.
The sound was piercing and eerie, like the sound of powerful wind being shoved through a tight space James looked back and saw through the forest they had traversed, that it was pulling itself out of the window, shredding through the woodwork. It was coming. James ignored the pain in his leg and kept running. They ran as fast as they could, but they were both hurt and tired, but also scared, and fear is a powerful motivator, so they kept running. As they ran James knew that it was impossible to get away. And as if to affirm this, the creature broke through the wall of the hideaway, destroying three years worth of work. It fell to the ground and started running after them. Though running is not an adequate verb, the creature half slithered half pulled itself along with its massive arms, picking up more than enough speed to catch up. James stumbled along pulling Tim with him as they ran from the creature that chased them.
James woke up with a scream. He shot into consciousness like a bat out of hell, and he experienced the confusion a sleeper feels when he awakes in a room that is not his own, but instead of a room he only saw darkness. Where the bed should be, there was a pile of soft leaves and where a desk should be there was rock, and where the sounds of a family should be the sound of rushing water rang. But then James’s eyes got used to the darkness and he noticed Tim in a corner dozing.
“Tim.” James was surprised by the rasp and burn in his throat.
“Shhh, it’s okay, we got away.”
“The creature, remember? It makes sense, you hit your head hard” Not a dream after all then, outside this… cave? A creature crept through the shadows hunting them. Then James whispered his curiosity
“How’d you get away?” Tim responded
“Water, it hates water. We ran to the river and crossed it, on the way across you tripped and hit your head on a rock ”
“Where are we now?” James asked
“The cave on that island in the river near the high school”
They both sat in silence, both still in shock. James tried to get up to look around, but a sharp pain shot up his leg, reminding him of his injury. He winced, and Tim noticed.
“Your leg?” Tim asked
“Yea I think it’s broken” they say in silence for a moment, then Tim spoke:
“We should get help, the school is just through a few hundred feet of trees and the field. We’d be safe.”
“I don’t know Tim, that thing is fast, and if I broke my leg…” They were quiet for a minute
“It’s the only option, we can’t just stay here” Tim said “It’ll find a way across the river and that’ll be it. We have to go.” Though James didn’t want to, he knew Tim was right, there was no other way.
James made his way out of the cave and the raging water of the river became louder. He breathed in a deep breath of fresh forest air, and looked out into the woods. He could just barely make out the lights of town shining through the 100 feet of forest on the other side of the river, and couldn’t help thinking about the house he could never call his own, and the people he could never call his family. Tim interrupted his thoughts: “ready?”
“What?” James said surprised “Already? But it’s still dark, we should wait till morning”
“We can’t, look” Tim pointed out into the woods on the other side of the river and James saw a clump of trees rising above the rest, and a silhouette in the upper branches.
“Ok, not gonna lie, that’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. But it still can’t get us, right?” At that moment the clump of trees suddenly came crashing down, falling directly across the river creating a perfect bridge.
James broke through the treeline and stumbled onto the field. He was just able to hear the crashing in the woods behind them over the beating of his heart. James continued to run as fast as his broken body would carry him, it was torture. James was just starting to think that maybe just maybe they could get out alive and safe when he heard that same demonic breathing again and he realized that the creature was grabbing Tim, ripping him from James’ hands, and lifting him in the air by his throat.
James’s heart dropped as he saw Tim lifted gagging into the air by his throat. A large smile spread across the creature’s face as it looked into the face of its prey. It raised him high above the ground and slammed him to the ground. Tim’s frail frame went limp as he fell unconscious. It slowly lowered itself to the ground stooping over Tim its mouth opening over Tims’ head, and preparing for the kill strike. That was when James did the most brave and stupid thing he had ever done. James reached his hand down to the silver bladed knife he had always carried and flicked it open with a chink, he ran forward, jumping high into the air and bringing the silver blade smashing down into the monster’s right eye.
The creature lashed out, swiping James and throwing him ten feet. James landed on his leg feeling an incredible burst of pain, if it hadn’t been broken before surely it was now. James started to feel the pain consume him but he snapped back when he saw a mace of a spinney tail swinging through the air at Tim’s head. Again that instinct kicked in and he jumped forward and miraculously managed to shove Tim out of the way of the dangerous limb. The creature started screaming again, this time it was sporadic and at an ear-piercing decibel. James felt himself slipping into unconsciousness again and he saw the creature settle and die, it was over. It was dead. And James let the blackness at the edge of his vision consume him as he fell into the dreamless sleep of unconsciousness.
James woke again to the sounds of running and yelling. It couldn’t have been more than 5 minutes because the fingers of dawn were still licking the horizon. James sat up and saw half the town walking across the field and three officers running ahead as if something bad was happening. And that’s when the corpse caught his eye and his memory came back. James stumbled backward, away from the monster, afraid of the claws and teeth, but he looked at its face and saw its eyes shut, one of the eyelids leaking a black substance. Tim stirred, he had been on the ground near James, also unconscious. James climbed to his feet, wincing at the pain. He realized that there was blood soaking through the side of his pants; his leg was getting worse. James limped forward to check Tim was fine, every step hurt like hell. His arm was probably sprained but other than that he was fine. Then James looked down at the corpse. A mistake. Because the creature’s one remaining eye was staring back, fully open. James felt that same cold tingle in his toes. He barely got out the words before he was completely frozen “Run!” Out of the corner of James’s vision, he saw Tim running into the woods. Good, maybe he would make it. Just maybe he could find a place to hide. Then the officer walked up behind him and James barely felt their hand on his shoulder.
“What happened son?” And the creature lashed out
It spun around in a blur of claws and teeth, James barely regained control of his body in time to duck as its tail whipped out and cut a deep gash across the officer’s throat. He gurgled and fell, dead. The creature’s attention was taken off of James and he ran but he glanced back to see the second officer being pinned to the ground by the creature and its jaws close around his throat. James continued to run until he heard a scream and he turned again to see an officer pull out a gun and shoot. The bullets that hit the creature had no effect, it rose up and looked into the officer’s eyes, he was frozen with fear, and a clawed hand shoved itself through his torso and he screamed, only to be drowned out by the piercing sound of the creature’s shriek of victory.
James found Tim just on the other side of the treeline waiting. He had known James would come. They ran together, deeper into the woods. Away from the screams of the people who were being massacred by the monster. They ran from the troubles of their previous life, and to the troubles of their new one. They ran away from the demon from the forest. Away from the screams of pain and death. Deeper into the nightmare.
-The Nightmare Continues-
James slowly limped through the woods with Tim trudging behind. The ground was covered in snow and branches in Ice as the fingers of winter slowly crept into the world. It had been almost 2 weeks since the pair had fled from the field. Avoiding their hunter by crossing bodies of water whenever possible. They had passed through a town two days before and James was able to get help from a woman. She had helped and promised not to tell anyone where they were. James also found out that almost twenty people had died at what was being called the massacre of Breakwater. It was being rumored that one boy by the name of James Fennik had been a part of it and was being searched for. An hour later James overheard the woman talking to the police on the phone. That’s when James opted to skip town. And now here they were cold and miserable. Down to their last match and meal. James was starting to get scared that they would die of hunger before the creature got them.
James leaned on the wooden stick that served as a crutch as he stumbled into a large clearing surrounded by a fence and had a small building in the middle of it with big satellite dishes on it. As Tim and James looked quizzically at the fence James noticed a door that was slightly open. James slipped in beckoning Tim to follow. James never noticed the government logo on the door, or the deep claw marks marring it. And as they made their way to the building, a ghostly wind screamed through the forest. Not moving a single leaf.
To be Continued…