I woke up shaking. The images I had seen had been harrowing. I tried to wash them away by rubbing my eyes. It did not completely work, but at least the horrid smells and tortured cries had subsided. Suddenly I realized there were people standing near me. I opened my eyes fully to see Justin and Jill peering down at me, and to see that I was lying on one of the couches. Oh no, I thought. Were they waiting for me to awaken so they could break some more bad news?
“What’s wrong?” I asked, instantly worried. “Is everyone OK?”
“Everyone’s fine,” Justin assured me. He saw the confusion on my face and continued. “The only reason we’re standing here looking so anxious is that you were screaming out in your sleep and we were really worried about you. You kept hitting the wall, too. We were afraid you were going to really hurt yourself, cause some permanent damage.” Whoa, I hadn’t noticed it before, but my right arm did hurt terribly.
Justin’s campfire story must have affected me more than I had ever suspected, to cause such a vivid nightmare. I told them all that I had had a terrible dream, and that I was fine.
I got my lazy butt off of the couch and dragged myself to the kitchen to get some breakfast. Justin and Jill were there already. I made myself some toast and poured a huge glass of orange juice, for again my thirst was overwhelming.
We barely conversed. Oh, we talked and all, but we spoke of nothing significant; it was all very superficial. It had snowed much overnight, it looked quite beautiful outside. The food was good, the orange juice was weak. We would leave the next day. What a story we’d have to tell when we got back home. Yeah, people would have trouble believing it, but hell, it was the truth.. It would give Miss Bennett a real shock. Yeah, the sun hadn’t shone once since we’d arrived. It was almost like we were trying to pretend that the horror and terror surrounding us didn’t exist by talking like this.
But we couldn’t keep the farce up forever; we had a funeral to attend. We sure couldn’t leave the body lying around to let off fumes that would be reminiscent of my dream the night before. Karl and Jill, the two athletes of our group, dug the hole. I was glad I was not very strong. I couldn’t bear the task if I’d had to carry it out. I don’t know how they did it.
So a hole was dug in the beautiful snow, a shallow grave if ever I saw one. I wondered if Don might rise during the night to haunt us with beautiful nightmares. I’ve heard that suicides make the best ghosts.
Don’s grave was near Eve’s. Two lovers joined in death. In Heaven or Hell. How romantic. How sad. How sick. How absolutely terrible.
My mind was telling me strange things. My thoughts seemed somewhat detached. I guess that can happen when one loses two good friends in one week and knows there may be more. Yeah, I’ve heard things like that can affect people pretty badly.
We said a few prayers and asked God to save Don’s soul. Eve’s to. Then the hole was covered back up with Earth. Too bad he wouldn’t get a proper burial. Or a tombstone.
We went back inside. A somber mood set over us. We could find nothing to do. What does one usually do while waiting to be attacked by a mysterious serial killer? Especially when your serial killer is most likely a friend, someone you’re with? It’s not easy. It’s hard to even think straight, much less do anything. My headache was growing. The grave feelings only deepened. Someone had turned the TV on, but it was only a joke. Not a one of us was watching it; I don’t even know what shows were on. I was no fool. I knew I was going to die soon. I remembered promising myself I’d fight to the end, but that probably wouldn’t even help me. I was sure in a fatalistic mindset.
Sitting in front of a TV that could have been blank for all the images that registered in my head, I began to lament my life, a life I knew would be over soon. My friends had far-off looks on their faces as well.
I remembered the carefree days of childhood. I used to laugh with the wind and smile with the crashes of waves. I had a pleasant curiosity about the world I lived in. I had wanted to explore everything. How I missed the endless days of boundless innocence.
My favorite game had been Hide and Seek; I loved to hide in the dark. But even more I loved to wander around my dark home, looking for faces hidden within the darkness, moving stealthily through the shadows, listening for faint breathing and soft movements, never knowing who or what I might stumble across. Ah, my memories of childhood were wonderful. I had had few worries and was often happy back then.
As I grew, I became more mentally disturbed. My shelves were full of horror and science fiction novels. Witches and vampires haunted my imagination. Ghosts and goblins filled my dreams. I spent many nights sitting outside, pondering the mysteries of life and watching the changing faces of the moon. I spent hours talking on the phone with my two best friends. Other hours I spent trying to write a suspense story of my own. Bits and pieces, pages, chapters and undeveloped ideas lay strewn about my room. I thought of Justin a lot. I loved him, I still do. If the situation were different, this would undoubtedly be the best week of my life as I had anticipated it to be. Especially the previous night, when Justin held me in his arms. It’s funny how life works out, isn’t it? Yes, just hilarious. I’m rolling on the floor laughing at the irony of it all.
I was interrupted from my pleasant thoughts by Justin tapping me on the shoulder. He sure has a way with getting my attention. He always scares me to death. Kinda fitting for the circumstances. “Would you like to go on a walk with me in the woods?” he inquired. “I know this really cool path that looks especially spectacular when it’s snowing. Besides, I have to tell you something.”
“Sure,” I replied. I had to wonder if I was not walking straight into a trap. I let the thought go. Don had committed suicide for some odd reason or another, maybe even over Eve. Eve had fallen off the bed in some really weird way. That was it, there was no killer. It was just a coincidence that their wounds both appeared to be from knives; just a joke that fate was playing on us, that’s all. That had to be it. These were my friends I was talking about here. Of course I had to be right.
Justin glanced at Karl and Jill and asked if they wanted to be included on our trek through the woods, but both declined.
Before leaving I went to my room and pulled on a sweater, a coat, and gloves. Though I enjoy darkness, I have never liked the cold. To be honest, I detest it.
We left. The beginning of the trail was practically adjacent to the cabin. Justin was right, it was a beautiful place, because of the weather. The snow was falling gently over a ground already christened with the pristine white powder. Arms of trees were laden with snow, bowing sadly to gray skies, creating a canopy over us, setting us apart from the evil world we lived in. The gray of the sky was uniform, stretching serenely for miles. The wind whispered softly, carrying with it secrets that I couldn’t quite catch, even when I strained my ears. There was a tranquil feeling about the place. I wouldn’t have minded spending an eternity there.
I felt as though I had stepped out of reality for a few minutes, into one of the most pleasant dreams imaginable. The memories of recent terrible things, of deaths, were vague nightmares. My headache began to fade, my thirst subsided some. Either the place was magical, or Justin was. I remembered how my pain had begun to lessen the previous night, when with Justin.
For awhile, we said nothing. Justin walked close by my side. From time to time, strands of his soft hair brushed my cheek. It was pure ecstasy. Looking at him was heaven. His eyes were always so full of thoughts, most of which I probably couldn’t fathom. I was a hopeless case, and I didn’t care.
I guess we were a little uneasy around each other. I had failed to tell him how I felt the night before. My excuse was so lame. Jill was right, I was a wimp. A few small words was all it would take to let him know. Just a few small words that I couldn’t say.
I really wanted to believe he could care for me. I felt I had reason to. He had held me so tight, been so kind. But what if he was just being nice, as he was to everyone? I was crying. I’d been upset. He probably felt he had to do it. He probably hadn’t meant anything by the gesture. I always read too much into things and I was sure that was exactly what I’d been doing.
As we walked deeper into the enchanted land, my troubles ceded even further, become more dreamlike and faint. Justin, though, remained very real. Each minute my heart ached more, to put my arm around him, to be held by him once again.
Finally, I asked Justin, “What did you want to tell me?”
Justin looked down, and fidgeted while he walked. “Oh, I don’t know.”
I shoved him playfully. “Sure you don’t,” I said. “I’m sure that you just asked me to take a walk with you so that you could walk for hours in silence. That must be it.”
He smiled. “That was just an excuse to spend some time with you.”
“Nice try,” I said, hoping he wasn’t kidding. “Now tell me what it really is.”
Justin threw his hands in the air. “What? Is there something wrong with trying to spend some time with someone as special as you? I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Oh God, had he just said that? I knew then that I must really be dreaming.
Justin put an arm around me. I thought I would die of contentment. All pain was just traces of memory now.
“Seriously,” Justin said. “I mean that, Andi. You are the most special person I know.”
It was a struggle to breathe, my elation was that great.
When I didn’t respond he continued talking. “I mean that, but that isn’t really what I had to tell you about. I know more about what’s going on than you think. I—”
I drew back from him sharply, almost involuntarily. Fear crossed my face and filled my heart. What exactly did Justin mean by that? I didn’t want to know, but I had a feeling I already did know.
Justin saw the fear in my eyes. “No, Andi, that’s not what I meant at all.” His arms were around me again. “I never killed anyone. I would never even want to hurt anyone, especially not you.”
Before Justin could finish, a piercing scream echoed through the air and stabbed my ears.
“What was that?” Justin asked in alarm.
“I don’t know,” I replied worriedly, “but it sounded like it came from the direction of the cabin.”
We began racing back to the cabin. Our enchanted forest vanished before our eyes as panic and terror replaced it. What a trade. My headache came back slowly, but with incredible force. My thirst could have killed me. I began to feel another source of pain, in the pit of my stomach. I felt as though my insides were being ripped from me. Justin seemed to be battling the same thing. Justin always appears to be in pain. I doubt if our little walk did anything to ease it for him as it did for me.
Our “run” back to the cabin was not much o”f a run. At one point, I cramped up and had to sit down for a minute or two until it passed. Justin stopped to wait for me. I told him to go on ahead, I’d catch up in a minute, but he stood by me and waited until I could again stand and make my way back towards the cabin. We arrived there as quickly as we could manage.
We came on the scene to find Jill sitting outside of the cabin, slumped up against it, crying. She had a knife in one hand. Her body was shaking. It was freezing outside, but Jill wore no jacket or sweater.
Upon seeing us approach, Jill ran up to me. I tried to ask her what was wrong, but she just kept crying and trying to tell me something, and being completely incoherent. Justin moved towards the cabin to maybe see what had Jill so hysterical.
“No!” Jill yelled. “Don’t go in there!” She seemed on the brink of insanity. Suddenly Jill grabbed my hand and started running into the woods like a madwoman, dragging me with her. “I’ve got t o get out of here! I have to tell you about what happened, but not here, not anywhere near here. I’ve got to get out of here!” She dropped my hand and took off, her other hand clenching the knife she had as if it were an elixir of life.
She was taking no particular path, just running madly. I began to run after her. Justin too, tried to do so, but I stopped him. I had the feeling Jill wanted to talk to me alone. I completely ignored my physical pain and ran as fast as I could, and probably just as madly. I could not worry about a headache while my best friend was running crazily, holding a knife.
Jill had a head start, but I ran to catch up. Our pounding feet made little noise over the soft snow. The scenery continued to sit there and be beautiful as fear filled my head, and worry, my heart. How oblivious the trees were, how uncaring the clouds.
When I caught up to her, Jill was still running. I saw a fallen tree in front of her. I did no¿t think she would see it in her blind haste. “Jill!” I yelled. “Watch out for that—” I got cut off as Jill hit the tree and went flying into a heap in the snow. “Tree.” I finished, a bit too late. I sprung over to her. Her arm was twisted under her in a strange way. I hoped it wasn’t broken.
When Jill didn’t move I became really concerned. “Jill! Get up!” I shouted desperately.
“I can’t,” she moaned. “It hurts too much. I think it’s bleeding. I can’t!”
I knelt down beside her to see what she was talking about. I tried to recollect the First Aid class I’d taken at school last semester. Could I move her to see what was wrong or was that against the rules? My exploding head seemed to interfere with rational thought.
I lifted up her head, and immediately saw the problem. It was her knife; how could I have forgotten about that knife? In her fall, she had accidentally plunged the knife into her body, close to her collarbone. The scene was sickening. A river of blood was leaving her and spilling onto the clean snow.
I was afraid she was going to die; there was so much blood. I removed the knife instantaneously. I removed my gloves and pressed them to Jill’s wound, trying to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Jill only moaned in pain. She told me her arm hurt, but I was afraid to move it. I needed to get help, but I could not leave Jill alone in order to get some.
My technique was not working well, blood seeped through both of my gloves. God, what a mess everything was. What a nightmare. I tried to apply more pressure, to stop the endless flow of red.
Jill’s breathing grew fainter. She struggled to speak. Her voice was far-off. “Andi, I won’t make it. It’s . . . just as well. I never did . . . get to tell you about Karl. I loved him but . . . I couldn’t take it anymore. I . . . never meant . . . to hurt him. I’m . . . sorry.” I wanted to ask her what she was talking about. I wanted to stop the bleeding. I wanted to ease her pain. Yet none of this was to be.
Those were the last words Jill spoke. Her eyes closed and an expression of agony remained fixed on her face. I removed my blood-soaked gloves from her wound. So much for First Aid Class, for all the help it gave me.
I didn’t know what to do. I did not want to just leave Jill there, lying in the snow, but I couldn’t stay there forever either.
Despite all that had transpired during the week, nothing prepared me for losing Jill. She had been my best friend in the world, the one who could make me laugh always, the one who pushed me to do what I wanted to do, the one who was always there for me, the one who had given me comfort in conversation when we stayed up late into the night, the one who always listened to what I had to say. I knew there would never be anyone just like her. I felt I could die just thinking of it all, the injustice of it all.
I cried. The act had become quotidian. The tears rolled over my face as water in a waterfall. Tears fell from my face onto the ground, mixing with the snow and blood. What a combination.
A strange thought came over me. All of a sudden I was filled with an urgent desire for the blood on my gloves and in the snow. My body yearned for it. I tried to push the sickening thoughts from my head, but they persisted and intensified. The scarlet substance looked so tempting. Why was I thinking such crazy things? Where were these ideas coming from? I certainly did not want to drink blood.
Nevertheless, the longing for the blood would not leave me. Visions of red fountains filled my mind. Everywhere I looked, all I saw was red. Finally, I could take it no longer, I had to succumb to my vampiric wishes. I licked the blood on one of the gloves.
Once I began I could not stop. Soon I was picking up handfuls of bloodstained snow, devouring them hungrily, like a monster, like a demon. The blood tasted extremely good as it trickled down my throat. It seemed to ease my pain. Yes, my pain receded with each drop. And this new beverage definitely quenched my thirst. No wonder the iced tea and orange juice hadn’t worked; this whole time, blood was what I really needed. Ah, the warmth of the blood, the delicious taste. It worked wonders for my physical and mental health.
When I finished and realized there was virtually no blood left, I felt myself craving more. But yet, at the same time, I felt truly satisfied as I never had before.
Then reality hit me. I had just drunk my friend’s blood! What’s worse, I had enjoyed it! I began to feel sick to my stomach. What had ever possessed me to do such a thing? I began vomiting up the blood I had just taken so hungrily. I was glad to be rid of it. Human blood did not belong in my digestive system.
When I finished ridding myself of the red venom, I looked down at the river of blood I had left on the snow. It disgusted me beyond belief.
Yet, at the same time, it was tempting as well. I wanted to drink it again. I still could not free my mind of bloody thoughts.
Looking at the blood, and knowing that I wanted it in my system, absolutely appalled me. I had to get out of there, run from my thoughts.
For the second time that day, I ran over a glistening landscape, filled with fear, towards the cabin. I did not understand what was going on. I ran with urgency coursing through my veins. I had to tell Justin what had happened. He had started to say he knew more than he was letting on, and I needed to know whatever he knew. I would demand it of him. He could shed some light on my predicament, or maybe offer me a glass of blood to soothe my now-returning pain. Though the thoughts of blood were quite enticing, I knew I would never again drink the red poison, I could not.
When I reached the cabin, Justin was nowhere to be found. Nor was Karl. I figured, from Jill’s last words, that wherever Karl was, it was not anywhere good. I doubted if he was alive. I sat down on one of the blue couches to try to collect my thoughts. Well, at least the rational ones.
Maybe it was a good thing Justin wasn’t present. Somehow, it seemed that Justin was the missing link, the person that connected all of this together. It seemed illogical, for I knew of nothing wrong Justin had done. I had most likely committed more wrongs than he. But still I knew he would complete the chain.
I thought more of Justin. His offer was strange, as Jill had pointed out to me. We had never been all together for so long before,, and no one had drunk blood before. We were all good friends: Eve, Don, Karl, Jill and I. Why had he invited us in the first place. It puzzled me. I had been too lovestruck, too amazed at my good luck, to consider this before we left our safe homes.
Then I remembered something, something important. Justin had been the one to check on Don, and discover him dead. Could Justin have killed him? It was a possibility I did not want to consider, but forced myself to. I had to figure this out if I wanted to survive. None of this crazy junk had happened without him around. Was I the victim of a fatal attraction? It certainly looked that way.
I wondered if I could escape, but immediately decided that would be futile. Justin had driven us to the cabin, in his car. Even if I could start his ca?r by some force of magic, I would need a map to get back home. I knew for certain I was never going home. I knew when Justin returned he would kill me. I knew it. I thought maybe I could just start running, and hope he never caught me. But that was irrational; there was nowhere to run to. I was trapped. Probably just where Justin wanted me.
I had always wanted to be a writer. Now I had a story to tell. I went to the room I had stayed in, the room Eve had died in, and retrieved my notebook. I ripped out the pages that already had writing on them and tossed them carelessly on the floor. Then I took the notebook and brought it to the living room. Next I went to the kitchen. I found three candles, and a book of matches. I sat down to write. I lit the candles, as I preferred their light to the harsh fluorescence of the cabin lights.
Just before I began writing, I turned to the inside cover of the book. I thought of how someone had remarked earlier that morning about how Miss Bennett would scream and cry if she knew of our tale. As a morbid joke, I wrote, “For Miss Bennett, let the sun never rise, and the flowers never bloom.” I sincerely doubted she would ever read this, but I did it anyway. Then I began to write in earnest.
“I’ve always been enchanted by darkness. It haunts me. It lures me. It holds my deepest fears. My deepest desires. Ever since I can remember it’s been there, playing with my mind. . . .”
Only one more full chapter left from this mortifying little novel I wrote in high school.