Lilly Barnes fought to open her eyes. There was a tight, constricting pressure around her neck, and her mind felt like it was a million miles away. She clutched at her throat in a desperate attempt to clear her airway, but it was no use, as she could feel her breathing becoming more labored with each passing second. Her eyelids, which felt like they weighed a ton, slowly opened, barely making out the blurred image of someone in front of her face. She couldn’t make out any features of the person, but they were so close to her, that she could feel their breath upon her face. Her eyes yearend to close again, and she fought with all of her might to keep them open, but it was no use.
Lilly’s world was as dark as the void.
There was the strange sensation of being, meaning that she knew she was somewhere, but all she could see was the blackness. It was as if she was blind. A slight breath of fresh air caressed the soft skin of her cheeks, carrying with it the scent of pine and earth.
Was she outside, she wondered? She had been, she thought. She was almost certain of it. At nineteen years old, she could pretty much go where she liked, within reason, but for the foggiest of reasons, she couldn’t recall where she had been prior to now.
Another breeze touched the pale white skin of her face, this time bringing with it the sound of tree limbs creaking softly, as their leaves rustled gently back and forth. She was outside, she told herself, tilting her head slightly to see what else she could hear. There were no other sounds, but a new scent tickled her nose. It was a smell that was vaguely familiar to her. Something from her past. It was a cologne, or maybe it was an after shave. The more she pondered on the smell, the thought of her grandfather became more persistent in her mind. Yes, that was it. It was the same scent that she would always smell when she would hug him. It was an after shave called Old Spice. The smell and the thought of her grandfather left her as quickly as they had come.
Lilly’s world was as dark as the void.
She stood there, listening to the painstakingly loud silence. It seemed like an eternity had passed her by, before another sound reached her ears. The sound of a loud exhaling breath pierced through the stillness. Was someone there? It sounded like it was right in front of her. “Hello?” she called out to the darkness, but no one answered. Reaching her arms out, she began to feel around in front of her, but found only emptiness. She tried to take a step forward, but found that her feet would not move. Her pulse began to quicken, and for the first time she began to feel as if something was wrong.
“Hello?” she cried out, this time louder. “Is someone there? I can hear you breathing! Why won’t you answer me?”
Another sound, a different sound, rang out through the darkness from somewhere behind her. It was a sound that she knew, but could not describe. It was like the smell of frying bacon. One could recognize the scent immediately, and know exactly what it was, but if asked to describe it, they couldn’t do so in a million years. This sound was just like that. It was the sound of shovel being pushed into dirt, but not the dirt of the hard ground, but the dirt in a pile of loose earth. That sound was followed, almost immediately, by another sound. The sound of dirt being thrown on to something.
A pressure began to push down upon her chest, as she found herself laboring for breath. For some reason a dreaded panic began to rise up within her. Her heart, and breathing, began to race widely out of control. She screamed at the top of her lungs, and unexpectedly, the world around her burst into existence.
She was standing in a small clearing, somewhere deep in the woods. The sky above her was filled with dark clouds, which were racing across the sky upon an unfelt wind. She wondered what time of day it was. She had been sure that it was in the middle of the day, but now, everything seemed eerily strange. There was enough light for her to see by, but there was no sun in the sky. The thought of a solar eclipse flashed through her mind. It was as if the sun was being blocked out by the moon, and the entire world had been cast into shadows.
The sound of the shovel being pushed into loose dirt reached her ears again.
Lilly turned around and found a man standing in front of her. His back was to her, but she could still make out some of his features. He was at least six feet tall, almost a half foot taller than she was. And he was thick. Not defined muscles, like a body builder, but more like a big construction worker. Someone who was naturally strong. He had a black baseball hat on over his neatly cropped brown hair, and he wore thick, black framed glasses, with even thicker lens. He wore an ordinary brown jacket, blue jeans, and a pair of heavily worn work boots. His hands were covered by a pair of black leather gloves, which were wrapped tightly around the wooden shaft of a long shovel.
The man pushed the shovel into a pile of dirt, near his feet, on his right side, and hoisted a shovel full of earth into the air. With a slight twist of his hips, he moved the dirt from his right side to his left and tossed it into a hole in the ground that Lilly had just noticed. The hole measured roughly two feet in width, and nearly four feet in length. Lilly couldn’t see the bottom of the hole from her vantage point, so she wasn’t sure how deep it was, or what was even in the hole.
“What are you doing?” she asked, but the man acted like he didn’t hear her, and continued to shovel more dirt into the hole. After a couple of more scoops, he stopped and thrust the shovel deep into the pile of dirt. He took a few steps toward the middle of the hole and swung his right leg out and over it, until he was straddling it. He lowered his head and gazed into the hole for several long seconds.
“I said what are you doing?” Lilly asked again, this time a little louder, but still not wanting to step any closer toward the hole.
The man lifted his head and looked all about the area, as if searching for something. He looked right past Lilly, like she wasn’t even standing there. She got a good look at his face, and saw that he was maybe somewhere in his mid-fifties, and had a thick brown mustache. Had she seen this man before, she wondered. He looked familiar from somewhere, but her mind was still foggy.
When the man was satisfied that no one else was watching, he pulled out a pocket knife from his front right pocket. Lilly could see that it was old. It had a black handle and two blades, one on each side. The knife seemed small in the man’s large hand. The man extended the long blade of the knife, before jumping into the hole, which reached the top of her knees. He bent low and used the knife to cut something.
After a few seconds the man straightened up, and Lilly could see that he was holding a strand of long blonde hair in his left hand. Long blonde hair, just like hers. He lifted the lock of hair up to his nose, and inhaled deeply. He held that breath for several long moments, before satisfyingly exhaling, when his lungs could hold the air no longer. A slight quiver pulsed through his lips. Removing a small plastic bag from his back pocket, he placed the lock of blonde hair inside of it, before gently replacing the bag from where he had retrieved it. He then lifted himself from the hole and grabbed the shovel once again, as he recommenced to filling the hole in with dirt.
Lilly knew that she had to look inside of the hole. She didn’t want to. She wanted to turn around and run as far away from this all to creepy scene as fast as her legs would carry her, but from some reason she felt herself being drawn to the hole. She took a few small cautious steps forward, until the source of the blonde hair that the man had cut came into view. It was the top of a head, for that she was sure off, but, from the angle she was standing at, she couldn’t see the face. Again, she didn’t want to move any closer, but felt that she had no choice. She took in a deep breath, and held it for a long second, while the man continued with his tedious task.
She closed her eyes and blew the breath out hard, before taking a long stride forward, bringing her to the very lip of the hole. She had to do it, she told herself, as the sound of the shovel being pushed into the dirt continued. Lowering her head, she forced her eyes open wide, and gazed upon her own face at the bottom of the hole.
It felt like someone had just punch Lilly in the stomach, as she gazed upon her own reflection, in horror. Her once beautiful blue eyes, were open and lifeless. They had a white film over them, giving them a hazy appearance, as they stared off into nothingness. Her lips were a blackish color, and her skin was deathly white. Her blonde hair, was dirt brown, and there was a large tangle of blood and hair on the left side of her head. Dirt covered most of her body know, except for her bare left arm, which seemed odd to her of all things, because she was wearing a pink long sleeved running shirt.
Tears began to stream down her face, as her lips began to shiver. Dropping to her knees, she cried uncontrollably, as a shovel full of dirt landed on her face. “NO!” she cried, reaching out and trying to brush the dirt away, but found that her fingers passed right through the dirt and her face.
Her fear quickly turned into a blinding rage, as she sprang to her feet and rushed toward the man, who was almost finished with his task. The task of burying her in a shallow grave, somewhere deep in a forest. Her father had made sure that she was a fighter, enrolling her in a self-defense class, when she turned sixteen, so that’s what she did. “You Bastard!” she yelled, pulling her right arm back and making a fist, which she launched at the man’s face with all of the strength her anger could muster, but just like the dirt, her fist passed right through the man. She screamed even louder, even harder, as spittle spewed from her mouth and cover her lips. She threw punch after punch, until her strength left her, and she collapsed once again to the hard earth. All she could do was watch, as the man spread out the remaining dirt and then picked up a small push broom, which be been placed at the edge of the clearing. The man swept the dirt around the grave, before covering the freshly filled hole with leaves, trying his best to make the area look undisturbed.
When the man was finished, he hoisted the shovel upon his shoulder and began to walk off, using the broom to sweep away his foot prints, as if nothing had just happened. As if he hadn’t just buried the body of the young girl in a shallow grave, where only he and god knew where. “I won’t let you get away with this you mother fucker!” Lilly screamed, pushing herself to her feet, and going after the man.
She only made it about twenty feet, when an overwhelming sense of foreboding washed over her, causing her to stop the pursuit of her killer. She glanced back at her buried body. Why was she stopping, she asked herself? The man that had killed her was getting away, and she couldn’t allow that. She took several more steps forward, but that sense of dreed that had overtaken her, seemed to increase tenfold with each step she took. She struggled forward, until she couldn’t take the feeling anymore. She fell to her knees and screamed.
The man stopped dead in his tracks, and glanced back over shoulder toward Lilly and her grave. Squinting his eyes, he stared hard for several lengthy seconds, before moving on and disappearing amongst the trees. Lilly began to cry hysterically. “I don’t understand,” she said out loud, lifting her head toward the heavens, as if expecting an answer to be cast down upon her, but all she found was the ever racing dark clouds. She was about to scream again, when she found herself running on a narrow, one lane asphalt topped road, but she wasn’t running away from something, she was running for exercise.
Taylor Swift’s voice blared through her ear buds, as she glanced down at her GPS running watch. Two and a half miles at a nine-minute mile pace. Her breathing was under control, and she felt strong. Something brush against her leg. Looking down to see what it was, she found a yellow puppy, with long floppy ears, running next to her. “Hi there cutie,” she said, stopping her run, and bending down to pet the puppy, who eagerly jumped up and licked her face. She laughed out loud, as the puppy continued to lick her face, and wag its tail so hard that it was almost falling over. “What are you doing out her by yourself?” she asked.
Lilly looked up and saw a man slowly walking toward her, carrying a dog lease in his left hand. He had thick, black framed glasses on his face, and black baseball hat on his head. His brown mustached framed lips smiled brightly, upon seeing Lilly.
“Is this your dog?” she asked, in between laughs, pushing the puppy back a bit, who was still trying to lick her face clean.
“Thank you so much,” the man said. “He got off his leash and just took off. I’m not as fast as I used to be,” he added, kneeling down and grabbing the puppy by his collar. “I was really starting to worry.”
“Glad to help,” said Lilly, giving the puppy one last pet. “What kind of dog is he?”
“He’s a yellow lab.” The puppy started to twist and turn, trying to break free of the man’s grips. “Gunner, calm down,” the man said, tightening his grip, causing the puppy to cry out.
“Hey!” Lilly said.
The man let go of the puppy’s collar at the sound of Lilly’s voice, and watched as the young dog ran off into the woods. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to hurt him,” he explained, slowly getting to his feet.
“I’ll get him,” Lilly sighed, feeling a bit responsible. She took off after the puppy, and was glad to find him lying down not far from the road. “There you are,” she said, as the puppy ran toward her. She knelt down and let the dog come to her. It raced into her arms and began licking her face again. She laughed. “Let’s get you back to your owner,” she said, scooping the puppy up in her arms. The feeling that someone was standing behind her suddenly overcame her. She started to turn her head, and in a flash the dog’s owner was right on top of her. A powerful arm wrapped itself around her neck, and pulled her tight to the man’s body.
Lilly tried to scream, but couldn’t find her voice, as it became a battle just to breath. She felt a slight twinge of pain on the right side of her neck. She knew what was happening, and knew from her self-defense classes that she had to remain calm. She brought both of her hands up and grabbed the powerful arm around her neck, and began to pull, as she could feel a small amount of air reaching her lungs again. She could also feel the man’s body behind hers. She lowered her center of gravity, and lifted her right leg, before slamming it down, with all the force she could muster. The man made a grunting sound, as Lilly felt his grip on her loosen just enough. She raised her right arm, before slamming it backwards, elbow first, into the man’s ribs.
That did it, she thought, as she was able to spin free from the man’s grip. She need to get back to the road. Back to where there might be someone, anyone, who could help her, but the man stood towering in front of her, blocking her path of escape. Lilly’s head started to become fuzzy, and her vision blurred. She cocked her fist back and punched the man hard, square in the face. His head snapped back, giving her the time she desperately needed. She side stepped the man, and began to run past him. She had only made it a few steps, when a powerful hand grabbed her left arm, and began to drag her backwards. Lilly tried to kick at that man, but saw a flash of green, before a searing pain exploded from within the left side of her head.
Lilly’s world was as black as the void.