Nora’s breath hitched as her vision blurred. She leaned her body against the wall to her left in order to hold herself upright. Her mind went blank, as she clutched her purse and made her way slowly out of the building, blocking out her surroundings. Hands trembling as Nora opened the car door and sank into the passenger seat, unable to bring herself to start the car.
Even when it seemed impossible for her to get any paler, Nora’s body still managed to prove her wrong, as the color drained from her face. Clenching the steering wheel tightly, she squeezed her eyes shut as she gasped for air. Hyperventilating, she peeled her purse off her shoulder and began to rummage through the bag, as she searched frantically for the bottle of sedatives she always carried around. Her hands finally grasped the bottle and she immediately removed the cap whilst trying to keep her quivering hands steady as she poured two pills onto her palm.
Practically having choked them down, she sat in the car for a few minutes until she felt the pills begin to take effect. On her way home her mind kept wandering back to the conversation she had overheard. Nora hadn’t even noticed that it was pouring outside until rain splattered against the windshield of her car.
She slowly parked in the driveway and dragged her feet towards the front door, indifferent to the fact that she was getting wet. Climbing up the steps of the porch the wooden steps groaned under the weight of her body. Reaching into her purse to grab her keys, Nora paused for a brief second as she lifted her gaze. Letting her keys fall back into her purse, Nora cautiously lifted her hand and placed her palm against the front door. The door slowly creaked open. Eyeing the broken handle of the door in a moment of clarity, Nora stiffened in response, a surge of fear coursing through her. Loud sounds could be heard coming from the upper level of the house.
Pushing herself off of the doorframe, Nora staggered backwards onto the white column of her porch. Her ragged breathing drowned out the sound of her blood pulsing in her ears. Nora’s hand trembled as she fumbled with the straps of her purse, frantically digging inside her bag until her hand finally made contact with the cool metal of her cellular device. Slowly making her way back down the porch steps, Nora shifted her weight onto the balls of her feet attempting to climb back down as soundlessly as possible.
Looking back towards the upper level of the house, Nora’s breath caught in her throat as her eyes made contact with a dark figure peering out one of the upper windows. Loud curses followed the sound of glass breaking as several pairs of feet raced down the interior stairs of the house. With heavy strides Nora made her way back down the steps, her pace increasing until she reached the car. Tearing open her car door, Nora dove into the car seat and locked the car doors. Spilling the contents of her purse into the car seat, she scrambled for the car key. Slamming her key into the ignition, the car sputtered as it failed to come to life.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Nora cursed in desperation as she looked up at figures heading in her direction. Unlocking the passenger door, Nora slid over the gear shift and launched herself out of the vehicle, staggering as she broke out into a run in the direction of the woods.
Stumbling over several branches, Nora scraped her arms and legs as she ran blindly through the forest. With her heart lodged in her throat, Nora’s blood pumped loudly as blood flowed out of her freshly acquired wounds. The mixture of sweat and rainwater dripping onto her skin caused a harsh stinging sensation but the adrenaline rush kept her going despite the heavy rain that obscured her vision. Just as Nora was sliding her fingers across her wet phone screen in an attempt to dial 911, she took a harsh tumble over a fallen log, scraping herself on several sharp stones and dropping her phone in the process. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes as pain seared through her wounds.
Wildly roaming her hands through the muddy ground, Nora searched for her cellular device fruitlessly. As loud sloshing sounds approached, exhaustion finally took hold of her. In spite of this, she clenched her jaw and attempted to lift herself off of the ground only to fall back down as her leg failed her. Slumping onto the wet ground, Nora attempted to will away the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes as she struggled to focus her bleary vision on her pursuers.
The cold began to envelope her body despite her body’s internal protests as her fingers went numb. On the brink of unconsciousness, Nora suddenly realized that there was a very good chance she was going to die today.
“A human witness.”
“That much is evident,” an unrecognizable voice pointed out.
“Should we put it out of its misery? It certainly seems to be halfway there already,” another suggested, curiosity lacing his tone.
”Enough. Just grab it. Right now we still have more important matters to attend to. We can deal with this later.”
“Fine.” Several voices agreed as Nora weakly attempted to force her eyelids open. A pair of hands slid underneath her legs and upper body, as she was lifted up. Her body was then thrown roughly over someone’s shoulder and blood immediately rushed to her head before she blacked out.
When she came back to her senses, Nora’s hands were tied behind her back. She lay in an awkward position and was barely able to make out anything in the darkness. Her shoes scratched against gravel, leading her to the assumption that she was being held in some kind of a basement.
Her heart dropped to her stomach as she failed to see anything substantial in the dark. Nora began to panic as the darkness began to suffocate her. Her body convulsed in tremors as she struggled against her bindings to no avail. Nora’s breathing came in short rapid bursts as she gasped in horror against the gag that covered her mouth. Kicking her legs around until she felt her feet come into contact with something solid, she lifted her leg once more and hammered her foot against the solid object until she heard it collapse with a bang.
Brisk footsteps echoed along the walls as they drew closer towards the room. A small window-like compartment opened, emitting light into the room as someone peered inside, warily surveying the room as though to ascertain that nothing was out of order. Nora froze as the gaze landed on her for a brief second. The entity behind the door then slowly moved away from the room only to stop within a few feet of it as another pair of footsteps met their’s. Nora could only vaguely make out the words broadcasted outside of her confinement. She stilled her body and refrained from making any loud movements in order to tune into the conversation.
“Pointless...get rid of...”
“No traces whatsoever...”
“...No use...pathetic...waste of...”
“We can’t have another body...”
“Sneak it in with the shipment... sell it... someone will want it.”
Nora felt her heart stop for a moment. Though thankful that they had forgotten to close the small window that was currently emitting light into her makeshift cell, she was unable to restrain the sense of dread that threatened to overwhelm her after overhearing parts of a disturbingly eerie conversation that had taken place just a mere feet away from her. Taking a second to survey her surroundings, Nora eyed the chair lying on its side near her legs, and was finally able to identify exactly what it was that she’d kicked down earlier in her hysteria. Apart from the chair itself, the room was partially empty save a few wooden crates that lined the corner of a wall. She huffed in frustration at her current predicament.
What the hell have I gotten myself into? Nora wondered in bafflement.
Things honestly can’t get any worse than this, she scrunched up her nose as she took in the tight bindings that wound around her ankles. Not even a moment had passed after the bearish thought crossed her mind, when the door slammed open causing her to flinch in surprise.
A stoic man in strange dress, stepped into the room. His gaze unwavering, as his dark eyes roamed inside the room before making his way towards Nora. Fisting his hand into Nora’s hair, he yanked her onto her feet. Emitting a trembling wail as the full brunt of her weight was forced onto her injured leg, tears pricked the corners of Nora’s eyes. The unrecognizable male then proceeded to latch onto her upper arm none too gently before slicing through the bindings around her legs and dragging her out of the room, ignoring her muffled cries of protests. Leading her through several corridors, at a rapid pace, Nora stumbled as she tried to keep up with her throbbing ankle. At the pace they were moving, Nora was unable to discern anything of significance about her surroundings.
As they made their way to a large rusted metal door, Nora couldn’t help but feel a foreboding sensation creep down her spine. Her assailant grasped the handle of the door and wrenched it open, his iron grip on Nora’s arm not relenting for a second. The door opened to reveal the night air. It was dark outside but from the little that Nora was able to make out in the dim lighting, she perceived that she was currently being held in the middle of a forest. The door closed behind them and ‘Jackass,’―as Nora had now so graciously begun to mentally refer to him―pulled out a flashlight and what seemed to be some sort of knife; one that was much larger than the average kitchen knife she’d ever laid eyes on. In any other situation Nora figured might have had a sliver of a chance at escaping if given the opportunity. However, not only was Nora sleep deprived and injured, but she’d also been tied up like a hog. The odds were clearly not in her favor.
Therefore, even if she’d wanted to take action, she realized that she would probably only end up managing to face plant into the muddy ground and Nora wasn’t particularly fond of eating dirt. Furthermore, she’d already made up her mind that that scenario was certainly not going to happen anytime soon either. Thus, she had no choice but to stay as still as possible and hope that one of her housemates had contacted the authorities the moment they noticed that the house had been broken into and that her car was still parked in the driveway.
“Alright, I’m only going to say this once, so I suggest you listen closely,” the male’s gruff voice startled her out of her thoughts as tightened his grip on her already bruised arm, “I am most certainly not in the mood to deal with any form of misbehavior and likewise I definitely do not enjoy being in the presence of one of your kind but unfortunately for the both of us, I was stuck being the only one available to dispose of you. So I propose a compromise. I agree not to stick my dagger straight through your heart, so as long as you agree to act with compliance and not try to run at the first chance you get.
In other words, if I say sit then sit. And should I tell you to roll over, then roll over. Hopefully I’ve made myself clear, because otherwise I might find myself with the misfortune of having to get rid of yet another dead body tonight.” He sneered at Nora, as the cold blade of his knife pressed against her throat, warningly. Sadly Nora still hadn’t been able to fully register his words but still managed to get the gist of it as she clamped her mouth shut and nodded vigorously, regretting it once she felt the knife pierce her skin at the sudden movement. Cursing her own stupidity as she felt blood trickle down the length of her neck, Nora tilted her head back slightly away from the blade.
Jackass only glanced down in displeasure, obviously disgusted at the sight of her blood but choosing not to make any further comment. He simply removed his weapon from her neck, wiping it on her collar before placing the sharp end of it against the small of her back to further emphasize his point.
From Nora’s perspective, it seemed like they had been walking aimlessly for hours, when in reality only a mere fifteen minutes had passed.
Jackass walked with precision, as if moving at the pace they were had no effect on him. Meanwhile, Nora on the other hand was half dragging her feet across the ground and half stumbling over herself in exhaustion rather than walking per se. The only thing that somewhat managed to comfort her was that at the very least the man had the sense to carry around a flashlight. After what seemed like ages, they finally began to slow down.
The brutish male dragged Nora before an unnaturally large tree as the moonlight reflected off of their faces from the side. Prodding her back once more with the knife as a warning, he dropped the flashlight onto the ground, and he slowly raised his free hand, palm facing upwards towards the tree. Eyes shut he began muttering under his breath in a foreign language. Nora was transfixed at the words that ran so quickly out of his mouth but couldn’t help but feel wary. She began to wonder what he could possibly be mumbling on about when a horrifying realization suddenly crossed her mind.
It was then that Nora began to feel increasingly aware of the fact that her present situation was starting to look an awful lot like what some characters often did when performing religious ceremonies and prayers in many of the horror movies she’d seen throughout her lifetime. Unfortunately, the movies she always watched more than often involved evil cults as well as sacrifices and as such all of this wasn’t looking very good for Nora. Despite the cold, she was sweating bullets, her mind running miles a minute as she began imagining the worst-case scenarios.
This can’t be my last day on earth right? Oh dear lord! At this thought, Nora finally broke and began to struggle against her bindings in terror, only to cease her actions seconds afterwards as she became distracted by an unforeseeable phenomenon that took place before her.
The tree had begun to glow. Confused and in a state of disorientation, Nora began to contemplate the possibility of having been roofied. After all, it wouldn’t have necessarily been the first time someone had slipped her drugs.
The wind blew through the autumn leaves which had begun to shine brightly against the darkness of the night. It was almost as if the tree itself had come to life. Luminescent tendrils of golden flames reached out towards them. Nora swore she could feel the damn thing trying to embrace her with its scalding flames. Her blood rapidly pumped through her veins as her heart pounded in synchronization with the thrumming of the tree. Beckoning her with its tantalizing colors and promises, it called to Nora with its allure.
Jackass moved to cut through Nora’s bindings and nudged her harshly towards the tree. Nora slowly limped towards the tree, a small part of her afraid to admit that she was enthralled by its charm. The flaming leaves danced around them as they made their way to the center of the tree. The flames licked at Nora’s skin and yet rather than scalding pain, she felt nothing but absolute warmth. Captivated by the magnificence of the tree, Nora’s surroundings were soon long forgotten. As they reached the tree’s trunk, her captor then raised his hand and placed it on the tree. Jerking Nora’s hand upwards, the oaf practically forced her to follow in suit, pulling her hand towards the trunk and resting her palm flat against its bark. Time stood at a standstill for what seemed like an eternity until her surroundings suddenly began rushing towards her. The wind blew furiously through the tree’s branches until everything came to a halt. The tree’s life then began to fade away.
A wave of dizziness suddenly hit Nora at full force, causing her to lurch forwards only to fall down on her ass. She felt bile rising up her throat but managed to swallow it back down, squeezing her eyes shut in disgust.
“Well turns out you’re harder to kill after all,” Jackass loomed over her body, narrowing his eyes in suspicion and pure irritation. Unfortunately for poor Nora, he wasn’t feeling very merciful as he grabbed her by her arm for the millionth time and dragged her to her feet, immediately binding her hands behind her back once more. Nora, still a bit disoriented, grimaced as she felt the ropes cut into her wrists but once she managed to recompose herself, an ominous feeling washed over her. As they walked through the woods once more she realized that these woods looked nothing like they had before. The soil wasn’t wet anymore but dry and her surroundings looked somewhat different. The trees even looked bigger.
Nora’s head had begun to slowly throb to the point where she didn’t even want to think anymore. Still struggling to wrap her head around what had just happened, she had no clue what to make of what she’d just borne witness to. Therefore, Nora opted to do what any other rational human being would do.
She blamed it on the drugs.
Nora didn’t know what it was that she’d been slipped, but it was probably some of the good stuff because those hallucinations had just been downright bizarre.
If it is a drug, then these people must be making a lot of bank. I mean hell, if I were a druggie, I’d probably be down for it too, she mused.