" We should start back " Ruwin urged as the woods began to grow darker around them.
" Do the woods frighten you ? " Jeff asked with a hint of smile.
" Or the dead leaves do ? "
Ruwin didn't rise to the bait, he was too wise for that but his eyes kept moving from right to left and back again as if in search of something inexplicable, " Leaves are leaves " he said , " They are no threat to us "
" Are you sure about that ? " Jeff laughed crushing a pile of leaves with his left boot , " They might pose some serious threat , right Smith ? "
Smith could see the tightness around Ruwin's mouth. His barely suppressed anger visible from the look on his face. Smith knew Ruwin was no craven like the other boys would believe him to be .
And also knew they would drag him sooner or later into their cruel japes but he had wished it to be later rather than late
" we have twenty minutes before the bell rings " Smith rolled his eyes , " Let's find the damn Apple and get out of here "
" A Forbidden Apple will all it take to stop me from picking up on you guys" Theo had promised when Jeff asked him to stop bullying the three of them and it only took less than two minutes for the Theo group to throw them into the forest in search of the apple, they had heard only stories of.
" We have come far into the woods " Ruwin pointed out , " It'll take more than twenty minutes to go back and the storm is coming "
Smith glanced at the sky with disinterest. He could see the heavy clouds cloaking the earth from the sun. Even the wind that blew from north felt too cold to handle.
It is freezing my bone , Smith thought but he dare not say it aloud in front of Jeff for the fear of being called a craven.
" Are you unmanned by some little rain ? " Jeff asked brushing his hair with his long fingers.
Smith knew it'd infuriate Ruwin more but Ruwin held his mouth shut. Under his wounded pride Ruwin could feel the unease in the air too ,you could taste it. A nervous tension in the winds .
Smith shared these unease as well . He had never been in the banned woods before and it only made his bowels to turn into water. He was not scared but something about the way the trees surrounded the forest was different, Spine chilling.
There was an edge to the storm coming, the winds howled of it too and it only made his hackle rise. He had heard stories from his grandmother about things that roamed the forest but they were only stories and i were only a kid.
As much as Smith would like to deny it , he felt like someone was watching him . Something cold and implacable, something that loved him not. Smith wanted nothing so much as to ride hellbent back to School but he knew if he went back without the Secret Apple, they'd make fun of him for the rest of his life.
And then there's Jeff who accepted the challenge without asking neither of us .
Jeff was a dick and there's no denying that , a handsome guy of fourteen years, grey eyed and graceful. Slender as a stick. He towered over Ruwin and Smith with good inches whereas Ruwin was under five feet and plump in shape, clumsy and pitiful to look up on.
" You shouldn't have let Theo decide the task and drag us along " Ruwin said softly, " None has ever come into the woods and we shouldn't be here too "
Smith couldn't agree more but he kept his silence, the fear in Ruwin's voice was enough of an alarm and Jeff understood it too for a brief second his eyes met with Smith and he looked away in a second.
" What's done is done " Jeff announced after a brief second of pause " After we hand over The Forbidden Apple, Theo will stop bugging us, just like he promised "
" But first we have to find the apple and for that we need a proper idea of this forest " Jeff walked over to stand beside a heavy tree covered in green leaves and it's head invisible on the density of its leaves. " A thorough look from his top might help "
" Can you climb ? " Smith asked unsure of what Jeff had in his mind .
The chill in the air was heavy, it rustled the leaves like living things and the banyan tree had it's roots the size of man's arm, and it travelled from everywhere to everywhere, up and down through the ground.
It's branches hanged from limb to limb covering the sky in it's enormous embrace.
Jeff shook his head and stepped up on one of the arm sized root and within a blink of an eye he was halfway up the twigs ,hopping up and up from one twig to another, swiftly as the leaves screamed to his presence when he stopped to answer an opened-mouth Smith, he was already surrounded by the yellow leaves.
" Better than any of you , chuck ! " Jeff smirked and before another blink he was gone into the dynasty of leaves. Smith could still make out his figure and his boots peering out from the blanket of leaves but yet it covered him like a green solid sky.
" This place is scaring me ,Smith " Ruwin admitted, once he saw that Jeff could no longer hear him, " I swear, there's something different in here "
Smith tore his gaze away from a half hidden Jeff to look upon the plump boy enrolled in fear, He didn't know how to answer him to relieve him off his doubts when in reality Smith was scared himself.
The woods were growing dark by every second, thanks to the upcoming storm , and the wind blew from the north in a upcoming hurry. The storm looked on its way and yet they , the three bullied boys , stood uncertain in the middle of a forbidden forest.
In between these thick woods he felt vulnerable, alone in a way and helpless to an extent.
" We can't go back without the Apple " Smith stated, " everything will be alright..see Jeff might already know the location of the tree " He pointed up where Jeff's boot had been visible just a second ago.
" Where's he " Ruwin said alarmed, his voice shaking beneath the shrink of concern. " Jeff " he called into the dusky sky .
Oh , lord.
Smith's eyes shot back to the tree and his heart skipped a beat scanning the empty space whre his friend had been.
" Jeff " Smith called out , his voice echoed through the trees but only silence greeted him. He moved his head right and left trying hard to sneak a peek into the dense leaves but all his eyes met was empty spaced and a cloud worn sky.
" Jeff , this isn't funny " Ruwin chimed, " Please..get down "
They both stood in the woods silent on the mercy of winds that howled like a wild wolf through the woods. Even the leaves were holding their breath.
Smith couldn't help but feel his heart racing hard as he looked for his friend helplessly around the tree.
Bad idea, it was.
His screams came with no answer and neither Ruwin's pleading led them to any destination.
" I told you, i knew " Ruwin screamed, " This was a horrible idea "
Have mercy ! Lord, he prayed unsure if the gods could hear him in these woods.
" We shouldn't have been here "
The fat plump boy was crying, wailing like a toddler as Smith ran around the tree trying to look up.
Let him be alright , oh god.. please.
" Gods " he whispered as his legs trembled for he knew this was no jape, Jeff would never extend his japes to such an extent, he should have come back by now.
" Ruwin " Smith whispered to the crying boy, " Something's wrong "
Ruwin stopped sniffing as they stood silent aware of the trouble they had put themselves on, None knows we are here..none will ever know either.
Smith's voice had abandoned him. He groped for words that did not come , it was not possible. His eyes swept back to the tree and the empty tree stood uncertain of its crime.
A loud thump on the ground behind them made Smith stop breathing. The winds cut through his skin as it danced a wild dance.
Ruwin was frozen beside him too, his eyes watery from the tears he shed wailing for help from unknown trees.
God, this isn't true. This is not happening.
It's a dream.
Let it be a dream.
Smith turned slowly to look at the body that had fallen from the tree and when his eyes met the distorted face of his minute lost friend . His bowels turned upside down.
A chill went through his spine and his hands trembled like dead leaves, he heard Ruwin piss his breaches and a wild shriek escape his lips.
Jeff was lying on the ground, his face torn , his eyes pulled out of it's socket dangled on the bones where his cheeks had been. His entrails were out of his stomach and his bloody ribs looked vulnerable through his torn flesh.
One of his hand was gone where only flesh remained from his shoulder. His teeths were visible through the side of his face and his head half torn out of his body.
Smith opened his mouth to tell Ruwin to run but the wind had froze his tongue as well. His eyes stayed wide at the body and his legs glued to the ground
This can't be, no! This isn't Jeff.
The air was cold and shivering. He watched a dark shadow emerge from the body , it's eyes as wide as a ball yet empty. Something fiery shone into it's socket as it stood in front of him, it's flesh and bone naked to the human eye and its shadowy aura crawling like spiders around it.
The woods had grown wearily silent and then Smith saw others peering out of the woods , pale and dead things. Demonic in presence.
One ,two , three..four... he lost count as they hurdled around the two scared kids like a moth drawn to fire.
They moved close around Smith as if following a command , their teeths glimmered through the darkness.
He heard Ruwin scream and scream until the cold swept through him like a wild blanket of death.
A cold swept up into his flesh and he felt his body giving away , he could no longer hear Ruwin's scream nor see the pool of blood from Jeff's broken body.
And before his mind could come up to his consciousness and help him out he felt his legs go out and his eyes close to the rhythm of his heart.
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