chapter three | midnight strolls
The bright illuminated screen burns my waking eyes as I read over the instructions that were sent in the document.
First, you will leave your house and walk down to the sign that indicates that you have gotten to Crescent Street. Once you have reached the street sign, you will then turn towards the forest and walk straight ahead. You will not make any turns.
Your task will be waiting for you out there. You will know what it is when you see it.
Do you understand what you must do? If you do, please push the button beneath this message that says, yes. If you do not understand, reread the message again, as we will not be supplying you with any more information.
Good luck, Miss Mikkelsen.
My breath shallows as I clutch my thick blanket closer to my taut body. My slender finger pushes the side button as the glaring screen goes black, taking the only light in the cold room with it and leaving the darkness itself to comfort me. Shadows loom throughout my room as the sound of my breathing echoes within the small quarters.
This is a joke, right? Some sick joke someone’s playing on me? That would make sense on why I couldn’t find it anywhere online, but it still should have at least been on the App Store, right?
My sheets ruffle as I pull my legs from out under them and soundlessly place feet on the cool wooden floorboards. I push my stiff body from its sitting position on the bed and shuffle over towards the light switch next to my door. The darkness shrinks away as the blinding light from above invades the room.
Turning around, I stare at my room with wide eyes.
What the hell do I do now? It’s not like I can just go back to sleep and pretend I didn’t get that message. And what if it isn’t some stupid joke someone is playing on me? What if whoever sent that message is being serious and if I don’t go, something bad will happen?
I lean my back against the door behind me and slowly slip down it, letting the rough grooves dig into the skin beneath my cotton shirt.
Telling someone is obviously off the table and but I’d be stupid if I were to actually follow the messages instructions, do I have a chose though? Well, technically I do have a choice. I either tell someone and risk something bad happening, or I go and...something else happens, whatever it might be.
I huff out a breath as irritation crawls at me from beneath my skin.
I already know what Ronnie would do in this situation, she would debate about going, but in the end, she’d go into that forest to do the task. And Jason wouldn’t even think about it, he’d just go. Jason’s just the type to help someone in need no matter what.
A thought suddenly hits me. What if Jason got this same message? In one of the files I read, I remember the officers on his case didn’t know why he went into the woods, it only had a question mark beside it, but if he did get a message like this, then that could explain why he would even go into the forest in the first place. And knowing Jason, if he knew someone else’s life was in danger, he wouldn’t even stop to think about whether he would go or not.
Grabbing a hold of the metal door handle above, I pull my body off the ground and make my way towards my phone that’s laying on top of my pillowcase. I switch my phone on and reread the message again, making sure to take in every detail I was instructed to do while I grab random stuff around my room and shove them into my school bag.
If this will help me find Jason, then there’s no other choice, I have to go.
Gravel crunches beneath my black ankle boots as I walk along the empty asphalt road. The only light helping me guide my way is the flickering streetlight above and the flashlight I’m gripping in my sweaty palm. I halt as my wary eyes glance towards the street sign towering over me.
Am I really going to do this? Walk into the trap that has potentially been lied down? One Jason might have fallen into before me.
A faint white cloud forms in front of my face as I huff out an agitated sigh.
The small pink sticky note I stuck to the fridge with the time that I left the house, 1:24am, written across it flashes through my mind. At least if something does happen to me, the note I left will give the police some sort of clue.
I slip my phone out of my back pocket to see that the time is now 2:00am. Time to go.
Heavy clouds hide the only natural light from above as I take my first step off the bumpy road and onto the dirt in front of me. A few seconds pass as leaves crunch beneath my shoes, and then a few minutes pass as the trees loom over me, and the next thing I know, an hour has passed and I’m miles deep into the forest with no knowledge of where I am.
The muscles in my legs ache from the endless walking and uneven forest floor, but my mind tells me to keep going ahead. I try to think of something else to take my mind of this whole situation, but my thoughts keep circling back around to one thing. No one will be able to hear me yell from out here.
Gripping my phone in my slippery palm, I switch the home screen on and stretch my arm out in the icy air above me. Ever so slowly I move the phone to both sides of me as I keep my eyes glued to the phone, desperately waiting for a single signal bar to come through.
I did this fifteen minutes ago as well, but it’s useless, I’m only getting further away from the service towers now.
I really didn’t think this through. What did I think was going to happen? That I would follow the instructions of some weird app telling me to go out into the forest and that everything would be alright? How stupid-
The snap of a branch echoes from behind me.
Every single muscle goes rigid inside me as my breath gets stuck in the back of my constricting throat. Slow and heavy breathing comes from just behind me.
Maybe if I stay completely still, it won’t notice me.
Something that feels like jagged nails suddenly digs deep into my shoulders as something else pushes against my back. The brittle twigs and damp dirt on the forest floor comes closer into sight as I fall forward. Panic grips my chest but just before my body smacks against the ground I thrust both of my arms out, catching myself. Digging my fingers into the moist dirt, I fling myself sideways and onto the thing that bounced upon me. It lets out a gargled grunt as it slams against the ground. I roll off of it and dig my fingers into the dirt, crawling away until I know there’s a good distance between me and it.
A thick white fog clouds right in front of my face whilst I try and wheeze air into my lungs. Speckles of damp dirt cling to my clothes and bare skin as I unsteadily push myself up into a sitting position.
I can’t just sit here; I have to go. I have to get up and run before it – whatever it is – gets up and comes for me again.
I get onto my hands and knees and push myself onto shaky legs but I’m suddenly looking at the tops of the trees towering above me as they seem to get taller.
Wait, what’s happening-
The airs nocked out of my lungs as my back crashes against the ground. Blunt twigs stab into various parts of my skin as I gasp for air to enter my deflated lungs. Tears pickle at the corners of my squinted eyes.
How come I didn’t know, or even feel, that I was falling backwards?
I try to lift my arm up, but it feels as if it’s filled with led or made of stone. All of my body does. My breathing quickens as panic floods my system.
What the hell, why can’t I move my body? Why can’t I get up?
A twig snaps just a few meters away from me, and then another, closer this time.
A scream rips its way from my throat as salty tears slide down the sides of my temples. The trees above me all blur together, like a messy painting.
“Help!” I scream out into the icy air.
“Please, help me,” I murmur, silently begging that someone is nearby.
I faintly hear a sigh above as my vision starts to fade.
“Well, Miss Mikkelsen, it’s nice to see you again.” is the last thing I hear before my world goes dark.