The base of the door makes a sweeping noise as it brushes against the rug in the hallway. The floorboards creaking beneath my school shoes, I step inside my home. My foot lands on an envelope that’s just slipped from the letterbox. I reach down and swipe it from the floor. Thomas, it reads. I swing the door closed and tear the note from its envelope. My eyes widen as I unfold the creased paper to reveal a letter composed with a variety of different cut out letters from magazines. What the hell? I focus in on the letters themselves and begin to read the message to myself.
Thomas, it says. I’m aware you’ve been seeking me out. Just as I’ve been seeking you. I’ve been watching you. You want to talk? Then let’s talk. Meet me in the centre of the woodland bordering Eventide and Castlerock. Come and don’t tell anybody you’re coming. And come alone, or there were will be severe consequences. Don’t show up, and I’ll show up at your house this evening with my scythe, when you, your mum, The Mayor and that adorable little sister of yours are in the midst of your family dinner. Five o’clock. See you there.
The Grim Reaper(at least that’s what they’ve nicknamed me, right?)
I can’t believe this. This can’t be for real. It has to be some kind of twisted joke. Maybe it was Andrew and he wants to get me alone so he can convince me to forget about my plot to take The Grim Reaper down. No. He wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t stoop that low. If he has a problem, he says it as it is, straight to my face, without playing any games.
Oh my God. It was the Grim Reaper. Over the past few days, there have been a number of instances where I felt like I was being watched. And I assumed I was being paranoid. But, he claimed that he has been watching me. That means my hunches were right, and I have my very own stalker. Does that mean he’s chosen me as his victim this year? I guess I’ll find out, when I meet him. I can’t not go. I won’t risk what he may do to my family if I refuse to show up.
Glancing to my watch, it’s four thirty. If I don’t leave soon, I won’t get there on time. So, I grab my coat and pull the door open. I step out onto the street as a chill makes it way up my spine. I am on my way to meet with Eventide’s very own angel of death, in the secluded depths of a cavernous woodland.
My feet squelch in the mucky patches of the forest. Now I know why nobody roams these woods. There’s a dense atmosphere of desolation to be felt in this place. It’s dark, gloomy, isolated. I guess that’s what the Reaper wanted, somewhere where he knew I’d be all by myself. Isolated. Defenseless. Open to whatever it is he may have planned to do to me. I take in a shallow breath and exhale as I come to a standstill adjacent to a row of thick shadowy trees. It’s hard to hear anything over my hyperventilated breaths of intensifying fear. I can see my breath as I exhale it.
Now, I can hear a treading set of footsteps making their way closer from the near distance. Fog is veiling the forest and it’s making it harder to see clearly. “Hello,” I try to call out, but it comes across more like a fearful yelp.
My voice is trembling. Now do I understand just how scared Alex must’ve felt last year as he realized his fate. “Is someone there?”
“It’s me, Thomas,” he whispers.
I whip my body around, trying to spot him amid the clouding darkness. “Where are you?”
The gentle rustling of leaves tells me he’s coming closer and closer. I can’t see him. I feel like I’ve lost control of all of my senses, apart from one. My hearing. All I can depend on is my ears right now.
With the impeding gloom of darkness, all I can do is trust my hearing. But, I can’t depend on it. Because there’s noises coming from every direction.
Above me, there’s birds squawking and fluttering their wings. I can hear the wind blowing and it’s causing the branches of trees to sway in every direction. Leaves swirling throughout the woodland. Footsteps, becoming louder as they come closer.
And his voice. “I’m right here.”
As I turn in the direction of the voice, I feel a set of fingers pressing firmly into my cheeks, grasping my jaw tightly. And in the palm of his clammy hand, he’s clutching some kind of dampened rag. With him holding it forcefully over my mouth, I try to fight him. I try to escape his grasp. But, all I can feel, is my alertness wavering.
It’s getting harder to fight his hold on me and all my strength is leaving my body. I’m starting to feel weak and drowsy, like I may at any minute just fall asleep. I’m losing consciousness. I can’t feel an urge to continue resisting.
I’ve sunken to the ground and I’m lying at his feet. I can’t get up. But, I can feel his presence. He’s leaning over me. I can see the vague outline of his head. But, it’s too dark to be able to describe his appearance. Either that, or I’m just falling deeper and deeper into unconsciousness, or maybe both, I’m not sure which.
He’s now lifting me to my feet by yanking me upwards from my arm. Ordinarily, I think that it’d hurt. But, an intense sense of numbness is overriding that. He’s hauling me further and further into the woodland and I’m slumped against his shoulder. I can’t even walk. My feet are dragging limply along the muddy ground.
I know that right now, I should feel afraid. Adrenaline should be pumping, I should be thrashing against his grip. But, I can’t battle my drooping eyelids anymore. I can feel myself succumbing to the desire to just tune out and fall asleep. It’s easier.