Chapter 1: The Black Forest
I could not force myself to look. He was beyond the glass, I could feel him beyond the glass. One look in those eyes would ignite the same terror I had felt that night; that terrible night. My fingers began to tremble as I stood in front of the glass. A group of men were lined up in a row, each with a number above their heads.
"Miss Perez," the detective said as he moved towards the glass. He paused, choosing his words cautiously. "I know this is hard for you." My eyes averted his as I stared at the muted tiles over the floor. I could not look and I now felt my eyes burning with the memories for that night.
"We need you to identify him." the detective continued and I felt his hand reaching out for me, but I pulled away before his hand could graze my shoulder.
"Please don't touch me." my voice came out sullen-injured- as I moved away from the man. I did not allow people to touch me anymore.
"Of course." he said gently and took a step back from me. Erratic heartbeats filled my body, pumping the blood too quickly and I sucked in a gulp of air before looking. My eyes flicked up for only a moment, looking over the men the police had selected for me. They were testing me, as if I could ever forget his a face. That face. I found him directly in the middle of the line, ash blonde hair fell over his tanned face creating a shadow for those eyes. Those dead eyes, they bore no humanity, he was a monster. And I would never forget those eyes. I could still smell his hot breath stinging my face, I could still feel his rough hands ripping through my layers, exposing me in ways that made my soul decay.
"Number 7," I said and looked away, focusing upon the tiled floor again. The detective moved to the far side of the room, leaving me there in front of the glass window.
"He cannot see me," I muttered to myself as the detective's voice sprang over my own, but I could barely hear him through my foggy thoughts.
"May I leave now?" I asked with my eyes still fixed on the floor. There was no reply. "I would like to go home."
My back became rigid and I wondered if he had left the room. I lifted my eyes up towards the back of the room and my breath loomed deep in my lungs. I was alone.
"Detective Stone?" I nearly whispered the man's name and noticed that not only had the detective disappear but so did the door. The panic was always like a swift plague for me, and soon my heart beats drummed so quickly that I could feel the blood surging through my veins with every beat. Where was the door? This was not right? Doors don't disappear like that. My brain ached and spun, but all of my thoughts ended when I heard his voice.
"Come on sweetheart," a rasping voice echoed through the room. He was talking to me, just like he did that night he dragged me away from everything I was. The night he lay over me stealing from my soul.
Don't look. Do not look. I told myself.
Everything around me seemed to swirl into a blackness and I swear the room had suddenly changed. Where was I? My heartbeats vibrated through my ears now and my lungs hardened, I could not breath.
"Don't be afraid." the voice rumbled again and I looked up. I looked up and I saw him. He was no longer standing along the wall and I felt my breath leave me like a ghost leaves a body. A scream clung inside my chest but I could not release it. Dead eyes stared back at me, he was right up against the glass. He wasn't suppose to see me, they promised he wouldn't see me. My mind flooded and my eyes burned. His breath created circles of condensation over the glass, he saw me. His eyes foamed with the same feral intent that he had worn that night. His dark blond hair created shadowy lines over his eyes making him look more like a predator. I had always been the prey. I screamed. I screamed so loud that the glass around me began to shake. His dead eyes swirled until they were pitch black, almost making him look like he had empty sockets instead of eyes. Then he began pounding on the glass. He pounded and pounded with his strong fist. My voice sunk back inside me, swimming with my terror as I watched the large man attempt to claw his way to me. To break the glass, he wanted me just as he did that night.
"No!" I yelled and my lungs heaved as I struggled. My heart dropped and I awoke to my own screaming. I gasped and moaned as my senses came back to me, telling me that I had been dreaming. The sheets were soaked in my sweat, I lifted myself up with a groan and willed my aching heart to steady. These panic attacks were so common now. My hand flung out over my nightstand and I felt around the clutter and books until my hand knocked over a bottle of pills making the familiar sound of a clinking plastic bottle. Relief. My pills were my relief; a medicine for my aching nerves. The doctor had prescribed them to me a few days after the "incident" as all the health professionals and police like to call it. The incident that had crippled me. I was raped nearly four years ago now and was still on the same damn meds. The police said I was lucky. My attacker had usually beaten his victims beyond recognition. Yea, I was lucky; I did not feel lucky. I felt used, I felt broken and dirty. My heart turned dark that night and as my mother held me with tears streaming down her face asking god why, "why my little girl?", a part of me perished somewhere in those woods. A part of me that I can barely remember now. Even with my mother's religious chants being muttered over my head, I still felt wrong. Putrid and decaying. God could not fix this. Nothing could fix me. These pills eased the affects, but I would never be cured. My alarm clock blared from the nightstand, but it was not until much later that I was able to pry myself out of bed. These dreams were becoming a nightly occurrence.
The coffee pot bubbled and hissed as I looked over my environmental samples that I had collected a few days before. I worked for a non-profit environmental group in the Chicago branch but most of my work was done in other countries. It didn't pay much, but I was able to travel for free. And after my attacker was released on bail a year ago, I wanted to be anywhere but Chicago. My company found me a small cottage to rent near the forest that I was doing a report on, it was meant for camping and vacations, but it suited me just fine. My belongings already cluttered the entire place, books were the main contenders and my suit case looked like a gutted pig with clothes scattered all around. And I had set up a small table to be my makeshift lab. Samples of dirt and tree bark lay over the table in disarray. I had only been here for a few weeks and this place was already a mess, I huffed loudly and turned the corner. I pulled my long black hair out of my face and then moved through the tiny kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee. The phone rang in a jarring tone and I jumped up with a hard whip of my nerves.
"Damn!" I yelled out as I noticed that with my jolting I had spill a pool of coffee on the counter. My nerves were weak, everything made me jump these days. Maybe that is why I preferred being alone.
"Hey mom, what's up?"
"I just wanted to check in, mija. How is everything in...where are you again?"
I stifled a laugh as I listened to my mother's voice that still bore the same accent from when she first immigrated to the states. I had always loved to hear her speak in that soothing lilt.
"Germany, ma." I chuckled softly.
"When are you coming home? Your brothers and I miss you."
"Well my stay has been extended as of yesterday."
"Extended? Te extraño mucho."
"I miss you too. Maybe another month. I have to get these samples and its taking longer than expected. Ma, this place is massive. You would love it."
"I don't like you being out there alone, Lur."
"I'm careful. Honestly, I haven't really seen an actual person in weeks." I chuckled again.
"Yes, well you hate people, mija." my mom now laughed on the other end. I missed her laugh. God, I missed my mom. I hated being away from her, but at the same time dreaded the thought of being home.
"Ok, ma, I gotta get back to it. Talk to you soon."
"Ok. I will call later. Love you."
I hung up the phone. My mom had a calling card so she would be calling me later in the evening, the woman called me every day, but her voice comforted me in ways I didn't understand. She was pretty much my only friend, as sad as that sounds.
I attempted to clean up my lab table, putting my chemicals in their place and sealing up the samples that were out. I changed out of my night gown and began digging though my suitcase for a pair of jeans. 'I really need to organize that,' I thought to myself, but decided to leave it for another day as I pulled my jeans up and buttoned them. My dark hair fell into my eyes and I stuck out my lip to blow the strands out of my face. 'I really need to do something with this hair,' my voice went through my head again. But who would see me in the middle of no where. No one would see me, just like I wanted. My mom was right, I hated people. Let me rephrase that. I don't hate people, I just don't know what to say to them. People make me feel more awkward than I already am.
I pulled boots up over my jeans, they were waterproof since I usually walked around in the mud to get my samples. My hair fell over my eyes again as I bent down to tighten the straps, I flung the long strands to the side with an annoyed huff and began packing up my bag. I rummaged around as I put empty tubes and a few latex gloves in the bag, then I folded up my map and placed it nicely inside the front compartment. I locked up the cottage. There were only a few houses in this area, most of it was all tourist camping areas and giant trees. There was a silence here that I wished I could mimic inside my head. It was soothing. I was not afraid of being alone in the wild, it was being around others that made my palms sweat and my heart race. I loved being alone with the trees. My hair rustled gently in the breeze as I unlocked my rental car and began driving towards my first coordinate, pushing my nightmare far far away.
The black forest was mesmerizing, haunting in the most beautiful way. A soft breeze moved through the dense trees as I knelt over the a stream, picking up a sample of the water and dampened soil. This area had been contaminated in my past research and I was building an entire report so my organization could combat the factory smog miles away. Their pollutants were clogging up the clean air and polluting the streams. This is what I lived for. The open air entered my lungs and I felt a brush of freedom as I sat alone in the woods. I leaned on a log next to the stream and pulled out my map, it showed all the areas that I had already gotten samples from. My eyes moved over it and I marked an area with a red pen.
"I'm nearly done." I muttered under my breath as I peered over the map that was almost completely covered in red markings. I wrote a few coordinates down from where I had just taken a sample, my finger slipped and I dropped the pen in the damp grass. With my weight leaning over, I bent down to retrieve my pen and a huff exited my lips. Just then an cold gust of wind whipped through the trees and my hair became wild around me. I lifted the pen up and out of the corner of my eyes noticed that my map had flown away mother natures overexertion.
"Dammit," I grumbled as I lifted myself up to trail after the large paper, but as soon as I got close to it, another gust of wind came through the trees sending my map to jolt even further away from me.
"Oh come on!" I yelled and began racing through the trees after the flying map, its bent sides flapping in the wind as if it were a large bird a flight. My feet squished over the mucky ground as I followed it, weaving in and out of the gigantic trees that were in almost perfect alliance with one another. The map lifted up and hovered over head making me feel as if this were some kind of joke. I jumped up for it but it was too high up.
"Really?" My voice grew with sarcasm and petulance. I watched as the map as caught in a tree branch just a few feet above my head. As my eyes dance over map I finally realized that I was standing in a clearing. My head dropped down and my eyes searched the area. It was some kind of garden. Directly in front of my was a large slab of stone, I moved towards it and knelt down before the large structure. There were strange markings all down the sides of the stone, I traced them with my finger tips. In the center of the stone columns was an engraving of a cloaked figure who had the head of a wolf. This was an altar.
"Amazing," I whispered as my eyes etched over the carvings in awe of what I had just found. There was a lot of pagan lore surrounding these woods. In my cottage there were a few tourist books that explained the beliefs in this area before Christianity had the majority. Many saw this as a place of power. But, those ancient beliefs had faded much like this stone altar. My feet began to sink into the mud. I knelt down to feel around the earth below me, the ground beneath me was much different than what I had taken samples of. I pulled my kit out of my bag and began scooping some of the mud up, placing it into the clear tubes. The soil was so moist that I had sunk down to my ankles. I walked along the mud, finding that it was only moist in a small section.
"Hmm, that's a little odd." I mumbled as I continued to walk about the ground before I pulled out a small note pad and jotted down my location. The consistency of the soil was unusual. It could be elemental or.....I swallowed before finishing the thought......or something had just been buried deep in the dirt. Come on Lur, that makes no sense. Why would something be buried here and why now? Why now, when I just happen to waltz on by with my clipboard and red pen ready to jot down my notes? The scientist in me looked around and said "no" something was not buried here, there is just a lot of moisture build up in this specific section of he woods. I did have a degree in environmental science so I would believe my brains over my paranoia any day. I sucked my bottom lip under my teeth and wrote down a few more notes about the area. The air seemed a little more chilled as well, I pushed the note pad back into my bag before I explored the rest of the clearing. I moved around the entire area of the garden and found stone pedestals surrounding the center table in a circular shape. Although the pillars were crumbling as well as overgrown with weeds and vines, I was still able to make out more markings over them. Markings just like on the altar. There was a large stone structure sitting over the pedestal. I pulled the long vines away, ripping them with my hands to reveal what was on top of the pedestal. A large stone wolf sat on top of the base. I moved to the rest and found the same wolf upon each pedestal, but the strange thing was, all the wolves were facing away from the altar. They were like guardians it seemed, watching over the large structure in the middle. My boot nudged something as I stepped forward to look closer at the stone wolf. I looked down, it was a beer can embedded in the tall grass. It seemed I was not the first one to find this hidden place of worship. Now why couldn't people just pick up their trash before they left? It was an easy thing to do, right? This is why our earth was becoming one large pile of used shit.
"Morons," I groaned and I bent down to pick up the can while my hand dug in my pack for a recyclable bag. Cleaning up other people's messes was all a part of being an environmentalist. As I opened the large blue recycle bag, my mind began to complain to itself about the nerve of the human race. I had been all over the damn world, but humans are the same in every part of the world; apathetic and unscathed by the fact that we are killing this planet. Some did not know that their little garbage could harm the ecosystem and some just didn't care. My eyes scanned the garden again and I was already seeing more garbage left over from some kid's twenty first birthday party. But too them, I am just a crazy hippie who over exaggerates about global warming. Like we made global warming up. I laughed out with the thought of such ridiculousness and I moved around the garden finding more and more garbage that my eyes had not seen before. It just made it more apparent how much our society had changed. We used to worship the land, we used to care for it because we understood that it was our lifeline. Now it meant nothing. Many from my hometown had never even walked through a wild forest before. It meant nothing to them. I felt my heart ache, it was ecosystems like this that I wanted to protect. This place was ancient, a true wonder to our history. I was not of German descent, but I could still appreciate such things. Such beauty. I moved back towards the altar, feeling myself become sullen as I collected the trash that was embedded deep in the grass. Yea, so I was a little bit of a hippie, but at least I had a cause. This is why I found it hard to socialize with others, my ranting would always come into play and people always wanted to touch me. It's as if they thought their touch brought me comfort. A hand shake was enough to push me into a mental breakdown. When people touched me, I could only think of him; of his hands dragging me away. My palms became dampened with the thought of being touched by him and I tried my best to chase the thought away; to stab it dead, as I wished I could've have done before he even looked at me.
I spent a good thirty minutes cleaning up the garbage. When I finished I heaved a deep breath and leaned up against the altar. I ran my fingers over the carved stone once more and began to feel something strange. There was something powerful in this part of the wood, something flickered over my skin as I touched the stone. Old magic or maybe just my nerves getting the better of me as they so often do. My eyes darted around the forest, but all was silent. The trees were still and the silence engulfed me as I sat up against the altar. But through the stillness, a strange feeling crept inside me, like someone was watching me. Someone who was more silent than the very forest. I swallowed a lump that began to claw up my throat and quickly retracted my hand from the stone. I could feel my anxiousness tittering with that sudden sensation and just then another gust of wind pushed through my hair, twisting and tangling it up in itself.
Old Magic. A voice pulled through my head. My breath spun around in my lungs until the wind subsided and the earth stilled again, but the feeling did not leave me. Someone was there. My eyes scanned the trees over and back again. Nothing. Silence. My nerves were making me lose my damn mind.
"Come on Lur, you lunatic." I laughed out at my own paranoid thoughts. In my own defense, I did grow up catholic and was scared to death of demons stealing my soul thanks to my overly superstitious mother. I ignored my senses and began putting the samples back in my bag before I realized I was missing something.
"The map," I groaned. I had forgotten all about the damn thing and when I looked up for it, I saw it hanging from the same branch as if to tease me. I needed that map, it had all my coordinates on it and I couldn't finish my work without them. Another groan exited my lips as I lifted myself up. It was too high in the branch to reach. I began to climb up on top of the stone altar, mentally apologizing for my disrespect, but I needed that map. My body trembled as I climbed over the stone and soon I stood in the center with my hands out to get my balance. With the map in view I jumped up with my hands held over my head. My first try wan not futile, I grabbed the corner of the map and ripped a chunk off. I cursed myself loudly before jumping up again. Grabbing the map's side, this time I was able pry it away from the branch with little damage. The paper crinkled in my hands as I landed over the stone altar again. This time when my feet landed over the stone I felt a vibration from under my boots. I looked down over the stone with a skeptical eye. The carvings were glowing. My breath hitched and my eyes widened over the glowing stone. The carvings were illuminated with a phantom light, but I could not see where the light was coming from. This must be a trick, some German's idea of a joke. Lets scare the stupid American until her heart explodes. Yea except, my heart would explode over something much less frightening than a glowing altar surrounded by stone wolves.
"Hello?" I called through the trees without thinking and my eyes searched around me, no one was there. I was alone with a rumbling under my feet. I crouched over the stone holding myself from falling off the edge. Then the earth shook. The whole earth shook, it was a damn earthquake in the middle of Europe. This was no trick. I held my breath when I noticed that something was moving under the ground. The soil rippled and the outline of a large hand lifted up from the mud, it was a human hand. My eyes bulged our of my skull and my heart strummed loudly in my ears.
'Don't faint, Dammit.' My own brain scolded my weakened heart. No one could hide in the soil for over an hour and then just pop out to say "Surprise Lur!" No.....no human could do that. I wanted to scream, but I was silent with my throat tightening as if there was a noose around my neck. I attempted to find my logic through the terror and I sucked in some more air to keep my brain working as I looked down. The soft soil that I had been walking over was moving, something was going to come out of that ground and I was not going to be there when it did. A black fog descended over the clearing, like a mass of ghouls moving through a graveyard and at that point I knew I had lost my mind. I grabbed the map and crumpled it to my chest right over my wild heart. I moved with fear brimming in my eyes and cutting through my insides. My limbs were shaking as I jumped off of the stone altar. Those shaking limbs of mine were feeble as I hit the ground running. I stumbled but I did not look back, my feet came back into stride and I ran. I ran so fast that even my heartbeat seemed slow. The sound of wolves howling cut through the air as I ran. Wolves. There were wolves.
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