This story was written in 2019 and is now being edited and republished. However, it will only be available a few weeks because it'll soon be exclusive on Galatea as a paid story.
I felt my body twitch and slowly pull me out of a numbing sleep. The air was cold and humid around me and filled my lungs with what felt like blistering ice crystals that spread from my ribcage and out to my extremities. A few rapid gasps for air yanked me out of my last dreaming thought and into a more conscious state. But was I really awake?
The darkness made my pupils dilate to the point that it hurt, and I winced in pain as I propped myself up on my elbows. It literally felt like my cranium had cracked right open. So I immediately brought my hand up to examine my head, and found a few leaves entangled with my hair, and when I tried to remove them, I felt something sticky against my fingertips. I tried to bring my hand in front of my eyes to see the color of it, but it was impossible to tell. It was too dark. The only thing I knew was that it made my hair form cold, syrupy knots with what appeared to be old, coagulated blood. That, and the thundering headache told me that I had some sort of head injury.
Another tremble of coldness made me curl my legs up against my chest and I wrapped both my arms around them. Besides from being awfully sore and stiff, I was glad to state that they worked like normal. I continued to move a bit and carefully went through every part of my body in turn while I squinted at my surroundings. Everything was pitch black. I'd always been a little anxious in the dark, but right now I was just relieved that nothing seemed to be broken. Only my shoulder hurt, and my ankle was slightly swollen.
My hand went up to the back of my head again, and I felt the contours of a wound. It was a flare that made my skin form a little lump and the edges were sicky and uneven. I was pretty sure that it should be stitched, or at least be checked by a doctor, but you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that I was far from any hospital. I didn't even have a phone so I could call 911.
"Hello?" I yelled with a thin voice that cracked and broke. So I cleared my voice and tried again.
Nothing. Only the quiet breeze from the wind that was combing through the treetops, and I felt the loneliness crawl up on me like a snarling beast. But to avoid getting overpowered by fear, I slowly got up and took a few unsteady steps before I found my balance. Then I straightened my t-shirt and pulled my cardigan tighter around me. It didn't help much against the cold. Especially since they were pretty moist from laying on the ground for an unknown amount of time. But there was one question that concerned me way more than wet clothes:
Why was I here?
I took a couple of steps forward and held my hands out in front of me to keep myself from crashing into things, and I immediately panicked when I felt the silky threads of a large cobweb wrap itself around my face. Needless to say, I screamed like I was being eaten alive when I felt something at the size of a little mouse crawl on the side of my neck.
SPIDER! SHIT! OH, MY GOD! OH, MY GOD! A SPIDER! GET! IT! OFF!
I stumbled around while I frantically tried to brush off whatever it was. And because I was so terrified, I forgot to be careful where I was stepping and crashed into a sharp branch that pierced so hard into my eyebrow that I lost my balance and fell backwards. I hit my elbow on a stone and my tailbone on another stone, and the growing warm sensation under my eyebrow told me that I was probably bleeding. Despite that, it took quite a lot of time until I felt sure enough that the creature was gone and managed to calm down.
With my heartbeat still pounding loudly in my ears, I tried to get rid of the sticky cobweb that now covered most of my torso, and I shuddered when I pulled pieces of what probably was dead, half-digested insects out of my hair. It didn't help that my imagination was running completely wild about what those pieces actually looked like.
A drop of blood seeped through my eyelashes and automatically made me squeeze it shut to avoid getting it into my eye. Unfortunately it was too late. Even though I wiped my eye both with my hand and then with my sleeve, it started to burn, and my vision got blurry. The little I could see anyway.
"That's what you get for freaking out over a bug," I scolded myself, although I knew I couldn't really help it. Because one thing was for certain, and that was when it came to entomophobia, arachnophobia and every other phobia there is about disgusting beings like that, I had them all in a delightful mixture that blossomed freely just at the thought of anything similar to an insect. Lovely...
By now my eyes started to get used to the darkness, much thanks to a weak half-moon that appeared from behind a cloud. The forest gradually got a little more visible around me, which unfortunately only made things look scarier since thick trunks and awkwardly angled branches made everything seem like a crowd of misshapen humans. I panicked but didn't know where to hide. I wanted to run but didn't know in which direction. I wanted to scream but I knew nobody would hear me. It was worse than any nightmare I'd ever had. Even when I was little. At least then I could seek comfort on my mom's lap as I gradually came to myself. This time I wondered if I'd ever come to my senses again. That I was trapped in some kind of parallel universe that contained everything scary that existed.
I couldn't breathe, yet I cried my lonely heart out. And after sinking down on the ground in helplessness, I wrapped my arms around my knees again and fell over to the side where moss welcomed my cheek like a cold, wet hand. Burning tears pooled up in my eyes until the first one fell and became tiny rivers the more I let myself sink into my world of horror. I started to hyperventilate, and every muscle was flexed to the max, and I was shaking as if I had an epileptic seizure. I hadn't. I just felt more scared than I'd ever been before.
This had to be a nightmare. There was no reason for me to suddenly be in a forest like this, especially without knowing why. And, while the most terrifying scenarios possible rushed through my head in a complete frenzy, I felt myself growing numb. Numbed by terror, by the physical distress, and the confusion, and numbed by the paralyzing helplessness that pulsated through my veins. Then, slowly, I drifted off into the empty catatonia I was before.
It was just a nightmare. It had to be.