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Hide and Seek

By Ashleigh Bolton Taylor All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Thriller

Prologue

Never look for it. That is the best advice that I can give to you. Tell your friends, tell your family. Don't let them search. If they follow my steps they'll end up meeting the same fate I almost did. I don't want that for anyone.

I was a Photographer. Young, looking for that one shot that nobody else could capture. A picture that would stun viewers and help me on my rise to fame as one of the worlds best Photographers.

I was traveling a lot chasing after that picture. That was when I heard about the Crimson Tree. It was supposedly situated in the middle of dense forest and gave off an eerie red light day and night.

The best part about it was that nobody had ever gotten a clear shot of it. It wasn't clear why. All the pictures simply came back blurry. Nothing more then a faint red streak.

Their photographers usually came back with serious paranoia. Or not at all. those who did return were hospitalized.

This didn't deter me though. As soon as I heard about the tree I knew it was what I had been looking for. The photo that would mark the start of my career. If I got a clear shot, I would be the first person ever.

I stopped in the town that bordered the forest but the residents weren't very helpful. None of them would talk about the tree or what happened to the Photographers.

The only piece of information I was able to gather was that it was unwise to go into the forest after dark. They wouldn't tell me the reason for this.

I sat on the threadbare bed in the rickety motel that was the towns only accommodation for travelers and gazed out the window at the forest. I could swear that I saw the red glow of the tree in the distance. Calling for me.

As if in a spell I left the hotel moving robotically. My legs and arms moved without my control. Camera swinging from my neck and my breath billowing in the crisp night air.

I stumbled into the forest at night. When I was told not to go. It was dark, I tripped on bushes and bumped into trees unable to see them looming in front of my face.

Slicing through tiny gaps between trees was that persistent faint red glow. The glow that I used as a guide to which direction I should go. I didn't have any idea how I was going to get back without becoming hopelessly lost.

As the minutes turned to hours I continued my hike through the night. To my horror the deeper into the forest I went, the fainter the glow became. Until it was nothing but the faintest streak of red amongst the black.

The wind hissed through the branches of the pines around me as I came to a stop. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I was disorientated, I was lost.

As I stood there scared that I would be wandering these woods forever. I realized something. The hissing continued even when the wind stopped. It grew louder until it became whispers and those whispers became a voice.

"Come to play with me" the voice was soft and cut through all the noises of the forest. It sounded like a little boy. It didn't belong out here. In the forest, where the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up like soldiers.

"You can play a game with me. I get to pick" the voice came from all around me. Above and below and all around but I couldn't see anybody in the shadows cast by the small amount of moonlight.

I stepped back and stood on a twig. My gut was telling me that something was wrong. That if I couldn't find the town or the tree that I should at least get away from here. Now.

"Hide and Seek. You hide and I'll seek. I'm really good at seeking" the trees rustled and no matter how I strained my eyes I could not see the child anywhere. How can you hide from someone you can't see?

"You get ten seconds before I come find you. Find you like I found the others" the end of the sentence was little more than a whisper that made my skin crawl.

I began to run through the trees, it was so incredibly dark that I couldn't really go anywhere fast. Branches and other unseen obstacles tripped me with almost every step.

"One... Two... Three" I tried to be quiet as I searched frantically for somewhere to hide. I still didn't know who or what would be seeking me. I had seven seconds before I found out and I really didn't want to.

"Four... Five... Six" I was far enough away by now that I shouldn't have been able to still hear the voice but I could. It was like he was right behind me. Like I hadn't even moved from the spot where I first heard it.

"Eight... Nine..." oh God, oh God, oh God. There was a tree with thick roots that created a small hollow. Not small enough for my whole body but I could stand in it against the tree. It was the best I could do in the darkness.

"Ten... I hope your as easy to find as the others. They really didn't try very hard" the forest went silent. I listened for tiny footsteps of the boy searching but heard nothing.

Almost nothing. There was a shifting within the ground. A faint barely audible creaking, and the forest seemed to lurch. The tree I was standing against came alive.

Its roots like snakes wrapped themselves around my left arm. Trapping me in place, and no matter how hard I tugged I could not free myself.

"Please..." I whispered as I struggled against the roots but it was no use. They were as thick as my arm was and twice as strong. Something flickered with red light and the little boys laughter rang through the forest.

"We're playing hide and seek, first you come here to seek me, and then you hide. Because I'm seeking you" the light shone brighter. Right in my eyes but I could make out the figure that stood there. It was not a little boy.

It wasn't even a man, not really. It had arms and legs but they were made of roots. It had a face but it was blank and wooden. It was as if the Crimson Tree was alive. Or possessed.

"When the first man found me he wasn't fun at all. He was trying to figure out how to cut me down. When he tried one of my branches crushed his son" the roots holding my arm in place began to slowly tighten their grip. I pulled harder in vain.

"Thats when I got a voice. Thats when I learnt to move. After that anyone who came seeking me had to play with me" the figure stood to far away for me to clearly process what I was seeing. Could this be real?

"Little David taught me about hide and seek. I find it really fun. David helps me play with you" the little boys voice sounded so, so wrong coming out of the wooden figure.

My arm was so tightly held by now that my pulling was doing nothing at all. Every step the man took towards me made me tremble that much harder. Until I sank to my knees.

Sharp pain from my arm and suddenly I was able to yank it out of the roots. It was torn to bits hardly considered a limb at this point. This was my one and only chance to escape.

I ran and I didn't look back. The cries and screams of the wooden man followed me until I could no longer hear him. I had no doubt in my mind that I had found the Crimson Tree. Or that it had found me.

I ran until my vision started to blur and then I slowed down to a walk. Which turned into slow walking, which turned to just barely managing to put one foot in front of the other.

Somehow, somewhere, I must have taken the right turn. I found the town again. I lurched out of the forest and collapsed on some old ladies driveway. I don't think I was the first.

I woke up in hospital, I had no photo and no arm. The tree had damaged it beyond recovery. I'm not a fool. I won't be going looking for that picture again, I had to say something though.

If your curious don't be, If you want that prize winning photo trust me when I say it isn't worth your life. Stay away from that forest. The voice still penetrates my nightmares. It is a horror I wish on no one.

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