The fireflies hovered in front of me, their green bodies emitting a radio buzz with their wings. Crickets hummed and perched themselves in trees as a lone frog breached the surface of a creek nearby. Gallons of pressure were placed atop my head. I blinked to clear my blurry vision. A man was hunched over the fire, feeding it with clothes that were bloodied and stuck together. The fire crackled loudly, and its embers bounced around him—he didn’t seem to care.
My fingers twitched and wrestled with the thin barn rope that held them together. He noticed this movement out of the corner of his eye while issuing me a siding glance. His eyelids peeled away further, revealing a widened evil I had only ever seen in my dreams as a little girl. My cousins used to make fun of me because of how scary I was after we’d watched horror movies in secret. I was notorious for peeing in the bed and would wake one of them up so I could go pee in the middle of the night.
I wasn’t dreaming now, because the eyes I’d imagined he would have, were fixated on me.
Many emotions were on his skin, etched and leaving wrinkles behind. One wrinkle was in between his eyebrows for anger and two smile lines beside the corners of his mouth for wretched joy. His eyes were hardened silver that sharpened over the warm blaze of the fire. I searched them for mercy and for the reason why I ended up here in the first place. But his body was frozen, and he eyed me for my next move. I didn’t do anything because I was frozen too.
The shadows settled into his half-grin and headstone grey eyes revealing a jagged jack-o-lantern smile. I always feared the boogeyman, and here he was staring back at me.
I wavered over the crazy man’s eyes, trying to settle on something else to look at—anything. My eyes settled on the faceless body next to the man’s feet instead. You hear about it all the time in the movies; people being abducted and taken from their sub-par lives in colonial neighborhoods. But this man lying dead on the floor had a life, and people to share it with. I teared up at the sight of seeing him. Even though I never knew him, I felt sad that he’d never get a chance to see his family ever again. I paused to look at the ominous man who caused all of this. He looked like a phantom, illuminated by the fire in this dark space. It was possible that he’d gotten the wrong girl. This has to be a mistake; he has the wrong girl.
As his body ventured toward me, I silenced my movements.
What was that?
The adrenaline rush caused my senses to become magnified and things were easier to hear. There were noises coming from some feet away, but they were still close enough for both of us to hear them from the campsite. I closed my eyes and prayed to God that those noises were footsteps. Maybe somebody had seen my abduction and came to save me.
Another sound—a bush rattling by the wind or maybe from something that had passed by. The man’s posture stood erect as his dense fingers coiled around the wood of the bloody knife before leaving. He lingered above the ground of leaves before connecting each foot one before another to the sound. It wasn’t long before he was out of arms reach, and I had a chance to escape.
My knees parted, revealing a razorblade I’d smuggled earlier from the man’s things. I heard him clamp his boots into the ground routinely in the distance. I worked to free myself, sandwiching my index and thumb with the razor blade before cutting the rope. The fire next to me was now blistered-black wood that splintered atop a blue flame and grey ashes. Beyond this dark area, I knew I had to be miles away from others, which made making it on foot a stretch.
I could hear hurried footsteps raking through browned leaves behind me. I didn’t have to check to see what it was, I’m Black, I run—not investigate. In no time at all, I rose to my feet disappearing into the cloak of dark and twisted tree trunks.
My chest heaved with adrenaline as I hurdled through the dry-rotted trees and loose hanging branches that blocked my path. The footsteps running behind me never stopped and, even with the wind blowing against me as I ran, I pressed forward knowing that danger was still behind. It was a constant race I was set on winning.
I could barely see anything but a stream of light behind me that focused on me as I ran. He must’ve had a flashlight I didn’t notice. I felt something snag on the ends of my jeans, sending me into a shallow end of water that ran into a riverbank alongside the forest. I tripped and I was now soaked in the murky water. The footsteps weren’t too far behind me because they had now just started to slow down. I covered myself in dead leaves and got closer to the ground to hide like the white women I’d seen in horror flicks.
The flashlight above me popped to one dark area of the forest, then another. He was looking for me.
Suddenly I felt the heat of a nearby flashlight scanning over me. I held my place there, wondering if he’d look over me with his headstone grey eyes and just leave. I silently prayed to God again, hoping he’d come through just one more time.
“Hello?” a sharp voice called.
The footsteps continued before coming closer and looming over the coverage of rocks and dirt that I was under. My vision was blurry from my tears. The looming figure thrust his hands upon my body, tugging and hoisting me up onto my feet. I pounced onto his back, trying to choke him, and we both fell back into a nearby tree. I punched and scratched at his face with the razor blade I’d smuggled. He tried to shove me away as I cut him. I felt the vibrations of his hard hands knocking against the hollow and smallness of my body, yet, I continued. He dropped the flashlight and stumbled. He hit the ground and I stopped at nothing to keep him there. I continued to finish the job, until he tired, his vocal cords and his face resembling the rawness of a used cutting board. He gurgled and closed his razor-burned eyes.
My fingers drew into his pocket, fumbling into the creases of his clothes for a cellphone. Short tufts of air escaped my mouth at no sight of any methods of contact. I was shaking, I killed him. How the hell was I supposed to get out of here? It was pitch black in the middle of the woods. I didn’t know where I was or if anyone would find me now that I was all alone out there.
My fingers dug further, scratching his worn cotton jeans and grazing over a smooth leather wallet with my fingers. I clamped around the wallet, opening it to find a picture of a grinning man inside in full police uniform. He was smiling against a navy-blue background with the American flag. I traced over the identification in the wallet.
“Officer…Jones..,” I muttered into the air.
I halted and peered into the man’s face beside me. The man in the picture was a face hardened and laid beside my feet, frozen into the ground. His eyes were a blue-green now drained from their ocean hue. I bent over, seizing the man’s face in an attempt to open his dead eyes for clarity.
I screamed into my hands.
This man was not the man who’d held me captive over the fire. I flashed the flashlight at his eyes, and they contrasted the very silver-bulleted eyes I’d seen just moments before. I cried in the middle of the shaded woods, with the thin beacon from the flashlight I’d just dropped still on the forest floor. Behind me, the effortless crunch of leaves underneath some heavyweight.
I stood as a chill traversed through my body, freezing my veins and stiffening my motions. The crunch continued, with each noise each getting closer. The heavy footsteps followed the winds pushing against my body as I felt the chill of a silver moon.
I was being watched.
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