I can feel my heart thrumming in my chest as I run through the forest. It’s so loud I swear I can hear it clearly in my ears and wonder if that will be what gives me away. Surely they can hear it, too? Isn’t that how they’re going to find me in a few seconds from now?
I sprint in between gnarly trees and try to ignore their curious, watching eyes as I pass by. They know I’ll be found sooner or later and they refuse to protect me. I feel the rough, jagged bark poking into my skin as I lean against one, closing my eyes as I try to catch my breath. I think I hear a noise to my left and I whip my head towards the source of the sound, coming into very close contact with a vicious branch just a few inches from my eyes.
I strain my ears but the noise doesn’t come again and I wonder if I imagined it. It might be possible; I’ve never been more terrified in my entire life. Maybe it’s like how your eyes play tricks on you in the dark and you think you see and hear things that aren’t actually there. Your brain is making them up to mess with your head because it’s registered that you feel scared.
Thinking it’s safe, I step out from the tree and peer over my shoulder both ways. I can’t see anything, but even so I don’t want to hang around to find out that I’m wrong. I’m careful to step over broken sticks on the rigid forest floor, not wanting them to break and draw attention to my exact location. They were so close to me before that I know they can’t be far away.
I hear the sound of deep masculine voices and I know it’s them. I was right for thinking they weren’t far behind. They will stop at nothing until they find me so my only option is to keep running. I don’t have time to stop again to find my breath, so instead I take off in an unknown direction and don’t look back.
A large log over to my left catches my eye, dewy moss covering most of its surface. I know I can’t run forever and I’m quickly running out of energy, feeling exhausted and drained. Falling to the ground, I crawl over and position my tiny frame so it’s lying parallel to the log, pressed right up against it. It seems like just the right size for someone my height since my body is able to be completely obscured. I take the few minutes I have to calm my breathing and steady my heartbeat as much as possible.
Then I hear the voices so close by that it sends a shiver running down my cold body. They’re trying to guess what direction I have run in, and asking each other what they should do first once they find me. They’re all so clear it’s as though they’re right next to me, talking to me as I huddle up against this thick log. The sound of malicious and harsh laughter rips through the forest around me and I close my eyes so tightly that my head begins to ache. I’m afraid to open them in case I see them and jump out of my skin with pure terror. I can’t let myself give away my hiding spot – then I would really be done for.
After what feels like an eternity, I hear the sound of crunching leaves and cracked sticks as they move on in another direction. Even when it’s back to being dead silent I don’t move. I’m still getting over the shock that they didn’t find me. I release the breath I had been holding and open my eyes. Bright streaks of sunlight flood through cracks in the branches above and warm my frozen, pale face. I pull my body out from where it had been wedged and lean my weight on the log to get to my feet.
The sudden rush of movement causes me to feel light-headed and dizzy, but I don’t waste another minute in this forest than I have already. I turn around and sprint far away in the direction I came, suddenly full of hope that I’ll be able to find my way out somewhere around here. I’m safe now and everything will be okay.
Lucy Rebecca x