Photo by Ian O’Neill
The night air breathed against her skin as the moon crept across the sky. Leaves rustled like children’s mocking laughter. A shiver ran down her spine.
“Come play with us.”
The chorus of whispers tickled her ear. She slapped at them as they giggled and faded into the distance. Eyes darting from tree to tree, she searched in vain for some sign that it was more than her imagination. Shadows stretched across the ground, flickering in time with the strobes of moonlight flashing through waving branches. She huddled further into her jacket and pressed forward in search of the trail.
A twig snapped to the left. Her yelp was followed by snickers from behind. Pain shot through her shoulder as a jagged rock landed at her feet. She bolted, running full force through the trees. Tears blazed trails down her cheeks as branches lashed out against her bare skin. Lungs burning, she caught sight of the trail ahead. A flashlight bobbed in the distance.
She sucked in a deep breath to get their attention, but a shove from behind sent her flying. Tumbling to the ground, she landed in an aching heap a few yards from the open trail. She fought to catch her breath as pain seared through her spine.
Fingers brushed the skin of her face and arms, caressing locks of her hair. Whispers too low to understand circled her.
“I don’t want to die,” she gasped.
Unified, the voices were clear.
“Neither did we.”