Venturing deeply into the forest on misty Sunday. While mist-covered fields, roads and empty lakes, Three friends would step into woods – looking for a place to spend a night with nature. Lurking their way deeper to hear of the forest. When skies turned from bright to dark three friends would gather to spend a night under the stars, carrying with them guitars and good company.
“Your turn to gather wood Josh,” Mariam would point towards Josh and then to wood “Last time it was me, so don’t try to squeeze yourself out of it”
He tilted his head and full with confidence emerged deeper into woods, carrying just a flashlight with him.
“Wait,” Helen would wave at him from behind “I’ll come with you. More wood, right?” She winked, but he didn’t know how to react to it.
Both now disappeared in the dark and only sound from them remained. Crackling from tiny branches breaking and bush leaf sounds were the only thing coming from a deeper side of woods, besides their voices.
Mariam was the oldest and the smartest one around, he stayed back to prepare tents. When those were finished he started with snack unpacking and tuning his guitar – slowly singing late night blues. Guitars sounds could be heard in a wide radius around him and he could hear Josh with Helen singing along the strum of a guitar. He began playing with more excitement and both – Helen and Josh would continue singing along, with minor mistakes along the song. It was fun, they liked it, even if they had to pick up wood for rest of the fifteen minutes.
Josh sat at the edge of his tent and with guitar in his lap, strumming slowly his favorite song – Hotel California. When he got to the middle part of the song, Josh with Helen would emerge from the dark part of the wood, signing a hook from the song with, full passion.
“WELCOME TO THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA… Such a lovely place, such a lovely place.”
“God I love this song.” Josh dropped wood in the empty fireplace and continued singing. Quickly fireplace filled with wood and Helen pulled out a recording device.
“By the way guys, I found this while collecting wood. Wonder what’s on it.”
A curiosity in all three of them gathered around one recording device. She extended it in front of her and pressed play – soft female voice began playing.
–“Don’t you just like the smell of a forest? Each leaves different aroma and smell of freshness hugging you from all the side. Sounds of beautiful untouched place, birds chattering and sounds of life – yes you heard it, did you. It’s like home, for those who enjoy peace, a peace that is something rare these days isn’t it-“
“Those bright daylights, when the sun hits through tree leaves and warms up the ground – peaceful feeling right. Can’t wish for something more than this, calm, peaceful, green district of my town, well our town, obviously. Wish you were here with me, or another way around it-“
“I’ve been here for hours and nothing seem to change; the same greenness surrounding me. I think I’ve seen this tree, just a few minutes ago, but no – I couldn’t be lost. I kept going straight, no circles and no turns, just plain straight line. I have to take a break-“
“I’m not lost, compass keeps me moving west, to water-“
“Keep simply going with the flow, you know, casual way of society. I’ll find a way out, soon. But firstly I’ll enjoy the nature, like we use to do it, remember. When our mother told us to quit sitting by the computer and go out, enjoy the nature she would say. Aww… I miss her… You too-“
“Okay! This isn’t good. The same tree again, with the same broken branch hanging loosely from the top. No, I’m not lost, I checked the map in the phone and it showed I am moving forwards – am I? Or I keep denying the hard truth, that I am lost and have to make way back, follow the footprints. Sounds impossible, right? But let’s try it, let’s try to get out-“
“NO, NO, NO-“
“The same tree, I’m sure of it. With my bare hand I peeled off some of it, and it’s the same, I’m sure of it.-“
“I went back. Followed the footprints. I even tied rope at the tree and kept going, but nothing. Came back and it wasn’t there. Am I not alone here-“
“Okay, okay. Focus. If the west is where I went, then I should go East, right? The obvious way, but is going to lead me out? I don’t know truly. I can only hope for a way out. This isn’t what-“
“There is something here, something not human. Something big. Bear perhaps or something close to its size. Did he break my rope? No, he has no reason to do it. Come on, let’s face it. Being lost and something size of a bear with me, here, in his terrain. This isn’t good, I’m scared. If something bad happens, I just want you to know. Know that I love you, sis-“
Static from recorder continued and all three of them didn’t know how to react. Josh began turning around, observing surroundings.
Josh pointed to the tree, the same tree. It still had branch hanging loosely at the top of it and weirdly peeled off some part of its texture. Everyone started getting weird shivers.
“Holy shit. Guys, I think we have to go. I don’t like this at all” Mariam began going for his guitar and fastly began packing things
“Wait, there is a possible explanation.”
“Possible explanation? Lady literally said ‘lost’, the same tree she passed over and over again. Dude, let’s be real here.”
Mariam began being realistic and nervous. With panic and fast pace, he began collecting his stuff – tearing down tents and packing essentials. Helen stood by them, still, with no movement. Her legs trembled slightly and she calls out to boys.
“Guys… There is more, listen!”
“Fuck me, sis. That isn’t bear. Hell, that isn’t animal either. It’s something else. Something you see only in horror movies. Some experiment went wrong and escaped to the wilderness. His face looked like wolf’s; body huge, as it was bear belly with wolf’s head attached to it. He stood on two legs, but ran with all four-“
“He caught me and we stared at each other, I began running with no looking back. I don’t know how I got away, perhaps he’s playing with me or weight from bears part is slowing him down. I don’t know-“
“Sound came from bushes at a slight distance away from me. I’m scared, sis. Before he finds me, I just want to tell you. I love-“
“NO, NO, NO. FUCK THIS.” Mariam grabbed his head with both hands and kept repeating “Why, why, why. Why today?”
“Easy man. Breath. We can do this. Helen, help me with packing bags, will ya.”
Josh pointed to bags and then looked at here. She stood right beside them, still, with a recorder in her left hand – awaiting next message, but there wasn’t any. Endless static went on and on until it would restart and begin all over again. A tear slid across her cheek and she stood still, no panic, no nothing. Helen continued gazing into dark parts of the forest, trying to make sense of it ‘is it out there?’ she silently muttered.
“HELEN! Snap out of it. We have to go.” Josh looked into her eyes. In eyes, which were filled with fear and sorrow. “HELEN!” he grabbed her by both hands and began shaking her. She wiggled like unconscious women – her body stood there, but her mind was gone. Josh shook and shook her, trying to get a response from her. Helen stopped looking into the forest and turned her eyes to Josh.
“We’re going to die Joshua. There is no point of trying. Accept the faith.”
“Bullshit. Snap out of it Helen. I know you can. This is just some stupid prank to mess with us and fuck me – it’s working. HELEN!”
He snapped his finger in front of her eyes. Josh tried and tried, but nothing.
He gave up on her and began helping Mariam with last of the stuff ‘only the necessary, like phones, wallets, camera and such’ he would say. Both boys were ready to go and Helen pointed into darkness.
“Look.” In the dark, two red dots, furry red dots were glaring at them.
“Run, run, run” Mariam padded on Josh’s shoulder “RUN!”