3 days before...
Every nerve in her body warned her not to go further. As the blood pounded in her temples, her wide eyes strained to pierce the darkness ; all her senses were alert.
And then it happened.
She flung her head back but it was too late - her mouth was contorted in a scream that never came.
The blood flowed like crimson ribbons, snaking through the gaps in her fingers, splattering the ground beneath her.
The black pools of her eyes were gone.
The hum of the school bus engine penetrated the deafening silence of the woods. Laughter and chaos erupted into the air as 7C stepped off the bus and slowly lined up next to it. Mrs Andrews sighed and bellowed at them to get a move on. The group took no notice and clutching their tents and rucksacks, made their way deep into the heart of the woods. Floss was ecstatic. A whole weekend away from her parents and her moody older sister Charlotte, seemed too good to be true. Plus a fun trip with her friends to the woods unleashed a whole realm of possibilities. They could climb trees, roast marshmallows over an open fire or even go scavenger hunting!
She chuckled to herself , " Too good to be true"...
The group had been lumbering along for some time before eventually they found themselves at the campsite where they would be spending the next three days. Floss shrugged off her rucksack and leapt over to join her friends.
"Floss! We're gonna sneak off and explore the woods a bit. You coming ?"
A sense of unease fluttered through her as she gazed up at the darkening sky. She peeked at her watch. 17:52. A little walk couldn't hurt, could it?
A huge grin sprawled across her face as she took off , cutting through the trees, away from the campsite.
"Come on then. What are you waiting for ?"
With a copious amount of shushing, the girls hurried away, further from the eyes of Mrs Andrews and the other teachers.
They had been walking on the same path for hours. Floss' feet ached. Her stomach screeched in hunger. It was impossible to move quickly through the spidery tangle of trees, cloaked in mist, like ghostly stooped figures. Stars peppered the black, velvet sky like polka dots; their only source of light.
"This is HOPELESS! We all know that we're lost for sure and yet we keep stomping along this path. We've passed this tree SEVEN times!"
"Floss!" her best friend, Kate, exclaimed. "Stop harping on at us! Quit complaining and help us find a way to get back!"
Floss stayed silent. It was dark. She was hungry. Her feet ached. Without a backwards glance towards the huddle of her friends, she pulled her jacket tighter around herself and strode in the opposite direction.
"Floss! What you doing? Come back, we have to stay together!"
Their cries rung in her ears but she didn't turn back. Too late now. She stumbled along the path, careful not to glance behind her. Too scary. She tried singing to herself, her breath turning frosty in the air:
In the darkness
Silence. No sound
But you'll find me
Always find me. No doubt
Her head snapped back. Nothing. But she had heard something. She was sure of it.
"Oh don't be stupid Floss. There's nothing here and you have to get back to your friends or even better, camp!"
She scoffed; talking to herself didn't make her sound sane either. She glanced at her watch again. 20:37. Someone must've noticed that she wasn't there, surely by now. Sighing to herself, she perched onto a boulder lying astray on the path, and furrowed her chin into her knees.
" My little Flossie. You look like a little mouse, hunched over like that. What's wrong love?"
Dad's words echoed in her ears. What she would give to be safely back at home. She chuckled ; Dad always made her laugh. Shutting her eyes, she steadily rocked herself back and forth, mumbling the song under her breath.
Her head snapped up. She had definitely heard something. Now she was sure. Shakily, she eased herself off the rock and squinted at the red figure in the distance. She furiously rubbed at her eyes, still milky from the memories of home, and slowly advanced in the direction of the figure.
"K-kate? Is th-that you?"
She froze. Kate wasn't wearing red. None of them were. Her eyes widened in realisation and turning back around, her steps quickened until her feet appeared to be flying. She stumbled and flung her hand out in front of her - groping for something to stop falling. A cold, pale hand gripped onto hers. Flossie pulled herself up.
"Thank you so -".
She stopped. Red. Figure. Watch. 22:17.
The girl drew her face close in to Floss'. Her pale skin was translucent, almost purple under the eyes, disfigured by a mass of scars and seared skin. But Floss wasn't looking at that. Her eyes. Floss knew she had to run. Escape. Shout. The black pools rendered her mute and compelled her to stay.
The girl spoke.
"You shouldn't be here. He'll find you. He found me. Go!" she urged in a croaky whisper.
Hundreds of questions filled my mind. Who was she? What happened to her? Who was he? My eyes frantically danced around in worry, eventually resting on the scarlet stain on her top. I opened my mouth to ask her if she was hurt, but the girl stopped me.
"It's too late for me now. Go."
Her words seemed to vibrate through her chest
"Go! Now! You still have a shot!" she yelled, her voice high and harsh, like the shriek of a seagull.
Flossie understood. She took one last look at the black pools and ran. She ran until tears blurred her vision and the metallic taste of blood filled her mouth. She didn't stop running...
3 days later...
Floss was safe. In the school parking lot, as soon as she had lain eyes on her parents, she had bolted towards them and scooped them up into a furious bear hug. They seemed surprised by this rare display of affection, but smiled and shook it off.
Back home, Floss slumped onto the sofa and switched on the TV, itching to catch up on the latest news.
Floss froze under the blanket and stared at the screen with empty eyes.
Breaking News. Girl. 16. Murdered. Woods.