Trigger warning Self harm, blood
This stupid map is going to get us killed, I thought to myself as I tried to read it through my ski goggles. My hands shook like they were going to fall off the snow and the wind was fighting hard to rip us off the mountain. Fortunately, my parka kept me warm and the gear in my backpack was a good reminder that I can survive this. “We’re lost, Adam. My friend yelled in my ear. “You have to admit that now.” It’s been… I-I don’t know how long it has been, but what I do know is that it's been more than a week." That “tour guide” that gave us the map was nothing but a con artist.”
I tried to look for a place to rest for both of us. The snow makes it more difficult.
“Over there’s shelter,” I yelled at the top of my lungs and pointed to an opening of a cave that was just a few feet in front of us.
“Good let’s hurry over there. I’m freezing my ass off.” Yelled Chris as he ran past me and disappeared into the cave. I rushed over, hoping that the cave wouldn’t disappear in the snow.
As soon as I got into the cave, I saw that Chris had already started to unpack his things and was trying to make a fire.
“How did we get ourselves into this? He muttered to himself.
“I don’t know, but hopefully we can get out of this,” I said, trying to make myself seem calm and collected.
“I hope you’re right. I want to see my wife and kid again.”
The fire roared to life. The light illuminated his grim face and made his hollow cheeks look like they were a jack-o-lantern. His matted hair came down around his biceps. His beard had grown like it had decided to make it look like a jungle. And, his seafoam eyes seemed just as hollow and empty as his cheeks. “I just want to go to sleep and get this nightmare over with.
I sat down by the fire. “Don’t worry, we just have to find a river or a creek and follow the stream until we find civilization.”
“Okay wilderness master,” Chris let out a dry chuckle before his face became grim again. “Do you think the crazy man the people in the village told us about who killed his friends and family that lived in the wilderness people told us is actually real?”
Digging through my backpack, I pulled out one of the last cans of beans and handed it to him. “No, I think that’s just superstition.
“But, people kill other people all the time.” He said he had a spoon full of beans in his mouth.
“They also said that he was seven feet tall and could transform into a massive bear.”
“Hmm, I guess you're right. Anyway, I’m going to pack it in and try to get some sleep. He took out his sleeping bag and handed me the can. “You should finish this. You’re as skinny as I am. I took the can from his hands, my stomach screaming at me to down the entire can, and I listened to it. I ate the beans at ravenous speed. As soon as I was done with the can, I took out my own sleeping bag. “Tomorrow if the snow stops, we will head down the mountain and try to find a stream that will hopefully lead us to civilization.”
“Alright, sounds like a plan. I’ll see you in the morning.” And, with that, Chris went to sleep. A few minutes later, I decided that I should go to sleep, but when I started to close my eyes, I saw a seven-foot man with razor sharp teeth that could tear into the most massive animal, half his face falling off, starring at me with a grin that could split the sides of his face.
I bolted upright and wanted to scream, but when I opened my mouth, nothing came out. His sickly yellow eyes held my gaze. I tried to look away, but I felt like I was in a trance. I tried to stand up and run, but my whole body felt like it was frozen. All I could do was shut my eyes and pray that he could go away. Slap. SLAP. I hear his disgusting fungi-infested feet getting louder and louder with every step he takes. His breathing is like someone who has smoked cigarettes every day in his life. I feel hot tears streaming down my face. My body shakes like it was still out in the cold. “You’re not real.” I repeat to myself, voice shaking. The man didn’t say anything until I could feel his breath that smelled like rotten flesh against my cheek.
“Hello,” his voice gurgled in his smoker's lungs. “I smell your delicious flesh. Might you spare me some?” I felt more hot tears stream down my face.
“You’re not real.” My voice quivered. I pulled out my hunting knife to defend myself. And, after a few minutes, he was gone. I looked around to see if he was hiding somewhere, but he wasn’t anywhere. I let out a huge sigh, put my knife back into my pocket, and allowed my body to finally relax, allowing myself to go to sleep.
In the morning, I looked outside the cave and, to my surprise, I saw that the snow had stopped. I went over to Chris to wake him up and tell him the good news. But, when I went over, I saw that he had dark rings underneath his eyes.
“Did you have a rough night?” I asked.
“Ya,” he snapped. As I got a closer look at him, I saw that his eyes looked red from crying.
“Are you alright? Do you need more time to rest?”
“No, I’m fine.” he said in a serious manner.
“All right, it has stopped snowing, so we can leave this mountain and start heading down.
“Okay let’s pack and get off this Godforsaken mountain.” As we were packing, I realized that Chris would jump at the slightest noise in the cave and look all around as if he was seeing something that I couldn’t. As we were heading down the mountain, Chris came right up to me and whispered. “Do you see them?”
“See what?” I was looking really hard to see what Chris was seeing.
“The Shadow people are everywhere.” He shut his eyes real tight and covered his ears to stop himself from seeing or hearing them. I looked around to see the shadow people, but again I saw nothing. We have to get home. It’s starting to mess with his head. I thought to myself as I put my hand on his back to comfort him. We got down the mountain and were in the middle of the forest when it was dusk. We set up camp and that’s when I realized that Chris had gotten worse. He was muttering to himself, but when I looked at him directly, he stopped and gave me a wave and a slight smile. During the night, I heard him talking louder and laughing to himself. When morning came around, I realized that the dark rings underneath his eyes had grown deeper and bigger.
“Dude,” My heart sank as I looked at him. He was as pale as if someone had drained all the blood from his body. And, as thin as a twig “Did you even sleep?”
“I slept a little.” He said, a grin forming on his face.
“Here let me go find some berries, and then we can keep on moving.”
“Alright, I’ll stay here. And, keep watch of the camp.”
As I went deeper into the forest, I started to think about how Chris’s wife and child would react to him if he was too far gone. Or was he going to stay this way as somewhat insane?
As I was thinking, I came across a berry bush. I knelt down to see what they were. The berries were glistening in the sun. I took a closer look and realized that they were blackberries. “These are perfect,” I say to myself, picking them by the handful.
As I walked back to camp, I saw that Chris was gone. All the supplies in the backpacks were gone. And, the fire was out but there were some burning embers.
“Hello,” I cried out, “Chris this isn’t time for games.”
SNAP. I quickly turned around. Not a few feet from me was Chris. His right hand was slick with crimson blood. In his left hand was a large serrated stick as big as a sword. His eyes were saucers, and he was shaking uncontrollably.
“They told me to do it”, He spoke in a soft but odd tone, but as he spoke, blood poured rapidly out of his mouth.
“Who told you? And, why are you bloody?” I said, backing up, getting ready to take Chris down if I needed to.
Chris raised his bloody right hand.
“I’ve been talking with them and I wrote down what they told me. What I need to do.
He wiped the blood from his hand and for a moment I saw some writing that was quickly overtaken by blood.
“I can get you help, Chris. Just come with me. We can make it to civilization to-.”
Chris blew a raspberry that was mixed with spit and blood. But, as he blew, I noticed that part of his tongue was missing.
“You don’t know that.” He screamed, then let out an uncontrolled high-pitched laugh. “Do you want to know what they said to me?
He came closer and closer until I was up to the fire pit. He put his hand into the embers without flinching and grabbed some sticks left over. The stick hisses as the heat from the stick mixes with the moistness of the blood.
“They told me to kill you,” Christian said and then flung it at me. I ducked, the stick nearly hit me. When I turned around, my eyes went wide. Chris was coming at me with the other stick, holding it like a baseball bat. I turned around and bolted into the forest. Chris was right behind me. The branches were cutting up my face. I was zigzagging through the forest. Chris howling like a banshee. The fresh pine filled my nose along with the iron smell of Chris’s blood-soaked hand. As I went deeper into the forest, the branches started to block my vision. All of a sudden, the ground disappeared from my feet. I was in free fall for a couple of seconds. SMACK. I hit the ground hard. I feel my vision going dark for a split second.
“I have to keep going.” I moaned. I tried to look at the sky to see how far I had fallen, but the sun was too bright. My head was pounding. I tried to stand up, but a sharp pain made me crumble like a sandcastle being swept by waves, I looked around to see if Chris was anywhere around. I couldn’t see him. I let out a sigh. What I did see were the forest ends. And, I heard the rush of water. I struggled to get up, trying to put all my weight on my good leg and hobbled over to the sound of water. When I got out of the forest, I realized that it was a medium-sized river. Big enough for fish to swim across but shallow enough that I could stand up and walk. Then I remembered that water flowed to civilization. I felt a spark of joy. I was going to make it. Then I heard something rip through the forest like a bat out of hell. I whipped my head towards the sound, I pulled out my knife, hoping it was an animal.
Out, of the forest came Chris. He was panting like a dog. His face was cut by the branches, and he lost the stick. But, when he saw me, his face lit up. I tried to hobble away as fast as possible. SPLASH. I knew that Chris was in the water. Now it was just a matter of time before he caught up to me. I tried to hobble faster, but Chris was catching up to me. I felt myself getting tackled from behind. I turned around, and I saw Chris's maniacal smile as he put his hands on my throat and pushed me into the water. I thrashed trying to get his hands off him, but he was too strong. Then I pulled out my hunting knife and swung widely. I heard a yelp and felt Chris’s hands leave my throat. I got up gasping for air. Chris was clutching his throat, his eyes wide as blood came pouring out of his neck. He weakly reached for me. I pulled back just out of his reach. He stared at me for half a second and fell forward, not breathing.
I got up and turned around, not wanting to look at the body. I got out of the river and hobbled off in the direction it flowed. It felt like hours before I saw a group of people standing near the river laughing and going for a swim. One covered her mouth and pointed to me. Two men came running towards me. I felt my vision go dark as I was completely exhausted.
When I woke up, I realized that I was in a tent. My leg was in a splint. I tried to get up. A man in a flannel shirt was watching me. When he saw me getting up, he came to me. And, laid me back down.
“Don’t worry, we called an ambulance. You’re going to be OK,”. He turned towards the front of the tent. “Hey guys, he’s awake,”. He turned towards me. “Do you mind telling me what happened?” I tried to talk but the memories of the stress it had been living in the forest and what I did to Chris came rushing into my mind.
“I-I.” My voice wavered, and I began to sob.
“Hey man,” he raised his arms. “It’s okay. You’re okay. I’m going to head out, and later you can tell me what happened.” He left the tent.
“It’s over,” I tell myself. And, I decided to rest until the ambulance gets here.