The sound echoed again, and this time, it felt like it was coming from my left. Oblivious to the absence of footwear, I pressed on, heedless of the pain inflicted by sharp thorns piercing my vulnerable soles. This was the third time I ran like this. It had been going on for what felt like three hours, just like a loop, each more scary than the last. To aggravate things, with each loop, a brutal delusion would enclasp me, convincing me that freedom was within my grasp, only to push me back into the devastating depths of this termless nightmare.
This time around, the forest grew thicker, almost suffocating me in its grip. As I ran through the forest, almost drowned by the thick sense of dread coursing through my veins, it made my heart beat like a drum, almost as if it wanted to rip right through my ribs.
As for light, I was deprived of one. The moon was barely out, as if it were scared of the unknown. I thought to myself, "The stars are more like the moon." The dim brightness only worsened my vision. The little light they produced just served to cast distorted shadows that danced menacingly amidst the dense foliage. The once familiar surrounding had turned into a twisted and cursed labyrinth of torment.
Whispers, barely audible yet eerily persistent, teased me from all directions. They slithered through the air and weaving through the trees, as if they possessed a life of their own. Desperation almost choked me, denying me the ability to scream. The forest seemed alive, its spite amplifying with each passing moment.
Running through the forest, I saw the faces of my loved ones twisted into viscerally revolting masks. At this point, the line between dream and reality had been blurred. I found it hard to believe that I was still sleeping peacefully somewhere because it felt like I was there, body, soul, and spirit.
The ground beneath me quivered. It felt like it was preparing to swallow me whole. A sense of impending doom settled on my neck like heavy chains, weighing me down, sapping my strength. The air grew heavier and scarce, almost as if someone was stealing it directly from my lungs.
Just as I reached the peak of exhaustion, my legs no longer able to bear my weight, the whispers intensified. They transformed into maniacal laughter, as if mocking my futile attempts to escape their grasp.
With one final burst of adrenaline, I let out a primal scream, piercing through the suffocating darkness. And then, silence. The forest fell deathly quiet, as if holding its breath. It was almost as if it was confused on how to act next. My bloodshot eyes scanned the surroundings, awaiting the next twist of this twisted nightmare.
But gradually, with bated breath, I realized that my surroundings had changed. I found myself lying on the floor of my well-furnished bedroom. How I got to the floor from my bed remains a mystery to me till this day. But above all, I was glad that I had finally escaped that gruesome nightmare.
As I exited my room, a sweet smell drifted to my nose. It was like the smell of fried eggs and bacon. This was my favorite breakfast. I waddled my weary feet down the stairs into the kitchen only to find my elder sister cooking. I greeted, but she didn't respond. I didn't put it to heart because I thought that she was too busy to answer. That was until she faced me, and then I saw that she was faceless, lacking facial orifices.
It was at this point that I knew that I had never woken up. I was still in the twisted nightmare, but this was different. It wasn't like the other nightmarish loop that I was used to. This one was occurring right in my home, and for some reason, it felt far scarier than the last one. It wasn't like how the last loop was where the next cycle was always scarier than the last. This new cycle completely dwarfed them all. It was like comparing a sesame seed to a watermelon.
I didn't even think twice. I sped out of the house. I ran so fast that if any speedster saw me, they would have stood astonished by the speed by which I ran. I made a grievous mistake of looking back, and then I saw the figure of my faceless elder sister hot at my heels.
My heart pounded in my chest as fear, just like a jet engine, propelled me forward. I weaved through the familiar neighborhood, desperately looking for who could help me.
But as I ran, the cursed nightmare, as if taunting me, made my surroundings dilapidated and decayed. I saw little children playing, but as I passed by them, they turned their faceless faces towards me and laughed, as if mocking me. I ran into an alley and hid.
As I tried to collect my thoughts and think straight, I heard a still yet eerie voice from behind me say, "Little one, are you lost?" I felt shivers run down my spine like eels swimming down a waterfall. I turned around swiftly, about to start a new bout of running.
As if sensing my intentions, the figure clad in a black hooded robe clasped me and "Spake gently, 'Fear not, little one, for I may be the key that you need to escape this cursed place,'" the figure said. I didn't want to believe it, but I had no other choice. Either way, I had nothing to lose.
I followed the figure until we reached the end of the alleyway. Then it abruptly stopped and opened a door out of thin air, telling me to enter. The entrance was pitch black, but thinking again that I had nothing to lose, I jumped right in.
I opened my groggy eyes to the bright light of the summer sun wafting through my window blinds and the sweet smell of fried eggs and bacon, yet again. Thinking that I was still in the nightmare, I wanted to jump right through the windows. It was at that instant that my mum barged into the room to wake me up. Seeing me climbing the windows about to jump down, she screamed loudly and threw the stick in her hand right at me, and I fell through the window.
Opening my eyes, I saw a white ceiling. I wanted to jump up again to make use of the window as I did before, but this time, my mum was right beside me and held me down. It was then that I recognized that I was in a hospital. Remembering how I jumped out of the window of my room, I realized that I must have fainted. Then I smiled because this was enough confirmation for me that I was out of that traumatizing nightmare.