“Molly! Give that back,” the redhead sprinted to the other side of the parking lot with a black phone in hand. A brunette followed close in distance quickly catching up. Abbey cornered her friend, the red-head grinning like a Cheshire cat as she held the buzzing phone. Brianna could only stand and accept the usual chaos that erupted when they all got together.
“Abbey, you’re the one who left your phone out,” Molly held the device behind her back as the brunette consistently grabbed at the rectangle. It was less like two college-aged women fighting over a phone and more like two twelve-year-old boys in a fight over a pack of cards. As insane as this fight was, Brianna felt comforted though. To have friends who acted like idiots was better than ones that acted like snakes.
“C’mon Molly, give it back to her,” Brianna walked over to the two girls, stepping in between them in an attempt to intercess and get the phone back from Molly. Behind them, a large wooded area loomed over the group. The dark green trees were set against a grey backdrop, in the midst of the June heat. This setting brought different things to mind for the three girls. For Molly, it brought back memories of the Twilight films. For Abbey, it reminded her of her formative years playing video games at her friend's house after school right at the end of the school year. For Brianna, her mind went to darker places of being left to wander in the woods with her siblings, frantically texting her friends to come to find them after out running their father or whoever inhabited their trailer. These woods elicited the same cold and shrill feeling of a glass snake crawling up one back, a feeling Brianna was all too familiar with.
“She’s hiding whatever is going on with her and Dylan-I know it!” Molly cried. The fourth member of the little group, Dylan, seemed to have an odd dynamic with Abbey despite being several years her junior. The two had constant banter and jabs since the day they had met, but where it had started off with both parties being generally antagonistic or indifferent to the other had eroded into a knowing warmth and witty electricity. If this was not thoroughly annoying to the other two members of the group, it was at least entertaining to watch.
“For the eighteenth time, nothing is going on!” Abbey stuffs her phone in her pocket, her face growing rose red at the thought of a relationship. Her general avoidance had little context to it, aside from possible bad previous relationships and religious convictions about sexual dynamics. Her countenance allowed her to share such things but still found them private at best. Sexuality seemed most appealing to the young woman when kept behind a closed door with a locked key.
The same knowing cat-like grin crawled across Molly’s face. Her insistence on getting Abbey to admit it was based on her desire to set the two up. A well-intentioned desire that may lack general knowledge of the differences between the two, or the comfort level. The attempts to get Abbey to admit feelings towards Dylan ended with a shutdown silence and refusal to answer questions further. “That explains why you two look at each other the way you do!” The excitable girl cries.
“Will you shut up!?” Abbey scolds dynamically motioning her hands with a loud cry. At that moment, a car coming up the way pulls Brianna’s attention from her friends. For a brief moment, something feels as though it crawled up her spine-a shiver. A vigilant moment that echoed those childhood days of escaping an abusive patriarch and wishing to hide and protect her family. A fear that never quite left her and never would. Relief comes over her as she sees Dylan sitting in the driver’s seat and not a stranger, or a familiar face that she wouldn’t want to remember (or a familiar thing).
“Can you two stop, he’s pulling up!” As Brianna yells in a hushed tone, the two stop. Molly still had a grimace on her face, but Abbey averts her eyes to the ground out of shyness and feeling generally flustered. Brianna often wondered if she could tell her two friends about this memory or if they would write it off as fabricated. Molly was more open-minded about odd things happening than Abbey was. Where Molly would venture into a supposedly haunted house, Abbey would exercise more caution and restraint. They were differing personalities, but each was as necessary as the other in the group.
The car door slammed across the lot and the fourth member of the group stood out. His tall frame loomed over the car door as he flung his backpack over his shoulder. Brianna could think back to the decision to go on this adventure. Molly had suggested the location, Dylan had brought up an odd (and vaguely gross) story about said location and Abbey had to be thoroughly convinced by the other three to come (despite her enjoyment of the woods). Brianna was just content to be with a group of people who seemed to genuinely like each other's company, something she had not seen in her more formative years.
“Hey guys,” Dylan’s voice is loud and chipper, whatever creatures lay beyond the trees would either find the little group or be frightened off by him. He stops and looks down at the brunette, shifting his focus on her with a teasing smile, “Hello, Alicia”.
The brunette cocks an eyebrow at being called the wrong name, “Dan.” The two had moved passed this long ago but had seemed to keep the inside joke of calling one another by incorrect names. This seemed to be a common way the two greeted the other now without fail. As funny as it was, it gave way to the very specific dialogue between the two and illuminated them amongst the group. Showing the other two members of the possible chemistry that existed and was kept secret.
“Are you coming?” Brianna called up ahead, she slid down a fallen log and climbed into the gorge that led to the waterfall, Abbey and Dylan followed close behind her. Abbey, stopping to look at the occasional decayed animal carcass and him obliging to her will in an attempt to gain her approval (this piqued Brianna’s interest as well). Molly on the other hand was far behind the group, often stopping to pick up rocks (more frequently than Abbey had stopped to look at the skeleton).
“Yeah, I found this cool rock though. There are several layers of strata and-” Crack! The shatter of wood and rocks can be heard not too far asunder. The loud noise halts the little group in their steps. Brianna stands and thinks to herself about the sound. The crack and twist bring to mind sounds of escaping a shanty her family had resided in as a child. She would take her siblings out to the woods.
“Guys, did you hear that?” Abbey says in a low breathy voice, trying to keep quiet.
“What?” Dylan looks as though he’d seen a ghost. His face had turned several shades paler than usual. There seemed to be a sliver of denial in him about the sound he had just heard. Something that could not face the awful noise that had echoed a few moments ago.
Crack! The sound echoed again, but in a more gargled dense tone. This time it was closer.
“That noise,” Brianna’s mind cleared. She knew what it was, she had spent all these years hiding from it and it had fully returned.