The crackling of burning branches set the mood for a hazy trip down memory lane. At night, a forest held secrets that couldn’t be seen in the daylight. Makes you wonder if those things are real. But then again; the acts of the moon are mysterious.
“Remember how we used to go to the arcade in the middle of the night just to watch the lights?” Ashley said. The group of girls was sitting on the ground, some were sitting on their jackets or a blanket that they laid down. Others used their blanket to keep themselves warm on this autumn night.
The almost endless conversation took us anywhere we wanted. But only to places we’ve been before. What if we did everything there was? Would friendships fall apart if all we have left are memories that would only return on nights like these? Would new adventures come to us or do we have to wander these woods to find one?
Cara stood up and walked towards a tree, “We should totally mark this place.” She took out a knife from one of her boots. As she started carving her name into a tree, Felicity and Sadie stood up too, encouraging the other girls to join them in carving their names in a tree. An act as simple as this one can influence the story of other people, even through time, it may keep its original meaning.
We carved all of our names in the same crooked tree, hoping it will last a lifetime.
Looking for a bigger adventure, Wendy walked into the dark forest. Ashley tried to stop her, “Wendy, don’t go in there, it’s not safe.”
“I thought we were having fun,” Wendy said confidently while walking further into the forest. “Come on.” She continued. Felicity and Sadie followed her, hoping to make another memory. Ashley was still trying to stop Wendy. I watched everyone go into the forest except Ashley. I walked towards the trees too.
“Bethany, no” Ashley said but then sighed and joined us on our trip into this maze of trees.
Then suddenly, there was this scream. Ashley and I — who were behind the group — looked at each other and then ran towards the scream. It was Wendy, on the ground. Dead. Sadie was crying, kneeling beside Wendy. Then I saw Cara holding her knife, which was bloody. I got angry and was about to attack her.
“You did this!” I yelled. Ashley and Felicity stopped me. Cara saw the bloody knife and dropped it.
“I didn’t kill Wendy, I swear!” Cara said while looking at me.
“Then why the fuck do you have a knife with blood on it?!” Sadie stood up and picked up the knife, holding it towards Cara.
“Wendy was walking right in front of me, I heard her scream, and..” “and then .. " Cara couldn’t recall what happened.
“Then what?!” I said. I took away the knife from Sadie’s hand and was planning to attack Cara again.
“Girls, look.” Felicity was looking at something in the distance. We all looked at it. A hotel appeared like a magical mirage. It was like the hotel had always been there. We all felt the magnetic pull of leaving this mess behind and starting over. I dropped the knife into the leaves and it made a thud sound. We all looked at each other like our minds had reset and forgotten what just happened.
We didn’t say anything during the walk, but that changed once we arrived.
“I’ve always wanted to stay at a big hotel!” Ashley exclaimed, bringing back the campfire mood. The hotel looked like it had been here for centuries, but it still looked inviting and lively. The girls entered the hotel. It looked bigger on the inside; hardwood floors, high untouchable ceilings, and a wooden staircase leading to the upper floors that had never-ending hallways.
There was no one else besides the girls. The hotel was completely empty. The lights flickered once and I felt a cold breeze. Ashley walked up the stairs and we followed her. She practically danced through the hallways of this abandoned hotel, it was like she had embraced the danger. She opened a door to an empty room. There was no bed, nothing. Felicity also opened a door to a room with no furniture at all. I opened a door too, revealing a room that was not empty. A white cloth covered something that looked like a bed. More cloths were covering different pieces of furniture.
“Where are Cara and Sadie?” Ashley asked. Felicity shrugged but I walked through the hallway to look for them. When I looked behind me, Felicity and Ashley were gone. I called them, but there was no reaction. The lights flickered again. Then I saw Felicity. She walked towards me and suddenly I could feel myself holding the knife that I left in the forest.
“Have you seen Cara and S…” Felicity asked me. But before she could finish the question, I stabbed her. Something was controlling me. My hands were shaking now.
No no no. A few tears rolled down my cheeks and I could finally control myself again. I let myself fall to my knees beside Felicity. I tried to take the knife out but only made it worse. There was blood on my hands and I was sobbing. I touched Felicity’s soft hair which made it pinkish red. I didn’t know what came over me, but I knew I had to leave. I opened a door to an empty hotel room and saw Ashley standing there. I wanted to go anywhere else but she stepped toward me comfortingly. She held my bloody hands and said: “I’ll tell them I did it.”
Sadie walked in and held my hand too. “You’re not alone in this,” she said, somehow knowing everything I did. Soon Cara came into the room, doing the same.
The girls were holding each other’s hands, all bloody. It looked like a fucking cult. In the middle of the night in a strange hotel, none of us knew what was going on. What was taking our lives, one by one? Who can we trust, if not our friends? The secrets shared over these past seven years were now untrustworthy and painful to everyone who believed one another. We all pretended to be loving and kind when on the inside, we were torn apart, forced to choose between familiar faces and the sake of our own survival.
Cara let go of our bloody hands and somehow, the knife was back in her possession.
“Tell me who did it. Tell me who killed Felicity!” Cara was looking at me. Ashley saw this and told her she did it. In the blink of an eye, the lights went out and I heard crying. We were all trying to find our way in the dark. Then the lights turned on again. Ashley was laying on the hardwood floor with Cara standing above her. Blood dripped from the knife onto Ashley’s flower dress, which was now stained with red.
“Ashe!” I yelled while rushing to Ashley and sitting down next to her. Meanwhile, Sadie was trying to calm down Cara. Ashley was choking and said something vaguely none of us could understand.
“You’re okay, you’re gonna be okay.” I held her hand, which slowly felt scary cold. I could feel her life fading away. Ashley closed her eyes. Then I looked at Cara, I was furious.
It’s been three days since the deaths of our friends. I know I wanted an adventure, but this is not what I meant.
“I think I know how to survive,” Sadie mentioned. We sat on the hardwood floor in the empty hotel lobby.
“Yeah, just kill Bethany, all she causes is death.” Cara mocked.
“You started all this, you brought that cursed knife with you!” I almost yelled.
“Stop! We have to work together.” Sadie tried to calm us down. “We have to get rid of the knife.”
“I tried, and I ended up holding it. So that won’t work.” I said impatiently.
“That’s because you were the last one to touch it,” Sadie explained. “Now, Cara has the knife, but she killed Ashley,” Sadie paused for a moment, looking at us. “and no one has touched the knife after that, and apparently she can’t kill someone twice in a row.”
Cara put the knife on the floor, in the middle of us. Sadie stared at it like she was being called to it. I looked at Cara then at Sadie, and I could see she wanted to take the knife.
“Sadie, no!” It was too late as Sadie had the knife tightened in her hand.
“Go on, kill Bethany.” Cara was trying to manipulate Sadie. “Do it,” Cara whispered loudly. I stood up and so did Sadie.
“Sadie, don’t.” There was a tremble in my voice. Cara had also stood up to watch it, but suddenly Sadie turned to Cara.
“Help me.” Sadie quietly whimpered. I heard her words and saw the fear in her eyes.
“What the fuck Sadie!” Cara yelled as the knife struck her. And her words faded into the hotel, echoing their way to the ceiling like it was trying to escape. The knife fell on the floor, just like Cara.
Sadie fled upstairs and I followed her into the hotel room with the furniture. We had taken off the cloths and they revealed a bed, an old couch, and a wooden desk. I saw Sadie sitting on the floor against the back of the bed that we had slept in. Her tears made trails of makeup on her cheeks. I sat down beside her, and after a moment, I held her warm hand. Sadie kept quiet, staring at the floor in front of her. We sat here for what looked like an hour, but it didn’t matter, cause in this moment, we had all the time in the world.
The lights flickered. Sadie tightened the grip on my hand and I did the same. For the next few seconds, nothing happened. Suddenly the knife appeared in front of us like a mirage, just like how the hotel appeared. We both saw it, but we were so tired of everything, we ignored it. I stared into Sadie’s eyes and felt weird, then I kissed her. I can’t wait to tell everyone about this memory; remember how we used to kiss in a hotel where we murdered each other cause we were controlled by something dark and evil?
The weird feeling didn’t go away after the kiss, then I realized it was a mixed feeling of love and betrayal. The magnetic pull to the deathly weapon grew bigger, I tried to resist grabbing the knife. Sadie noticed it.
“You don’t have to do this, focus on me,” Sadie said while holding both of my hands so I couldn’t take the knife. There was a moment Sadie let go of my hands. The magnetic pull was still there, stronger than ever. I took the knife and it sunk itself… into me.
It all happened so fast. I could still see Sadie, only it was a little blurry. I heard her words, but it was like my ears were echoing everything, it felt like I was underwater. I got a headache. Only then could I feel the pain where the knife was. I saw red hands and felt them against my face and through my hair. Sadie’s voice now sounded like a favorite song that glitched and then stopped. I couldn’t feel anything anymore. The last thing I saw was Sadie’s blurry face before my vision turned red. Then slowly turned to nothing.
Now you carry all our memories, the good and the bad, the living and the dead. In the end, you were still my friend, if not more.