The bar is overcrowded and filled with sound of rock music along with the clicking of glasses and the raucous laughter that filled the bar. A group of young girls were dancing in the middle of bar, laughing and giggling, enjoying their Friday night.
"Come on, let's show them some moves!" one of the girls yelled, her cheeks rosy, half drunk.
At the corner of the bar, a young man is watching the set of girls, dancing in the middle of the bar. In fact, nearly every one in the bar had their eyes on the group of girls who seemed to have taken over the bar. He guessed that they were all college girls, probably done with their final exams and ready for the spring break. They were all laughing and giggling, shouting above the noise of the music.
But he had eyes only on one girl. He takes another sip of the beer, his eyes never leaving that girl. She had dark hair, which she has let it loose down her shoulders, with tanned complexion. She seemed to be enjoying her time with the girls, as she joined some dancing with the girls, holding a beer bottle in one hand and her arm raised high.
Slowly, he gets up from the seat and starts approaching towards the girl.
Come on Tanisha! Tanisha where are you?
I open my eyes. I blink several times before I can actually focus around my surroundings. Slowly I try to get up and look around.
I have no idea where I was. I was lying on a bed of dead leaves, surrounded by tall trees. Immediately, panic arose in me and I got up, looking around anxiously. Where am I? Why am I here? I cannot even remember how I ended up being in the middle of the woods. I was still wearing the clothes I had worn yesterday--a floral printed dress that my mother made for me. I was still wearing my vintage boots I recently bought from a vintage shop.
"Hello!" I yelled and my yelling echoed back to me. I search for my bag. Where is my bag? What happened?
The only thing I remember right now is me, getting ready to party with my friends, after we were done with our spring exams and me having a conversation with my parents over the phone, telling them how my history exam went.
But I have no recollection of what happened after I went to the party.
First of all, I need to look for my bag...I thought. But I have a feeling that it was impossible to find my bag. Tall birch trees stretched miles after miles, covering the sky. I can only hear the distant chirping of the birds.
A sob escaped from me. I messed up. I lost my bag. I have no idea where I was, let alone what I was doing in the middle of some woods that seem to have an eerie atmosphere lingering around. I am completely lost in the woods.
I decided that I have no time to panic and fear. I have to find help.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. My family psychiatrist once told me this breathing exercise, that will help me to soothe and calm down my nerves. I try in vain to do this exercise but the anxiety is overwhelming and the feeling of being lost in the woods empowered nearly each and every one of my senses.
I start walking, making the crunchy noise on the leaves as I start walking. Where are my friends? I was supposed to hang out with Brittany, Yolanda, Aisha and Hana. Brittany was supposed to pick me up. Did she pick me up from my apartment? But my memory is right now blank. I have no idea.
I continue walking, the crickets chirping from somewhere, the smell of earth and moss lingering in the air.
I try to sing something, maybe that will try to calm down my nerves. I am not much of a singer but I try to hum a tune under my breath while at the same time, focusing on my surroundings. I hummed a nursery tune under my breath. I would have laughed it off if I haven't lost in the woods but the nursery rhyme had the effect of soothing my nerves.
Maybe this is all a nightmare...I thought, trying to make myself believe that this was just a nightmare, that maybe, with a flicker of hope that I will wake up in the comfort of the bed in my apartment. I would laugh it off with my friends, that I saw a dream that I was stranded in the middle of the woods.
But the more I try to think that this was just a dream, the more I realize that this was not a dream. This is actually a reality.
"Hello!" I try again, shouting at the top of my voice, hoping that somewhere, someone can hear me. But the echo of my voice kept returning back to me.
"Please help!" I yelled and my voice start feeling coarse after the shouting, but I didn't care. I look around wildly.
But the woods created an eerie atmosphere. There was no sound. Nothing. The quietness in the woods bothered me.
I continue walking, tears running down my cheeks. I wish I had never left the apartment. I wish I never agreed to go out partying with friends. Instead, I wish I had driven over to my parents' house, ate some of those delicious Sri Lankan meal Mom cooks for every dinner and spend some quality time with my parents.
But I am stranded all alone in the woods.
I continue walking down the woods. I hope that maybe, I could soon come across some interstate or something, so maybe, I could hitch a ride and get some help. But the more I continued walking down the woods, the more the woods became wider and denser, diminishing my dream of escaping from the woods.
And for the first time, in my life, I start praying.
Dear God…I prayed. Please help me to get me out of these woods…
I prayed and prayed, praying the same thing, like a mantra, that God would magically open a way for me to escape from these woods and get me safely back to home.
I have never been to these woods. Maybe I must have passed by these sides of the woods while driving through the interstate. I am not much of a hiker or outdoor person but now, I wished I learned how to hike. Maybe I could have used my hiking instincts to escape from these woods.
I wished I had a compass or some GPS router for me to guide me out of the woods.
I continue walking, telling myself to not give up and praying. For some reason, past memories came flooding back into me. The time when my parents, my sister and I went to Sri Lanka to visit our relatives, the time while I was there, my grandmother made me sit on her lap as she sang some lullaby. For some reason, thinking about that lullaby made me miss my grandmother, that we are more than ten thousand miles apart. I missed my cousins back in Sri Lanka. A sob escaped from me.
Will I ever see them again? Will I ever even meet my parents and my sister? The thought suddenly made me nervous. Am I going to die in the woods and no one will ever find me again? I have heard stories of people going missing in the woods.
I continue walking, not willing to give up. Maybe there is some hope. Maybe, I might get help. Maybe…
Then I saw something that made stop in the track.
I see a log cabin—a large cabin with darkened windows. A flicker of hope came through me and quickly, I run towards the cabin. I can finally get the help I need! Maybe someone in the cabin can help me to leave the woods. I can go back to my apartment and laugh with my friends, how I lost in the woods.
The wooden steps lead me to the front door. Excitedly I knock on the door.
There was no answer.
The flicker of hope that came into me seems to be dissipating. Panicking, I knock harder again.
“Help!” I scream.
The door opens by itself.
I stand motionless wondering if I should go in or if I should leave and continue trying to find my own way to leave the woods. But I know that I will be unable to leave this place, unless if I find some sort of help. Maybe, I can steal a compass or a phone, to alert the police that I am lost in the middle of the woods.
I enter into the cabin, greeted by the smell of stale beer and nicotine. I glance around the cabin. A tattered sofa is in the middle of the cabin with stacks of magazines lying on the sofa. I approach towards the sofa and realize that they were all porn magazines. There was a coffee table and on top of the coffee table, there was a half empty beer bottle and an ash tray filled with cigarette stubs. A half-eaten pizza is lying on a plate. I shake my head feeling disgusted. An alarm is ringing in my head that I should immediately leave the cabin but I frantically looked for a phone, desperate to end this nightmare.
“Hello, is anyone home?” I called out.
There was no answer.
I see another door and I open the door. The room is dark and the smell of blood and sweat lingered in the air, making me feel nauseated. I gagged, wanted to throw up but I flicked the light switch on. The lights illuminate the room.
I froze on the spot. I stared at what was lying on the bed.
No…my head screamed as I stared at the bed. No…it can’t be.
There is someone lying dead on the bed, half naked. Her face is staring at the ceiling, eyes wide open, the mouth opened in the shape of an O. Her arms are tied behind her back and her legs are spread further away from each other. The sight of that made me sick but the worst feeling is…
That girl who is lying on the bed…is me.
Sure, enough I see my bag lying among the mess.
What happened to me? What am I really now?
I hear someone humming outside and the door creaks open.
Then when I saw him, all the memories came back again.
That night on the fateful night. He had the most beautiful, gorgeous blue colored eyes I have ever seen. He has dark brown hair, combed neatly back. He was clean shaven, wearing an office attire with crispy white colored shirt and dark pants. He smelled of after shave lotion. He asked me to dance with him and I was dancing with him, happy that I was dancing with the gorgeous man in the bar. Brittany was teasing me.
He didn’t notice me in the room. Maybe because I was just an illusion in the room. He grabbed my bag from the floor. I wanted to grab the bag from him, claw at him, bite him. But I can’t do any of that…because the real me is actually lying dead on the bed.
He pulled my purse out of the bag, dropping the bag back on the floor. He fishes my ID out of the purse and tosses the purse away. He pulls a sort of log book from the drawers, turning the pages. With a panic feeling, I realize that there were countless victims before me. I try to read their names while he flipped through them—Adriana, Maya, Kelsey, Sasha, Ramya…
And finally, he came across the new page. He takes a glue and pastes my ID on the new page. Then he takes a pen and writes a number on top of my ID.
I was his twentieth victim. I am just a number to him.
He then glances at my dead body and lets out a laugh. A laugh that will give a chill down the spine. I see him walking towards my dead body.
“I am sorry Tanisha…but you really remind me so much of her…”
I want to remain in the room, want to know what he is going to do with my body. But someone is gently grabbing me from the back.
“Tanisha…you don’t have to watch this,” I heard a gently voice behind me.
I turn around. A girl around my age, with dark hair just like mine, greenish eyes and olive colored complexion smiled sympathetically at me. Behind her, there were all the other girls, all had dark hair, all around my age or maybe younger or older.
“I want to know what he is going to do with my body,” I whispered.
“He is going to bury you deep in the woods, just like us,” she explained.
Tears start rolling down my cheeks.
“I don’t want to die,” I sobbed even though I know it’s useless crying about it. “I was going to graduate from college this year…I want to get married…I was going to get this job…”
“We all had dreams Tanisha,” another girl chimed in, approaching towards me. “But he took them away from us,”
“What about the police?” I asked.
“They will soon find him,” the girl assured. “But will still take some time. Someday, we will all get justice for what he did to us,”
They slowly pull me out of the cabin, away from the horrors of the cabin and back into the woods. Suddenly, the woods didn’t seem eerie as before—it is now filled with light and birds are chirping merrily, as if they are happy that we are having freedom.
“I am Adriana…I was his number one, the first victim,” The girl who talked to me first, introduced herself to me. One by one, the victims introduced themselves to me. Maya, Kelsey, Sasha, Ramya, Karin, Hailee, Isha, Farah, Cassidy, Kyra, Michelle, Pooja, Maisha, Ursula, Linda, Tyra, Winita, Aimee…
“I am Tanisha…I was his number twenty, the twentieth victim,” I said, my voice cracked as I introduced myself.
Then we all started walking around the woods and eventually up to the heaven above…so we can observe how our loved ones are feeling with us gone…
I wonder, if my parents and my sisters think if I am really coming back and how they would feel when they realize that I will never be coming back.
“I am Ian,” the gorgeous dude said introducing himself.
Ian is working in a bank as a bank clerk and hoping to be promoted soon as a manager. He was so handsome and gorgeous and Tanisha is already feeling heads over heels with him. She wasn’t sure whether it was the drinks that made her feel this way or whether those feelings were genuine.
She followed him out of the bar, telling her friends that she was going with Ian. They were in a deserted part of the parking lot. Ian ask her to help her with something and while she tried to help him, she felt a heavy blow on her head and an excruciating pain overwhelming her. She succumbed into darkness, not realizing that he had handcuffed her, put her on the backseat and drove away from the parking lot towards the dark foreboding woods. She didn’t even realize that this man’s name is not Ian, that he is not really working in the bank, that he is a psychopathic serial killer who had been roaming around for months with both the police and FBI at his heels trying to end his killing spree. She didn’t realize that soon, she was going to be his twentieth victim.
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