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Drama Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Down in the damp where the trees clear, deep into the forest the treasure will appear,” I read aloud into the strong silence, my fingers clasping the note feebly. I could feel Aelin staring at me; I twisted to glare at her, “What on earth is this about?”

Her dull grey eyes bored into me. She shrugged. “It’s just a treasure hunt. Figure out what the note means, like you’ve done for the last eight clues. It’s not that hard.”

I sighed, defeated, turning to gaze despondently at the clue again. We had been sweating out in the blistering sunlight for what felt like years, ever since Aelin had suddenly decided it’d be a wonderful idea for us to go on a treasure hunt, just like the ones we used to participate in when we were younger. Those had hardly entertained the likes of me: they were so long and tiresome, only for a miniature, teeth-shattering cookie at the end, which they labelled as a sumptuous treat, and manipulated our childlike minds into thinking there was simply nothing better I could earn in reward for my labor. I honestly don’t believe Aelin really enjoyed them either, nonetheless she still was persistent for me to complete one today that she had set up. I had protested, for my face became horribly engorged and tender with prolonged contact from heat like the type bathing the grounds outside, but Aelin has always had a natural talent of getting me to do things in her favour and had forced me to give in. Due to my incapability to stand up for myself, my face was now incredibly enflamed, and stung in the open air like I had just smacked right into a hornets’ hive. I would have rejoiced with the knowledge that there was only one clue to go – only, that one clue led me right into the heart of the forest. The very place I was most perturbed to be.

Deep into the forest?” I repeated the part of the clue that unsettled me the most. My mouth quite parched, my cheeks throbbed excruciatingly as my lips moved to form the words, “Why not… on the very edge of the forest?”

“Because,” Aelin said just as drily as my mouth, “that’s where I put the treasure.”

I gaped at her. “Are you out of your mind? Why would you go into the forest in the first place, let alone–” I was cut short as Aelin walked straight past me, snatching the note from my frail fingertips. I instinctively followed her, unable to leave her alone to venture right into my nightmares. Not that anything paranormal ever occurred in the woods – the thought of it just left me with anxiety, and it didn’t help that I had a crippling fear of the dark and extreme paranoia.

Lost in my woes, I was stopped in my tracks when I bumped right into Aelin, having not have been looking where I was going. She was facing at me, staring, when I looked up at her. Goosebumps rippled my skin. I stared back at her for a while, until I flinched when she abruptly broke the silence: “I can’t give you away all the directions, you know. I was just leading you into the forest. You’ve got to figure out where abouts it’s hidden.”

My eyes began to roam her face, barely an inch from mine. I knew her so well; however, she was a stranger. I hadn’t even noticed her tie her jet-black hair back, and I could have sworn her skin was a slightly lighter shade than yesterday. I expected to see at least a hint of worry, or even amusement, in her eyes, yet there was none. They were pools, but they reflected nothing, not a single emotion. Her closeness made my insides squirm uncomfortably; I could not stop myself when I stepped back to allow some distance. She wrinkled her nose in either distaste or disappointment. Neither settled well with me, but I was distracted when she thrust the note towards my face. I took it gingerly, wrenching my attention from her to the note again. I nodded and swallowed; my mouth glued shut with angst.

Suddenly my feet were taking me in a random direction. I had unequivocally no idea where the clue was hinting at, only that it was somewhere deep within the forest, a clearing that most likely dipped down, so heading away from where Aelin and I had entered seemed like a smart idea. I could have sworn as soon as I stepped one foot into the forest the ominous night seemed to flood in around us. The throbbing in my face subsided slightly as the coolness created by the thick canopy played with my face, which I was grateful for, however I would have much preferred to be crying out in pain – my face a violent shade of red – rather than be venturing into the forest. I constantly felt as if the trees would close in on us, topple over and knock us down, or the branches would swoop down and squeeze my ribs until they cracked and littered the mud with bones. My insides convulsed in protest. At least, if the treasure Aelin had placed at the end was a cookie, the heat would have softened it a bit and my teeth might live to see sunshine once again, when we finally left this hellish setting.

After quite a while of noise only made by the cracking of twigs underfoot, I let out a gasp as I noticed a bright light sparkling in between some trees up ahead. As Aelin and I neared it, I noticed that the ground dipped down into an uneven clearing littered with puddles from recent rainstorms. My heart leapt as I eagerly checked the clue again – “Down in the damp where the trees clear, deep into the forest the treasure will appear” – and realised we were practically there. I swiveled on my heel to face Aelin, grinning, but she hardly reflected how smug I felt, so I swallowed, embarrassed, and then turned my back to her and began to make my way down the steep slope into the clearing. The sun danced happily through the large gap in the trees, yet did nothing to defeat the eerie feeling the forest gave off. I scanned my surroundings but noticed nothing of the unordinary that could be Aelin’s treasure. Face still bulbous and stinging, I let out a sorry-for-myself sigh as Aelin walked to stand in front of me. “This isn’t it, is it?” I asked gloomily.

“It is,” Aelin replied shortly.

“Then where is the treasure?” When nothing came to my ears but silence for a while, I began to lose all hope. “There is treasure at the end, right Aelin?”

“Well, yes. Look behind you.”

I half expected Aelin to had placed a little plastic tub of two cookies behind me, and us to each take one and laugh about how silly my paranoia was. I turned around preparing myself for the pain my inflated face would cause me as I laughed, but instead was met with the sight of a small metal casket. I was certain it had not been there before, and there was possibly no way Aelin had carried it the whole way without me knowing. Despite the confusion this caused, I still managed to remain expectant of the cookies neatly presented inside the casket – I practically yearned to feel my teeth shattering because of them. However, it was a casket for a reason. When I heaved the deadweight lid open, inside was a body, mangled to fit inside the claustrophobic space. It was practically drowning in blood; the cerise substance was smothered all over the posh violet cushioned base and the skin of the body had almost turned completely red. The blood was dry. A chill rocked the particles of my body unkindly as I realised, I was now alone. That body was Aelin’s.

My head snapped back around. Aelin was not there. She was nowhere to be seen. Of course, she wasn’t – she was dead, inside the casket! My heart thundered inside my ribcage, threatening to break out, and my breath was coming out in a thick vapor. I was surely going mad. I turned back, my stomach convulsing. The blood was dry. She had been killed a long time ago. Someone else had been with me the whole time. Or had someone else ever been with me at all?

June 10, 2022 15:37

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4 comments

Ashley Paige
20:40 Jun 13, 2022

I loved this! The story had a suspenseful, eerie feeling the whole way through and the end was truly terrifying!

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Zoë Page
16:56 Jun 14, 2022

I appreciate the support, thanks!

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M Ezq
14:50 Jun 13, 2022

Wow great plot twist! Loved the suspense!

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Zoë Page
16:55 Jun 14, 2022

Thank you!

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