Oliver looked around in terror, believing the bear had attacked someone nearby and that they once again would be in danger.
“What the hell was that?” he asked.
“The scream came from that way,” said Mia, pointing to the right.
They slowly walked to the trees alongside the path. They saw the ground sloped down to the valley. Mia tried to take one more step forward to have a clear look, but Oliver pulled her back before she could slip.
The three of them stood by the trees and looked around to find the source of the scream.
A few seconds later, what they saw made their hair raise in horror.
Mia’s hands flew to her mouth as a scream tried to make its way out. She was looking at a man thrusting a machete in a teenage boy’s gut and dragging it horizontally to the right and then to the left with all of his force.
“So, the psychopath story is real?” said Mia.
The boy’s severed body lay on the ground beside the bank. Next to him lay a girl’s body. Blood was streaming from her stomach.
“Yes. The psychopath is real,” said Oliver. “I hope we return safe and alive.”
The killer bent, having finished with the boy, bent down to the girl, and started to take off her clothes. There was an X symbol cut into her stomach and a hole near the belly button. It seemed like the killer first had thrust the knife into her stomach and then carved the X symbol.
The killer checked the girl’s pulse and then held a hand under her nose as if to check for breath.
“Dead bitch!” he said.
He looked around.
The trio was frozen in silence in the trees, hidden from sight. They were lying on the ground, taking a position of concealment just like a sniper as they watched in trauma from the top of the valley.
Oliver grabbed his hair, perhaps feeling some type of pressure in his brain. Trying to stay silent, he walked away, slowly. He stumbled as if he would lose consciousness.
He leant against a tree across the path, bending forward to be sick at its roots.
Petrified, Jany remained lying on the ground, gaping at the killer, who was perhaps preparing himself to have intercourse with the corpse.
Mia stood up, keeping behind a tree to stay hidden. She looked at Oliver and Jany with tears flowing down her cheeks. She tried to speak but couldn’t let the words out of her mouth.
She took a deep breath. Then she cleared her throat.
“Jany!” she said in a croaky voice.
Jany remained the same, unresponsive.
Mia cleared her throat once more.
“Jany,” she said, her voice clear but soft, as she was afraid the killer would hear her, despite him being down in the valley. She bent and gently shook Jany, holding her by the shoulders.
Jany opened her mouth as if about to scream, but Mia swiftly clasped her mouth.
“Don’t! He’ll hear us!” she said.
Jany stared at her for a moment and then nodded. Mia took her hand from her mouth.
Jany stood up and followed Mia toward Oliver.
“We will die. He will find us,” said Jany. She was speaking too loudly, panicked. “I hope my friends are safe.”
“Be brave, Jany,” said Mia, swallowing the fear. “Think positive. Just stay together, and we will find a way out of the forest.”
All the while, Oliver stood watching them. For a moment his terror had paralyzed him. He had no answer, no solution, only the storm of horrifying thoughts of their death in his mind.
Oliver took a deep breath and removed a water bottle from his backpack. He drank a few sips. He cleared his throat. Then he said, shifting his look between Mia and Jany, “Mia is right. We can get out of here.” He paused. “We must hurry and try to find a way back to our original path before dusk.”
A silence fell for a bit as the trio exchanged a look, nerves clear on their faces. They looked around them at the different paths.
“Where did we come from?” asked Mia.
“I’m not sure. I was so scared,” said Oliver.
“And everything looks the same to me,” added Jany quickly, looking at the paths on either side, both covered with branches and leaves littered from the storm.
Mia unzipped her backpack and slowly, quietly pulled out her axe, still glancing around for signs of movement. “Alright! Let’s go this way,” she said, adjusting her backpack back on her shoulders.
They set off up the chosen path, but Mia grasping the axe strongly.
Just a few steps on, Jany slipped on some wet leaves. She fell and let out a scream that rang through the air.
Oliver scanned the area in a panic.
Mia swiftly helped Jany back up.
Jany hissed in pain as she stood, clearing the dirt from her scratched elbow while Mia brushed off the dirt from her clothes.
“I hope he hasn’t heard your scream!” said Oliver.
Jany and Mia looked toward the valley, following his eyes.
They waited for a few more seconds in stillness.
The psychopath didn’t appear.
“Keep moving!” said Oliver in a very soft voice, only audible to Jany and Mia.
They resumed their walk.
After a few minutes . . . Mia began to feel that someone was following them. She looked through the corner of her eye, but she could only see trees.
The hair on the back of her neck prickled as her senses still signaled someone’s presence.
All the while, Oliver and Jany kept walking hurriedly without glancing back.
Mia turned around slowly. Still no one, only the emptiness of the forest. When she was sure she couldn’t see anyone, she turned back and strode on to catch up with Oliver and Jany.