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Into the Woods

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No one had warned you against camping in the woods. No ominous foreshadowing, no cryptic messages or ill-begotten warnings about malevolent things looking to snatch you up.

No, all those you had told merely wished you well, told you to have fun and enjoy your trip. Of course there were the well wishes to “be safe” and “take care” but that's what everyone always says, like they're reading off a pre-arranged script.

It was nothing short of normal.

So how could you have foreseen things would turn out this way?

How could you have known you’d meet your worst nightmare?

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The room is dark, cold, and smells… off . You can't quite place what it is about the scent but something in the back of your mind tells you this isn't normal; this isn't safe.

You try to push the thought away, further and deeper into your subconscious, and instead focus on the only point of interest—the only thing you can make out—in this cold and unfamiliar room.

There's a thin line of soft, golden light trailing along the floor, a faint outline of a door.

A way out?


Or is it some kind of trick? Some kind of trap?

He’s probably waiting for you on the other side.

A shiver races through your entire body, quickly followed by another, and another, and another—they just won't stop! You're a trembling mess and you don't even know why.

You know why, you just don't want to admit the truth.

The sound of the floorboards creaking somewhere off a ways reaches your ears. You strain them to listen, muscles tensing and shoulders pulling in. You don't even realize you're holding your breath.

The footsteps are getting closer.

And closer…

And closer…

They stop right outside the door.

Your teeth are clenching so hard, your nails biting into your arms as you desperately try to sink in on yourself.

You jolt when the door slowly c r e a k s open.

It’s him. The skeleton with the manic grin and the smashed in skull and a single, bloated eye-light that shines an ethereal crimson. He’s backlit from the golden glow of the hallway, his front falling into heavy shadows. But even then you can make it out—the innumerable stains all over his grimy, tattered shirt. And then it clicks. That’s what you're smelling.

The iron stench of blood.

Death stands before you, bathed in it.

And he’s smiling wide.

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p u m p k i n .”

You didn’t think it possible, but at the mere sound of his voice your trembling increases. Your teeth are chattering and your eyes are watering.

How did he find you?

“what’re ya doin’ in here?” He leers down at you, that crimson eye of his casting a haunting, blood-red light over his skull.

Your mouth is so dry. It hurts to swallow.

You don’t respond.

“you’re not supposed to be in here,” he tells you and you want to run, to flee back through the hole in the wall you had crawled into this room from. You had been so proud of yourself, had thought you had found a way out—a merciful escape from the prison this deranged skeleton had thrown you into. Clearly, you had been wrong.

You manage to tear your watering eyes away from the skeleton, a desperate attempt at locating another route of escape.

If you bolted fast enough, could you make it past him?

And just as you shift your gaze, it catches on something that makes your skin tingle and your hairs stand on end.

The skeleton wasn't the only thing covered in blood.

There’s a severed arm just to the side of the door. A leg. You’re not sure if that head is connected to a torso or not, long brown hair cascading around it like some kind of morbid curtain. The longer you stare, the more pieces there seem to be.

Just how many people have fallen victim to this maniac?

Are you next?

Bile rises in the back of your throat, an acidic taste tinging your tongue. You’re going to throw up. You’re going to-

“oh, pumpkin,” the skeleton coos as you retch on the floor. “see, this’s why i told ya to stay put.”

You don’t see him move but suddenly he’s squatting beside you, boney phalanges rubbing at your back. Some sick mockery of sympathy—as if he actually cares about you. Your skin prickles where he touches. You want to shove him away, want to get as far away from him as possible, but you can barely even muster the strength to support yourself on your shaking arms. Tears fall freely from your eyes, cascading down your cheeks in unrestrained rivulets.

“c’mon,” he says, “let’s getcha somewhere cozy.”

You don’t have the strength to fight him off.

He takes you to his room.

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His room is far from cozy.

It’s freezing cold and reeks of iron—of death and rot. Clothes and garbage are strewn about and his bed is an absolute mess.

Your skin tingles when you catch sight of the ax resting against his nightstand. It looks very well used. You don't think too hard on the rust-colored stains that mar its surface.

He carries you to his bed, shoving a few questionable objects from its surface before laying you down. You huddle against the wall, nearly pressing yourself against it. You try not to flinch as he crawls in beside you.

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Like everything else in this godforsaken place, his scratchy blanket totes a rather pungent stench.

You don't want to be here, laying beside the monster that spirited you away, that’s keeping you against your will.

You want nothing more than to push him away, to make him hurt and suffer. To subject him to even a fraction of what he has put you through. Maybe you could bash his skull in with the ax not even five feet away.

Wouldn't that be spectacular?

But the way he has you caged against his chest, legs tangled, leaves you short on options.

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“just relax,” he coos to you. He’s running his disgusting phalanges through your hair, a mockery of a comforting lover. “i’ve gotcha.”

Why is he doing this? Why is he so infatuated with you?

Is this some kind of sick game he plays with those he snares in this forest? God, you shouldn't have come here.

Your chest aches as you ruminate on your situation. If you clench your teeth any harder, you chance cracking a tooth. You hate this so much; you hate him so much.

You startle when something brushes against your cheek.

“ya don't needa cry, pumpkin.”

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He’s brushing away tears you hadn't even realized were falling. He takes a moment to just rub at the apples of your cheeks but when his thumb brushes against your bottom lip, you freeze.

Tension and dread twist in your gut.

You hold your breath and a shudder races down your spine when you hear him groan. He nuzzles the top of your head, pressing you ever closer to his chest.

“i’ll take good care of ya,” he all but purrs.

You're not sure whether he means that as a promise or a threat. Either way, it doesn't bode well.