The townsfolk of Burkittsville, previously called Blair, knew enough not to go deep in to the woods anymore. The outskirts of the woods made for great fishing and game hunting, but any farther than a few hundred feet, and people warned against it. Even though it had been nearly sixty years since the seven kids were killed by Rustin Parr, people still refused to let go of the legend of the Blair Witch. Elly Kedwards was tried for witchcraft, found guilty, and tied to a hay cart and left in the woods to die.
The old town square of Burkitsville was now on the very northern side of town. A whole acre of land was cleared to make room for the new Town Hall on the south side of town in the 60's. Several dirt roads used to traverse the town. Each used to lead either to the center of the old town square, or to the one road out of town. Rustin Parr's house was not far off one of the dirt roads though the state of the road gave heed to anybody who would have traveled it that this was not a very well-traveled path, and thus it led to a residence.
Rustin Parr had built the four-bedroom home with his father and some of the townsfolk as a summer home in the woods. His father was well liked as the local minister and had grown kind when his son was born. Rustin was of below average intelligence, but he shared his mother and fathers kind heart. The people in town were nice to him, treating him as an infantile his entire life until his father's death. His mother died some ten years prior from Scarlet Fever, and when his father died of an infection in his leg, the townsfolk stopped being so kind to Rustin. The house they had built as a summer home soon became his permanent residence. He found the solitude of the summer home to be preferable to the judgment and noise of society.
Now, several decades later, the house lay undisturbed and there were no imminent plans to change that until three strangers wandered in to the woods. Not just the woods, but HER woods, Elly's woods, the Blair Witch's forest.
Camping: Night 1
It was 35 degrees inside the tent and Josh had always been a light sleeper. He heard a noise outside the tent and figured it was a deer or maybe a fox. The forest was full of the sounds of animals, and since they were camped so close to the river, he could hear branches creaking from beaver dams and the quiet squawking of birds that were restless for the sun to rise. He wasn't quite sure what woke him up from a deep slumber, but he figured it was around 3am and he probably had a few more hours to catch some shut-eye. The walk back in the morning hung over him because they had walked so far the previous day, so he wasn't looking forward to it. But he would be glad to get back to civilization and his girlfriend who he had left angry at him spending a weekend in a small tent with another girl. But he felt confident their documentary would be worthwhile, and so he decided he would pick up flowers on his way home to her.
Suddenly, in the midst of thinking of his girlfriend and how he borrowed a camera from work without permission, the forest fell in to a dead silence. There was no wind, no birds or bats shrieking. He heard a small hoot and scuttle that could be mistaken for an owl. Immediately after he heard a voice. It brought warmth to the cold that bit his cheeks because it was as soft as a summer breeze and as comforting as his mother voice when she tucked him in as a child. The voice was female and it whispered gently to him to sooth his soul, "Josh."
His eyes shot open as he stared in to the darkness and he could hear the noise of two people. One seemed spatially higher than the other, but they were very distinct clicks and cracks in the dead silence of the night. He didn't see any light from flashlights, so he couldn't even tell how far they were from the tent. Then again, he realized he might not even be in the tent; his mind was still half asleep but his nerves were alarmed. The sounds were like that of people taking steps, but they weren't succinct; he was hearing one in a certain direction, then two or three in another direction. The footsteps were uneven and unnaturally far apart; no human could be making that noise. One of the figures out in the forest muttered something in a high-pitched, child-like voice. The other didn't respond, but their noises stopped. Several seconds pass of deafening silence before he heard the rustling again, but this time it was farther off. Then he heard the cackling.
It wasn't like fire and brimstone cackling. It was like a quiet, high-pitched laugh of triumph. It cracked like the owner, who was definitely a woman, hadn't spoken in years and it sounded very happy. The second the cackling stopped, the forest came alive again with the babbling of the nearby river and branches gently brushing up against each other. He stared in to the darkness for several minutes before letting the lids of his eyes slide shut.
"So you heard noises last night?" asked Heather curiously. She was a college student who was majoring in Film Production. She had a round face and her eyes were permanently downturned and slightly squinty.
"I totally heard noises last night," responded Josh as he wiped the sleep out of his eyes. He shared several classes with Heather and was getting a degree in Film Design and Script. He had a fondness for experimenting with his hair; sculpting his beard perfectly and keeping his blonde hair long but shaving it underneath, giving it a punk-like uppercut.
"You see the problem is I sleep like a fucking rock."
"It was like there were two separate noises coming from two layers of space over here and one of them was kind of like, one of them could have possibly been an owl but the other one was like a cackling, was a definite-"
"No way," chimed in Mike. He was a first year film student and had recently changed his major to Sound Design and Engineering and had signed on for a very dull documentary that he hoped would look good on a resume. His hair was short and buzzed the way his mother had always cut it, and he still had some of his childhood baby fat in his cheeks.
"Was a definite, total cackling," concluded Josh.
Camping: Night 2
He just knocked over one of the piles of rocks. Elly repeated it to herself again. He just knocked over one of the piles of rocks. It made her giggle with delight at seeing the desecration of the grave markings she made for the seven children. That was the moment she knew Josh was the one. He was like Rustin Parr in that he was kind hearted and slightly dim-witted, though she suspected it was because of the cigarettes he smoked. She remembered how Rustin Parr, after agreeing to help her, requested that he at least kill the children without them see him do it. He couldn't bear the thought of traumatizing a child by letting it watch him kill another, even if that child was soon to follow. He would rather them die an innocent than aware of the realities that was life in the countryside.
It made Elly giddy with excitement that she would finally be able to take revenge on the men who left her to die in the woods. They were foolish, and should have burned her and buried her ashes in several different spots around town so that her power could never merge again. Rustin Parr was the first man to agree to help her take revenge on the men who had done that to her; by killing their children, and their children's children, she would stop their legacy forever in the same way they had stopped hers. But then Rustin turned himself in at the end of his contract. She had tried again with Mary Brown; Elly even got to Mary when Mary was a young child. But she had been unable to fulfill her contract, and now she was so old she couldn't even hold her bible open all the way, let alone hold a child still while she killed them. But Elly held no ill will towards Mary; Mary left signs on her gate that Elly was welcome whenever she needed shelter.
That had been Elly's last chance because now many of the great grandchildren had moved away from the town and were having children of their own. It would take her decades to track them all down, that is, if she could leave the woods. But she drew her power from the forest and she couldn't move beyond its borders. She felt herself get weak every time she got close to the road that led in to town, and even found herself dissolving in to a grey mist if she tried too hard. She was sure a drunk fisherman had seen her, but beer bottles littered the ground around him so she was sure he wouldn't remember.
So all these years she stayed hidden in the depths of the forest, waiting for anybody unsuspecting enough to stumble upon her path. But she was not completely alone. She had told her story to each child after Rustin killed them, and they were sympathetic. In fact, they included her in their games and she became a sort of surrogate mother to them. They would play stickball in the woods and run through the trees as she chased them in a game of tag. Even though her feet didn't touch the ground, she still lifted her white dress in front of her out of habit. It was all good fun until a bright light destroyed their dark paradise, the blinding white of the camera light forcing Elly and the children away from the tent and into the forest.
Camping: Night 3
"Help me, children," Elly whispered through the fog of rain, and they came to her. "Stay out of the light," she warned. She knelt down on wet leaves and collected rocks large enough to fit in each hand, and instructed the children to do the same. They treated it like a game of who could find the bigger rocks which was difficult since they were so sparse. Once the rocks were collected, a little girl who couldn't have been more than six or seven years old, held up one to Elly.
"I found the biggest," she giggled.
"That's wonderful," Elly beamed down at the girl before she took the rock and examined it. "Yours shall go on top of one of the piles, we just have to wait for them to go to sleep."
"Why do they have to die like us?" asked one boy in brown breeches.
"If I am ever to take revenge for my life, I have to have their blood. The blonde one-"
"The cute one?" chimed the young girl with the largest rock.
Elly couldn't help but smile dreamily. "Yes, the cut one, he's going to help me. But I must create three piles to strengthen the ritual and to make sure it really works."
Heather and Mike sat outside of the tent, staring in to the darkness where the children played. But the children stopped laughing and let the campers fall into a false sense of security. They waited until the tent zipper was closed before running silently over to the tent to help Elly set up three piles of rocks, one for each of them.
Camping: Night 4
Now that they had been surrounded by the stones and walked through the doorway, they were doomed. Elly knew that, the children knew that, but the campers had no idea. The first step was the three stone piles because it bound them together, and bound them to her power. The second step was walking in to the clearing that she used to call home. When she was an impoverished child begging for food on the streets, she would tie pieces of twigs together to make little dolls to play with. And now she used them to capture the group, and the more time they spent near the powerful dolls, the faster their deaths were going to approach.
"Does that mean we can play with them now?" The girl who found the large rock the previous night asked.
"Yes, that means you can play with them now, but we have to wait for dark."
Sometime after midnight, Elly let loose the children. They ran off in the direction of the tent, giggling and laughing. They beat the tent with their hands and shook it so violently that the campers ran for their lives.
After they ran from the tent and didn't return, Elly got to work. She had to mark Josh, let him know he was the one she chose. He didn't need any of his old clothes or possessions; she could provide for him. He had heard her the first night and knocked over the rocks; he was such a good soul that she couldn't just let him go. She let the children take care of the belongings of the other two, but Josh's she personally tossed about, giggling with the children as they danced over the fallen tent.
She tied together four sticks in to a square pattern, and by tying each twig together three times, she turned them around. When they left this spot in the morning, they would end up back in the same spot. And if they tried to leave the next morning, they would end up there again, the following evening. They would never be able to leave now.
Camping: Night 5
Josh sat awake on the first watch, shivering in his sleeping bag in the tent. He left his sleeping bag half zipped because he wanted the cold to keep him awake. He tried to tell himself that he wouldn't fall asleep if he zipped it all the way because he was so afraid to be the only person awake. But he was so exhausted and hungry that he didn't trust himself. So Josh kept the sleeping bag unzipped.
Sometime after Mike's snores quieted to a steady, even rhythm that denoted a deep sleep. Heather was passed out as well, and that was when Elly made her approach.
"Shh, don't wake your friends, but I'm here." She whispered right outside the tent.
"What the fuck?" Whispered Josh and he unzipped the tent to peek out. He saw the shadow of a figure moving from side to side as if switching her weight from one foot to the other.
"It's just me, come outside. I have something to tell you."
"What the fuck?" he said again in disbelief. But he stood up willingly and was compelled easily out of the tent, still wearing his boots that he'd been too afraid to take off in case they had to run from the tent again.
He stumbled out of the tent and zipped it so as not to wake Heather and Mike and as soon as the tent was zipped up, he found his hand placed in Elly's. Her hand was warm and he followed her in to the woods.
"I have something to show you."
"You're real," he whispered. She nodded her head, and soon the children gathered around them, walking with them towards Rustin's house. "You're all real. Holy shit, it's all real."
"It is. And if you help me, I can get you out of the woods."
"Mmhmm," she nodded again. He couldn't see her face but felt immediately secure with her and like she had a solid plan, more solid than Heather's. "And you will take me with you, but you have to do as I say."
"When can I get out?"
"In two days."
"I'll do anything you ask."
Camping: Night 6
The knees of his pants were soaked through from the cold, wet ground. Rain from the previous days had left the ground squishy at worst and frozen at best. But in this area, the permafrost hadn't quite frozen and his pants soaked up the moisture like a sponge. His face was dirty enough to see the tears leaving streaks as they slipped down his cheeks while he begged on the ground. Elly stood in front of him, her face hidden in the pitch black night as he pleaded.
"Don't make me do it.
"You have to," she whispered. Her voice was soft and soothing, giving him a little nudge along with the magic she possessed that made him more inclined to follow her suggestions. It was easier to have a willing victim than to force his hand.
"It's going to hurt though, I don't do well with pain."
"I promise if you do this, I will take away all your pain."
"Please don't kill me," he begged for his life.
"I promise," she continued to whisper, forcing him to choke back his sobs so he could hear her words. "I will not kill you. I will give you warmth and take away any pain you feel. But you have to do this for me."
Josh wasn't sure how the plyers got in to his hands, or where they had even come from. He couldn't think straight between the starvation, dehydration, the freezing cold during the day and even colder nights, and her persuasion. "It's going to hurt," he whimpered.
"It won't in the end, but you must do this first." He lifted the pliers to his mouth and felt the cold, rusted metal against his lips. He opened his mouth and felt it hook to a molar. His grip tightened, and he could taste the rust on the inside of his lower lip. The rust tasted putrid. He looked up at her on his knees, clutching the plyers with both hands as if in prayer, and pulled hard.
He screamed harder than he ever thought possible; his balls sucked right up in to his body with the pain as he screamed. He threw himself forward, dropping the plyers as he screamed. He could feel the warm blood on his tongue and taste the saltiness; it wasn't the warmth she promised. But she was inside his head and could hear his thoughts.
Simultaneously as he said, "No more," she whispered,
"No please, god no," he begged.
She knelt in front of Josh and cupped his cheek with one of her hands. His vision was blurred because of the tears that wouldn't stop.
"Just a few more, and it will all be over."
He choked a sob and felt her hand leave his face, letting his head drop. He felt around blindly in the darkness for the pliers, and reluctantly found them. He lifted them to his lips and opened his mouth, placing the plyers on the other side. He couldn't look up at her because of the pain that made his entire body shake. He could feel the plyers against another molar on the other side of his mouth before he pulled.
Camping: Night 7
Josh awoke some time during the day. The first thing he remembered was the taste of rust and iron. His mouth was dry and caked with blood as he pushed himself up in to a sitting position, blinking hard in to the sunlight that flooded the room. He looked around and saw the dilapidated state of the entryway. The front door was blocked by wood that looked like it was from the house itself; he was sure one of the pieces was a support beam. And while not completely impassable, the doorway would definitely be a feat to get through. The house was decrepit, a shadow of its former self. Dirt covered the floor, spider webs were layered upon dirt which were layered on top of more spider webs. The forest had done a poor job of elegantly reclaiming the house, not doing it fast enough but leaving enough mess to make it uninhabitable.
He groaned, putting a hand to his cheek and he could feel how swollen his mouth was. He let his tongue feel the teeth next to one of the gaping holes, not daring stick his tongue in the hole because of the threat of infection. He groaned, feeling like he had been hit by a truck. Josh's head and in fact his entire body felt worse than it had ever felt from any hangover.
"Drink this," Elly said. She was suddenly kneeling next to him with a metal canteen cup filled with fresh water. He grabbed her hand, making sure she kept holding the glass and he dumped it in to his mouth, taking three large gulps before swishing around what was left in his mouth and spitting it out. The water came out red with dirty brown flakes and he took a deep breath. He suddenly felt much calmer before he looked up in to Elly's face.
"You did a wonderful job," she set down the cup and stroked a hand through his hair.
"Why are you like this?"
She smiled softly at him and let her hand fall to her side. She wasn't as scary as he had originally thought she might look. Her face was plain with a button nose that was slightly upturned at the end, and she couldn't have been more than thirty years old. Her hair was a dull brown and slightly wild, and she wore a white chemise, which he assumed was what she had been wearing when she was left in the woods to die.
"The townsfolk were cruel."
"Cruel enough to deserve this?"
She nodded her head and instead of getting mad, the wrinkles on her forehead creased as she got sad when she realized she would have to recount the tale.
"I was eleven the first time I got pregnant. Unwed, no family, and I made money by picking mushrooms and wild berries and selling them in the market. Well, a girl that age with no home, trouble is bound to find her." She sighed. Josh's eyes filled with sympathy. He knew enough about history to know she was talking about being raped.
"The second child I birthed was born dead, and after that I retreated to the woods. It was there that I found magic that had been waiting for a woman's touch. It claimed me. But when I emerged from the woods a decade later half-starved with a baby in my arms, they claimed it was the child of Satan. They threw my child in to the river and left me in the woods to die. How am I supposed to not become cruel after what they did?"
Josh reached out and took her hand, nodding his head in understanding. "How can I help you to be at rest?"
"I won't rest until all their family members are dead. They deserve it, for what they did."
"I'm so sorry you had to live alone for so many years in this house. What can I do?"
"Help me." Her face changed from sad to soft. "You're already halfway there, I just need you to lure your friends here, and kill them."
"Do I have to?" he asked in a childlike manner. She squeezed his hand,
"You can turn them away from each other, like Rustin did, if that will help."
Josh nodded his head. Somehow with her around, it was easier to think about murder than it normally would have been.
"I'm going to put you back to sleep, so you can rest up for tonight."
"No, please," he said, but he could already feel the haze of sleep clouding his mind.
"It will be fine, and when you wake up, you'll only have one more task before we can leave the forest."
"I'll be able to leave?" He laid down on the ground, unable to keep himself upright.
"Yes, and so will I."
Josh shouted out the second story window for Heather and Mike, trying to sound strained. "Somebody," he screamed. He heard his friends respond. "Please," he cried as they got closer to the house. It was terrifying at night with its peeling paint and cracked walls. They entered the house and Heather was nearly silent, following Mike for the first time during the entire trip.
"Shout again, they've stopped moving," Elly whispered in his ear.
Josh shouted again, and his friends responded. "Say that boys name again, the one who's always yelling."
"Mike, please" Josh's voice cracked. He then heard them running up the stairs and he moved quickly. He went quickly through the rooms, realizing he knew the exact layout of the house though he wasn't sure how that was possible. When Heather and Mike entered the first bedroom on the left, he ran towards the staircase through the rooms on the right side of the hallway, zipping past them as quickly and quietly as possible. He made sure to avoid the third step down since it always creaked. He ran past the handprints that the ghosts of the children made, and went to the basement where he knew he could hide behind an antique dresser before they went downstairs too. He was sure they would separate before they got to the basement so that Elly could grab hold of one's mind and keep that one in a corner.
Camping: Night 8 – The Way Out
Josh stumbled on to a deserted dirt road, looking up at the beautiful sight of the blue sky. Elly looked up to the sky through his eyes and in unison they began to cry at the sight. He began to stumble down the road towards civilization which he hoped wasn't too far. Now that Elly's spirit had incorporated itself with Josh, she could no longer keep him warm. He stumbled, half numb from cold and half numb from hunger, until he found a small rustic cottage. There was no car in the driveway and there was the remnant of smoke coming from the chimney. He knocked on the front door, but nobody answered.
He stumbled around the back and broke the glass of the door with his elbow, unlocking the door and he let himself in. He found his way immediately to the bathroom, ignoring the furniture and decorations. It was clear that this house was still inhabited and had only recently been built, but he didn't care at this moment if the owners came home. He needed to get warm and eat if he was going to help Elly. Never in the history of showers had anybody ever been so grateful to have hot water pouring over the top of their head. He scrubbed every inch of his skin; he washed and rewashed his hair, conditioning it three times.
When he finally stepped out of the shower, he felt like a changed man. He had cuts and bruises covering his body, and every single muscle in his body ached. But he could feel the warmth returning to his body and found comfort in the fact that he had somebody else who would always be with him. He dried off, toweled his hair, and wrapped his lower half in the towel like a skirt. Josh opened the door to the bathroom and immediately jumped back.
Even though the steam was thick in the bathroom and went billowing out in to the bedroom, his eyes were good enough to see the shot gun pointed at him. An old man with a crooked back stood two feet from him, his finger on the trigger. Josh put his hands up in surrender.
"Watcher there boy, what're yeh doing in my house?"
"I'm sorry, I just needed a shower. I was freezing, please don't shoot me."
"You broke my window," the man barked.
"I was freezing, I was, look at my clothes. I was going to die without heat."
"That's what'cha get fer drinkin' too much with yer friends instead o' puttin' in an honest days work."
"Yes sir," Josh nodded, suddenly feeling slightly more at ease. "I should just do what my daddy tells me to do."
"That yeh should. Now get outa there."
The man gave Josh a new pair of clothes including socks and shoes, and gave him a bowl of partially-microwaved Dinty Moore beef stew. Josh had never eaten a better meal and he drank the entire glass of water the man sat in front of him.
"Now you go on gettin' home, yer parents must be worried sick."
"I don't suppose I could get a ride-"
"No yeh can't get a ride, son-y. Yer punishment should be to walk your skinny ass to town and tell yer daddy he owes me a window."
"Yes, sir. Thank you."