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Edgar stopped dead in his tracks. “Did you hear that?” he asked. “Hear what?” Vince replied, somewhat sidetracked by the commotion going on in front of him. “I swear I just heard a scream” Edgar continued. “Don’t worry about that, we’ve got more pressing matters at hand”. Vince pointed at April and Amelia who had spotted the bloody footprints in the meadow and were inconsolable at this point. “Brad? BRAD?” his little sister was frantic, convinced that something bad had happened to him. April wasn’t faring much better, pining for Cole who was also nowhere to be seen. “Oh my God, Oh my God” Amelia was beginning to have a panic attack and it was up to Belinda to try and calm the situation down.
“Will both of you just try and chill out for a moment” Her choice of words was perhaps not the best. “Calm down? It’s my fucking brother out here” she roared, furious at Belinda’s careless remark. “I know that. Listen, they’re fine. They’ve just lost track of time. Knowing them, they’re just playing a trick on us or something” she continued. “I don’t think so” April interjected “Not really the time for pranks is it?” Edgar stepped up to the girls, deciding against informing them of what he had just heard and well aware that he needed to step in before chaos ensued. “Look, there’s five of us right? We should stick together, scout the woods, if we still haven’t found them then, by the time we get back to the house, they’ll probably be back there” he suggested.
Vince shuffled over and whispered into his ear “Dude, I’m with them on this one. Something fucked up is happening”. Edgar glared at his friend “Don’t you think I’m aware of that. I just heard a fucking scream” His attempts to keep his voice low-key failed as Amelia picked up on his muffled response. “What did you just say?” she asked abruptly. “Nothing” Edgar sheepishly retorted. “Don’t give me that shit Edgar. I heard what you said. You said you heard a scream” she snarled. Edgar attempted to back track “It might not have been that” he suggested nervously. Vince just rolled his eyes, knowing his friend’s size ten was taking up residence in his mouth about now.
“I’m going to find him” she barked. “Hold on, I’m coming with you” April added. “Look, we’re all going. There’s no point us getting lost too” Edgar ordered, any last remnants of alcohol fast draining from his system leaving him feeling pretty freaked out too. “I saw Cole go this way” April pointed to the thicket entrance and the five teens cautiously made their way over in a huddle. “Let me go first. I’m the only one with a flashlight” Vince offered. He wasn’t known for his camaraderie but did like to think of himself as cool-headed in a crisis although he too had a twisted feeling in his gut right now.
None of them exactly relished entering the woods, something clearly wasn’t right and, despite Edgar and Vince’s enthusiasm for horror films, it was something the pair enjoyed far more from the safety of the couch. It had been a full hour since any of them had heard from Brad and the others and bloody footprints in the marshland didn’t make for the most encouraging of omens. Nevertheless they plundered forth, led from the front by Vince, and all closely in tow. There was an eerie silence as they proceeded into the thicket, a calm which was not destined to continue.
“Does anybody else feel that?” asked Vince as he separated the overhanging branches and purged forth. “Feel what?” Amelia replied quizzically. “It’s probably not the best time to tell you this but I just had a feeling like somebody walked over my grave or something” he continued. “That’s the same way I felt when I saw Analise from the window” April interjected “something really isn’t right, I can tell.” She gripped onto Amelia’s arm for dear life and this was reciprocated in turn. “What if something has happened to them April?” she asked glumly, at which point Edgar did his level best to lighten the mood. “Listen. The guys are fine, trust me. You’re all getting way ahead of yourselves.” He wasn’t convinced he even believed that anymore.
The dense wood was shrouded in quietus, precious little in the way of encouragement outside of a few swaying trees and the breaking of fallen twigs underfoot. Belinda, in particular, was feeling notably queasy. The excessive alcohol certainly hadn’t helped her state of mind but she held a distinct dislike of dark places and was beginning to regret her valiant offer to join this expedition. As a young girl she had wandered away from her parents on a camping trip and been mauled by a stray dog, leaving a three-inch scar along her lip and the instance had always stayed with her. Right now, it was playing on her mind so she grabbed the asthma pump from her pocket and took a couple of deep inhalations.
“I didn’t know you were asthmatic” Edgar stated. “I’m not. At least not anymore. Not really. I just have my moments” she replied. “Guess this constitutes as a moment then?” She looked at Edgar solemnly “Yeah. you could kinda say that.” He relished seeing her at her most vulnerable as Edgar had tried on numerous occasions to impress her and to absolutely no avail. “Here” he offered his arm “Hold onto me.” She held on as he suggested and he played it as cool as he knew how, despite his mind racing and formulating a plan to get into her panties. This evidently wasn’t the time nor place for hook-ups but, considering his record for striking out with the ladies, it would do just fine in the interim.
“Brad?” Amelia hollered with a hint more desperation in her voice than previously. She was fast becoming inconsolable and had long since feared the worst. Her eyes hadn’t deceived her earlier, that bloody figure masquerading in the reeds was so palpable, so utterly disconcerting that her ordinarily glass half full approach was severely hamstrung by this point by an overwhelming feeling of dread. She held onto April for dear life, knowing her friend was just as discombobulated after sharing her undesirable vision. They cautiously proceeded behind Vince with the other pair straggling a few feet back but keeping the convoy in motion.
Abruptly Vince halted and turned to face his friends. “What the fuck man? I’m outta here” he proclaimed. “What?” Amelia snapped with urgency “What did you see?” Vince looked as white as a ghost; all the color was draining from his face and he appeared genuinely distressed. Amelia asked again in a softer tone “Tell me what you saw Vince.” She had a good idea as to the answer to her poser but was hopeful that he had seen no such thing. “I think I just saw Eden.” Edgar piped up from the rear to challenge “Tell me you haven’t just necked a load of magic mushrooms. Call me cynical bro but I’m fairly assured she didn’t pass us on the way down here and I’m also certain she’s still wasted.” Despite his pointing out of the obvious, he still couldn’t shake the sound of that God awful scream. “It was dude. It was Eden” Vince confirmed.
Belinda took another inhalation of her pump “We’ve should go after her right?” she suggested. “You’re not understanding me. She looked like death reheated.” He was going to have to clarify as they were all aware that she had seen better days. “Absinthe will do that to you” Edgar reminded him. “Will it? Will it encourage you to strip naked and douse yourself head to toe in blood? Make your eyes disappear from your skull?” Edgar attempted to make light “I’m sure if you drink enough of it.” Vince glanced over at April and Amelia. They had never looked so forlorn and his claim had clearly resonated. “You two saw the same thing didn’t you?” he asked. Amelia nodded. “Okay, I’m suggesting we go back right now and call the police” he continued.
“What about my brother?” Amelia said panic-stricken. “Sweetheart listen. I’ve watched a fair few horror movies in my time and, if there’s one thing, one solitary fucking detail that I’ve learned, it is that in scenarios such as these you don’t press on.” There was an unspoken understanding between them over what he had just been made privy to but Amelia wasn’t going back without first tracking down her sibling. “I’m off. Who’s with?” He offered the flash light and April retrieved it from his shaking hands. “Maybe he’s right. Maybe we should go back” Belinda whispered to Edgar and this was music to his ears as bravado couldn’t disguise the smell of his slackening sphincter for much longer.
“You two going to be all right?” he inquired, knowing full well that two inebriated and high teenage girls on the verge of combustion in a dark forest alone was never going to be a recipe for them being all right. Their lack of any reply to his poser spoke volumes and he awkwardly shuffled away, latched onto Belinda, with Vince a hair breadth behind. “We’ll call the police okay” Belinda offered a token gesture which also fell on deaf ears. April and Amelia were the youngest of the group and neither were equipped for this in any way, shape or form but they took the reigns and carried on forward into the undergrowth.
As the others vacated the thicket, they began to debate their actions. “Do you think we did the right thing them alone?” Vince asked. “Make your mind up will you. A few seconds ago you couldn’t wait to see the back of the place” Edgar replied sardonically. “Tell you what” Belinda interrupted “You two hold hands and pull each other’s dick strings and I’ll go call this in.” Edgar sensed that this meant no alcohol-fueled hanky panky was to be on the cards and she shook free from his hold, commencing to walk ahead on her own. He glared at Vince with the look of a thousand sharpened knives. “Thanks dick” he muttered. “What? You…you actually…you actually think you was gonna get some don’t you?” Vince retorted. “She was putty in my hands, a few more minutes and I would’ve been all up in her crawlspace.” Vince almost choked on his laughter “You sad little man. You really believe that don’t you?”
Back in the woods April and Amelia had reached the clearing where, unbeknownst to them, Analise had found her slumber. “Brad?” she called again opportunistically. This time there was a response. “I’m over here, come find me” was the rejoinder but, despite it evidently coming from her brother’s tongue, it was delivered with none of his humanity. “Where are you?” she cried, voice breaking and mascara streaming down her cheeks in rivulets. “I’m over here, come find me” This time it was Eden’s voice they heard and it was coming from an entirely different direction. Two more times the same audio rang out but in Cole and Norton’s slightly gruffer tones. The girls were conjoined in sheer bemusement as the air was suddenly alive with something truly ominous. The look of terror across their faces escalated as they discerned one final spoken line, from Analise no less, coming from directly behind them. They both felt an icy chill on the back of their necks as the words were delivered “I’m right here, turn around and take a look.”
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014