A wide yawn from her sister caught Samantha’s attention.
"Still having those nightmares then?" She asked, returning her gaze to the tv. Carrie rubbed her eyes gratuitously and sat up straighter on the sofa.
"I'm fine.” She mumbled. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead." Samantha smirked and picked up the remote control as Carrie stretched her jaw muscles.
Carrie tried to focus on the screen but every time she blinked her eyes would cross with fatigue. She threw the cushion she was holding to her unprepared sister, hitting her in the chest. "I'm going to bed." She announced in defeat, heaving herself up off the couch with a sigh. "I'm way too tired to dream now."
"Night then." Samantha replied smugly as she spread herself out on the couch.
"Be lucky if I ever wake up." Carrie thought to herself as she walked out the door. She stumbled up the stairs and into her room, having just enough energy to pull off her shoes before she fell into her bed.
Sleep soon dragged her down into darkness.
A sudden jolt of her nerves, as though she were falling, snapped her eyelids open.
Darkness. There was nothing but darkness through the trees. No light, no sound. She started to cry. Kneeling down on the dry forest floor she covered her face with her hands and moaned in pain. Why? Why was she here again? The crushing fear made her heartbeat quicken. The familiar feeling left her skin feeling cold and set her nerves on edge. She was paralysed, but she knew that she had to move. Choking down her sobs she straightened up and forced her hands down by her sides. The flashlight was, as usual, among the dried up leaves in front of her. Silver, cold and heavy; it felt uncomfortably familiar now.
The fact that this was a dream did nothing to ease her anxiety. For the duration of this nightmare, reality ceased to exist and terror was all that she knew. And she knew it intimately.
For just a second she thought of her sister. Downstairs still, unaware that she was being terrorised. But that didn’t seem real now. The only thing that was real was this forest. And the silence. The deafening silence that made her own pulse
She stood, took a few faltering steps and fumbled to turn the torch on. Its beam illuminated a small patch of earth in front of her and some tree roots. Its reach was frustratingly short, but that was the intention. She had to be a foot away from anything before she could tell what it was. A harsh sob clawed its way out of her throat.
"Just finish it, finish it and get out of here. You can finish it this time." She whispered to herself resolutely. “You will finish it.” She gritted her teeth angrily and wiped a tear from her cheek.
She stepped carefully between the trees, sweeping her torchlight back and forth with shaking hands. Her every nerve was tensed to its limit at the possibility of seeing something, anything; Whether it was good or bad. Though she was relatively safe for now fear still controlled her.
It didn’t take long for her to find the first note. A flash of white caught the corner of her eye. It made her heart stop for just a second, in a painful convulsion. The note was etched on thick blank parchment and stained with dirt. It looked ancient and she shuddered to think how long this had been going on. It consisted of the word 'no' written over and over again. No, not written, but scratched deep into the paper, almost torn through in places. She ripped it from the nail that held it in place on the tree trunk and refused to think of it anymore. She clumsily folded it and stuffed it into her jeans pocket. On she went.
The darkness here was like a presence: solid and watching. She could feel it on her skin, between her shoulder blades. The urge to turn and see what was behind her was almost overwhelming. Not knowing whether he was there or not was enough to fracture her already fragile sanity. But she forced herself to look forward. There was no moon or stars above her, though the trees were spacious enough to permit their visibility. That was frightened her the most, she thought. It was unnatural.
She continued on, her hearing sharpened for every decibel of sound that could be heard. But all she could hear was her own footsteps, her own heart pounding. Not a breath of wind and not a single animal. It would almost fool her into thinking that she was utterly alone, but she knew better. She was being watched.
There was no pattern or path to follow in this forest; she just had to trust that she was walking in a straight line. She jumped involuntarily when she came to the first clearing. She moved tentatively into it, uncomfortable in the open. Her meagre light source showed her a small shed with a deserted pickup truck standing solitary guard outside. She moved slowly around in a circle. So many more corners for him to hide around. The second note was taped to the steering wheel of the pickup and after breathing a sigh of relief at not having to enter the hut, Carrie hesitated. Her hand gripped the torch tightly. She didn't like it, but it was necessary. Slowly, reaching a quivering hand in through the open window, she tore the sheet off quickly, desperately imagining a hand reaching out of the dark cab to grab her. Without looking back she headed where she thought was back on the straight path she had started on and left the clearing behind. A few strides out she shone the torch on the note.
The light illuminated what looked like a page ripped from a child's notebook.
"Always watching, No eyes." Carrie whispered the words, but she may as well have screamed them, may as well have called his name to the stagnant air. A deafening noise vibrated through the floor of the woods and Carrie screwed her eyes shut, clamping her hands over her ears. She screamed, unable to hear the sound of her own fear, she felt it tearing out of her throat like a prisoner clawing his way to freedom.
He was coming.