Forests are secretive, magical, and exciting. Especially when they are forbidden. Sometimes those 'no trespassing' signs are for good reasons. What happens when a girl disappears while walking through that forbidden forest? Everyone says she was attacked by an animal, and that seems like the most likely reason. But the simplest answer is not always the right one
“Hurry up; it’s going to rain soon.” Nemu stood on top of a rock, looking back the way she had come. Her sister stood a few feet behind, struggling with a large black-and-white dog. The dog kept fighting, trying to escape into the forest. This would be his first time in the forest, and he wanted to explore all of the strange sights and smells.
Nemu looked up as a raindrop fell onto her nose. With a groan, she wiped it away. She would be soaked before the hike was over.
“Rayen,” she whined, “why couldn’t we hike on a different day? It’s raining.” Rayen looked up at her sister, her silver eyes shining, bright with excitement.
“The rain makes everything look beautiful, how could you not like it? Besides, you can always walk back to the campground if you want to.” Nemu sighed. Rayen and her two friends had decided to go on a small camping trip one weekend. Their parents did not want the trio to go far, so they were at a campsite only ten miles from town. Nemu had begged to go, not wanting to be alone all weekend.
Now she wished she had not come. Nemu felt left out and bored. Even school was more exciting than this. “Your friends are annoying; I don’t want to be with them.”
Next to the camp was a small forest. Barbed wire fences guarded every entrance, posting bright ‘private property’ and ‘no trespassing’ signs. Rayen had, of course, ignored them and barged right in, excited by the prospect of exploring a new place.
“You know, for a ten year old, you are awfully depressing.” Rayen, finally managing to calm the dog down, was now catching up to her little sister.
Nemu sniffed, slightly offended, “Well, the rain messes with my glasses. I can’t see anything out of them. Besides, you are hyper for a seventeen year old.” Rayen laughed and continued to walk, her eyes scanning the ground. She hoped to find something interesting; a rock, or a flower, maybe even a leaf. With the rain coming to wash away the top layer of soil, she might be able to find something that was buried before.
The rain started to come down steadily, washing away tracks left by animals. Except for one. Two sets of bare human footprints stood a little ways away in the ground. It seemed as if someone had taken four steps, and then just stopped.
Rayen frowned, watching the footprints fade away. It took less than a minute. It seemed almost as if someone had been standing beside Rayen and Nemu just a moment ago. But no one was there, and both Rayen and Nemu wore their shoes.
“Yen,” Nemu cried, impatient, “can’t you hurry up?” Rayen blinked before catching up with her sister, the strange footprints already starting to fade from her mind. She could hear moving water during their rock, but never see it. Now, they were coming up to a small stretch of flat earth that connected with the water.
In the middle of the creek, a rock stood in the middle, perfect for Rayen to sit on. She waded into the freezing water, soaking her black tennis shoes. Rayen sat, transfixed, as the water traveled around the rock. The water seemed so driven. It did not matter what the weather, it just traveled on, following the simplest path.
After a few minutes, Nemu was tired of standing in the rain. She sighed angrily and turned her attention onto Rayen. “If you like the water so much, why don’t ya marry it?”
Rayen snapped out of her trance, turning to answer, “Because, I can’t marry without dad’s permission, and I don’t even know it that is possible.”
“You don’t know very much.”
“Well, I know more than you.”
Nemu stuck out her tongue, “that is because you are older than I am.” Rayen groaned and walked back to the edge of the stream. Her toes were numb from the water, but she still wanted to hike. After walking around looking for a trail, she finally found a thin, almost invisible, path directly through the trees.
Grabbing the dog leash, Rayen motioned for Nemu to follow. The path was steep, and barely big enough for the girls to walk on. Sharp, sticky, pine trees stood on either side, pointing their branches onto the path. Rayen had to stop repeatedly to pull her thick black hair away from the trees. Her hair and clothes were soaked with rain and sap, but she did not mind, taking those factors as a part of hiking.
Nemu, on the other hand, was not as easy to please. She did try to continue the hike, but after being hit by the fifth branch, she decided enough was enough. Growing, the small girl yanked her hair away from a particularly sap-covered branch, leaving a thick chunk of brown hair still in the tree’s grasp, and sat down on a rock.
Rayen tried to convince her sister to keep talking, but she refused. Not wanting to turn back yet, Rayen gave Nemu their dog, Riley, for protection and continued to follow the narrow path. The path led her to an open clearing, only a fallen branch breaking the almost-perfect circle.
She did not want to wander too far away from her sister, so Rayen sat on the branch and looked around. Her thoughts wandered to all of the beautiful flowers that might grow during spring. She decided they would have to come back later and see. It was the end of fall now, the last few days of rain before snow arrived in heavy torrents.
Just as Rayen started to fall into a daydream, a loud crack sounded behind her, like a branch snapping. She spun around, wildly searching the black forest around her. Nothing could be seen, but Rayen could not help but to imagine faces and eyes staring back at her.
Frightened that her sister might be hurt, Rayen hurried back to the spot her sister had last been, slipping on the narrow path. She fell once, almost slipping past a drop-off, but she managed to catch herself at the last minute. All the while, she called out her sister’s name.
Rain became an enemy. It rustled the trees and hit the dying grass, mimicking footsteps. Or hiding them, Rayen thought as she spun around to face another new noise. Nothing, it was only a tree. Still, she could feel someone watching her.
Rayen made it to where her sister had been only half an hour before. She was no longer there. Instead, a skeleton sat in her place. Rayen suppressed a scream of horror. The body was deformed, head facing backwards. Its mouth was open in a terrifying wail, and the hands and feet were merging with the spine, like a backwards animal.
“Nemu,” Rayen screamed, her voice cracking from the pitch. No one answered. Feeling sick, she ran towards the stream, looking for any sign of her sister. She slipped a few more times, twisting her ankle once. Still, she pressed on forwards, only thinking about Nemu.
A blue leash stuck out from underneath a tree. Rayen followed it quietly, trying not to startle Riley. Nemu crouched near the bottom, curled into a tight ball. Riley stood beside her, alternating between comforting the girl and growling at something behind Rayen.
“Nemu, are you alright,” Rayen cried.
Nemu looked up, squinting through the rain, “Rayen, it’s you! How long have you been there?”
“Just a few minutes. Are you alright,” she repeated.
“Yes.” Nemu paled as a thought came to her, “so that wasn’t you before?” Rayen frowned, looking at her sister worriedly.
“What are you talking about?”
The little girl sucked in a big gulp of air, “A little after Ripley and I hid, someone peered through the gap in the branches. Ripley started to growl at them and they backed off. I was hoping it was you and Ripley was just worried.”
Rayen glanced around nervously, searching for a sign of somebody in the trees. It did not help when everything was moving.
“I am sure it was nothing,” she replied soothingly, “it could have just been a shadow from one of the trees.”
“Your right, I did lose my glasses. It could have been anything.” Nemu handed Rayen the leash and crawled out. They quickly made their way out of the forest, searching for a way out among the shadows and writhing trees.
Before they could make it out, Ripley turned around and let out a frightening growl, hackles raised. He started to back up slowly, still growling and snapping at something nearby. Suddenly, He turned and ran. The girls followed as quickly as possible.
They neared the entrance and Ripley pulled away from Rayen’s grasp. He turned and growled again, standing his ground between his owners and the figure advancing towards them. Rayen grabbed her little sister’s hand and ran, not daring to look back again.