The forest was in front of him, behind him, all around him. The thick growth blocked the moonlight which shown in as fine beams. A think mist rose up and chilled him, be he couldn’t stop now. He had run this far, why not keep running until he was sure he wasn’t being followed? If, in fact, he was being followed that was.
Voices rose from the mist, calling his name, “Taylor! Taylor! Stop now! Stop and turn back! Don’t be afraid! Once you find him, it will be over soon! It won’t hurt! Turn back!”
But, Taylor knew this was a lie. He was afraid of the man and the small silver gun he held. He was afraid of dying. He was afraid of this forest. Taylor was afraid.
From behind him another voice came, not from the mist, but from Jack, from the man with the gun. “You thought you could get away didn’t you? Well let me tell you something kid, you can’t get away from me! You can’t get away and you know that! You knew that I would catch you this whole time, didn’t you?”
“You aren’t real! None of this is! You can’t hurt me and you know that!”
“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong! I’m just as real as you! So real in fact, that I can kill you with this gun, because it’s real too! Now stand still, this won’t hurt if you don’t struggle.” As he spoke Jack reached into his suit jacket and pulled out the small silver gun. He aimed it at Taylor and pulled back the trigger. Bam! The shot rang out at echoed throughout the wood.
To Taylor, everything seemed to move in slow motion. He watched as the gold bullet came spinning at him. Heat rushed toward him, and Jack started to laugh in victory.
But, as the bullet ripped through Taylor’s shirt and started into his skin, something strange happened. Jack vanished, along with the bullet. The gun disappeared into thin air, and even some of the plants making the forest congested vanished. The mist went away, as if it was never there to begin with. One second it was all there, then the next it was gone. None of it had really happened.
Taylor was still in a forest, but instead it was during the day, around noon he guessed. The forest wasn’t thick, and he could easily navigate through it. About twenty feet in front of him was a small clearing, and he would set up camp there tonight, but first he had to find his supplies.
He dropped them when Jack came after him earlier, but would he be able to find them now? They were lost somewhere in the woods, and he had dropped them in the mirage of the forest. He turned back, looking for his backpack, but didn’t see it. Now he would have to walk.
How far had he actually run? For all he knew he could only have run half the distance he did in that fake reality. Or, he could have run twice that distance. There was no telling how far the mirage made him look like he ran. It would probably take him all day to find his things again.
Three hours had past, and he was still looking for his supplies. He found it lying by a large rock, and he probably wouldn’t have noticed it if not for the shiny lid of the thermos sticking out of his bag. Taylor walked over, stuffed the fallen items back into the back pack, and started on his way back to the clearing.
Later that night, sleeping in the small tent he had brought with him, Taylor awoke to voices. These voices, like Jack, were familiar. In fact, Taylor had just escaped their source. The voices were from the asylum.
A bone chilling scream echoed in his ears, followed by talking. “Come on kid, this is just a different kid of hospital.”
The man in the cell, “Once you’re here, you’ll never get out!”
The security guard, “Come here kid. Come to the bathroom with me. I got something to show you.”
The scream rang out again, louder than before, realer.
“Come on kid, it won’t hurt.”
Images came to him. His padded room. The guard. It was like being back in the asylum.
Another voice came, that last one, “Come out, come out wherever you are!” Jack called, as if they were playing a sick game of hide-and-seek.
Taylor curled into a ball. He tried to comfort himself, but nothing worked. Jack’s voice still rang in his ears and memories of the asylum floated into his head. One memory stuck out above the rest, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get it to go away. It was the memory of the security guard.
He was sitting in his room, no; it was a cell, a padded cell. His straightjacket was on tight, and locked. He felt alone and wanted it to be that way. He had no idea how long he had been here. A day? A week? A month? A year? There was no possible way to tell. Then the guard came.
He pulled a key ring out of his pocket, and searched through them. While he was doing this Taylor stared blankly at him. He noticed the man was wearing a nametag. “Michael” it read. Taking a key Michael unlocked Taylor from his straightjacket.
“Come here kid. Come to the bathroom with me. I got something to show you,” the guard said.
“NO!” Taylor screamed in his tent, “No! Just forget it! It never happened!”
But it did happen, he would never forget that. What that man had done to him could not be forgiven. Nothing could possibly help him for get what had happened to him, nothing at all.
Taylor awoke puffy-eyed. He had cried himself to sleep, and maybe even cried while he was asleep. It would be better today, he knew it would. The disease had a cycle, really, nothing bad happened for a while, then horrible hallucinations, then back to normal for a bit. For as long as he remembered that’s how it had been, even with the medicine they gave him. Or, at least, what they wanted him to think was medication.
He knew the truth, of course he did. Those pills weren’t medicine, at least not for his disease. The doctors were doing tests on him, monitoring him somehow with that “medicine”. Taylor knew this and his mom agreed. Neither of them would us those pills.
Even so, when they did try to take the pills, nothing happened, at least not a lot. The voices got fainter, more distant. The hallucinations seemed less real, more like ghosts than real things. But Jack could still get to Taylor when he used the medicine, so it didn’t matter if he took it or not.
Taylor quite clearly remembered the first time he saw Jack. Maybe Jack had been following him before then, but this was the first time he remembered ever seeing Jack.
Taylor and his mom stood quietly in front of the gravestone. Exactly one year ago Taylor’s dad, Frank, had been murdered. He was shot in the stomach, then in the heart. All of it was done while Taylor hid and watched in awe at the age of give.
Now six, he was at the graveyard, mourning his loss.
“Taylor! Taylor! Look over here Taylor!”
The boy turned to face the source of the unfamiliar voice. He saw a man dressed in a suit, wearing a bowler. The man’s name was Jack. He didn’t know how he knew, but Taylor knew the man’s name was Jack. Before Taylor could say anything the man spoke again.
“You miss your dad, I can tell. Do you wanna see him again? Just say the word and you can see him.”
The boy, wanting to see his lost father, nodded yes.
“I thought you would want to see him, now hold very still. This won’t hurt if you don’t struggle.”
Jack reached into the pocket hidden inside his jacket. From it he produced a small silver gun, just like the one used to kill his father. Seeing this, Taylor changed his mind.
“No!” the little boy shrieked, shaking his head, “No!”
“You’ve already made your choice Taylor, you can’t turn back now!”
But, Taylor realized that Jack was fading, disappearing into the air. He screamed until his mom clutched him to her, then still he shook until the day was over.
He had to get going now; he had to try to find the man his mom had told him about. Hopefully he could get there safely, without Jack interfering. So Taylor packed his things into his backpack and continued on with his journey.
“Find the man Taylor,” he heard his mom call to him from his memories, “He’ll help you, like he helped me.” Taylor trusted what she said as she gave him the backpack, already full of supplied that she packed for him.
She spoke again, softer now, “Now matter what, you just keep moving. People are gonna try to find you, but if anybody recognizes you, run. The think you and I are crazy, we know we aren’t.”
Taylor walked the rest of the day with no voices, but more importantly, no Jack. It was the first day in months where he seemed the least bit normal.
Around sunset Taylor heard movement. It was just the noise of a twig breaking, maybe just an animal walking, but he doubted it. It was probably some cop, looking for him, waiting for Taylor to meet up with him, waiting to take the kid back to the asylum. Taylor wouldn’t let that happen though. There was no way he was ever going back to that living nightmare. But how was he going to get around the cop?
Again Taylor heard the snap of a stick and the rustle of leaves. As he watched, immobilized in fear, a raccoon came around a tree in front of him. He had been so sure that there were police everywhere in the forest, looking for him, but he really had nothing to be afraid of.
That’s the disease he thought you’re just sinking further into its trap. But you’ll have nothing to worry about aw soon as you find the man Mom was talking about. You’ll be fine as soon as you get to the other side of this forest.
So Taylor continued his journey, and when he found a clearing he set up camp and slept.