NOTE: Some of the following text can harm the psyche of individuals. Readers below the age of 18 are advised not to read it.
“Everyone knows about it. We have to live with it.”
“I know. But why?”
“We cannot reason their beliefs. It would lead to death.”
“There is no justified reasoning with what they say. Why should we not go into the forest on Friday? Why are lambs sacrificed on Saturday? There is something on every single day everyone has to follow.”
“I do not know where it might lead us, if we are going to keep questioning the people to understand why they believe that certain things should happen on specific days. Eventually, someone is going to speak up, and the villagers will question and doubt us. What are you going to do then, Sarah?”
Looking into her eyes, Sarah thought for a moment, before speaking, “We can hope that we get adequate time to disclose whatever secrets they are hiding out there.” She looked back into the forest, listening to the sounds of chirping birds, the dawning crickets, and guttering frogs on a lake nearby. After a few minutes elapsed, she looked back at Megan and asked, “Are you with me, Megan?”
Megan gazed into the gloomy forest, the dark shadows enveloping every dime of the forest floor. Only when Sarah touched her, did she come back to reality, as if a spell was just broken. She said not knowing what she was supposed to say, “Huh?”
When Megan saw in her eyes, Sarah said, “I do not suppose you heard me. Are you with me on this?”
“Yes. Yes.”, Megan replied almost immediately.
“Thank you.”, smiled Sarah. She placed her palm over Megan’s shoulder and they embraced.
An invisible beast fed on humans, if they wandered into the forest. A convincing tale, it was. However, Sarah and Megan did not believe it. Moreover, they desired to find out the verity. Whatever beast roamed the forest, it would roam every day. Why was Friday, so significant? If humans went into the forest besides Friday, why would the invisible beast not hunt them? These questions created curiosity to search for the truth.
Both of them asked questions in the village. It was fortunate they were seventeen. Looking quite young enough, the villagers considered them new to the beliefs. Therefore, they answered most of their queries. What was the story behind the invisible beast in the forest? What made it come out only on Friday, and hunt any wandering human in the forest?
There were others which none could answer. Why did the invisible beast hunt only on Friday? Is the invisible beast real? Has anyone seen it and come to such a deduction? When did they see last to be roaming or hunting within the forest? Was it some sort of illusion or a spell cast over the forest or the village?
It was Sarah’s idea to go out into the forest during the night, after everyone was fast asleep. Megan was tired and sleeping.
“Are you coming?”, Sarah woke her up.
“Not today, Sarah. I am so exhausted and tired. Please go back to sleep. We’ll do it next week.”, Megan replied.
“Okay, Megan. Good night.”, she sighed heavily and drifted back to sleep.
Sarah woke up in an hours’ time and took off from home. With a small pack on her back, she left the village, into the forest.
Friday morning, after sunrise, Megan realised that Sarah had left already. She was scared to let out the truth to her parents. They were strong followers of the village beliefs. Somehow, she had to leave the village. She had to meet Sarah as soon as possible.
An hour later, Megan had packed her bag with the list of inventory they had decided to carry with them. As if leaving for school, she left home and reached the tree line. Sarah should not have left without her, she thought. Making sure nobody watched her, she ran into the forest without looking behind. How was she going to meet up with Sarah, now that they were hours apart. She could have left in any direction.
When Megan reached the isolated well, which was their initial place to start their trail, she waited for a few minutes. She would definitely not be here, and long gone as well, she thought. Why would she wait for her? She had told her to postpone it a week ahead. There was not a hint she came to know in which direction Sarah had left.
She decided to go back home.
Just when her hopes were lost, she saw something.
“What’s this?”, she asked herself. It was a torn piece of paper, fallen on the forest floor. When she took it in her hand, it was blank. However, she saw a carving on the floor, where the paper was placed, indicating some sort of direction. It was in the shape of an arrow pointing out in a direction.
Megan ran straight in the direction, without turning elsewhere. She focused on her way. However, all the way running about, created noise enough to alert the animals and birds. Some stared as she ran without stopping, while others made themselves invincible, running off as far as possible from her sight. One time, a flock of parakeets flew off from a couple of trees. She stopped running to hold on to her breath once. After resting for a few minutes, she was back to hopping and jumping on overgrowth of weeds, wet mud, shrubs, plants and thickened roots. It looked like the forest was feeding on the slightly wet swamp created everywhere. The trees stood high up at a distance, looming over her and reaching the skies.
There were places where she saw scratch marks on tree barks, and pieces of paper stuck in its crevice. Was this Sarah’s doing to indicate her path through the woods? On the other hand, was it leading her to a trap? Megan went cautiously along the way since then, until she reached and changed directions from various other bits of torn paper on the ground.
The journey had taken her deep into the forest. She had stopped running, and kept on walking now. She was exhausted and tired already. She picked her pack and ate a whole meal bread with mayonnaise and sauce, followed by a gulp of water. She started walking in the direction targeted.
A few minutes later, she heard the wolves howl somewhere nearby. One by one, their voices echoed through the forest. They came from every direction. Megan wished she would not encounter any of them. She was alone, and the only weapon she had, was a knife she had taken from the kitchen.
On and on she crossed a handful of streams, before she came across something that shocked her. A couple of hours since the wolves howled back then, she saw a pack on the ground. She identified it belonging to Sarah. However, it was not in any good condition. Rags and pieces remained of the pack, with claw scratches and holes, bitten by sharp teeth. Listening to the sounds nearby, Megan searched for trouble, and then looked for Sarah without screaming. However, she did not find anything besides her pack. She must have run away from whatever attacked her. Was it the doings of the invisible beast? She became alert and listened for anything beyond ordinary sounds. None created a doubt.
She kept walking in the direction she had come, until she saw a shoe. As she picked it up, she saw a trail of blood spilt on the ground. A few trees ahead, she saw another matching shoe fallen. Sarah wore them daily.
Megan felt scared. Had something happened to her? She took her knife in hand, ready to kill whatever animal she saw ahead. She went carefully, one-step at a time. The blood trail made Sarah walk slowly, after she placed the shoes in her pack. Moments later, it became worse. A rock exhibited a patch of blood. When she went for a better look, the blood was fresh when she scraped her fingers over it. Sarah was nearby. Silent as she stood next to the stone, she heard a sound a few trees ahead. A muffled voice. A girl’s voice, she sensed.
Moving ahead was dangerous. The sounds of crushing dry leaves and breaking of twigs could give away Megan’s position. She could not climb the trees either; there were not any branches, which lay in reach. Nonetheless, She reached behind a tree trunk and saw her. Sarah was tied, her hands and legs bound in rope. She wriggled to set herself free, but only in vain.
Besides Sarah, Megan saw five men occupied with some work. She shifted herself to take a closer look. She got close and then heard them speak.
Three men stood next to a few box of crates.
“They should all die. We don’t need them anyway.”
One of them spit out on the ground, before he said, “What about the girl?”
“You know very well what to do with her. She is no harm to us if she’s dead.”
“How about some fun?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know. What a man wants?”
One of the men gripped the man’s throat and placed his knife on the man’s neck, “There shall be none of it.” From what Megan saw, this man was in charge here, and he threatened the other man with his own rough voice, “You would be dead before you even touch her.”
Only when Megan thought it was time that she would release Sarah, one of the men came close to the man in charge, and thrust his knife into his neck from the side. Horror seeped into Megan’s eyes. These people were murderers, she thought. The man who had threatened another man with his knife fell down, releasing the third one. They smiled at each other.
“Well, let’s get this thing done.”
“What shall we tell them about him?”
“Why, it was the girl who slit his throat. Let them decide what to do with her.”, the man gave a cruel smile to show a golden tooth.
“Right. Let’s finish off.”
“Then get ourselves laid with the girl. That should be fun.”
They left the place and started with their work, leaving the dead man on the ground.
There was no time to lose. Megan collected the dropped knife besides the dead man and went back behind the tree where she saw Sarah. As she reached her, she indicated her to remain silent. Sarah felt relieved to see her sister. Nonetheless, she was frightened, for the men could come back any moment and hurt her.
“You have to go back, Megan. Get help.”, Sarah whispered.
“Shh. They are busy finishing their work. But that isn’t the end of it.” Megan relieved her sister from her bindings. “Follow me, and try not to make a sound.”
Megan placed her knife back in its sheath, hidden from view. She gave the knife she collected from the dead man to Sarah.
Sarah was confused.
“They’re murderers and rapists. Do not hesitate to kill them.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw one of them kill their own, and heard them speak of it.”
Sarah felt a chill go through her spine, and register into her brain.
They started back, led by Megan in front. They had walked a few feet, when she heard the man speak.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
The man stood behind Sarah, with his knife ready to slit her throat. He had put his hand over her mouth so that she would not scream. Megan saw blood on the knife. The same man who had killed one of their own.
The other man came without a warning. Megan saw Sarah’s eyes widen, but it was too late before the man put a grip over Megan’s neck and pressed the tip of his knife below the chin. He said, “Now, there is nowhere to run. Why don’t you stay with us, and we shall have enjoyable moments.”
“And how about you give me that for a change.”, the man holding Sarah said to her. She held up the knife Megan had given her before, and the man snatched it, only to throw it away.
The man behind Megan pulled her closer, “What do you have in your pack?”
“Food”, replied Megan.
“Let’s see, shall we?” He used the knife to cut off one of the straps of her pack. When he reached for the other, it cut through her olive-green dress between her shoulder and neck.
“Aaah”!”, Megan cried out. She wished she could free herself, but the man gripped her tightly. She saw he had done it on purpose.
“Oh, I’m so sorry for that. Did it hurt?”, he said. He saw the strap of her undergarment inside her dress. He put the knife between the strap and her skin and cut the dress until it came up to the strap of the pack.
“What are you doing?”, Megan asked.
“We’re having a little fun, don’t worry.”
The other man chuckled as he pierced his knife into Sarah’s dress and cut through it from the side of her neck.
With a jerk, the man holding Megan cut both the straps, and her pack fell down. Megan felt it. She felt the strap of her undergarment fall inside as it brushed her skin. A chill went through her.
“Come on.”, ordered the man. He pushed Megan to go ahead of him, holding her close, with his grip on her neck.
The other man holding Sarah did the same. He was licking her neck before he ordered her to do so.
Megan saw the man smack Sarah’s bottom and then grip them. She knew Sarah felt uncomfortable as he moved behind her. She felt rage grabbing her, her blood raced through her veins.
When they brought Megan and Sarah next to the crates, they forced them to bend over; the crates had enough height for the men to take the girls.
Megan remembered her knife, still hidden from the man’s view. She knew she had one chance to do it right. She saw the men untying the laces of their breeches. It was her only chance. She looked at Sarah, who stared back in horror. Megan nodded at Sarah once. She spoke the words ‘Be ready’ without any sound in her voice. Nevertheless, Sarah was smart with lip-reading.
As soon as they heard the men put their breeches down, they swung out. Both of them hit them hard on their bare groin, which led to a lightning pain. They screamed aloud, and fell on their backs. One rolled to his right side, curving his legs close to his body.
Megan removed the knife and slit the throat of the man curled in. It looked like the man forgot his pain, as he felt the blood rush into his lungs. “Sarah.”, she called.
Sarah looked at her, and saw her throw the knife at her. She caught it on the hilt.
“Do it.”, screamed Megan.
Sarah hesitated. She had never murdered someone.
“He almost raped you, Sarah.”
“Then he shall pay for it.”, she felt justice in her hands. The thirst for vengeance came, and she pierced the knife through the man’s shoulder and removed it quickly. The response was immediate, as the man removed his hands from over his groin, and grip one hand over his shoulder. He lifted the wounded arm closer to his chest. Sarah saw the man’s private parts bare, which displayed a look of disgust over her face. Nevertheless, she grabbed the man’s genitals and pulled them enough to slip the knife and separate them off his body. She let go of the knife on the forest floor, and go closer to the man’s head. Slapping him on his cheeks, his eyes opened. “Is this what you wanted me to have?”, she asked in a rage, his sexual organs in her hand.
His eyes widened. With Sarah close within his reach, he grabbed her neck with both his hands.
Sarah felt him choke her out. She could not breathe in. A sudden sense of unconsciousness filled her.
Megan saw it. She took the knife without a moment to spare and pushed it through the man’s eyes.
The man went limp, and he released Sarah from his grasp.
However, Sarah went unconsciousness. She fell beside the man.
Megan sat beside her sister. She felt terrified. “Sarah. Sarah.”, she called out to her.
Sarah woke up moments later, relieving Megan. She choked and breathed heavily for a while before she said, “I’m okay, Megan.”
“Can you run?”
“I think I can.”
Megan helped Sarah stand up. Sarah led the way back and they left the place, running and walking all the way back home.
They reached the village border before sunset. They went to the lake nearby, where they washed themselves of the blood they had caught on. After drying out for a while, they decided to go home. They would tell, they had gone to the lake after school. They thought it valid enough to let their family know they had gone swimming and enjoying there for a while.
They now knew the truth behind not going into the forest on Friday. There were murderers and rapists in the forest. There seemed to be some kind of illegal trading going on between people. Sarah and Megan hoped the villagers were not involved with them.
At night, they had walked back to a deserted place close to the tree line. Their parents had come as well to enjoy the calm, silent night after dinner. Sarah and Megan did not dare speak about the incident.
The next day, when Sarah and Megan went to the same place at night, they had one final discussion.
“There were murderers and rapists in the forest. God knows who else could be out there.”, Megan said.
“But we cannot speak of anything to anyone. You know that, don’t you?”, Sarah disagreed.
“If we tell them what we saw, the villagers shall know the truth behind the dangers and threats that lie outside the village.”
“They are likely to kill us for putting the entire village in danger.”
“What if tomorrow they should visit the village and decide to kill us? I heard them speak of it.”
“None of them was alive when we left. We picked all that belonged to us. Our packs, your shoes as well. I do not remember leaving anything else. They will not be coming here.”
“I hope so.”
“Let’s go home and sleep. I’m tired.”
“Are you always tired and exhausted, Sarah?”
“Well, we’ve already experienced it already. You took less time to reach me. What does that imply?”
“Yes. I guess so. Let’s go home, sis.”
They smiled and walked home.
At noon, a few people stood along the border of the village near the tree line. People with hand axes and crossbows surrounded the village. The village guards sounded the alarm everywhere. They even prepared themselves for a battle, but the men near the forest did not attack.
Sarah and Megan realised it. There was not going to be a battle. It was a warning sign, showing the village that someone had wandered into the forest on Friday.
By evening, everything went back to normal. Sarah and Megan never went back to their regular location near the tree line. They went to the lake.
“They knew. Somehow, they knew.”, Megan said.
“I know what got them back to the village.”, Sarah held out Megan’s hand.
“The directions indicated on the forest floor also displayed the way back to the village, in case any one of us was lost.”
“I didn’t see it.”
“A circle was marked on the closest two trees, which showed the direction towards the village, and we came running, without looking at the directions on the forest floor. I led the way back, remember?”
“The village will start investigating soon.”
“Yes. They will, after they know about it.”
“But as girls, we will not be doubted. Do not worry. Now let us go home. It is getting dark, and we need to attend the event of the sacrificial lamb. Let’s have some good food now, shall we?”
Then they left.
This post is inspired from The Daily Post’s Writing 101 June 2014 Challenge – Day 12: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon