Vines and snow covered much of the fence and hid the “no trespassing” signs. Many of the signs had been taken for keepsakes. A couple of Nate’s friends had one. As tempted as he was
Vines and snow covered much of the fence and hid the “no trespassing” signs. Many of the signs had been taken for keepsakes. A couple of Nate’s friends had one. As tempted as he was to have his own, he was ultimately focused on what was beyond the border.
The missing persons reports had set most people on edge. The more zealous citizens saw the disappearances as signs of the Devil among them, picking off members of the flock one by one. The other citizens weren’t as worried about superstitions, but there had been hushed accusations.
Cold air found a weakness in his clothing. The wind shook the fence and clumps of snow loose from the trees around him. A white haze rose from the ground. Nate turned around. The sun had nearly set. Must be close to four, he thought. Where is that opening again?
He stepped back and scanned the fence. He knew there was an opening nearby. A gust of wind shook the metal, and Nate felt his pupils focus. He found the opening several paces to the left of where he once stood. He rushed over to it, pulled the fencing away from the post, and slipped through.
Nate searched the ground for branches to mark his path. The snow was deep enough to support a limb as thick as his fingers. He broke a branch off a nearby tree and snapped it into four pieces. With any luck, and he doubted his, he’d find his way back out.
His insides twisted as he walked further from the road. The snow seemed to get heavier. Or maybe it’s beginning to form into solid ice, he thought. Nate’s gaze shifted, searching the spaces between the trees.
There was movement at the borders of his vision.
Trees in the wind. Trees in the wind.
The trail was still intact, but the flurries and fog made them slightly tricky to see. The tightness in his stomach eased. His footprints were deep enough to be visible. As he went forward, he pressed his feet into the snow, moving some to make small piles for branch markers.
The road was somewhat visible. It was more a black thread in the distance, and the sun had fallen faster than he hoped.
“I better get back and get phone service,” he muttered and patted his pocket to reassure himself his phone and wallet were still there.
His weight barely made an impression in the snow. Fortunately, his trail was still intact, though he would have to remake it another day. Icey patches slowed his return to the road, the trees made for good support.
Damn shame I can’t slide my way home.
To him, the spaces between the trees seemed smaller. It was the impending darkness, he reasoned. But still it was best to keep a slow and steady pace.
The cold seeped past his three layers of clothing.
“Fuck, it’s cold,” he muttered.
“Indeed, it is.”
Nate spun around, “Who’s there?”
The voice did not come again, and Nate continued forward. He found one of his improvised branch markers in the snow, and spotted the road, which was still some distance. The light was fading, and the sky had a red hue to it.
There was movement in the newly born darkness between the trees. He went to run, slipped in a snow drift, managed to get to his knees, and scurried forward.
A raspy voice in the darkness laughed.
Nate couldn’t find a purchase in the white powder, but he knew something was getting closer.
“It will only get colder and darker,” said the voice.
His limbs flailed around. Nate found a dense, icy patch and rolled forward down a suddenly treacherous hill. He heard something rip. Oh, no.
Nate kept rolling. The biting cold crept in through the rip he now had somewhere on his coat. He rolled twice more and was stopped at last with a stabbing pain in his rib.
“Fuck,” he cried out. His hand went to where the pain was.
Through his breath, he saw something pale. The bottom part of a face.
“I’ll leave, okay?” He asked.
A smile formed. The jaw was too slender to be that of a man’s, the lips too delicate.
“Stay. Leave. It makes no difference,” said the voice.
A pale hand reached out and caressed his cheek, then a finger brushed along the edge of his bottom lip.
He flung his limbs at the figure revealing it to be a wispy phantom. Black holes peered into his soul. Nate flung himself over and scurried toward the road again.
Its laughter was right behind.
Nate found the strength to rise to his feet. Pain from his ankle slowed his pace, but he didn’t dare stop. A nagging scream in his head urged him forward. He limped for what felt like an hour.
Through the haze and darkness was light. Above the road was a streetlight, the first of several he could just barely see. He hastily limped into its luminous beam, collapsed, and leaned against the base. The air, now colder, stung his lungs. The pain from his ankle pulsated to his hip and radiated into his stomach. His breath, which lingered in the air, faded as his vision grew dim.
To Be Continued…