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Free Write #4 Moore There were footsteps behind me

It was dark. The moonlight did little to illuminate my surroundings. Shadows and
silhouettes encompassed me, drawing closer with each tentative step. With little choice I
trudged forward, taking small steps as I couldnt really see where to put my feet. I was on a
dusty, old trail in the middle of the forest. My friends and I were camping and although it
seemed like a good idea at the time to go on a midnight hike, in hindsight, it was pretty stupid.
However, dwelling on it would accomplish nothing. I had stopped to take a piss, while my
friends forged ahead. I could hear them laughing and joking ahead of me on the trail. Their
voices were company to me in the dusky woods. When I finished, I zipped up. I realized I
couldnt hear them anymore, in fact I couldnt hear anything, it was as if somehow everything
had stopped. No wind, no sound of trees rustling, animal noises, nothing. The silence was all
encompassing. Its weird, but somehow the silence set me on edge. I knew I should hear my
friends, I had only stopped for a second. I realized I was holding my breath. As I exhaled, my
breath coagulated into a fine mist, like the tendrils of smoke reaching skyward, but it wasnt
that cold. What the hell was going on? Fear clung to me like a vice, unbending, unreliquishing. I
knew, Im not sure how, but I knew I had to get to my friends.
I moved down that path as fast as I dared in the direction of my friends. I paused hoping
to hear something in the unnatural silence. I heard a whisper, then the sound of a soft footstep,
pressing on the forest floor. I realized quickly the sound had come from somewhere behind me,
not in the direction of my missing friends. Bravery would dictate Id charge back to see what the
noise was, but I was feeling no courage, nor a willingness to go back.
I-i-i-s someone t-t-there? I stammered, the crack in my voice betraying my fear,
Austin? George? Elden? If I find out its one of you guys, Im gonna kick your ass. This shit aint
funny!
The stillness of the forest was my only response. Fear grew in my stomach like a tumor.
Sweat, in spite of the chill, formed and slid down my lower back. I shuffled forward once again.
A tree root, concealed by the night, caught my foot and I fell. As I arose, I heard the same
whisper behind me, except this time there was a definite step and it was much closer than last
time. The veil of darkness obscured what I could see. My brain screamed at me. Move! Move!
By it was as though the roots had twisted and grown around my feet, rendering me immobile.
The sound came again, to my left, faintly audible in the aberrant night. A pause. The whisper
came again, this time to the right and even closer, just outside of my reach. Willing my feet to
go I moved down the trail, no longer caring about foot falls or noise. I ran forward. Slim
branches reached for me, clutching and scratching my face as I passed. I could hear it behind
me closing in. Breath. Closer and closer. I could feel its soft warmth caressing my neck like a lost
lover as I ran. The whisper drifted lazily into my ears, and although I couldnt understand them,
I knew they were promising nothing good.
I stumbled into a clearing, feet not responding in spite of the imminent danger. I knew it
was too late. Whatever was behind had me dead to rights. I spun, preparing to fight, but
nothing. I was alone.
Sounds came rushing back like a hurricane. I could hear the forest now, the sounds of a
soft wind playing melodic notes through the trees, the sounds of crickets off in a field like sirens
calling sailors to the depths, but most of all, I could hear my friends again, trampling through
the brush ahead of me unmistakable in the clatter and clutter of foreign elements in nature.
Relief. I knew somehow I had dodged unmitigating horror. Breath cascaded from my lips, but
no longer visible. I was safe. The heartbeat pounding in my ears, slowed and softened. I could
see them now ahead of me, laughing, silhouettes in the shining moon. I raised my hand to call
out to them, grateful. A hand clamped down around my throat, pulling me back.
Darkness.

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