We snickered and chuckled as we climbed over the park gate.
“Sshh!” Tom said. “There might still be people here.”
“As if anyone’s here at this hour.” I said, and Tom pretty much shut up. He always was the careful one. We got out a torch and followed the path as best we could. It was difficult in the dark. After getting lost a few times, we made it there. A simple cafe. But despite being simple, they’d thought themselves too good for us and threw us out during the day. Pretentious shits.
I snorted, before kicking at the door and punching a few windows. After a few kicks the windows were shattered. It felt pretty good. The others got in on the action a bit after me too. Breaking the windows through completely. After a while we panted, and I grinned.
“Heh, fuck them.” I said; “Let’s see them clean this up.” I looked at my work, and sighed again. I was a little less satisfied. I was used to being on top of things. Used to being the one people were scared of, and didn't dare cross. But that had been changing more as the years went on. I wasn’t used to this; being the one who got pushed around. And these guys, they thought they could just throw me out, like they were better than me.
I watched the cafe, still. It was completely shattered. Every window shattered, every outer wall defaced, the door cracked and splintered. I let out a chuckle, the satisfaction returning a little. However, our laugh stopped when he a twig snap.
“Shit!” John whispered. “Let’s bolt!” He then began running, as did all the others. “Oi, get back here!” I yelled, but they didn’t listen. I heard the slow footsteps getting closer, looking between the nearing footsteps and the distancing footsteps of my friends who were bolting without even listening to me. I grit my teeth before running after them.
I could still vaguely hear them, I thought. But I knew when I found them I’d give them hell. I heard them going through the birch woods, their legs slamming into twigs and echoing through the night. It’d probably be silent otherwise. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me though, must’ve meant I lost the witness.
As I ran, I could hear their footsteps dying down. I couldn’t even tell which way they were running, as if they’d split up for some dumb reason. I looked around quickly, stood there unsure which direction to go. The echo of trees blowing and branches hitting each other was drowning out the footsteps until before I knew I couldn’t hear them at all. In fact, I could barely see anything either. Not even a street light in the distance just outside the park.
“Shit…” I grumbled. Completely lost. In front of me it was difficult to see… but it was nothing but trees as far as I could tell, so I decided to get walking. At the very least, I knew I’d get out of here if I kept moving in one direction eventually.
I’d been trudging through these damn woods for what felt like hours. At this point it felt more like a forest. Using my phone as a torch had at least helped me see where I was going. But the clock was broken on it, no matter what it was always 3am. This, along with the fact that despite feeling like hours the sun never came up was getting to me, but not as much as my appetite was. Doing nothing but walk aimlessly through the mess of trees that felt exactly like the one from hours ago felt like shit. My eyelids were heavy and my stomach felt like a desert.
I tried calling my so-called friends, but none answered. They’d probably have a laugh if they saw me so tired and sweaty. I suppose that made part of me glad it was still dark, so no one would see me like this. But that was just more reason to get out of here quickly before it got brighter, and the park reopened. Then I’d be seen a mess out here by someone if the park groundskeepers didn’t find me first and arrest me for the cafe ordeal.
I shook my head as I kept walking, before I heard a twig snap behind me and I quickly turned around. I heard footsteps as my ears were suddenly sharper, especially since I hadn’t heard so much as a cricket since I got here. Footsteps, running away from me over a mess of branches. I shined my light in their direction, but I couldn't see them. But that didn't mean I wasn’t going to follow my ears, as I ran as fast as I could.
I ran over logs and twigs, making noise myself. Whoever this was, they were fast as I heard the steps getting farther and farther away, but that didn’t mean I was about to give up so easily as I put everything I had into running. I was getting closer, I could feel it, I could hear it.
Suddenly, the footsteps stopped, but I didn't. I kept running for awhile, but no one, nothing. The snapping echoed out through the forest again. To my left. I felt a second wind and ran in that direction, but the snapping of twigs then came behind me. Despite spinning around as quickly as I could, no one was there. It came from my left just as I was about to run forward. All around me, there was clicking and snapping, Left and right, front and right, behind and front, behind left, twice to the right. I looked around me, unsure of which way to go, and my torch sure as hell wasn't giving me anything to go by.
As I got more confused, the sounds got louder, echoing all around me. I had to cover my ears to make it more bearable.
Then it all stopped, all the only sound left was my ears ringing.
I was sweating like I’d been running for my life, my eyes were like globes. I was taking a lot of breathes, in and out. My hands slowly lowered. Back to the silence. The shock had died down with the ringing in my ears. I paused, before scowling at the trees around me, and whoever was behind them, hiding from me.
“You think this is funny?!” I was turning, no snapping around every five seconds. “You think you’re some sort of comedians?!” Get your arses out here before I find you and clock you myself!” No answer. “Fine! I’ll find each and every one of you myself! I’ll drag you out, away from those trees and you’ll be sorry you were born!”
At first no one answered, but then I heard something faint, something that made me boil. Laughter. I could barely hear it, but I knew it was there. A raspy laugh that slowly got louder, but it didn’t make my ears bleed like that constant snapping. This one stopped at a certain volume, echoing through the woods but not blaring. As the sound picked up, the trees rustled. I didn’t feel a wind, but their branches shook all the same. I noticed this, but I didn’t care.
I ran once more, after this comedian. It was loud, but far away. I knew where I was going. As I ran, I noticed the thing. Leaves falling off the trees. IA wind might’ve picked up, but thI couldn't feel any. Mostly because I was running. As I got closer to the laughter, more leaves fell. By the time the laughter was close, practically all the trees were bare.
I was panting, but smiling. The laughter died down, but it was still just up ahead. I walked forward and, surprisingly, it was one guy. Standing in front of a huge tree.
“Where are the others?” At this point, he’d gone quiet and stopped laughing. I remembered my phone and held it up, the torch still on. I dropped it from shock a few seconds later.
It was thin, it had a jacket and trousers looked like they could fall off any moment. I wanted to call its skin pale, but I couldn’t even label the chalk white surface as that. As for why it was difficult to call it skin… Skin was elastic, the closest comparison I could think of is rubber. This thing’s ‘skin’ looked tough, kinda course, with cracks in it. Almost like sandpaper… Or bark. Its cheeks seemed to droop like the loose skin it was imitating, and the forehead had patterns that mimicked wrinkles. Its eyes and mouth… Well, where its eyes and mouth would be, were a trio of black expressionless patches that absorbed the light of my torch.
I stumbled backwards. It stepped towards me, its torso lengthening and its body hunching over like an old man. It made a sound like wood snapping with each step. It out with the mess of branches it called a hand, that was riddled with black patches that multiplied the more it moved, looking like the trees around me that shook and rattled as he walked. It grabbed me and threw me into a tree, its sharp branches covering my neck and face with cuts. It kept me like that, letting me bleed out before dropping me.
I scrambled up to run away, but it didn’t follow. I would’ve counted myself lucky if I hadn’t heard another creaking sound. I turned my head to look as I ran. I immediately wished I hadn’t. A tree, bending down towards me. Its branches were open and outstretched like a giant skeletal hand. Before I could gain any distance, it wrapped around me, the smaller branches digging into my body. The thing held me rightly, choking me slightly. I kicked my legs out and attempted pulling my arms out in vain. The tree slowly began to retract into the ground, with me with it. I screamed and shouted, hoping someone would come, anyone who wasn’t that thing, who stared at me with a shit-eating grin. The last thing I saw as I was dragged into the ground was the empty night sky.