“Mr Joseph you need to stay back, we’re
breaking the door down.”
The demands of the woods were confusing
him, Josh was confusing him, Josh, J-Josh didn’t sound like that, and he knew
he’d been bad recently and not visited his boyfriend’s hidden hideaway but that
didn’t mean he’d forgotten what his saviour’s voice felt like in his soul. Josh
was smooth, Josh was serene, Josh was solace. Josh was what he needed.
“Mr Joseph, you need to stay away from
the door! Stay back! Okay?!”
Again, Tyler frantically searched for
where the echo was first established, head twisting sharply, but to no avail.
Just as he was about to hide his swollen eyes behind his bloody palms and fold
in on himself in despair, a bright white light flashed across his vision
between blinks. It was no torch, no stray headlight, no, n-no identifiable
cause at all – just his mind playing tricks. It had to be a trick, there was no
light in the darkness of night.
Overwhelmed and exhausted, Tyler’s
screaming legs refused to lift high enough to protect him from the impending
attack and the stumbles became more and more frequent until eventually he
tripped over the winding gnarled root of a twisting and towering black oak
tree, looming above him as he wept. The scrapes on his palms were excruciating,
and as he turned to look at them, kneeling in the soggy undergrowth, all he saw
was blood. Blood, deep, dark, blood running down his arms and pooling in his
hands, dripping off his fingers and washing away with the rain. Then suddenly
the source of the pain revealed itself to him, and he noticed for the first
time the dozens of lacerations that ran up his wrists for as far as he could
“JOSH!” He screeched through his wails,
knowing his hyperventilating attempt wasn’t good enough to survive above the
roar of the weather, nothing he did was good enough.
“TYLER!” A distant voice cried out
desperately, the strain dragging each syllable out to beyond its limit until it
was ripped from the air by a gush of howling wind. At that point Tyler realised
he was sobbing, and no matter how hard he tried to locate the scream’s
whereabouts, it had long been absorbed by the engulfing emptiness that coated
everything around him, lost forever. But that wasn’t good enough, it simply
wasn’t good enough to give up, he had to find him, he had to find him.
A sudden squawking sound from above
caused his head to whip up only to quickly snap back down, needing to
concentrate on the weaving route he had no choice but to take. The crows had
joined the rats. The mob was growing.
The sky was filled with no stars that
night, just dark smothering clouds purging their burdens.
Every time he entered the forest, he was
fleeing. Sometimes during the day, he went back and tried to explore, to track
down the place he’d been the night before and find the boy who hid away in the
shadows, but something about his crossing of the boundary of the woods was like
a call to battle and, as quick as a flash, the rats appeared, and the chase was
on. A calm search was impossible, instead his only option was to run for his
life and hope the stars aligned and sent the demented beasts in one direction
and showed him the way to his salvation.
Even the darkness of the early hours of
a winter night wasn’t enough to dispel them, they chased him, they smelt him,
they were hunting him, and they were never going to give up. Part of him wanted
to make the job of the demon possessed creatures easier, be the one to fold, to
sink to his knees on the swollen muddy forest floor and allow them to rip and
tear into his body until he became nothing but a hearty meal for a dozen black
cat-sized rats. But he couldn’t, he couldn’t, especially when he knew what
could potentially be laying ahead of him, who could potentially be laying ahead
All the warning signs that they were
coming had been and gone, Granny felt the storms in her knees and Tyler felt
the rats in his chest and the mites in his skin, clawing their way out with the
help of his nimble yet shaking fingers. The weather didn’t get to him anymore,
the quivers were triggered by an overriding and overwhelming tsunami of terror
that came hand in hand with the first scratch of the rats’ dirty claws against
the bottom of the door.
He didn’t know where he was running to,
he just knew what he was running from.
There was no way to track the passing of
time in the depths of the forest once sun had gone down, but Tyler knew he’d
been running for longer than he’d ever run before, that this time was worse
than ever before, that the trees were more alien than ever before and that he’d
never had to go that far before. And he couldn’t stop. The cloak of darkness
that disguised the pattern of rocks and roots beneath his feet was thick enough
to trip him every couple of rapidly sprinted strides, but he couldn’t stop.
Comfort was a foreign notion.
The surface of his skin, a place where
the heat of his sweat evaporated and immediately fell back down alongside the
constant lashes of rain that exploded with a sting against his otherwise numb
flesh. The rain was iced, the pellets sharp and fast moving and unending, and
his blood was cold as it was forced along his tight constricting veins. A war
between hot and cold was brewing, his chest felt cold, it always did, and the
liquid pulsing through him at alarming speed was like a constant flow of
chilled dread. The air bit at his dripping nose and ears, the sensation in his
feet and fingers was long gone, and yet he felt far too hot for comfort.
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