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Lately I haven’t been able to have a good night sleep. I can’t figure out what’s wrong, I just can’t seem to sleep well. I’ve done all sorts of things like counting sheep, drinking warm milk, taking a hot shower and everything else I can do to avoid sleeping pills.
“You must be stressed”, my mom said, “Do you want me to make an appointment with Mags?”
“Sure”, I said.
Mags had been mom’s hippie friend, masseuse, and yoga instructor since forever. I was sure her magical hands could do miracles after treating mom’s back pain. But not even a two-hour massage with Magic Mags, as I usually called her, could help me sleep that night.
Instead of being tossing and turning around in bed I decided to go out for a walk. I stripped out of my pajamas and wore something suitable for a dark, cold night walk: my favorite jogger pants and fleece hoodie. When I was ready, I walked out of my room and went downstairs. As always, my tennis and jacket were on the rack near the back door. As I picked them up, I heard Watson stirring in his bed.
“Watson, wanna go for a walk?” I whispered.
The sleepy, big-eared, Weimaraner dog looked at me, yawned and went back to sleep. He usually enjoys funnier activities, like hunting, but we’ve always enjoyed going for a walk together.
“Fine”, I muttered.
Going for a night walk wasn’t something new for me, and whether Watson joined me or not, I wasn’t changing my mind. Tonight I was going by myself. Some people may work out early in the morning but I rather do it at night because I found it more relaxing. Also, I love admiring the night sky, there’s something reassuring about it.
Hiking has always helped me clear both mind and soul whenever something’s troubling me. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, so it was logic to feel like the luckiest person ever when my parents broke the news of moving to a house near the woods. Truly there’s nothing more wonderful than waking up to the smell of nature.
After our first week at our new home, and several midnight explorations, I was forbidden to walk in the woods after sunset. Apparently, my parents were afraid something might happen to me. Sure, walking through the woods during daylight is pretty cool, but walking through them at night is absolutely exciting. For me, the night walks are more than just a work out, they’re where I can find some time for myself, to breathe fresh air and think. Unfortunately, my parents will never understand that you can’t tame a wild spirit no matter how hard you try.
The wind outside was chilly, and my lungs were grateful for it. I started walking through the brick path that went from my house to the tree house I used to play in as a child. It was a 20 minute walk that I perfectly knew and which had so many comforting memories.
As soon as I started my way, I had this odd feeling of someone following me. I thought Watson decided to follow me after all.
“Watson?” I asked, but I saw no one.
I didn’t think it could be my brother out there, but he enjoyed messing with me. That was James’ favorite hobby.
“James, is that you? You do know I don’t like it when you try to scare me”.
No one answered. Chills ran through my body but I tried to stay calm. At that moment I started wondering whether going out for a walk had been a good idea or not.
After a couple minutes of journey, the feeling of someone following me was still there. Every once in a while I stopped and looked around, and every time I couldn’t see anyone behind me.
Suddenly I heard the sound of leafs and twigs creaking behind me, the sound you make when stepping over them. I abruptly stopped and tried not to look around.
“James, it isn’t funny. Leave me alone”.
Again, there wasn’t an answer. I was being paranoiac; perhaps the sound was made due to the wind. I took a deep breath and continued walking.
Halfway through the path, there was a huge oak tree which seemed to be the center of the forest. Once, when I was about eight years old, James challenged me to climb farther than he had. While doing it so, I fell and broke my leg and a couple ribs.
When I finally could see the oak three, I decided to go back home. Perhaps going through childhood memories was what I needed. After all, I was moving to another city in a couple weeks. I would be leaving the woods, my family, and everything that had been a part of me for so long.
The sound of creaking leaves and twigs continued, getting closer to where I was standing. I turned around.
“James, please stop it. It’s been enough”.
Again, there was no answer. On the ground, the creepy shadows of trees lit by the moonlight were visible and out of nowhere a human-shaped shadow appeared right behind me. It was a tall and lean shadow, a man’s, apparently. I had no idea who he was or why he was following me. There was no time for reasoning; I just knew I had to run away.
I walked faster than before. Now, he was definitely chasing me. I knew the woods very well, probably and luckily better than him. I had spent most of my childhood exploring with James and I really hoped all those years would pay off right now.
I remembered James and I had found a great hiding spot near the oak tree. It was as if the roots had formed a small cave for two children to play inside. I was not a child anymore but hadn’t grown that much. As I ran in that direction, I was hoping to still fit inside and for that strange man not to find me there.
I was never in the scouts but I’ve learned some survival skills from my father. This was my time to shine and be a better student than James ever was. I wasn’t far away from the oak tree, the trunk got nearer and nearer, so I kept running.
The oak tree was now in front of me. The hiding spot was a few feet behind it. I quickly looked around to make sure he didn’t noticed where I’d hide. He wasn’t there, maybe he was gone or maybe there hadn’t been anyone following me. I took a deep breath and ran towards the curved roots. I was already reaching for the back, when it all went black.
I opened my eyes, slowly adjusting my sight to the darkness. I found myself surrounded by dirt; the moonlight lit the oak tree above me. I got up, slowly analyzing my surroundings. I was trapped inside a hole.
This man, whoever he was, knew where I was heading. He’d trapped me, he knew the forest as much as I did, and he’d been smarter than me. Panic started growing inside me. I took a very deep breath and calmed myself down. There wasn’t much I could do from where I was, but sure I would do whatever it took to get out. I began climbing to get out of this stupid hole, but I fell twice.
My body was shaking, from both the cold wind and the fear I was experiencing. I looked up again, this time I saw the man’s shadow above the hole and it all went black again.