Fear Has A Hold

The silence was deafening. Amidst the trees, there should have been noise. A bird chirping. The sound of leaves rustling as the wind rushed past. The cracks of branches as animals moved about the forest. But there was nothing. No sound. Pure silence.

She stood there, holding her breath for fear of disrupting the eerily serene calm. Something wasn’t right, she knew that. But fear gripped her. What if one sound was what brought the beast out? What if one sound broke the silence and the true evil that hid in these woods came out?

She knew better than to come here especially on the eve of the anniversary. Such a horrific and terrifying anniversary. For in these very woods just 2 years before, 5 teenagers had been brutally murdered. The killer? Unknown. And the way they died is too gruesome to even put into words. The town hadn’t been the same since their deaths.

Now, the woods themselves seemed to permeate an evil force. Strange things began happening by the scene of the crime. The bodies of animals were constantly found fleeing the area. A few people that went camping nearby had gone missing, never to be found. Once a child was discovered sitting by a tree that one of the teenagers had been staked to. The child was muttering, saying that the voices told her to come there and wait for the darkness. Countless other instances had occurred and people were terrified to go anywhere near those woods now.

So the real question. Why was this girl standing in the same spot her brother had died two years ago? Why was she here knowing all of the terrible things that happened here? Because she had come to face her demons. She had come to find the answers everyone had been too afraid to ask for. Samantha Travers was going to camp out in these very woods tonight and see if the ghosts came out to play.

Was she afraid? Of course. But sometimes the desire to understand the unknown is what keeps the fear at bay and pushes us forward to find the truth.

Samantha took a deep breath and dropped her backpack to the ground. The dead leaves beneath it crunched loudly on impact. The sun was beginning to set. The golden light barely shining through the branches of the trees. She knew she needed to start a fire or she was going to be left in almost complete darkness. Although she didn’t know what lived in these woods, whatever it was, she knew she didn’t want to be in the dark with it.

With unskilled hands, she began to place rocks into a circle. Tossing fallen branches clumsily together in a pile within. The sound of each piece of wood landed with a dull thud. Once she was satisfied with her creation, she walked back to her backpack to find matches. The leaves crunched under the weight of each footstep. As she unzipped her bag, she noticed that apart from the noises she was making — she heard nothing else within the woods. To calm her nerves, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and began to play her favorite Lana Del Rey album, “Born To Die.” As Lana’s voice rang out, Samantha closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The soft melodic tone slowly calmed her nerves.

She reached into her bag, pulled out the matches and walked back over to start the fire. But as she bent down to strike the match, she got the ominous feeling that someone was watching her. Turning slowly, she scanned the woods. It was growing darker by the second and was becoming more difficult to see farther out beyond some of the trees. There should have been the sounds of crickets or something. She knew the lack of natural sounds was abnormal. And the feeling of eyes watching her was beginning to make her skin crawl. She silently regretted making the decision to do this. To camp in these woods for a night. She knew the risk she was taking, but she had to know. She had to face whatever the evil was. The death of her brother still haunted her daily. Everyone else had seemed to move on, to forget the loss. But she couldn’t. Her brother was her favorite person in the world and not knowing what happened to him was eating her alive.

Lana’s voice cut through her thoughts, bringing her back to reality. She ignored the feeling of being watched and struck one of the matches, lighting it instantly. She dropped the match onto the wood and watched as the fire slowly began to catch.

The crackling of the fire gave her a sense of security she had yet to feel since entering into the woods. As she set the box of matches beside the fire, she began to take her surroundings in a little more. The sunlight was no longer shining through the trees, it had been replaced by the soft light of a full moon. Mixed with the light from the fire, eerie shadows surrounded her. Illuminating a tree to her right that had a small wooden cross shoved into the ground before it.

She recognized the cross at once. She had put it there herself, 2 years ago. His body had been found at the base of that tree. They never told her exactly how he had died, but she knew it was bad. She was sure they were trying not to frighten her, but she’d overheard enough conversations to know he couldn’t have had an open casket. She had her theories, but she was almost certain he hadn’t been found in one piece. Her parents told her not to dwell on it. To stop asking questions and move on. But she couldn’t.

Samantha slowly raised up from the fire and began to walk towards the tree. Each footstep crunching loudly. The music still playing from her pocket breaking through the silence. She stopped in front of the cross. Slowly, she reached out a shaking hand to touch the tree. Whispering quietly, “I miss you, James.”

As she uttered the words, it was as if all the noise she had created was slowly being removed. Lana’s voice gradually got softer and softer. The crackling of the fire was gone. She looked around, the fire was still sparking but she couldn’t hear it. She pulled her phone from her pocket and saw that it was still playing music, but it was emitting no sound. She began to breathe heavier, but she couldn’t hear the sound of her own breath leaving her body. Panic was filling her veins. She could feel her heart pounding severely within her own chest, but there was no thump, thump, thump. Anxiety was taking over. A sense of dread fell upon her. She was getting hot, a prickling sensation running up and down her spine. She knew it was fear. It was taking a hold of her. She began to look around wildly, trying to find the source of whatever had taken the noise away. But there was nothing. All she could see was shadows. Terror was wracking her body, she was close to hyperventilating — still not able to hear a thing.

At least there was still light. At least she could still see. As long as the fire kept burning, she had a little bit of hope. But it was as if the evil had heard her thoughts. Suddenly, she felt a darkness surge through the trees and the fire died out completely. Enveloping her in a near darkness, taking almost all of her hope with it.

Samantha saw nothing but the soft light of the moon. It was barely breaking through the trees. Definitely not enough light to illuminate her surroundings. Her eyes slowly began to adjust to the lack of light, but she couldn’t see farther than a foot in front of her.

Then, she remembered her phone was still on in her pocket. Even though she couldn’t hear anything, she knew she still had her eyesight. Samantha recklessly grabbed for her phone, roughly pulling it out of her pocket. As she tapped her home button, the harsh white light from the screen temporarily blinded her. Forcing her to shut her eyes abruptly. Slowly, she opened them and squinted at the screen. She swiped up on the bottom, pulling her control center into view. As she was getting ready to hit the flashlight icon, she saw her battery for the first time since pulling her phone out. It was at 1%. “No. No. This could not be happening.” She panicked, hitting the flashlight button quickly, knowing her time was limited. The light instantly filled the woods around her, casting intense shadows as it hit the trees.

She needed to find her bag. There was a flashlight in there and if she could just get to her bag, she’d have light. With the light from her phone, she began scanning the woods, looking for her bag. After several seconds, she noticed it over to her right. As she took her first step, that’s when she felt it. A hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back with brute force. Sheer terror filled her. She tried to scream but no sound came out. Her scream was a silent cry. She almost lost her balance as she fell backwards, but she gained her footing and flew around to see what had grabbed her. Adrenaline rushed through her veins. The light from her cellphone illuminated the area behind her, but there was nothing there. No sign of what had grabbed her. As she wildly looked from side to side, her phone shut off without warning. The flashlight going with it. Leaving her in almost darkness yet again.

Tears filled her eyes and began to trickle down her face. She was terrified. She was alone in the woods with no real idea of the situation she had walked into. She put her head in her hands for a moment and bent towards the ground trying to calm down. She had to get her bearings. Whatever was in these woods was just fine to mess with her and take its time doing so. Clearly, it was in no rush. It had all night. Amidst the panic of losing the light, she had almost forgotten she still couldn’t hear anything. As strange as it was to hear nothing, her body was adjusting to it. It needed her to survive. Whatever attack she faced, her body was preparing to fight it. She needed to get to her backpack.

She turned back around and saw a flash of silver in the distance. Hoping that was a zipper from her bag, she began to move towards it.

Breathing deeply, she walked forward. Each step should have echoed through the trees but it didn’t. Ignoring the lack of sound, she kept walking. The closer she got, the harder it was to see anything. That’s when she noticed the light from the moon was getting less pronounced. She looked up at the sky and saw a cloud beginning to hide the light. In about 5 seconds, she was going to experience pitch-black darkness and she knew whatever lived in these woods was about to come out and play for real. She was filled with a new sense of urgency and started to run towards her bag.

Frantically, she searched along the ground only coming across dead leaves. Her hand continued to search blindly through almost darkness. Finally, her finger brushed against the strap of her bag. She let out a soft gasp of excitement as the cloud completely covered the moon. At the exact moment the light disappeared, the floodgates opened and sound pushed itself back into the forest, filling every inch of space. But it wasn’t the normal sounds of a forest. It was something much, much worse.

The woods were filled with unnatural guttural screams. Terrifying noise that cut through Samantha — filling her with a new sense of horror. The hair on Samantha’s arms stood on end, chills covered her body. She forced her hands on her ears trying to block out the unnerving screams. She had lost all focus. It was the sounds of pure evil and Hell. Screams of terror and torture. She could hear her heart beat booming within her own chest. Her breathing was deep, heavy, and fast. She was trying desperately not to lose it. She could not break down right now. She could not let the fear take further hold of her. She needed to find her flashlight. She HAD to find her flashlight. She was filled with a desperation. She knew if she didn’t find the flashlight soon, there was no way she’d make it through this night. Her hands blindly ripped through her bag. Clumsily missing zippers and continually opening the wrong sections. Finally her hand touched metal and she hastily grabbed her flashlight out of her bag. A small glimmer of hope filled her. Her hands quickly ran along the side, searching for the switch. If she could just flip on the switch, there would be light. And a thought crossed her mind, “Would the screams stop if the light came back?” God, she hoped so.

Samantha continued to fumble with the flashlight. Panic was building. Why couldn’t she find the switch? It was just a stupid flashlight. There’s no way this should be so complicated. But the screams were breaking her down. She had lost all sense of direction. She was trying so desperately to shut it out, but the cries felt like they were building in intensity — tearing through her body. It was a cacophony of horror filled with sounds of sheer terror and excruciating pain.

As her hand finally ran across the switch, she felt someone breathing on her neck and realized she couldn’t move. The breath was hot and ragged. It was impossible to ignore. It had become impossible to function. She felt frozen in time as two cold hands reached around and grabbed her neck. The shock of being strangled caused her to momentarily forget about the flashlight.

But her survival instincts were fed up. Her body was prepared to do whatever was necessary to get out of this situation and right now, she had to flip that stupid switch. She had to move. The terror continued to course through her, but she began to yell. “FLIP THE SWITCH SAMANTHA! FLIP THE SWITCH,” she bellowed in an attempt to focus. The hand tightened around her throat blocking her air flow and causing her words to choke. She was done with this. If she didn’t turn on the flashlight now, she was going to die right here, right now in these god forsaken woods.

The hand gripped tighter. She searched frantically for the switch again with a focused desperation. Her hand caught the switch and she pushed up with no hesitation. Light filled the woods and the screaming stopped instantly. The pressure on her throat let up. She dropped to the ground and began coughing, hysterically trying to catch her breath. She looked up and saw something flee into the trees but couldn’t make out the shape. Why had she thought this was a good idea? She’d almost died and that was just because the light went out. How in the hell did she think she was going to survive the whole night in these crazy murder woods? This wasn’t worth it. Finding the truth wasn’t worth her life.

With the intention of leaving the woods, Samantha got up from the ground and grabbed the flashlight. She began to look for her possessions, shining the light around her. She was leaving now. There’s nothing that could convince her to stay at this point. First, she just needed to find her phone. She’d dropped it in her mad dash to find her flashlight.

As the light spread out, illuminating the ground, she noticed the cross again by the base of the tree where her brother had died. That’s when she saw it. The one thing that could cause her to stay and find out the truth. She stopped dead in her tracks and stared at them. The darkened silhouettes of 5 people stood around the tree.

They all had their backs to her, but she’d recognize his slouch anywhere. The way his shoulders curved. The way he was standing. That old ratty hoodie that said CAMP on the back. He always wore it when he went camping, he thought it was so clever. It was him. She’d know him anywhere. She couldn’t believe it. He was standing right in front of her.

“James,” she whispered. He didn’t move. There was no sign that he had even heard her. She slowly began to move towards him. The leaves crunching loudly beneath her cautious footsteps. For a moment, she felt protected. She didn’t know why. It was almost as if he was here to keep her safe from the evil that lived in these woods. But it didn’t matter that he was here, she just needed to see his face. She needed confirmation that it was really him.

She stopped a little ways from him. “James,” she softly repeated. No response. She timidly reached out her hand and lightly touched his shoulder. He began to turn. There was no denying that it was him as his profile came into view. But when he fully faced her, there was a deadness in his eyes that was truly disturbing. Whoever was really standing before her wasn’t the brother she’d known her whole life. Whatever this was, it was only the remnants of who he had been. The crushing realization hit her again that he was dead and this was all that was left.

Samantha’s face dropped. To stop herself from bursting into tears, she bit her lip harshly — her teeth cutting deep causing her skin to break. She tasted blood in her mouth as a new wave of sadness hit her. The pain was the only thing reminding her that this moment was real. “James?” Her voice shook with anguish. It was as if he didn’t even see her. His dead eyes looked beyond her at some unknown realm she couldn’t see. As he stood in front of her, she began to take in his appearance. She could see deep, jagged cuts all over his face, around his neck, even on his hands. Almost like he had been put back together. She realized her parents had refused to tell her what condition he was found in because he wasn’t just found in two pieces, he was found in many.

Her hand jumped to her mouth as she tried to keep the bile down. What could have done this to him? She began to reach her hand out to touch his face but found she didn’t have the strength to follow through. “James, what happened to you? Who did this?” Her voice cracked as she spoke. Tears began to stream down her face. At this, not only did James finally look at her — but the four other silhouettes turned towards her. As each one came into view, she was barely able to recognize her brother’s friends. She could see the grotesque cuts on their skin as well. One of the girls had distinct markings on her neck of where a rope had strangled her.

Samantha couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She had known these five people her whole life. And the revolting markings covering their bodies made them almost unidentifiable. Seeing the hell that each of them had experienced in these woods was too much to bear.

Voices began to coarsely whisper. They were jumbled and incoherent with an eerie, uncanny quality to them. She held her flashlight up so she could get a better look at their faces. As she looked at each of their mouths, she saw they weren’t moving. In fact, she noticed stitching on each of them that covered their mouths. She almost screamed in alarm. Each one had been badly stitched and the skin was left rough and unhealed. Dried blood filled each opened cut.

James’ hand reached out abruptly and grabbed Samantha’s forearm. As soon as his cold, dead skin touched hers, the voices became clear and she could hear what they were saying within her own mind.

“Darkness lives here. Death abides with him. We found the book at the base of the tree. We didn’t know the evil that lived within it’s pages. It was a story that brought him to life. We didn’t think he was real when we said his name. We thought it was just an urban legend. We invited him to the realm of the living. But we cannot speak his name again. He stitched our mouths shut so we couldn’t banish him. The screams in his darkness are all that is left of our voices. He broke us so that we couldn’t be put back together. We are forced to live here, never able to move on, never capable of stopping him.”

Samantha’s flashlight began to flicker. Terror like nothing she had yet to experience filled her. If that light went out, she was dead. Samantha tried to loosen James’ grip on her arm but as the light flickered, he held on tighter. She didn’t want to hear anymore. This isn’t what she wanted to find out. If anything, she had more questions now, but she needed to get out of these woods.

Each of the apparitions were no longer looking at her though. They were watching something beyond. A cold intense pain shot through Samantha’s arm as if her bone was about to break. She tried to tear her arm from James’ hold but she couldn’t. She looked again at their faces and realized that their dead eyes were afraid. She didn’t know it was possible for death to show terror but she saw it there. The voices were no longer whispering quietly. They began to shout. “RUN! HE’S COMING! HE’S COMING! RUN!”

Samantha pulled with all of her might and ripped her arm from James’ inhuman grip. She began to run away from them, using her flashlight to illuminate the way. But she didn’t see the logs from the fire until it was too late. She tripped over them and hit the ground hard. The flashlight shot out of her hand and busted against a rock, breaking open in the process. The light disappeared and the screams returned with a vengeance. Samantha jumped to her feet in the darkness, ignoring the intense pain in her leg and began to run carelessly through the woods. Limping with each flighty step.

The screams built maliciously as she ran. She had to cover her ears because she couldn’t take the severity of the noise. As her hands touched the sides of her head, she felt something wet and realized her ears had began to bleed. Blindly, she continued to run with all of her strength. She had to get out of these woods. She had to get to her car. Her car, oh my god. She needed keys. Even if she made it to her car, she was miles from anyone. Samantha stopped and began searching through her pockets frantically. Where were her car keys? The crushing realization hit her that she had left her keys in her backpack that was still at the campsite.

Samantha didn’t know how far she had run. She didn’t know what direction to continue running. The true weight of her unescapable situation hit her and she sank to the ground and began to weep uncontrollably. This was it. She was going to die. Right here, in these woods where her brother had died. There was no way out and she couldn’t see anything. How could she have been so stupid? The screams continued and Samantha could do nothing but let her own wails join in the chorus of unearthly screams.

Cold, calloused hands grabbed at her in her despair, ripping her skin. Blood began to run freely as her cries turned into tortured screams. The hands were coming from all around her. They began to drag her painfully along the ground. She tried to fight them off, but she was no match for the strength of the darkness’ grasp. She couldn’t fight what she couldn’t see. She inwardly pleaded for it to end quickly. Her mind screaming for it to stop.

Suddenly, she felt something sharp puncture the skin above her lip and felt her mouth being forced shut. They were sewing it closed just like her brother’s. Blood gushed into her mouth. She continued to scream in unendurable agony but the sound became muffled as the hands roughly finished their work.

The pain was so intense that Samantha prayed that she would just die. Her muffled scream continued as the hands literally tore her apart. She lost consciousness from the excruciating pain as her life reluctantly left her body.

— —

Two days later, Samantha’s car was spotted abandoned in the woods by an officer that was patrolling the area. Police entered the woods and found her body or rather what was left of it. Her parents, once again, were forced to have a closed casket funeral.

The legend of the woods continue to grow. People claim that sometimes if you drive past that section of the woods at night, you could see Samantha. Just standing there, waiting. Looking out at the world with dead eyes.

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