A horror story of approximately 1200 words.
| A Scream In The Dark
A scream in the dark is scary to hear at the best of times. Even if you are sitting in front of a log fire, or are tucked up safely in your bed, it is bound to send chills down your spine. Will you get up and go out to investigate? Probably not.
But that is not what this story is about.
As much as that scream caused alarm, it is nothing compared to the effect that the same scream would have when you are out... alone... in a forest. For admit it - right at this moment, while the echoes of this scream are still being tossed from tree to tree, you are terrified.
You stop breathing; either holding the air inside or leaving those lungs empty. Not for more than a second or two, and not intentionally; you have been frozen.
When the sensations return, and the adrenaline floods through your bloodstream, you find yourself in fight or flight mode. You look around. Quick glances, to the left, the right, straight ahead; you've seen nothing so you are going to have to do it, turn and look over your shoulder.
The goosebumps rise up on your arms, as you force your head to turn. Every single nerve is screaming out to you not to do it. Your eyes force themselves shut but you've got to get up the nerve to look.
Was that a movement in the shadows?
You can't afford to pause, to check. Your head whips round towards the front again, and before you are even looking where you are going, your feet are propelling you forward. If only you'd had more sense than to set foot in the forest when it's dark...
The forest is dense. The tall trees have spindly branches that reach out to snag on your clothes, to pull against you as though a hand has reached out to grab you... There's a thudding noise, keeping pace with you. Footsteps? No, you finally realize it is the frantic beating of your heart. You need to slow down, take a moment to breathe, to bring down that rapidly racing pulse.
Moving at no more than a jog now, you start to wonder. Was it a scream? A human one? It's far more likely that what you had heard was a fox. Vixen's are well-known to call, making a sound very similar to that of a screaming person. You convince yourself that it has all been your imagination, that a flight of fantasy has been over-ruling your rational thought. There's nothing to be scared of; you just need to calm down, re-trace your steps and get away from the trees.
Now, here's another problem. In your mad rush, you did not pay much attention to the directions you were taking; and now you are well and truly lost. Turning one way, then another, your eyes scan for anything that might be familiar. All paths look the same, don't they?
But wait... Is that some kind of light off to your left?
There's no better way to go, so you decide to chance it, to check it out. There's always the possibility that it is a parked vehicle. The driver would be sure to help. Clinging to that picture, your mind builds up images of a warm car, of getting home, taking a hot shower and climbing in to bed. Just as your head is about to hit the pillow, there is a cracking noise, a fluttering noise, a howl and you're straight back into that panic mode.
The adrenaline hit is sudden this time, so quick it makes your head spin. Dizzily, you try to keep up the pace, only to find your foot turning over as it slips down a hole. Reaching out, your arms push through brambles that scratch and tear. Your cheek feels their sharpness too, but at least you prevented your head from making contact with the ground.
Now, look ahead. It was a light that you had seen. Not a headlight, but a glow from the window of a log cabin. There's going to be somebody inside there that will offer assistance. There's bound to be, for why else is there a light shining from inside?
Relief begins to clash with panic and you keep on running towards the door. You bang on it, raise your voice in a call, but there's no response. The door remains firmly closed and you cannot hear any movement. Now what? You don't want to give up on the sanctuary that this had offered, so you make your way towards the window.
There is the lamp, glowing from it's place on a small wooden table. Apart from the lamp, the table-top appears to be bare. Two hard wooden chairs stand either side of it. Stretching your neck, moving your position, you try to take in more of the cabin's interior. The fact is, as bright as it had seemed from the blackness of the trees, really that lamp is very dim.
You open the door, for it is not locked. It's not really that strange; why would anyone bolt their door in a place where no one was ever likely to be? Even though the draft makes the flame inside the lantern flicker, you leave it open as you step warily inside. You still can't see anything more than that table and chairs, but the far corners are still so shadowed. Someone could be sleeping across the far side of the room.
There's nothing for it but to take a few more steps. You've got nothing to lose; either you will find someone, or you will have somewhere sheltered to stay until the sun rises and you can see again. You'll be able to find your way through the forest, then.
As you reach the table, the door slams shut. Is someone back? You turn to look, already feeling the unmistakable prickles of alarm running down your arms, your legs, your spine...
And that's before you send the lantern flying... before you smell smouldering wood... before you see that first orange flicker.
In a blind panic now, you turn in circles. Where is the door? The window?
You reach out blindly, fumble with your hands. The door, it's right in front of you and yet it will not move. You push and you pull and you hammer your fists against it, but it stays shut, trapping you inside.
The flames have taken a good hold now. And you are frantic. You are puffing, gasping, breathing in so much smoke. Think! Think! Where was the window?
Still blind, and now increasingly desperate, you run your hands against the wall, searching for that smoothness of glass. There! Right under your finger tips. There's no time to grab a chair. You smash your elbow hard against the pane, hear it crack, but it is still in place. You need to do it again and you do and the glass shatters...
You remember, too late, what air does to fire. In the effort to escape you have fed it. The flames leap around you, flickering up your legs, turning your clothing in to a raging inferno...
You scream! And as you do, you realize that that is the sound you had heard at the start. The sound of your very own scream.