| Did you know that there are five million species left undiscovered on the planet? The earth is a huge place. From animals to sea creatures, humanity spent centuries finding each variety of animal under the stratosphere. Whether by curiosity or accident, people who discovered new creatures are showered with praise and adoration often times with the right to name the creature. However, some aren’t as fortunate. Such is the case of Samantha B. Wells and Terij D. Anderson. Both were reported missing on Oct 15, 2019 weeks after they left home for a business meeting and never came back.
Rolling tires scattered autumn leaves off the pavement as it cruised down the highway between rows of trees coated in thick gold, yellow and brown leaves.
“Woohoo!” A dark-skinned woman shouted as she stuck her head out the side window of a metallic blue 2018 Prius.
Her black silky weave waved in the wind as she inhaled the crisp cool air into her nostrils. “We did it baby!”
“Terij, what are you doing?’ A blonde woman said as her ponytail flapped in the wind. “Get back in the car or we might get pulled over.”
“Police!?” the woman laughed, “Gurl, with the money we gon be makin, we can be as reckless as we want.”
“Still,” the woman said with her hands clamped to the steering wheel, “We should be a little careful. We don’t want to ruin our contract by involving the police.”
Terij dropped back on the beige leather seat and cast a funny, somewhat outraged look towards the driver.
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.” The woman crassly said, “Samantha…are you saying that we need to be careful?”
“I know it seems a little-
“You were the one who convinced me to put my savings up for an investment in our fashion line. What was it?” She continues playfully mocking her voice. “Gurl, you’ll never discover anything new sitting at this desk job”
“I…know,” Samantha said with an incredulous headshake, “It just seems all too good to be true. I mean, we put everything on the line and we’ve managed to pull it off. Don’t want to push my luck, you know?”
“Gurl, if luck exists, then we would’ve lost out a long time ago,” Terij said, throwing a hand in the air. “We blessed, boo. That’s something you don’t want to waste.”
“You think so?” She asked and glances at her partner as she steers the vehicle along a curve.
“Yeah, it's all the way to the top. So, stop trippin and live a little.”
“Well, damn,” The driver said as she slammed the steering wheel with her palm, “You’ve convinced me. How about we have ourselves a little fun on the road?”
“What do you mean?” Her friend replied with an arched eyebrow.
Samantha presses the brake pedal and slowed the Prius to a halt with the engine still running.
“Uhh. Why we stopping?” Terij asked.
“Buckle your seatbelt,” Samantha said.
The woman, now worried, pulled her strap and clicked it into the buckle. Looking ahead, she saw a two-lane road that curved up a hill between rows of golden yellow and brown trees.
“Ohhh, I see what you wanna do!” Terij says with a mischievous smile. “Do your thing.”
Samantha’s eyes narrowed as she hungrily licked her upper lip. She gripped the beige steering wheel tight while her left foot pressed the clutch. She sucked in a deep breath, shifted into first gear, and stomped the gas pedal. The tires screeched against the pavement as the engine ejected smoke when the Prius burst into motion. Adrenaline coursed through Samantha’s veins as the engine revved beneath her feet. She gripped the stick shift, slammed on the clutch, and shifts a few gears up. She fed the engine more gas as the car zoomed down the highway at forty mph.
“WOOOO, GET IT, GURL!” Terij cheered while she grasped the handle.
Her heart banged in her chest as she rushed by. The autumn trees blurred as the lines dividing the road merged into a clear line. At Fifty to sixty mph, she slammed the clutch again, shifted into sixth gear, and pushed her vehicle to its limits. Everything became surreal to Samantha as she grinned in excitement. Her eyes fixated on distant possibilities, the feeling of being in control, and the rush of living unchained; It was a drug she couldn’t get enough of. A loud pop shattered her trance and the vehicle spun out of control. They screamed while sparks and smoke flew into the air Airbags erupted from the steering wheel and dashboard as the car slid off the road, rolled down the hill, and crashed into a tree.
Moments passed and Samantha gasped awake by the inflated airbag that threatened to smother her and pushed it aside. Shards of glass pierced the sides of her face and hands while blood oozed from her forehead. Panting, she clasped her throbbing head with her bloody, trembling hands.
Her dizzying head adjusted when she realized that she was hanging upside down with her upper torso strapped in place by a seatbelt.
“Terij,” she mumbled as she looked towards the passenger seat, but it was empty.
“Oh, no” she wailed, fearing the worst. She looked again and saw a burrowed path through the brown leaves where she could’ve crawled away.
Looking at her lap, she patted her waist to find the seat belt release, pressed it, and collapsed onto the carpeted ceiling cluttered with glass. Using her scratched forearms, she crawled out the window of the toppled Prius as it ticked and hissed like a bomb. Feeling the cool dirt beneath her body, she rolled on her back to catch her breath. Squinting from the rays of sunlight peering through the orange canopy, she rested quietly and contemplated where her close friend was.
“Idiot,” She mumbled for nearly killing herself and friend.
After a long silence, a rustling bush startled her as she headed towards the thick forest.
“Terij!?” she called out as her brown eyes examined the area, but there was no response.
Forgetting that she was wearing high heels, she rolled to her stomach, stood too fast, stumbled on her backside, and grunted. She kicked the shoes off her feet and ripped her black skirt to help with movement before rising. Walking towards the toppled vehicle, she dropped on all fours, pulled her purse from the wreckage, and retrieved her smartphone only to find the screen completely shattered. Samantha groaned and threw her phone to the ground.
Stranded in a forest with no communication, coupled with the disappearance of her close friend, weighed heavily on her. She sobbed as she ran her hand through her disheveled blonde hair.
“What am I gonna do?” She sniffed while wiping the tears off her face.
Taking a moment to compose herself, she closed her eyes and inhaled the fresh crisp autumn air into her nostrils, and released it from her mouth.
“Ok, Samantha,” She said to herself, “Think. You’ve dealt with worse.”
Her rushing heartbeat calmed and some of her pain subsided as a cool breeze brushed her face.
“Ok,” She said as her tears dried, “I need to find Terij and we’ll track back to the road to find help.”
She limped around the car to study the burrowed trail that led deeper into the forest. Puzzled, Sam stared at the tracks for a few moments and noticed a few blood-soaked leaves.
“Did she crawl all the way in the forest?”
She walked along the burrowed path as it curved around trees and thick bushes. She halted just past a barren tree and froze when she saw Terij’s purse near the trail. Reaching down, she picked up the glistening leather black pocketbook. A wave of worry hit her as her friend always kept her purse with her no matter where she went, being that all of her credit cards and identity were inside. Terrifying thoughts of the horrible things that may have happened to her ran through her head.
Was she dragged off by strangers? No, they would’ve taken me, too.
Then, a yellow-legged centipede hidden inside the purse crawled onto her hand. Screaming, she hurled the critter and the purse away. She trembled and religiously wiped her hands and huffed from the shock. As she regained her focus, she heard something in the distance that she couldn’t make out. Samantha calmed her heavy breathing to listen past the rustling trees and chirping birds.
“Help” Terij’s voice called in a low, desperate tone.
“Terij?” Samantha yelled, searching for where the noise was coming from.
She faced the dense autumn woodland where the noise originated and she ran to it. She pushed past a set of bushes that barred her path, stepped over a dead log, and onto a mushroom that shoot white spores into her face. She coughed and gagged after inhaling the powdery soot as she waved the mist away and wiped the snot off her nose with her forearm.
“Terij,” Samantha called out. “Are you there?”
“Could’ve sworn I heard her.” The woman mumbled.
Crackling the branches with her feet, she slowly trekked deeper into the woods as orange butterflies happily danced to the bird’s tune. As she walked, her vision blurred as the ground tilted. She placed her hand on her forehead and leaned her back against a tree.
“Where, is she?” Her voice trailed off as the hallucinogen she inhaled took its toll.
“Terij,” she whispered.
“I’m here, girl,” Terij’s voice spoke to her mind.
“Were…are you?” Samantha asked as her eyes dizzily rolled to the back.
“Close by,” Terij responded in an unusually calm voice.
“We…need…to…find a way back”
“Alright, but get some rest…I’ll be there soon.”
Samantha’s eyes slowly shut as her limp body slid off the side of a tree, and collapsed.
Three feet long and as round as a baseball bat, golden-brown scales covered the leech-like creatures that hid amongst the autumn leaves. With triangular teeth inside their wide orifices, the organisms had black, beaded eyes and specialized scales on their bellies to help them move across the forest floor. They traveled in packs, ranging from fifteen to 20, with a leader guiding the mob to the next sleeping feast.
The leader latched onto Samantha’s neck, sucked its fill of blood, and moved aside as others took its place. As the hungry creatures grew restless, they surrounded her, and more attached to her hands and feet as they took turns feasting on her exposed flesh. Samantha woke from her brief slumber and screeched in horror as the leeches covered her legs and arms.
“OH MY GOD,”
Swinging her arms and shaking her feet, she threw some creatures off as she shuffled in a panic but just as she stood to run, several more giant leeches jumped from the leaves and latched to her stomach. They aggressively wiggled with glee and devoured their long-awaited meal. She fell on her back, screeched, and struggled to pull them off, but the significant blood loss weakened her.
“NO! PLEASE NO!” She cried and shuffled away as more latched onto her arms and legs.
One final leech leaped and wrapped its orifice around her mouth and nose to muffle her cries as she collapsed. The creatures dragged the woman into a thick pile of autumn leaves and her sprawled arms vanished beneath dozens of blood-sucking crawlers.
The search party found the overturned Prius, along with Terij’s purse and Samantha’s busted phone. After two days, the search was called off due to a string of unexplained disappearances. Their families decided to have one close casket funeral for both, fearing they perished in the car wreck.
Their bodies and the creatures responsible for their deaths were never discovered.