There once was a witch in Lincoln Wood
Who would do anything for you she could
But if you had the price to pay
Then she would take your life away.
* * *
"God,” Scott panted as he pounded the last stake into the ground, reaching up to wipe his sweat-drenched forehead. “How the fuck did I let you talk me into this?”
“Because you love me,” his boyfriend, Terrence, replied from his place at the firepit. “And because you want the D.”
“I’m serious, T. This place is fucking creepy.”
“Only because you spend too much time believing in old legends and fairytales.”
Sighing, Scott lowered the mallet at his side and stood.
It was true. Maybe he had become a little obsessed with the legend behind the witch-haunted wood, but that didn’t help detract from its overall aesthetic. Dead trees all around, no wildlife to be seen, no fresh breeze, the scent of pine, the distant sound of clear-running water one would expect in the great Rocky Mountain Wilderness—he stood there, staring at Terrence for what felt like the longest time, before his boyfriend’s eyebrows narrowed and his lips were cast into a scowl.
“Scott,” the beautiful African-American man said as he approached.
“Don’t.” Scott stepped away from the touch and shook his head. Sinking his teeth into his lip, he fixed his gaze at the ground in an effort to avoid lobbying his partner’s concern before extending his arm and flexing his knuckles around the mallet. “Better give this back to Brendan.”
“Scott, maybe we should—”
A series of girlish shrieks burst from the outskirts of the clearing as Courtney and Ronda came running from the trees. In their wake, a silhouette—dressed in a long black robe and a mask whose only definitive features were the glowing eyes beneath its hood—pursued in their wake.
“Knock it off Brendan,” Terrence said. “Someone’s going to end up getting hurt.”
“The witch will get them!” the six-foot-tall man said through his vocal distortion device. “Eat them up, swallow them whole.”
“Or someone will fall and break an ankle.”
Courtney giggled. Ronda playfully pushed the brunette aside before collapsing into a fold-out lawn chair in front of the fire, fanning herself as if close to fainting. “Oh, Terrence,” she breathed. “Our lord, our savior.”
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Terrence asked Ronda, the bitter tone in his voice doing nothing to cut through the childish antics of the other Montana State University Freshman.
“Taking a shit?” Ronda asked. “Who knows.”
Courtney, again, giggled. Judging from the pungent odor wafting from her clothes, Scott imagined they’d been smoking pot.
“Scott?” Terrence asked. “Can you see if you can get a hold of him?”
“Reception’s dead,” Scott replied. “Most I can do is play Angry Birds.”
“Hey!” Ronda yelped. “Give it here!”
“Your own damn fault you didn’t bring an external charger.”
“Not everyone’s as economical as you.”
Scott resisted the urge to frown. Though likely stricken with some emotion, the girls would’ve been too high to notice—or too distracted by Brendan’s aimless ambling throughout the campsite, making incoherent grunting noises that sounded like extended, wheezing snores.
Terrence glanced over and gave him a look.
Scott, unable to muster an adequate response, merely forced a smile.
He’d only come out here for him.
It was just a stupid fraternity, just a stupid camping trip. He had to keep reminding himself of that.
And stop thinking about what you saw that night, the devil on his shoulder whispered.
“Who’s hungry?” Scott finally managed to see.
“Marshmellows!” Courtney and Ronda yelled in unison.
At least they were having fun.
“Hey,” Terrence said as he pressed a hand against Scott’s shoulder. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine,” Scott said, brushing off Scott’s touch. “You should go back to camp. They’ll probably think we’re sucking each other off out here.”
“Oh, that comes later,” the taller man chuckled, wrapping an arm around Scott’s abdomen and leaning into his back. “Seriously, though—how you holding up?”
“You didn’t have to come with us.”
“And what? Spend the weekend alone?” Scott sighed. “Besides—I gotta get over this.”
“It isn’t real, Scott. Your brother didn’t get taken by some witch.””
Terrence kissed the back of his neck and patted his abdomen before stepping away. “You gonna come back to camp?” he asked.
“In a minute,” Scott said.
Though he didn’t turn to watch, Terrence remained there for several moments, the sound of crunching twigs the only indication he had left.
He knew it wasn’t real—shouldn’t, couldn’t be at all—but that didn’t matter.
That didn’t change the glowing eyes he’d seen beyond the trees.
“Eat one,” Terrence said through a full mouth upon Scott’s return, lifting a stick with a browned marshmellow impaled at the top.
“No thanks,” Scott replied.
“Party pooper,” Courtney jeered.
“More like diabetic,” Scott shot back.
The girl offered one of her trademark cutesy-tootsy smiles before snuggling back against Brendan—who, knee-deep in his third beer, had stopped smiling and instead concentrated on groping Courtney’s ass.
“Ronda,” Scott said, centering her eyes on the pretty red-headed girl across from him. “Did Jeremy ever come back?”
“Ugh. No. But you know him. He’s probably off fucking some tree or something—in the name of science!” She thrust a fist into the air, then let it fall slack at her side.
Are they pulling a gag on me? Scott thought, frowning as the tension in his shoulders heightened and the rolling waves of unease began to ebb along his back.
It’d explain Brendan’s costume, and Jeremy’s long and unnecessary absence. It wouldn’t necessarily be outside the realm of their jurisdiction either. The only reason Scott was even somewhat accepted was because he was the hot-shot football jock’s boyfriend, and even that wasn’t enough to stop the constant jabs and irrelevant racism.
Don’t you Chinese guys know how to do everything? Brendan had asked upon their arrival and Scott’s frustration with arranging their tent into place.
Korean, Scott had replied.
Scott expelled a pent-up lungful of air and leaned against Terrence’s side. “Are you sure you don’t know where he is?”
“Your knight in shining armor will be back to impale you with his lance… or probe you with his telescope… or something,” Brendan drawled, turning his head to cough, then hock up a loogie.
“Look, asswipe,” Scott snapped. “I’m asking because it’s hunting season. You know—moose, deer? That thing all these stupid rednecks go pew-pew at? If the two of you were wandering around in those stupid suits, who’s to say he wasn’t shot?”
“We’d’ve heard it.”
“Oh God,” Ronda said. “Oh… God. Oh fuck!” She threw herself to her feet. “Jeremy! JEREMY! Where the fuck are you?”
“Now look what you did,” Brendan groaned.
“The only thing I did was have some common sense!”
“They teach that in China?”
Scott growled through his teeth, his knuckles popping as one hand balled into a fist. Terrence—having been the only one silent throughout the whole ordeal—stood and pressed a hand against Scott’s upper back. “Scott,” he said. “I think you should get some rest.”
“I’m not tired,” he growled.
“Yeah you are. Come on—” Terrence took his hand. “Let’s go.”
“God,” Scott growled as they entered the tent, kicking aside a stray sleeping bag and thrusting his hands out before him. “I can’t stand those guys!”
“I know,” Terrence said. “I was worried about you coming with us.”
“I’m tired of being locked up in the apartment all day without anything to do, Terrence.”
“And the only reason I’m enduring these assholes is so you don’t get shit for their romantic outing.”
Terrence pressed a hand against Scott’s cheek and bumped their heads together. “Let’s just go home,” he said. “There’s no point in being here if you’re not having any fun.”
Scott didn’t say anything. Terrence broke away and crouched alongside their belongings, vaguely fingering a compartment on a backpack before unzipping it and reaching for the sleeping bag spread out along the ground.
“No,” Scott said, pressing a hand to his forehead. “Just… don’t.”
Terrence looked up.
“Maybe I just need to get some sleep,” he said. “It’s been a long day.”
“I love you Scott,” Terrence said. “I’m glad you’re here. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”
After pulling his shirt over his head and stripping down to his boxers, Scott slid into their sleeping bag and laid his head across his arm.
The last thing Terrence did before leaving was kiss his cheek.
He woke sometime later in the night, long after the fire had been extinguished and everyone had gone to bed. Tucked into the curve of Terrence’s body, drunk off sleep and baffled as to how so much time could have passed, Scott shifted in place and grimaced as a flare of sensation lit his bladder.
Normally it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but given that they were in the middle of the woods, at night, and on the worst calendar date of his life…
It’d be selfish to wake Terrence up just so he could go to the bathroom. It’d be understandable, sure—especially given his circumstance—but it’d be rude as hell and offer nothing more than ammunition if they were caught hand-holding while he was taking a piss.
Suck it up.
He’d told himself he was going to get over this fear—or, at the very least, confront it. Suffering in silence would do him no good.
Shuffling out from under Terrence’s arm, Scott crawled out of the sleeping bag and blindly fingered for a flashlight, bracing himself to step into the dark beyond.
His hand had just fallen upon a flashlight when a twig snapped outside.
His blood ran cold.
He would’ve lost control of his bladder had he not been more aware of it.
What was that?
He waited to see if he could hear it again—to determine if it was real or something he’d just imagined—but it never came. There was no crack, there was no whisper, no surprising relief—his imagination was in overdrive. Laced with fear, memories of a childhood rife with nightmares came to life in but a moment—when, in the central cortex of his mind’s eyes, he saw his brother Stephen walk into the woods after seeing a pair of glowing lights, then disappear forever.
It’s here, he thought. Watching. Waiting.
“Knock it off.”
The pale whisper of invisible hands along his naked thighs wracked him with shivers.
Then—it was over. The panic was gone, the notion quelled, the insatiable fear dispelled as if it were nothing more than the ghost of a candle whose smoke only lingered against the backdrop of the lightest walls.
It was over.
It was nothing more than his imagination.
Great job, Scott, he chuckled, reaching up to rub a hand across his still-trembling lips and then through his short hair. Scare the shit out of yourself, why don’t ya? Monster in the woods, monster in the woods, monster in the woods gonna get—
Something touched his shoulder.
He would’ve screamed had he not lost his voice.
“Scott,” Terrence breathed. “Why are you up?”
The quick intake of air nearly made him pass out. The only thing that stopped him from falling was Terrence, who promptly caught him as he stumbled.
“Scared the shit out of myself,” he whispered, grimacing as the arachnid pain echoed along his ribcage. “That’s all.”
“Are you all right?”
Something cracked outside the tent.
Terrence—whose one hand had been braced along Scott’s ribcage—tensed, fingertips digging into his chest.
“You hear that?” Scott asked.
“Yeah,” Terrence said. “It was probably just Jeremy.”
“This late at night?”
Terrence patted Scott’s side and stepped toward the flap of the tent.
His boyfriend turned. “Yeah?”
Scott extended the flashlight.
“Oh,” Terrence said. He chuckled as he took the flashlight and opened the flap with hesitation.
Only the pale beam of light was enough to cut through the swath of darkness and illuminate the smoking firepit before them.
“Jeremy?” Terrence asked, leaning out the front flap. “Come on—cut it out. We’re trying to sleep here.”
The whip of a branch slapping a tree reverberated in the distance.
No lights, no eyes, Scott kept thinking. No lights, no eyes.
Nearby, the sharp hiss of a flap being unzipped revealed they were not alone. “Really?” Brenden groaned as he peeked his head out through the minor gap. “Really, Terrence? Really?”
“Where the fuck is Jeremy?”
“Hell if I know.”
“Well where’s Ronda then?”
“Lezzing it out in here with my girlfriend.”
“Fuck you Brendan!” Courtney cried from the depths of their tent.
Brendan smirked, then offered a one-armed shrug. “I haven’t seen him all night,” the jock continued. “I don’t know why you’re up yelling at him.”
“Scott heard something.”
“Scott hears everything, Terrence.”
“Don’t you start on my—”
This time, the sound of a twig snapping came right near the campsite.
Brendan’s head shot to the side.
Terrence swung the flashlight toward the copse beyond the camp. “Where did that come from?” he asked.
“Beats me, dude,” Brendan said, looking around again as another twig snapped. “Quit fuckin’ around Jeremy! It ain’t funny anymore!”
“It’s coming from above us,” Scott said.
“What’re you talking about?” Terrence asked.
Scott tilted his head to view the canopy around them.
Through the twisted spires and skeleton hands, he could just barely make out the moon—waxing, shadowed by the dense clouds moving through the mountains.
If one weren’t looking carefully enough, they would’ve never been able to see that something was out of place. But if they looked at the gnarled section of branches above them—where, upon casual glance, it would’ve appeared to be nothing more than a twisted mitosis of nature—and saw the silhouette above—
Oh God, Scott thought. Oh God, oh God. Please no. Please don’t—
A creak, groan, then several smaller whips and lashes lit the clearing before something snapped.
The vague impression of something falling was all Scott was able to make out before something hit the fire pit, sending ash, embers, and the wood logs and stones surrounding it in all directions.
No one moved. No one spoke. No one breathed.
The first to speak was Ronda. “What happened?” her groggy, pot and-sleep-addled voice asked. “What was that sound?”
“Don’t go out there,” Terrence said, still as stone as Terrence and Courtney’s flap ripped open. “Don’t go there.”
Courtney swore, slapped her flashlight, cursed it as it flickered to life, then aimed it toward the fire pit.
No one was prepared for what came next.
Jeremy’s face stared back at them—eyes wide, mouth agape.
Except it wasn’t Jeremy.
There was only one problem.
His eyes were completely black.
The semblance of a twisted smile protruded from the wretched maw of twisted flesh and blood.
“There once was a witch in Lincoln Wood,” Scott whispered. “Who’d do anything you wish she could.”
Ronda stepped from the tent and screamed.
“But if you had the price to pay,” Scott continued, his body trembling as something materialized in the nearby woods.
“Scott,” Terrence breathed. “What’re you doing?”
“Then she would take your life away.”
Every sleeping bird in the canopy took flight.
The skies opened.
The moon came out.
And in the shadows, from which there was a figure who emerged into the cold blue, a pair of white eyes glimmered with fire.
So frozen with fear that Scott was unable to move, he simply stood there and trembled as his eyes crossed time to a day thirteen years ago—when, for no explainable reason, and no apparent cause, his life had changed forever.
He disappeared when he ran into the forest, his father had said. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault, Scott. It wasn’t your fault.
They haven’t found him! his mother wailed over the telephone, her mascara bloody and cheeks swollen with tears. They’ve been searching the woods for three and days and they haven’t found anything!
They’ll find him, honey. I know they will.
Police have officially called off the search for Tommy Morris after a week-long search throughout the area known unofficially as Lincoln Woods. Though all attempts were made to locate the boy or his remains, a search team of some three-hundred people—coupled by K-9 and helicopter units—have failed to bring any results.
The cries, the screams, the wails from family, the utmost terror—the funeral without a casket, a cenotaph headstone to mark his existence—
The glowing white eyes he’d seen in the dark.
Tommy? a voice whispered.
It wasn’t his own voice—at least, not from the present. It was younger—smaller, reigned with pitch that had not yet matured with adolescence, and strained with the tension that was the confusion of someone lost and utterly afraid.
It was the voice of his childhood.
From thirteen years ago.
The apparition from whom these woods gleamed their legendary moniker stepped from the copse opposite the camp and into the pale moonlight streaming through the trees. Its face a shadow from the time of the plague, its body long and without definition, the wicked claws upon each hand bone white and tipped with glimmering claws—it lifted its beak as if to scent the air and then turned its head in a single revolution, observing the four students in the canopy as if they were nothing more than insects.
Because that’s all we are, Scott thought. Worms.
“Who the fuck are you?” Brendan asked, ripping his way out of their tent. “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?”
“Brendan,” Courtney said, reaching out to him.
Her hand fell short, slipping only along the finely-contoured muscles of his back.
Guided by the flashlight and the immense glare imposed upon them by the moon, Brenden crossed the campsite toward the apparition—huge feet crunching the leaves underfoot, his near seven-foot figure imposing regardless of the fact that he was wearing only his white briefs. He stopped short of reaching the masked entity—whose impossible height dwarfed Brenden by at least two, if not three feet—then balled his hands into fists.
“Brenden,” Courtney sobbed. “Please—”
“Shut up!” Brenden roared. “Just shut up you stupid bitch! SHUT UP! This fucker killed our friend and I—”
It happened so fast, Scott couldn’t tell what happened.
Soon, it all became clear.
Ensnared within its grasp was Brenden—feet hovering above the ground, body trembling as his windpipe was crushed into oblivion.
No sooner was he lifted was his head snapped, his body allowed to fall without dignity or grace.
Chaos took hold.
The girls screamed.
Ronda, trembling, fell to her knees, unable to move as the figure began to advance.
Scott, meanwhile, could not move. Petrified by fear, mesmerized by its glowing eyes, heart ensnared by the everlasting childhood fear of the monster in the woods born real and manifested before his very eyes—he stood, unfathomably still, as Terrence reached down to drag Ronda away, and watched his greatest fear make its way toward him.
“Scott,” Terrence said, grabbing him by one arm while dragging Ronda by the other. “We have to get out of here.”
The campfire raged to life.
Jeremy’s corpse was engulfed in flame.
“Jeremy!” she screamed. “JEREMY!”
“What?” Scott asked, unnerved at how calm he was.
“We need to get out of here!”
“But the car’s two miles away!” Ronda protested. “We’ll never make it!”
“Damn if we try.”
The cooler with booze and soda exploded.
The hiss of soda filled the air.
Tightening his hold on his arm, Terrance stepped forward, then dragged Scott and Ronda along with him.
That was all it took for them to start running.
The last thing they heard before they cleared the edge of the campsite was the boom box screeching, then exploding.
Something laughed in their wake.
It was a while before any of them spoke. Breaths ragged, the whisper of leaves beneath their feet, the startled but subdued cry as they stepped on a twig or scraped against a tree—the horror imagined became real as through the dark forest they were chased by the witch of Lincoln Wood. Without light to guide them, little could be seen. It was only the rising impression of the boulder they’d chosen to use as a landmark that revealed to them their location.
“You know where we’re going,” Scott managed through a chest wracked with tension, leaning against the bolder in an attempt to catch his breath.
“Yeah,” Terrence replied, his athletic endurance not even enough to keep him from being winded. “Ronda—Ronda!”
“I’m fine,” the girl said, stumbling between them. She pressed both hands against the boulder and wheezed, struggling to maintain her composure as she coughed, breathed, then succumbed to another fit. Terrence’s hand against her skin instantly resulted in her complete seizure—which, after a moment, started the tears that had long been absent.
“Are you all right?” Terrence asked, crouching down beside her.
“What the fuck was that thing?” she sobbed. “Terrence… what… what was—”
“I don’t know, hon. I don’t know.”
“It was the witch,” Scott said.
Terrence and Ronda lifted their heads. Scott—whose attention was captured in the deceiving distance they’d crossed—flexed his fingers, feeling muscles that’d gone dormant flicker to life.
“Scott,” Terrence said, stepping forward. “You know that isn’t—”
“How else could you explain this?”
“Someone’s in the woods. That’s all it is. Some deranged psycho who broke out of prison and decided to raid a costume shop.”
“That doesn’t explain the fire.”
“It… it started on its own,” Ronda said, drawing her knees to her chest from her place at the foot of the boulder.
“Carnival trick,” Terrence replied.
“And the cooler?” Scott asked. “I highly doubt some psycho could’ve pulled that off.”
“I… Look. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we need to get the fuck—”
What sounded like an amplified bird call echoed toward them.
“It’s laughing at us,” Ronda said, drawing herself back to her feet. “It’s laughing at us because it doesn’t think we can get away.”
“Let’s prove it wrong,” Terrence said.
They needed little persuading.
Stepping back, Scott took a breath of the cool night air and grimaced as his muscles flared with pain.
The contrast was laughable.
If he already felt like this—after running, he imagined, what couldn’t have been more than a half-mile—how was he going to continue for the rest of the night?
Can I make it?
He wasn’t sure how much he could take.
The hand at the back of his neck drew him from the torment of thought. “Scott?” Terrence asked. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Scott replied, turning, facing his boyfriend as if he were the boy before Mount Olympus.
“Ready to get out of here?”
“Yeah. More than ready.”
Their plight took them through the less consecrated part of the wood and the sheer agony that was the untamed wilderness. With no way to take the predetermined nature route for fear of making their presence known, they were forced to navigate the treachery that was the early-spring bloom and the forgotten winter’s cruel touch. Always, they feared, of fallen branches, of lingering vines, of the skeletal corpses of creatures whose bones the earth had not claimed, but never could they escape the lingering dread of the witch’s telltale song.
Not once had they heard it since that moment near the boulder.
Fortune, Ronda claimed, might have been smiling on them. They could get to the truck, get to the nearest gas station, then get the police out there as fast as they could.
The plan was foolproof. Nothing could go wrong. And though scared they would be, their lives would be spared from the cruel agony of an unfortunate death.
Literally nothing could go wrong.
Or so Scott thought.
It wasn’t until Terrence—who’d taken the lead out of size and stamina—went down with a howl of pain that the situation was made clear.
“What happened?” Scott called, pumping his legs to run as fast as he could.
“Watch out!” Terrence cried.
Scott came to a halt.
The root, so cleverly concealed beneath the lumbering tree, was only revealed by the shift of clouds.
He looked up.
The prognosis wasn’t good. Terrence was clutching his ankle—cradling it as close to his body as he could—and by the looks of things, it didn’t look like a minor injury.
“Are you all right?” Scott asked, falling to his knees.
“Does it look like I’m all right!” Terrence cried. “Ow! Stop touching me!”
“I don’t think it’s broken,” Ronda said, looking up at Scott rather than Terrence.
“Broken? Who they fuck cares if it’s broken? How the hell am I going to walk out of here?”
The birdcall started again.
“We’ll have to make it work,” Scott replied. “Ronda—help me get him up.”
“Are you crazy?” Terrence cried. “Are you—”
The man cried out in distress, then pain as Ronda and Scott took hold of his upper arms and haphazardly dragged him to his feet. It was almost impossible for Scott to hold the big man up until he moved around to support his bum side.
“Fuck,” Terrence said. “Fuck.”
“Do you see anything?” Scott asked as he tried to usher his boyfriend forward, nudging his ribcage with his elbow until the man started moving.
“I don’t see anything,” Ronda said. “I—”
Something skirted through the bushes behind them.
Ronda swiped a formidable but likely-useless branch off the ground and held it out like a sword. “Start moving,” she said.
“But what about—”
“I’m right behind you.”
Terrence groaned and hobbled along with Scott’s help as they continued through the woods. The slackened pace, while allowing opportunity to avoid roots, did nothing to subdue the witch’s relentless pursuit.
“We’re not that far from the road,” Terrence said.
“How do you know?” Scott asked.
“That tree.” He jutted his chin. “I saw it on the way in.”
Towering above all the others, cracked nearly in half by lightning—the singed scarring from the impact spread like a gross affliction that could be seen even in the darkness nights.
How did I not see that? Scott thought.
It didn’t matter. As the witch’s cries only continued to get closer, their only goal was to reach the edge of the forest—and soon.
“Come on!” Ronda cried. “Go!”
“We have to hurry,” Scott whispered to Terrence as he tried to pick up the pace, struggling with the tug and pull of a man who had to weigh at least fifty pounds more than him. “You’re doing great, babe. Come on—you can do it.”
“It fuckin’ hurts,” his boyfriend whispered.
“I’m sorry I brought you up here, Scott. I’m so fucking sorry.”
He couldn’t imagine how this would’ve turned out had he not begrudgingly agreed to force himself out of the house and trek into the Montanan wilderness. Maybe all of this was his fault. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Or maybe, just maybe—
Scott shook his head.
They were too close.
He could already see the road.
It’d only be a few moments until—
“Ronda!” Terrence cried.
“Go!” the girl screamed. “Get out of here!”
Scott threw a glance over his shoulder.
The imposing apparition stood directly over Ronda, unphased by the presence of a five-foot-five girl wielding a tree branch.
“Look at me!” the girl screamed. “LOOK AT ME you dirty motherfucking bitch!”
The creature snapped its head toward her.
“Yeah!” Ronda cried, stepping to the side, into the denser part of the wood. “You look at me you stupid bitch! I’m the one you want!”
The creature reared its head back, then thrust it forward, its beak parting to shatter the night with an impossible screech.
“Scott,” Terrence breathed, trembling.
“It’s ok. We’re getting out of here,” Scott said.
He pushed them through the last few feet toward the road.
Their feet touched ground.
Dry earth crumbled beneath their weight.
Ronda screamed and the sound of a gargantuan object hitting the forest floor echoed into their ears.
“We’re almost there,” Scott said, refusing to believe the woman was dead if even for a moment. “It’s ok, Terrence. We’re almost there. Stay with me.”
“I can’t stop shaking,” the bigger man replied.
“Don’t you pass out on me!” Scott cried, faltering as Terrence shifted, then stumbled onto the road. “Terrence! Terrence!”
“It’s so cold, Scott,” his boyfriend whispered, tears streaming down his face as the choke of sobs came from his lips.
“Don’t pass out on me!” he screamed, slapping the man’s face. “Terrence—Terrence. Look at me. Don’t go to sleep. Look at me!”
“I’m sorry I brought you out here,” Terrence whispered, the telltale signs of shock reducing his speech to slurs. “I’m so sorry, Scott.”
Something snapped in the nearby woods.
Kneeling there—in the middle of the road, in the twilight hours of the morning, and when dawn’s presence came only in the form of burning spokes in the eastern sky—he couldn’t have been more exposed.
He had no weapons.
They were at least a mile from the vehicles.
They didn’t have any keys.
Scott turned his head to regard the nearby woods before leaning close to Terrence’s face.
“Everything’s going to be fine,” Scott whispered, closing his eyes as he leaned down to kiss his boyfriend’s lips, the sound of sound of tires coming up the rocky pass the only solace in his decision. “I love you.”
Terrence had already slipped into unconsciousness.
He’d never hear his boyfriend’s final words.
Standing, Scott turned and took a few steps toward the woods.
“All right you bastard,” he said, the sound of snapping twigs and guttural birdsong the only thing that could be heard as he approached his greatest fear. “This ends now.”
All sound ceased to exist.
When the white eyes pierced out at him, the only thing he could do was start forward.
While he had absolutely no chance of being saved, at least he would die knowing Terrence would live.
The creature pushed its beak into the road.
He couldn’t hesitate any longer.
He threw himself into the woods and screamed.