Dropping to my knees, I crawl into the shrubs, ignoring the branches poking and scratching my skin. The ground is cold and damp, I feel it seeping through my jeans. My breathing is harsh, loud in the night but not as loud as my terrified heartbeat echoing through the darkness.
What is happening? I don’t understand what is happening. Why is this happening?
A sob breaks out and I slam a muddy hand over my mouth, stifling any noise.
I don’t know what is happening but I know I can’t let him find me.
I try to catch my breath as quietly as possible, straining to hear any footsteps coming towards me. I’m not used to the woods, it’s full of sounds I don’t recognize. Every noise keeps my pulse racing, fearful of discovery.
I hear him calling my name, not close but still out there. Still hunting me. He pretends he’s sorry. Then he screams in outrage when I don’t materialize. His voice moves farther away and when I can barely hear the weight of it, I scramble from my hiding place and I run.
I don’t know how long I run. How many times I trip and fall on my unsteady feet and uneven ground. The number of times I have to wipe the tears from my eyes to see what’s in front of me.
I don’t know how long I run, but eventually I see the sky lightening at the edges. Soon after I see a house in the distance. I hide again, now that it’s light, I hide and watch and wait to see if he reappears. If he’s managed to follow me. To find me after all.
I don’t know how long I hide before I feel safe enough to emerge. I may nod off but I’ve lost all perception of time and my awareness is cloudy. But eventually I feel comfortable enough to crawl out from this hiding spot as well. No one has approached the house. There are two cars in the driveway, no other neighbors within sight.
I walk stiffly to the side door, my eyes sweeping the landscape, studying the line of the forest, trying to see if he’s there on the edges. But I don’t see anyone. I knock limply on the screen door and shortly an elderly woman with curly gray hair and round cheeks appears in the glass. She disappears briefly and I hear the lock turning before the door swings open.
“Oh my word…” the woman’s eyes widen as she takes me in. She’s still in her robe, just starting her day. I try to imagine what she sees when she looks at me, a fifteen year old girl covered in mud and blood, shivering in her doorway, sticks and leaves in my hair. “Bill! Bill, call 911. Come in here, honey.” She waves me into her warm and bright kitchen. My steps are jerky, feeling disconnected from my body and surroundings. She pulls out a chair and wraps a blanket around my shoulders. I hear her husband mumbling into the phone.
I am just staring at the top of the kitchen table. I can feel my mind shutting down. I don’t want to think about anything. I don’t want to remember the last several hours. I don’t want to explain what happened. I don’t want to be here. I want to be in my own bed, waking to discover none of this is real.
That the images of my mom’s and my little sister’s lifeless bodies were just a nightmare.
A mug of tea is placed into the space on the table I’m staring at in a daze. Instinctively I place my hands around it, welcoming the sting of heat against my palms.
“He killed them,” I whisper.
Suddenly I can’t hold back the sobs any longer. My whole body shakes, I’m gasping and unable to catch my breath once again. The pain in my chest is unbearable, my heart squeezing in grief.
“My dad. My dad killed everyone.”