One and the Same


It’s hard to imagine everything had gone so wrong. Yet here I sit, stranded in the middle of the woods, numb from more than the cold.

With tired eyes I watch as my hands shake uncontrollably. It’s a weird sensation to see your body moving and knowing you aren’t making it do so. I had gone blind to the cold dew seeping through my thin skirt as I sat crumpled among the rotting leaves of the forest floor. My mind no longer registered the rough bark digging into my spine– I was focused solely on the sticky crimson staining my trembling palms. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was conscious of the fact that I needed to keep moving, that if I didn’t I would most likely  just be another tally in the death count of these woods. How could I keep going after witnessing what I had?

The echo of a branch snapping pulled me from my mindless reverie. A twinge of pain flowed from the back of my head and my vision danced as I snapped my head toward the sound. Far too dark for me to identify any threat, I was driven to my feet by a new wave of paranoia and panic, the perfect concoction for survival. On quaking legs, I continued to trek through the leering shadows, wincing with every step my bare left foot took. The eerie silence surrounding me was broken by the subtle squelch of tires on wet pavement. My heart swelled with hope at the sound, and I took off running. Breaking through the treeline I stumbled towards the oncoming car, standing like a tear and blood stained effigy straight from a horror movie in the middle of the street. With my shaking palms stretched before me, a pleading sob tore from my lips. As the car screeched to a halt, I collapsed to my knees before it, my forehead falling against its bumper.

Muffled sounds ensued around me as a man rushed from the car and appeared at my side. I watched his lips move but I couldn’t hear beyond the ringing in my ears. The golden glow of the headlights reflected off the the puddle riddled pavement, emphasizing the shadows dancing along the treeline. Vacantly, I stared past the stranger’s concerned expression, watching the woods for the punchline of tonight’s sick joke. As though carried by a ghost, I barely felt as he lifted me from my disheveled heap and placed me in the passenger seat. As my vision faded further into black I heard his whisper of reassurance, “It’ll all be okay…” But is a pyrrhic victory ever okay?

Subtle beeping and a tightness around my wrist drew me from the fog. With blurred vision I tried to gain a perspective of my surroundings, tried to remember where I was. The more I came to my senses, the more apparent the whispering in the room became. As I attempted to push myself into an upright position, the clanking of metal and a sharp pull against my wrist drove me into alertness. All my earlier panic crashed onto me like a tidal wave, drowning any rational thoughts— suffocating me.

Frantically scanning the room, I pressed myself further into the pillows behind me at the enclosing uniformed strangers. The closer they approached the heavier and more frantically the breaths tore from my lungs.

“Miss…Miss calm down, we just want to help you.”

An officer with a vaguely familiar face and outstretched palms took point of the encroaching strangers. “Do you remember what happened last night? A man brought you in… he said you came streaking out in front of his car? Does that sound familiar to you Miss? ” His bombardment of questions brought on a slew of memories I’d have given anything to never have recalled, even my own life.

The tears were instantaneous, the sobbing hysteria wracked through me like a hurricane. Awkward glances were exchanged amongst my visitors but the tears raged on.

“Please… please I’m sorry I shouldn’t have left,” I blubbered incoherently.

An increase of beeps exploded to my right, tracking my increasing heart rate and drawing the attention of a slew of nurses.

“Shouldn’t have left who? Left where?” probed the officer.

“I’m sorry sir, but you need to leave,” demanded the nurse in a stern voice that contradicted her kitten-covered scrubs.

Without even being conscious of my actions, I had latched onto the officer’s wrist as he was herded out the door.

“Please you have to find them, oh god my sister, please we were at overlook,” I begged.

He gave a slight nod before filing out of the room with the rest of them. Slumping back into the bed, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of paranoia clutching at me.

I decided to heed the nurse’s suggestion to sleep. The dreariness didn’t overpower the queasy fear coursing through me as I had hoped, but merely translated it into my dreams. In my dreams I was back in the woods, spinning blissfully. My uncontrollable laughter mixed with that of my sister’s, blending into a beautiful melody. The silver flask fell from her loose grip as she slumped against the rocks of the overlook, a dazed smile gracing her face. Soon enough grey clouds had rolled in and I tipped my face up deliriously to enjoy the soft patter of rain.

The impression faded and was replaced with the padding of my feet as I ran from a man without a face. A flash of my sister’s face, twisted in pain, and her scream of agony echoed through the memory. The closer he encroached the faster my heart raced. Soon enough he was directly above me, wielding a thick crooked branch. My arms crossed before my face in an attempt to ward of his bludgeoning strikes. I winced as the stick grew closer, but as it made contact with my face its bruising sting was replaced by the sensation of firm pressure and scratchy fabric. Slowly the assailant’s face came into focus as I came to recognize the officer from earlier and my attacker were one and the same.

Somewhere outside my dream I could hear the rhythmic beeps flatline into a sound of solidarity and the pillow fall from my face, but by then my senses had faded entirely into darkness.