The forest was dark although the sun shone through in patches, creating shadows of light and dark. Anne whispered, ‘We should go back, I have heard terrible tales about this forest.’ Nobody paid any attention to her. It had rained yesterday and the earth was soft and damp, hungrily lapping up the noise of their shuffling feet. Rebecca was leading the pack of cousins on this adventure trip, always the first one to dive into mischief! As they moved deeper, the patches of sun started to grow smaller and they switched on their torchlight one by one. The forest was quiet. No birds, no rustling of leaves. The trees stood ominously around them and Anne kept looking back. Was the forest colder than outside? Anne thought nervously.
Suddenly Ben pointed at something with his torchlight, a small hut stood in the middle of nowhere. He nudged Rebecca towards it, ‘this is where she stays.’ The cousins, all seven of them huddled closer. The silence was deeper here as if it had a life of its own, watching them.
Angling her torch towards the house, Rebecca took a step. No one moved. Rebecca reached the door, it reflected a butchered blue and few strange symbols. Something inside her, wanted to turn back and flee. Someone called her name from inside. The cousins watched in a trance as Rebecca disappeared inside the door.
And suddenly, ‘Ben, Ben!’ Rebecca’s voice shattered the quiet. Ben ran inside without once looking back. The cousins were now all shades of panic, they ran towards the door, shouting, calling out Rebecca and Ben.
All except Anne.
Did she feel something amiss? Did Rebecca’s voice sound a tad high pitched? Sweat dripped from her eyebrows and she gripped her torch tighter, her hands clammy. She watched dismayed as everyone disappeared and the silence came back, so thick you could have touched it. She desperately called out their names, flashing her torch towards the house again and again.
Something cracked, a twig? She turned around and in the flickering light, her eyes found something. Her screams died inside her. The creature was upside down, watching her with unblinking eyes. Her torchlight shone on the grey, scaly skin and hands covered with talons. It smiled and called out her name.
Anne turned back and ran towards the house. The door of the house stood ajar. The torch fell from her hands and in its emaciated light, she saw that the hut was empty. Scared she turned back and recoiled in horror as her face touched the cold skin of the creature which hung upside down. Her agonised screams were swallowed by the forest.
Many years later two hunters lost their way in the jungle and found the hut. Their torches found big pictures on the wall. Children. All of them smiling. And as the doors of the hut closed behind them and before darkness swallowed them, one of them saw a picture move and a girl walk out.