Frank looked around the Forest clearing and gave a huff of disappointment. The whole reason for him coming here was to get a feel for the legendary ghost sightings and it seemed that he was in for a night of no ghosts. Being a ghost novel writer, Frank found that the atmosphere was ideal for his new story; the Forest's trees swaying slightly as a chilling breeze ran through them and across Frank's face, as if to warn him away. The moon was full and reflected its light onto the uneven forest floor, casting numerous shadows towards Frank . It was on nights like this that the local children had been told about the terrifying ghosts that lurked in these woods before claiming their prey and locking them in a life of eternal fear.
Frank recalled his visit to the local lunatic asylum where the supposed victims of the ghost attacks had been relocated; he had to have a policeman present with him due to how insane the patients were. All the victims had worn the same expression; their eyes wide in fear, their skin as pale as a dead corpse and just as cold. Their speech was frantic as they repeated their cries and pleads for help and mercy just before the attack. Frank couldn't help shivering slightly at the sight of those deranged lives who had once been as sane as himself. It was as if their souls had indeed been sucked out of them and they'd been changed into raging animals, driven by fear alone.
Looking around now, Frank could understand ever so slightly how the Forest had stolen their sanity. He did feel quite alone and isolated from the world, as if there was a huge barrier surrounding the forest and keeping him trapped there forever.
Despite the warnings, Frank had chosen to investigate. However, he wasn't allowed to go alone. The local police believed these attacks to be the work of gangs, boys or young men who enjoyed driving people insane. They'd arranged it all with Frank; he was wearing an ear piece which would relay any sound back to the police station. He'd been told to wander around for two days before returning to the village.
Today was the second day and Frank had hoped that he would have seen something before he had to leave. If he didn't come out, the police said that they would remove him from the forest by force. They didn't want to risk losing any more lives. He had been told to write down anything that he saw, did or heard. Taking out the notepad and pencil from his bag, Frank studied what he'd jotted down before. He'd covered all of the forest now apart from this one clearing which he'd better search for any clues. Most of the undergrowth was hidden by the darkness of the Forest, forcing Frank to move forwards to have any chance of seeing anything suspicious. As he been about to start writing, the earpiece crackled.
"Anything?" the familiar voice of the young sergeant said in his ear.
Frank shook his head slightly to himself.
"Nope. Nothing at all." He confirmed as he looked up at the night sky, "Not a sign of a single thing. I've studied everywhere I can and there is no sign of anything human being here."
The sound was as quiet as a pin dropping onto a cushion, but the silence of the Forest caused Frank's blood to run cold as soon as he heard it. He froze where he was and dropped his eye level to the forest around him. Had he heard something? The earpiece crackled again.
"Frank, what was that?"
Frank removed the earpiece from his ear and held it a few centimetres away. He listened. Suddenly he felt something well up inside him as his eyes frantically searched the darkness of the trees for the cause of the sound. He could see a good few metres in front of him, so he would be able to see anything that approached him, but even then a man could easily cover that distance and still catch him by surprise- or an animal. He heard his own breathing increase in both loudness and speed as his heart pounded against the walls of his ribcage.
On the other end of the earpiece, Dylan frowned at the silence. He looked up at Paul who sat across the desk from him. The young man was wearing a similar pair of headphones to Dylan so that they could both listen to Frank talking. Paul had a series of equipment next to him to detect any sound received through the earpiece. He could pick up practically any sound and analyse it.
"What's happening?" he mouthed to Paul who just shrugged his shoulders.
Lowering his voice, Dylan spoke into the microphone in front of him. "Frank, you there?" he said gently. Deep breathing reached his ears and a wave of fear seemed to be sent down the line as Dylan felt it crash down on him.
"Please, get me out of here." The young man begged weakly.
Dylan locked his gaze with Paul who nodded and quickly left the room. "Don't worry, Frank." Dylan tried to reassure him, "a team will be on its way to find you right now." Looking up at the sound of a door opening, Dylan saw Inspector Brooks appear in the doorway before striding over to the table and raising his eyebrows.
The sergeant picked up the map from in front of him and showed it to the inspector. It had been marked out with exactly where Frank had been in the Forest as the earpiece contained a tracking devise in it. Dylan had marked Frank's latest position and pointed to it.
The inspector took the map before heading out of the room. Paul went with him, leaving Dylan in the office as he tried to keep Frank talking.
"What do you see? What's the matter?" He knew he was pushing his luck for an answer as he could hear that Frank was paralyzed with fear.
Frank was forced to swallow before speaking, his voice crackled into Dylan's ear. "I don't know. But they're here."
"Who?" Dylan pressed. He needed information. He could almost see the scared expression on the young man's face as he stood alone in the woods.
"Please. I don't know-" he cut off.
Frowning to himself, Dylan waited for a few seconds. "Frank?" No reply. He checked the equipment to make sure that he hadn't lost connection.
Suddenly a strangled scream filled Dylan's ears and he was forced to take his headphones off. He stood as he yanked them off his head and tried to recover as the scream left a ringing sound in his ears. Dylan felt fear almost filter out of the headphones and fill the room, surrounding him. He found himself looking around the room before holding the headphones up to his ear and slowly sat back down in the chair and leaned towards the microphone.
"Frank?" Dylan felt his voice lodge in his throat, "Frank? Are you there?"
There were a few more moments of silence before he heard the sound of footsteps.
Nothing else could scare Dylan more than hearing Paul's voice on the other end of the line. Finding his voice, Dylan moistened his mouth and throat. "Paul, what's happening? Where's Frank?" he demanded as he gripped the base of the microphone.
"That's what I was going to ask you. We only found this earpiece on the floor. We're searching the forest right now."
Not replying, Dylan gripped the microphone tightly until he noticed that his skin had gone white. "I was just talking to him. He can't have-" Now it was Dylan's turn to cut off. He turned his head to the right and gazed out of the window.
He could see a view of the edge of the Forest, but it wasn't a clear image due to the darkness of the night. For an unknown reason, Dylan lowered the headphones to the table, stood and walked out of the room. There were only a few officers left in the police station, but they took no notice of Dylan as he quietly left the building and walked to the patch of earth that he'd observed from the room. Without any reason, Dylan stepped towards the Forest.
Being a local himself, Dylan had grown up knowing the Forest and its legends. His parents had always warned him away from it, especially since his little brother had gone missing. He'd wandered off and before anyone knew it, he had entered the Forest only to be swallowed up by it.
However never before had Dylan felt such a powerful calling which enticed him now; but the calling didn't seem to be from the Forest itself, but someone inside it.
Squinting into the darkness, Dylan spied a movement among the trees. A few seconds later, a figure stumble out towards him. Dylan took out the gun from his belt and aimed it at the figure, his mind racing. Allowing it to approach him, Dylan tried to concentrate on when to shoot. He felt himself take a few steps back.
"Please, they're chasing me." The figure breathed before falling at Dylan's feet.
It took a few seconds, but the young policeman examined the figure and barely recognised Frank's bewildered face as his eyes searched Dylan's. His face screamed fear, the same fear that had been on the other victims' faces. There were marks that covered his skin and his hair was a mess. At first Dylan didn't think it to be possible, but Frank now looked thinner and his skin a more pale colour as his skin clung to his bones.
Dropping to his knees, Dylan found himself embracing Frank and a tight hug. He'd been attacked. It shocked Dylan as all the other victims had been either one of the locals, or related to them by blood. This made no sense. Dylan's eyes looked to the ground where he'd dropped the gun, but he went back to focusing on hugging Frank. The young man was shivering uncontrollably as he murmured words which made no sense to Dylan; he was probably suffering from shock.
Suddenly, Dylan paused with Frank in his arms. A memory flashed back into his mind; a memory of when he went with Frank to see the previous victims of the Forest. There was something that one of them had muttered to him. One of them had grabbed at him just as Dylan had been about to leave. He'd whispered into Dylan's ear; it was brief but audible. 'He'll be claimed.'
Those words now rang in Dylan's mind and they triggered another image; an image that Dylan wished that he'd recalled just a few days ago; before he'd allowed the author to enter the Forest. He remembered the image of his little brother, Frank, who had disappeared twenty one years ago.