Chapter 7

Irene

I blink and a whimper escapes my throat. I turn around and around in disoriented circles. I stand in the middle of a night-enclosed forest-the woods bordering the park.

I don't remember coming here. Red scrapes color my arms; I must have run through pine needles and thickets to reach this place. I remember standing beside Jesse, remember a choking breath, but I don't remember coming here.

My eyes begin to settle in the dark but it is still nearly impossible to see. Thick tree-tops lean towards each other, keeping the stars shut out. I feel for my phone in my pocket only to find it missing. I curse and scan my surroundings, looking for some clue as to which direction could take me out.

Everywhere I turn looks the same: looming trees and untread soil. In this darkness I can't even see my own footprints.

Suddenly I am reminded of the darkness. Somehow in the confusion I had pushed the fear back. But now the darkness licks up my veins, filling me completely.

As the fear builds, I hear a high-pitched noise followed by its echo. I turn on my heal, straining my vision to see where the noise came from. Two golden orbs radiate light from a tree's branch; the noise again. I take two steps backwards before the orbs fly towards me, kicking up soil and rushing air at my face. I turn and run in the opposite direction. Something sharp scratches at my scalp and tangles in my hair. My neck stretches and I'm pulled forward with my toes digging into the dirt. I fall to my knees, screams rolling off of my tongue.

My neck strains to the creature that now sits on a low branch in front of me. It spreads and beats its wings, pushing dark air forward. Its now familiar call sends relief through my bones.

The owl sits upon its branch¸ all too comfortable in the night.

I am relieved that he holds no malice for me but I know for a fact that something nearby does.