Cold. That was the first thing Mae noticed, everything felt cold. Blinking her eyes open she tried to lift her head to look around. Suddenly it came back to her, the winding road, the rain, and the car spinning off the side of the hill and down into the trees below. Her body ached as she reached for her seatbelt, the rain slipping in from the broken passenger side window above her making everything wet and slippery. Mae managed to release the buckle and angle herself up towards the passenger side door, reaching for the window she hissed and pulled her hand back as a jagged piece of glass caught it. She looked around, the only way out of the crushed SUV was through the broken window above her. She slipped off her sweatshirt, stained with blood from being tossed around while on her way down the hill, and threw it over the side of the window. Her muscles ached as she pulled herself over the edge. Swinging her foot up to find purchase, she cleared the window for a moment before it slipped against the rain on the car and she fell over to the hard, leaf covered ground below with a groan. Laying in the damp earth, Mae stared up at the canopy of trees above her, wind blowing the branches back and forth. The wind blew lightly, a twig snapped somewhere, Mae sat up with a start, wincing at the ache in her muscles, and looked around. “Hello?” she shouted, “Is someone there?” …nothing. Just the rain, and the wind. Mae shivered and pulled herself off the ground. Only the moon lit the area around her. Searching her sweatshirt pockets, she pulled out her cellphone, it seemed relatively unharmed. Unlocking the screen she sighed in frustration, of course there was no service out here. Alone, with a wrecked car she was lucky to have been able to walk away from, Mae flipped on her cellphone light and started looking for a way out. She couldn’t tell which way was up, back to the road. The car must have made it a pretty fair distance before coming to a stop here in these trees. There was nothing for it, she would just have to start walking.
Moving slowly, Mae directed her light in front of her. A rustling came from the bushes, Mae chewed on her lip wondering what animals she might have to watch out for, and then deciding not to think too much about it- she moved forward. The wind got stronger and the rain came harder the further she walked, shivering Mae saw a cave opening ahead. She weighed the possibility of finding something unpleasant waiting for her in there, but a large gust of wind helped her decide to take the risk. Huddling at the mouth of the cave, Mae flashed her light inside, looking for anything she should be wary of. Seeing nothing, she moved further in out of reach of the wind. Sitting down, Mae turned off her cell phone light. The dark was suffocating, but it would be worse if she didn’t have the light when she needed it. Wind echoed in the cave, making whispers and moans that made Mae want to cover her ears. But this was better, she told herself, than being in the wet frigid forest outside. Mae closed her eyes and took a deep breath, just a little rest, and then she would keep going. Mae jumped as a whisper tickled her ear. She looked around the dark space, seeing nothing, and wrote it off as an errant burst of wind. As she began to settle back down, she felt the whisper against her cheek again, this time the frosty intrusion was harder to dismiss. Mae stood up and crept back towards the mouth of the cave, no longer feeling so sure that she was alone. That icy whisper hit again, against the back of her head. And this time she heard it. Mae froze as her brain processed the sound, the word. Run.
Breathing slowly, Mae rubbed her temples. About to convince herself she was simply imagining the command, the frosty wind that shouldn’t have been coming from the cave hit her harder. Run! Mae didn’t stop to question it, bolting out of the cave immediately. The storm had intensified, rain pelted her as she ran away from the cave, puddling on the ground and flooding the forest floor. Mae splashed through the frigid water without a second thought. Whatever had happened, that hadn’t been natural. She wasn’t going to slow down until she was far away. Twigs snapped behind her, twisting to see what caused the crack to split the air, Mae tripped and fell hard. Soaked in dirty rainwater, leaves sticking to her body and in her hair, Mae scrambled to her feet. Wind pushed her forward, They’re coming, it whined in her ear. The forest rustled around her, Mae searched her pockets for her phone, for some light to fight off what must be her mind deteriorating from the accident and the cold, from the fear of being lost in these woods. She found nothing. It must’ve come out when she fell. Fighting a swell of panic that began to build in her chest, Mae kept going. Already barely able to see anything in the now very patchy moonlight, rain streamed down her face causing whatever she could make out to blur. Breathing heavily Mae sloshed through the flooded forest floor floating with foliage. The rain began to choke her airways and she slowed. Freezing, an icy tendril of dread began to curl around her heart. Something was following her. The wind wove around the shell of her ear, They’re here…
Mae turned around, she saw nothing, but it felt wrong. Everything just had that sense, that offness, it was wrong. The sky thundered, and the rain came down in a torrent. Mae didn’t think, she just ran. The water had risen to mid calf, the rain kept coming down. Mae fell, she got up, she ran. Over and over. The thing, that sense of wrongness, it kept coming. Closer and closer until it suffocated her senses. It was everywhere, somehow, even though she couldn’t see anything around her. Whatever was happening, she couldn’t touch it. She couldn’t fight it. The wind roared in her ears, They’re going to take you. The clouds shifted, blocking out the moon completely. Mae tripped, she tried to get back up, she couldn’t move. The water rose, she still couldn’t move. The wind whispered, the wind whined, the wind screamed. The water moved over Mae’s face, her eyes widened and she opened her mouth to scream. The rain washed her away. The wind whispered, She’s gone.