Panting heavily, I leaned against the tree, my vision blurring as crimson dripped past my eyes. While running I’d failed to see a low-hanging branch in the darkness and it had scraped against my forehead, giving me what I imagined to be a pretty nasty cut. The injury still stung heavily, but I was more focused on the arguing going on around me.
“It’s not safe here!”
“She needs to rest!”
“(Name), get up!”
“Oh come on, let her take a break! I don’t see him!”
Dammit, I cursed silently as I glared at the spirits bickering around me. How the hell did I get into this situation? At some point while running more ghosts had started to follow me, and soon I had an entire pack of them following behind me, each one offering their own bits of advice or suggestions. Their apparent causes of death varied: some were perpetually drenched with pallid complexions, some had rope burns around their necks, a couple had cuts in their sides where organs dripped out... However, despite the variety, I couldn’t help noticing that all of them had one thing in common:
Every one of them was covered in the same darkness as my parents.
This darkness was a new phenomenon to me. Usually the ghosts I saw looked pretty normal aside from the injuries, wounds and other visual indicators of how they’d died. I didn’t know why these ghosts were covered in darkness, and couldn’t really see anything that might have connected them. Obviously they weren’t all killed by the same person given the variety. If I wasn’t busy trying to hold back the need to vomit I would have asked about it, but, well... I really didn’t want to vomit.
Taking a deep, shuddery breath, I swallowed back the bile fighting to come up my throat so I could speak. “Hey, guys, sorry to interrupt, but... do any of you have any suggestions on where to go?” They all turned to look at me, falling into silence.
“Oh! Oh!” a young girl yelled. “I know! I know! Follow me!” She twirled and flew off, and I wiped the blood from my face as I followed. The pack of spirits trailed behind me, still arguing and bickering among themselves, much to my annoyance. My headache felt like it was getting worse, so I tuned them out as I focused my gaze on the dark spirit leading me.
She was a young girl, wearing bloody pajamas with one of her legs twisted in a horrible, impossible way. Just looking at her made my stomach lurch. How had she died? Every possibility that came to mind was increasingly more horrific, making me bite my lip. Why did such a sweet-looking little girl have to die? Children’s ghosts always disturbed me. They had their whole lives in front of them, only to have it torn away. Even Ricky...
No, don’t think about him now. I shook the thought off and focused on the situation. I followed after her for what felt like hours, though most likely that was because my legs were just so sore. I wasn’t used to running for this long, but I couldn’t really stop. I knew there was a psycho killer chasing me, and if I stopped I might end up as a ghost. Eventually, though, a small house came into view, and I skidded to a stop, panting heavily as I bent over with my hands on my knees. The girl flew over to me and tried to tug on me, but naturally that didn’t really work. “Come on, hurry!”
“Where... are... we?” I asked between gasps.
“My granny’s house!” the girl chirped with a smile. “She died last week so it’s empty! Now come on, let’s go in!” Grunting, I approached the house and tried the door, relieved to find it unlocked. As soon as I opened it, though, I was assaulted by an awful stench that made my hands fly up to my nose and mouth.
“Wh-what... what is that...?” I gasped, stepping back.
“Granny,” the girl answered with a sweet, innocent smile. I stared at her for a moment before I realized exactly what she meant.
“...Her body’s still here, isn’t it...?” I asked slowly, and she nodded, her braids bouncing.
“Uh-huh! She died in her bedroom, but no one ever comes so she’s still there!” I felt the color drain from my face. Wonderful, I finally find a place to hide and there’s a body here. Just my luck. Beggars can’t be choosers, though, and a house with an old lady’s corpse was much better than being outside where a serial killer was searching for me. With a sigh I scurried inside and locked the door behind me.
“Please tell me there’s air freshener.”
“Um, maybe in the bathroom?” She led me to a door off a small hallway where the stench was particularly strong, forcing me to plug my nose, and I quickly raided the cabinets. Bingo, a full can of Pina Colada! However, before I removed it I felt that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. Quickly I sprinted for the toilet and fell to my knees in front of it just in time for my dinner to finally erupt from my mouth and into the bowl.
Jeff’s ire only grew as he continued his search. Tracking prey was usually kind of fun—he loved the thrill of the chase, listening to their ragged breathing and pounding footsteps as they tried to flee and hide—but that was only when he could get into their minds and predict their movements. In this case, his prey didn’t have anywhere familiar she could run to, whether consciously or unconsciously, meaning she could go in any direction. That meant he had to track her the old-fashioned way, and though he was relatively confident in his skills, this time was tricky. There wasn’t any fresh dirt for her to leave tracks in, and in the darkness of the night he couldn’t really see if there were any bent blades of grass or anything like that. Despite having no eyelids he felt like he was moving blindly, and he hated it.
Soon an outcropping of woods came into sight and he stopped before them. Might she have run in there? People tended to fear the woods, and for good reason. If she was running from a serial killer, she’d probably avoid them, he figured, and started to walk away when he suddenly heard a voice behind him.
“Jeff?” He tensed, and slowly turned around, his grin widening.