By Xavier Smith
“Don’t go into the woods. If you do, don’t stray from the path.” Those words were repeated to me over and over endlessly. With each step, the words in my mind scrambled and morphed until I was drowning in thought. The snap of a twig under my foot brought me back to reality.
I stared down a long and clear path with trees waving on both sides. This was the only way I could get to their house. I had been planning to visit my cousins for sometime now. My parents refused to ever let me see my cousins as a kid. As a young adult, I am more than capable of making my own decisions. With those last thoughts trailing my mind, I carry myself down the path.
A few minutes later I heard a bloodcurdling cry coming from off the path, in the woods. Someone is calling for help. I hesitate, warnings of the dangers that lurk in the forest cross my mind. I stop in my tracks, is this really a good idea? Beads of sweat fall down my face. The screams continue and get louder. My feet move on their own to the direction of the sound emanating from the forest.
My vision blurred completely as my body slammed against the cold ground. Someone, a man, was standing before me holding their hand out. Before I could offer my hand, they yanked me up and stared at me with glassy, bloodshot eyes. Gashes and cuts ran across their body in spastic patterns. Despite their tragic appearance, I tried my best to keep my composure.
“Were you the one screaming? I will call an ambulance and you’ll be just fine. Please stay calm and we’ll get you help in no ti-” before I could finish the man shook me and said, “My name is Christian Fisher. Someone is out there with an ax, a black ax with red stripes. I couldn’t get a good look at them. You have to leave and get help. Please.”. The man’s monotone voice and shattered gaze made me uneasy and I took a step back. It’s clear that whatever happened to him has broken him, he’s still in shock. A voice called out behind me “Christian? What are you doing out here?” I turned back and saw another man gasp and run towards Christian and embracing him. A million questions poured out of the unknown man’s mouth and Christian only responded with muttered nonsense. The man holding Christian turned to me after dialing 911, “Do you know anything that happened?” I explained to him what had happened. How I found Christian like this, how I was on a harmless trip to my cousin’s house. The man introduced himself, “My name is Joshua. Joshua Jones. And you are…?” I smiled and replied, “I am Vella Mendoza.” he shook my hand. Joshua explained that I should get home soon, he even offered me a ride. I told him I would walk down to my cousin’s house, it was down the path after all. He told me if I needed anything, an ambulance would be here soon. I gave my thanks and walked off, onto the path. After this whole experience I was tired and rattled. I practically sprinted to the house.
What felt like centuries later, I arrived and I was greeted by humble and sweet faces at the door. I smiled at the man and woman who greeted me at the door, they were just a little younger than me. They stared at me confused, “Hey! It’s me Vella. Alecia’s daughter.” after I finished my sentence their faces lit up like Christmas trees. They pulled me in and sat me down at a cozy dining table. They told me how their father had gone out to do some errands, their mother had passed away. In the midst of catching up on 18 years worth of our own unique experiences, they realized they haven’t even introduced themselves. I already knew who they were though.
After hours of laughing and talking together, their father returned. He was a big and sturdy man with a solemn face. After setting a bag down full of supplies, He walked over to me with a hazy face. He smiled, mumbled “Who are you?” and flopped onto the couch, passing out immediately. My cousins told me this was was normal, “He was always tired after work. He’ll be much more enthusiastic about seeing you when he wakes up, I promise. He’s waited for this for so long!” She added. We all laughed and I went to get a glass of water. As I ran the faucet, something from their Father’s bag fell over and poked me. It was a wooden handle. I was curious as to what their father did for a living so I opened the bag, hoping that my cousins wouldn’t mind. An ax was revealed, my initial thought was that he was a woodsman until I recognized the pattern. Black with red stripes. I felt cold as reality fell all around me. Fear ate my soul and paralyzed me, bile crept up my throat. I couldn’t hold my ground, I fell back onto the ground. My body intensified and tears rolled down my cheeks at the simple question calling from behind me. “Whatcha lookin’ at?” A stern voice slipped like daggers into my very existence.