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I laughed along with my friends as the TV screamed, showing a black and white picture of a girl being slaughtered, the fake blood splattering onto the walls within the movie's world. It all looked so fake, yet each of us knew we probably wouldn't dare to watch this movie alone, without friends to tease you about jumping at such an obvious part.
When the killer peeked around a corner suddenly in another scene, we all gave a shriek, the large popcorn bowl flying into the air. We all started laughing in unison afterward, unable to stop until tears came to their eyes, and each girl forced themselves to quiet down. All of us heaved, trying to catch our breathes, practically rolling around the couch to try and get situated again.
After the movie finally started rolling the credits, we all felt our eyes droop, the night sky pervading through the window, the moon full with reflected light. Needing to clean up the prior mess before bed, we all crawled around the living room floor, picking up any trace of popcorn our tired eyes could find.
My head popped up, looking around at the two other girls that helped scout for popcorn, but they didn't seem to have heard anything. I shrugged, thinking my head was playing with me after the movie, in addition to being tired.
"Lindsey, is that you?" I asked, knowing I heard it this time. Pam had looked up this time too, though our other friend didn't react at all until I called on her.
"Didn't you just ask for help?" Pam questioned, obviously confused.
"No, I'm just trying to get some of the popcorn that rolled un-"
Our eyes widened, all three of us hearing it this time. Quickly getting to our feet, we clustered around the window that the voice came from, peering into the moonlit backyard.
"Do you see anyth-"
"Shush, I'm trying to listen," I whispered, on edge. Straining my ear, I could make out quiet whimpers of a small child, and a gentle scratching sound.
Silently moving away from the window, my friends followed me to the back door. We opened it slowly, as not to let the hinges squeak. The tall, poorly maintained grass reached around our ankles as we stepped outside, Pam and Lindsey clutching my pajama shirt into their fists, obviously as nervous as myself.
The whimper grew louder for a moment before another call for help reached us, coming from the direction of the only tree in the yard. We stepped across the soft grass, the autumn chill making us shiver against the gentle breeze.
The tree stood stoic, the limbs unaffected from the wind, with limbs already bare from the season. With the moon set behind it, the ominous shadow reached towards us, like claws reached for prey.
"H-hello?" Lindsey dared to call out, her voice shaky with fright.
"Someone there?" called out the childlike voice. "P-please heeeelll..." The voice faded out like a battery powered radio dying.
"Are you alright?" asked Pam, both girls pushing me forward, into the shadow of the tree. We sidled around to the other side as no answer returned, only to find it bare of life.
The tree whimpered.
Lindsey screamed, darting off into the open field that neighbored Pam's yard. My other friend called after her, following in attempt to recollect her, leaving me alone, with a speaking tree.
"He-hello?" I squeaked, my voice barely audible as my body trembled.
She was in the tree. A little girl must have simply gotten stuck somehow. What else could it be? Trees do not talk.
I reached out a shaky hand, my toes curling in the cool grass, and pressed my palm to the tree.
It was warm.
I gave a frightened sound and withdrew my hand. As soon as my skin left the rough bark, the tree started to scream.
"No! It hurts! Don't leave! Stay here! Stay with me! Pleeeaasse!"
A hand emerged from the bark itself, a human child limb, slithering out from the bark with lightning reaction. It was sickly pale in color, the short fingers snatching my wrist. I screamed back in fear, trying to pull away. But the small hand held fast, possessing more strength than any child could possess. Instead of letting me go, it slowly started to retract.
"Stop! Let me go!" I begged, tears coming to my eyes. When my own hand touched the bark again, it seemed to swallow me, hungrily taking my arm further in as the arm dragged me more.
Within a few moments, I was fully engulfed. Rather than seeing the girl who cried for help, there was simply nothing.
"Hello? Is anyone there?" I called out hopelessly. "Help?"
I heard a giggle, from a young girl again.
"Thank you for freeing me."
I couldn't stop calling out. I felt so desperate and alone. But it wasn't until years later that anyone heard my cries. A new family had moved in after Pam's close friend disappeared at this house. This time, a young boy drew near, ready to aid a simple call for help that he will regret.