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Echoes

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“... What...?” I woke up, surrounded by a cold water that flowed through my torso. It was early morning, when the sky was barely lit, and the darkness was held above the valley like a shadow. My head was splitting and the cold water pierced me like a million needles in my skin. I looked around to see the sides of a plane crushed inwards and I could feel metal pieces cutting me from beneath the icy waters. I couldn’t remember anything, not even how I had gotten on a plane. The front was ripped from the part I was laying in and I could see it down the stream smoking into the trees. The morning started blowing in with a chilling wind that paralysed me. I didn’t seem to be hurt besides the metal cutting my leg. I lifted up slowly off the hard floor and I felt a sharp sting. A piece of metal jerked from my side and I felt a strange warmness go down my back. I saw red float in the water from behind me. I knew I was bleeding. I stood with a stagger and pressed my hand against the plane, holding myself up.

I could hear the plane cracking and growling from its unstable state in the river. I ran my fingers through my black wet hair. It was dripping wet and hung down over my face like it did when I stepped out of a warm shower before I brushed it behind my ears. I would have killed for warmth. What the hell was I doing on a plane? And what happened? I didn’t recognize the woods I had crashed in, and there were no other passengers that I could see. This was all so weird. As I walked into the calm sun, I searched my mind for answers but only drew useless information, like my name: “Joseph Snow,” my eye color: “Brown,” my figure: “Moderate,” my clothes: “Flannel,” and my situation: “shit out of luck”. I laughed slightly in my head but not enough to escape me. I walked through scattered pieces of the wreckage searching for a sign of life. Nothing was here. I began walking through the trees trying to reach a road or city or park or even a bathroom.

I saw an open area and rushed quickly to receive the relief of finding something useful but instead, I found a cliff. My eyes enlarged and I collapsed to the ground in a panicked state. The cliff was above a black nothingness. My eyes moved back and forth quickly and my body shook as I stared down into the vast nothingness. I felt my whole world dim into confusion and paranoia. I turned over, feeling the ground scrape against my wound and I held my breath through the sting. I looked up into the trees and into the sky. I noticed something strange... the sky was shimmering, like an illusion... I squinted in confusion and then closed my eyes tight. I just wanted to fade out and rest. As I rested, I saw the image of a woman, I recognized her but I couldn’t place her name or connection to me. She guided me through a heavy forest filled with large thorns and bushes. We came upon a pool of water that faded into a bank.

The water was like a thick mud that was clear and a dim blue, she grabbed my hand and walked into it and I followed her. Suddenly, I awoke with a jolt. The sky was black and menacing above me. My leg dangled off of the cliff which must have happened in my sleep, I jumped backwards away from it and tried to catch my breath. The harsh darkness settled between crooked trees and the wandering shadows of imagination kept me clinching the ground like a safety blanket. The wind blew in an unsettling howl as the freezing cold draft burnt into the tips of my ears. I felt afraid, afraid to move, afraid to breathe. The only thing I could see was the black and red patterns of my shirt and the very tops of the trees that wrapped around the darkness like grotesque fingers. I shifted my legs and sat more comfortably to the best of my ability. I could feel rock beneath me but I didn’t want to move too much. As I sat, mindlessly trying to calm myself down by paying extra attention to small things like the grass or the dirt on my pants which I could barely see.

“Joe…” I heard a faint whisper from the cold black. I was startled at first but then made myself believe that I had heard my name from my imagination trying to cope with the fear. But then I felt it. I felt something on my neck from behind me, it felt like tiny branches running up my neck, hard and rough, but thin. Then I heard crunching, like bones popping-in out of place as the sensation moved closer to my ear. I was frozen in place, with my eye trying to see what was behind me without moving my head. I heard the crunching moving, like something was adjusting itself. The ground behind me clicked and rustled. I began shaking as the touch moved around my throat.

I closed my eyes tight, pressed my arms together, and swung backwards with all my strength, hoping to knockdown whatever was behind me. I swung, but my arms collided with the ground. I felt smoke tickle my nose and pass me by, leaving the smell of a rotten animal. I scanned the area and frantically looked around me. I felt like I was being watched, so I took off heading towards the trees. I ran until I didn’t think there was anything behind me. I stopped and backed up onto a large tree. I let out air and shut my eyes. I could hear the trees swaying slightly. I slid down the tree and rested at its roots. Before long, I thought everything was alive. I had forgotten about my wound as it felt better. The night got quite, as if it was a party, and the host had just walked in. But from behind the tree, a gust blew past me. The wind was low to the ground, and carried dark and decayed leaves into the air. And that’s when I heard them.

“Joe….”

“Come play, Joe.”

“We need you.”

The wind howled, and three voices echoed through the trees. I breathed heavily and shut my eyes tighter and tighter as the voices grew closer.

“Joe….”

“We need you, Joe.”

“Come play.”

I started smacking the sides of my head and rocked back and forth, trying to drown out the echoes.

“You’re not real,” I said through them.

Suddenly, everything stopped. Nothing.

I opened my eyes slowly with my hands still pressed against my ears. Still shaking, I moved my hands and placed them on the ground. I pushed up and stood. I looked all around, puzzled by the sudden departure of madness. I smiled at the silence and put my hands deep in my pockets which was a habit of mine. I felt something rubbing against my hand. I pulled my hand out and there was a tiny thing of matches. I laughed as if I had just heard the best joke in the world and took out a match. I swiped the match and nothing happened. The match was a bit wet, so I grabbed another and swiped it. The flame lit up the area in front of me and I smiled big and bright. A warm air hit the back of my neck like a tidal wave. I turned, still smiling, to look into the woods. But the light caught not woods, but a face, grey and emotionless. Its eyes were dark and black, like a void, and its mouth was drooped open and black as well. I was shocked and paralysed. But then I realized, there were hundreds of them, their legs bent like a praying mantis and skin grey as stone, and they all had noticed me, as I dropped the match.

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