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Return to Pennsylvania

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Author's note: The story below is a sequel to this, and to understand certain elements of the story it is advised (however not obligatory) you read that one first.

Part One

It’s been exactly three years since I saw my girlfriend Anne, with the last time being at the airport in Pennsylvania. I’d lived in P.A. for most of my childhood, but decided to pursue my studies abroad first in California, then in the UK. Returning to P.A. was by no means an easy journey; taking study leave was a piece of cake, however my part-time job wasn't enough to fund my ticket fares so I’d had to work night shifts and extra hours to be able to save up for that single excursion. Moreover, I needed to see Anne desperately. I was afraid our relationship would deteriorate if I didn't play my part.

To me, Anne was the most beautiful girl in the world.

We’d known each other since elementary school and we’d never lost contact until January, the year before last. She’d said a close friend had gone missing in December after a camping trip and the authorities were unable to trace her body, leaving my girlfriend shattered. From then on, her emails were brief and sharp, and we gradually stopped calling or messaging each other altogether. I’d tried to contact her on her birthday, but even then my efforts were still futile. Though I understood why she was upset, she’d never even bothered to discuss the incident with me, nor did she rely on me as a source of comfort. It was as if she’d thrown me out of her life.

Following this temporary mess in our relationship, I soon considered that I was the one to blame. I was selfish and only worried about our connection, knowing little to none about the incident she kept referring to. I searched for news on P.A. online and realized that I’d been much more behind than I thought I was.

Two whole years behind, in fact.

Since my mother, the only remaining member of my family left alive, died just days after I went abroad, I had no close relatives to keep in touch with. However still, it was hard to believe I’d missed such an incident occurring in my hometown.

The online articles described the disappearance of a group of teenage campers in December 1998. These teenagers were out on an expedition on the outskirts of P.A. in a remote area next to a forest dangerously close to mine and Anne’s hometown. And as I scrolled further down the page, I felt a bead of sweat crawl down my face on suddenly recognizing some of the names listed on the ‘Missing’ section:

‘Ronald Savage, Becky Westfield, Thomas Packard…’

These were people I’d known, even spoken to before. With us being around the same age, I’d been companions to many in middle school. Even after half an hour of gazing at the names intently, I still found it hard to believe they were gone. Thinking of their confused, weeping parents as they sat in front of their televisions swallowing the news of the devastation, knowing their beloved children would never return home, part of me wanted to simply collapse onto the floor and never get up again.

However the most disturbing part of all was reading the transcripts of excerpts from the diary written by one of the girls on the journey, published with the article. In the entries, she described her daily events followed by a sudden onslaught of terrifying experiences, in which she documents the details of creatures she named ‘Spider Cannibals’ lurking in the woods right up until her unfortunate death. Her last words chilled me to the bone, as I imagined myself in her place, desperately trying to crawl away from my inevitable fate.

I considered these creatures, which she’d labelled as ‘Spider Cannibals’ in one of her entries. I noticed the term was fairly inaccurate as it implied that the creature was a spider which ate its own species, when in fact it was something completely different. Whatever it was, I instinctively found myself feeling concerned for Anne’s safety, even though it had been two years since those things were first spotted, and haven’t been seen since. It was creepy, even frightening to think that all the evidence which should have been at the scene (like bodies and such) were nowhere to be found.

After a whole year of roaming around for clues, police have declared the area ‘safe’ even though they couldn't salvage any useful clues within that period of time. The ongoing investigation continued, however the citizens became much more relaxed and light-hearted about the situation as time wore out the effects of the shock.

Another point which came across to my mind whilst surfing online was that this had become an extremely controversial and heated topic. If any user on any forum posted a slightly negative comment on the issue, they would be banned immediately and frowned upon by the rest of the community. People often didn't realize when they were crossing the line in this discussion and were punished with sanctions when they did so. In the end, most users simply stopped discussing the topic in fear of offending others. Of course, I felt an amount of sympathy for the families and loved ones affected, however the level of unnecessary fuss was, well – quite unnecessary. Most people couldn't even ask what had happened without getting labelled a ‘sick human being with no concern for the feelings of others’.

Wondering how Anne was coping with the stress back in P.A, I phoned her in October to discuss the matter. Miraculously, she answered the phone, and invited me to her new apartment in the city. We had a deeply emotional conversation about how we missed each other and how apologetic we were, but I was simply relieved I could hear her voice again. After purchasing my tickets last month, I was finally able to return home. I boarded the flight in the morning full of anticipation, expecting the slowest plane journey of my life.

Part Two

Arriving in the city airport of Pennsylvania, I switched on my phone only to be greeted with a set of phone calls from an unknown number.

I soon discovered that Anne had changed her number and address.

She told me that she would be picking me up from the local Cab station in front of the airport. The feelings of utter joy I experienced were hard to describe; I was going to see my girlfriend again after all the time we’d lost touch, and my expectations were far from low.

Half an hour later, Anne appeared behind me and I was greeted with a cheerful ‘hello.’ Expecting to see the face I’d been so used to seeing before I left, I was surprised to turn around and feel a sudden but gentle kiss upon my lips. It was a familiar feeling which I adjusted to after a few seconds. Soon, we were both engaged in a passionate kiss.

After we broke contact, I noticed Anne’s eyes. The sea-blue colour contrasted well with her bright, blonde hair. I touched it gently and watched it flow along with the breeze. Not a thing had changed since I last saw her; she was still the most beautiful girl in the world.

We both decided it would be suitable to take a cab all the way home, even if it took hours, as the buses were slow due to the excessive amount of snow lining the road surface. As we closed the doors, the immediate warm, soothing effect neutralized the bitter cold we were previously subject to. After some time, we found ourselves talking about things we’d ignored throughout our lives, like the colors of houses. We told each other jokes and Anne rambled on about her new job and apartment. All the while, I pretended to listen in, however there was something which didn't seem right about the conversation.

After an hour or so, she still hadn't mentioned anything regarding the disappearances of her friend, a matter which I thought she felt very strongly about.

I had the distinct feeling she was trying to avoid the subject. She would interrupt me during sentences, probably because she suspected I would mention something about it. Then she would stutter, being tongue-tied afterwards.

Genuinely sympathizing with her, I wanted to put an end to all this. I just wanted her to tell me not just why she was so upset, but why she refused to talk about the issue. Especially with me.

She tried to brush it off with jokes or denial at first, but after asking a few more times, she simply replied,

“I don’t care.”

This confused me, as I knew that she was fully aware of the situation.

“Why not?” I asked, “I heard some campers went missing around your area a few years ago. Was the friend you were talking about related to this?”

Anne ignored my question and looked out of the window. The green field that passed the cab was a familiar sight. I tried to remember where I’d seen the place before – had I dreamt it somewhere?

No.

It was definitely the picture I saw online, of the campsite in which the 1998 disappearances occurred. For no apparent reason, I found myself sweating and my felt heartbeat began to accelerate. Was this really that place? I couldn't believe it, but it seemed so alike.

Anne unfastened her seat belt. Before I could ask what she was trying to do, she turned to the driver and demanded we stopped right where we were and walk home, leaving him with the extra cash.

“We only have about half an hour left,” she told me, “we might as well go for a romantic stroll, if that’s fine with you.”

Slightly bewildered, I agreed and stepped out of the cab onto the pavement, walking around the boot to open the door and give my girlfriend a hand. She ignored it and stood up out of the cab on her own, leaving me standing stationary with shame. Each step she took made a sole-shaped dent in the snow, which had built up quite a lot since we’d left the airport.

“Where shall we go?” I asked. “Are you familiar with this area?”

I felt a warm aura surround her as I saw her glistening smile.

“Yes, I know this area pretty well. Anything wrong?”

“…No.”

She took my hand and we walked towards the green plain, now covered in white chunks of snow. Was this a different place to the one I’d imagined? Anne seemed to be quite comfortable around the area, which was unusual for someone whose friend disappeared there before. Maybe I’d mistaken it for somewhere else; or maybe it simply looked similar in the snow. It was approaching nine in the afternoon; the grassy area lay underneath an orange sea as the sun appeared to slowly sink into the trees, making the trees appear ominous and shadowy.

But even though I doubted myself, my instincts told me to be wary of my surroundings. Anne was walking beside me holding my hand; however it brought me no comfort. In fact, it actually aroused an awkward sense of suspicion.

“Hey Anne,”

“Yes?”

“Is this place…the place where those campers disappeared a few years ago? You know, the place you always –“

“Campers disappeared?” She replied, “I don’t think I've heard of that.”

I paused for a second.

Something seemed very wrong, and this time I was able to directly put my finger on what it was. Anne had definitely known what I was trying to talk about. She’d called me before we lost touch, crying about her friend who happened to be one of the missing victims. Furthermore, she couldn't have forgotten after just two years. Was she just trying to avoid the subject again? Most likely, but I wasn't going to let it slip.

We continually ventured hand-in-hand further down the plain. The road seemed more distant now, and the sound of the cars softened as they disappeared behind the mountains. Sensing a tight atmosphere between us, I kept quiet for about ten minutes, simply pretending to notice the beautiful scenery around us. However, the sun had set, and the darkness was unnerving me. I could see the edge of the moon begin to emerge, and I knew it was past nine already.

“Anne, you know what I’m talking about. You even called me to tell me about your friend, whom you said had been a victim.”

“Don’t scare me Jacob, what are you getting at?”

“I’m not trying to scare you; it’s just you trying to joke around. This is serious – how could you simply acknowledge a friend had been missing, cry about it for a while, and then deny you ever knew her? Is that even humane? I know you don’t want to go into the subject again, but you can at least let me understand why you’re upset.”

I sighed.

“Furthermore, you never even fully told me what had happened. I had to go and research it myself after you scared me half to death and broke connection with me for seemingly, no reason at all. We've known each other all our lives and this is how much you trust me? Aren't we friends, who are willing to share our feelings with each other? And then when something like this happens, you completely shut me out. Have I ever done anything to betray you? ”

Anne was quiet. She didn't answer as we kept on walking deeper into the forest. It was at that moment I noticed we weren't walking towards the city like we should have been, but we were walking in the opposite direction – straight into the trees.

“Hey, where are you going?” I cried, “Even I know the city isn't this way, we’re going in a completely opposite direction. What’s up with you?”

She was still silent, as I expected.

I looked down at her; her blonde hair looked much messier than before. The moonlight shone upon her fur coat, which was ripped and torn everywhere, almost like rags. How come I hadn't noticed it before? She didn't look half as beautiful now as when I first saw her a few hours ago… As my gaze moved down towards her gloves, I spotted a thin red mark below her wrist. A cut? I pushed her sleeve up her arm, but she didn't seem to respond. Concealed underneath the fabric were several lines of scars, some deeper than others. I took off my gloves to feel the texture of her arm. The patch of skin around the marks was cracked and sensitive. My feelings of anxiety turned into dread and shock – she’d been cutting her wrists.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “You aren't as talkative as before – cat got your tongue?”

I jumped. Her voice made my blood run cold – all the warmth had been sucked out of the previously elegant sound and now it was as cold as the snow surrounding us.

“I don’t blame you for my misery, but I’m afraid you’re simply unlucky to be caught up in all this. If it weren't for me, you’d be enjoying a content life somewhere else…not having to suffer your fate.”

A hint of a smile appeared on her face. It both confused me and terrified me at the same time; her words made no sense, yet she seemed to be so sure of what she was saying.

“What do you mean ‘my fate’? Snap out if it for goodness’ sake, just tell me what’s going on and I’ll try to help in any way I can. You don’t have to be nervous.”

Even though I directed it towards her, I knew I was being hypocritical - I was quite sure that I was the only nervous one around.

“Sorry, but it’s too late. I’d known her since childhood - she’s gone and you can’t bring her back. Anyway, what could you do to help me, Jacob? If I tell you, can only feel sorry for me and then forget about it later. To tell you the truth, you’re nothing more than a stranger to me, but I only stick by you because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. My only friends died here, and my family doesn't care about me anymore.”

“We've known each other for years, and I know your family cares about you. How could you say that?” “I don’t care about anything,” she smirked.

Before I could reply, I heard the sound of metal scraping as I suddenly saw my own reflection, staring back at me. To my horror, the look on my face was one of complete shock. Then I noticed Anne was holding a large kitchen knife in front of my face, with the blade angled down towards my neck.

A bead of sweat trickled slowly down the side of my face as I gulped, staring into my own eyes.

“Did you know Jacob, you were right all along?” Her light, almost psychotic chuckle made a shiver run down my spine. I’d never heard a human being laugh like that before, and it certainly shocked me unexpectedly.

“This is the exact area where the disappearances took place. And I’m going to finish you here too, just like the rest of them.”

“What?”

Suddenly, I understood. I’d received the message loud and clear; she was going to kill me.

We were in the midst of the forest, deep in the woods. She’d coaxed me into it. If I died here, my body wouldn't be found in months, or even years. Also, how had Anne created that knife out of thin air? She must’ve had it with her all along, or brought it somewhere near the airport.

I was frozen in terror. This was cruel, premeditated murder. I still didn't understand what was going on; however all I could do was fight back. Since she was smaller of a smaller stature than I was, there was a good chance I could defend myself easily without hurting her if I tried. I still couldn't think of any reason why she would want to do something like this, however if my girlfriend tried to kill me, whatever happened afterwards wasn't my problem.

I tried to kick and punch at her, however my body didn't seem to be responding to my commands – I couldn't understand what was going on until I looked down to see the blood, my own blood, dripping down my trousers and staining my clothes.

Suddenly, a wave of intense pain hit my neck. I yelled, but no sound was coming through. Falling to my knees, I clutched at the open wound and felt the palms of my hands being met with a constant flow of crimson liquid. Anne bent down and grabbed my hair preparing to finish me off with the serrated edge of the menacing-looking knife.

I finally realized that this wasn't the Anne I knew before; her tragic experiences had made her an insane monster. I finally realized that the scars she’d acquired from the death of her friend were too much to bear, and they’d sucked the soul out of her body. The psychotic sparkle in her eyes was the clear mark of a madman.

The real Anne was long gone two years ago.

I saw through the move and lunged sideways, narrowly avoiding her attack. The knife lodged into the tree and she struggled to pull it out. The pain in my neck was tearing into my shoulder blades; however I made an effort to ignore it as I crawled, slowly making my way off the floor. Anne chased after me. Knowing I was soon dead meat, I still ran as fast as I could, choking to death on my own blood.

Part Three

Her footsteps made crunching noises in the snow as she approached me. Struggling to balance, I tried to focus on holding my neck together as well as my escape.

Then, the crunching noises were followed by a loud thud as they stopped abruptly. Turning around briefly to take a glance, it was clear she had fallen after tripping over a branch. A confused expression crossed her face as she tried to lift herself up again but kept on sliding back down into the ground. It was a while before I noticed that her left foot was embedded in the ground up to her ankle, surrounded by a small pile of what looked like yellow powder, similar in appearance to an anthill.

I could make out several small dots on her leg as she tried to pull it out of the ground. Her ankle was now completely surrounded by the strange grainy mound and became less visible in the moonlight. As I noticed the small dots on her trouser leg begin to move, I heard her scream.

They began to look like a column of small bugs, and as I edged closer, I could tell they were spider-like creatures which used their long and stringy legs to scuttle around. They appeared from the mound in large groups, crawling up her leg and into her coat as she desperately tried to yank her foot from the heap. Soon, she fell to the ground and her screaming ceased as her body was covered in these creatures. Her body began to convulse as she moaned, writhing to and fro.

Afterwards, I almost fell over again as I saw one of her arms dislocate outwards with a sickening ‘pop’. Her hair began to fall out rapidly and I could make out a pinkish tone within her skin as her flesh dissolved and shrank into her bones. Another arm, followed by a leg, twisted away from her body as her eyes began to jut out of her skull from the effect of her tightened facial skin. As I pieced each aspect together in my mind, I recognized the image I was seeing – it was the same image in my head as I read the diary entry of the missing girl, as she was describing the creature she had seen.

My girlfriend’s once beautiful body had turned into this grotesque humanoid creature.

Whatever those spiders were, they must’ve contained some kind of venom bite which affected an area of the brain. Either that or they simply entered the brain themselves.

Gradually digesting my thoughts, my mind turned to the girl’s diary entry I’d read…not that long ago. She was in a similar situation to myself; standing a few feet from a potentially lethal ‘Spider Cannibal’. What had she decided to do?

She had decided to climb up a tree.

I was in a totally unfit state to do that, so I kept thinking of different possibilities of escape. Edging my feet away, I noticed that some of the tiny spider-like creatures had crawled over closer to me and had started to crawl up my leg. There was no time to waste – I stumbled forwards as fast as I could, heading for the city on the other side of the forest. The lamp posts shone and I could make out the blurred light, suggesting I was close to safety.

Then out of the blue, I felt an immensely powerful burn upon my legs. It was so irritating and painful that I felt the need to ‘scratch the feeling off’, but I forced them to continue carrying the burden of my weight. I knew the pain I felt had to be the result of the spiders, injecting the venom into my veins.

I had to keep going. I’d only been bitten a few times and if I stopped, I would be enveloped in them and all the venom would turn me into one of those … things. If I made my way to the city, surely there would be someone in their house. Of course, the area was so remote that the chance of someone actually being there for me would be slim, but I had to get there first to have any chance of surviving until tomorrow.

It seemed so far away. Looking behind my shoulder momentarily, I saw my girlfriend’s body twitch and writhe as her flesh continued to dissolve. Her hideous form lifted itself upright and started to crawl on all fours, uncomfortably adjusting to the new change in position. Sniffing the air, her eyes turned to meet mine and that’s when I started to panic. Racing down the frozen path, I clutched my neck tightly as I dodged trees and jumped over branches, pursued by the most terrifying sight I’d ever seen.

I guess my haste simply got the better of me in the end as I ran head-on into a river. The strange thing was, I hadn't even tripped over anything – I’d just fallen in from my carelessness. I swam to the top of the water to gasp for air and clung onto the edge of the banks, and a finger passed the bloody dent on my neck.

The wound was deep, however not as deep as it first felt. Also, I was glad it was beginning to scab. Turning my head to inspect my surroundings, I noticed the spiders were gone, and so was my girlfriend’s ‘Spider Cannibal’ form. A foul stench began to rise in the water and when I turned my head in the direction of the smell, I made out a body floating on the water surface as a sizzling sound could be heard.

Forestriver

It was enough to send me springing onto the banks and out of the river. Looking back to face the body, I could tell its limbs were still flailing, however its motion slowly ceased into complete stillness. It was a close call. As luck would have it, my clumsiness saved my life this time, or at least prolonged it for a while.

I knew who and what it was instantly after looking at it; her skin reacted violently with the water and caused a temperature rise, stripping her of the muscle and tendons underneath. Her corpse was no more.

A minute later, I felt a tear run down my face.

Seeing the spiders scuttle across the twisted arm of the corpse which lay on the bank acting as a bridge, I quickly turned to escape. As I dashed for the city, I couldn't help but think of how I’d finally lost everyone I’d ever loved – even though I should’ve known my girlfriend was gone years ago. My family was dead, many of my friends had gone missing and were probably dead, and now my girlfriend Anne had been taken away from me, the final victim of the unfortunate ‘death streak’ I seemed to carry around.

I thought about that kiss Anne had given me at the airport. It felt so passionate, so real, yet it was simply a distraction to try and take my attention away from the scars she wanted so desperately to hide. That premeditated murder – it wasn't her fault at all. An insane psychopath had taken over ever body since she’d died inside from the grief. It was my fault for not being there to support her. Even if I survived all this, how could I live with myself knowing I took part in causing my girlfriend’s death, and then what would I do with my remaining seventy-or-so lonely years of life afterwards?

The burn in my legs returned and I understood what had happened. Even though the spiders were far behind, the venom they’d injected into my legs had remained and would take effect soon, turning me into one of those Spider Cannibals. I too would soon be gone, whether I wanted it or not.

Millions of tiny bugs had crawled onto Anne’s bedridden body lying on the water, and had started to eat away at the remaining flesh and bone.

Then a thought hit me: the disappearances in 1998.

The spiders must’ve first bitten several of the campers, causing them to contract the infection and turn into the creatures, killing off other humans to provide carcasses for the spiders. After this, the remaining venom in their bodies would slowly kill them off and the spiders would devour every dead thing in sight. Assuming my theory was correct, these spiders must’ve been a very well-adapted species which only appeared underground in a certain area of this forest in cold conditions. The teenagers hadn’t ‘disappeared’. Their remains had simply been eaten by these tiny, malicious insects. If only my phone had battery left. Then I might have been able to phone the police if the signal was strong enough. Cursing my misfortune, I turned around and ventured on with all my strength, weeping out loud.

After all, I could do little else.

Part Four

I made it into the empty city, where I collapsed on the ground and became unconscious. Sadly, it turned out that the city was in fact quite deserted as I expected, and not a single soul laid eyes on my presence during the night. In the morning, I found myself lying on the grass. My head felt dizzy from the blood loss, but I was glad I made it and had not perished the previous night.

It was then that I noticed my arms had bent slightly outwards. My heart started to race.

I tried to pull them back in to feel the wound on my neck, but they simply wouldn't bend that way. My legs were still fine, but the skin looked slightly pink and raw. I recognized several strands of my brown, medium length hair piled on the floor and my hips had sunken inwards, creating a cavity where my stomach should’ve been.

The venom was overtaking me slowly. The poison was taking effect.

To my delight, I kept surprisingly calm after a while. Since there were no spiders to dispose of my body, what would happen to me? Would I wander into the city and get shot, or would I simply die of the venom poisoning? I hoped that maybe one day, a scientist would find my body and use it for research to save other lives instead of leaving me here to rot.

So at the moment, I’m still feeling generally relaxed, but I can’t deny that I’m quite anxious. Will death hurt, or will God take it easy on an innocent bloke like me? Even if I stay alive, I have nothing to live for. I have no family or friends. No career ahead of me. I will never date another woman again. I will never have children. I will never do anything productive.

I’d rather die than become a waste of space.

On our first date, I remember Anne once asked me:

“Hey Jacob, if you only had a single day left to live, what would you do?”

“Umm…I dunno. Probably tell my family I love them I guess, or try to meet someone famous,” I responded.

I wish I’d sounded a bit more serious, since I can’t do either of those things now. I am simply nobody, and I will die nobody. I wish I knew that earlier on – then I would have simply committed suicide instead of suffering this long.

On another note, a man just walked by.  How exciting!



Written by Rinskuro13
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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