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Scarlet Forest

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Knock, knock, knock.

"Arghhh..."

Like most people, I groaned as I stepped out of bed. The clock told me I had woken up at 11:00 AM, earlier than my usual. I looked out the small window and saw my best friend, Jake, standing at the door. His face looked worried and urgent, but I was too irked to bother worrying yet.

Knock, knock, knock.

"Dude, really?” I muttered under my breath as I threw on a shirt and pants and headed to the door. "I haven't even had breakfast yet..."

But my annoyance turned to surprise when I heard how loud Jake was knocking. I had never heard him do it furiously before, and I've known Jake for years.

"Ryan, open the door up! I have something to tell you! It's about Jenny!" he hollered, and I hurried to unlock my door and let him in. He stumbled into the hallway and collapsed on the couch with his face shoved into his hands, trembling a little even though my house's heating was on. As he choked back sobs, Jake managed to inform me that Jenny (another friend of mine) had died yesterday.

"I heard on the news about her death, a-and they had investigated her body... Claw marks all over it," Jake blubbered, after he had sipped some water to soothe his sore throat. "But they couldn't tell wh-what it was...."

I saw fear in his eyes as he told me the news, but I was more scared than he was by that time. I remembered the time when I was younger, back when both my parents were suddenly killed from a mysterious creature near our local forest. "The Scarlet Forest", as it had been nicknamed, was a place of danger. Apparently, every full moon, the fog in the forest turns a dark, eerie scarlet, and unidentifiable noises can be heard. Some people said sick animals made them, others said demons lived in the forest. I was never sure which.

Jake's mobile phone buzzed suddenly, and he answered the call, breaking me out of my trance. His face fell when he started to talk, and he hung up quite quickly.

"Sorry, Ryan... Gotta go home and get ready for Jenny's... funeral," he said, weakly, and I helped him to the door. I didn't plan on going to my friend's funeral- it would choke me up too much to have to see her dead. Ryan left quickly, leaving me alone once more.

I crashed down in my seat, trying not to cry at the thought of how Jenny might have died. Did the thing kill her right away, or did she have to suffer? But more than anything, what on Earth was the creature responsible? My curiosity had gotten the better of me. I packed my bag and decided to go out to the forest, just to see if whatever had killed Jenny might have left something that could help me identify it.

TUESDAY, 13TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2006.

I woke up with my belongings on my bed. I prepared to leave, but I had something to do first. I went to Jake's house to alert him that I was leaving- it was a short walk, his house was just a block away.

Knock, knock, knock.

No one answered the door for another 10 knocks. I quickly started to worry, so I tried the door and found it was unlocked. No one was home, yet that Jake's tiny, brilliant-red car was still here. As I entered his living room, I was very cautious, since his house had a lot of his junk on the ground. The poor kid, Jenny's death must have affected him worse than I thought... Among the junk, I saw a picture of Jake at a pub hanging on the wall, his light blue eyes and blonde, shaggy hair were glowing in the bright lights. I hadn't seen him so happy since that horrible day, and for a while I just stood and stared at that photo, mesmerized by the smile.

Suddenly I heard a noise from upstairs and it sounded like Jake. I charged upstairs and ripped open the door to his room, and I could hardly believe my eyes. It was what had to be the creature of the Scarlet Forest, just sitting there on the bed, with its eyes set on a picture of Jake. The creature had scarlet skin, like it was made of dried blood, and serrated tendrils stuck out of its back. Jake’s mutilated body laid limp against the backboard of the bed, his face showing an evil and malevolent grin even though he could not possibly have survived losing that much blood.

Without thinking, I let out a gasp, alerting the creature of my presence. I watched in horror as it turned its grotesque head towards me and rose to its spindly legs. It began to 'walk' towards me, every step causing the floor to creak. Every muscle in my body was telling me to run, but my own legs couldn't catch up with my brain. The creature's awkward movements increased in pace. I swiftly backed out of the room, slamming the door, and ran as fast as my half-frozen legs could carry me. I never looked back to see if the creature was following me. I just continued to run until I knew for certain that I would be alone, and the image of Jake's bloodstained body would never leave the backs of my eyelids.

WEDNESDAY, 14TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2006.

I had got into my SUV and drove around town listening to the news on my radio.

"A young adult around the age of 21 was found dead at his residence yesterday".

A feeling of remorse swept over me. I began to mourn Jake’s death as I drove, although driving is not a good place to release grief.

"He appeared to have the same claw markings except he was brutally mutilated".

I drove around town for a little while, contemplating what I should do. I wanted to find this creature and kill it. Since Jake's death, it had disappeared by the time the police and paramedics came to collect his body and investigate the scene. They had no idea how to classify his death since I felt they wouldn't believe the truth if I told them.

I parked the SUV at the local gun shop and bought a shotgun and drove to the Scarlet Forest. The opening to the forest was dark, yet a cold, welcoming breeze was emitting from the darkness.

This is it, I thought as I began walking into the forest. I had expected some noise, but it was just about silent. I was not thinking of what might happen to me now, only what has happened the past few days. As I headed further into the forest, I began to feel an uneasy presence around me, as if I was surrounded and being observed by an unseen presence. The scarlet sky had produced a sinister shadow of the trees, and every harmless rock or bush seemed the shadow of the creature.

6 HOURS LATER

I had set up camp and waited for the creature, shotgun in hand, ready to fire at any moment. I listened to the wildlife off in the distance; the noise of various animals communicating in the night was almost hypnotic. I started to fade out of the world around me, lowering the shotgun as I entered a trance. That’s when the sound of branches snapping awoke me.

There, standing in the shadows in front of me was the creature. Its unholy eyes glowed a vibrant red as it began to crawl towards me, making a sickly sort of growl. I rose my shotgun up and fired at it, not taking even a moment to aim. The creature stumbled and fell back, letting out an ear-piercing scream at the pain. Like a reflex it jumped at me, knocking me down, its surprisingly sharp tendrils piercing my leg and dragging me in further into the forest. I reloaded and shot of one of its tendrils off, giving me the opportunity to free myself. It tried again to grab me, mouth hanging open, greedy for meat. I evaded and shot it, again and again, then ran as fast as a human being can run. After collapsing three times, I was out of the forest and long since out of ammo, but the weird noises had faded. Never again would I come here, I resolved.

1 HOUR LATER

"If anyone can hear me... I have the evidence of the creature that killed Jenny, and my best friend, Jake. It's in the Scarlet Forest and it might be injured. Stay away from there. If you see any signs of it, call the police immediately!"

I managed to upload the video onto the internet, so people could see that the creature is real. I began to pull my head back and tried to sleep. Either a minute or an hour passed before I was awoken by a faint, familiar noise.

Snap. Creak. Snap. Creak.

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