Playtime with Sarah

“Catch me if you can!”

Sarah’s laughter was breezy and carefree, like her. She scampered down the path, looking over her shoulder briefly. Nicholas shook his head at her childishness, but proceeded to follow her.

It was after midnight, and they were in their secret spot- the forest at the outskirts of the town they’d both grown up in. It was a ritual- every Wednesday and Friday, they met there.

“Our little secret,” Sarah had whispered in his ears one day, before running off as usual.

I should tell her to stop this, Nicholas said to himself. It was dark, and the sound of her footsteps was faint. The trees loomed over him, but their presence had never bothered him.

Nicholas tripped on a twig, but caught himself before falling. “Okay that’s it. No more games.”


Everywhere was silent, except for the sounds of the crickets and nocturnal birds.

“Sarah!” Nicholas called, getting irritated. “I’m not playing anymore!”

The sound of laughter reached him, and he sighed in relief. She was okay. Annoying, but okay.

“Just come out. I give up. You win, okay?”

Sarah always loved winning. He expected her to pop out from behind a tree, stick her tongue out like the child she was, and do a silly dance to make him laugh.

But she didn’t.


Nicholas didn’t like it. Something He caught a glimpse of a brief movement to his left and turned, hoping to catch her.

“Sarah, I’m not joking. Come out now.” His voice sounded shaky. Scared even. He suddenly felt aware of the noise around him- the sound of the forest magnified in his ears. The crickets chirped loudly, and a flock of owls flapped their wings in a frenzy, their hooting echoing in Nicholas’s ears.

Then there was total silence. The hair on his nape stood, and goose pimples broke out on his skin. Where in the world was Sarah? And why had the crickets stopped chirping and the owls stopped hooting?

Nicholas heard something drop behind him. He turned, and saw an owl sprawled on its back. Dead.
Then another owl dropped. And another. And another…

Nicholas heard his heart pounding in his ears. What was happening? Why were there a hundred dead owls around him?

“Sarah!” Nicholas called, but he barely heard himself over the sound of the falling birds.

“Nicholas,” she whispered in his ears, and he felt his shoulders sag in relief. Sarah was okay. He turned to face her, intent on scolding her for taking it too far this time.

But he saw..nothing.

Nicholas turned around, searching for Sarah. She had whispered his name! Where the heck was she?


Nicholas went still.


His heart pounded painfully against his ribs, and he felt sweat break out on his forehead.


It was a roar now, and the forest spun. Around him, the trees took different shapes and seemed to walk towards him, arms out, reaching for him, calling his name..

Nicholas squeezed his eyes shut, willing it to be a dream. He would soon wake up. It was just a bad dream.

Then he felt cold arms prodding at him from all sides, dragging, pulling, digging their claws into his skin.

Nicholas didn’t hear himself scream. He opened his eyes to see darkness. Forms and shapes. Arms and shadows. The Unknown.

His body writhed in agony as claws sank into him, the pain working its way to every nerve, weakening him, yet keeping him on his feet.

“Sarah,” he mumbled, as he felt the ground give way. Nicholas fell, sinking deeper into the gaping mouth of the Unknown.

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