The Stranger

A shrill cry echoed through the heavy mist that infected the frozen woods. My mind replayed the horrid scenes that happened minutes earlier; My happy family camping, then suddenly being dragged away by darkness.  Now, here I was. Hopelessly lost in the dark, cold, forest. Icy chills ran down my back causing each hair on my arms and neck to rise. I froze, straining my ears for any sound of movement. The silence stretched on forever. Then…

Snap!

The sound was like a crack of lightning. Someone was close. I looked through the trees, dreading the moment that was destined to come. It would soon be my turn to be taken. Slamming my eyes shut, I tried to block out the fear that seeped through me, sinking my heart and diminishing any hope. With acceptance of my fate, I allowed my eyes to reluctantly peel open. And there, merely two inches from my numb nose, stood what I feared most. The kidnapper. Or so I thought.

 I ran nonetheless.

The adrenaline surged through me, but the deep snow slowed my frantic escape. Before I made it far, icy fingers gripped my arms. I stifled a scream as I whipped my head around to face my captor. A cloaked figure with a gaunt complexion and sagging skin pulled his pale blue fingers from my arm only to press his index finger to his lips. I wanted to scream. To run, kick, yell. Anything but grant his wish of silence. From beneath his hood, his icy blue eyes met mine as he shook his head. A warning. His eyes begged for my cooperation – for me to stand still, and wait. Before I could muster a cry for help, he swiftly clasped his freezing hands across my mouth. 

Slowly, slowly, he leaned in to breathe into my ear, “They won’t hunt you… they can’t hurt you… if they don’t know you are here.” 

Hurt.

Hunt.

The words tumbled around my brain. Repeating over, and over, and over. That’s what they did to my family. And that would be my fate as well. Unless…

Maybe this mysterious figure, this person, really would help me. I decided to risk the consequences and cooperate.

Cold and wet, tired and exhausted, I was led along the snowy path through the forest. The pale figure kept his steel fingers clawed into my shoulder as we made our way silently, silently, towards more of his kind. My thoughts were racing. Can I trust this person? Where is my family? And most importantly, How can I escape alive?

I closed my eyes, forcing my gnashing fear deep into its cage. Before I could stop myself, I turned to stare into the sagging pale face of my captor. His nails continued to dig, almost piercing my skin as I whispered, “Where are you taking me?” 

It was a statement, a command, more than a question. I was determined to hide my fear and keep my voice level as I glared into his glassy eyes. They stared right back, piercing me, but I held firm, forcing my lip to stop quivering.

“That,” he growled, “I cannot tell you.”

He raised his cloaked arm, hovering it above my head. I softly whimpered as his hand came swiftly down, and the world went still.

My eyes flew open, heart racing, my sheets soaked in my cold sweat. In a panic, I sat up and frantically analyzed where I was surely being kept prisoner. My eyes landed on a window, slightly open to let a soft breeze rustle the curtains. My curtains. It took me a moment to realize that I was home, and another moment to hear the other rooms filled with the soft snores of my family. My safe family. The relief that soon followed was tangible, almost overwhelming me to the point of tears.  It was a dream. None of it was real. I repeated those thoughts until I believed them, and then allowed myself to drift again to sleep.  But, before all consciousness was lost, a whisper could barely be heard, “You’re safe. They will never find you again.”

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