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It's My First Time in an American Forest, and to Hell With This Shit, Seriously

So I'm one of those 'long time lurker, first time poster' people (howdy!). Anyway, a few years ago I (Welsh, born and raised) ended up sharing university accommodation with Cassie, an American who had for some reason decided to attend Aberystwyth University. I'll spare you our long and colourful history along the path to becoming best friends. Suffice it to say, Cassie and I are pretty tight.

Even now, years after leaving uni, and despite being on different sides of the Atlantic, we're still practically sisters. So when she invited me and my fiancé Jim to spend a week indulging in drunken shenanigans in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, who am I to say no?!

Cassie met us at the airport, she even had a board with our names on it. "Blue & Jones", we almost sounded professional. From there she whisked us out to meet a group of her friends – her brother Kit, her girlfriend Rice, Alex, Jay, Craig, Curtis, and a pair of twins who looked like cheerleader stereotypes brought to life. One was Ruby and one was Topaz, but I lost track of which was which before we even got in the cars. One started out with a camera, but since they were passing it back and forth that didn't help.

Rice drove a minivan, Curtis had what he called a 'truck' – cab up front, flatbed, that sort of thing. It was a pretty uneventful drive up, mostly just catching up on things with Cassie. The boys, apart from Jim and Kit, were in the truck. I'm assuming a minivan wasn't quite manly enough for them. We were getting pretty far out from civilisation, eventually turning onto this narrow, gravelly trail through some real dense forest. Like I said, I'm Welsh, so a one-track road in the middle of nowhere didn't upset me.

What did upset me was when Curtis suddenly slammed the brakes on up ahead. I didn't see what happened – I was in the middle of a hilarious anecdote when Rice suddenly stood on the brakes. We slid a little on the gravel before stopping, and by the time I looked out through the front windscreen the boys were already piling out of the truck, running around to the front.

Naturally we followed suit. "We hit a deer!" Jay called back, "Motherfucker came out of nowhere!"

The twins let out matching cries of horror, and I did the same. My first glimpse of American wildlife, and it was splashed all over the bonnet of Curtis' truck. Still, I went up to take a look with the others and it... it wasn't what I was expecting.

I don't know how to describe what was wrong with the deer. There was just something about it which didn't quite look right, you know? Like something about the angle of the legs, or the shape of it's antlers, or even just the way its eyes sat in its head.

I mentioned this, and though a second before I swear everyone had been looking just as unsettled as I felt, they all started laughing. What did I know about white-tailed deer, after all? Especially one which had been hit by a car. Of course it wouldn't look right. Besides, maybe it had a birth defect, or old injuries that hadn't set right, maybe it had been slightly mutated by pollutants.

Everyone had a reason for why I was wrong. Craig and Jay both know how to butcher a carcass, apparently ("Remind me again why we're going into the woods with these people?" Jim whispered to me), and since we were on Cassie and Kit's private property there was no reason to let Bambi lay by the side of the road and rot. Curtis' truck was, miraculously, still drivable, so off we headed.

The place was your typical quaint little log cabin, set dead-centre in a circle of green lawn. Around the edge of the lawn was this circle of stones, only about a foot high, set two or three feet apart from each other. They looked almost like a boundary marker, and Kit said that's what they'd used them as when visiting the cabin as kids. Their grandfather let them play outside unsupervised all they liked, so long as they stayed on the house side of the stones. I can see why, too. Even discounting the deer-stop, it had taken us about two hours to drive out here, dense forest stretching away on every side. Thinking about a child wandering off into all that made me shiver.

We took the rest of the day to settle in, and that evening the boys presented us with a firepit. We were having a cookout, involving not just the BBQ stuff we brought with us, but also fresh venison steaks. I couldn't stomach eating the deer. I don't even know if it's because of the 'wrongness' with it, or if it was just the memory of it being wrapped around Curtis' truck. I did have a few drinks, though, and we were all getting nicely into the groove when we heard it – another party, somewhere off in the distance.

Like I said, this is private land. Acres and acres of it. Anyone out here who isn't us is trespassing. Cassie was pissed off, but Kit was already pretty drunk and he kicked right off. Suddenly he's got a rifle and we're all marching out into the woods towards this group of other people, with me just stumbling along in the back, clutching Jim's hand and praying my first visit to America doesn't end with me burying a dozen bodies in the fucking woods.

Luckily (sort of) we never found the people making the noise. It seemed to fade in and out, not like it was being blown on the wind, more like someone turning the volume knob on a radio or something. Eventually, Jay pointed out that all we were doing was getting ourselves lost in the woods, especially since by this point it was fully dark. We all agreed, and as we did the sounds stopped, just like that, as if someone had finally switched the radio off altogether.

We were all in a rough circle at this point, and I'd ended up alone, slightly away from the others. I was sighing in relief at not having to cover for a multiple homicide when I heard branches crackling in the trees behind me. It sounded huge, but before I could turn around it was right there, right behind me, so close I could feel its breath on my neck, so close if I reached out backwards I could touch it. I tried to call the others, but the smell of musty fur and carrion was so strong it came out as more of a retch instead.

That still got their attention. They turned to me, and despite the terror on their faces nobody screamed. It's funny, how it's possible to be so scared you just turn into a useless statue. My head was screaming for me to run, but my body had apparently decided to play that shit like I was facing a T-rex.

"What is it?" I managed to gasp eventually. No one answered at first. I don't think they could. Finally, though, Cassie managed to grit out three words.

"Emily... don't look."

Seriously?

Whatever it was, it reacted to my speaking. I felt movement behind me, and suddenly that hot, stinking breath was right by my ear. At the same time I felt a gentle pressure on my shoulder, as if it was resting a paw, or chin, there. I expected it to bite me at any second. What I didn't expect was for it to start whispering to me.

I don't remember anything it said. I think my brain just stopped functioning at that point, like it couldn't handle anything else and had just given up and gone to sleep. I felt drugged, useless. I just stood there and let the whispering wash over me, like I'd already given up.

I don't know what would have happened next without Kit. The sludgy daze I'd been in was blown apart by the loudest sound I'd ever heard, which I later realised was Kit shooting into the air. The whispering stopped, the hot breath receded, and suddenly everyone was screaming for me to run – run, and whatever else you do, don't look back.

I didn't look back. I did, however, look up. That got me moving. It had antlers. Fucking antlers. I couldn't make out any features through the thick hair all over it, except its eyes. They were glowing, milky-white, like twin moons hanging over me. And teeth. I definitely saw teeth.

They all followed me. Kit and some of the other guys eventually caught up to me, then passed me. Behind me I heard the sound of something huge and heavy crashing through the trees, and then the shrieking of one of the twins. She'd tripped on a branch and twisted her ankle, because apparently she decided now was the time to take a leaf out of the horror-movie handbook. Her sister was screaming after us, saying we had to stay and help. Then, distantly, they both started howling, howling like people being torn apart.

The rest of us made it safely into the house, locking the door behind us. Do I feel bad about leaving the twins? I'd love to tell you yes, but no, I didn't, not even a bit. It's not like I twisted her leg, is it? It's not like they'd have come back for me or Jim. So why should I feel bad about it? Shut up.

It all turned out to be a moot point, anyway. We kept people on guard for the rest of the night, watching the edge of the woods. Obviously, they do get reception out here, but it's seriously not reliable. Plus I dropped my phone out there somewhere. Still, at 3am, Craig woke us all up. The twins are outside, he said.

No one believed him at first, not after the screaming, but no, there they were, waiting at the door. They were smiling, and looked exactly as they did earlier in the evening.

Now, they said the thing we saw was a costume, worn by some Mikey guy who apparently couldn't make it up this week. He could, however, make it up for one night to scare the shit out of us, apparently, before heading back to civilisation without speaking to anyone else.

Everyone accepted this without question and headed to bed, but it was light before I could get to sleep. Am I nuts, or what? The idea of one guy bringing himself up here, luring us into the woods, pulling that shit and then vanishing back to society in time for work just doesn't sit right with me. Then again, what's the alternative? Seriously, what? Evil ghost deer? Hulked-out Bambi's dad? Elementary, my deer Watson?

I wanted to go home this morning, once I'd actually grabbed a few hours of sleep, but Cassie and Jim managed to talk me out of it. It doesn't help that the twins are supremely pissed off that we left then to 'die' last night. Oh, they say they're not, but that doesn't stop them from staring at people when they're not looking. I've caught them looking at me more than once today, turned around to see those totally blank expressions, suddenly twisting into beaming, fake smiles before they turn and walk away. If they're pissed off, I'd rather them just say so.

Worse, I'm pretty sure they've got something similar cooked up for tonight. Jim keeps saying he can't hear anything, but while I've been writing this out (typing away on the laptop he told me not to bring, hoping to catch the barest smidgen of reception) I swear I've started hearing people calling my name out in the trees, just beyond the boundary ring.

So I suppose my question for you, my fellow Reddittors, is this – should I stay or should I go?

It's My First Time in an American Forest, and Apparently I'm a Total Idiot

I want to say thank you for all the comments. I've looked up most of what you said (in my few moments of having internet) and I've decided that out of skinwalkers, fleshgaits, goatmen (goatmans?) and the fae, I'd rather be dealing with a goatman, since he mostly just seems to want to party.

Moving on.

So even without your comments yesterday, something didn't sit right with me about the whole "prank" explanation. Jim, now, Jim is one of those people you see in ghost story AskReddits talking about carbon monoxide and infrasound and stuff, so he bought it hook, line and sinker. Cassie, though, felt the same way I did, and so did Kit – he's been having this friends with benefits thing with Ruby for years, and he woke up at some ungodly hour this morning to find her standing next to his side of the bed, just smiling down at him. That would be weird enough, but Curtis (currently in an actual relationship with Topaz) had the exact same thing happen to him. Curtis is taking Jim's approach to things, though.

I still managed to talk Jim into coming out with me and the Tovey's. We told the others we were going on an 'all-day hike', which they seemed to buy. I assumed since we had plenty of daylight it would be fine. We were trying to find the place shit went down last night, and we managed it surprisingly quickly. I thought the run back to the cabin seemed shorter than the trek out because of the fear, but it turns out we'd been led on such a twisty path that the place we saw GoatMikey is actually unsettlingly close to the cabin. It did not feel good to find that out.

We poked through the bushes for a while, but there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary. We were just about to admit the Mikey story was true and head back, and to tell you the truth I was weirdly disappointed. Look, I know things going bump in the woods is scary shit, but my life is fucking boring. Who hasn't idly wondered what it would be like to have an actual adventure somewhere? Not just getting wasted in the woods, but solving an honest-to-god mystery, like Sam and Dean with less plaid and angst, and better boobs. So yeah, as glad as I was that we were apparently safe, there was still that little bit of me that wished there was something just a bit more interesting going on.

And then that little bit of me got its wish. We had actually started walking back when Kit called us over, pulling something out of the undergrowth. I hoped it was my phone, but no, it was a digital camera, the ones the twins were passing around yesterday. Kit held it out to us wordlessly, looking a bit sick, and I saw what was wrong a second later – there was something splashed across it, something that looked an awful lot like dried blood.

Cassie took it and started flicking through the photos. Most of them were pictures from yesterday; Jim and I getting picked up, photos in the car, the firepit, a selfie with both twins pulling fake-scared faces which they must have taken while we were following the voices... And that was it. The rest of the memory was just full of alternating photos of pitch black and over-exposed white.

Jim, being Jim, insisted on checking every single frame in minute detail. We were trying to shepherd him back to the house when Cassie stopped us, holding a finger to her lips. When Kit tried asking her what was wrong she punched him in the shoulder, shushing him. Kit was carrying his rifle again, which made this seem like a bad idea to me.

We all heard it then. Someone crying, just this real, broken-hearted sobbing, off in the distance somewhere. It was definitely female, though I couldn't even guess at how old they were. We were all looking at each other now, and my skin had started prickling. There was something about the noise I didn't like, almost like it was echoing too much. It was really hard to tell where it was coming from.

Kit called out to whoever it was, but the sobbing continued without changing. If we could hear them crying then they must have been able to hear us talking, let alone Kit's yelling, but there was no response at all. After shouting a few more times Kit turned to Jim, who nodded. I didn't get what was going on for a second, until Jim turned to me and told me they were going to try to find whoever it was, to see if they needed help.

You can bet I wasn't the best pleased with that notion. As much as I wanted some adventure, that adventure was me being kidnapped by the King of the Forest and getting rescued by my motley crew of friends (or something), not my husband-to-be getting mauled by some crybaby woodland bitch. I asked him not to go, but then he made an annoyingly good point – what if it was some poor lost hiker, and she died because I was paranoid about ghosts. Right. Fine. Fair enough. Off they went.

Cassie and I stayed where we were, Cassie pulling out a monster of a handgun which I didn't even know she was carrying. It was a bright day, but in the middle of the forest they disappeared from view so quickly it sent another chill down my back. They had a point about the lost hiker idea. It must be so easy to get lost out here.

That was when the whispering started. Right behind us, in the trees, just this barely audible whispering. I thought it was the wind at first, then had a 'dunked in cold water' moment when I realised that, though I couldn't make out any other words, I could definitely hear my name being dropped in there. I asked Cassie, and while she could hear the whispering she couldn't make out anything clearly.

There was something about hearing my name in there, I don't know, it felt like I needed to check out what was happening. It sounds so stupid, especially since I'd just been thinking about how easy it would be to get lost in there, but still, it was like a compulsion.

So I told Cassie to stay where she was, to wait for me and the boys, and to cover me with her handcannon as much as possible. She didn't like it, but I promised not to go too far and off I went, following the voice as best I could. I'd barely gone ten steps when it stopped. That was when I realised how quiet the forest was.

I've spent plenty of time outdoors. I know that when people say "the woods are silent" they just mean there's no sounds of humanity. Other than that there's plenty going on: birds, critters in the distance, water, wind. But there was nothing. Just this really oppressive silence.

You know what it reminded me of? Back home we've got this 'haunted' chapel. When you walk in there's the same dead silence, so heavy it seems to absorb all other sounds, but at the same time you feel the potential for something to happen. The feeling of eyes on you. The feeling of something waiting.

That's what it felt like out there. Like a held breath before... Well, before.

I quickly retraced my steps and Cassie was gone. Like I said, the place was oppressively quiet, I wasn't even ten feet away, I should have heard her moving. But she was just gone. I tried calling her, but it was like I couldn't bear to raise my voice. It felt wrong, breaking that silence. The sound of the guys, the sobbing, that was all gone too. It was so oppressive it was like I could feel it as a pressure on my skin.

I finally got a response, just not the one I was hoping for. It was the click-whine of a digital camera. No flash, just the sound, almost like whoever was taking the photo was right beside me.

"Who's there?!" I yelled, managing to sound angry rather than scared. Which was a feat, trust me, because I was fucking terrified.

Have you ever sat there in a really quiet house with a tv on standby, and realised you can hear the tv making an almost sub-audible whining noise? It's less a noise, more a pressure on your eardrums, something you sort of feel in your back teeth. What I got in response was like that. Only then it started getting louder, and driving in deeper. First tinnitus, then a fire alarm, then so loud I could feel the pressure gripping my head like a vice, so much pressure it felt like my skull was going to collapse inwards. I couldn't see anything, I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't even think. There was just the noise.

And then it stopped, like someone had flicked a switch. Gone, just like that. I was kneeling in the leaf litter, still alone, blood dripping from my ears and nose. The oppressive silence was back, and while I was recovering I swear I heard one of the twins whisper my name nearby. Then a giggle. Then silence. Blessed fucking silence.

I nearly peed myself a second later when I heard someone crashing towards me through the trees, but luckily it was just the boys. They said they didn't find anything out there, but the sobbing had stopped suddenly, and then the trees had started rustling, like something seriously fast was skirting around them. They had been running back to Cassie and me when the sound hit.

Oh yeah, they heard that shit too. They weren't bleeding, which to me suggests I was closer to the epicentre of whatever it was. It was still bad enough that it dropped them, though. We were just starting to freak out about Cassie when she stepped back into sight, smiling like nothing had happened. We asked her if she had heard the whistling stuff too, and she said she hadn't. She thought she'd heard someone calling her name after I left her and she followed it, but she hadn't heard anything else.

Honestly, though, something about the way she said it was... off. I think she's hiding something. I'm pretty sure she's in shock, like there's something not quite right in the way she's talking or moving. I think she saw something, and it's scared her so badly she's dissociating. Or something. Dammit, Reddit, I'm an office worker, not a psychologist.

Anyway, we headed back, thoroughly creeped out. And then, to add the cherry of creepiness on top of the shit sundae that was today... I swear we were only gone for two, maybe three hours. No more than three. I'd put money on it. I'd bet my fucking house on it. But everyone else was convinced they hadn't seen us for the last six hours. The worst bit is, I checked my watch, and they were right. I don't remember looking at it when we were out in the forest, so I can't be certain, but...

No, screw it, I am certain. There's no way in hell we were in the woods for six hours. No way. We lost time.

Jim and I said goodnight to the others, claiming jetlag and wanting a night in together. To be honest, we just couldn't process what was going on. At least, I can't. Jim is still trying to formulate some rational explanation for this shit. I love the man, but Jesus.

He's insisting we stay one more day. In case this is all 'one big misunderstanding'. The rational part of my brain is telling me to believe him. Shit like this doesn't happen. It just doesn't. I know you're probably screaming at me to leave, but I think if I did I'd have to leave Jim – if he left now he'd be admitting there was something out there that he can't explain. He won't go until he's been proven right. Ah bugger, Jim, I always knew you'd get me killed, you beautiful idiot.

I'll tell you one thing, though. One more incident and I'm throwing the fool over my shoulder and sprinting back to civilisation. Wish me luck.

It's My First Time in an American Forest, and This is Me Going the Fuck Home

In the immortal words of Lawrence Fishbourne – "Fuck this trip".

Those "coyotes" kept going all night last night, and on top of that they were calling my name again – whoever 'they' may be. I noticed it only happened when Jim managed to fall asleep. I woke him up the first few times, asking him if he'd heard it too, but I realised pretty quickly there was no point. Every time Jim woke up it turned back into wordless yammering screams. Bless Jim, he wouldn't say anything about it, he tried to pretend he didn't mind, but I could tell it was irritating him. So I just lay there awake instead, listening to those drawn-out, yowling shrieks calling my name.

At one point I said, 'fuck it', and went to take a look at what was going on. I peeked out the window, fully expecting to see something awful, and the screaming stopped right away. I thought that meant something, but then I heard the front door quietly close. Cassie and the twins had gone outside. They must have scared whatever was out there away.

I leaned closer to the glass and watched them. They walked in a line together to the very edge of the treeline, stopping just on our side of the stone circle. They held their arms up, like they were reaching out to something just out of sight, in the shadows under the trees. I couldn't make anything out. And then it moved.

I stepped back quickly, gulping down a scream, slapping my hand over my mouth so hard it's a wonder I didn't bust my lip. I considered waking Jim again, but decided against it and went back to the window. Now that the thing had come forward I relaxed a little. It looked like it might have been a stag, a bloody big one. As it's been pointed out, I'm not an expert on American wildlife. It wasn't a moose, that's the best I can tell you. Whatever it was, though, it didn't seem to mind the girls trying to touch it.

I finally got some sleep after that, since it had actually gone quiet. In the morning I went out to check the place I'd seen the deery-thing, hoping to get a look at the prints it had left, maybe get an idea of how big it had actually been. No luck, though, since everything was overrun with canine prints. Pretty big ones, too.

Jim, for some reason, thought running up behind me and picking me up was a good idea at that point. He dropped me quickly enough when I twisted around and tried to bite him in the face. I can't even explain my thought process behind that one. He scared me, and my instant reaction was to bite the face off him.

"What the fuck?" he said, and he was right to do so.

I apologised for trying to maul him, and he apologised for scaring me, and then he asked me if I still wanted to leave. And. Well. I said no.

I don't know why. It just came out. Like, I know you guys are seriously worrying about this. So am I. But whenever I think of leaving it just... It's like I want to, and I don't want to at the same time. Like leaving now would be some stupid hysterical reaction, you know? Fuck, I don't know. That's how I felt this morning, anyway. Feeling a bit different right about now.

I told Jim one more day, and he said if that was the case Kit and the boys had invited him out to 'shoot at cans' (which I'm half-certain means they're going hunting, but I'm not sure what the laws around that are, so shh). I asked him if he was sure, and he laughed and gave me a hug. At least he'll be with Kit.

Once they'd gone Cassie came over and told me we girls were going to take a walk down to the lakeshore. It's not much of a lake, don't think it's even got a name (Kit and Cassie have always just called it Lake Tovey), but it's big enough that it has a little island in the middle, a nice shingle beach, and a little jetty. Very pretty, and with the day being sunny again... Yeah, very picturesque. Plus the walk through the woods seemed to clear my head a bit. I've always loved being out in the woods.

There was that silence again, though. No ducks on the lake, no fish breaking the surface, no birdsong, not even the whine of Mosquitos or gnats (that last one was welcomed, though). We were just about to step onto the shingle when Rice grabbed my arm (risking a good biting to do so) and asked me if I thought Cassie was alright.

"Did something happen on your walk yesterday?" she said, looking so worried it pained me to lie to her. Her eyes are so dark I could see my reflection, see the fake smile I quickly plastered on.

No, I told her, everything went fine, why on earth would she think otherwise?

"Because I woke up at about 3am and she was stood over the side of my bed, just... smiling at me."

Ah, shit. So I lied to Rice, told her everything was fine, would be fine, whatever. I think I'd tried to deny it to myself until then, even when you were trying to tell me so. But as soon as she brought it up that was it, couldn't un-see. Cassie was like the twins. Not quite as bad as them, she was definitely acting more normal, but there was still that blank look in her eyes, like even when she was looking at you she wasn't really seeing you. The smile which was so fixed and toothy was more a case of them showing their teeth. And the fact that they were always watching someone, with those blank eyes of theirs. Just watching and watching. Usually me, but if Rice caught their attention they'd turn it on her too.

How could I have told her what I was thinking, what you've been saying? If she didn't believe me she'd think I was insane. If she did believe me her heart would end up just as broken as mine is, more, maybe. I don't know if this is something we can fix. I hope it is. I really don't think it is, but I hope so.

As sunny as it was, the water was way too cold to swim in. Plus I've got this thing about swimming in murky water at the best of times, which this is not. So we started skipping stones instead. By 'we', I mean Rice and I. The twins just stood back, watching. Cassie, surprisingly enough, joined in after watching us for a few minutes.

It turned out to be quite fun. Rice looked happier now Cassie was getting involved; Cass looked almost with it, and it turns out I'm excellent at skipping stones. I do like winning things. Of course, I didn't have long to enjoy it.

Whatever it was, it came from the island. I didn't see it on there, only noticed it when it slipped into the water. It was swimming towards us, leaving a wide 'v' of water behind it. All I could really see of it was a smooth head covered in dark fur, and a huge rack of antlers. Rice noticed it too, and she smiled when she saw it, a really delighted sort of smile.

"Wow, is it a deer?" she asked me (the not-wildlife expert).

I looked at her to point out I wasn't the best person to ask, so I saw it hit her the same time it hit me. A wave of dread so strong it felt like nausea, stomach cramps, the works. Her face twisted into a look of pure horror, and I could see the gooseflesh raise along her neck, just as I felt all my hair standing on end. It was like I suddenly ran hot all over, before that was doused with an icy coldness. My heart climbed up into my throat. Everything in me was screaming for me to run, run like fuck and don't stop until I reached the cabin, but all my muscles had locked up.

And to cap it all off, that's when I heard it again: The tinnitus. The whistle. Whatever you want to call it. I knew what to expect, though that didn't help. Again it shot up through the register, up and up until it was like there was nothing left in the world, just the tiny bit of me that was still me, adrift in this white-hot furnace of noise.

I don't know how long it went on for. I came back to myself lying curled up on the shale, hands clamped over my bleeding ears. As my hearing started to come back I heard screaming and splashing. I looked around as I sat up, dimly realising that Cassie and the twins were already on their feet, smiling down at me. Rice wasn't there, though. I twisted to look out over the lake, and whatever the deer-thing was had gone. Rice, though, was about halfway between us and the island, screaming hysterically between coughing fits.

I ran out onto the jetty, yelling for her to swim to me. I was convinced she was going to die, that something had already ripped her open, or else it would wait for her to almost reach me before dragging her under for good. Instead, hearing me seemed to calm her down, and she started swimming back in. I waited on the very end of the jetty to pull her out of the water at the earliest opportunity. I even let her hug me, even though she was soaked in bitterly cold water.

She had no idea what had happened. The noise had left her just as detached from everything as it had me, only when she came back to herself she realised she was underwater. Not just in the water, literally three feet or so beneath the surface. She sucked in a good lungful of lake water before she got out, and between that and the cold I'm really worried about her.

I'm the only one who is, apparently. I helped her back to shore and the others were still just smiling, like nothing had happened. I bitched them out for it, mainly because of what a few of you have said – I don't want them to know I suspect them. As I helped Rice home they trailed a few feet behind me the whole way, Cassie assuring me I was making a bigger deal about it than needed.

We'd lost time again. I realised it when we got back, only a few hours this time. It was enough to upset Rice all over again, though. She's currently huddled next to the fire I built in the huge fireplace they've got in the main room, and she's been sobbing steadily since she got back. Nothing I've said can stop her. Cassie and the twins are just hanging around watching us, sometimes in the room with us, sometimes peering in through the fucking windows. And smiling. Always smiling.

This is it now. As soon as the guys get back I'm going the fuck home. Of course, that's the other problem. The boys still haven't come back. Kit promised me they'd be back well before dark. There's still no sign of them, though, no sign at all.

Please let Jim be okay. If nothing else, if no one else, just please let Jim be okay.

Edit: Thank Christ for that, I can see someone coming back now. I'm going out to get the van started, sod waiting for daylight.

It's My First Time in an American Forest, and Something is Very Wrong With Me

I don't know what just happened. I don't know where I've been. I'm so fucking scared right now, and there's nothing I can do about it. I should have listened to you all. I think there's something in me and I don't know if I can fix it.

It wasn't the boys, the ones I went running out to meet. It wasn't them. I know that much, even if I don't know who the fuck it was. I went running out to see them, to see if it was Jim, fully intending to grab him and drag him inside and never let him go again. But when I got out there, whoever it was, they turned and started walking away. Only I couldn't just let them wander off, I couldn't; they needed to come inside, it wasn't safe. That's what kept repeating in my head, like a compulsion – it's not safe, save them. So I ran after them, only they were walking far too quickly for how dark it was under the trees, and that's the last thing I remember.

Well. That's a lie. I remember plenty.

I remember swimming. I remember that although I was under the water it didn't feel cold, and I could breathe just fine. I could see just fine. And I was fast, so fast.

I remember flying. I remember the creaking of my wings, the flutter of the wind through my feathers. I remember the way the muscles of my shoulders worked to keep me aloft, the way I could see the fall of every sparrow.

I remember running. I was so fast and graceful, and although I was scared of a lot of things, I was still powerful. I ran with my family, and together we were strong.

I remember... I remember being hungry. So hungry, this hunger beyond anything I've ever felt, like my stomach was twisting in on itself. But then when I ate, everything was a hundred times more delicious than anything I've ever tasted before. I drank, and though it was only river water I could have kept drinking forever, just for the taste of it. And I... I had desires, as if I hadn't been with someone for years. When I was with him, when I came, I bit at him like a wild thing, and when I drew blood he only laughed.

I don't know where I was. I don't know who it was that I was with. It's just a series of disjointed memories, all shuffled together. Pain and pleasure and sheer bloody freedom, all jumbled up so that none of it makes any sense now I look at it, like a dream. It went on forever and it lasted no time at all.

The next real memory I have is of stepping over one of the stones in the circle around the cabin. It's like I dropped back into myself, thump, there I was. I looked up, and Jim was sprinting towards me, yelling, and for a second... Jesus. For a second I pulled away from him. For a second he was a stranger running at me, shouting incomprehensible nonsense, and I was ready to attack him, to defend myself.

Then he got close enough for me to see his eyes, and it all clicked back in. He was asking me what had happened, what was wrong with me.

I didn't know what he meant until I looked down, wondering why I suddenly felt so cold. Turns out I was stark naked. Naked, but so covered in blood, mud, and clumps of fur that it was hard to tell. Every inch of me hurt. I was covered in cuts, bruises, scrapes, bites. I'd torn whole strips of skin off in some places.

In total, I was gone for two nights and a day. Jim carried me inside straight away, put me in a hot bath and cleaned off what he could, fending off the others' questions. He got out the first aid kit he took everywhere with him and patched me up as best he could. He said I was in a state of shock, which I found funny. He said that was part of the shock.

He also told me what happened to him, why he was so late coming back. The boys had all been up in a tree hide, drinking, when they heard something. It sounded how he imagined a bear growling would sound, Jim said, and it was right below them, moving around. It never came in sight, so they couldn't try taking a shot at it. Instead they just stayed up there all night, trying to stay quiet, as not to attract any undue attention.

When they woke up, they found that Curtis had gone missing. No sign of him anywhere, no sign of a struggle, no one heard him leave in the night. He was there when they went to sleep, and gone when they woke up.

They finally made it back that day, only to find I'd disappeared too. Rice was hysterical by this point, and coughing steadily, with a massive fever. Her swim apparently hadn't done her any favours, as I'd feared. Kit volunteered to take her into town, to get her to the nearest doctor. Of course, I'd disappeared with the only set of keys to the minivan still in my bra (so God knows where they are now), so they had taken Curtis' truck instead. Now even when Jim can get signal, he says Kit isn't answering his phone.

Poor Jim. He's so worried. He's worried about me. He's worried about them. He's worried about Curtis, and that the twins don't seem to care about their boys, and that Cassie doesn't seem to care about what's happening to her brother and girlfriend (just like she didn't seem to care when I was missing). He's worried about the fact that Craig and Jay, since their night in the tree-hide, have also been standing around, smiling but emotionless.

Mostly, I think, he's worried because he still has hope we're going to live. He just doesn't know how to make that happen.

I told him there's no hope, not for any of us. I told him we should have left on the first day, like you said. He shushed me. He seemed to think it was just hysteria, part of my shock, rather than something I know. I think he feels guilty, like it's his fault we've stayed too long. My poor boy.

He's already spoken to Alex, the last of us who seems reasonably normal, and we're going to sneak off first thing in the morning. They think that maybe, if we start early and head through the trees to cut off a section of the road, we can be back in town by tomorrow night. I agreed with him, because it's what he needs, and because no matter what else is going on I still love Jim.

We're going to leave before dawn. It's not going to work.

It's My First Time in an American Forest, and I'm All Alone

Oh Jesus, oh, this is it. This is the end of it all.

We left before dawn, just like we planned. Jim, Alex and me, creeping out with whatever we could carry in rucksacks. We set off into the trees at an angle, so we could cut through the forest and meet up with the road further down. That way if the others looked for us they wouldn't catch us just strolling down the driveway.

It was hard going, harder than we expected. The roots and grass clumps seemed to be trying to grab our feet, to trip us up with every step. Branches grabbed at our hair and faces, or else snatched at any exposed skin, cutting us. Like the forest itself was trying to keep us from leaving.

The men wouldn't admit this, of course. They just kept slogging on, forcing their way onwards, their hope driving them to reach the road. And as it turned out, they were right, and I was wrong. Alex reached it first, stumbling through the last layer of grasping branches to topple face-first down a banking onto the gravel. Jim climbed down more gracefully, then held out a hand to help me follow.

As soon as we reached the road the boys seemed a lot happier, practically skipping along. They thought they were safe. Whatever they thought was going on (and I don't think either of them ever admitted it was something otherworldly, not out loud, anyway), surely it was over now. They were on a road, a man-made thing. They were clear and away. Never mind that we were still surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of wilderness. The road was a thin strip of oasis, a lighthouse of humanity. We were safe.

We found Curtis' truck about an hour later, sitting abandoned in the middle of the road. The windscreen was shattered, giving the safety glass a smoky look. The nose was crumpled in almost to the point of hitting the engine, and there was blood splashed across it.

"They must have hit something," Alex said uneasily.

"Something pretty fucking big," Jim agreed.

Both doors had been left hanging open. One dangled at an angle, like a broken wing, where it had been half ripped off. There was no one in sight. And though two sets of scuffed footprints led away from the truck, they weren't following the road onwards. Rather, they were heading back into the trees.

Alex headed off after the footprints without another word. Jim went to inspect the truck, so I followed him. There was blood splashed across the inside of the cab, too, across the dashboard, the steering wheel, the seats, the windows... Blood. Lots of it. The passenger side window had been kicked out from the inside. The driver's side was starred and coated with the thickest layer of blood.

You could almost hear the echo of their screams in the air. Then Alex started shrieking. Jim ran towards him, and even though he told me to stay where I was I followed him. I couldn't let Jim out of my sight. I couldn't risk it. We ran, but as we did something washed over us, something louder and more immediate than Alex's horrific screaming.

The whistle. The tinnitus. There is was again, dropping us to our knees. This time, though, I didn't end up drifting alone. This time I could feel Jim's hand in mine.

When the whistle left us, Jim pulled me to my feet and we kept going like nothing had happened. Alex had stopped screaming. We pushed through into a small clearing, only to find Alex in the jaws of a cougar. It dropped him and retreated when Jim ran forwards, swinging a branch and bellowing a challenge.

The cat pulled up at the edge of the trees and turned to bare its teeth at Jim. Then it turned to me, and our eyes met across the distance. It blinked, slowly, then turned and loped off into the tree-shadow.

Jim had gone straight to Alex, though it was obvious it was hopeless. The cat had bitten clean through his spinal cord, right at the base of his skull. He wasn't the only one there, either. Jim noticed first and tried to keep me from seeing, but it was about what I'd expected anyway. Kit was there too, sprawled out on the ground. The cougar had been at him, too. Maybe even more than one. There didn't seem to be a lot left.

"She's not here," Jim said after a while, sounding sick. "Rice isn't here. Her footprints lead in here, but then they just stop."

He was right about that. There was no sign of her. Though I bet I could guess what she'd look like, if I ever saw her again.

Jim practically carried me back to the road. We both felt like there was something wrong, but it took a while to realise just what it was. We'd lost time again. It was far later than it should have been.

I think that was the point when Jim really started to panic. He told me to shut myself in the truck cab while he ran the rest of the way alone. Then he would have someone come back to get me. He seemed to think it was a great idea, under the circumstances. I thought it was about as awful a plan as plans can get.

I begged him to stay with me – literally begged him – and I think he thought I was scared for myself. He just didn't understand. He didn't understand at all. I did. I knew if I let him go I'd never see him again, not as we were then. And so I begged him to stay with me. But he didn't.

I didn't see any point in waiting around, or in spending a night in a draughty truck. I made my way home instead, and I wasn't exactly surprised to find that the way back was easier. The cabin was empty when I got there. Completely deserted. I wasn't particularly surprised to find that, either.

I'm still writing this because I want someone to know what's happened to us. I'm inside now, with all the doors locked, all the windows shuttered. Jim won't be coming back, I know it. And if the others do... I don't know what I'll do. Jesus, I don't know what to do. I'm all alone, but I can hear things moving around outside. I'm so fucking scared, but probably not for the reasons you'd think.

I'm not scared of what's out there getting in. I'm scared that eventually I'll want to open the door. Oh, God help me. God help me.

It's My First Time in an American Forest, and It's Been Wonderful

I can't take it anymore. I just can't. There are people out there, I think it's the girls. Maybe Craig and Jay, too, but they're hanging back, with the other things I can see in the trees. It's the girls, and it's him. They're calling me, still, all calling me, but I don't want to go, I don't. I want to be me. I want to still be me, more than anything, I just want to be me. Why can't I stay? I should have gone with Jim, when I was with Jim I remembered home, my real home.

He calls me. I should go.

No!

God, it's getting so hard to think! It's not just coming from outside now, it's coming from inside too, from inside my head. The tinnitus keeps sounding, over and over and over. Each time it comes it lasts longer, each time is getting closer together. Like contractions.

Is it a rebirth, then? A beginning from an ending? Or is it just an ending? The things outside, are they newborns or parasites? Shells? Are they really there at all?

The thought has crossed my mind, you know. That maybe everything has just been in my head. Maybe I'm locked up somewhere, dribbling on myself and screaming about things circling me in the darkness. Maybe I never even left the UK. Or maybe the plane crashed and this is Hell.

Why can't I still be me? Why do I have to go? A sacrifice of myself to myself. I just want to go home and live my life the way I've always lived it. I wasn't exactly happy, but I was me, and at least I had Jim. We could have been happy eventually, I know it. I know we could.

I won't open the door, I won't open the door, I won't open the door.

I'm bleeding constantly now: nose, ears, even my eyes. It will almost stop, and then the tinnitus will come again and start the bleeding fresh. Every time it comes I lose a little more of myself. I can feel it leaving me. I can't remember being a child anymore. I can't remember how I met Cassie.

I can still remember how I met Jim, though. I think I can, anyway. I met him on a night out, a friend of a friend. They only ever called him James, but he told me his surname was Jones and I laughed about it. I never called him anything but Jim afterwards. My Jim.

I want people to know what happened. I want someone to know the truth, that I didn't just get lost or eaten by a wild animal. None of us did. Don't forget us, please. Remember us, because I don't know if we will.

I won't open the door, I won't open the door, I won't open the door.

I can't remember what university I went to. Christ, I can't even remember if I have any brothers or sisters, or my parents' names.

Why is it Jim that I remember? Is it some stupid 'true love conquers all' shit? Is it because he's the only person I brought with me from home?

I don't think he can cross the stones. That's what they're there for, I see it now. To keep his attention away from here. That's all they can do. Once he's seen you there's nothing you can do. What he wants he takes.

He can't cross, but the girls can. They're at the doors now, at the windows. There's more of them than there should be. The whistling, the tinnitus, it doesn't affect them. They just wait it out and then go on talking, telling me what I could be, telling me I've been chosen, telling me all I need to do is to open the door. Open the door, Emily. Open the door.

I won't, I won't, I won't.

Why can't I stay? Please, please, let me stay. I don't care if they have to kill me, so long as I can die as myself. Please, that's all I want. I just want to still be me.

I won't open the door, I won't, I won't.

Jim's outside. I can see him now. He has him. I didn't think he'd make it away, but I hoped. I should have gone with him. God, I hoped.

I don't know how much will be left of Jim before long. He hasn't stopped screaming. They're not hurting him, just holding him. Still, he's seeing things, things a rational brain shouldn't be forced to see.

I was marked, I see that now. I understand. This is all my fault. We came out here because of me. And then when we followed the voices it was me he came for. I don't know why, but that doesn't change things. Everything, everyone. My fault.

I'm opening the door now. I'm sorry.


It's all over now. Everything's okay. Jim's dead. I killed him.

It was better this way, better for both of us. That I did it, I mean. It was fast. I was there for him. There was no pain, I made sure of it. I used my teeth. His blood is on the stones and now the cabin is ours too.

I went out to speak to the ones outside: Cassie, Ruby, Topaz, Rice. Only that's not who they are anymore. Like I was Emily, but now I'm not. Now I'm something more. Because I killed Jim.

Back home I was nothing. Back home I worked in an office. You all told me to run away, to go back there, and why? Why should I have gone? Why should I have missed this?

Home. Was it ever really home?

God, please help me, please, please help me.

You were wrong, you see. I was wrong. People have ideas about things, they try to explain things as best they can, but people's brains are small, narrow, thin, frail. Human brains can't see everything, because if they could it would be too much to bear. Humans can't see everything, because if you could see everything... Well, then you wouldn't be human anymore.

I can feel the trees growing. I can feel their roots. I can feel every living thing in the forest like it's a part of me. I can feel Jim's life going back into the earth. And it's beautiful.

As humans, everything is always so scary. We give names and stories to things we don't understand, because it's by naming it that we understand it. No matter how scary it might be, if it has a name it's manageable, it's understandable. You're scared of the woods, and of what's in them. I know, because I was too.

Don't be. All we want to do is share this. Don't run. Come to us. Trust us.

I know there will be people who knew Emily who are worried. You don't need to be. It's okay now. It's all okay. I know now. This is the place where I'm safe, and warm, and loved.

I'm home. You could be too.

It's My First Time in an American Forest, and This is My Life Now, I Guess

If you're looking for explanations, I'm not the one to give them to you. If you're looking for a name, we don't have one. Our people are old, old enough that we can remember a time when we were the only ones here. Although technically only the elders were the ones physically here back then, we can all remember it once we've... Well, once whatever has happened to us has happened to us, I suppose. We can see all the way back to when the first trees grew here, and we can see and feel everything that happens here now. All at the same time.

Yeah. That's the sort of shit I have to put up with now.

I think this will be the last time I can write anything. I'm still in and out at the minute; sometimes I'm still just Emily, mostly I'm sort of... EmilyPlus, I suppose. But even then I'm still me. Sort of. I think. It's really hard to say. And trying to explain how this works now I'm EmilyPlus is basically impossible. I'll do the best I can, but you don't have words for most of it. Telling you in person would be difficult, telling you in written words is... Well, I can't. And trust me when I say you don't want me telling you in person. Not now.

The other reason for this being my last post is that electronics hurt like hell now. I think it's something to do with the frequencies they put out. It causes headaches, nausea, general feelings of achy unpleasantness. Basically, not something I'm willing to put up with.

Don't come out here. That's why I'm sitting through what feels like a wicked case of the flu to put down my last words for you all. I know what we said last time, about coming out here, but just fucking ignore it.

Kit and Cassie's family were concerned about the fact they hadn't heard anything from us, especially since we were due to be at their parents' house for some big 'welcome back from the woods' barbecue by about midday yesterday. They came out here a few hours ago, her father and a couple of uncles and cousins. Cassie went up and tried to convince them to leave, but they'd seen Curtis' truck on the way in, and had found what was left of Kit and Alex. They were pretty upset, understandably, and wanted us to leave with them 'before it was too late'. Lol.

What surprised me was that the first thing Cassie's dad did was grab her and yell in her face: "You crossed the stones at night, didn't you? What were you thinking, Cassandra? Didn't grandpa teach you anything?"

Cassie just kept trying to get them to leave. It was almost like she cared. Maybe she even did. I don't remember anything from before I arrived here, but you never know, maybe if you put my actual parents in front of me I'd at least remember who they were.

We killed Cassie's family, anyway. They point-blank refused to leave without her, and worse, they were talking about doing something. Given it was her great-grandfather who carved out a human safe-space and put the stones up in the first place, we couldn't risk it. Especially not since her dad and uncles actually seemed to know what they were talking about.

They looked surprised when most of us came out of the trees and started walking up to the cabin. They looked a bit more than surprised when the elders followed us over the ring of stones. That's what complacency does for you. Never rely on hundred year charms, folks. Especially when they can be cancelled out by something as simple as 'a gift of beloved blood'.

I miss Jim. I do. He'd prefer it this way, though. He was never going to be allowed to leave, and given a choice between this and death, well, he was a very rational man.

According to the Big Man, some people just can't make the transition. They fight it so hard it rips their mind apart; they end up either dying right away or wandering the forest, neither one thing nor the other, completely insane. And He can tell who can make the transition and who can't. The only reason he took the twins is because he needed someone to watch us, and he didn't want us to panic and make a run for it that first night. We'll look after them, though. It probably won't be necessary for very long, but we will.

I was touch and go, apparently. They called it 'a difficult birth' afterwards. If it hadn't been for... If I hadn't helped Jim, I mean, I probably would have ended up like the twins. Lucky for me the Big Man was set on having me. Part of it was that I was due a reward for not eating the flesh of the elder Curtis killed (don't ask what happened to Curtis. Seriously. Don't), but weird as it sounds, the rest was that I'm Welsh. Strange but true. I'm the first woman they've seen with the accent, and it turns out he's a fan. Then my little sojourn out there with him just sealed the deal.

So, my advice to you is this. If you do decide to go into the forest for some reason (fuck knows why, but it's your choice), try not to kill anything, plants included. We don't like it. If you do have the overwhelming urge to kill something, then for fuck's sake make sure it looks like it's supposed to first. Why? I'll give you a little example on that one – draw a deer from memory, then compare it to the real thing. Not so easy is it? Judgemental pricks.

And you really don't want to kill one of us. Not even without meaning to. Because when it comes to our people, we don't really go in for mercy.

There's someone coming up the road now, so I think Cassie's dad got the word out that there was an issue. Probably called the police after finding the corpses. Sounds like it's going to be a case of retreat and observe, which works for me. Gives me time to get to know the new family. Plus I'll... I'll need to take it easy for a little while.

Remember what I said. Remember us.

And if you call me a Goatman, I'll track you down and rip your fucking throat out.



Credited to EmilyBlue-242 
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