My friend slammed her car door grinning. “We have to wait for a few minutes. We are here a little earlier this year.”
I looked at her and managed a small smile back as I lifted my backpack onto my shoulders.
“Why do we have to do this walk the same time every year?” I groaned unable to hide the irritability from my voice.
“Oh come on Sheila. We do this every year. It’s tradition for us now and anyway we get to have time away from our families and enjoy the wildlife. It’s relaxing and we only do it once a year for a few hours. Stop your moaning.” She said grabbing her backpack from the boot and dropping it onto the stony floor.
“Maybe we can change this tradition to going to a spa instead of a gruelling walk through nature Mary.” My voice echoed across the trees sending a flurry of birds into the air from the woods.
“We can do that some other time.” Mary checked her watch again. “Let’s go.”
My feet dragged across the gravel as we made our way down the winding path and into the woods.
The path at my feet faded into the dark woodlands. The pine leaves crunched beneath my feet, some were lodged into the wet mud that lined the path. The wind swayed the branches of the trees gently, making some of the autumn leaves float slowly to the ground adding to the ever growing pile of wet leaves on the sides of the pathway.
I could hear the birds chirping loudly as I gazed up into the blue sky that appeared through the cracks of the tree leaves. The sun felt warm but the breeze that crept its way down the woodlands pathway was cold, making me shiver in my big blue winter’s coat.
We headed for the core of the woodland area.
The woodland seemed ominously quiet. We paused a little to catch our breath hearing only our breathing and a slight sound coming from behind.
I turned and looked behind me noticing a baby deer passing through the trees and heading down a slight hill into the depth of the woods.
“Did you bring the picnic?” I asked turning back to face Mary.
“It’s all in my bag including the cups and cutlery this time as you forgot last year.” She chuckled. “At least we don’t have to eat out of our hands this time.”
A smile grew from my lips. “It wasn’t too bad.”
I shifted my backpack a little as we carried on walking. A rattling sound came from Mary’s bag as it bumped against her back.
I looked ahead smiling to myself. It was so beautiful here. The autumn colours of the leaves clashed together lining the pathway with speckles of orange, yellow and red. Every time the breeze blew a flutter of leaves came down like a colourful rain. The undergrowth made the path look shaggy and the rain from the day before left muddy pools of water which Mary decided to splash through sending muddy water onto my newly washed jeans.
I grumbled under my breath as we walked on further, dodging the large anchored roots of the trees as they stuck out slightly from beneath the dirt.
“Have you noticed that it looks a bit different here this year?” I asked.
Mary looked around. “You’re right. I think someone has had a clear up here recently.”
“How long have we been walking for now?” I asked noticing the sun moving its way slowly down behind the trees.
Mary took out her phone and looked at the screen. “About an hour and a half I think. We should stop for some food soon.”
She popped the phone back into her jacket pocket. “The good thing about being here is that there is no signal so my husband can’t ring me up every five minutes asking where something is.” She laughed loudly.
“It’s nice to have time away.” I replied. “Did you ever find out who Anna was in his contacts?”
Mary shook her head. “I don’t really want to talk about that Sheila. That conversation is better left for when we have our monthly drinks at yours.”
I took her hand and smiled warmly. “Whenever you want to talk about it and I won’t push you into it I promise.”
She nodded slightly in thought. “Thanks.”
The pathway started to open up a little making room to walk side by side. Mary matched her footsteps with mine as we walked further on noticing another little pathway heading west down the hill, deeper into the woods.
“There’s a new path.” I said as we stopped at the beginning of the scruffy looking pathway.
“Looks like someone made a short cut. Let’s go this way and then stop for some food.” She said.
We made our way through the undergrowth and deeper into the woods. There was a small sign up ahead entwined in ivy making it harder for me to read.
“what does it say?” Mary asked intrigued.
“Some of the letters have faded but I think it says warning and something else but I cannot read it properly.” I replied.
“I wonder what the warning is.” She murmured.
I shrugged my shoulders and carried on walking past the faded sign.
Another hour went by as we stopped and sat down for some food.
The sun had now disappeared fully behind the trees casting ghostly shadows across the woods.
“We need to head back Mary. It’s getting dark and I don’t want to get lost in here.” I chuckled to her nervously.
I did not want to admit to her that I was quite afraid of the dark still.
“I just need the toilet and then we shall head back. Stop getting worried Sheila. We won’t get lost. I know my way.” Mary said whilst scanning the area for the perfect place to crouch.
“Well hurry up woman. I want to leave.” I replied.
A loud howl came from deep inside the woods sending a shudder through my body.
“It’s probably just a wolf. They are known in these woods. There could be bears too!” She laughed.
“Just hurry up and don’t get eaten by animals.” I growled.
She nodded and headed off into some bushes laughing.
A few minutes went by as I listened to the sounds of the woods. More and more animal noises started to venture out from their hiding places.
“Hurry up! Otherwise we won’t be able to see as it’s getting dark!” I shouted at her.
“I’m coming!” She called back.
A loud snap followed by a loud horrific scream came from the bushes which made my whole body jump violently.
“Are you ok?” I called to her.
Another terrifying scream came from behind the bush making me spring into action. I jumped up and rushed towards her.
“Mary!” I shouted.
She was leaning against a nearby tree screaming in pain. Her face looked contorted with agonising pain. She was sweating profusely and had beads of sweat dribbling down her forehead. I looked down at her left foot realising that it was trapped in a bear trap. The claws of the trap dug deep into her flesh making blood pour out from the wound.
“Help me!” She screeched.
“Oh no. Ok. Ok. Let’s try and release your foot.” Panic arose rapidly inside as I tried to stay calm.
I felt sick.
Her deafening screams sounded like an animal. She was shaking violently as she watched me try and pull back the trap to release her foot.
She screamed even more with her horrible wailing.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I cried.
“You can’t release it! Go and get help quickly!” She wailed.
“Ok. Ok. But I don’t know where I am going!” I said.
“Just follow the path and hurry up! Find some signal and call someone! Quickly!” She cried.
“I will be back as soon as I can!” I stammered.
I stumbled out from behind the bush and ran back through the way we came. Twigs and branches lashed at my face as I swiped them away whilst running as fast as my body could take me.
The darkness was creeping in fast making it harder to find my way to the main path.
I pulled my phone out from my pocket and dialled the emergency number.
There was still no signal.
“Come on! Come on!” I screeched.
I ran on further through the woods still trying to get through to someone on the phone.
I wasn’t looking to where I was going and I realised that there was no footpath beneath my feet anymore, only the woodland earth.
Time seemed to stand still as I looked around in the darkness trying to search frantically for the small path.
Finally after what seemed like forever I had gotten through to the emergency services.
I managed to state where we were and what had happened but the signal was very bad. The call had disconnected and I could not get through again.
I just hoped that they were going to send someone.
Now it was time to try and find Mary.
I could no longer hear her screams only the sounds of nearby animals howling.
“Mary! Mary!” I screamed loudly into the night air.
There was no reply.
I pulled out my phone again and turned on the torch.
It wasn’t much but it was enough to light my way.
My heart was thumping loudly inside. My lungs were burning and my legs felt like jelly.
More time had flown by as I tried to search for Mary’s whereabouts.
The howling and growling from whatever it was out there grew louder and louder.
I finally managed to find the faded sign again and followed the path back down to where we had sat.
“Mary! Mary!” I shouted again.
I pushed through the bush from where I had left her and found nothing but a pool of blood.
I pulled the bush back even more to take a closer look only to find that her leg was still in the trap and a trail of blood looked like that it was moving away from where she last stood. I started to follow the trail of blood which led me deeper into the woods.
“Mary!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
My stomach clenched with fear and panic.
I could hear growling and scurrying from nearby.
I rushed towards the sound whilst shining my torch in front of me.
The light of the torch was met by an enormous wolf’s face covered in blood. I could see a mound of hair on the floor behind him which was the same colour as Mary’s. His yellow eyes glinted off the light as he glared at me and growled. Four more wolves appeared beside him also covered in bright red blood. Shreds of flesh hung off their teeth. They looked wild and ravenous.
They stared at me curious to know who I was.
I stepped back carefully, trying not to make any noise.
A twig snapped beneath my foot.
“Oh my gosh.” I whispered.