“Jeffery!” Lydia called out drunkenly as she stumbled through the underbrush, swearing as her tights tore from a stray branch. Balancing on unsteady legs as she wove around the brambles, bottle of beer in hand, she sought out her wayward boyfriend in the woods behind the house thrumming with deep bass. They’d had a fight when he’d caught her kissing an old friend, a truly innocent thing really, and stormed off brazenly into the forest by himself.
Seeing as he had the car keys, she couldn’t just let him leave without her. Tossing her purple plait over her shoulder, she straightened her bare-shouldered sweater with her free hand as she stepped over a fallen log, scowling as her heeled foot splashed into a puddle of murky water. Stopping for a moment, she looked around, eyes glazed over and face flushed from her night of steady drinking.
“Jeffery, come out here now! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you!” She called out to the woods, flinching as a score of birds fluttered from a nearby tree. “He’s just an old friend, I had no idea he would take a simple kiss as something so forward. I was just saying hello!”
The only response she received was silence, save for the low call of a lone owl somewhere unseen. A distant crack of a branch caught Lydia’s attention just as she was turning to try and head back to the house.
“Jeffery? Is that you?” She called out plaintively, spinning on her heel to look in the direction of the sound.
“Lydia…” A voice whispered, drifting on the cold wind blowing softly across her lithe frame. A voice that sounded just like Jeffrey’s husky whispers.
“Jeffrey! Oh Jeffy, I’m so sorry! Please forgive me, it really meant nothing!” Lydia called out, tromping over puddle and through several briar bushes, ignoring the scrapes that appeared on her hand as she pulled at the prickly branches.
Moving through the shadows of the forest, the light of the full moon serving as her only guide, Lydia followed the sounds of the forest that were clearly made by another person moving through the dense foliage: the snapping of twigs and the rustling of leaves. Lydia followed the trail left behind, calling out to Jeffrey in earnest as she tried to convince him to come back to her, to stop running away from her.
After several minutes of this, Lydia tripped over an upturned root, stumbling forward and spilling the remnants of her beer on the front of her sweater, the colored alcohol staining the grinning skull framed over her breasts. Angered, she threw the bottle to the side and cupped her hands over her mouth.
“You know what Jeffrey? You can just go to Hell then! If you don’t want to come back to me, then you can live without me. Once I get home, I’m leaving! You juvenile prick!”
Turning, Lydia angrily trounced back through the shrubbery, ignoring the faint whisper that tickled at her ears. A bitter wind swept past her, causing a shower of leaves to begin lightly raining down on and around her. But she didn’t stop to notice; instead she stared at the seemingly unbroken woodland scenery around her, the scenery she could not perceive as having been from whence she came or where she was headed.
She was lost in the woods.
Reaching into her black skirt, she cursed as she patted the small pocket down. Empty!
“Must’ve left the phone in the car,” she mumbled as she looked around, trying to determine where she was, “I threw my beer over there, so the house should be… no, no I didn’t.”
Looking in the high weeds in between the briar bushes, Lydia didn’t see her beer bottle where she knew it had landed. Kneeling slightly to part the grass in search of the bottle, she jumped back when she found a yellowed skull, its fleshless features grinning up from the mud.
“What the hell?” She shrieked, leaping away from the spot, landing hard on her rear end. Shuffling away from the skull, now seemingly trapped within its soulless gaze, she didn’t even find it odd when the shower of leaves began to swirl around her, the wind shifting in flurries of cold bursts, howling like a child as it whipped through the trees.
Another snap of a branch, this time far closer, broke the spell the skull had over her, allowing Lydia to spin around and look for the source of the noise. Seeing nothing but darkness and briar bushes, Lydia sniffled.
“Jeffrey, this isn’t funny!” She cried out, tears welling in her eyes as she struggled to her feet. “You better not be messing with me or I swear I’ll have James beat you up!”
The silence around her was deafening as she realized what she’d just proclaimed, clapping her hands over her mouth as her blue eyes darted back and forth, searching the shadows for a form that could be her boyfriend. No such form emerged, though the leaves crunched in the distance, a methodic sound that was growing fainter by the second as Jeffrey walked away.
“Wait, wait Jeffrey! I didn’t mean that, I couldn’t get James to do anything for me, not like that! He’s just a friend!” She raced through the bushes, wincing as the thorns tore at her stocking clad legs, the fishnet tights now being reduced to tattered rags as she chased the crunching sound to its source.
She ran for minutes, pushing aside low hanging limbs and dense shrubs, her heels crunching the leaves gathered on the forest floor in rapid succession as she tried to catch up to her long-legged boyfriend. But no matter how hard she ran, or how much she begged of him, he wouldn’t slow down.
Finally she stopped in a small clearing, hands resting on her knees as she gasped for breath. Looking around, she could just make out in the dim light of the moon a vine covered iron-wrought fence, rusted from being exposed to the elements for so long without maintenance if the heavy verdigris spotting the dark metal was any indication. The fence broke open in front of her, a wide entrance into a darker region of the wood that Lydia didn’t think she wanted to venture.
“Lydia…” Jeffrey’s voice whispered along the wind, the leaves billowing about, fluttering towards the rotting entrance to the darkness.
“Jeffrey! Stop playing around and come out here!” Lydia cried, glaring at the darkness, not daring to move forward for fear of the hole serving as an entrance into the foreboding shadowy maw.
“Lydia… please help me… it hurts…” Jeffrey hissed, his voice echoing from the depths of the darkness across the clearing. “It hurts so bad… I can’t stop the bleeding…”
Lydia raised her head at this, a frown marring her pale features. “You’re hurt? What hurt you?”
“Please… help me…” Jeffrey whispered, his voice growing hoarse and weak.
“Hold on, I’m coming!” Lydia cried, huffing a bit as she jogged across the clearing, through the iron gate, stopping to step over the bent and broken section carefully. Looking to the ground, she stopped to gaze at flecks of sparkling silver on one of the bent iron rods.
“Oh my god…” Lydia covered her mouth, gasping at the idea of Jeffrey being hurt. Turning back to the darkness, she swiftly jogged into it, her eyes adjusting as best they could so that she could make out vague shapes, large pillars rising from the ground waist high with large knotty trees forming a thick canopy of yellow and orange leaves high above. Stumbling through the strange field, Lydia did her best to follow the rasping sound that Jeffrey was letting out, calling out his name over and over, hoping to get a response from him other than labored breathing.
Lydia tripped over herself when her heel stubbed into a hard stone pathway, bruising her hands and elbows upon landing face first on the leaf-strewn walkway. The stone wasn’t cement or blacktop, just composed of round stones all laid down together, grass growing from between the cracks; the path was old, far older than Lydia could ever guess. Pushing herself up, she tried peering around her to get a better idea of where she was, and where Jeffrey could be.
Standing up, the rasping noise seemed to be coming from all around her, drifting once again on the wind, wafting like a foul stench to tickle her ears. Spinning in place, her head still fuzzy from the numerous drinks she’d consumed at the party, Lydia began to cry, tears streaming silently down her face as she realized she was faced with a situation she couldn’t possibly get out of in a positive way. She was lost in the Worley Woods, in some kind of open garden, trying to find her injured boyfriend as the night only grew colder. She couldn’t see, and with the wind howling around her she could barely make out a direction to travel in search of her boyfriend.
A low groan caught her attention, sick and full of fluid, coming from behind her. Turning, she squinted her eyes to try and make out the dancing shapes in the shadows, finally making out a sprawled figure next to one of the monoliths.
“Hold on, I’m coming!” She said, scrambling from her spot and running out over the tall grass, heels crunching leaves as she drew ever closer to the prone form of her boyfriend. His moaning, full of pain, never ceased as she drew closer, the wind carrying it along with its own petulant cries.
Skidding to a halt as she dropped to her knees next to Jeffrey, Lydia ran her hands up his solid torso, gasping as she immediately felt a sticky cold fluid pooling out from around the body to her stocking-clad knees. Her hand found a hole roughly the size of her fist, her fingers accidentally probing inside the wound and brushing against slickened bone. Yanking the hand back, she wiped her hand on her sweater as she cried Jeffrey’s name over and over, trying to get his attention.
The moaning was still coming in from on the wind, but it seemed that Jeffrey was as silent as moon that hung high in the sky. Shaking him roughly, Lydia quickly moved her stained fingers to his neck, searching for a pulse, causing her tears to stream even more as she felt his clammy skin, and the weak thrumming of his heart.
Sobbing, she remembered Jeffrey had a lighter in his jeans. If she could see, then maybe she could do something about his wound! Hands quickly patting down his pockets, she fished out his Zippo lighter and flipped it open, thanking God that he had never listened to her and given up smoking. Lydia flicked at the lighter once, but all she seemed to get were sparks.
“Lydia… help me…” Jeffrey’s voice came from the darkness, causing her to look down at his prone form in confusion.
“Jeffrey, what… how are you talking?” Lydia asked, flicking at the lighter more, growling even as her tears continued to pour from her eyes. The rustling of leaves in the wind, along with the low grumble of a howl coming from it were making Lydia dizzy, both from her own drunken state and the cold around her.
“Lydia… help… it hurts…” The voice continued, no longer floating on the wind, but coming in a harsh whisper from behind her.
With a final flick of the lighter, the darkness fled back as fire sprang to life, illuminating the area around her. Looking about, Lydia gasped at the sights that the light revealed. The monoliths were headstones, all old and worn, with barely legible engravings on the weathered stone. The graveyard itself was sparsely populated with any form of grass, saves for odd patches here and there, with mostly upturned topsoil marring the landscape. Looking down at Jeffrey, a pit grew in Lydia’s stomach.
Something large had taken a bite out of her boyfriend, and whatever it was had sharp teeth. His left side was covered in scratches visible through his torn Led Zeppelin tee shirt, but the six inch gouge into his ribs was the most worrying wound he had; blood was still dribbling out of it into the soil in a steady flow, the dirt beneath his body becoming a choppy brackish mud that, Lydia realized with horror, she was kneeling in.
She had little time to do anything else, however, as the voice became a howl not unlike the bitter wind, just over her shoulder.
Spinning and dropping onto her elbows with a sickening splat of blood and mud, Lydia looked on in horror as the dancing light of the fire showed a strange, serpent tine mass of roots and vines, as thick as Lydia’s thigh, twisting up from the churning soil. A massive thorny maw, lined with inch long barbs, howled out a warning cry as it bobbed back and forth, it’s eyeless head somehow staring Lydia down, judging her.
“Lydia… love you…” Jeffrey’s voice came from within the maw, which issued forth a slight dribble of bubbling blood as it spoke.
Lydia couldn’t reply in any way other than a hoarse scream as the creature lashed forward, barbs sinking into her throat in a lightning fast strike, rending out the muscle and fibrous tissue with abandon, severing her arteries and veins in one bloody twist.
Lydia, her mind going blank as the serpentine body looped around her like a constrictor snake holding her body up and off the ground while the rest of the creature’s long whip of a body slid about to maintain leverage, gasped wetly as the maw sank deeper into her throat, guzzling down the arterial spray that was gushing from her ruined neck. Fumbling weakly at the creatures body, she thrust the flaming Zippo into the hard wooden mass, a weak smile gracing her features when the hardened shell caught alight.
The creature didn’t seem to care however, instead choosing to thrash its head back and forth, tearing away flesh from bone as the fire spread along the dry frame. The darkness of the surrounding graveyard gave way to the light of the living bonfire steadily draining Lydia of her blood, a raging inferno that seemed to only grow as it fed on both Lydia’s life fluid and the dry bark skin that the creature seemed composed of.
Wrenching away from Lydia after what felt like an eternity, the creature whipped about madly as it tried to deal with the flames that were slowly engulfing it, the wide bloody maw stretching profanely as it issued a cry reminiscent of a petulant child. Lydia, incapable of breathing due to the horrid wound inflicted upon her and bleeding out rapidly down the front of her festive sweater, pushed herself free from the vampiric plant’s coils, falling to her side next to Jeffrey.
“Jeffrey…” She gurgled brokenly, her arms going numb as she willed her hand to seek out his. Her eyes widened as she felt his fingers wrap around hers, her hand slipping and intertwining with his as he turned his head to stare at her with glazed eyes. “I’m so sorry…”
“Shhh…” Jeffrey shushed before descending into a fit of coughs that wracked his frame. “I know you are… I love you.”
Whatever Lydia tried to say next, she couldn’t even hazard a guess. The flailing serpentine form lashed back and forth as it crackled and popped from the flames, howling madly, dark whispers echoing out from its frame in broken sentences until, finally, it fell to the forest floor, a smoldering corpse of something vile, joining the two lovers in death moments after killing them.