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They were circling the cabin again. Out here in the woods, isolated from the noise pollution and general electric hum emanating from every street lamp and central air system of modern life, every footstep sounds like the hoof of a bull tamping the dust. They weren't exactly trying to hide their presence; for almost a week They relentlessly pressured Jessica, escalating their sensory assaults sporadically. This late in the game she had abandoned her initial "heroic" attempt to ignore her emotions and her memories. Every night of this so far had started the same way, but the days were always different. It was always worst when the sun was up.
On the first day it was all crunching twigs in the forest, rocks tossed gently at the cabin's small grimy windows, child's play. She arrived with a small trailer behind her midsize SUV in the early afternoon and spent most of that day unpacking her life and hanging her laundry, which she had to wash by hand until she could replace the water heater. That night when she tried to slip into a fitful sleep on her lumpy futon mattress, things took a turn for the sinister. Thundering smacks heard through her walls ripped her into consciousness every fifteen to thirty minutes until roughly three in the morning. Sinking more and more deeply into her comforter, she tried to center her emotions and ignore the sounds. Sickening cracks reminiscent of baseball bats hitting wet wood siding, which is exactly what she assumed was happening. At some point, time being somewhat irrelevant in her sleep deprived state, she decided that she had finally had enough. Upon stubbornly shouting into the forest on the evening of those first incidents, declaring her fortitude and will to stay put, They replied.
Or rather, something replied. The Voice, if you could call it that, reminded Jessica of a sweet little girl, very young, maybe six or seven. There was something else behind that Voice, though. Something visceral and predatory, almost as if it came from the digestive tract of an ancient crocodile; it was subtle, a less perceptive person may have missed it. The Voice itself was almost less unsettling than what it said. Moments after Jessica's last cry of, "This is mine, I'm not going anywhere!" had finished echoing to silence through the timber, the forest itself seemed to say simply, and quietly in that sickly sweet tone;
"You can't stay here. You should follow me."
The words ripped into her stomach like the talons of a voracious beast. The Voice invited her from every direction, trying to lull her into an alien sense of comfort. She could feel her breath shortening as the words echoed in her mind, noticing that she had completely frozen in her doorway, crippled by fear. Her lungs filled with nothing and became still, her ears itching at the sudden lack of animal and insect sounds. Even the wind was still.
"It's okay. Follow me."
Backing slowly into the cabin and locking her door, Jessica shakily ricocheted around the inside of the cabin shutting down all of the windows, trying to ignore the calm little Voice's call.
Closing the curtains and turning on the stereo, the static grind of universal background radiation over an upbeat rockabilly song barely peeking through the radio ether. Pulling a blanket over her head was almost enough to cover the persistent sound, almost inaudible.
"Follow me, please?"
Things went on like this until the first sunlight crept over the horizon and into the kitchen window, warming Jessica's forehead and inviting the birds to chirp again, allowing her to fall into a paranoid slumber. As she drifted off, a few thoughts occurred to Ms. Andrews. Whoever or whatever was trying to scare her had done a pretty good job. If They had attempted to hurt her, they failed. She was particularly glad of this, because she would hate to have to hurt them back. Her nerves would be a little more under control after some rest. Rest would have been nice, but the days were always worse.