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“The still night air hangs heavy in the forest valley, clouds have overtaken the moon, cutting light and visibility between the trees into mere shreds of their former glory. If you were to stand absolutely still and listen intently you’d slowly begin to realise, there are no sounds, anywhere. The nocturnal creatures have hidden themselves away in fear of what prowls the landscape, clinging to the shadows and moving at an impossible pace, this shadow looms especially dark, almost void like, as it traverses the valley in its insatiable lust for prey, nothing but carnage litters it’s path, large chunks smashed out of previously healthy living trees, entire tracts of plant life, rotted beyond recognition and the putrefying carcasses of any creature unfortunate enough to be uncovered from its hiding place.”
A loud crash nearby breaks you out of your reverie, wide eyed, you snap back into focus, turning to your sleeping partner, you quickly shake them awake.
“Hnnnymnnnmm huh?! What is it?!” they ask blearily, the exhaustion is clear in the timbre of their voice, you both hiked all the way here after all, 12 hours of climbing and walking have taken their toll on both of you.
“There was a huuge bang!” You declare in a mixture of excitement and fear, searching your partner's face for clues to their level of understanding, unfortunately it seems to have missed the mark as they just grumble and roll over muttering, “One spooky story in the local pub and you’re quivering at every noise ugh! Just let me sleep!”
“Right!” You reply, a little too loudly but in a convinced tone nonetheless. “There’s nothing out here, definitely no monsters anyway!” You exclaim semi-confidently, mostly to yourself in an effort to ease the space in your mind so prolifically dedicated to focusing on the story you were told earlier that day by the very worried looking barman.
You decide to stop thinking about whatever he could have been describing and focus on getting some sleep, it is after all extremely late and you have another day of hiking tommorow to get to the midpoint of the valley and you need your strength, it Is a tough journey after all with dangerous terrain and of course the threat of wild animals.
“Wild animals....” you muse as you lay down and close your eyes, your mind flooding with mental images of wolves, bears, badgers, and otherwise until a stark realisation once again slaps you hard in the face, physically jolting your body as if a large current had just passed through it.
You grab your partner's shoulder and shake them violently awake in hushed tones of terror, babbling almost incoherently as you realise there is no sound outside at all. Not even so much as the call of an owl, of which this forest claims to be home to hundreds across many species. This time they’re more awake as they had just begun to drift back into slumber and the alarm in your rushed whispers has raised their own panic level.
“Shh! Let me listen!” They reply, waving their hand in a semi dismissive manner, closing their eyes and listening intently.
You give them a full minute before demanding in a volume much greater than you’d have like “Well?!” Although you can already tell by the look on their face that they’re now appropriately scared for the situation they try to play it calmly.
“Sometimes forests can be quiet places,” they whisper in a completely unconvinced tone.
Suddenly, there’s a massive crash from relatively nearby followed by a loud thud and the sound of something heavy and hard rolling towards the tent at high speed. You both muffle your scream and grip one another tightly, staying absolutely silent, for a few moments joining the rest of the forest inhabitants in total fear and quiet.
Suddenly your partner reaches toward the front of the tent and slowly begins unzipping it, much to your disapproval, they take the emergency flashlight and scan the camp ground you’d chosen, you can only watch in terror as they recoil and curse out loud!
“Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck oh no no no! That’s not fucking okay!!!” They exclaim in disgust and horror, rocking back and forth with their knees hugged close to their chest, hands clasping fervently.
“What?! What’s going on?!” You ask desperately, “What did you see?!”
Your partner whimpers and points outside, eyes wide and skin white as snow. Your hands shake as you grab the flashlight, the trembling makes the beam of light dance an uncanny jig on the tent wall as you move toward the entrance, you slip your hand through and part the flap, flicking the torch nervously around the clearing until something catches your eye, something that wasn’t there before...
What looks like one of the logs you’d gathered for firewood lies about 10 feet from the front of the tent, the fire has long died down to embers and ash and provides no light worth mentioning.
As you look at the log, something seems off, the words float through your mind and then Stick! “Seems off, off, off...” you whisper, repeating the last word until you complete the thought.
“It’s rotting!” You whisper, your throat closing up in fear, a knot fully forming in your stomach, you turn to your partner, they’re not doing well, rocking back and forth and repeating the same sentence over and over again, “It can’t be real it’s just a story it can’t be real it’s just a story it can’t be real it’s just a story it can’t be real it’s just a story.”
You reach out to them but they flinch wildly and yelp, you’re about to comfort them when it happens. Two hands come tearing through the tent wall and wrap around your partner's torso, the long claws pierce through their flesh and in a split second, barely enough for a scream, they’re ripped into actual shreds right in front of you.
You’re paralysed, you can’t move, there’s an overpowering smell of decay that you hadn’t noticed beforehand as the claws reach forward for you.
Finally a scream breaks free from your tight chest and the claws grip you, ripping through your skin like paper, the burning, the pain, the excruciating final moments of your life are filled with nothing but torture as the darkness takes you for its own.
All that’s left come morning are two completely decomposed skeletons in an odd rectangle of dead ground in the middle of a dead clearing.
To this day, nothing has ever been able to stop that shadow......