Wednesday, October 20, 2021

WEP October Challenge: The Scream

It's October, and that means it's time for another WEP challenge. This month's challenge is inspired by another famous piece of art, THE SCREAM. Perfectly suited to this time of year, I think.

This time around, we're asking members to try their hand at writing their own taglines for their entries. You can find mine at the end of the post.

Here's my entry. I hope you enjoy it!

Cries in the Night


I jolted upward, cloth constricting me as I struggled to sit up. My heart raced as I cast my eyes desperately around me, the inky darkness making it impossible to see.


Nothing was familiar. I’d been asleep, but I wasn’t in my bedroom. My breath caught in my throat as I struggled to make sense of anything.


“What was that?”


The words, spoken directly into my ear, nearly sent me flying out of my skin. It took a moment to process and recognize it. “Vanessa?”


“Of course it’s me. Who else would be in here with you?”


That’s when it all fell back into place. I was in a tent with my best friend, my body trapped in a sleeping bag. We’d chosen to go camping together so we could get some time away from our families for a couple of days. Having turned freshly eighteen, we were both technically adults, but living at home meant we still had to follow other people’s rules. It was nice to get out on our own for a little while.


At least in theory. A panicked late-night awakening hadn’t been a part of my plans. “Yeah. Sorry. Forgot where I was for a minute.” I ran my hands through my sweat-soaked hair.


As my breathing returned to normal, I turned my attention to Vanessa. My eyes were adjusting somewhat to the darkness, so I could distinguish the ghostly outline of her face. Her eyes were wide, and her shoulders were as tense as I’d ever seen them.


“What’s wrong?” I asked.


Vanessa’s mouth dropped. “I heard something. For crying out loud, it woke you up!” Her words came out like a harsh whisper, urgent and incredulous.


A noise had woken me, then. That made sense, though I failed to recall it. “What was it?”


Vanessa bit her lower lip. “It sounded like a scream.”


My body froze. Surely a scream hadn’t wrested me from my slumber. We were pretty deep into the woods. It took the entire day to hike out to our campsite. There shouldn’t have been another soul for miles.


I’d almost convinced myself that Vanessa had been mistaken when it came again.


“Help! Somebody help me!” The scream tore through the night like a blade.


It was a woman’s voice, and the terror in her plea sent my heart racing again. She sounded breathless, like she was running for her life. Was someone or something chasing her? How nearby was she? Her voice sounded too close for comfort.


Vanessa cursed under her breath. 


“What do we do?” I asked, scarcely loud enough for her to hear.


For a brief moment, I thought of movies where the heroes ran into the line of fire and saved the day. People who risked their lives to save others in distress. Part of me wished to be that kind of person, but the larger part of me was too terrified to budge from my spot.


Vanessa seemed to be of a similar mind. She put a finger to her lips, pleading for me to remain silent. Meeting her eyes, I could read her thoughts so clearly they felt like my own. We were unarmed. If we went out there to confront the unknown danger, we could easily end up running for our own lives.




I sucked in my breath. That was definitely closer. Vanessa and I stared at one another, both of us coming to the same realization. We were in danger. I thought of the campfire we’d lit outside. It was down to embers when we turned in for the night. Would someone see it? Would the screaming woman see our campsite and seek help from us? Would the person or animal pursuing her see it?


Part of me wished I could huddle in my sleeping bag and hide myself from the world. Another longed to run. I dared do neither for fear of making a sound.


Several long moments passed as we both strained to hear. The snapping of twigs and crunch of underbrush was audible by that point.


Don’t come this way. Please don’t come this way. My silent recitations played on a loop in my mind as I waited for disaster to strike.


Then the sounds of fleeing footsteps began to fade, and the next strangled cry was more distant than the last.


Vanessa and I waited in silent terror until long after the screaming had stopped.

*     *     *


Three weeks later, a couple out on a walk stumbled across the body of a woman. She’d been stabbed more than thirty times and her head had been severed. The location was less than an eighth of a mile from where Vanessa and I had been camping.


My blood ran cold when I saw the news reports. I wanted to reach for my phone to call Vanessa, but I couldn’t move. That was the screaming woman. It had to be. What was her name? Who killed her, and why? Could we have possibly intervened and saved her, or would an attempt have merely gotten us killed too?


I imagined being in her shoes, fleeing for my life, alone and afraid, while two people hid away nearby, too scared to do anything but wait until it was all over.


My hands began to shake violently, and I barely made it to the bathroom before the nausea overtook me.

Word Count: 896


Now here's my tagline: Two girls, alone in the woods, face the choice to help or hide when an unexpected danger approaches.

Have a great October everyone!