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!
Those poor young women will likely be plagued by guilt for years, but self-preservation is a powerful instinct. This is a riveting story, from start to finish!ReplyDelete
I agree with Debbie. At eighteen, they found they were not yet ready to take adult decisions. I love the emotion in the story - I felt very close to them as they sweated and fought with their consciences. You captured the reader's attention and held it throughout.ReplyDelete
This was a very strong, emotionally mature story. I completely understand the protagonist's choice. Being a hero might be exciting in theory, but in real life, two unarmed girls probably made the right decision by staying hidden. Even being plagued by guilt for years afterwards is better than being dead. And if they did try to interfere, they might've ended up killed too.ReplyDelete
This story touched me deeply, because things like this do happen and more often than we think. Things have changed in our society. We women have to be more careful than usual. I don't think I would have revealed myself either. With no weapon to protect myself, I would have remained silent and still. And that is one of the reason I don't like camping. Excellent writing.ReplyDelete
Yes, your storty is rivetng. What a difficult choice the girls had to make, and it will most likely affect the rest of their lives.ReplyDelete
The tension is palpable and while I wished they'd be heroes I know that it made sense for them to stay in their tents, unarmed as they were. Why didn't they go back and report it though? The killer might have been found.ReplyDelete
But that's up to you of course. The writing is superb and the story terrifying.
What an appalling decision they were faced with. Like everyone else I was riveted.ReplyDelete
I wonder what I would have done. At eighteen - or now?
OMG, what to do, what to do???ReplyDelete
I've no idea, none. What would I do?
I think I'd cower in fear. Just heartbreaking but a man with a knife and three defenseless women? I remember a story of 8 women and one man with a knife.
Tough place to be, but two unarmed women are better off not stepping out of the tent and making it three dead women.ReplyDelete
Difficult choice even for mature adults. Very well portrayed - the struggle between self preservation and the impulse to help. Glad they stayed put and didn't end up stabbed and killed too.ReplyDelete
Thanks LG for this conundrum story. Indifference is one of the worst ills. Our instinct should be to help, our fear overwhelms us. Guilt indeed.ReplyDelete
Hi Laura - I certainly wouldn't have left the tent - but appalling to find out there really was a person out there. Ghastly ... not sure what I'd do or how I could cope in the years ahead - I'm sure I'd need therapy. Cheers - not!! Excellent take on the prompt - HilaryReplyDelete
Very riveting story. Wonderful pacing. The internal struggle for the right choice can certainly change the situation at bay. One murder or three...perhaps they could have overtaken the murderer. They will never know, and will have to live with this grave decision... poor girls.ReplyDelete
Wow, an intense, well-written story. Kept me waiting to see what would happen. It certainly gives pause for thought. What to do? Help or do nothing. Not an easy choice. Lots of guilt for the girls.ReplyDelete
What an impossible decision! I have got to stop reading these before I go to bed...ReplyDelete
Such an impossible decision. The tensions and the conflict is so vivid, and that ending--heartbreaking.ReplyDelete
A very real-feeling story of a tough decision. Though I hate to have the impression out there that camping is a dangerous activity, especially a full day's hike from the road! Still, in their place, I suspect I'd have hidden, too. Fantastic job of creating the tension and escalating fear.ReplyDelete
Scary. Made me wonder what I would do. Well written.ReplyDelete
What a choice. At eighteen, no I'd have stayed put too. At nineteen, with a friend, I'd have probably investigated. Well written - plenty of realistic fright.ReplyDelete
Just a thought... isn't the tagline supposed to tempt us into the story?
great story. I couldn't help but ask myself what would I do. dixieReplyDelete
Great take on the prompt LG. Wonderful crescendo - but so sad. I'm a "run straight at the problem and think later" kind of person and at 18 was more reckless than I am now - so I might well have left the tent. But I think that would have been an unwise decision. Thinking of the Good Samaritan story and how often people cry out for help and people walk by on the other side. But as a woman it's not that simple - but also not an excuse to look away. I guess in a town or city they should have helped - but a day's treck from civilization.... probably not!ReplyDelete