A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – October 2019
Swirls of Mist
A short story by Lynn Miclea
Cassie frantically looked around at the trees, her heart pounding. How could she have gotten lost? She had followed the path into the woods and explored a little to spend some time in nature. And somehow she had gotten turned around.
Now she looked at all the trees surrounding her. A layer of mist covered much of the ground, swirling in places, making it hard to see. Everything looked the same. Which way did she come in? Which direction was the way out?
She walked a little farther and hesitated. Was she going in the right direction? A sound reached her, and she wasn’t quite sure what she heard. Looking around, she noticed a cabin a short distance away. Her body shivered as she gazed at it, trying to decide what to do.
A scream pierced the air. It was a man’s scream and it came from the cabin. Her throat knotted up. Not sure what to do, she hid behind a tree, eyes glued to the cabin.
A young man suddenly raced out of the cabin and into the woods to her right. He looked terrified and desperate.
A minute later two older men rushed out of the cabin. “James, where are you?” one of the men shouted in an angry, gruff voice. “You know we’re gonna find you.”
“And you’ll be sorry when we do,” the other man yelled. “We’re not finished with you.”
“Come on, James, don’t make this harder on yourself. Where are you?”
They waited, listening.
“Well, he couldn’t have gotten too far,” the first man said.
“I’ll go this way,” the second man said, turning to the left, “and you go that way.” He pointed to the back, behind the cabin. “We’ll find him.”
The two men split up and headed in different directions. Cassie didn’t move, careful to not make a sound.
She knew she needed to help James. Trying to be as quiet as possible, she crept after him. Where was he? She heard a soft rustle and saw him move near a tree a short distance away. She could hear his ragged breathing as he limped.
Keeping her steps as quiet as she could, she followed James. When she got closer to him, she whispered, “Don’t be scared.”
James gasped and turned to face her, his eyes wide with fright.
“I won’t hurt you. Please don’t be scared. My name is Cassie. I can help you.” She kept her voice low. “Are you hurt?”
He nodded. “A little. But we need to get out of here. Now.”
“Lean on me if you need to,” she whispered, moving closer and offering her arm. “Do you know which way is out? I am lost myself.”
“I’m not sure. But they went the other way, so let’s go this way.”
They slowly made their way through the woods, stepping over roots and walking between the trees, trying to stay quiet. The mist spun in circles around the area, making it difficult to know where to step.
They paused for a moment and listened. The men’s voices sounded far away. They turned and kept walking. The mist curled around them as they tramped over the ground, trying to make as little noise as possible. Mist settled on the ground and whispers filled the air.
Cassie shivered. “Do you hear that?”
James nodded. “Yes. Let’s just keep moving.”
The mist swirled in front of them and thickened. “This way,” the mist seemed to whisper.
Goosebumps rose on Cassie’s arms. “Did you hear that?”
“Yes.” James looked around, searching the woods.
“This way.” A dense swirl of mist rose up before them. “I can help you.”
Cassie gasped and grabbed James’ arm, and they took a step back.
The mist swirled and thickened. “Trust me. I will help you.”
Cassie leaned toward James. “Should we trust it?”
James hesitated. “I don’t know which way to go on my own. Maybe it can help us.”
The mist swirled and led the way through the trees, and Cassie and James followed as they continued deeper into the woods. The mist led them over the rough ground and then veered to the right toward a small clearing.
Shouts from the two men sounded closer now, and Cassie shivered.
“Why are you helping us?” Cassie asked the mist.
The mist swirled in front of them. “This is my woods. I choose who lives and who dies here. Those are bad men. I will take care of them. But first I will save you. Leave those men to me.” The mist then moved forward again, scooting around the clearing and bringing them to a path. “This path will take you out. It is not much farther.”
“Thank you,” James said, as he grabbed Cassie’s hand. They scurried down the path, Cassie trying to support James as he limped and they made their way forward.
After a short distance they reached a small, familiar parking lot. Cassie’s car and a dark van were parked in the lot. As they entered the parking lot, the screams of two men split the air. Cassie and James looked at each other.
Cassie quickly unlocked the doors and they got in her car. She turned to James. “I know it’s none of my business, but why were they trying to kill you?”
He let out a long breath. “I had witnessed a crime.” He paused for a few moments. “I saw them kill someone. They knew I saw them and they did not want any witnesses who could identify them.” He rubbed his face. “I’m sorry you were part of this. But thank you for helping me.”
Cassie nodded. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”
James hesitated. “Later. First I need to go to the cops. Please.” He laid his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes.
Cassie started the car and slowly drove over the gravel through the gate and approached the two-lane road. The mist swirled around the car and the parking lot and the hair stood up on her neck. She heard the gate creak shut behind them as she turned onto the road.
Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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