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The Darkness and Beyond

by Kaila DeMoss, 16, Enumclaw, Washington

An agonized shriek rang through the silent forest as the ululation of a broken trumpet would announce destruction and defeat. The neighboring blackberry thickets erupted in the nervous chatter of skittish squirrels and birds upset by the disruption of their woodland homes. Deer turned their heads to observe the scene playing out in their once peaceful habitat.

Deep in the darkest corner of the most hidden thicket, a pitiful, wrecked form lay crumpled in a shuddering heap against a large and formidable pine tree, its branches spread like the claws of a predator on the prowl. The girl, as she could be determined to be at a closer glance, had the wide eyes of one being hunted—ringed with white and rolling wildly. Every nerve in her body stood tense and ready to act upon whatever threatened her in the darkness beyond. Her black hair blew wildly in the icy wind which howled eerily through the looming trees. The once friendly snowflakes that had been staining her hair had turned to hostile drops of ice which belted her unprotected skin violently. Occasionally she whimpered as a torrent of frigid rain poured over her, painfully lashing the bloody breaks in her skin.

Off in the darkness a dark shape shuffled uneasily through the underbrush. The bear squinted cantankerously at his victim, miserable and beside herself with terror. During his first move against her, her hysterical counterattack with a gun had sent him back into the woods, but her mental state had broken down and it was almost time to finish her off.

Thunder rumbled angrily as a second storm moved in to join the first. Lightning lit up the gloomy scene, adding to the distress of the girl. Tension increasing, she began shaking like a leaf and sobbing uncontrollably as she stared around the ruins of her campsite. Flashbacks of the horrible awakening she had had, and the violent killing of her family, haunted her every minute. She prepared herself for the return of the bear. She lay helpless in the wilderness; rescue was out of the question. Escape offered a small hope, at least more than waiting for certain death.

Death sniffed questioningly in the direction of the clearing. The time to return for the girl had come.

She stood on unsteady legs and walked waveringly towards the forest. It could be that death stood in front of her, but death lurked behind her for certain. Branches reached for her with greedy, death-wishing fingers. The storm increased until she couldn't hear herself think. Half of her mind urged her to go back, saying she would die anyway. For a moment she hesitated. She could let death claim her rapidly or she could prolong the misery of not knowing the outcome. She regained control of her emotions. There was no turning back. She would not give up. If imminent death awaited her, she would go down fighting. Her heart threatened to leap from her chest and thunder clashed in warning as she limped brokenly into the life or death that awaited her in the looming forest.

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