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Beep Beep Beep. The annoying beeping sound of the alarm clock woke me. I looked over and read the time on the clock, 8:03. I slowly got out of bed. Once I stretched my legs, I got ready for the day. While getting ready I recognize a familiar smell. Even from up in my room I can smell the bacon cooking and hear the sizzling of eggs on the frying pan. My mom gets up most mornings and makes breakfast for herself and I, so I was already expecting this. As I grab my shoes, I hear my mom yell my name.
“Jackson, are you ready for school?”
“Ya mom, I'll be down in a sec,” I yelled, as I put on my shoes. I ran down the steps to be greeted by my dog, Kobe.
“Honey you're gonna be late for school, the bus is almost here.” I’m still only in my sophomore year of high school. I don’t have my license yet, so that means taking the bus is my only option to get to school. Trust me, I don't ride the bus by choice, but I hurried up and finished my scrambled eggs. The dog followed me to the door. I pet him, feeling the rough fur on his head, and scurried out the door. I stood at the end of the driveway waiting for the bus. It seemed like I was waiting forever. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked the time, 8:47. The bus was later than usual. I waited for another 4 minutes before the bus was finally in sight. It got closer and closer until it finally rolled to a stop. The yellow lights never came on, and the driver didn't look familiar. He looked older and his eyes were bloodshot. I walked across the road to the other side of the bus. I waited for the bus’s doors to open and got on. Once I was on the bus, I took a look around and noticed that I was the only person riding the bus.
“Good morning sir,” he didn't respond. I walked down the aisle to the middle of the bus and took a seat. From my house to the school, it usually takes about ten minutes to get there, including other stops. There isn't great service in my area, so the only thing I can do is sit and stare out the window. I took a quick glance at the driver and saw him looking at me. It's been well over ten minutes and we are nowhere near school. In fact, I had no idea where we were. I pulled out my phone and checked the time, 9:30. I wondered where we were. I wanted to ask the driver, but I was too scared. I’m not sure what it was but I had an eerie feeling come over me, and it didn't feel right.
All of a sudden we crashed into a tree. I flew to the front of the bus. When I got up the driver had passed out, his head laid on the steering wheel. I turned around and looked through the window, all I could see were trees and a sign that read ‘WARNING’ in big letters. The doors to the bus were caved in. I tried kicking the doors, in the hope they would open, but no luck. Under the driver's seat, I saw a wooden bat, I bent down and picked it up. Crack! The glass shattered and flew everywhere. I felt a sharp slash slice my skin, I looked down and saw my arm bleeding, but I wasn't that worried.I stepped out of the bus, and the environment around me was quickly filled, trees were everywhere I looked. We were on an abandoned dirt road I didn't recognize. My arm was going numb, and my first instinct was to find water to clean my arm.
The only place to look for water was in the woods. It was fall so all the leaves had fallen and turned brown. I started to walk through the woods searching for water. All I could hear was the crunching of leaves at my feet. It's probably mid-day now with no water in sight. Just trees for what seemed like miles. I came upon a small vacant shack. It was made of old wood that was rotting and falling apart. I gently pushed the door open. I peered inside to see an almost empty room. The inside consisted of only three things. A small workbench, a tall bar stool that sits in the far right side of the shack, and a dog bowl that was placed on the ground.
As I took a step into the shack the walls shook around me. I knelt down to look inside of the bowl in hopes there would be any clean water. Luck had been at my side for the moment, I had finally found water after hours of searching. I grabbed the bowl of water in my hand, the one I could still feel, and stood back up. I slowly poured the water on my arm. I had never felt more relief than at this moment. Just as I was about to place the bowl on the workbench, the door slammed shut. It startled me, I dropped the bowl, and whirled around facing the door. “It's the wind, Jackson. You're just paranoid, let it go.” I haggled with the doorknob in an attempt to get the door open.
I stopped. I had heard an unsettling noise in the distance. It had sounded like a scream but in a scratchy, harsh way. “It's probably one of the birds I heard earlier.” I kept telling myself that, but at the time I knew that no bird would make that kind of noise. With one big push, the door swung open.
As I stepped out of the wooden shack I saw a figure in the corner of my eye. It looked like the driver who picked me up this morning. He was slumped over a tree with a large bloody spot on his stomach, with his head hanging down. I took a step closer. I thought I'd seen him move, squinting my eyes to be very sure. I took another step. His head looked up at me. He said one word and one word only.
I didn't know what to do other than what he told me to do, run. I took off sprinting, the fastest I've ever ran, the leaves crashed under my feet, the wind grew louder and louder as I ran. In the moment I figured I lost him, but now I was being watched I could feel it. I took a break, underneath a willow tree.
The leaves hung low on the tree. The wind was soft but the only thing I could hear. I looked around to make sure I was alone. An old paper just underneath the leaves caught my eye. I picked the paper up and dust blew off of it. The top headline read “Two Teens mysteriously Pass Out in the Woods,” I was sure the same was happening to me. Thoughts of me dying haunted me. As I read down the article , the more my hair stood up. “The Two Teens Have Never been found.” The article I was reading was from 1973.
The sun was setting and I was still lost in the woods, but the good news is that I was a boy scout in the fourth grade. All I could do was start a fire. Luckily for me there was a pile of wood near the shack from earlier, but I didn't know if I should risk going back there after what had happened. I sat down and debated whether I should go back or not. I had to take the risk, it was my only way of getting help. I started my walk back to the shack, constantly looking behind me to make sure no one was there.
Eventually I got to the cabin, on the front of the door I could see lettering bolded in red. It said ‘RUN.’ I ran to the pile of wood, stacked- it onto my arms then took off back to the willow tree. I hear someone running behind me. Their footsteps grew louder and louder. And a loud screech “RUUUUN!” Then my mind goes blank from there.
I was in and out of consciousness. I caught glimpses of some things. I remember it being pitch black one second, and flashing lights everywhere the next. I could hear the sounds of sirens and people talking. I distinctly remember how cold it was. I was being poked and examined. My mom was who I always saw the most. Most of the time, it was her pacing back and forth, worried.
Once I woke up, the doctors told me I ran into a tree and passed out. Reporters from the CPD kept asking me why I was in the woods and what happened to me, but I stayed quiet. I've never told anyone what went on that day in the woods, until now. I’m afraid that if I did they would send me to the mental hospital. That night still haunts me to this day. Every year on that specific night I get a letter in the mail reading ‘RUN’. I can’t explain what it was but I pray nothing happens to me again.
“Well that's it Kobe, I finally finished writing this down. I should get to bed, it's getting late.” Jackson slowly got up from his desk, walked across his room, and hit the light switch. ‘Click.’ Jackson slumped slowly to his bed and collapsed in his sheets. Kobe jumped up and curled up in a ball on the end of the bed. Jackson and Kobe were sleeping peacefully and all was quiet. Suddenly, an echo of footsteps slowly creaked up the stairs.
A soft voice came from the doorway:
Cornish, New Hampshire
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"No man can walk out on his own story" -Rango, 2011.