I took a job as a Fire lookout in the middle of the woods, I found a strange set of rules to follow - Chap 6
I spin around. Behind me, a woman stands between me and the door. She is slightly shorter than me, with messy, unwashed blonde hair which expels out at all angles. Her clothes; long, light brown hiking pants, ruined by old dirt and stains. Similarly, her light red checkered shirt looks like it’s seen better days; wrinkled, dirty, a rip stemming from the end of one of her sleeves. Her face, normal, or at least, human. The bright blue irises of her eyes provided a direct contrast to their red, bloodshot surroundings. She looks like she hasn’t slept in weeks. Her frenzied eyes screaming insanity, looking at me manically, with her hands drooped by her side. Her frail body is one of malnourishment; one of abandonment.
“A- Allison”, I stammer, “what do you mean she wants to make me smile?”
“She just wants you to smile”, Allison replied, still staring at me with a crazed look in her eyes.
“Right, Allison, what is going on?”, I try to act confident, “are you okay?”
Allison moves toward the bed; I circle around the hut as she does so. I’m now by the door. A good start. She sits down on the bed, and looks down at the dusty floor. I see a tear run down her face. This is a broken woman.
“We- we went missing”, Allison gulped, “both of us. And I got saved, and she didn’t. I couldn’t tell them what I did – but – but it was bad. And now she’s…”, she trailed off.
“What did you do, Allison?”. I’m ready to reach for my machete at any moment.
“We got lost. And we were lost for so long. She kept telling me ‘it’s going to be okay Allison, they’ll find us Allison’. But they didn’t. For so long. And I got so hungry… She was always so positive. Always smiling. But food- we couldn’t catch anything. Nothing worked. We tried Oscar – I promise we tried”, Allison said, her voice straining.
“Okay, okay, Allison. I know you tried. What happened?”
She looked up. I jumped, but she only continued to speak, “She was looking at me, smiling, when I pushed her. I pushed her far. Off the side. It was a moment of weakness, a moment of hunger. She fell so far.. her arms they.. cracked. She wasn’t moving. I was so hungry”. She looked back to the ground, “she died how she lived. Smiling.”
My stomach churned. She killed her own fucking sister. I’ve heard hunger makes you do crazy things. I’ve heard it makes you do anything for food.
“But.. after I pushed her, I just- I couldn’t do it”, she looked up at me once more, tears welling in her otherwise frantic eyes, “and the next day they found me.”
My stomach dropped. They found her, only a day after that? Whilst I was scared of her, I felt a sense of sympathy for Allison. I couldn’t live with that; a moment of madness defining my life forever, and for what? For literally nothing.
“And then she found me”, Allison whispered as she looked back to the ground, another tear rolling down her cheek.
“Who found you?”, I asked, hoping it wasn’t who I think she’ll say, my blood frozen.
“My sister. Still smiling. Still hungry”, Allison murmured, “she’s taking revenge on me. And she’s taking revenge on you”, Allison stood up and looked back at me, “on all of you”.
I took a small step back, backing out of the hut, not taking my eyes off of Allison.
“Wh- what have I done?”, I ask.
“She blames you all. You couldn’t find her. It’s your job – our job, to find her. Instead, she found me. And I won’t lose her again”. Allison starts walking slowly towards me.
“Allison, I didn’t even fucking work here. I-I had never even been to these woods”, I am starting to panic as I take steps back, “Allison we can get you help. We can get you out.”
“She gets hungrier every time. She’s never satisfied anymore. There is no getting out”, as she said this, I knew why the surrounding woods were so quiet. “Harvey even worked out the 10 rules and she still got to him eventually. Rules not even I can work out.”
Allison, for the first time, starts to smile.
“And Oscar, she’s so hungry now.”
She lunges at me with a sudden, sharp screech, arms outstretched. Her weak frame is easy to overpower. I roll her to the side, and with a swift movement, push her away from me. She stumbles, and her foot slides off the side of the balcony. She loses her balance, hitting the wooden floor with a thud before falling from the side of the tower.
It all happened so fast. I fell to the floor as I push her, mostly out of shock. I hear her hit something on the way down, probably the steps, followed by a solid thud as she meets the ground below. She didn’t once scream as she fell. Holy fuck. I just killed her. Holy fucking fuck. I scramble to my feet and rush down the stairs, hoping she’s not dead. When I reach the bottom, I see her lying around 10 feet from the tower’s base. Face down. Arms broken, twisted. A small pool of blood oozing from her head and feeding the soil below. Unmoving.
I’m running back to my tower, stopping briefly only when the exhaustion takes over. I should be able to get there before it’s dark. Fuck this. I’m getting out of these woods. Allison’s fucking insane. She attacked me – it was self-defence. She’s fucking insane. Something she said is really sticking with me; ‘Harvey worked out the 10 rules’. On the sheet, that I now know was written by Harvey, there were only 9. What is the 10th rule? This at least explains how Harvey survived for so long; a year. The poor man before him, Rick, who I now suspect owned the sunglasses in Allison’s hut, only survived a week. But Harvey had 9 rules. 9 ways the smiling lady can get you, and how to avoid her. I’m not sticking around to find out what about the 10th is. I’m getting out of these woods.
I’m still running back. I can feel something watching me.
I see my tower. It’s almost dark. I don’t know how the fuck I’m going to get to my car, and I don’t want to be walking these woods at night. So, I’ve decided I’m going to sleep at the bunker. I figure that’s where Harvey spent his nights when he wasn’t at the tower. I figure that’s key to how he survived for so long, and it’s even saved me in the past. I’m going to run up to my tower, grab my main rucksack and go to the bunker. I’m on the verge of passing out from dehydration, so I’m in need of more water, which is also up in my tower. I’ll grab my things and go. In and out.
I’m in my tower. I frantically gather my things. I turn to leave.
I hear something. It’s faint, easy to miss, but it’s there. I hold my breath, and stop moving, listening for what the sound is. Long, slow, quiet sounds. I hear scratching.
Rule 7. If you hear any scratching at any point, either on your hut or by the outhouse, turn off all radios and hide under your covers until the scratching stops.
You’re fucking kidding me. She knows. She knows I’m trying to leave. I’m frozen in place, hoping the scratching will stop, knowing that if it doesn’t, I’ll have to follow the rules.
I turn to my radio. Over it, in the woods directly below, I see a pale white face looking up at me. The same stringy, dark hair dangling from her head. The same wide, sinister smile plastered across her face. Her white skin illuminated by the surrounding darkness. I see none of her body, just her face emerging from the black of night. She’s looking up at me. Her excited eyes locked with mine. She knows I’m trying to escape.
I have to spend one last night here. And I feel like she’s going to do everything she can to get me.
I break our gaze and turn the radios off before jumping under my covers. What Allison said to me is ringing in my mind.
‘She’s so hungry now.’