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The Dead Forest
“Amy! It’s time for dinner!” my father calls. I don’t come though, my father is a terrible cook and I’m not hungry. Instead, I just stare out into the forest that my mom disappeared in exactly one week, two days, an hour, and fifteen minutes ago.
“I’m only twelve years old Mom,” I whisper, tears threatening to fall. “Why did you leave me?” I still remember the night she left vividly. She was angry at my dad.
“Jerry! Stop drinking, you’ve already drank enough,” my mom screams at my dad. I’m in my bedroom closet covering my ears, but it’s not enough to completely drown out the noise.
“You don’t tell me what to do woman!” my dad slurs. I can hear him shuffling closer to my mom and she backs up, her elbows hitting some pots and pans, making a clattering noise.
“Jerry, back up,” my mom commands, but I can hear fear in her voice, she’s afraid he’ll do it again. I don’t want my dad to hurt her again so I gather up every ounce of courage I have and I walk into the kitchen.
“Dad!” I screech. “Don’t do it!” We all seem to freeze. The door to the kitchen is flung open from where I burst in. Sweat breaks out on my face; I don’t want him to hurt me. I look at my mom; her lipstick is smudged from where my dad probably put his finger. She beams at me, but her smile is broken.
“Amy, it’s okay, go back to your room. She wipes sweaty palms on her pink, floral dress that’s tattered. Ever since Dad came back from Afghanistan, he spends all of the money on alcohol so we never get new clothes.
“No,” I state. My mom turns to the front door, swings it open and she starts to run towards the forest. I sprint after her, my long, brown hair whips behind me. Strong arms stop me from going after her.
I should have fought harder against those arms, I always think. Maybe she would still be here. Bruises dot my arms from where my dad hit me during the week. Ever since my mom left, I became his new punching bag. A tear falls onto the ground.
“Amy! I said it was time for dinner!” my dad yells at me. He’s right in front of me, fists balled up. It’s dark out, but the moon is bright, casting eerie shadows around me. It makes my dad’s face seem smooth and milky white and for a while, it seems as if he’s young and worry free again. The war made him older, worry lines creasing his face. A visible sign that there are scars on his heart and in his memories. However, his eyes give him away; they’re empty, void of any love or human emotion. They show that my dad is just a ghost of the man he used to be. He used to be a great father and husband. He used to love my mother and I. I always hope that someday he might find himself again.
A moan escapes from the forest, something that never could be explained. No one knew why the forest moaned at night. There are different theories as to why the moans exist. It could be the wind, a strange animal, no one knows. I always thought it was something else though; the moan has this undertone of yearning, like the source of the moan is trying to get something it will never get. I wake up.
“I’m not hungry,” I mutter. I see him tense.
“What did you say?” he asks.
“I said,” I raise my voice. “I’m not hungry.” I see a fist fly, but I dodge it. Just before I make a decision, I look at his face again. His face is angry and his eyes hollow. I see nothing of the man I used to know. He will never be that man I used to love so much. All I will get out of staying here is just more pain. “Goodbye,” I tell him just before turning towards the forest. My dad dives for me, but it’s too late, I’m already halfway towards the forest. I don’t look behind me until I reach the trees. He didn’t follow.
Mist covers the ground, the moonlight giving it this glow that seems almost magical. The shadows of the trees dance as a breeze sways the pines. A lone bird flies by me. That’s when the realization hits me. I’m free. Giddiness overwhelms me so I lie down on the soft, wet ground, cushioned by damp pine needles. I get up after a while and I start to walk deeper into the forest. I’ve heard stories about people from my town of Ravenwood getting lost in this forest and never returning, but I don’t care if I get lost. I have nothing to come back to. Everything I could possibly want is in this forest. Solitude, beauty, no Dad, and possibly my mother. All I need is to find her and I’ll be alright.
Shadows start to play tricks on my mind. Sometimes I think I see hands stretch through branches, the gleam of teeth in the moonlight, a forest of hands and teeth. I just shake the illusion out of my head, but it keeps haunting me. I keep hearing moans and the rustling of fabric. I start to consider going back, but it would be useless since I’m lost. I hear a twig snap and I whip my head around to look for the source of the noise. Right by a tree a few feet in front of me is the outline of a person. I start to run.
The person is slow, they shuffle their feet and drag themselves through the branches and I think I might have a chance at getting away. Then I hear more feet shuffling. I run faster, but the shuffling always seems to get closer. I look behind me, but I hit a tree and I fall to the damp ground. That’s when I see them, the dead people that somehow are still alive. They’re actually a very gruesome sight, some have missing limbs, some have their entrails hanging out, and many other ways that I never thought a person could be mutilated. Some though, look normal. Only their moaning and hollow eyes that remind me of my dad’s give them away.
I can’t die like this; I can’t succumb to the dead forest until I find my mother. Dead fingers touch my forehead and I leap up off the ground and start to run again. More and more of them start to gather until there’s probably a horde chasing after me. Maybe I can get into the treetops and live there for the rest of my life, eating pine needles and seeds. If I try to climb a tree though, the dead will drag me to the ground before I have a chance to get up high.
I slam into a body and stagger back. I just slammed into another wall of the dead. I’m trapped. I spin around, looking for a way out of the mass of bodies. There is no way out, I’m in a clearing so I can’t try to climb a tree. I take a step back and I fall, tripping on a root. I wait for the dead to consume me, I wait to fingers to claw at me, but they seem to pause, as if they’re waiting for something. Moans echo around me, but nothing happens. Then, I feel cold fingers grab my shoulder.
I look up to see tangled brown hair covering a smudge of red lipstick. Cuts cover her and her floral dress is even more torn than before. My mother. “Mom,” I choke. She gives no sign that she recognizes me. I give up. She opens her mouth and she clamps her teeth on my neck, sending searing pain through my body. Blood pours out, raising even more moans through the forest. Everything feels dreamy, I feel no more pain. I look at my mother, whose mouth is covered with my blood. I smile, but she does not smile back.
I succumb to the forest, and then, I suppose, I rise again to shuffle alongside my mother for eternity.