A forest stretched out before me, shrouded in oppressive darkness. The silence was tangible, and it felt as if the forest itself was holding its breath in anticipation. A light breeze snaked between the gnarled and twisted trunks, bringing with it the cloyingly pungent stench of carrion and decay. The smell was abrasive and stung my eyes and nostrils in its opulence. I wondered what could possibly be the source of the stench.
With great strength of will, I turned my attention back to the task at hand. I reached for the small oil lantern strapped to my belt, unhooked it and placed it on the ground at my feet. I pulled a box of matches free from my pocket and struck a fresh one. A small flame of orange flared to life, wavering in the breeze that threatened to snuff it out. I quickly lit the oil lantern and with a flick of my wrist extinguished the match. Closing the lantern shutter, I rose. The lantern shed a small pool of light as it fought against the encroaching shadows, and I was grateful for the brief respite it provided from the gloom. I swung the lantern about and examined the surrounding area, looking for any signs of passing from the man I pursued.
My mind drifted back to the stench, perhaps it was his doing. He was a cold-blooded killer, after all.
A gunshot pierced the eerie night, causing me to jump in fright. I reeled around, facing the direction the shot had been fired. That had to be him, I thought. I reached for my own sidearm and pulled it free from its holster. My Colt Detective Special gleamed in the flickering lantern light. I took a deep breath to calm my pounding heart and listened intently, trying to hear any other signs of conflict. Hearing none, I began making my way towards where the shot was fired.
The forest pressed close and in some places I was forced to squeeze between the twisted trunks, their rough bark scratching and clawing at me. A couple of minutes passed in such a fashion before I paused to catch my breath. The stench that hung in the air where I stood was overbearing, and I felt my stomach churn in discomfort. A shuffling sound came from the clump of bushes off to my left, and spun to face it, my colt held out at the ready. The shuffling continued, and I could now see the bushes shaking. I took a couple steps back and felt what seemed like fingertips brush up against my shoulder. Terrified beyond my wits, I gasped, dropping the lantern, and whipped around, firing off a shot at whatever had touched me.
Regaining composure, I grasped for the lantern on the ground and held it up.
I felt bile rise at the horror that was before me, and I emptied out the contents of my stomach. Once I had recovered some sense of dignity, I dared another glance at the swinging form. A young girl hung by her toes from a branch overhead. Her chest had been split open and her organs removed. Hollowed sockets where her eyes should have been stared back. What could only be dried blood ran down her sallow face and into the hairline, where it matted the girl’s long hair. A single bullet hole pierced the center of her forehead. Her arms hung down, ending in grimy fingernails. I could tell that she had struggled against her defiler.
I passed the unsettling scene and continued deeper into the forest. I had not gone six yards before I was met with a similar sight, the only difference was that it was a new victim. Feeling that time was against me, I hurried on, and again after six yards, I was confronted with another body. I did not know how much more I could take. My mind reeled, had I stumbled upon the killer’s menagerie, the thought sickened me, but at the same time I forced my mind to view his perception of things. It felt like he was building up to something greater, his magnum opus. Would I be the first to witness it?
After the sixth victim, I came to a stop. Before me, rose a mausoleum of exquisite design, its door stood slightly ajar, light seeping through it. I extinguished my lantern and hooked it once more to my belt, it would not be needed for some time. I felt my pulse quicken, I could feel that I was closing in on the killer. A demented grin spread across my lips at the thought of being the one to end this sadistic game of cat-and-mouse.
I ascended the flight of stone steps and not wanting to give myself away squeezed through the tight gap between the door and its frame. I crept forward down the stone hewn passage and descended another flight of steps. The passage opened into a tomb. In its center stood a granite sarcophagus with a tombstone erected behind it. The floor surrounding it was decorated with the organs of the victims. Fresh blood oozed out from beneath the sarcophagus’ lid, trickling down onto the floor. Feeling weak in the knees, I moved over to the tombstone, and what I saw there I could not comprehend, etched upon the tombstone was my name. I stumbled back in sheer terror.
This could not be.
Memories of how I had killed and defiled the girls crashed down upon me, drowning me in my own guilt. I felt strangulated. Backing up against the wall of the tomb, my hands ran over an opening, it was the mouth of a tunnel. Not being able to stand my guilt and shame any longer. I turned and ran, hurtling down the tunnel until it came to an end and I stepped out.
A forest stretched out before me, shrouded in oppressive darkness.