Haunted once again by the nightmares of his childhood, Pete is beginning to fear that these twisted scenes may be more than figments of his imagination, that they may be trying to warn him of somet...
I sit next to Rae under the big cork tree, the one I loved to climb as a child.
We sit there, just like that, leaned against the trunk, flashlights laying on the ground nearby, staring up into the sky, past the branches and the leaves, into the night sky, making awkward conversation about the stars and Chinese food, about things that don't even seem to matter right now.
The woods smell kind of musky tonight, like salty skin and perfume mixed together, like hot and sticky summer nights inside a tent.
I breathe it in and savor it, fondly remembering all those summers I spent in these woods with my friends and my brother, camping and playing.
I look at her and smile, admiring how her beautiful green eyes seem to dance in the moonlight.
I stand up, "Be right back," I say,"Nature calls."
She nods and looks back up at the stars as I walk away.
Moments later I get back to the tree where we sat together just seconds ago, only to find that Rae is nowhere in sight.
"Rae?" I call into the forest, hoping she hasn't gone far.
I call her name again and wait a few more seconds before I begin to get concerned.
I make my way over to a clump of trees nearby, lifting branches and calling her name, swiping brush from my eyes and walking farther and farther, expecting to find her.
But I don't.
Instead, I find myself in a clearing, the moonlight creating an eerie glow all around me.
I peer between two long, thick branches sticking out across the path in front and see a small wooden building, a cabin maybe, highlighted by the moon.
"Rae!" I shout,"Wherever you are... come out now!"
The building appears to be a cabin, but it's pretty primitive, almost like a wooden box, just large enough for a few people to live in - naked wooden planks, just out of the lumberyard nailed together to form a giant square base, and individual boards sticking up straight, just like walls.
Did she do this on purpose?
Is this funny to her?
Is this all just a joke to her?
"Rachael?" I yell towards the building,"Come on! You're scaring me!"
I hesitantly raise my foot to take another step, but stop.
I hear someone taking quick, short steps behind me.
I hear their feet crunching on the withered autumn leaves and twigs.
Pain surfaces in my middle, I'm going to be sick.
And this time, I don't think I'll be able to wait.
But instead, I suck in my breath and tell myself that I have to find her.
I fold my arms and clutch my stomach, hoping that I can at least make it into the building.
I hunch over slightly and start to walk forward, being as careful as possible.
And even though I'm being as careful as I can, it's not long before my face collides with cool, powdery soil.
A dim light flickers on in the house, just bright enough to illuminate the ground in front of me.
There are letters dug into the dirt.
The letters are long and deep, they spell out RAE.
I step around her name, telling myself that it's just my imagination, that my stomachache is making me see things, and head for the house, still a few yards away.
I have to find out if there's anyone in there.
If they're the ones who turned on the lights and carved her name into the dirt.
If they know where Rae is.
Finally, I reach the door of the shack and turn the knob.
"Rae? Are you in there?" I say, desperation plain in my voice.
I hunch over, crossing one arm across my abdomen and place my hand on my knee in an effort to steady myself as I hear a whimper escape the back of my throat.
I wait a few minutes.
A dark, lonely, nightmarish silence.
But I know someone's in there.
I feel my chest heave in and out, my lungs desperately gasping for air.
She'd answer me.
I thought she had forgiven me, that we'd put it behind ourselves.
Even she wouldn't do something this cruel to get back at me.
She knows I care, that I love her.
How scared I've been for her, and how hard I've worked to protect her.
I look around the sides of the house, desperately seeking a way to get in.
That's when I see it: a square, window-like opening a few feet off the ground, just big enough for me to fit through.
I bolt forward and nearly throw myself through the opening.
A spotlight meets me with a clunk against my head.
It hangs from a support beam, just below the roof, and lights up the entire area.
Boards create a hallway with adjoining rooms to the left and right in front of me.
A tearing sound, like duct tape, is coming from somewhere down the hall.
"Rae? Is that you?" I call.
The noise ceases immediately.
"This isn't funny, Rae."
I half expect to find her in one of the rooms just waiting there, to laugh and say it was all a joke.
I hobble down the hallway, the soles of my Converse squeaking against the freshly sanded wooden floor.
There are four doors to choose from, two on each side of the hallway.
I decide to head towards the one closest to me on the right.
It has the largest archway, and from this angle I can already see through to an empty corner.
I take a few steps towards it and stop, hearing a board creak somewhere close to me.
"Pete?" a voice whispers.
The lights go out and I'm left in complete darkness.
I stumble back in the direction of the main door frame, my fist clenching the fabric of my t-shirt and part of my skin.
I use my freehand to feel along the walls, making my way back to the main room, plank by plank, so I can guide my way out.
But instead of hobbling back to safety, I find myself still going down the hallway, almost as though it never ends.
What's going on?
Why am I still stuck in this place?
Why haven't I even made it to the front room yet?
Many planks later I stop looking for the door.
Instead, desperate for an escape, I assess the gaps between the boards.
Freedom is on the other side, I'm sure.
I poke my hand all the way through a gap and feel a breeze rush in between my fingers.
It's only about half a foot wide, my arm just barely fits.
There's no way I could squeeze through there without getting stuck halfway.
Footsteps make their way down the hallway towards me, the soles of their shoes clonking against the wood floor.
I go to jerk my arm out of the gap, but it won't budge.
I hear a dry laugh come from behind me as a telephone rings.
"It's for you, Peter," the voice giggles, laughing dryly once again.
I know that voice...
"Better go get it," he says.
The phone continues to ring.
"Get the God damned phone, Peter!" he shouts through clenched teeth.
I jerk my arm free and walk towards the screech of the phone, the sting in my stomach nearly crippling me.
"Getting warmer," the voice whispers ominously.
If only I could remember whose voice that is.
I step through an opening and a light comes on once again.
It's the spotlight, the one hanging from the roof.
It highlights the pay phone on the other side of the room.
"It's for you, Peter," the darkness whispers again.
I reach for the phone and breathe in to say something, but I immediately feel my throat contract and my stomach heave, and I hear it hit the floor, my eyes becoming watery.
I finish and I cough, and finally answer the phone.
"Hello?" I whisper, my voice raspy from getting sick.
"Hello, Peter," he says,"Time's almost up. Only two more lilies left in our little bouquet."
"Who the hell is this?"
"Love, it's a funny thing, Mr.Wentz. You know that, don't you?" I can feel his warm breath on the back of my neck, he's right there, right behind me.
I spin around and meet his eyes with mine.
"I can't believe it," I whisper, "It's you."