"Hey kid! Wake up!" a high pitched voice echoed.
"Huh?" I murmured. I painfully pried open my eyes. I must've been unconscious for quite some time as my vision was momentarily impaired by the setting sun.
"Get up! We need your help!" said the blurred silhouette.
"Blurghferrr blehg ehh," I enthusiastically replied. "Wh-where am I? And why aren't I dead?" I looked about and realized I was surrounded by trees in an area of the forest I was unfamiliar with. I also came to notice that there wasn't one silhouette standing over me but several.
"What are you talking about? We found you unconscious in a field and dragged you into the woods," another one of the strangers said. I was instantly struck with fear in my butthole.
Another voice interjected, "What Jimmy means to say is we thought we could make due with another able body in our ranks. Welcome to our faction, The House of Manhunters." My eyes were finally beginning to focus. The silhouettes transformed into young boys and girls. There were six children in all.
"I can't thank you enough for saving my life, but if you would please point me the direction home, I'll find a way to repay you another time. I have to escape the lava." The children were visibly puzzled by my statement.
"I'm sorry, we can't allow a valuable asset such as you to depart. We'll let you go once the job's complete," said one of the girls. "And... there's no need to worry about lava about these parts," she mockingly added. The rest of the children let out prepubescent giggles.
"Am I being held captive?" my voice cracked.
"If you choose to see it that way, but I'd like to think we've bestowed upon you a chance to prove yourself. To prove you aren't just one of them." She was eerily convincing, but I still had my doubts.
"The ones we're after," replied a ginger boy. "The fugitives, or, what I like to call, the prey." There was something about his voice that threw me off. "Grave injustices have been committed by these folk. One stole a soccer ball that was innocently lying outside Cindy's house the other evening. And, don't get me started on that Billy-fella, that no-good, pie-stealin' cacahead. Now they're all out hiding in these woods. It's time for the Manhunters to bring these thieving, Indian-giving, tattle-taling, sons of bitches to justice!" The others gasped at the utterance of his swear. "Let the Manhunt begin!"
"Ready or not, here we come!' cried one of the girls. With that, the group scattered into the woods.
I remained a statue until one of the children kicked me in the shin. "Get moving, doodoohead!" he shouted. "Don't try anything funny you hear? We'll reward you kindly should you return with any of the hiders."
I nodded and proceeded onward into the strange wilderness. As I moved along I began racking my brain with inquiries. Why was I blindly following orders from kids half my age? Where exactly am I? What happened to the trailing lava? And furthermore, how on Earth am I still alive? Now, I was in a full sprint. The sooner I find one of these "fugitives," the sooner I can get home and figure out what's wrong with me.
I frantically searched high and low, but it was no use, everything looked the same. Panic began to set in as I was beginning to apprehend my current predicament. Trees flew by in a blur. My breathing became so heavy that it was like being lightly strangled by a dominatrix who refuses to acknowledge a 'safe word' (not that I would know what that's like or anything). In my frenzy, I lost sight of where I was going and lost my traction on a flat rock causing me to collide with a tree. I let out a shriek of pain as I felt to the ground. The pain was severe but temporary as I steadily got back on my feet. While brushing the pine needles and woodland critter feces off my clothing, I felt a hard thud against the top of my head. I looked to see what had caused the pain, and there beside me, was a shoe. I picked it up, glared at it for a moment, and traced the shoe’s fall to the top of the tree where a boy was hiding amongst the branches.
A fugitive! I thought to myself. We both hesitantly looked at one another. That’s when he spoke out in a hushed voice. “Are you one of them?”
“If you are referring to a member of the House of Manhunters, no, but I am working under their orders,” I replied.
“Working under their orders? You’re like 40 years old!” he impatiently shouted before immediately covering his mouth.
I began yelling back in a hushed voice, “I am not 40! I only look old; I’m actually only twenty-thr—”
“Spare me. I suppose you’re here to bring me in, huh?”
“Unfortunately, as soon as you climb down, I will be forced to bring you in, but rest assured, I am doing this only so I can get home. I have no ill feelings toward you,” I regretfully responded.
“A recruit, huh? You don’t want to be bringing me in do ‘ya? Tell you what, you don’t report me to the House of Manhunters, and in exchange, I’ll show you the way out of these woods. I know them like the back on my hand.”
I thought it over. This “Manhunt” did seem quite ridiculous. After a moment of contemplation, I nodded in agreement.
“Excellent,” he whispered as he made a speedy exit from the tree. “To be honest, I don’t think you’d be able to catch me. Y’know, with your old age and all getting’ in the way.”
“I told you I’m only—”
“Never mind that. I’m Billy,” he held his hand out, “nice to meet you.”
“Chiz,” I replied. “So you’re the pie thief they were talking about.”
“Pie thief?! Mrs. Dingleberry gave me that pie after she saw me eyeballin’ it from afar! Just like them Manhunters to jump to conclusions. You see these?” Billy rolled up his sleeves revealing swollen red patches on his forearms.
“What happened to you?” I wincingly said.
“Indian sunburns. Those cacafahts relentlessly tortured me despite my pleas of innocence. After about a day or so, they decided to set us free in the wild. They called this sadistic exercise ‘a game’ which they called Manhunt.”
“Wow, I apologize. I had no id—”
“It’s over now. Let’s just get out of here. Follow me and I’ll show you the way out.”
We began our journey. Along the way, I updated him on all the paranormal occurrences that I had been cursed to bear.
“You don’t want no part of the Red Rover Gang, let me tell you that,” advised Billy. “As for the lava… you got me there. I do know someone who might be able to help you, though… Brendan of the Ghosts of the Graveyard. Despite their House name, they’re actually not all that daunting. A bunch of wackos if you ask me. But, Brendan knows all about paranormal activity and strange events. He’s your best bet.”
Without hesitation, I agreed. “Take me to this Brendan of the Ghosts in the Graveyard.”
And so we ventured on into the unforgiving forest.
To be continued…
I know, you hate me, but this post was getting well above 1000 words. The conclusion is to come, even if it’s a 2000 words post.