Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
Marnie strolled right into the woods and never came back.
We waited for her. We could have just left the second she disappeared between the trees but she seemed so damn confident that we waited. Nobody wanted to say it but after two hours we knew that was it. Sure, we felt bad for Marnie but if I could have said one last thing to her it wouldn’t have been ‘stop’. It would have been ‘thanks’. It was her and not me. So if I feel anything for Marnie it’s gratitude, not pity.
In the end it was probably always going to be her anyway. She found it.
The small stone chapel had just sat there in its little clearing, protected by a ring of trees. Marnie saw it first and crashed through the bushes, calling out to us to follow. How had we never found it before? Perhaps it didn’t want to be found. It was deeper in than we’d ever been, right in the heart of the woods it felt like. The air was cold. More than that, it was dead. Nothing moved or made a sound. I know now that place was never meant to be found. Not by human eyes. It was far too sacred for that. There were a few lines of stone pews and a raised stone altar. That was it. And yet there was something more. There existed more in this place than could be seen. I wanted to leave but Marnie thought it was funny.
“Why would they build a chapel all the way out here?” she said.
We shouldn’t have done it. It was Marnie’s idea of course.
“Let’s do a ritual sacrifice to appease the gods”, she giggled.
Elizabeth laughed too. She gave a fake little sermon at the altar and we sat on the stone pews and bowed our heads. It was kind of funny and it might have been fine if we’d stopped there but Marnie was insistent.
“We need a sacrifice’, she said.
The others went off in search but I stayed seated. I should have just left but there was something about that place. I felt connected to it. It was so calm. Marnie came back smiling, holding a tiny lizard. She carried it out in front of her, humming some sort of hymnal tune. She stepped up to the altar holding the lizard down with one hand. Elizabeth passed her a rock. She seemed less sure now. Marnie took it in her other hand and held it up above her head.
“Mighty gods that bless these woods,” she bellowed in a deep tone, “please accept this humble sacrifice we offer to you in exchange for your eternal favour”.
And then she brought the rock down. A couple of us gasped. I don’t think anyone thought she would actually do it. There was a tiny stain of black blood on the altar. A chill swept through the clearing. That’s when I knew we had woken them. The others must have felt it too because everyone wanted to leave, even Marnie.
She waited a whole week before asking us to go back there with her. She passed it off as a sudden whim but I could tell the idea had been preying on her. It was in her eyes; they’d lost all focus. We went with her right to the edge of the woods. And we all backed out. She laughed at us, said we were scared. We were scared but we weren’t stupid. She tried to convince us but in the end the need was too strong. She decided to go by herself. And we let her.
It was easier to not talk about it. The police had questions but we never mentioned what had gone on in the woods. We all decided to stay away from that place except for Elizabeth. She would talk about it endlessly. She became obsessed. She pleaded with us to go back. She said Marnie was calling to her. She said she could feel that place calling to her. And I was terrified because I had felt it too. Lying awake at night feeling like my heart would just burst if I couldn’t go back there one more time. It seemed to affect her more strongly. She had been close to Marnie when it happened. Maybe they had sensed her presence.
So we all ended up back there at the edge of the woods in the exact spot where Marnie had left us. The others tried to reason with her but Elizabeth was beyond that. As I watched her disappear into the woods I whispered a final goodbye. We waited again. I don’t know why. With Marnie there had been some sense of hope she would return but this time I think we didn’t want her back. How long did we wait for? As long as it took.
We almost couldn’t believe it when Elizabeth emerged from the woods. She walked straight out as if everything was fine. She was scratched and disheveled and I don’t even know if it was still her anymore. She walked up to us, just stood there looking around at each of us with a lovely little smile of anticipation on her face. In her hands she held a heavy pointed rock.
“Watch this”, she said, and she smashed the rock into her left eye.
Blood poured down her face as she let out some ungodly shriek: some horrid mix of laughter, crying and screaming. We ran. We left her there screaming and laughing as we ran. That high-pitched wailing was the last thing I ever heard from Elizabeth. The damage done to her eye was irreparable and she was admitted to a mental institution. She’s still there.
Actually, it wasn’t the last I heard of Elizabeth, not exactly. I visited her just once about a month after the… incident. It was still her body but any semblance of Elizabeth was long gone. She sat there and just looked at me, still with that faint little smile, her one good eye following my every move. I tried to talk to her. I wanted to apologise, for what I do not know. Throughout it all she just sat there and smiled. I didn’t stay long; there didn’t seem much point. She waited for me to reach the door before speaking. Was it a warning or simply her way of showing me she held me responsible? Regardless, I still hear that refrain echoing through my mind in that childish little chant.
‘The trees. The trees. They came from the trees.
They wanted you but they settled for me.’
Credit To – Ben H