They passed the last tree and the light was straight ahead and they ran for it. When Kalip got to the light Jasmine was no longer behind him. In fact, it seemed she’d never been there at all.
“Jasmine?” Kalip said. “Jas? You there?”
Kalip looked around but didn’t see her, couldn’t see her. She’d just vanished from this plane of existence without a trace. A speck of dust gone with the wind. Kalip was bewildered, shocked, but most of all, he was afraid.
“JASMINE!!!” Kalip called. “JASMINE!!!”
No answer. He tried to return to the darkness to find her but ran into an invisible force that nearly broke his nose again. He recoiled and tried to rub the pain away, massaging it with both hands to make sure it was still straight. He felt under his nostrils and no blood came out. He stood fully erect and backed into the invisible force again. He jumped forward and turned back sharply and found nothing but the darkness. He walked up to it and put his hand out and it was like touching glass.
He slapped it three times then went to the other side and did it again. He tried to see if he could walk back and found out he couldn’t. The only way was forward. He called Jasmine’s name four more times while throwing his full weight against the invisible force-field. No matter how many times he tried it wouldn’t budge. He tired himself out after the fifteenth time and then sat there crying for thirty minutes.
One moment he was holding his girlfriend’s hand in the dark and the next she disappeared in the light. Kalip knew she could be a naughty girl at times, but she wasn’t a bad person. Jasmine was the most generous, kind, and caring person he’d ever met. She was the girl everyone wanted, the girl who never said a bad word about anyone, the girl who helped her classmates with homework no questions asked, the girl who volunteered her time with a smile on her face and enjoyed helping others, the girl of all his affections, and she was gone. He stood and called her name once more and when there was no answer he gave up and reluctantly began walking on the path toward the moonlight.
He never saw Jasmine again.
Bobby wasn’t too far ahead of Kalip. He heard someone calling a name from behind him but decided to mind his business and kept walking.
Sherry woke up at sunrise, the midnight blue giving way to a fiery orange as the sun pushed its way up and blazed in the sky. The fading stars seemed more beautiful than when they were in full gleam. The bed of leaves under her was comfortable and her sleep was dreamless, something it hadn’t been in quite a while. She sat up and exhaled deeply, giving her body the chance to wake up.
These past few days had been the toughest she’s ever faced. She’d gone on a solo meditation retreat to get away from society and its pressures. Her anxiety and depression were eating away at her and she had to do something but couldn’t think of anything until a friend called and told her about something called a vipassana retreat. She looked it up and decided to give it a try, better that than stay at home and let her demons eat her alive. She’d only been in the woods in Upstate New York for forty-eight hours before she went to sleep by a campfire and woke up in unfamiliar territory.
She stood up and surveyed the area. The deafening silence and still air felt strange to her and the clear skies were something she hadn’t seen since she visited her parents in Tampa last year–before her depression started getting to her. She didn’t know what was going on or where she was, what she did know that she wasn’t in Upstate New York anymore. She looked around for the backpack she had before she fell asleep but couldn’t find it. There was nothing but tall oak trees with leaves falling by the hundreds and an orange-turning-to-baby-blue sky. Well, standing here won’t do me any good.
She sprinted west on the same path as Bobby.
Kalip stared at the moonlight with a listless gaze thinking about Jasmine and the times they’d had together. Her priceless smile showing beautiful, straight white teeth, those deep hazel eyes that melted his heart like butter on toasted bread, her coke bottle body that put most TV models to shame, her caramel skin that always smelled of the sweetest perfumes, and her hair, her long, brown, curly hair that flowed in the wind like a goddess’ when she entered the room. His body was on autopilot while his mind and heart fought with devastation.
Ordinarily, this would be nothing more than a teenage breakup. Ordinarily, people would tell him there’s other fish in the sea and to take as much time as he needed before moving on to someone else. Ordinarily, he’d have his boys sneak him into some strip joint and get some ass in his face to take his mind off it all. Ordinarily, he’d go to the local liquor store where his guy, Pedro, would slide him some Hennessy and he’d go to the spot by the freeway where all the cars went by and drink his sorrows away.
But this wasn’t an ordinary separation.
Kalip had always been aware that God could take away something just as quickly as he gave it to him. He’d grown up Methodist, after all. When he’d met Jasmine, he was just another guy trying to make in life but got in with the wrong crowd. He’d met her in his sophomore year of high school, where he got grades good enough to keep his parents off his back (he got B’s but could get A’s if he’d wanted to). He hung out with skateboarders and gang members on occasion, they’d sneak into R-rated movies, strip joints, get Hennessy and Whiskey on the low and chill by the freeway and get drunk til midnight, then go home staggering and laughing their asses off about bullshit that didn’t matter.
All that changed when he’d met Jasmine, and it changed quick. They went on their first date on Halloween, where he and his friends usually got drunk and chilled by the freeway. While Jasmine was talked about herself, tilting her head in that way he found adorable, he listened intently to every detail. It was more than just her beauty that captivated him, it was her mind and her spirit. Never had he come across anybody, let alone a girl, who seemed to ooze kindness and magnanimity. Never had he been in the presence of someone who knew what love was and should be, never had he met someone with a patience very few people could demonstrate (she had her dark side too don’t be fooled), and never had he met anyone that believed in him more than he believed in himself.
That was what made her sudden disappearance devastating. She was his foundation, the reason he turned his life around before it went to hell, the reason he woke up every morning feeling truly blessed, his motivation, his other half.
And now she was gone.
Kalip walked aimlessly into the moonlight with hot and stinging tears streaming down his cheeks like a waterfall.
The sun was high in the sky and its rays winked through the trees with leaves yet to lose, the winds were nonexistent save for a soft breeze. Bark broke off one of the trees in the distance and made a light thud in the sheet of leaves below. The skies were clear, and birds flew stealthily overhead; the silence in the woods was deafening, the only sounds were leaves dropping and insects using them for either cover or stepping stones to get from one place to another.
A rhythmic and dreadful crunch filled the air in sync with a lower yet louder stomp. The leaves trembled and the birds flew away in fear.
Crunch, crunch, STOMP! crunch, crunch, STOMP! crunch, crunch, STOMP!
The sound reverberated throughout the woods in a terrible harmony; Sherry was sprinting for her life, twigs and broken branches snapping under her boots. The thing she was running from moved at a leisurely pace, its steps hitting the ground for every seven or eight Sherry took. Even so, the sound grew closer. Sherry ran like Usain Bolt about to reach the finish line, she’d found her backpack a while back under a random tree with three slashes across the trunk that looked like bear claws but could’ve easily been something else. Sherry didn’t bother to investigate because the trembling started right when she’d picked it up and she started running.
Her breathing turned laborious as she ran through the woods, sidestepping trees and looking back to see if the thing chasing her had gotten any closer. The sun’s rays beamed down on her and birds flew overhead in a state of panic, which did no good for her state of mind.
The adrenaline pumped through her body as she ran desperately, a moment later she tripped over a branch and fell to the ground, sliding for a couple inches. She got up quickly and continued running. Her left leg wouldn’t cooperate, and she limped for a bit but when the adrenaline pumped back into it, the leg straightened up and she was running in no time. The stomping sound faded but Sherry felt no safer. She still sensed the creature’s presence.
She sensed it with every cell in her body.
She ran like The Flash. Her heart beat slowly in her chest while her body worked like a well-oiled piston. She’d been running for at least five minutes–maybe ten–before she caught the runner’s high. Her body went into autopilot and her mind focused on her surroundings, watching for branches that might trip her up.
The stomping faded completely and all she could hear were the leaves crunching and the soft thuds her feet made when they hit upon dirt. She continued to run for some time before she felt it was safe enough to stop.
Tell me what you think in the comments! I read and reply to all of them and welcome feedback for improving my stories, poetry, and insights. Thanks for reading!