She is hanging below me, clinging to a loose rope. I reach out. She’s too far away. She is too afraid to let go, and I am too afraid to lean out any further.
She’s helpless.
The rope creaked ominously. I look up instinctively, and in that second I see the rope snap high above us. My head snaps down in an instant. Just quick enough to see her fall.
I hear my own screams mixed in with hers.

Lauren's friend, Megan, died five years ago and Lauren has never really gottten over it. Finally she decides that it's time for her to face her fears. She goes back to the place Megan died, hoping to find it in herslef to move on. What she doesn't bargin on is what she discovers about her death. What really happened? And what has it got to do with Lauren? All the while she finds herself falling for boy she'd have ben better off running far away from...


8. Playing with Knives

  I wonder through the woods aimlessly, taking one trail after another. I’ve no idea where I am now; I’ve wondered too far into the forest to be sure, but I’m beyond caring where I am. No one can find me here, and that’s how I want it. Nothing interrupts my thoughts apart from the rustling of leaves, and tweeting of birds. My phone rings, making my jump. I take it out of my pocket and see Chloe’s name on the caller ID. I hesitate, wondering whether to answer or not. If it had been anyone else, I wouldn’t have bothered, but I can’t reject a call from Chloe, not if she’s worried. I was only meant to get a drink, and I must have been out for hours. I leave it for a half a minute, assuming she’ll give up, but when she doesn’t, I reluctantly pick up.

  “Lauren, where have you been?” She screeches, her voice obviously wasn’t damaged.

  “Didn’t Tyler tell you?”

  “No why? I haven’t seen Tyler either. Flynn told me about you’re argument. You stormed out, and he followed you, but we haven’t heard from either of you since. Flynn can’t get hold of Tyler and you haven’t been answering my texts!”

  “Sorry. Look, don’t worry I’m be fine, I just need some air, I’ll be back in a bit.”

  “Lauren? Where are you?”

  “Oh look who we have here.” I spin around, dropping my phone in shock. Behind me Yasmin stands leaning against a huge oak tree. I look around quickly and see for the first time that I’m in a small clearing I don’t recognise. My eyes flicker back to Yasmin. Her face is back in her hard mask, smirking at me like I’m the prey she’s just cornered. I back away instinctively, and Yasmin advances on me. I catch a glint of metal in her hand. A knife.

  My heartbeat picks up, banging rapidly against my chest. Oh no, she wouldn’t... she wouldn’t kill me? Oh my god.

  I hear Chloe’s voice coming from my phone, lying amongst the leaves. “Lauren? Lauren, what was that? For god’s sake what’s going on-” I open my mouth quickly, ready to shout to her for help, but as I watch my phone, a foot comes down on it, crushing it. I look up at the owner of the foot. Yasmin raises her eyebrows.

  “We wouldn’t want poor Chloe to get involved again would we? You’ve already caused her enough trouble.”

  I open my mouth, but I can’t think of anything to say. Yasmin continues, “Yes Lauren, I’m afraid to say that actually it is your fault. See, neither Megan nor Chloe would have died if you hadn’t been there. So I’ve just confirmed your worst fears. It was your fault.”

  I can feel my eyes filling with tears, but she’s not making any sense. “How?” My voice is quieter than I mean it to be; it sounds afraid to hear the answer.

  Yasmin’s grin widens, “I was hoping you’d ask.” She steps forward as she says it, over the broken fragments of my phone. “You see, it was meant to be you. Both times it was you that should have died, but you just won't die, will you? Whatever I do, you just won't die.” She looks older all of a sudden, like she’s aged ten years.

  “What... what do you mean?”

  “We were trying to make it look like an accident, and we thought that the best way to do that would be at the camp you came every summer. It’s oh-so easy to fake an accident when there are so many things that can go wrong.”

  “But- it was and accident. The rope snapped...” Slowly it dawns on me; the rope was faulty, but it wasn’t an accident that the rope wasn’t strong enough. Yasmin made sure the rope was faulty, knowing who ever had the rope, if they slipped, the rope would snap and they would fall. Murder. “Are you saying... that I was meant to have the faulty rope?” I ask, finally starting to piece together the puzzle.

  Yasmin smirks, “Well done, you catch on quick. Yes, you were the one that was meant to fall, but both times your stupid friends got in the way. But not anymore, this time I’m going to make sure you die.”

  “What about the police?” I say desperately, “They’ll find my body; it won’t look like an accident this time.”

  Yasmin snorts, “There won't be a body for them to find. You’ll another missing person and nobody will ever find out what happened to you.” She looks up at me and grins; a bloody thirsty grin that chills me to the bone.

  I back away, the fire in Yasmin’s eyes burning strong. She flips the knife in her hand, pointing it at my chest.  “Come now Lauren, it won’t hurt. Much.” I shudder uncontrollably, and her grin widens. Not the friendly open grin that I’d grown accustomed to, but a snide, evil grin that cuts me to the bone. I feel my back hit a tree.

 “Why?” I ask desperately. “Why do you want to kill me so badly?” Maybe she’s one of those psycho killers that doesn’t need a reason, just a knife. Either side of us, men dressed in black emerge from the foliage. There are more of them. I don’t stand a chance.

  She laughs, “We want what’s in there.” She points at my head, but I’m nonplussed.

  “My brain?” What the hell? What do they want that for? It’s not like I’m a super genius they want to experiment on.

  “No, we want what’s in your skull. Someone put something in their, and we want it.” What else is in my skull other than my brain? “Now, stop talking, and let me finish the job. Just stand still and it will be so much quicker.”

  Sheer terror washes through me. My eyes dart around us, looking for an escape route, or anything I could use against her. Only twigs lie on the ground around me, and they’re not going to help unless I’m planning on stabbing her eye out. More people are still emerging from the dark trees around us. I glance up at the tree behind me, but there is no way I’m about to become the next Katniss. There are no branches for ten feet at least. I search around the trees for anything, and I see a rough dirt track on the other side of the clearing, just wide enough to get a car down.

  I look back at Yasmin, still advancing on me. I open my mouth to scream, but Yasmin anticipates it. “Don’t even bother. We’re too far into the forest for anyone to hear you. No one ever comes down this track anymore.”

  I choke, “But-” I stall for time, still looking for an escape route, even though part of my brain has already registered that there’s nothing I can do, I refuse to give in. “But... why?” It sounds feeble even to my ears.

  Yasmin rolls her eyes, but she stops just a few feet away. “I thought we’d been through this. We want what’s in your head.”

  “But... why do you want it so badly?” Though my brain is intent on staying alive, I’m still curious to know the answer.

  Yasmin scowls, “We’re wasting time.” She starts towards me again, my eyes fixed on the shining tip of the knife.

  “Wait!” I cry, my voice suddenly echoing through the forest, loud and clear. Yasmin stops, surprised; I’m just as surprised by my sudden outburst. “Wait.” My voice lowers, but it stays unwavering, “Isn’t there another way of getting what’s in my head?” I stumble over the word, unsure of their meaning. “Surely there’s other place you can get... what ever it is from?”

  She considers me for a second, she looks like she’s going to ignore me and continue forward, but instead she says, in a tired voice, “Because not even the government know what’s going on in that head of yours-”

  Yasmin stops talking suddenly, but I hear it before she does, my ears pricking up in excitement. It’s the sound of a car engine. My heart, which I swear had stopped beating for a minute, kick starts again with more energy than before, hammering against my chest. Every one of the men in black turns to face the direction the sound of the car is coming from, just up the narrow dirt track. The sound is getting steadily louder, roaring like a sports car.

  I seize the opportunity with both hands. I run suddenly to the side, charging to the track over the slippery leaves. Yasmin reacts instantly; she turns throws the knife straight at my chest. I hear the whoosh of the blade as it spins toward me, without turning to see, I throw myself down to the floor. The impact jars my body and pain shoots down my arm. I cry out and scrunch up my eyes against the pain.

  I hear the sound of a knife being unsheathed. I open my eyes and the next instant, out of the corner of my eye, I see a man spinning his own blade towards me. I roll to the side, leaves sticking in my hair, soil pressing itself into my mouth. My breathing sounds loud to my own ears. It hikes as I stare at the blade in the ground just centimetres from my nose.

  I jump up suddenly, twisting the knife out of the soft ground, and holding it out in front of me. The arm I had reached out to soften the impact of my fall is hanging limply at my side. The pain almost blinds me, but I squint and block it out.

  Four men in black are advancing on me, these, I notice, are carrying guns rather than knives. I hadn’t thought it was possible, but my heart rate accelerates even more, adrenaline cursing through me. I look down at the dirty blade in my hand, what good is this going to be against guns?

  Yasmin’s voice comes out as a screech. “Don’t shoot her! We need her head undamaged!” That’s why they’re using knives. But the thought barely registers. I glance quickly in the direction of the car. Standing in the middle of the track I can see a black shape charging towards me. If the car doesn’t slow down, it’s going to hit me. I start to move but in front of me, the psychopaths take advantage of my distraction. A knife whizzes towards me, and my head turns so fast I hear it click in protest, I start to jump out of its path, but I’m not quick enough.

  I stare down in horror at my own leg, blood pouring out of a deep cut. I crash to the ground on my bad arm and I yell with pain for both my leg and arm. I yank the knife out of my leg and I stagger to my feet, hobbling painfully, trying not to put weight on my injured leg. Even in the disorientation of my brain I know that I can’t stay on the ground; I’m an easy target. Black patches appear in front of my eyes and I can feel my body about to give up beneath me.

  I try to focus my eyes; men are advancing on me from all sides, behind them; Yasmin cackling madly. Pure hatred such as I’ve never felt before surges through me. That woman is the reason Megan died and Chloe is in hospital, and now she wants to kill me. I don’t even think about it. I throw the knife, the one still covered in my own blood, and I watch in make contact with her chest. I watch her look slowly down at her chest, black hair falling across her face. A look of total confusion passes over her face. She raises her hand and touches the hilt of the knife protruding from her chest, as though she’s checking it’s real. Blood oozes down her chest, and slowly, as if in slow motion, Yasmin falls to the ground.

  I stare at her, unable to process the body on the ground. That was me. The shadows of men around me pause, unsure of what to do, but then they look back at me and continue to advance. I clutch my other knife more firmly in my hand.

  Then, the shadow directly in front of me freezes, their head flashing up. I spin around, the black shadow of a car skids to a halt in front of me and I don’t think twice.

  I yank open the car door with my good hand, the one still clutching the knife, and I throw myself in slamming it shut behind me. I might be getting into a car with another psychotic killer but right now, I really don’t care. The driver next to me presses their foot flat to the floor, spinning the wheel around so hard the car jars in protest.

  Outside the men throw themselves at the car, a knife embedding itself in my car door, but the car kick starts and we are tearing away back down the track.  And finally I let my eyes close and blackness engulf me.

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