I Wish I Had Never Found Out

This is for the Secrets,Schemes & Sewing Machines writing competition, going under the category of 2) Write a scene to introduce a dramatic character.

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1. The Forest

~~I wish I had never found out. I wish I had never asked. I wish I had never stuck my nose in. I wish I had never looked up. I wish I had never followed. But I had. And it changed everything.
The day it happened, my friend Artemis and I had gone for our usual walk in the wood near our village. We used to go there every day to escape the stress of our lives. On that particular day, we went just as the sun was setting and the darkness was beginning to draw in.
Each time we went, we walked along our usual path, doing the usual things. We would pick wild blackberries when it was that time of year and continue on our way, gorging ourselves as the sharp juices stained our fingers. Birds would call out in an endless loop while we tried to guess which bird was singing its solo. The smell of pine would always radiate out of the trees and we would joke that we should bottle it to sell whilst making millions. Being there, in the wilderness, made us feel free and at peace. We felt more at home there than anywhere else. But now it’s tainted. If only I had never found out.
While we walked to our clearing that day, we talked. Thinking back now, I can’t even remember what we talked about. It seems like such an irrelevant thing to want to remember now but I feel the need to memorise the positives about that day to take my mind off the things I would much rather forget.
The trees have always been so grouped together in places that you could barely see through them. Artemis and I normally rush through one of the clumps and suddenly, as if we have been transported to another place entirely, the trees jumped apart and clear a large circle. That was one of the few clearings in the wood but definitely our favourite. Over the years, we have dragged logs into our clearing that were under the canopy of the trees so that we had somewhere relatively dry to sit when it rains.
Artemis hadn’t been herself that day. I could tell something was wrong but I hadn’t a clue what it could be. She had been happy enough the previous day. So, being the overly curious fool that I am, I wanted to find out what the matter was. If only I had never asked.
The first time I asked, she said she was fine, nothing to worry about. But even as she said it, I felt a cold trickle of worry start to drip down my spine. We always told each other what had been upsetting us as soon as we could. I had thought that we shared everything with each other; I didn’t think we kept secrets. Naivety blinds its victims just as it obscured me on the subject of secrets.
The second time I asked if she was ok, she replied with the exact same answer as before but with a clear tone of annoyance in her voice. The third time, she lost it.
Abruptly, she snapped that if I really wanted to know what was wrong, I should look up. Immediately, I did so in puzzlement. All that was in the darkening sky was the moon. It brightened up the inky black surrounding it with a sphere of pale chalk. I didn’t understand what she meant. If only I had never looked up.
As I turned back to ask Artemis what she was talking about, I discovered that she had professedly vanished. Looking around in bewilderment, she was nowhere to be found. That was when the twig cracked.
Whipping my head round, I peered into the shadows behind me. A dark twisted outline was just visible through the thick foliage. The silhouette turned and shuffled away. Assuming it was Artemis, I went after it. If only I had never followed.
Weaving through of the trees, I ran after the outline until it stopped unexpectedly in an unfamiliar clearing. Stumbling forward awkwardly, I called out Artemis’ name in confusion. The shadowed figure turned sharply.
I cried out in pure terror. The scream echoed eerily before dissolving into the trees.
The outline changed. I realised it wasn’t Artemis standing ahead of me. Artemis wasn’t over 6 foot tall with hunched shoulders. Artemis wasn’t covered from head to toe with thick, matted black fur. Artemis didn’t have a long face with a pointed snout. Artemis didn’t have colossal paws ending with deadly claws. Artemis didn’t start menacingly at me with her hackles raised. Artemis didn’t look like the pictures of wolves we had pored over in our childhood.
I looked back up at the sky. I saw the moon - the full moon. Realisation dawned on me.
Werewolf.
Slinking around in a slow, threatening circle, the werewolf’s thunderous growing became louder. Never taking my eyes off of the creature, I backed away uncertainly until I hit a tree trunk. I looked back over my shoulder at the impenetrable wall of trees. I was trapped.
As I gasped for breath, the werewolf began to prowl towards me. At that point, I still didn’t have a clue where Artemis had disappeared to. All I knew was that it was very likely I was going to die.
Huge jaws prised themselves open in front of me. The werewolf was now only a few feet away, getting even closer every precious second of my short life. Repulsive breath began to waft towards me as I cringed in disgust. I never thought I would die smelling that! The teeth inside the cavernous hollow were sharper than a field of daggers and looked as if they could rip someone apart; rip me apart.
The werewolf began to lean backwards on its hind legs ever so slightly as it lunged directly at me…

I can’t remember what happened after that. After waking up in a blinding white room, someone explained what they thought had happened. Apparently, Artemis was going for a walk in the woods before stumbling upon my wounded body and ringing an ambulance. But I know better. I know she was the werewolf that attacked me.       
I guess I’m still in shock. Never in all my life have I had the slightest inkling that my best friend wasn’t entirely human. How could I be so oblivious? Surely I must have noticed that she withdrew every full moon before turning into a monster. And even if I had known, I wouldn’t have dreamed that she would attack me!
This constant state of confusion is drawing out all my feeling of anguish and regret. How can we continue in our friendship after this? I can’t see a way of putting all of this behind me. Forgiving and forgetting this attack is utterly impossible. The one question I still can’t find an answer to is why? Why did my best friend, the person I trusted above all others, do this? We could have talked about it. I would have tried to understand her plight and done all that I could to help. I can only conclude that she must have assumed I would hate her but that doesn’t make sense. She knew that I would do anything to help if she asked.
Still dazed by the questions ricocheting through my skull, I was barely aware of the door thundering open. A single figure stood motionless in the doorway before stalking forwards in anger. It was Artemis.
I began to push myself onto my elbows, blinking blearily, when she slid a long, glistening object out of her sleeve. A knife. Striding forwards, she swept around and, in a rapid motion, the blade balanced at my throat.
“I don’t care that we used to be friends. Right now, survival is the most important thing to me so you need to keep your mouth shut. You can either swear to never speak a word of this to anyone or I will silence you now. Which is it to be?” she spat with such hostility that it startled me.
 “Artemis, I -”
“Which is it?”
The blade trembled slightly against my neck as I stared my attacker in the eye. I couldn’t see my friend anymore – she had faded into nothingness.
“You know I would never tell anyone Artemis.” I wavered, unsure of what to say next “I - I guess this is goodbye.”
Still peering at her face, I could have sworn that I saw something flicker across her face before it was lost forever in the icy chasm of secrets. With one last glare, my old friend tore the knife away from my neck and stormed away, never to be seen again.
If only I had never found out. If only I had never asked. If only I had never stuck my nose in. If only I had never looked up. If only I had never followed. But I had. And it changed everything…

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