This is a short story I wrote in 2022 as a writing exercise for my writers group. We were given a short prompt and had to finish it in about 1000 words.
When I opened my eyes, I sure didn’t see what I expected to see. I knew that when I had closed my eyes, I had been in a much softer, more comfortable environment.
The cold hard surface beneath me was covered in dry grass and I was pretty sure that the crawly sensation on my skin was going to result in at least a few missing bites from my backside. I wrapped my arms around me to try to contain what little warmth I could.
The light around me was a misty gray, subtly illuminating my surroundings as though the first rays of day were creeping over the horizon. Dark green foliage was all around me where I lay on the ground and, as my eyes rose ever upward, it was obvious that the canopy above me was thick and lush enough to wall me in on all sides. My imagination teased my vision with hints of movement in my peripheral sightline, but when I turned to look, nothing was there.
It was impossible that I was sitting in a void, so I strained my hearing to catch even the slightest noises, but all I heard was so very distant, I couldn’t identify the source. Pressing my hands against the ground, I lifted myself into a sitting position and starbursts of light crashed on the shores of my conscious thoughts. My awareness was untethered momentarily as I tried to steady the spinning inside my head. As the aroma of ancient foliage filled my lungs, a mossy sensation tickled my tastebuds and I leaned forward to avoid retching.
I was thoroughly, eerily, unexplainably alone.
Soon I came to my senses and realized that the worst had happened, the plane I was on crashed. Of course, just as I was trying to treat myself to a nice relaxing getaway, I found myself under even more stress. The confusion settled in more, I was flying to Texas, and this… well, it looked nothing like Texas.
I had no clue where I was, and my phone service had been disconnected earlier that day. I was still on my ex’s phone plan, and he must’ve caught wind of my great escape and decided to punish me by removing my access to the outside world. Perfect timing, one might say. I stood by the plane for a few minutes to listen, met with deafening silence. I was too scared to see the bodies inside, so I wandered out into the wilderness alone.
I knew I had to walk quietly, carefully, and with purpose. I had no clue what was out there and felt it was best to go unnoticed. It was 5:23 pm. I had checked my phone almost every minute of my walk, hoping my service would return or the glow from my phone would awaken me from this nightmare.
Soon I was far enough away that I couldn’t see the plane anymore; I wondered if that was a bad idea. Maybe I should have stayed put. Maybe a rescue team would come to save us… me. Deep in thought, I had become a little less careful with my walk and ended up face-down in the dirt. “What the fuck” I yelled. Then my phone lit up. A message from Telegram, a useless messaging app I had downloaded to buy drugs and never ended up using. The sender had no name, but the message read, “Watch your step.”
I had to be in a dream. There was no way I could board a plane, have said plane crash, end up in the middle of nowhere, then fall on my ass just to receive an anonymous message reminding me of what a clutz I am. I hear a twig snap in the distance, and then a mocking voice yell, “What the fuck.” I sat down against a tree to process what was happening and left myself with two conclusions: either this place was haunted, or God is real, and he has a terrible way of helping people.
Regardless of what was going on, I wanted out. Fast. Pushing against the dry, broken twigs, I got back up on my feet and walked faster than I ever have in the opposite direction of the unsettling voice. Once I knew I had covered a decent distance, I pulled out my phone again. If I got a message surely, I could send one, but none of my messages would go through.
“Okay, your phone isn’t working, that’s fine. It’s the wilderness; why would it work? It’s not that bad; it’s like a walk on the path back home, totally not scary, nope, not. at. all.” I was pretty sure I was going insane, and the only way to rationalize things was to talk it through with myself. I kept walking in an unknown direction, hoping I would get to civilization if I walked long enough.
“They should have given us a class about this in High School. ‘What to do when your dumbass pilot crashes a plane and doesn’t even live to help you out of the wilderness.’ Remember, kids, don’t walk away from a crashed plane without your luggage. Also, this is how to tell what direction you’re walking when you don’t have a compass because who the fuck carries a compass in 2022.” I ranted to myself. Pointless ranting, no matter what I screamed into oblivion my situation wasn’t going to change.
If only I did have my luggage. My small gold necklace that folded out into a shank with an emergency button on the side was tucked away neatly in my checked bag. It was one of the only nice things my ex had ever gotten for me and the only thing from him I never threw away. Airport security should really let up on self-defense jewelry for cases like this.
It was getting dark, and I knew I couldn’t find my way through with no light. Reluctantly I kicked aside some sticks and found a place to sit and sleep with one eye open. I sat against a tree and couldn’t seem to fall asleep. “Where am I?” I yelled.
I raced my mind, wondering if ghosts could use phones. I had watched so many ghost shows and somehow couldn’t come to an answer. Surely they couldn’t. How would a ghost get a phone, and how would it know my username?
While it was creeping me out, this mysterious messenger was my only hope. “What do you want?” I plead.
“You aren’t supposed to be here,” my phone read.
“Why are you doing this? Can you help me?”
“Good luck.” After this message, the user’s active status disappeared. Good luck seemed like an ominous message to send a girl stranded in an unknown place. I heard sticks cracking behind me and ran. I didn’t need good luck; there was no such thing here.
The more I ran, the more noise I heard, and it became too hard to decipher what was me and what was it. I should have stayed by the plane; I should have died in the plane. I stopped to catch my breath, and my phone buzzed again.
“Too bad you don’t have your necklace.”
“Toby?” I screamed. Feeling like an idiot. Why would my ex be stranded in the same forest I was in?
Somebody grabbed me from behind, and I was face to face with my ghost. Toby.
He was frantic. “You were supposed to die. I crashed the plane. How did you make it? Why do you have to make everything so difficult?”
Before I had a chance to reply, I felt my knees hit the ground, and everything went black.