Do you believe in myths and ancient creatures?
Daniel has never understood the need to leave the city, so when his husband suggests a camping trip for their holiday, he agrees with reluctance. Even before they step out of the car, trepidation crawls over Daniel. Something is wrong. There is something about the forest that turns his stomach into knots.
He wants nothing more than to return to the safety of their home, and when their five-year-old son goes missing his fears turn into full-blown panic. What awaits them in the depths of the forest is far more sinister than anything Daniel ever could have imagined. With a missing child, it’s a race against time. Will they be able to find their son before it's too late?
I jerked up into a sitting position, absolutely certain we were surrounded by wild boars. It took a while for my brain to take in the forms of our sleeping children next to me, and the cold light of dawn.
“Yeah?” My voice was nothing more than a croak.
“I’m gonna run up to the centre, shouldn’t take long, but do you know how to start the mini stove if the kids wake up?”
“Erm ... I think so ... but do I have to cook anything for breakfast?”
“Yeah. It’s oatmeal porridge mixed with bilberry powder.”
I scrunched my nose in dismay, and Anders chuckled softly.
“It’s good for you.”
“Nah. Everything tastes good when you’re hungry, and you’re gonna need it.”
I sighed, thinking about the hike he had planned for us today. Anders kissed my forehead.
“Get some more sleep if they don’t wake up when I leave, okay? The weather isn’t as nice today. It’s almost dark so I thought it was earlier than it is, but it’s already a quarter past six.”
Already, I scoffed internally. It had been one of the longest nights of my life. My body ached, my muscles were stiff, and I had grit the size of walnuts in my eyes. I did not fit in this tent -- no matter what Anders said about quality. It might be fine if you are five-eight like he is, but I’m six-three. Both my feet and my head touched the canvas without me even being stretched out. Normally I fell asleep in Ander’s arms and woke up sprawled over the bed with at least one arm above my head, but that was impossible here. And the canvas had a damp feel to it, as if condensation had formed during the night -- it wouldn’t surprise me if it had, since it had been like we were sleeping in a sauna at one point.
“I think I’ve had enough of this for one night.” I glared at him. My body screamed in protest as I tried to move. He watched me with no small amount of amusement in his eyes -- cheeky bastard. “You can show me how to light the stove, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for burning down the entire forest.”
We sneaked out of the tent, miraculously succeeding in not disturbing the children. The morning was chilly -- far more so than they had been recently -- or maybe I was imagining. The cloudy sky gave the woods an almost unearthly glow. Where the tree trunks had looked warm yesterday, they now look cold and grey. I shivered as the niggling feeling of wrongness grew stronger.
The wet spider webs and the light mist that could be seen between the trees should’ve made a beautiful picture, but the atmosphere in glade was nothing like the day before. It was closed off, as if someone had put a giant glass bubble over us. The woods were silent, no rustling winds, and no tweeting birds. The eerie stillness surrounding us was oppressive. I couldn’t help but whisper as I turned to Anders. “Is it always this quiet in the mornings?”
Anders frowned. “I’m sure the birds will start to sing as soon as I make my way out of here.” His uncertainty did not ease the wrongness I sensed. “Probably just means that there isn’t anything close by to alert them.”
I didn’t buy it. Birds sang in the morning. And I could tell he only said it to comfort me -- his gaze kept searching the tree line, and he had a little crease between his brows. He lit the mini stove, gave me what I’m sure was supposed to be a reassuring smile, and headed out of the campsite.
I couldn’t shake the unnerving feeling, and it only grew more intense the longer Anders was away. It wouldn’t take him more than twenty minutes or so to cover the distance. He was a practised runner, and this little round was nothing compared to what he normally ran in the mornings. Still, I found no comfort in that. I tried to distract myself by preparing breakfast on the stove.