Time had passed. Of course.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a dying curiosity had made its point in trying to remember the lessons from my two years at boy scouts back in grade two. The position of the sun had something to do with time, right? But did it start in the east or west? And what was the point in knowing the time if you didn't even know how many nights had passed?

Stop being so dramatic, Alfred. It hasn't even hit night yet. Trust me, if you tried running nonstop for more than four hours, you'd be out cold.

I was still in the forest. After bolting from the clearing without any thought of direction, and consequentially getting myself hopelessly lost, I knew it would be a while before I found my way home. Sure, the forest was familiar enough, but only up to the stream. Or to Matt's den, anyways, though it was only a little farther away. By now, I was probably far from any familiar ground.

The ground held a thin layer of snow, now, which caught my feet as I walked. It seemed to be the only sound, at the moment—the ever incessant crunch of boot on snow as I moved forwards, one step at a time. I knew that I was lost. But for some reason, it didn't even cross my mind to stop walking.

Was I moving farther away from home? What time was it, exactly? My mother would be home by now, no doubt. Probably worried, if enough time had passed. It was nowhere near nightfall. But dinner had probably come and gone.

For a moment, I considered calling my mother. My cellphone was tucked into the pocket of my jeans, tight against the fabric, silent and cold like the rest of the forest. I knew that it would take me only seconds to grab it, flip open the keyboard, and call my mother. Seconds. But that idiotic part of me, which had the annoying habit of popping up at the wrong moments, decided that it would be much too humiliating to call my mother only to tell her that I had gotten lost in the forest for no particular reason. Not to mention, there was a possibility of her stumbling across a bloody clearing while trying to find me.

Finally, it would take her at least two hours, and by then it would be dark.

I might as well play survivor-man for a night.

This was about the time when I felt a sudden, heavy regret of having ditched the fur jacket. Even though it really was the last thing I wanted to wrap myself in at the moment, I would be quite cold without it.

And so, inwardly kicking myself, I found a nice spot in a tangle of roots and sat down. I didn't want to lie down, yet—no, it was too early. I'd wait.

The next hour or so passed excruciatingly slowly. I was in a heated argument with myself the entire time. What the hell was I doing? Thinking I'd just curl up and spend the night in a forest with no consequences? I was a complete idiot. Still, I didn't move. I just sat there, stubbornly, refusing to do anything but blink and breathe and constantly open my phone to check the time. I would not stand up, not retrace my steps back to the forest's edge. For all I knew, they'd be gone in the morning, gone and covered by a new layer of snow.

A layer to cover the forest, the bloodied clearing, my sleeping form. A blanket to cover my house, where my mother would be safe and warm and most likely pissed off at me for not calling.

Call your mother, Alfred. Just get over yourself and do it. If you refuse to stand up or do anything useful, at least take out the goddamn phone and call your mother.

I took out the phone. It surprised me at how easily my arm moved, opened the phone, dialed her number. It was as if I was separated from myself by a glass wall, able to see what I was doing but unable to act or move or respond. It was robotic. I watched her number type its way across the screen, flashing green and yellow as it dialed home.

Three rings. Then her voice, slightly muffled by anger and a bad connection.

"Alfred! Where the hell are you?"

I prepared myself to tell her that I was in the forest, completely lost, sitting in a cluster of tree roots with only my cellphone and a thin jacket as company. I didn't have an excuse for my current situation, but I couldn't let that stop me from telling her. No—how else would I get out of the forest?

"I'm at a friend's house," I said.

My initial reaction to the robotic answer was to mentally slam a concrete block over my head. For the next few seconds, I probably pictured my death at least twenty times, all in horrifying and tragically painful situations.

Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. You can't go back, now; now you've done it. What're you gonna say next, Einstein? That it's for school?

"It's for school," I said, speaking over her angry voice in the background. I realized that I had just missed a good minute of her ranting. Oh well.

"It's important," I continued, ignoring her voice as it came in through the phone. "I'll see you in the morning, okay? I have to go, now. Goodbye."

I closed the cellphone, her rant unfinished and killed much too young. I'd face her wrath in the morning, I knew. If I found my way back. Which I would, seeing as I was completely overreacting and probably only twenty minutes away from the road.

But I couldn't go back now; my mother thought I was staying the night at a friend's.

This was my excuse as I curled up in the tangled roots, ignoring the snow and the cold and the awkward position as I desperately tried to convince myself that it was night.

Time to sleep. Go to sleep. Funny that it's light out, seeing as it's two in the morning. Really. I'm not lying to you. Why would I do that?

Eventually, my mind drifted off from conversations with myself into a shallow pool of dreams. It would be a restless, broken sleep, but I was fine with that. Morning would come.


During the night, a black silhouette stood over my body, leaving a trail of darkened snow in its wake. In a moment of semi-awareness, caught between dreams, my conscious registered the stiff movement of limbs as something was picked up and thrown over my body. It was heavy, whatever it was; it pushed me down and tied me to the forest floor, leaving me to drown among the roots as I sank back into my dreams.

The silhouette, framed in white by a determined moon, slowly turned around and left.

... ... ... ... ...

Author's Note

Oh man! Has it really been this long without an update? And now the shortest chapter ever to make up for it. Really sorry about that.

In any case, when I realized how much time had passed, I wanted to update right away, which is why this is a slightly shorter chapter. I promise longer chapters to come, now that I'm back! Which I am. Trust me. No more unannounced dropping off the edge of the world.

(or the edge of the internet, if that exists).

If you can forgive me for the sheer amount of time this story went ignored, reviews would be so appreciated! Every new comment just makes me so happy, you have no idea. Constructive criticism is also welcomed.

I will be back shortly with an update! Thanks for reading!

~ Awreon