Katy’s bare feet were sticky with blood. At first she’d winced at every rock or root in her path, flinched at every branch that clawed at her skin, but her pain had since subsided. It was no use to her anymore.
She stumbled through the dark forest with no idea where she was. Come to think of it, she couldn’t recall entering the forest, or anything before it.
She was a child again, lost in the mirror room of an amusement park. But something was chasing her.
Her heart pounded in her ears and the searing stitch in her gut begged her to give in, but she couldn’t.
It was closing in on her.
She stole a glance over her shoulder, and caught her foot on a protruding root. She was weightless for a time, before the forest floor raced up to meet her, and she went sprawling in the dirt. Her teeth smacked together with a sickening crunch that resonated through her entire skull, and her head was thrown back so violently, she imagined her spine would crack.
She scrambled to her feet, scanning her surroundings. She swallowed out of fear, and realised there had been blood in her mouth.
She stood in a clearing, surrounded by a circle of towering oaks. The trees had glowing red eyes that dripped blood like hot wax. Katy knew they were weeping for her.
A sound emanated from them: a frequency so low it could not be heard by human ears, but she did not hear it. She felt it. It was so powerful that it rooted her to the spot, made her bones buzz with malevolent energy.
A sustained cracking noise came from behind her: the sound of a knife cutting through cardboard. As she turned to its source, it sounded again, to her right this time, and then again. She looked around the circle of trees, but they were each splitting.
Even in the dim light, she saw the oaks open like iron maidens, and out of the wooden wombs of each, stepped a figure. A shadow. She knew without doubt that they were the source of this primordial force.
She willed her feet to move, but the very force of their being held her in place. She couldn’t even turn her head as the figures started to close in on her. Her nose burned with the smell of them, and as one stepped into a lunar spotlight, she saw that it was covered with blood: its clothes sodden and its skin shining crimson. They were the incarnation of evil, born before her very eyes.
They were all one - all Him - dressed in black and wearing wicked smiles. From behind their backs, each produced a syringe.
The echo of a scream sifted through the trees; Katy only later realised it was her own.
She searched deep within herself and found a dormant incandescent glow. She fuelled it with every iota of her being, and for a moment, the light inside her transcended the force that held her.
She ran forward, shoving one of the figures aside, but as soon as she touched His pale skin, her light dissipated like smoke into the chill air. She stumbled on for a few steps, her head swimming violently, before she felt the forest floor against her cheek again.
She tried to crawl away, but a hand snatched her ankle and dragged her back. She anchored her fingers into the dirt, clawed at a root for purchase, but she barely managed to impede Him. She kicked out with her free leg and felt it connect. He dropped her ankle, and she scrambled in the dirt for a second, before more hands grabbed her.
They dragged her further, and soon her fingers were clawing at vinyl instead of dirt. The light reflecting in the floor was so bright it blinded her for a moment.
The hands finally released her and she rolled to her back. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she found herself in a hospital room.
Father Michaels leaned over her, flicking the tip of his syringe. His lips stretched into that same wicked smile.
‘This won’t hurt a bit.’