“Lemme ask you once more… life or death?”
Its familiar but malevolent gaze was fixated on my eyes which radiated a dying will to live.
My phone rang and vibrated violently on the table top. I lazily got off the cushion and picked up the phone.
“Hey John. When are you gonna be here? Its like half past six already.” Mike phoned me with a frustrated tone.
I was still sluggish after my nap. “Give me a few minutes… I will be there…” I yawned and slammed my phone shut. After putting my trekking gear on and packed the essentials for the adventure afterwards, I ran to the nearby forest which was our meet-up point.
“John.” A pat was sent to my back, a hard one, “always a late one.”
“Look at the time, boys.” Anne was annoyed, “John. You are late for half an hour. How could we make it to see the sunset in time?”
“Cut the crap. Let’s start the hike.” Anne was clearly pissed with me, “If not we won’t make it.”
Mike, Anne and me started the hike. The sky was once clear was shadowed by the boughs of the trees once we entered the forest. Nature was orchestrating a melodious tune into our ears, contours of lights managed to seep through the thick fortress of leaves which flourished the view of the forest, bringing out the biodiversity of the forest in different tones of colours.
The undulated path to the top was filled with rocks and dried leaves. We subsequently needed each other’s help to get through some steep and slippery parts of the forest. I was being helped the most because my physique was not as good as Anne nor Mike.
“Why do I have to get through so much trouble with you.” Mike asked in irritation as he pulled me up from the slope, “again?”
“Haven’t we discussed?” I shot a gaze to Anne.
“Yea…” Mike let out a sigh, “I get it. Just make it snappy, so next time I won’t need to babysit you in all the hikes.”
“Boys… Stop chattering… The day is not showing good signs…” she pointed to the sky.
“Coming.” Mike lifted me up, “Just lending a hand to little Johnny.”
“Hey!” I swept off his hand from my arm, “Don’t call me that.”
“Why not. Johnny.”
“Stop it boys. Let’s hurry.” Anne headed in front of us, “one more thing, stop calling each other by their real names in the forest, we talked about this before right? Mickey?”
“Don’t think you are a girl I won’t lay a finger on you. Annie.”
“Let’s go.” I asseverated.
We continued our journey at a swift pace. I forced myself to move faster even I was incapable of doing so. The little myth about calling each other’s real name in the forest is bona fide because Anne had experienced it before. Anne escaped death when she was nine during a hike with her parents. She nearly slipped and fell to her death when her parents kept calling out her real name in the forest. Consequently, Anne assigned us with our nicknames respectively during our first hike together.
“Nice to meet you… Err…” Anne stammered because she failed to remember my name.
“John.” I extended my hand and beamed.
“Haha.” She brushed her hair which was dangling down on her forehead and shook my hand, “Anne.”
I scrutinised her tall and stout appearance that have an enigmatical radiance which was inexplicable, without a second doubt, I fell for her, hard.
“Mike told me lots bout you. I was curious to see why a nerd wanted to venture into the nature.”
“Need an escape sometimes. Mike also told me how much of a friend you are to him, which also makes me curious. Why aren’t you guys a couple yet?” We giggled.
We were about to enter the national park, I walked beside her. My body build-up was not as fit as hers and she was apparently taller than me by an inch or so which made me felt a sense of security when standing beside her.
“Before entering the forest, we need to assign nicknames to ourselves.”
“Why so?” I asked.
“Just a little myth and prohibition which I believe in. You mind?”
“Nope.” Mike was being reticent because he had to risk not finishing his assignment to bring me out.
“Mickey is Mike. I would be Annie. John would be Johnny. Is that alright?”
“No problem.” My name is like a sissy, Mike will sure tease me.
“Johnny boy, stop flattering, let’s enter the park, it’s getting late.”
Mike led the way leaving Anne and I some space to know more about each other. When he looked at me, I gestured a thank you to him. Both of us began some random chatter. Soon, chattering became imminent in our daily lives.
Anne was a sporty and bonhomie girl, I happened to have a crush on her and Mike was willing to assist me in getting her. Mike and Anne were both close friends since young, so they had no problem nor affairs with each other. Mike and I became best friends since the start of middle school until now, sophomore year in the university.
I picked up my pace to catch up with Anne, leaving Mike alone trailing us from behind.
“Actually… You and Mickey…” my tone was shaky.
“No. But Mickey did confessed to me once, I rejected him.” she answered me with a tinge of anxiety, “its a sure thing that this would happen, both of us accepted and respected each other’s stand which resulted to our unbreakable friendship until now. Its not strange to see a girl have a best male friend nowadays, right?”
“Guys! I found something!” Mike shouted.
“We don’t have time to detour.” Anne replied.
“No! Just come here!”
Both of us marched down steadily and found a mystically formed totem. It was not there when we walked pass the route. However, it appeared off the trail and was quite deep into the forest.
“You thinking what I’m thinking.”
“This is a very bad idea, Mike.” his name accidentally slipped from my mouth.
“Shit. Why did you.” Anne was sweating profusely, her entire forehead started to turn white.
“Sorry. Let’s get outta here.” My intuition was sensing something had gone very wrong. I astutely grabbed Mike’s and Anne’s arm, sprinted back to the path we came from.
The pupil of Anne eyes was switching colours, “Annie! Are you okay?” I shook her vigourously, hoping to shake her back to her senses.
Mike struggled to release himself from my grasp, he was transforming into a beast. I quickly reached for my water bottle and splashed some water onto Mike and Anne. They regained their cognition almost instantaneously.
“What… Happened…?” Mike asked in a worried tone.
“Its… them…” Anne’s voice was distorted.
“Who?” Mike and I asked in unison.
Note: Be ‘hope’-ful for the sequel.