He grabbed his phone with his whole fist and tore it from his pocket. It was upside down; he flipped it quickly in his hand. No, shit, it was right the first time. His thumb was swiping furiously from the bottom edge and it wasn’t working. “God fucking-“ the flashlight icon finally appeared and he jabbed at it. All he could see was his own breath frozen and floating away. He pointed the light higher.
He panned the light quickly left, then right.
There was definitely no one here but him.
He waited for his breathing to return to normal, an excuse he made to himself so he could take more time scanning the trail around him with the light. The thin forest continued to reveal everything that they were hiding: nothing.
This was ridiculous, he told himself. He’d already wasted too much time. He turned off the light and started running down the trail again. It wasn’t quiet, but he’d lost precious seconds by stopping and he wasn’t about to miss it just because he was losing his shit. His eyes had adjusted, the moonlight wasn’t enough to show him the crooked root that snaked across the trail to catch his foot.
His face hit the ground before he even knew what was happening, which was understandable because tripping and falling wasn’t the scariest thing to happen to him in that second.
He definitely saw someone. Someone was standing in the middle of the trail right in front of him.
His palms were scraped, knees bruised, and there was definitely blood on his face, but he felt none of it. His hands grasped at the dirt trying to remember how to push himself up. It felt like an hour since he had tripped, but he knew it was only seconds. He managed to lift his head out of the gravel and look up to the figure looming above him in the dark, silhouetted against the moonlight hiding what could only be the most sinister of intentions.
But the only things looming above him were the treetops. And they were about as far from sinister as it gets.
His phone was buzzing in his pocket and a rivulet of blood ran down his cheek.
Suddenly, as if the blood had just rushed back in, everything hurt at once. There were chunks of rocks and bark stuck in his hands’ newest grooves. His ankle felt like his foot might be facing the wrong direction. He rolled over and sat up to inspect the fallout. All his appendages were attached correctly and they all worked, but not without complaint. He’d be able to walk but not run. There was no way he was going to make it in time now.
His phone finally became still. If he was missing it, he had no reason to answer now. This just became an entirely different ballgame.
He got to his feet carefully, propping himself against a skinny, dead pine tree on the edge of the trail. They were definitely not going to be happy with him, which meant they were no longer his friends. He took the phone out of his pocket and without looking at the screen, threw it as far as he could into the trees. It hit something with a thwack and he wiped the blood away from his eye.
This is going to be a lot harder than I expected, he thought as he started walking, no, hobbling back the way he came.
Someone tall stood where he had fallen, one of their heavy black boots standing in the divot left by his face. They silently watched him walk away from the worst mistake of his life.