Peer Review by Tofu(づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ (Canada)

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The Third Shadow

By: nimah!

PROMPT: Open Prompt

// One //
“Estelle, hurry up!” Lillia shouted from downstairs, her voice ringing through the house.
“I’m coming,” I yelled back, carrying two large boxes filled with camping supplies. I took them to to the glossy mahogany table, and dropped them with a loud thump.
“Well, finally, Estelle,” Lillia huffed, feigning annoyance. I nudged her with my shoulder and with a slight smirk, said, “Come on, Lillia, you know you love me.” She rolled her eyes, but gave me a small smile.
“Your mom knows I’m staying for dinner, right?” Lillia asked, a hint of worry lacing her voice. I was about to answer her when my mother stepped in the dining room, her arms crossed. She was still wearing her hot pink bathrobe covered in white bunnies and her frog slippers. I silently facepalmed myself, but knew Lillia couldn’t care less, considering we had been friends since preschool and we were now in our junior year.
“Of course I know, Lily. But the question is if your mom knows?” my mother answered, arching an eyebrow and acting strict. I knew she was just messing around with Lily, but sometimes my mother’s humor was hard to spot.
Lillia’s face blushed in embarrassment, and she looked at her feet when she said, “No, she doesn’t know. But she does know that me and Estelle are probably packing. I’ll go call her.” She then got up from the table and headed to the kitchen where our phone was.
My mother was still leaning against the wall when she told me, “Estelle Rosa Walker, if only you were as considerate about your mother like Lily is.” She then giggled like a little girl, and came over to ruffle my hair. I was about to swat her hand away, but then thought better of it. In a few years, I’ll be off to college and she’ll be alone. Again.
My father’s death was the hardest thing to get over for my mother. I knew she was breaking inside, but somehow always managed to put a brave face in front of me. And then she acted like I couldn’t hear her sobbing loudly in her room when she thought I was fast asleep.
For the first days, she refused to do anything. Eat, sleep, talk. Nothing. It was almost as if her soul had been sucked out, and a ghost had replaced her. Someone who didn’t love me, or even know me for who I am. And I hated her for leaving me when I needed her the most.
And then one day, she woke up with a bright smile on her face, and acted as if nothing had happened and life was normal. As if there was no reason for us to mourn anymore. As if there was no reason to believe my father and her husband had ever existed.
But all the hate for her disappeared when I realized just how hard it was on her, and for the first time in my life I saw what my mother did for me without a blindfold over my eyes.
After my father’s death, there was barely any money for the two of us to survive. We barely made it every week, and so that’s when my mom decided she would work two jobs. I barely saw her anymore, except the weekends. Her first job was from five in the morning to noon. And her second one was from two p.m. to around 11 o’clock at night.
At the time, I thought she had taken on two jobs to distance herself from me. Because she didn’t feel the need to love me anymore because my father was dead. But only later did I realize she took on two jobs to build me into a strong woman and provide me with everything I would need to do that.
That was all two years ago. Things have changed since then. Now, my mom only works one job during regular hours, and to chip in I work as a librarian after school and get around five dollars an hour. My mom snapped her fingers in front of me, and only then did I realize that I had zoned out.
Lillia walked back into the room, and plopped into one of the chairs. She smiled at the both of us and said, “My mom’s fine with me staying for dinner. And Ms. Walker? She said to send you her love.”
I chuckled. Just like Lillia and I had been best friends for the longest time, our mothers went way back. I started unpacking one of the boxes I had brought downstairs, and stuffed some of the essentials into my duffel bag. “Don’t forget your socks!” Lilia reminded me, as I am notorious for leaving socks out of my packing list. I immediately grabbed a few pairs and shoved them in so I knew I didn’t forget them.
“How much food we should take?” I asked my mother. “I already packed it, it’s in the picnic basket,” she answered. My mother, knowing that the both of us ate like pigs, had probably packed the whole fridge.
Even though we were only staying at the campsite overnight, we probably could go for a few midnight snacks. We had only been to the campsite once to check it out and we were warned by a ranger in the woods that it was very quiet and a bit eerie at night because people rarely camped this far out.
We took a break from packing and wolfed down our dinner. Then my mom dropped Lily off at home while I finished packing. I left a few essentials such as my hairbrush, toothbrush, and deodorant which I would still need to use that night. But other than that, I was packed and ready for a relaxing weekend at Camp Pajarita.
// Two //
The next morning, my mom drove Lillia and I to the campsite which looked beautiful in the early morning. There was a slight chill in the air, so I wrapped my arms around myself and looked around.
In the middle of the forest, there was a huge clearing obviously set up to be used by campers. Surrounding the clearing on all sides, were trees of all kinds. There were tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I could hear a few small noises, such as people talking by the river that ran through the back of the woods. Other than that, it was completely silent.
“This is quieter than any campsite I’ve been to before,” Lillia whispered, almost scared to break the silence. I waved her off, though I was thinking almost the same thing. By the look on my mother’s face, I could tell she was having second thoughts about leaving two sixteen year olds alone in the woods for a night.
“Mom, we’ll be fine,” I said, as I passed Lillia one of our duffel bags filled with our camping equipment. “Your phone is charged, right?” my mother asked, worrying again. “Yes, you can leave now. We’ll be just fine, don’t worry.”
I saw her face fall, then gave her a hug. “We’ll be fine. I promise. We won't do anything stupid. Right, Lily?” I asked. “Definitely, Ms. Walker. But don’t worry, we’ll call you if we need anything.” Mom gave us one more look before she climbed into our blue Jeep, and sped off on the dirty trail.
Around five hours later, Lillia and I had put up our tent and had finished unpacking. We were currently eating s’mores by the fire, and telling stories about our funny lives. “Remember that one time in first grade when you peed your pants from excitement when Ms. Kuntz said Santa was going to come to our classroom?” Lillia giggled, dropping her s’more in the process of trying to catch a breath.
“Karma,” I laughed back, “Well, remember when I chased you into the boys bathroom and you slipped on pee?” Lillia rolled her eyes, then the smile fell from her face, and she gave a nervous giggle. “Um, Esty?” Lillia asked.
“I’ve got to pee.”
I sighed, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have had three bottles of mango juice.”
“Hey, mangos are my weakness,” she replied defensively.
“I’m pretty sure we passed one on the way here. It might be a five minute walk, though. Do you want me to come?”
“I’ll be fine. Which way was it again?” she asked sheepishly.
I pointed her towards the bathrooms, and she left. Personally, I didn’t feel comfortable letting her go alone because it was nearing night time, and the sky was darkening quickly. I checked the time on my phone. Exactly 6:00 p.m. She should be back by at least 6:15. I decided I would take this as an opportunity to clean up, so I picked up our plates and forks and threw them away.
By the time I was finished cleaning up the campsite and making our beds for when it was time to sleep, it was already 6:30. I started worrying, so I called Lillia on her phone. I heard a small buzzing noise from our tent, only to realize she had left her phone in the tent. I sighed. Sometimes that girl could be extremely careless.
I decided to go search for her. I grabbed my jacket I had taken off earlier from the warm weather, and put it on. I grabbed both of our phones, in case Lily needed hers. I started walking on the thin trail, my feet feeling as if they were getting sliced from the sharp rocks beneath me.
In a few minutes, I reached the bathroom, but there was no sign of Lily. She had been here, though, because I could see she had left her bright blue scrunchie. I picked it up, just in case Lily needed it later. I squeezed it into my pocket, and decided to head back to our campsite. After all, Lily might have already been on her way there when I came.
There was just one thought that kept tugging at my brain for attention, yet I refused to listen to it. If Lillia had headed back towards the campsite, I would have met her there on the trail. There was no way she could have taken any other route, and I was one hundred percent sure she hadn’t because she didn’t know any other way back to our campsite.  But I pushed that thought away, I wanted to think positive. Except in a situation like this, that seemed impossible.
I stepped out of the bathroom, and onto the trail. There was no way I was to find Lillia if I stuck to the trail. Bounding towards the woods alongside the trail, I stopped in my tracks when I heard a scream. A shrill, high-pitched scream where I knew anywhere.
I rushed east, the direction I heard the scream in, and didn’t stop running until I couldn’t breathe. Night was creeping in silently and the sky had turned a dark shade of purple. Stars were starting to appear alongside the moon. Soon it would be dark, meaning either I found Lily, or I was going to be spending the night alone.
I put my hand against a tree trunk, and leaned against  it, an attempt to catch my breath. When my breath came out, it turned white, indicating that it was going to start getting colder in a bit. I frowned. This wasn’t how our vacation was supposed to go. At all. It was supposed to be perfect.
The wind rustled the leaves, and I grabbed my arms and shivered from the cold. It felt as if my mood had dropped from sky high to rock bottom in just a matter of days. The fear was growing in me like a forest fire. It was becoming more and more fierce by the second. Whatever was out there, and had taken Lillia was no friend. It was playing to kill. Only a day ago, everything was perfect. Now everything was a mess. I was lost.
// Three //
I woke up leaning on a tree, by arm covered in its sticky sap. Slapping myself mentally, I got up and headed towards the campsite. When I got there, it was a wreck. Our chairs were strewn all over the dirt, and our picnic basket had been torn. All the food was gone. The tents had been ripped to shreds, leaving the poles in their place.
I couldn’t help but think that our whole vacation had been ruined, even if Lillia was still missing. I felt guilty for thinking that way when an idea hit me that I should have thought of much earlier. I pulled out my cell phone, and dialed my mom’s phone number. Putting the phone to my ear, I jumped in alarm when a loud vibration sounded. I looked down at my phone, only to find an alert that read: Alert! Your phone has two percent remaining. Save battery or use?
I groaned inwardly, and put my phone back into my pocket. Could this situation not have gotten any worse? I pulled out Lily’s phone, only to realize I had no idea what her password was. I gave up eventually, and slumped against a nearby tree, losing all hope.
The silence was broken by a loud ringing coming from Lily’s phone. My eyebrows furrowed in confusion when I saw an “unknown number” listed as the caller’s name. I decided there was nothing to lose when I picked up the phone, and brought it to my ear.
“Hello?” There was silence on the other side. “Hello?” I repeated uncertainty.  There was a loud crackling noise on the other side of the phone, then a loud thud. “Esty?” A wave of relief washed over me as I answered. “Where are you, Lillia? I’ve been looking for you for hours. Where’d you disappear last night?”
“I don’t have much time, Estelle. I just knocked him out cold. He’ll be back up any minute, I’m by the river,” she paused, “But Esty? Don’t come looking for me. Get out of here, as fast as you can, and don’t look back. Call your mom, and get out of here. Now.” I could hear the desperate pleading in her voice, imaging the puppy dog eyes she would be giving me right now, and sighed.
“Lily, look. I’m going to call my mom, and tell her to bring the police. You’ll be fine, you hear me? I’m going to call my mom and she’ll be on her way. I’m bringing food and water to you right now. But, whatever you do, do not move. At all.”
“No! Estelle, don’t you dare move from there- he’ll find you. Stay where you are and remember-”
Lily was cut off by the sound of a knife being sharpened and a shrill scream similar to the one I had heard the night before. I was about to hang up when I heard the gruff, low voice of a man. The two words that he said scared me. Little did I know that two little words had so much power.
“You’re next.”
I could feel a shiver running down my spine, as my hands started shaking as I dialed my mom’s number from Lily’s phone. It rang three times before I was asked to leave a message. Then I called my aunt, still no reply. My friend, Araneda, and she picked up.
“Hello?” she asked, “Who is this?”
“It’s me, Estelle, and I’m in a big problem right n-” I started, only to be interrupted by my talkative friend. “Aren’t you supposed to be on that annual camping trip thing you do with Lily?” If I could punch her right now, I’m pretty sure I would. “Araneda, just let me explain first. Lillia’s in trouble, and my mom’s not picking up the phone, and I need the cops here as soon as possible, you understand me?”
“What’d you say? My brother’s being really loud right now. Hold on for two seconds, okay?”  I sighed loudly, as I heard Araneda yelling for her mom. Then, I heard her mom say something along the lines of getting off the phone.
“Sorry, Estelle, I’ve got to go to piano practice. I’m kinda busy right now, so I’ll call you back in a bit, okay?” Before I could respond, she hung up on me, leaving me alone.  
I wanted to pull my hair out from frustration, but refrained, knowing it knowing it would only make matters worse. I dropped both cell phones near the area where our duffel bags were, they were useless now anyways. I grabbed the flashlight, Swiss Army knife, and bottle of water and headed towards the river, the place Lillia said she was.
It was eerily quiet at the river, even more than usual. From the past day I learned that Camp Pajarita was a usually quiet campsite, but it still had natural noises like birds chirping or people laughing in the distance. But by the river there was nothing. Not a single whisper of the wind or chirp of a bird.
I walked alongside the raging river, the mud near it making a loud squishing noise. Other than that, the forest was silent. Dead silent. Almost as if every living creature had been wiped of its existence.
“Lillia?” I called, my voice echoing through the forest, “Are you there?” I waited for a response, but the seconds ticked by leaving me in silence once again. When the unknown number had called me, Lillia told me to stay away from the river. And then there was that mysterious voice telling me I was next. Just thinking of that raspy voice made a shiver run down my spine.
Across the river, I noticed a small wooden shack almost invisible due to the large trees surrounding it. There was only one way to get across the river, and it didn’t look safe. A rickety, wooden bridge missing most of its planks. I took a deep breath, and decided that if I was lived through all of this, I would reward myself with my favorite McCafe Mango Pineapple Smoothie.
I took one step onto the bridge, and could already feel it starting to sway. As I took my second step, one of the wooden planks broke in half. I screamed, and reached out for some type of support- only to find none. There were no handles or railing on the bridge, so if I fell, I would fall to my death.
I took a deep breath. I could do this. I closed my eyes and walked the rest of the bridge, occasionally stumbling because of a missing plank or two. Finally, I had made it. I walked about three yards to get to the shack. Now that I was closer, it looked much smaller than it had from far away, though it would be very generous to call it a shack. It looked more like large slabs of wood clumsily nailed to each other.
I knocked on the door, and was rewarded with a splintered knuckle. I waited about a minute, and just as I was about to walk away- the door swung open. I started my speech that I had been rolling in my head since I decided that I was going to go after Lily.
I closed my eyes, and said in a formal voice that didn’t seem like mine, “Hello, my name is Estelle and I’m looking for my friend Lily. Have you seen her?” I looked up to see who I was talking to, and I felt like a piece of ice had been put down my throat. It was her. Lillia.
“Lily!” I exclaimed, pulling her into a tight embrace and didn’t feel like ever letting go. If I did, God knew the next time I would be able to hold her again. I pulled away and looked up at her face- she didn’t look like herself. Her hair was a mess, and there were dark circles underneath her eyes. On top of that, her face was as pale as snow- and her fingernails had dark red gunk under them.
I cupped Lily’s face in my palms and started sobbing. “Don’t you ever do that to me again, you hear me? You scared me to death, Lillia!” I hugged her again, and this time my hands went to the small of her back. I felt a cold metal object- it could only be one thing. A knife. I could feel the warmth leave my hands, there was a knife in Lillia’s back.
“Lily?” I whispered. She didn’t answer. A single tear made its way to the corner of her mouth, and she came close to me. I could hear her uneven breathing, making my ear tickle.
I saw a glimpse of the murderer’s face. It looked familiar. And then it hit me- it was my father’s. It was his face. I felt like a cold chill had taken over my body, and I felt numb all over. I had to be hallucinating, my father was dead. He had been dead for twelve long years.
I heard a gasp come from Lillia’s mouth. Then, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she collapsed, her body going limp. “Lillia,” I whispered, choking on my tears. My Lily was gone- dead. And she wasn’t ever coming back.
I saw a long spear at the far right side of the shack from the corner of my eye. I looked up, only to lock eyes with the person who I cried long days and weeks for. The person that sucked all of the happiness from my mother. The person I loved, and waited for every single night after his death.
And after all of those years, here he was. Finally. Instead of my heart softening, adrenaline started pumping through my veins. My rage started burning through me like a fire. And there was one thing I knew for sure. An unkempt fire meant trouble.
// End //

Peer Review

A chilling and scary story that will definitely shock you at the end.

The interaction between the characters. I like how the writer doesn't always use she said, or he said.

Is the narrator male or female?

Reviewer Comments

I love your story. Please keep writing! (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧