That night was just like any other night; silent and desolate. You couldn't hear anything; it was as if the whole town was holding their breath or, dare I say, dead. Things hadn't always been like this but after speculations and spits of gossip had starting flying around the small town, things were no longer the same.
The forest, once booming with life, was now a taboo. Nobody mentioned it and those who did were quickly made to wish they hadn't. It was now seen as stupid and irresponsible to be out in the streets after seen pm, and much earlier in the winter. Children, from a young age, were taught never to go near the forest. They were never told the reason, oh no, they just were told and it had to stick like that.
To be honest, no one really knew the reason why the forest was out of bounds for sure. The truth had been twisted too much over the decades that nobody was too sure.
As time went by, people grew suspicious of what exactly they were being kept from. It was only a matter of time before somebody set forth to discover the answer.
Fast forward ten years on a winter's night. The time was just after eight pm. Over the town, the bright, full moon stood strong and with purpose. As per usual, there was not a soul around to be seen. Other than the cracking of leaves or the howl of a lone wolf, it was silent.
A little boy, no older than ten years of age, slowly crept towards the forest. A group of similarly aged children followed closely behind him.
"Come on, Jack, go in," one of the boys in the crowd hissed at the boy in the front. Judging by the shaking knees and wetting eyes, it was obvious that Jack could not simply 'go in', much to the boy's disappointment. "You can't back out! It was a dare. If you back out, I swear I'll tell my big brother, Jonny, and he'll tell all the other year eights that you're chicken."
"I'm not chicken," Jack whispered, more to himself than to the other boy. You can do this Jack; it's probably just a silly thing the grown-ups made up just to stop us from having fun. Convinced with his excuse, he took a deep breath in, puffed out his chest and walked into the forest.
The other children whooped and hollered aloud until they realised where they were. They fell into dead silence and huddled even closer together. They all watched as Jack walked deeper and deeper into the woods until his body was completely consumed in darkness.
As they had planned, the children started counting to twenty. However, when they had reached twenty, Jack was still to return.
"Maybe we counted too fast," Ellie the only girl in the group, whispered. Her voice was shaking and tears were beginning to build up in her eyes.
"Yeah, that's it," one of the younger boys of the group murmured. The idea seemed to cut it with everybody else. They started counting up again but this time much slower than before but once again they reached twenty without so much as a sound from the forest.
A lot of what if started flying through the children's heads. “What are we going to do about Jack, Rory? What if something's got him? You know, like what mum always told us," Ellie whimpered.
"What if it's a bear-?"
"No, a witch!"
"Shut up!" Rory shouted. As the oldest of the group he had a kind of unspoken authority over the other children. However, if he was honest with himself, he was just as scared as they were. The guilt of sending Jack into those woods was really starting to eat at him. He'd had the chance to call the whole operation off but instead he wanted to impress everyone. Why Jack though, what had he ever done to him? He shook his head as if to clear away the negative thoughts. “He’s probably just playing a trick on us, trying to scare us. You know how Jack is, always the joker."
Even he didn't believe his own words. They all knew how Jack was and he was most certainly not ‘the joker’. That's how he'd gotten himself into this mess in the first place! However, since Rory was the 'adult' in this group, none of the children dared to question or oppose to what he's said.
"We'll just yell to him that we're not playing and then he'll come out and we'll all laugh, yeah?" Rory said, more to himself than anyone else. Even though he wasn't watching them, the children all eagerly nodded and stayed quiet as they waited for Rory's next command. "Come on, Jack! We're not playing anymore, it's cold and we're going so let's go!"