As I hurry through the field, I wonder how autumn arrived without me noticing. All the foliage looks withered or dying. I quicken my pace and make it to the bottom of the field. I don’t dare look back as I push my way though brambles and leap across the brook where Ellie and I used to fish. Poor Ellie. I squeeze through a gap in the tree line, cursing as I notice a growing blob of blood on my arm where a thorn has pierced the skin. The air in the forest hangs heavy from the trees. It feels like I have been swallowed up by the gloom. I take a deep breath, but forget to release it and continue towards the heart of the woods. Twigs snap at me as I move forward. My heart thumps against my ribcage like a lobster in a pot. Nerve-ends scream when I hear footsteps cracking behind me. His footsteps.
I move faster and faster along the path, sunlight blinking at me through the canopy, allowing me glimpses of the way ahead. He is getting closer. When I break into a run, so does he, but I can hear his breathing becoming labored. He makes a throaty sound and bile floods my mouth. I gag and spit on the forest floor. My spine squirms in anticipation of fingers, a touch at my back.
His voices reaches me first. “Aww, now come to Uncle Johnny, Carla. Don’t I always bring my girl a special treat?”
"Nearly there… nearly over," I chant under my breath. “Go away, Uncle Johnny. You hurt Ellie real bad. I’m going to tell.” A sob sprung up from somewhere in my chest.
“Get back here this minute, you little bitch.”
I can hardly breathe as I turn the corner and stop. Despite the covering of leaves, I know it is there. The old bear pit. I skirt round it, then stop and turn. A splintering sound tells me Uncle Johnny is nearly here. Yes. There is his, his huge frame lumbering along the path towards me. Those black eyes peering out from under a furious brow. Finally, he lunges forward with a triumphant look on his face. His hands are outstretched, ready to grab me. But he disappears in a shout of rage and the sound of splitting wood rises from the branches and twigs I used to fill the pit. I scrabble around in the pine needles at the base of a tree and uncover my kit. My fingers fumble with the lid of a can. Soon the smell of petrol fills the air. I swing the container back and forward then stop, allowing the contents to escape. For a moment, the fluid forms a shining arc in the air, then rains down, spattering the dry leaves below. I click the lighter and hold it to my home-made torch. It whooshes to life. I smile as I drop it into the pit.