CHAPTER 1

The flowers were bloomed, the grass and trees a beautiful shade of green.

The sky wasn't as clear as earlier, some clouds slowly approaching the sun that I could feel beaming down on me; sweat sliding down against my face. It was the beginning of March and today was the hottest day we had in awhile, my stray curls plastered to my sweaty forehead as they loosened out of my pony tail.

I set up paper plates along the folded tables with plastic forks and knives.

My mom and I helped cook plenty of food to feed the homeless the last couple of days. This was something we did every other month. We prepared plenty of chili, salad and canned vegetables.

I love helping people, especially the homeless.

I was surprised with how many were helping, even some kids from my school. Although I didn't know most that showed up, it was nice seeing so many go out of their way to help out.

I wish Chelsea were here, but she's grounded for sneaking out with Chris Cooke, a boy she met two weeks ago.

The sun glistened against the nearby lake as the odd breeze blew by making the long grass sway. It was a nice place to set up, the spot we always chose between Lakeside Ln. and Annabelle Dr.

My eyes scanned around, looking for Gregg. He was one of the homeless people I made sure to invite that I'd became friends with five or six months ago.

There was about ten homeless people sitting on some folding chairs, waiting patiently, including a mother with her son and daughter who were about eight and ten―the girl had long, blond, matted hair. The boy had dark, shoulder length hair that stuck up in different directions. They looked a lot alike; big, brown eyes and rosy cheeks with button noses and slender faces.

They are only little kids, I thought sadly.

I sighed, trying not to look over there too much as I finished setting the table.

Suddenly, I felt hands pressed against my hips. I spun around to find my boyfriend, Joshua smiling.

Joshua Buckley is totally hot with his brown eyes and dirty blonde hair that was always highlighted and pushed back. He has the face and body like a model. It would be silly to say that he doesn't know it―he definitely is aware of his good looks.

I've known him since middle school, but it had been about four months ago when we started to hangout. We went exclusive on Christmas.

He held onto me, soon pressing his lips to mine, the pack of paper plates I held were now awkwardly between us.

I felt his lips part as we shared a long, gentle kiss. When I started to pull away he only held me tighter, making his lips press more firmly against mine.

I turned my head laughing. "Josh―stop."

He kissed my cheek, smiling. "I love kissing you."

"You have a couple more folding tables to pull out." I looked around, feeling my cheeks grow hot as I caught a few stares. "And people are staring."

"Let them stare." he said before pressing his lips to mine again.

I pulled away with a laugh. "Okay, that's enough―save it for later."

"I can't help myself." He said with his arms still around me. "You look so damn good in that yellow tank top―it brings out your sexy curves."

"Stop." I giggled.

"Isabelle Hart!" I heard my mom call.

I quickly pulled away and spotted my mom standing across the field near her blue Nissan that was parked to the side of Annabelle Dr.

I passed the rest of the paper plates to my Aunt Carol before jogging my way over towards my mom as she stood there, talking on the phone.

I look nothing like my mom; her hair red, mine dark brown; her eyes green, mine brown; her lips thin, mine full; her face narrow, mine round―she's also thinner than me. We both stood about five-four with ridiculously curly hair―oh how I hate my curls. Why couldn't I have gotten my mom's thin body and my dad's straight, perfect hair?

My dad. I've been told that I look more like him. He died in a car crash when I was three. I don't really remember him so I can't say that I miss him, but I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have him in my life.

I came to a stop, standing by my mom. "Hey, mom―what's up?"

She quickly pulled her cell phone away. "I think we are going to need more paper plates. Could you run to the store and get some?"

I nodded. "Sure."

She kissed my head, handing me her car keys. "Thank you, honey."

"Have you seen Gregg at all today?" I asked.

She shook her head in response before talking into her phone again.

Where is Gregg? I wondered.

I drove along Annabelle Dr. that lead straight down to Fairview Dr, the busiest road here in Screamville as it's one of the main roads people around here use to get to the nearby stores.

I thought about Gregg again as I started to get closer and closer towards Red Forest.

I've grown up here in Screamville so I've heard all the stories and Red Forest is the place mostly everyone around here feared, especially after dark.

Rumors are that these woods take on a life of their own during the night and anyone who dares to step foot there after dark may never return. It's said to be the place where the witches had their secret gatherings over one hundred years ago until mostly all of them were hung and burned at the stake, Red Forest now haunted by their spirits.

I rolled my eyes to that thought.

Haunted.

It's where Gregg has his camp set up. I've been in that forest plenty of times to bring him canned food and water. Not once did I see any... ghosts. Although, he has a few interesting stories about his nights spent in that forest...

But I never believed his silly stories. I'm sure he always had fun telling them, so I'd kindly listen.

I kept my eyes out for Gregg, Fairview Dr. Was usually where he'd stand with a sign: Please give me work. I'll do almost anything.

He wasn't anywhere to be seen. I sighed.

Maybe he forgot about today. I will pop over and remind him before going to the store, I decided.

I parked near Red Forest. I unbuckled my seatbelt and then climbed out of the car. I closed the door shut as I heard other cars drive by.

Clouds started to cover the sun, the trees swaying with the light breeze that blew by as I started walking towards the forest, soon entering through the shadowy trees.

I could smell the pine trees that soon surrounded me while birds chirped from a distance.

Two squirrels rushed up a tall tree when they spotted me, hearing their little claws dig into the bark of the mossy tree-trunk with their loud chitters.

I awkwardly walked over thick tree roots sticking out of the ground. If I would have known I would be walking through a forest today, I wouldn't have chose sandals.

This forest is very big, even I've never been all through it―not even halfway. A lot of bodies have been found here in this forest. Some say that's why it's called Red Forest―because of all the blood that has been spilled here.

I felt a cold chill roll down my spine to that thought. I tried not to think about the terrifying things that happened in this forest―or in this town in general.

A lot of bad things happen here in Screamville. From people who claim forest, woods and homes to be haunted, to killers shedding innocent blood ―whether it be for revenge or a sick thrill.

Another chill rolled down my spine.

I never let these disturbing stories take over my mind―so then why am I now starting to shake―why am I suddenly having the sudden urge to get the hell out of here?

All of a sudden I heard thuds and cracks of twigs on the ground. I froze, my neck snapping toward the direction the sounds were coming from.

It sounded like someone running.

My heart raced.

I listened to the loud thuds drift off farther and farther away until I could no longer hear them anymore as I stood there.
What―or who was that? I wondered.

I took in a slow, deep breath before exhaling.

No point in turning around now, I'm almost to Gregg's camp.

I quickly continued my way through the forest.

The faster I get to his camp, the faster I can leave.

It seemed the deeper I went into the forest, the darker it got.

After a few minutes, I started to smell something awful. The closer I got to his camp, the stronger the smell became―it was a rotten smell. I never smelt anything that bad in my life.

When I finally approached his camp, that's when I realized where the smell was coming from―at least ten dead squirrels hung on a line, no doubt Gregg's usual dinner.

But I've been here plenty of times and his dead squirrels never smelt that bad. He usually cooked them long before they smelt so bad.

"Gregg?" I called out. "You around?"

No answer.

Something isn't right, I started to realize as the hair stood on the back of my neck.

My heart raced as I stood there looking around.

His old, faded green tent was setup in the same spot along with his fire pit. There were closed, white grocery bags that hung on another line with some of his items inside.

Nothing seemed out of place, but that still didn't stop the very bad feeling I was having.

I made my way over toward his tent and unzipped it, poking my head inside. I hoped Gregg would be in there sleeping, but there was only a pillow with a flashlight half tucked underneath, a few blankets, a red backpack.

I sighed, zipping his tent back up.

Where is he?

Then I looked over at his grocery cart that had a dirty sheet tossed over it―deep red blotches socked into the sheet that made me do a double take. Then I noticed something dripping from under the cart.

As I made my way closer to the cart, that sickening smell got even stronger. I started to gag and quickly covered my nose and mouth with one hand

My heart raced faster.

After a few moments, I was then standing by the cart, staring...

My eyes widened to the realization.

Blood.

With a trembling hand, I grabbed hold of the sheet. I hesitated and realized I was holding my breath. I slowly breathed out. I'm not sure how long I stood there before I finally mustered up the courage to pull the sheet away—slowly, revealing the worn out white sneakers I recognized.

No.

I realized it was attached to a body and I instantly felt sick. I didn't want to reveal anymore and quickly let go of the sheet, my entire body trembling now.

Moments after I let go of the sheet, a huge gust of wind blew by, lifting it up and revealing what I didn't want to see.

The dead body now fully exposed.

"Noooo!" I moaned.

Gregg. Poor, poor, Gregg. So much blood matted his long, gray hair as more blood continuously trickled down his face―his stomach sliced open, his white t-shirt covered in so much blood as his body was bent and twisted in a sickening way. It was clear someone put a lot of effort in cramming this full sized man in that cart.

His mouth hung open as his lifeless, brown eyes stared at me. I slowly backed away before quickly spinning around, soon running full speed away from the horrible scene.

It took me a few moments to realize I was still screaming as that horrifying image kept playing in my mind over and over.

An image I knew that would forever haunt me.