I’m a 27 year old woman now, but I still remember the events of one night of my childhood with vivid detail. What I’m about to tell you about… the experience was life changing. Too much happened to forget it, even if it was eleven years ago. I was 16 at the time. I had just turned 16, to be exact. It was my birthday party.

That night, a simple game of jail break turned into a fight for my life. Jail break is a kid’s game similar to hide and seek. People hide, and people seek. If you’re found and tagged, you’re taken to “jail.” The other people hiding can then tag the “jail” and yell “Jail break!” to free you. The round continues until everyone is imprisoned. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Child's games at a 16 year old's birthday party?

Yeah, well, this was the midnight edition of the game on a large expanse of farm land spotted with patches of forest. Things could get pretty intense. But anyway, the night began like any normal party would. Guests arrived, (7 of my closest friends, I never have been one to like big parties), cake was eaten, presents were opened. Then night came.

There were 14 of us total, as my older 19 year old brother had invited some friends over for the game as well, resulting in 6 girls and 8 guys. We split ourselves into three main teams, two groups consisting of 5 teens, the other of 4. We then waited until midnight, just clowning around by a bonfire my father had started for us. The fire would serve as the “meeting” location between each round of jail break. It was a fun night, expected to be made better by the upcoming game.

Finally, my brother announced it was midnight. The “leader” of each of the three groups played rock paper scissors to see whose team would be “it” first. My team, a group of five, was hiding for the first round. The group of four was seeking, led by my brother. We began the game at 10 past midnight, with directions to meet back at the fire at 1:10AM, if his group couldn't capture everyone.

Immediately, I led my group away from the fire, and told them the quick plan I had come up with. I knew my own land the best, so I’d go solo. I advised the other four to split into groups of two to hide. I knew I was fast, so if anyone got captured, I’d be able to sneak in and free them. I recommended some spots for the four to hide, gave them instructions to text me if they got caught, and left them to find my own hiding place – in the barn.

The barn was about an acre away from where the bonfire was at. I guess I should clarify, the land was no longer an actual “farm.” We’d gotten rid of all the animals except a few horses when I was 11. So, I headed to the unused part of the barn, specifically, the hay loft. I burrowed myself into a small hole in the stacking of hay bales, pulled another bale on top of the hole to cover it, and settled down as comfortably as I could in the tight, cramped space. If you’ve ever played in a barn before, you know what I’m talking about, being in one of the little cubby holes! I knew it would be impossible to find me, as the arrangement of the hay bales was only somewhat neat. No one would know my exact location, unless they searched behind and under every loose hay bale. It was there that I waited out the round.

To save you the boredom of reading about the nothingness that happened as I waited, I’ll skip to 12:45AM. I was cramping up by then, and when I took a quick glance at my phone, I knew it was getting close to the end of the round. I had only received two text messages, one stating that someone on my team was caught, but another one a moment later told me to stay put; someone else was heading to the rescue.

It was 12:52AM when I finally heard someone else enter the barn. I figured it was my brother by the stealthy way I heard the door being opened and shut. I listened quietly as he carefully stepped into the main part of the barn below the hayloft. There were plenty of hiding places down there that I often occupied, so I figured he’d busy himself looking through those. As he walked around beneath me, I noticed not only something odd in his footsteps, but another sound accompanying his steps. He sounded as if he were limping, but the other sound, slightly louder than that made by his feet, was a constant dragging sound. He was carrying something, but what could he possibly be taking with him as he searched for people? And why would he drag it?

I was listening so intently that I jumped, startled because of a thud that resonated through the barn as my brother began his ascent up the stairs to the loft. His footsteps sounded even more off as he climbed the stairs, and the thing he dragged behind him scared me. It sounded heavy, so why would he bother carrying it around…? The object pounded against each stop as he dragged it up, and I tensed with each step he took.

When he reached the top, all sounds stopped for nearly five minutes. He must know I’m here, I remember thinking, assuming. He’s trying to scare me. And boy, it was working!

The footsteps resumed, coming closer to me with each limping stride. The dragging object was muffled by the hay on the floor, but I could still hear it. Seconds passed, but it felt like hours. I remember wondering why my brother hasn’t stopped to search anywhere… he was just walking. But, when he reached my hiding spot, he stopped directly in front of it.

I remember thinking I had left an obvious trail by accident; maybe my arrangement of the bales wasn't as concealing as I had thought. He knew I was there. He was standing right in front of me, I could hear him breathing. I noticed his breathing was off too… it was raspy. I wondered what had happened to my brother to cause him to limp, and to be so… so out of breath.

Then, I heard a soft chuckle. It was that quiet laugh that made me positive the man on the other side of the hay was not my brother. The laugh was too deep, too old sounding, too humorless. Too… too evil.

Then the chuckling abruptly stopped and the man dropped the thing he was carrying. I heard it hit the floor, and bounce slightly off the hay. Hands rustled through the hay, searching for the strings of the bale. They found their target, and the bale moved. I expected the dim moonlight to come leaking in through the cracks in the old barn walls, giving everything a soft glow as the bale was thrown aside. I’d experienced it often enough to know it would happen… but this time… it didn't. My vision stayed black, still pitch dark. I was terrified at that point, and unable to move.

That was when the soft chuckling began again, coming from near the steps of the hayloft. I listened to the laughter, and willed myself to sink further into the hay. Finally, it stopped. My eyes began to adjust to the dim glow I was used to in the barn. I remember sitting still, not moving, unable to move, for what must have been a good 10 minutes. I listened to every tiny sound coming from the barn, waiting for something to shift.

I remember then that I had felt the sudden need to leave the barn, to get out, and get out fast. So that’s what I did. I forced myself to move from my cramped location and stand up cautiously. Once I was up, I felt safer. I could see around me, and I knew I was alone again. I took a step out of my little cubby hole but quickly recoiled. It wasn't the soft touch of hay underneath my sneakered foot I felt. It was something hard. Looking down, I saw a strange shape, but I wasn't too sure what it was. I pulled out my phone and illuminated the object. Gazing down in horror, I scrambled to leave the barn as quickly as-"

Abigail looked up from her computer screen. “Hello?” She said softly into the silence. She waited a moment as she listened for movement, but heard nothing more. She thought she had heard a voice somewhere in the house. She thought maybe her four year old daughter had woken up, or husband was coming to look for her, wondering why she wasn't in bed.

Sighing, she glanced back down at the screen. “Nearly 3:00 AM,” she muttered. “Enough writing for now,” she told herself as a yawn overcame her. She saved her work and shut the laptop off. Standing up, she stretched and headed into the kitchen for a glass of water.

She turned on the tap and let it run for a few seconds, allowing the water to become it’s coldest as she retrieved a mug from the cupboard. She fought off a second yawn and put the cup under the flow of water. She turned off the water, and downed the drink in a few big gulps. Placing the cup gently in the sink, Abigail turned off the lights and headed towards her and her husband’s room. She made a quick stop at the bathroom and went into the room. Without turning on any lights, she stripped down to her undergarments and crawled into bed beside her sleeping husband, who was lying on his side. Drawing close to him, she was already half asleep when she felt-.

“Oh my God, what-…!” She exclaimed. Her husband’s back was wet, drenched, in water or sweat or something. She turned away and flipped on the bedside lamp and, rubbing her eyes with one hand and shaking her husband with the other, attempted to wake him up. But that’s when she saw. Her husband’s back wasn't soaked in water, it was red. His nightshirt was stained with…

“Blood,” she whimpered to herself. The entire bed had traces of it everywhere. The woman literally fell out of bed and stumbled towards the phone on the other side of the room. Picking it up, she dialed 911 as quickly as possible. Stammering, she spoke into the phone, explaining what she had just found. She gave her name and address and hung up with shaking hands.

Then she heard it: a limping gait with an object being dragged behind. The sound was coming down the hallway, towards her room, and was all too familiar.

“Oh my God…,” she whispered. She ran to the door and groped for the handle, trying to lock it. Moments before the lock could be turned, the door flung open.

Standing directly in front of her was a man, or a figure of a man. He was all black, as if bathed in shadow, though light was cast directly on him, and he resembled the shape of a human but he had no distinguishable features. His breath was raspy and shallow, and in his right hand, he carried the same object the young woman had seen and nearly been killed with on the night of her 16th birthday party. It was an axe. The sharp edge was stained red, and the majority of the handle was damp with blood, just like the night of her party, the night her brother had been found dead.

She was frozen in place. The soft chuckling emerged from the man, just like it had eleven years ago. " He raised the axe and swung.  "Welcome to hell." σκιά, the man, whispered. He decapitated her. σκιά then carved a certain sentence in her stomach.