I dangled for a minute, undecided if I wanted to land in the brambles and get caught in them. But there was nothing for it. We had to get down, and a part of me just didn’t care anymore.
I let go and dropped the few feet to the ground. I stumbled back with a whoa! to hear at the same time echoing voices:
“What are you doing?”
I looked up. For a moment my head felt foggy, unsure, lightheaded. When I focused again I saw Donny looking down at me, kneeling on the wet ground. Then I looked around, because I could have sworn I had heard two voices.
But there was no one else anywhere, at least no one I could see through the mist.
“Is it safe?” she asked.
“Um, yeah,” I answered, unsteadily. I stepped out of the way, stumbling over brambles that caught on my ankles.
She swung herself over the edge.
“Catch me if I fall!” she said. Of course before I could turn around she had already dropped down. She gave a little shriek as I think she almost fell into some thorn bushes. I was still peering ahead, and around us, making sure we were alone.
“I’m stuck!” she said. “I’m stuck!”
I turned around and found her half standing with her sweater stuck to the thorn bush behind her. She looked up at me helplessly.
“This is ridiculous,” she stated. I laughed and walked over to get her out. I began prying her sweater out, while she clung to me for balance.
She lurched forward when she was free. She began brushing dirt and leaves off her pants. I stood still.
I heard it, clearly. And I went lightheaded again.
A chill went up my spine. Because like before, I couldn’t see anyone around us. Everything was still.
“What was that?” Donny asked, slowly.
“Let’s just get out of here,” I said. Suddenly I made a run for it through the brush. Donny was quick to follow. We were like scared deer escaping out of the moor back into the woods.
This forest was more open than the other. The canopy above wasn’t nearly as thick. And it was easier too to dart through the trees, easier to see. Our feet cracked sticks and brushed up dried leaves. I heard Donny breathing fast close behind me. The forest was flat, and with the mist I had no idea where it ended, if it ever did. It swept all around through the trees, in every direction.
“Hey!” Donny yelled and suddenly stopped. I did too and caught myself on a tree. It was far too much running for me in one day.
“What is it?” I gasped out.
“I thought I saw someone running,” she said. I looked up where she was looking. I didn’t see anyone, and apparently she didn’t either. But we watched for a little bit. The mist was steady under the trees, no movement. The day was windless now.
Until two shapes dashed in the distance, hurrying. Two people running.
“Is that…” she started.
“Shh!” I bit out. I didn’t want them to hear us.
They disappeared again into the mist. They were getting ahead of us.
“Come on,” I said. I started at a walk, still catching my breath. Donny came up right beside me. I looked ahead at our path, but her eyes were fixed on where we had seen the shadows. Or our Doubles, as they must have been. But she didn’t see them again, or at least she didn’t tell me.
There was no change in the forest as we walked on, now on edge. Or at least I was on edge. It seemed the Doubles we’re fairly harmless, but the strange echoes and shadows made them seem more like shadows of ourselves than a repeat. It must have just been the mist.
Or that the Double Effect was starting to wear.