Humans are not born evil; they are taught how to be.
Twelve-year-old Blake ran with his sister as though he was on fire. And he wasn't about to stop. He gave a quick glance over his right shoulder. He couldn’t tell if his father was still following. The darkness veiled the neighboring houses and buildings. Shadows from streetlights danced like demonic figures, playing tricks on his mind. He was familiar with the area of Ketchikan, Alaska, yet it all felt strange now. He was unsure of where to go, where to hide, and where to keep himself and his sister safe. It was as though his mind had been turned to sand. The more he ran, the more his panic squeezed his mind of the familiarity.
Blake could barely see two feet in front of him. With the cold air whipping violently about his face, his medium-length, shaggy, dark brown hair kept falling into his eyes. He could feel Kitty’s hand slip from his, and then like a ship's anchor, she slumped to the ground. Unwillingly, he stopped. Huffing and heaving in gulps of air, he gave her a ‘get up now’ look.
But all she could do was cry. Her bare feet were cut and bleeding, her heart was racing, and with the loss of her mother, it was all too much for seven-year-old Kitty Stevenson. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw her dad shooting her mother in the back of her head, and then aggressively turning the gun on her. If it wasn’t for Blake, she’d have been dead. He had pushed her out of the way, grabbed her roughly, and bolted out of the house with her in tow.
It was pitch-black, and Blake didn’t know where he was going. He thought about finding someone to ask for help, but he didn’t want to chance stopping. He knew how mad his father was, and that it would only be a matter of time before he’d catch them. He took the opportunity to scan the area for a safe hiding place—at least until the morning, he thought.
All the houses looked derelict in the middle of the night. He saw one with lights on. He considered ducking in there until he saw the two large dogs looming behind the fence. Glancing up, he could see nothing but an inky sky with very few stars. He looked in every direction, and aside from a few houses and a local trailer park, there was nowhere to go. Except for the Tongass Forest, which he was deathly afraid of. He weighed his options. Be shot and killed, or go into the woods and face his fears.
He practically dragged Kitty to her feet and started toward the forest. The area he lived in, just outside of town, had access to the forest. He didn’t have time to listen to her begging for him to stop, and the resistance she put up wasn’t enough to slow him.
When he reached the forest, he hesitated for a moment and fixated on the darkened trees. He imagined them to be screaming, with outstretched limbs waiting for him to enter and be chewed up and swallowed by the monsters that lived within them. He took a few involuntary steps backward, but before he could scramble away from the forest, he heard his father yelling for them both. He had no choice but to enter into the wooded passages of doom.
He managed a few hundred yards and was partway up the mountain, deep in the thick of the trees, when unexpectedly a rifle shot sounded from behind him and a sharpness penetrated the base of his skull. Within seconds of the pain blasting through his head, his sight vanished, and he fell to the ground. Darkness temporarily shrouded his mind.
“I see you, boy. I got ya now!” Logan bellowed aggressively.
Kitty felt her body being pulled downward, and she heard the loud noise of the gunfire. Blake's warm blood splattered across the left side of her face and down her arm. When she hit the cold ground of the forest floor, she could only gasp with wide-open eyes at the body of her brother lying in a fast-pooling puddle of blood.
“Get up. Blake, please get up!” She tugged on his arm, pulling and pushing at him. Unable to process everything, she shuddered hard while tears soaked her face. Giving up, she lay down next to Blake, and then jumped when he moved. She looked directly into his face, searching for more signs of life. In the dark, she couldn’t see much of anything and thought she had imagined his movements. Then it happened again, and a tiny whisper escaped Blake’s blood-caked lips. She leaned forward more to hear him.
“Run, Kitty, run! Run now!”
Kitty burst into tears again and desperately shook Blake.
“Please, Blake, I can’t do this on my own. Get up. Please!” When he didn’t answer her, she felt alone and disheartened. With watery eyes, she turned around when a noise startled her from behind. She knew her father was coming. The hairs on her arms and the back of her neck bristled, and she shivered. With a final desperate look at Blake, she got herself up and rushed through the trees as fast as she could.
Her thinking was distorted, and with every sound she heard she wanted to scream. She was beyond petrified. The noise of birds taking flight from her rushing feet made her jump, and the leaves crunching under her bare feet startled her. Every sound had her on edge. She didn’t dare look back, even when she heard her father calling after her.
Her feet slipped outward on the wet fall leaves as she pushed her way through the darkness, the cold evening air shocking her throat and lungs as she inhaled deeper and faster. With each footfall, jarring pains shot up her legs, threatening to make her fall. Kitty grew paler than winter snow, and a tightness in her chest leaped out and squeezed the air she inhaled like a sponge. But she kept going, pushing through the burning of her lungs.
Out of breath, she finally couldn’t move anymore. She stopped, and this time she took a look over her right shoulder and listened for telltale signs of movement. Unable to discern any, all she could hear were her brother’s last words—‘Run, Kitty, run!’ She got moving again and picked up her pace. She could feel the wind blistering her lips, burning her eyes, and whipping her long, black hair around like a blow dryer.
She flung her arms around vigorously, brushing the branches and overhanging leaves clear. Her bleeding feet ached and made her feel like she was running on shards of glass. Her little pink nightdress, clinging to the left side of her body, was soaked in her brother's blood. The right side of it flared and flapped about as she raced through the trees, and dirty leaves smeared across her sweaty face as perspiration dripped from her matted hair. Throwing herself forward with even greater abandon, she continued to increase her speed. She pushed forward through the pain, and her feet became numb and gave her a little respite. They took on a life of their own and carried her away, deeper into the vast forest.
She wasn’t sure if her father was still following her, and she didn’t want to stop and find out. The loss of her mother and brother were almost too much to bear. She needed to take another breather, so she stopped and got behind some trees. The gnarled bark blended with her, camouflaging her, and her dark brown eyes fixed on the way she had run. Her breathing became faster, and she feared she was making too much noise. Kitty tried to be quieter and pretended she was playing a game of hide-and-seek.
It helped, and when her breathing was calmer, she snuck a peek out from behind the tree. But she couldn’t see anything. She stayed put, rigid as a statue, and waited. A short while passed, and then she heard hurried footsteps crunching leaves and twigs beneath what sounded like Bigfoot feet. She held her breath and stayed as still as she could.
When she could hear her father’s unmistakable breathing, she almost let out a scream. She pushed her body into the tree, trying to merge with it while her eyes roamed wildly left and right. Kitty could feel her heart pushing tightly against her tiny ribs. Her mind wished for her father to just go away. The closer he got, the more she began to panic.
But her brother's voice again kept her focused. “Run, Kitty, run!'” She didn’t dare move, as he was too close now. She had to wait for him to pass her by. When he was only a hairsbreadth away, she felt her top lip suck inward and tremble as her tears began to flow. She held her breath again, this time harder and longer, and refused to sniff up the fast-spilling wetness from her nose. With one hand, she smeared the dampness across her upper lip, being extra careful not to make a single sound. With large, open eyes wide as an owl's, and knowing her father had come to deliver that fatal blow, she somehow managed to stay perfectly still and very quiet, enough so that he passed by without seeing her.
She silently released her held breath and waited a few more minutes. When she could no longer hear her father’s footsteps, she turned and blindly ran the other way in the dark until she collapsed from exhaustion.
A few hours had passed when she woke. At first, she didn’t know where she was and how she got there. Then it all came flooding back to her, as did her tears. Streaks appeared down her dirt-covered face as the tears tracked through the grime. Kitty heard her tummy growl and thought momentarily about food. Hungry, cold, dirty, and lost, she didn’t know which way to go.
She was somewhat comforted by the sounds of nature as the sun rose. She got up and looked around, then walked again in search of a way out. Several hours of wandering in circles exhausted her. She finally lay down, just to take a little rest, but she fell asleep. Restless, she cried in her sleep. Then she abruptly sat up—startled, wide awake, and unable to believe what she saw lying next to her.