“My Friend Cedric” by Alli Zier

Read the 3rd place winning submission from our Scary Story Contest by Warrior Media!

Third+Place-+%22My+Friend+Cedric%22+by+Alli+Zier+%3A+It%27s+the+perfect+night+for+an+autumn+walk+for+George+Cyrus.+The+only+problem+is+that+he%27s+not+sure+when+it%27ll+end.+His+friend+Cedric+is+there+to+keep+him+company...

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Third Place- “My Friend Cedric” by Alli Zier : It’s the perfect night for an autumn walk for George Cyrus. The only problem is that he’s not sure when it’ll end. His friend Cedric is there to keep him company…

The following story contains minor descriptions of death, reader discretion advised. 

I believe that it was the first of October in the year 1921 when I decided to go on my walk in the woods. The scorching summer humidity had finally begun to fade into the brisk coolness that signified fall had arrived. 

It was the perfect fall day, the leaves were all showing off shades of dark reds and burnt oranges. The air wasn’t too hot or too cold, but right in between with a refreshing breeze that nipped at your nose when it picked up just enough. The sun wasn’t due to set for another 4 hours or so and I knew if I timed it right, I would begin my return home just in time to see the beautiful pinks and purples and oranges that painted the sky as the sun fell behind the mountains.

I had urged my family to come. My daughter, Minnie, who was only six at the time was eager to come. The thought of getting to see a deer or even possibly a rabbit made her ecstatic and eager to leave her doll for a matter of a few hours. My son, Harry, was ten and had begun to earn a love for soldiers and the wars that they fought in. 

“I would like to come!” he chimed in when I mentioned it. “I can pretend I am a soldier in the Civil War! Lurking through the woods to get enemies in to slaughter them!” he giggled, waving his wooden sword as if he were battling others. 

It would’ve been a lovely evening if it weren’t for my wife, Rebecca. She was timid, and spent most of her time indoors, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of Harry and Minnie when they weren’t attending school. 

I did my best to lure her away from the dress she was making for Minnie, “The forest isn’t even a mile from here! It’d be the perfect family outing! A chance to get fresh air!” 

His wife only once more shook her head. “You can go by yourself if you really want to,” she told me. “I don’t want you bringing the children, though. They are too little. They could get sick or hurt.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, you are so fearful. We will be back before nightfall and we will make sure to bundle them up nicely,” I pleaded. 

“No, no. I don’t like the feeling that forest gives me whenever we go past it. I am afraid you will get lost or attacked. As I said before, go by yourself. The children can go out in the summer.”

I laughed her off and kissed my children before walking into the brisk air. It was so refreshing. I inhaled deeply to take in all the goodness of the fall air, and set off. 

Getting to the forest I suddenly realised what my wife was talking about. The exorbitant tall trees loomed over you as if you were a mere fruit fly. Looking into the forest, there wasn’t much light. What light did make its way through the trees was cast in such a way that the shadows formed seemed to stare at you. Creating such elaborate creatures in one’s imagination. 

I shook it off. I walked into the forest with an insight of the beauty of nature. The dark leaves were like fire, the silence and peacefulness perfect. 

I must’ve walked for about an hour. I was so encapsulated by the naturalness of the forest that I lost track of time. I realized I should turn around when I could partially see the orange tint of the sun setting in the sky. 

I had walked in a straight line so I figured that if I were to turn around and walk the exact way I came, I would be out just as the sun finished setting. But an hour passed by, two hours, 4 hours, 8 hours. It was as if I was walking in circles because I could have sworn I passed the same rock a million times. I passed the same fallen tree a million times. I even dropped a heart shaped rock and I came back to it. I took left and right turns, tried to walk as straight as possible but I never seemed to actually go anywhere. Eventually the sun rose once again. 

“What in the name of lord is going on!?” I shouted to the forest’s emptiness. 

At this point I was exhausted. I was hungry and cold. I wanted nothing more than to go home to my wife and children and warm up by the fire with the daily paper in my left hand and a scolding cup of coffee in my right hand. 

I had been walking for so long my feet began to ache unbearingly. I sat down on the stupid old fallen tree to rest for a few moments. That is where I noticed it. 

Walking on top of the fallen leaves created a constant crunchy sound that followed me wherever I went. When I sat down for just a moment, the already peacefulness of the forest was emphasized into something so quite it was quite eerie. The quietness allowed me to hear the very faint sound of a fire crackling. My first thought went to a forest fire, in which case I needed to get out of there. As I listened to the sound more, I could hear the faint scuffle of what sounded to be either an animal or a human. 

I contemplated checking it out for over five minutes. Had it been an animal, it could be sweet and small like a rabbit or a squirrel. Or it could be a wolf or a bear and then I would be in trouble.

Had it been human, it could have been someone who could help get out of here, or they could be some sort of murderer. 

After 10 more minutes of walking I reached the same fallen tree again and I realised I needed to take my chances. I sat on the tree once more to try and find where the sound was coming from. When I was able to make out that it was behind me, I slowly and cautiously turned around, and made my way towards the sound of the fire. 

As I shuffled closer, I began to see the light glow of what remained of the small fire. It was clearly man-made, it seemed to be dying as if the person hadn’t tended to it in a couple hours. Within a couple steps I was able to make out the legs of a person. A man. 

Whether he was sleeping or dead I didn’t know. I got closer and closer and was able to make out his chest rising and falling, proving his slumber instead of his death. 

“Excuse me?” I called out softly not wanting to disturb him. With no response I called out once more a little louder. “Excuse me!”

This time the man shot up into a seated position. Looking around for the sudden voice that awoke him. He turned around and saw me, his eyes widened with either joy or fear, I had no clue. 

“Are you a search party?” he asked. The desperation in his voice was so obvious it was painful. 

I shook my head, “I wish, sir. I was actually hoping you were the search party.”

He slowly stood up and brushed off his trousers. “How long have you been here good man?” he said, his voice curious now. 

“Only a night,” I chuckled. “I can assume you have been here for longer?”

The man nodded with a sadness glistening in his eyes. “Almost a whole month now. I’m not exactly sure. It only took about a fortnight for me to lose track of the time.” 

His words set me full of fear. I began to think about what would happen if I never got out of here. 

“I don’t understand. The forest isn’t even that big, you would think if you kept walking in a straight line you would hit society at some point?” I explained my thought process to him. 

He chuckled, “I believed the same at one point. I must have spent three days trying to navigate a path out of here. I kept coming back to the same tree, though. I concluded that it must’ve been impossible. So I sat down and made camp. Taught myself how to hunt and fish.”

“You must be in the same position as me,” he observed. “I believe it must have been you making all that noise roaming these woods last night. Am I correct?”

I nodded. I knew that I would need this man to be my friend if I wanted to get out of here. Or even survive long enough for someone to find me. “My name is George. George Cyrus,” I stuck out my hand to shake. 

He, without hesitation, gladly took my hand, shaking it vigorously. “Cedric Dooley, pleasure to have a friend for once. Please have a seat!”

I sat down cautiously across from him and took in the remaining warmth of the dying fire. The man reached into the small bag he had with him and pulled out strips of what looked like dried meat. 

“It’s rabbit meat. My father was very experienced in surviving in the wilderness and taught me how to thrive in the wild when I was no younger than 10 years old. Trust me, it would do you some good to get some sustenance in you.”

I reached across and grabbed the rabbit jerky. I took a small nibble, the feeling of food entering my body so enjoyable I began to wolf down the rest of the small meal. 

Cedric laughed, “Looks like we will need to get some more. With the two of us both working, I bet we will get more than enough!”

“What do you mean?” I asked in panic. “How long do you expect us to be here?”

He looked at me with pity, “How long do you?”

I didn’t answer out of fear that my answer would be too short. My silence gave Cedric that same impression. 

“My friend, I am prepared to live out the rest of my days here. As should you. This forest is unique. I believe that it is alive, that it traps people here.” 

With that I layed down and went to sleep. The canopy of leaves provided enough shade from the shining sun that I was allowed some rest without being burdened by the bright light of the day. 

Cedric let me rest all day. To me, it felt as if I had only slept a couple hours. When I opened my eyes, it was nearly nightfall, and my friend was preparing a new fire for the night. 

“Oh good!” he beamed when he saw me stirring. “I was hoping you would awake soon so that I could show you the proper way to start a fire!”

As I collected my bearings, Cedric went and collected more wood. When he returned, he jumped right into the lesson. He showed me all the tricks, such as digging as much into the ground as possible and making a circle of rocks to prevent the fire spreading amongst the bush. He taught me all about kindling and and tinder and what kind of wood to find. Once the fire was roaring, he gave me a few tips to keep it going for a long time. He then grabbed his small bag and laid his head down on it, as if he were to go to sleep.

I reached my hand out, gesturing to him to stop. “What are you doing? Won’t we need to keep the fire going to stay warm?”

“Not we my friend, you. I was up until almost dawn making sure the fire kept me warm. I am quite tired. Since you have had a full day’s rest, I fully trust you can tend to the fire all night with no issue. Now, goodnight!” He bid me and layed down. His back towards me and using a ragged old newsboys cap to cover his eyes. 

He was right when he said that I would’ve been able to stay up all night. When the fire didn’t need tending, I would sit against my tree and stare at it. Listening to the sounds outside the crackling wood. Every once in a while my eyes began to droop, but as they fully closed I would be jolted awake by some sort of noise or an intense feeling of fear. I decided that my wife was correct, this forest had something dark to do with it. The noise I could pass off as an animal, but the feeling of fear was unexplainable, it was a darkness  I had never experienced before.

The next day we spent hunting. He showed me how to attract and attack each animal. We managed to catch a few rabbits that day, so we ate well at dinner time. What we didn’t eat we set up to dehydrate so we could save it for later. 

As we ate we conversed about our lives in order to become more familiar with one another. I talked about my wife and children and he did the same. We discovered that he had children around the age of mine. Evelyn was about the same age as Harry, and Arthur the same as Minnie. We each made a promise to the other that we would introduce them if we ever managed to escape. 

The next day we went fishing. I discovered that Cedric originally came to the forest for a secluded lake in the forest his friend had told him about, meaning he had fishing poles with him. The lake was a decent size, which meant a good amount of fish. We sat there all day, continuing to discuss politics, our families, our interests. By the end of our fishing time we were conversing and cracking jokes like work friends or even friendly neighbors. 

The next day we were designated for trying to find a way out of the forest. We each took some rabbit jerky to snack on throughout the day and each went a separate way. Despite beginning to walk in separate directions and making multiple sharp turns, we always ended up walking right back to each other. By dusk we gave up for the day. 

We continued this cycle over and over for multiple weeks. I had lost count of how many days it had been, how many cycles we had repeated. I estimated, at the time, it had been almost a full three weeks since I had first walked into the forest. I was in desperate need of a bath, a change of clothes, and I was becoming more and more impatient with everyday I didn’t get to see my family. 

One day, we were both exhausted so we decided to have a day to just sit and talk. Cedric was not looking too good. He seemed skinnier than normal, despite having eaten fine. He was pale and feeble looking. I began to worry. 

“Maybe I should go out and look for a way out. If you are sick we need to get you to a doctor of some sort,” I insisted. He waved me off. 

“I will be just find my friend,” he grumbled in a tone much weaker than his normal booming voice and sunk even farther against the tree he was laying against. “I will be just fine. I just need rest.”

I had grown close to this man so I feared for his health. In this condition for his life. I believed I had learned so much about this man that he had become my brother. I did not wish to see him suffer. “But what if it is much worse than that? What if you are truly sick and you die out here?”

He chuckled like he did the first day I met him, “Then that would be quite unfortunate. Okay, only to humor you, if I die, you never stop searching for a way out of here. Once you do, you bring the officials to my body and make sure I am buried properly, for your sake and the sake of my family.”

I looked at him with dismay. I hoped he would have taken this seriously, and his humor was not very humorous in the moment. 

His face fell serious with my silence. “Promise me!” he shouted. I was taken aback by the seriousness and fear I had heard in his shout.

“I promise.”

That night I said I would tend the fire in order to let Cedric rest, but there was an uneasiness stronger than ever in the air that night. It wasn’t fearful, nor was it worrisome. It was just uneasy, making us both physically uncomfortable, and counting down the seconds until the sun rose once more. Cedric tried to sleep but everytime he closed his eyes they would shoot wide open again, staring at me deeply. 

Once there was a little bit of light in the sky, we got a little more comfortable. The uneasiness is still there, but not as haunting. I fell asleep, probably for an hour, when I woke up I half expected to wake up and find my good friend dead. I can assure you, you would’ve been as surprised as I was to see him sitting up. Full of energy and more life than he had the past weeks. 

“Oh my! You’re like a whole new person!” I laughed. 

He jokingly rubbed the bag he always used as a pillow. “It’s incredible what a couple hours of good sleep can do for a person! Eh, you ready for a nice long day of fishing?” 

I stood up quickly and gestured to him to follow me. He gathered the supplies and we were off toward the lake. 

The next week was the best of all of them. Cedric was absolutely incredible. His mood and spirits were so high I believed that they were reaching heaven. When we weren’t fishing or hunting or searching for an exit, we were singing, laughing, telling jokes. It was almost as if we were on a voluntary camping trip rather than just being stuck there involuntarily. 

It was around the one month mark where I had begun to lose hope. Everyday we searched we never found anything whatsoever. Even the fish and the rabbit meat was beginning to grow very old and dreadful. 

One day, Cedric and I had been sitting at our spot around mid-day. We had been searching for an exit all morning and had decided to take a short break for a nap. I was about to fully doze off when I heard my friend make a russell. 

“George! Wake up! I think I hear people! Lots of them! Maybe it’s a search party!” he shouted very loudly, startling me. 

I stood up and began looking around frantically, trying to listen to what he heard. It took me a second but soon I began to hear the chatter of what sounded to be multiple men, walking through the forest. I looked over to Cedric with glee. 

“Go get them! I’ll collect our belongings in the case they can get us out!” he directed. “GO!”

I quickly began to run towards the voices we heard and soon found three police officers walking with a doctor. They seemed to be attached to a red rope.

When they saw me they stopped in their tracks. I realized I must’ve looked like a lunatic, in my ragged clothes and running out to them in a mad manner. One of the officers slightly stepped forward and cleared his throat.

“Are you George Cyrus?” he asked with a confident voice. 

I nodded eagerly, “Has my wife sent you? Is she at the end of the rope.”

“Yes sir, this isn’t the first time we have had to fish someone out of this forest. This rope allows us to find our way back with any problem. Do you have any belongings you’d wish to collect before we get you home?”

“Yes sir! Please follow me! I have a friend waiting for me back at the camp, he has been out here for twice as long as I am and I can bet his children and wife are eager for his return,” I explained as I guided the party back towards our little clearing. 

I could see that Cedric was laying down against his tree, his legs sticking out in the small opening from which I could see the fire remains. “Cedric! Good friend! It is our lucky day! It is in fact a search party!” 

When he didn’t move or say anything back I turned towards the officers, “I have no idea what he’s doing. Doctor, Cedric was sick about a week ago and then out of nowhere seemed to recover instantly, is there any chance he has fallen ill again?”

This question got me some worried looks. 

“Let me go check on him, just to be sure he hasn’t.” 

He picked up his pace to get ahead of us and went and stood next to him. While we were walking towards him I could see the doctor grab his shoulder, he tugged it and Cedric’s arm seemed to fall limp. I stopped in my tracks. The doctor covered his mouth with his fist as if he were using all his strength not to vomit right then and there. I sprinted towards them. 

When I got to my good friend I felt hot tears running down my face. Cedric was dead.

The awful part was that he hadn’t died just then, it looked as if he had died a week ago. His cheeks sunken in, his eyes popping out of the sinking sockets with fear, his skin a color no human skin should be.

I felt the doctor grab my shoulder and realized I had started to shake. “I don’t understand!” I cried. “He was alive and well two minutes ago!”

The doctor shushed me in a manner one would use to ease a crying baby. “It’s time to go. Your family is awaiting us.”

He led me towards the officers and I saw him shake his head. Confirming what the officers were assuming. 

As we were following the rope, my thoughts finally had a moment to collect and I realized that they were just going to leave his body there.

“We have to go get some more people and go back!” I ordered the group. 

“I don’t understand.”

“Cedric has a wife and family as well! We can’t just leave him! I made him a promise that I would arrange a proper burial for his body. Please!” I continued to shout like a madman. 

When the officers realized that I wasn’t going to budge, the lead officer sent two of the other officers down the rope and waited for them to come back with more men. They came back with two paramedics, prepared with a bag and a gurney. 

“This way!” I lead them back to the campsite. 

I know I could’ve let them go by themselves to fetch the body. In all honesty, I didn’t really want to see my Cedric in that state, but I felt it necessary, I couldn’t leave my brother. 

We made our way back to the campsite, the officers and paramedics in the front, me on the flank. 

When we got there I could hear the paramedics shout, “Is this the right spot?”

“It should be!” the lead officer replied. 

The paramedics looked around in confusion, “There’s nobody!” 

Hearing this I ran ahead of the party into the clearing. 

All of the stuff was still there. The remains of the fire. Cedric’s bag in the same spot where he would lay his head. It looked virtually the same. 

So you can imagine my surprise when I found my friend Cedric’s body completely missing. As if he had got up and left and left absolutely no trace that he was ever there in the first place. 

In order to get me to walk back, the officers had to promise me to send a search party for his body. As we were walking back the officer in the front let out a very frightened yelp. 

“What is it Duke?” the others asked. 

He held up a shaky finger, pointing in the direction of the rope. Only, it looked as if the rope had been cut clean, and the rest of the rope had been dragged out. 

The lead officer did his best to keep everyone calm. “Everyone just keep walking this direction, I don’t believe we are far from the edge.”

Except we were, we must have walked for over an hour in that same direction.

“Holy mother of God,” was what came out of my mouth when we walked right back into the clearing I had called home for the past month. 

It was the same as we had left it. The fire was almost out, though, and Cedric’s bag still lay there. I immediately began barking orders to prepare for the night. 

Once everyone had gone to search for wood and rocks end everything else I sent them for, I was by myself in the clearing. That’s when I heard it. The charming chuckle that used to make me feel safe and at home. Only now it was cold, and sent chills down my spine. 

I searched around frantically for the eerie laugh, my old friend was nowhere to be found. It was as if his chuckle was everywhere, like it was in my head almost. 

“Cedric! My good friend! Where are you?” I shouted into the nothingness of the black night sky. 

The chuckle only continued, but was soon followed by this disgusting, booming voice with a hint of familiarity to it.

“Did you seriously think I was gonna let you leave so soon?”