Sitting alone in the woods, watching the sunset through a maze of trees, Chloe kept mulling over the words the director had said the day before.
"I'm not feeling your fear, darling. Let's try it again, but with more terror in those little eyes, okay?"
It was her first paid acting job: a low-budget Blair Witch knock-off, like many others. The movie started with a girl lost in the woods. Chloe's performance, however, made it feel less like a horror flick and more like a witch-free retelling of Hansel and Gretel. She had the expression of someone about to wander into a house made of candy—not a girl about to meet her doom.
After trying to shoot the scene a couple of times with no sign of improvement, the director gave in. "Alright, let's shoot some other stuff today. We'll get back to yours on Monday, Chloe. You'd better rehearse it. Bring some fear!"
How did it feel to get lost in the woods, anyway? For a city girl like her, it sounded like something out of a fairy tale. It didn't seem real. If she wanted to become one with the part, she needed more experience.
Chloe knew exactly what to do that Saturday: cancel her plans for the evening and drive to the nearest forest. She had a date with fear.
It took nearly two hours to get there, just like Google Maps had predicted. The sun was still up when she arrived. In the daylight, the woods didn't look scary at all. She wandered about for nearly an hour, unable to connect with the fear in her character's mind. They were just trees. What was there to fear about them?
She sat on a fallen trunk and decided to wait until it got dark. That would help her get into the mood of the film, although she had her doubts. She wasn't afraid of the dark, nor of trees. How could the combination of both be terrifying?
While she waited for the evening to come, Chloe picked up her phone. There was no signal. It could be a good opportunity to gather her thoughts. Fear. She needed to find feat. Chloe opened the Notes app and started listing things that made her scared.
1. Disappointing the director
2. Not making it as an actress
Chloe was still thinking of the fourth item on her list when she noticed it had suddenly gone darker. So that was how the evening came in the woods, away from artificial lights: all at once, with no warning.
Looking around her, Chloe quickly decided that the trees weren't any scarier.
"This is pointless," she said to herself. "I should get out of here."
When she started retracing her steps, however, Chloe discovered an annoying fact about trees. They all looked the same. She walked for nearly half an hour, but couldn't tell if she had gotten any closer to her car. Google Maps wouldn't help either—not without signal. The GPS on her phone seemed to believe she was on a gas station a mile away from the woods, but that was clearly not the case.
Chloe remembered her list of fears and realized the director wasn't particularly scary. Bugs should be higher up her list. She could hear them crawling everywhere around her. There could be scarier creatures, too. Bears. Wolves. She didn't know what noise a wolf made.
As Chloe listened to the noises of the night, trying to understand all potential threats around her, it dawned on her that she knew exactly what she didn't want to hear. Human footsteps. The sound of a predator looking for a prey, walking through the woods trying to find the owner of the car parked just outside.
Alone in the dark, unable to call anyone for help, Chloe delivered the performance of her life.