Growing up in the country, I found adventure around every corner of the backwoods. I had a decent childhood. I’d wake up bright and early every morning. I’d jump on my pink Barbie bike and ride like the wind down our narrow road. We lived in the area of a state park and my friends and I could ride forever along the quiet paths.
Not a day would go by that we didn’t have a picnic in the pasture. My friend had horses—beautiful, huge, brown and black horses. I’d grab fresh tomatoes from my mom’s garden (and of course the salt shaker), pickles (because what would a picnic be without the pickles?) and Tonya would bring the sweetest, yummiest tea her mother made. We’d spread a blanket and chow down.
One time (of many, I'm sure), I got mad at my mom because she wouldn’t let me do something that I HAD to do; life or death (probably wasn’t allowed visiting a friend). So, I puckered my bottom lip and said, “I’m running away.” And by golly, I meant what I said. I grabbed a backpack, dumped out my toys, and stuffed it with a bottle of Pepsi, two cookies and a brush. I took off on my bike and rode for about five minutes when apprehension settled in. I pulled over, popped the lid to the pop and ate in peace. At eight years old, I guess I had a lot to think about. What kid doesn’t? As evening shadowed the surroundings, I began to hear noises—the noises that only came out at darkness. Every crack and creak seemed to echo for miles. Howling in the distance made my skin crawl. I was a stubborn child. I cuddled against a tree and tucked my legs close.
Pepsi gone…cookies demolished…all I had left was my brush. That didn’t come of much use. I didn’t brush my hair but once a day back then, any more and it was too much work. Tired and hungry, I stared into the sky as big puffy clouds passed. Eventually, I drifted to sleep.
I’m not sure how long I slept, but the loud snap of wood woke me. I jumped to alert and darted a glance around the woods. I was alone…at least I thought I was.
Still to this day, I can’t be sure what I saw along the bank of the creek bed, but I’ll never forget that moment when I noticed the shadow moving through the maze of trees, light footsteps cracking twigs and the rustling of leaves. Some kids would scream, and others would run. But I sat as quiet and still as a rock. Maybe I’d hoped “it” wouldn’t see me. Or maybe I’d hoped it’d be my imagination. Neither of those hopes came true.
The silhouette stopped, partially camouflaged by the thick foliage. I couldn’t see a face, yet I could hear the shallow breaths of this creature. I pressed against the bark of the tree, wanting to crawl inside the wood, as the shadow seemed to watch me. Scared, I closed my eyes and crossed my fingers. I knew it was drawing closer; I could hear my heart racing…or was it the creature’s? The need to pee came on strong, but I hadn’t peed my pants since I was about five and I refused the urge. I swallowed back a scream, because I didn’t want to open my mouth. I’d seen a scary movie where an apparition entered a woman’s body through her mouth. I wouldn’t let that happen. The steps grew closer and I was doomed…
My mind looped. How did the monster get my brother’s voice?
“Hey! Open your eyes!” I did as requested. Standing above me was my brother, looking at me with an annoyed glare. “If you don’t come now, you’re going to miss dinner.”
I didn’t bother looking around to see if the “creature” still lurked in the shadows. I jumped on my bike, and that time, I beat my brother home.