Friday, October 31, 2008

Lost Boy

Something is killing the squirrels.

I live in a wooded neighborhood, and until recently the trees were thick with squirrels. One bold grey fellow even gnawed a playing card-sized hole in our cedar siding and tried to get up our chimney.

But as the year turns the corner and the brilliant leaves of fall turn grey and crunch underfoot, the forest is quiet. No scolding chatter from a swinging branch, no twitching prey for our cats to peer at through the window, lashing their tails.

There's a little creek downhill from our house, and I went to see it, wading through dead leaves as the sun set on an unseasonably chilly day. Tree skeletons spiked the glowing sky, and at the creek I found knotted tree roots overhanging a thin muddy trickle of water.

Even here, there were no squirrels. But there -- I bent closer. There was something under the bank, tucked into the dirty overhang. It looked like part of a doll.

I stepped down to the creekbed, snapped a stick off a leaning branch, and retrieved what turned out to be a piece of fabric soaked with something wet and rancid. It smelled like potatoes that have been sealed in plastic and in the dark for too long.

It must have gotten washed there during a flood. Though it hadn't rained in weeks.

I took a step back and something crunched like a cracker under my foot. I jumped and looked down. Bones. Tiny, fragile bones like rings of porcelain, a pile of them. Rib cages the size of my hand and long things that looked like multi-jointed fingers or spines, all gleaming white in the creek sand.

I wanted to go back up to the house then. Something moved behind me and I spun.

There was a small raggedy child with wild eyes and leaves in his hair. Her hair? Its hair. It was dressed in what looked like a piece of burlap, and its fingers and lips were crusted black.

"Did you?" I pointed to the bones.

"Are you ... are you lost?"

He stared at me, his shoulders moving as he panted. But when his eyes opened I could see the dirty whites and I knew he wasn't tired, but excited. He opened his mouth as if to yawn, and I saw a red hole with no teeth.

I stepped back. He stepped forward. My ankle rolled on something and I started to fall.

He made a gargling throat-noise and sprang.

Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

Cristina said...

Between this and the "100 Scariest Movie Moments" that Peter is watching on t.v., I don't think I'll get much sleep tonight!