Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Revised Lost Boy

Version 2, with yesterday's edits made. Plus some more that occurred as I was typing.

Something is killing the squirrels.

My neighborhood, huddled in the woods, used to be thick with the little things. One bold grey fellow even gnawed a playing card-sized hole in our cedar siding.

But as the year turns the corner and the brilliant leaves of fall fade to brown and grey, 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.

I walked down to the creek behind our house, 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 stringy roots, knotted like crooked arms reaching over a trickle of muddy 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 dead branch off a tree, and hooked what turned out to be a rag of checkered blue fabric soaked with something wet. Something rancid. It smelled like potatoes that had been sealed in plastic and left in the dark for too long.

It must have been washed there during a flood. Though it hadn't rained in weeks. I took a step back and something crunched like dry twigs under my foot.

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, half buried in the wet sand.

I wanted to leave. Right now. I wanted to go back up to the house and turn on the lights.

I started to step out of the creekbed, when there a scuffling noise behind me, something moving in the sand. 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.

I stared for a moment, then pointed to the bones. "Did you... Ah, are you, are you lost?"

He just stood there, watching me without blinking, his shoulders moving as he panted. But when his eyes opened wider 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 sort of gargling noise in this throat and sprang. I turned my head but he was on top of me and I looked under the muddy overhang and saw bones and more clothing, so many bones.


Laini Taylor said...

Oh eek! Yuck! Wonderful. Love your creepy imagination. This is awesome. :-)

S R Wood said...

Thanks, Laini!

The creek and our wooded backyard are all real, and now I have to remember not to go foraging for firewood back there at dusk. Squirrels or deer make perfectly harmless noises in daylight, but in the dark they sound very different. Especially if I'm turning over a scary scene in my mind!