while hiding from her mad sister, Mara encounters something in the woods...
I was hiding from my older sister, Evie, in the vast and kinda spooky woods that lined the boundary of the wilderness and the slummy line of houses that populated the decaying paper mill. It was dusk, the sky darkening from hues of red and orange and purple, to shades of grey and blue, as the older folks shuffled home in a caravan of time worn vehicles. Mostly there were paint scuffed vans and dusty trucks, but the only other cars are either driven by our working mothers, or the tired cops. It’s been a new record since we last saw Officer Walsh come and knock on the McCarthy household. Three days, so it was three days the folks of the court last saw fresh marks on Mrs. McCarthy and her gaggle of little ones. Evie said that Mrs. McCarthy kept popping out a kid like a PEZ dispenser. Mama said it's because she can’t keep her legs closed.
Porch lights were flickering on, parents and guardian signaling for their little ones to start their own march homeward for dinner and bed.
But back to Evie. My sister is a pretty woman, soft twilight blue eyes that casually sparkle with hidden mirth, dark brown hair that fell in crinkled waves of honey and chocolate, a lush, plump figure that beckoned stupid boys who wish to be men over to her, like a genie’s dance. Being eighteen, she was grown and expected to help mama with the house and us younger siblings. She complied, sometimes even turning down a fun weekend with a cute boy to stay and tend to us. I love my sister, she sacrificed so much for us. Too bad is she’s a fucking psycho. She is a good sister, always making sure my brother and I have clean clothes and full stomachs, but when her mood shifts into her inner hellish bitch, my friends, the neighbors, the fucking landlord, me, we all know to clear out of the way. And her temper today was triggered because her favorite pocket mirror broke. Hence why I was hiding.
“Mara! Mara! Where the fuck are you?!” I heard Evie roaring. She was stalking out the crooked oak that caressed the roof of the Jansen family’s double wide. Normally, I hid in those gnarled branches, especially when I piss Evie off, but it's not my fault this time!
Evie’s mirror was this chic little thing, painted blue and had soft carvings of various flowers in the edges. Our little brother was playing with it, and accidently dropped it, shattering the mirror on the stained linoleum. I took the blame, because I didn’t want to see my little brother spanked with Evie’s favorite brush. I'm starting to realize that was rather stupid on my part, but I had to spare my brother. Mama left for her job, which I was told I'm too young to know what she does during the night, and she asked me to tend to Julian until Evie is back from dropping off some dishes at the Jansen house.
Julian, he didn’t mean to break the mirror; Evie normally did not mind that he played with it. He was usually careful, as careful as a four-year-old can be, marveling the bit of glass like the artwork that it was. He dropped it, startled as I walked in, I didn’t see what spooked him, but I know my sister. I put Julian in front of the tv, letting him get lost into the vivid cartoons of magic and crystals, as I waited for Evie...and my thrashing. I wasn’t that dumb, so once she saw I was cleaning the mirror, I bolted out of the door. I knew that if she caught me, I would be sleeping on my stomach for the weekend, my bottom blistered and bruised from Evie’s hairbrush. I am quick, so I was able to get a very large head start before Evie burst out the door after me with angry fire in her eyes.
I was now hiding in at the edge of the woods, curled up tight under a black plastic barrel, using my small size to my advantage. I could see my sister snarling and stalking the tree, trying to see if she could spot me within the gnarled branches. I could see the moment she realized I wasn’t in the oak, so she was storming to the woods. I held my breath as she neared my barrel. Evie was mean, but she was also kind of a dummy. She walked on past. I let out my breath in phantom silent puffs, the wetness of my breath now misting the inside of the barrel. A pill bug waddled over my fingers, oblivious to my hiding.
“Mara! Answer me, dammit!” she snarled. I remained silent. The weak light of the reddened sun was etching into darkness, the last of the trailers in the court flickering on their lights on, little beacons to guide wayward children and feral pets' home. Evie let out another snarl, twisting her normally beautiful face into a sneer. She faced the woods and let out a screeching bellow.
“Fine! You are staying out here! See if I fucking care!” I watched her feet stomp back into the court, leaving me to be alone, and cold, outside in the dark. She was muttering swear words as she left, stomping on yellowing spigots of grass and kicking discarded beer cans and bottles. Evie was really pissed off this time.
I waited ten minutes, at least I think it was ten, to make sure Evie wasn’t coming back. Luckily it was summer, so the air was thick and heavy from the heat. Sliding out from under the barrel, I scowled as I knew Evie was locking me out. However, this wasn’t the first time I was locked out, so I left for my hiding place in the crevices of the woods.
The edge was rimmed with debris, the woods that is, with various bits of trash like barrels, metal ones burnt black and plastic ones, like the one I hid in, warped from the sun. Twisting ribbons of barbed wire hid beneath the long, dry grass, rusted from the weather and some shiny from being fresh refuse. Random piles of redden sandstone, chipped away and used like chalk by bored children, some parts smoothed and hollowed from the spring rains. Overstuffed chairs, with the stuffing spilling out like cottony entrails, couches faded with brittled fabric, mattresses with stains in a kaleidoscope of nasty colors, those were the corpses of trailers and slum houses freshly gutted and folks too lazy to bury them at the local dump. But as I go deeper, the remnants of humanity fade and the woods reign supreme.
With the light finally faded, and the darkness lulling daytime birds and creatures to sleep, I kept walking, only stopping slightly to allow my eyes to adjust to the gloominess of the absent of the sun. The tree’s limbs reached to the star dotted sky, long and thing, like emaciated fingers, their trunks lean and swaying from a weak breeze. There were a few robust waists of oaks, pines and maples that stood stoic as guardian for the finger thin trees.
My hideout was just a trashed car, a corpse of a chevy impala that met its demise in a collision of metal and ice. Windows cracked and caked with leaves and mud, tires long since stolen and possibly pawned for a teeny ball of meth, a door hanging by a determined bolt, loose and useless. It wasn’t much, but it would do for the night. Again. My touches to the impala corpse were minimal: a thick blanket covered the hanging door, piles of pillows that cushioned the cracked leather of the car, a tiny Styrofoam cooler cracked and no longer able to hold things cold was nestled under the steering wheel, full of crackers and chips and dried fruit and canned soda. There was also one, only one, little flashlight that turned on with a crank, and a small battery-operated lamp to give me some shelter in its false light. There was also one yellowed book, the cover ripped and faded from being read far too many times. It was Jurassic Park.
It was a bit warm in the car, just enough to be comforting. Crawling in, I covered my small body with a spare blanket, the scent of sweat, grease and pine sap wafting from the cloth. It was a peculiar smell, not comforting, but not offsetting. I grabbed my little lamp and flicked it on, a fragile, yellow light fillings the darkness of my car. I picked up the book I hid and began to read until I drifted off into a fretting slumber.
Something woke me up. Something loud. The saplings and bushes popped and snapped and shook from something big stomping through the trees. I crouched low, flicking off my light. The windows were grimy enough to hide my small body, but not too grimy that I couldn’t see through. The stomping thing stopped just outside my vision. However, the popping of the bushes stopped. I decided to do something stupid: I looked outside.
What I saw couldn’t possibly be real.
It stood only six feet tall, but it was covered in thick, rubbery skin that bunched and folded around its neck, waist and wrists. Long, wispy bits of smoke dotted its head, outlining dark hair that stood in burnt spikes. I couldn’t see its feet, but from my spot, I could see that it had tattered strips of blackened skin that covered boot like feet. It stood tall, but it was staggering as liquid dropped from its lean ribs and trickled down its feet. The liquid was oily, and dark, and carried a strong stink of cat urine and chemicals. And its face. It had two massive black eyes that covered most of its face, black and grimy looking, no light, not even from the glass of flames in its hand, pierced those blank black eyes. I searched for a mouth, because creatures have mouths. Its face was long, and insect like, and I finally saw the mouth. There was a splash of a bright color, like kinda of glowed green around its mouth. THe mouth was long, and hollow looking, with a tinny film covering its teeth. It wheezed and screeched as it breathed, taking deep breaths that expanded the broad chest. It stomped closer to my hideout. I ducked back in, praying it ignored my spot.
My blanket door spun open, exposing me to the creature. It looked down at me, wheezing and rasping as I connected with its black, blank eyes. And the smell, my god, the smell. The creature stunk of something sour and ripe, like sewage and slue and fermented trash that was left in the sun too long. The stink of piss and bleach also erupted in my face, forcing me to choke down a wracking cough. It was cloying, the stench, choking as I did my damnest to hold my breath. The creature let out a muffled roar, it sounded like a word.
“LLLLEEEEAAAAVVVEEEE...” it rasped. I glanced down at the liquid that was starting to puddle at my door. It was tacky looking, like blood, but the color was wrong. Its hands were gnarled and pockmarked, like it had been burnt too many times, thick black nails griped the door frame as it roared at me again, wheezing and rasping at the same time.
“LLLLEEEAAAVVVEEE....” it repeated. I couldn’t talk. So, I nodded, leaving behind my corpse car to the creature. The creature turns its black blank eyes at me, watching me as I left. I walked backwards, keeping my eye on the creature. Once I was far enough that it disappeared into the blackened woods, I turned around. And I ran.
I ran, ignoring the scrapes of brambles and branches across my face, ignoring the harsh gripping of my clothes from cockleburs and the claws of the barbed wire on my legs. I kept on running, ignoring that many of the lights in the houses were extinguished for bedtime. I kept running, only stumbling on the loose steps that lead up to my home.
“Let me in! Please let me in!!” I cried, tears trying their best to escape my eyes. I pounded on the metal of the door, my fists starting to ache from the sheer force of my pounding.
“EVIE!! Please let me in! I’m sorry! Let me in!” I started to scream. After a few minutes, the door creaked open, and I bolted through.
Despite that I know Evie was going to murder my behind, I clung to my sister, whimpering and crying as I stammered about the monster in the woods. I cried, as I relieved my experience with the monster. Evie held me, comforting me as I cried.
“Stay out of the woods from now on, Mara. It is full of beasts and creatures like the one you’ve seen. Avoid the woods. Because next time, the beast may take you.” she whispered. I nodded; my face still buried in her stomach. She pulled me inside, crooning as I shivered from my fear, or it could have been the chilling night air that caused my shivering.
I listened to Evie, even after my butt was tenderized by her hairbrush. She was right.
Another girl, about my age, went into the woods, and unlike me...
She never came out.