A local legend becomes frightfully real for a small boy. Written for short story contest.
|"Sketchbook" -- 1,713 Words
Ethan Richards sat on a tall, mossy rock overlooking a babbling creek. The gentle breeze moved through the lush forest that seemed to encase him, keeping him safe from the complicated and confusing world. This had been his favorite spot in the woods since he was a small boy. He remembered the days when his mother would bring him to this very spot, and they would joke and talk and just gaze into the running water as if it would reveal a secret. He loved the woods and he loved the creek, it was as simple as that.
Growing up, Ethan was always different from the other boys his age. While his schoolmates were playing sports and chasing girls, Ethan would always be in the same spot in the woods, daydreaming and sketching in his small notebook. They would tease him, almost daily, and even make up stories to scare him. Apparently, it was a local legend that countless children had been murdered in these very woods. Ethan couldn't see how such a serene and friendly place could ever have seen anything like that. After all, the kids had probably just made those stories up to get inside his head. He had been enduring the same comments for years. There were the classic warnings such as, "Ethan, you're the weirdest kid in the whole school! When you finally see we're telling the truth, it will be too late!" or even the
accusations, "You're so creepy, I bet you're the one who killed all those kids!" He was tired of it all. At least during vacation he didn't have to deal with any of them.
Nothing had changed for him, so far, and this summer seemed to be going perfectly. He flipped through the pages of his book, checking off which drawings he would show to his mother. Turning to a fresh page he decided to begin sketching a patch of ivy that hung loosely over the edge of the coast, just above the muddy water. A few minutes later, the crinkle of leaves behind him broke his concentration. Turning around he saw nothing. Probably just a fox, he knew all of the animals in these parts, and they were used to him by now. After all, he had been sitting on this very rock since he was three. Bringing his attention back to the ivy on the other side of the water, Ethan saw a small girl, probably younger than he was, standing at the coast. He hadn't noticed her before, and had very rarely seen anyone else here, so he was naturally curious. She had long black hair that grew far past her waist, and her eyes were a pale blue. He waved and put on his friendliest smile.
"Hi there, my name's Ethan. What's yours?" he asked. He didn't have many friends, and saw this as a perfect opportunity to make one. She didn't answer. All she did was stare at him-seemingly through him--with those pale eyes. Ethan shrugged and ran a hand through his messy blonde hair.
Oh, well, he thought to himself, if she doesn't want to be my friend, that's alright with me. He had been ignored by girls before, this wasn't the first time and probably wouldn't be the last. Ethan continued to sketch the scenery, ignoring the girl's gaze. After about an hour of work, Ethan gazed up from the page to finish off a few minor details. The girl was gone, she had seemingly vanished and left no trace of herself. Not even footprints in the muddy coastline remained as evidence that someone had been standing there. He gathered his belongings; pencils of all sizes and colors, erasers and his bag of pretzels, packed them up and made the walk home before the sun set. When he returned home Ethan was far too tired to do anything else. He drifted off to sleep quickly after eating his supper, not bothering to tell his mother about the strange girl.
The next morning, Ethan rolled out of bed and grabbed his notebook from his desk. He ran down the steps, excited to get back to his spot of seclusion, and took three fresh pencils from the kitchen cabinet. After making himself a fresh sandwich, he packed everything up in his bag and headed for the door. It had become a ritual for him each morning. To Ethan's dismay, the weather outside was terrible. The storm clouds had already blocked out the entirety of the sun, and there wasn't a spot of clear sky to be seen. He just shrugged, yelled to his mother that he was leaving, and headed out the door with the same smile on his face as he did every day. Not much could dampen his spirits. The rain, after all, would make the forest seem like an entirely different place.
After making his way through the patches of rough thorn bushes and other obstacles, he was happy to take his familiar seat on the moss covered rock. He began eating his sandwich and scrolling through the pages of his notebook. He had quite a few pages to show his mother when he got back. There was one of a family of geese, one of a fresh maple tree sprout, and his particular favorite: a school of minnow swimming downstream. He eventually came to the sketch of the ivy that he had done late yesterday. He almost screamed when he flipped the page. Amongst the tangled ivy, right at the bank of the creek, was the mangled corpse of the girl he had seen yesterday. Her arms were missing and her body was soaked with crimson. The only recognizable features were the hair, now straggly and caked in blood, and those eyes. The eyes seemed to stare at him even through the gory details of her face. Ethan hadn't used any color in that particular sketch, yet there was the red blood and blatantly pale, icy blue eyes.
He slammed the book shut, horrified at what he had just seen. Was this some sort of sick joke that someone was playing on him? How could it be? He was the only one to ever touch his notebook. He quickly opened back to the page and, attempting not to look at the drawing, tore it out. Ethan crumpled it and threw it into the water. He watched as it floated closer to the bank, and closer to the same girl who had been there yesterday. The girl from his drawing was back. She stood in exactly the same place with exactly the same expression on her pale face. Thunder crashed as the storm began to really kick in. The foliage around him, so calm and relaxing yesterday, had become chaotic and fearsome. The girl's hair did not blow in the wind. She just stood and stared, seemingly unaffected by the elements.
Ethan had rarely ever been scared. At this single moment, he was completely terrified. He let out a scream, he didn't know why. Maybe someone would come help him, maybe his mother would be by his side, anything. He could not break eye contact with the girl. As soon as the scream left his lips, she began to scream as well. It was a blood curdling, high pitched, horrible scream. Thunder cracked once again, drowning out the two figure's screams, and torrential rain continued. Lightning seared the sky, illuminating the features of the screeching young girl. Ethan got up and ran. He ran as if his very life were in danger which, for all he knew, it was. No matter how far he got from the ghastly girl, her screams still pierced his ears. He wanted his mother, he wanted to be home.
Without looking back once, he had made it home. The ringing in his ears sounded eerily similar to the wail of the girl, but he was home and out of the storm. Running into his mother's arms, Ethan began to cry. He told her what had happened, babbling and dripping with tears.
"Now, now, Ethan. I'm sure it was all just a trick of the weather. It does that to people sometimes," she rationalized. It was a farfetched story, after all, and her son always had quite the imagination. "Why don't I make you a glass of hot milk and you can go rest in your room?" Ethan agreed, hot milk sounded good. Could he have imagined the entire thing? Was he going mad?
Ethan headed up the steps with a forced smile on his face. Those eyes were still imbedded in his head. He sipped his milk and walked into his room. There, on the night table next to his bed, was a crinkled up piece of paper. Ethan slowly walked over and eyed the paper. It was covered in mud. His heart stopped. Slowly, Ethan opened the crushed piece of paper. It was the same drawing that he had just thrown into the creek. The girl was still there, as gruesome as ever, her eyes piercing through him . . . through his very soul. He dropped the paper and turned to run downstairs. Turning, he found himself face to face with the mangled body of the girl. There was blood dripping out from her missing limbs onto his carpet. She looked exactly as she did in the drawing. Her once sleek, black hair was matted with leaves and blood. The eyes still remained exactly the same. Thunder struck and the power went out. Ethan screamed as loud as he ever had. The girl just stared.
After researching the town's records at the local library, Ethan's mother was appalled to find the records of several children who had been murdered in the early 1900's. Their bodies were all found completely disfigured, and the cases were never solved. The local legend was true: every single murder had taken place in the woods near their home.
By the time Ethan's mother had made it to his room, he was completely insane. She was horrified when she saw him. To this very day, he still draws pictures in his notebook, but every single one of them contains the face of a girl with pale blue eyes and long black hair.