Sharon’s Note: So, I got this idea from a marble James found. He dug it up in the garden while planting a lemon tree. It’s now sitting in a flower pot on my porch. I don’t completely understand how that turned into this, but hey, that’s how it goes. Anyway, Enjoy! Warning: Be careful what you wish for, you might not like how you get it.
So I made the weird decision that in order to be a more assertive, less anxious person I needed to confront some of my childhood fears. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, a shrink didn’t tell me to do it or anything like that, I just suddenly thought that if I could get a hold on some of my demons from my past I would magically be able to get a hold on my future.
The first part went well. I confronted my childhood bully, who still lived in town and had become a teacher of all things. I had contacted him on social media and arranged to meet him at a coffee shop. He apologized for everything before I even got a word out. We then had coffee while I heard about his cheating wife and messy divorce while I came to realize that this guy was just an average person. He didn’t deserve a place of infamy in my head. I won’t deny that I got a little bit of petty satisfaction from turning him down when he asked me out.
My next conquest was supposed to be the Underhill Cemetery. That went . . . Well, let me tell you what happened. You won’t believe me, but here it goes.
When I was eleven or twelve some friends had talked me into going there at night. It was a stupid kid thing. The Underhill Cemetery was a little family plot in the middle of the woods. No one had been buried there in over a hundred years. The house had been abandoned since the 70s, but we stayed away from there. That was high schooler territory, and intrusion guaranteed at least a minor beating.
The cemetery was spooky, and that was the point. I’d brought my lucky shooter, a giant blue marble that had belonged to my grandfather. Grandma had said that keeping it with me would mean that Grandpa was always with me, watching over me. I usually didn’t carry it, but it seemed like the perfect talisman to bring with me to an old graveyard.
I won’t go over what happened that night because honestly, I don’t remember it that well. Bits and pieces sometimes come back to me in nightmares. There were sounds in the dark and lights in the woods. Things chased us and we ran, lost among the trees until the sun rose, even though we couldn’t have been more than a mile from the house. Those are only fragments I can recall from dreams though, and how reliable can that be, right?
So anyway, the facts that I do know are that most of us woke up just behind the big house at dawn, Jesse Something-or-Other (I can’t remember her name) twisted her ankle, I looked like I had picked a fight with a rosebush and was missing my lucky shooter, and Kelly Morehead was missing. She showed up three days later, claiming not to remember what had happened either, but perfectly fine. I’d been grounded for three months, but it wasn’t much of a punishment because I didn’t want to come out from under the covers, much less leave my room.
That little episode stuck with me for, well, ever. I never stopped being afraid of the Underhill Cemetery. Somehow, I got it into my fool head that if I wanted to reclaim my power, I had to go back to the cemetery, after all, I had been a kid. Nothing weird had really happened, right?
So, I walked out to the old cemetery. I even went at dusk, because if I was going to do something stupid, I was going to do it properly. Initially, it was less than impressive, just a bunch of old headstones that were too weathered to read sticking out of grass up to my knees. I don’t know who mowed the grass, but they hadn’t been in a while. I got a wild hair, and even though I knew there was no chance of finding it, I started looking for my shooter.
Darkness crept up on me, and I ended up trying to find my way back to my car by the flashlight on my phone. Except, I couldn’t find the path back, or the house, or the road, and suddenly the trees seemed way too tall. Light hugged the trunks and bended off in improbable angles. And then the noises started.
Something crashed through the foliage, something bigger than a human. It made these chuffing and wheezing noises, then these long high pitched giggles. I hid behind these ancient trees and hid the light of my phone in my pocket. I could hear its huge feet crunching on sticks and leaves as it passed me by.
Lights started winking in the darkness and whispers came from everywhere. One came from just behind me, and told me to run, so I did. My feet found every raised root and bramble patch. I caught my toe on a vine and fell face first into some blackberries. Somewhere in the scramble to get out I dropped my phone and I couldn’t find it, even though it should have still had the flashlight on.
The only things I had to navigate by then was touch, and those little, firefly-like lights. I steered away from them, because I didn’t know what they were. It seemed like whatever was out there had been waiting until my light was gone to really start screwing with me.
Hands reached out to pull my hair and flick my ears, but when I went to swat them away they were gone. The whispers got louder, telling me that I shouldn’t be there and that I was going to die. One of them told me that I was very pretty, and it was going to wear my face. Something that felt awfully like a tongue wrapped around my ankle, squeezing the scratches there until I cried out, then let me go.
The last time I tripped, my foot turned funny and I ate dirt. At that point I figured there was no point in running. If something was going to eat me, it was going to eat me. I sat against a tree, drew my knees against my chest, hid my face, and waited for whatever was going to happen. The whispers got really close and there were sharp pokes at my legs. I whimpered at every one, then all of a sudden they stopped.
The woods were dead quiet. No forest was ever that quiet. Then there were footsteps. They were all even and normal, just footsteps over dried leaves. They came right close to me and the edge of a foot tapped my own. I kept my head glued to my knees and my eyes closed tight. Something flopped on the ground to my side, and the footsteps walked slowly away.
I stayed still until I heard the birds singing and could feel the sun warm the top of my head. It had to have been hours. Finally, I looked up. I was sitting at the edge of the Underhill Cemetery, with the trees all normal and the world looking like nothing had ever been wrong. My phone and my old lucky shooter lay in the grass next to my feet. I wasn’t about to press my luck, so I grabbed them and got the hell out of there.
So, I’m never going back to those woods. That’s going to remain a fear that I can’t conquer. Funny thing, though. I kept the old shooter. It’s always in my pocket, and whenever I get upset or anxious, I give it a rub. I remember that night in the woods, and nothing seems as scary in comparison.