The Shadows of Indian Summer by Kevin Lazarus – Part 3

(Continued from Wednesday 11/09/11 – from The Dark Side of Carthage Falls – the Anthology – by Kevin Lazarus)

As we weaved our way along the path in-between the rows of dying trees and barren limbs, knee deep in the tall dry grass, I thought about what he’d said earlier, when we first got to the tractor—that nobody would care about us being there. “why?” I asked, huffing as I ran.

“Why what?” he replied, breathless too.

“Why won’t anyone care that we’re here?”

At that he became suddenly quiet and nervous, clearly wrestling with what to say. Finally he answered me; “Because—no one—comes here anymore.”  With that he hesitated again.

Another moment passed from his apparent unwillingness to finish his explanation to me, leaving me to extract the truth from him. “Yes?” I said with a more demanding tone.

“Okay—” he grumbled, “because—bad things happened here!”

In that moment of silence that followed his little revelation, his words started spinning around in my head. I had to replay them several times for them to sink in. “What?” I declared with disbelief. “What are you saying? What bad things?” I asked with growing alarm. I suddenly felt an uneasy awareness for my surroundings. Now every shadow, every dry dead limb we passed, every clump of grass around us stood out like an evil omen. “Tell me!” I demanded, “what bad things?”

Brett struggled with the words. “A long time ago a girl disappeared. A lot of people looked for her, and when they finally found her—her body was here in the orchard.” Brett’s voice grew increasingly shaky and distressed. And from what I could see, he too was as conscious of the shadows growing around us as I was. “That’s why my mother doesn’t allow me to play here. Actually no one plays here anymore, because of that—”

It felt as if my head was screaming at me. Like an echo I replayed every word Brett said. The revelation that his mother told him not to play here was more than I could endure. “What?” I growled.

Now as Brett spoke, he was looking around nervously. “And, well, other kids have said that they have seen strange lights in the orchard after dark. Some of them say it’s the ghost of the dead farmer who use to live in that old house.”

The image of the rickety house with its single curtain flapping in the wind flashed through my mind. Angry, I punched Brett in the shoulder.

He stopped, shocked, rubbing the spot where I’d hit him. “Ow! Why did you do that?” he grumbled.

Angry, I stopped and spun around, nervously searching the orchard for any sign of weird lights or anything, for that matter, that didn’t belong there. “Because,” I snapped, “you didn’t tell me—that’s why!” I hesitated. “I trusted you!”

Brett stood there rubbing his shoulder saying nothing. I could see by the look in his face that he was trying to decide what to do; whether to attack me or not. For some reason, he clearly decided against doing so. “That isn’t the only thing,” he continued. “Other kids have told me that they thought they were being followed home by someone—”

The hair bristled at the back of my neck as a cold chill washed over me. I couldn’t believe what he was saying! Brett continued: “Some of the kids have said that they thought they saw someone hiding behind the trees in the orchard—watching them as they’d walk home from school.”

I gulped hard and slowly looked around at all of the trees surrounding us. Brett did the same. A gently breeze bristled through the remaining leaves making a clicking sound. And a heavy uneasy sense overwhelmed me, and by the look on Brett’s face, I could see he was feeling something too. I wondered if my eyes were as wide as his.

A loud CRACK from a breaking branch echoed through the orchard. The sound so untraceable that we had no idea what direction it came from!

Brett’s mouth dropped open, his face now pale. I ran back and grabbed the front of his shirt with one hand—pulling him along. I wanted to scream. But the words seemed stuck in the back of my throat. As I opened my mouth once more attempting to force the words out, I spoke in half stinted words, sounding jittery and frightened. “L-l-let’s go,” I stuttered “—NOW!”

I tugged at the front of his coat a few times before he snapped out of his daze and followed me. The two of us running our hearts out, running the entire way home—never stopping once to take breath—and never daring to look back!

(TO BE CONTINUED: Monday November 14, 2011)

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