Brainstormed With: Chelsea Gumbley
Written By: Robin Gagnon
John didn’t know how long he had been chasing the little boy through the woods, but he was getting tired of it. He had been a forest ranger since he was eighteen-years-old and had always loved rescuing people that had gone missing.
For this particular case, he was searching for a lost boy. He was no older than the age of eight and had wandered off on his own. John had seen him several times now, but the boy always ran from him, no doubt scared of the stranger that was trying to save him. He was also probably confused and didn’t know where he was, which made it important for John to catch him because, sooner or later, he might wind up hurting himself.
Slowing down when he lost sight of him, John slowly turned to view his surroundings. He had been in this forest hundreds of times and knew exactly where he was. He didn’t need the map or the compass that was in his bright orange backpack to tell him where to go. He rubbed his bushy, brown beard and looked for any sign of the boy, but found none. How had he lost him so fast?
Suddenly, a group of his closest friends appeared in the distance between the trees. They were all looking at a map and discussing something. Surely, they would be able to help him catch the boy.
“Hey, guys,” John greeted them, looking over their shoulders at the map that had a series of X’s across some parts. “The kid went that way. I was just chasing him.”
Before anyone could respond, John’s German Sheppard, Duke, barked up at him. He reached down and pet him, as the dog’s tail rapidly whipped back and forth. Duke had always been at John’s side, but, recently, the dog had become blind from old age and had to stay home. His friends knew that, so John wasn’t sure why they had brought him along. With the cliffs that were in the area, it was too dangerous for Duke to be wandering around.
“Duke,” John’s childhood friend, Kenny, yelled out. “Let’s go, buddy.”
They had moved on ahead, not waiting for John, and began searching a different part of the forest. John sighed and followed them. His friends were never good at listening to what he said. Duke ran up ahead, nearly tripping over a tree root, when John noticed something move out of the corner of his eye.
It was the little brown haired boy, peeking from behind a tree at him. John’s eyes widened and he went to tell his friends, but they were already gone. Hurrying towards the little kid, he called out for him not to be afraid, but the boy began to run again. Sighing, John began to chase him in the direction he had gone.
After what felt like a while, John began to realize that he didn’t know where he was. This was a part of the forest he had never seen before. A hazy fog had begun to form around him, blocking out the sun that had once been shining through the trees.
Taking out the flashlight from his bag, he turned it on and shined it around him. He couldn’t even see a few yards a head of him and a chill began to crawl up his spine.
From between the trees, he could here a child whisper, “You can’t go back. Follow me.”
Goosebumps spread like wildfire across his skin, as his flashlight flickered quickly before dying completely out. He banged it a few times in the palm of his hand, but the flashlight never came back on. Dropping the flashlight in fear, he grabbed the compass out of his backpack, which he kept on him at all times.
Flipping open the lid, he squinted in the low light only to realize that the compass was spinning wildly out of control. Looking around him in a panic, John turned and ran; the compass sliding out of his sweaty palm and landing in the dirt by his footprints.
John had never once feared the forest, but he had also never experienced something like this before. He had to find his friends. There was something strangely dangerous in the woods and he didn’t know exactly what it was.
After what felt like several minutes, the fog began to thin and John found himself in a fairly familiar part of the forest. It wasn’t a part he had been to often, but he knew enough to get him back to the main trail.
As he headed back, he could hear sobbing coming from somewhere to his left. At first, he had no desire to go investigate, but ended up following the sound when he recognized who it was. Standing near the edge of a cliff was his friends. They were all looking over the edge at something and Kenny had collapsed to the ground crying. All his life, John had never seen the man cry this much and he figured that it must of been because of the boy they had been looking for.
“We found him,” one of John’s other friend’s, Dan, radioed to the other forest rangers. “He’s…dead.”
John’s heart sank, as Phil, a blonde haired guy he had gone to high school with, held Duke by the collar and tried to comfort Kenny by using his other hand to rub his back in sympathy.
This was part of the job that John didn’t like. Sometimes the people they looked for weren’t always found alive. It was especially rough when the person in question was a child.
Not wanting to look over the edge, John stood next to his friends and watched Kenny sympathetically. This wasn’t the first time they had found a kid dead in the forest, but the last time Kenny hadn’t been nearly this torn up. The man was practically in hysterics.
All of a sudden, a cold chill surrounded John and he looked up to see the little boy standing there staring at him, away from the edge of the cliff.
“I already told you,” the boy spoke up ominously. “You can’t go back.”
John’s eyes were wide with surprise. How could the boy be alive if he was dead at the bottom of the cliff? Was he seeing the boy’s ghost? How was it even possible?
“We’re sure,” Dan replied over the radio to whomever he was talking to. “I hate to say it, but it’s definitely John.”
John jumped at the sound of his name and looked over at Dan, his stomach swirling in unease.
“You have to follow me now,” the boy continued, holding out his hand. “It’s time to go.”
Panicking, John turned to his friends and waved his has in front of their faces. No one even blinked at him.
“Hey,” he yelled out. “Guys, I’m right here!”
No one answered him back, but Duke barked at him. He went over to his dog, who seemed to be looking straight at him, but Duke was blind. Cloth tears filling his eyes, John wrapped his arms around his dog, who’s tail was wagging back and forth like crazy. After a few moments, Duke whimpered and backed away.
“Are you alright, buddy?” Phil asked Duke, his eyes filling with concern. “Why are you so cold?”
Phil rubbed the dog to warm him up and John backed away sadly. He stared at his friends and slowly moved past them towards the edge of the cliff.
He still didn’t want to believe what his mind had concluded, but when he looked down, he saw his own mangled body at the bottom. He was dead.
“Let’s go,” the boy behind him urged, holding out his hand. “It’s time for you to cross over now.”
John walked over to the little boy, and this time, the boy did not run away. John too his hand and the pair disappeared in a white light.