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Mystery

A chubby, red headed nine-year-old boy sits helplessly on the pavement, blood running form his nose, lip busted. A feisty, freckled face brunette with hazel eyes stands over him like a guardian angel, wielding a baseball bat. She looks on in the distance and watches two older boys speed away in frantic fashion on their bicycles, “crazy bitch!”, yells one of the boys as he rides away. “That’s right, ride away you jerks, next time pick on someone your own size!”, yells the gutsy girl, who must be half the size of the helpless kid on the pavement. She swings her bat in the air maniacally, with a proud grin on her face suggesting she quite enjoys situations such as this.

With the scared boys now out of eye sight, the girl turns her attention to the boy on the pavement, she stretches out a hand to him and helps him up. “You’re that new girl, right?”, the boy asks, with a twinkle in his eyes that betrays his infatuation. “Yea, the name’s Eleanor, but I prefer that you just call me Nellie”. “OK Nellie, I’m Leonard, but I prefer that you just call me Lenny”, Nellie giggles, “OK Lenny, nice to meet you”.

Two boys on bicycles come rushing to the scene, they quickly dismount their bikes, sending them crashing down on the pavement with reckless abandon, they seem to be only interested in Lenny at this point. One of the boys, a bushy haired blond, approaches Lenny, “Holy shit, are you ok buddy?”. A slightly annoyed Nellie interrupts, “If you really cared about your friend you wouldn’t have left him to get beaten up”. The other boy, dark hair, angrily approaches Nellie, “Listen here new kid”, he says, before he is swiftly interrupted by Lenny, “Nellie, her name’s Nellie”, “No, her name’s Eleanor,” rebuts the dark-haired boy. “You’ve been in this town for a few weeks, and you think you know it all,” he continues. As the conversation is about to take a confrontational turn, the blond boy intervenes, “So my angry friend over here, his name’s Christopher, and I’m Jeremy, and what I think Chris was trying to explain to you is that, we were being chased by those losers before we got separated, so its not like we abandoned Lenny”. “It’s just that I’ve seen you guys being constantly bullied at school, all I’m saying is that you need to stand up for yourselves more,” Nellie responds, which triggers Chris once again, who is quickly calmed down by the level headed Jeremy. “Thanks for helping Lenny,” says Jeremy. “Yea, no problem,” says Nellie, as she picks up her bike and walks away. The bruised and battered Lenny gently elbows Jeremy in the ribs and whispers something in his ears. Jeremy ponders for a few seconds, then calls out to Nellie, “Hey!” she stops without turning around, “What now?” “To show our gratitude for helping us out, we’d like to show you around town starting tomorrow,” says Jeremy. “We can show you all the places with the best food and candy,” Lenny chimes in. “We know all the shortcuts to everywhere in this town, some of them even the grownups don’t know about,” Jeremy continues. Nellie’s eyes sparkle as the boys have her interest now, “Are you sure Chris is ok with all of this?”, Lenny and Jeremy stare at each other, then at Chris. Chris stares back at them, the awkward silence is deafening at this point. “You guys can’t be serious?” asks a confused Chris. The boys stare him down fiercely, “OK fine, whatever,” he says. “That didn’t sound very convincing!” yells Nellie. Jeremy gives Chris a slight elbow nudge, signaling him to do something to convince Nellie. Chris raises his left arm and points at a brown leather wristband, “I swear on my wristband Eleanor, I’ll be happy for you to join us”. “His dad gave him that wristband, he cherishes it more than anything, so you know he’s telling the truth”, says Lenny. Eleanor finally turns around, with a broad smile on her face. “Great, so we’ll pick you up tomorrow,” says Jeremy. Nellie agrees and rides away. “Who in their right minds would choose to move here?” asks Chris. “For the small-town charm buddy,” Jeremy responds. Chris stares at him in disbelief, “Yea, sure thing Jeremy.”

Nellie arrives at the town nursing home where her mom works and heads inside. She is immediately greeted by one of the residents, who stares at her with an expressionless smile on his face. Nellie is startled but is quickly calmed by her mother who appears in the nick of time to take the man to his room. She grabs her belongings and waves goodbye to the other nurses. She gently places an arm around Nellie as they head out. “I’ll never, ever admit you into a place like this mom,” says Nellie. Her mother smiles brightly and kisses her. “So how was your day baby?”

The next morning, Nellie springs out of bed with the enthusiasm one would only expect from a child on Christmas day. She rushes to the bathroom and brushes her teeth, then takes a shower that must have lasted a mere two minutes. She scurries back to her bedroom and ruffles through her closet looking for the right outfit. The commotion draws the attention of her mother, who enters the room. “Nellie, sweetheart, you going somewhere?” “Mom, I already told you on our way home yesterday!” she cries out in annoyance. “Some friends are gonna take me around the town”, “Oh right,” her mother replies, “What exactly is there to really see in this town anyway?” “You know, kid stuff, the arcade, candy shop” Nellie responds, “Oh please,” replies her mother, “Since when have you ever been interested in ‘kid stuff’, you better not be planning on getting those poor boys into any trouble”, Nellie shrugs in defiance. “I’m serious sweetie, don’t do anything stupid, stay away from the damn woods!” “Yea but why, what’s the big deal with these fricking woods everyone in this town’s so scared about?” asks Nellie. “I don’t know baby, I haven’t gotten a straight answer from the locals since I got here, just vague warnings”. Nellie sighs in disappointment, but her mood quickly changes once again as she hears the sound of several bicycle bells coming from outside. Nellie bursts out the front door and grabs her bike and joins the boys, her mom steps out behind her and exclaims, “All of you, stay away from the woods, or I’m telling your parents. Now go on and be safe, be back in time for lunch!”. “Supper!” Nellie yells back, as she rides away with the boys. “LUNCH!!!”, her mother yells back furiously.

After hours of riding, and careless frolicking, the kids linger around outside the town’s only ice cream parlor, partaking in its sugary, frozen goodness. The gluttonous Lenny gobbles down two cones simultaneously, while the others look on in amusement. “Oh, now she smiles”, says Jeremy inquisitively. “Huh?” Nellie responds. “This is the first time since we’ve been out today that you’ve looked even slightly interested in anything,” Jeremy replies. “Are we boring you Eleanor?” asks Chris. Nellie glances at his precious wristband, “Your dad gave that to you right? Is he still in the picture?”, Lenny and Jeremy stare uncomfortably at each other without saying anything. Chris, clearly affected by Nellie’s question, takes a moment to compose himself then answers. “My dad went into the woods a couple years ago and never came out”. “Jesus, I’m so sorry”, says an embarrassed Nellie. The kids continue to eat their ice cream in awkward silence. Chris, who’s mood is now completely soured, finishes up his cone and signals to everyone he’s going home, a concerned Jeremy accompanies him. Nellie grabs Jeremy’s arm and apologizes once again, but is quickly reassured that everything is fine. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow, no worries.” “Ok”, replies Nellie, who is clearly unconvinced. Jeremy turns his attention to Lenny, “You coming buddy?” “I’m not done here yet,” replies Lenny, as he orders another pair of cones. Jeremy smiles in amusement and follows behind Chris.

“You know you didn’t have to order two more cones just to have an excuse to stay back with me so I don’t feel bad about messing up everyone’s vibe,” says Nellie. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing, I can’t help but be a nice guy I guess,” says a completely confused Lenny. “But how can everyone just accept that they can’t go into the woods? Don’t you want to see for yourselves what all the fuss is about?” inquires Nellie. “No, the thought hasn’t even crossed my mind, not even once, I’m pretty contented with being alive,” Lenny responds. Nellie grabs Lenny with both arms and stares into his eyes, “Please Lenny, come with me, just one time, do it for me”. The love-struck Lenny stares helplessly into Nellie’s hazel eyes, he’s lost all his senses by now, and agrees to accompany her into the woods. “OK, this Saturday, don’t tell the other guys.” An ecstatic Nellie jumps for joy and kisses Lenny on his cheek, which seems to send him in a trance.

Nellie sits and waits impatiently on her front step. Having had to endure another boring and uneventful week at school before she could get to explore the mysterious woods, every additional second she spent waiting on Lenny was torture. She was clad in cargo pants and combat boots, and had her trusty baseball bat by her side. She was more than ready, but still, no Lenny. Her impatience was turning into anger and disappointment, and she grabbed her bat and shot up angrily and was about to head back inside, until Lenny came speeding in on his bike, panting for breath. “I’m so sorry, I woke up a bit late, but I got here as soon as I could”, “It’s fine” Nellie responded. Lenny curiously examines her outfit, “Woah, what’s with the whole outfit?”, “A girl’s gotta be prepared right?” Nellie responds. “Yea I guess”, Says Lenny. “Now let’s get moving”, Nellie says, as she hops on her bike.

Lenny leads Nellie on an old, lonely trail, leading to the woods. They slow down as they approach an old house. “Someone actually lives out here?” asks Nellie, “This is as close as we ever get to the woods, and this house has always been abandoned” Lenny responds. They ride up to the front porch and Nellie sees three elderly men seated, simply staring into space. Nellie points at the elderly men, “Is that what you call abandoned?”, “Huh?” Lenny responds. “I knew it!”, yells Chris from a distance. Lenny and Nellie turn around and see Chris and Jeremy speeding towards them. Nellie stares angrily at Lenny, “You told them!?”, “No, I didn’t, I swear” the frightened Lenny responds. “He didn’t have to tell us anything, he was acting strange all week, and when we went by his house this morning and his mom said he wasn’t home, I put two and two together” says Chris, as he and Jeremy approach her. Nellie ignores them and turns her attention to the elderly men on the porch, waving at them, trying to get a reaction, but to no avail. “What’s wrong with them? They’re not even blinking”, asks the puzzled Nellie, as the boys look on at her worriedly. “Eleanor, what the hell are you doing?” asks Chris. “We’re wasting too much time” Nellie says, as her impatience gets the better of her. She hops back on her bike and speeds into the woods, sending the boys into a state of panic. “We can’t let her go in there alone” Lenny cries out, as he bravely rides into the woods behind Nellie. “Jesus Christ!” Jeremy exclaims while holding his head, “I knew this girl was bad news Jeremy, I just knew it. “Bad news or not buddy, we can’t just do nothing, lets go in and get them. In and out, simple and clean.” Chris sighs, as he reluctantly follows Jeremy into the woods.

Nellie climbs off her bike, and begins to slowly walk beside it, curiously looking around at all the bushes and trees. Lenny does the same. The light from the sun squeezes its way through the leaves overhead and casts a beautiful light. Jeremy and Chris ride in frantically behind them. Nellie looks back and smiles at the boys, “See guys, nothing to worry about.” “OK great Eleanor, you’ve made your point, now can we please get the hell out of here?” says Chris. “Since we’re already in here, we might as well explore some more, what’s the worst that could happen?” Nellie asks, giving a most charming smile. “God damn it!” Chris yells. “She’s not gonna stop buddy, let’s just get this over with,” says Jeremy, as he and Chris reluctantly follow Nellie deeper into the woods.

As the group journeys further into the woods, Jeremy becomes increasingly restless and walks up beside Nellie. “Enough is enough, I’m tired, Chris is tired, and Lenny, even though he’ll never admit it, he’s also tired,” he says, “Guys” Lenny whispers, but is ignored, “If you guys are tired you can go” Nellie responds, “Guys” Lenny says louder but is ignored once again, “Fine, have it your way little Miss Indiana Jones”, says Jeremy, “GUYS!!” Lenny exclaims and finally gets their attention. “WHAT LENNY!!” they both exclaim in unison. A trembling Lenny turns their attention to a middle-aged man standing behind them, face to face with Chris. “Dad?” a confused Chris asks. “The holiest of shits!” Jeremy exclaims. Everyone looks on in shock and confusion. Chris slowly approaches the man before him, who turns around and stares at Nellie with an expressionless smile that seems uncomfortably familiar. Nellie stares at the man in complete bewilderment, “I’m sure I’ve seen you before” she says. This infuriates Chris, “How the hell could you have seen my dad before?” The man suddenly runs off, with Chris immediately giving chase leaving the others behind.

The light from the sun suddenly vanishes as the leaves above seemingly converge, blocking any light from getting through. Jeremy and Nellie go into a state of absolute panic. “We just need to relax and stick together” Jeremy says, trying his best to recompose himself. “Where’s Lenny?” asks Nellie, as she and Jeremy look around and see there is no sign of him. “This can’t be happening” Jeremy says, “This is all my fault” Nellie cries out. Indistinct whispers can be heard now, as the leaves rustle violently in the intensifying wind. “We can’t stay here” Nellie says, “I know, we have to find Lenny and Chris and get the hell out of this shit show” Jeremy responds. They hold hands as they walk towards the direction Chris was headed in. Jeremy suddenly stops moving. “What’s wrong? Asks Nellie, “I can’t move” he responds. Nellie looks down and sees a large vine protruding from the ground, wrapped around Jeremy’s ankle. Jeremy struggles, but to no avail, and the vine begins to pull him down into the ground. Jeremy cries out to Nellie for help, who then grabs her bat and begins to strike at the vine. Another vine extends from the ground and strikes Nellie, causing her to fall on her backside. Jeremy is half way into the ground, screaming for help, as Nellie can only watch on in horror as he quickly disappears into the ground below.

The wind intensifies, and the whispers become clearer, “We don’t want you” the voice says. Nellie jumps to her feet and starts to run, tears streaming from her eyes. She trips on a vine and falls to the ground, hitting her head and losing consciousness. After some time, she regains consciousness and slowly picks herself up, only to see Lenny, Chris and Jeremy before her, their eyes white as snow. She jumps back in horror. “You did this” Chris says. “I’m so sorry” Nellie responds. “This place isn’t for you” Jeremy says. “Guys, what the hell’s the matter with you”. “Get Out!” the boys yell in unison, as they move towards Nellie with intent. Nellie cries out and begins to run once again.

Nellie runs out of the woods, bruised and panting for breath. She runs toward the cabin and tries to explain to the elderly men on the porch what had happened, but she gets no reaction. She shakes them violently and yells but they continue to stare into space. She turns around in anger and is about to walk away when one of the elderly men grabs her arm violently, causing her to cry out in pain. She turns around and sees a leather wristband on his arm. She looks at the man and sees a tear roll down his cheek. She stares at the wristband in disbelief, “It can’t be”. She tries to run away but fails to free herself from the man’s grasp. He pulls her closer towards him, and stares into her eyes. She lets out a deafening screech of terror.

Nellie wakes up on her bed, in a pool of sweat, heart racing. She touches her face and looks around her bedroom. “Just a dream, just a dream, thank God.” She jumps out of bed and hears the phone ringing loudly in the living room. She hears her mother answer, “No Mrs. Wheeler, I have no idea where Lenny is, I can find out from Nellie if she knows anything.” Nellie’s heart begins to race once again, “No, no, no, no, no” she repeats to herself. Her mom enters the room, Nellie looks at her arm and sees a hand print, right where the elderly man grabbed her. She looks up at her mother, standing by the bedroom door. “Nellie, what the hell did you do!?”

November 22, 2019 15:23

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1 comment

Alexi Delavigne
20:49 Nov 29, 2019

Really exciting ending!

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