This story is by Sarah Prescott and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Two weeks had passed since Angie and her family moved into their new house and already so much had happened: School was out on summer break; Angie had celebrated her 12th birthday; and Scout had mysteriously ‘run away’. Nothing about the new house troubled her — except the eyes at her bedroom window.
“Go get the ball Ange! It’s your turn again,” Robert shouted, swinging his bat hard from left to right. They played ball every day since school had ended: Robert was determined to be the next Derek Jeter and Scout wasn’t here to fetch the high-balls anymore. Angie glimpsed her mother through the kitchen window busy over the stove, glass of wine in hand. Her dad would be home soon and she couldn’t wait to show him her new pitching skills.
“It’s not my turn, Robbo. Why don’t get the goddamn ball for once?” She shouted back, hand on hip, squinting against the sun.
“Because you’re smaller, now go! Or I’ll tell Mom you’re cursing again and you won’t get any dinner, haha!”
Rolling her eyes, she turned to face in the direction the ball had landed. It was definitely on the other side of that fence and she felt her heart beating in her throat. Beyond the fence surrounding the backyard stood the neighboring forest. So dense, it blocked out the late afternoon sun. Heaving left to right in the wind, it swayed like a group of giants standing side by side, towering over their little house. Angie shuddered looking up at the trees, remembering what her brother had told her.
<Don’t ever go in the woods behind the house Ange…creatures called figgywits live in the caves near the cliff edge….kidnapping and eating small children…and animals,>” he said laughing as she stared out the window, mouth agape. She shook her head, refusing to believe Scout had been eaten by some bizarre creature living in the woods. But she remembered that first night in the house all to clearly, those beady, doll-like eyes staring in at her from the window as she lay in bed. Ever since moving house it happened at least twice a week. Her parents didn’t believe her, laughing it off saying, Her gut told her otherwise.
She looked back and Robert was standing, hands on hips, shaking his head.
“Annnnggiiieeeeee c’mon,” he said, swinging his bat. “Don’t make me force you.”
The sun was setting behind the towering fir trees as Angie made her way towards the small hole at the bottom of the fence. She approached it, kneeling down on all fours and peeked underneath. The ball was nowhere in sight. Judging by the size of the hole she thought she might be able to squeeze through if she dug a little more around it. Cupping her hands, she began scooping out mounds of dried dirt hollowing out a little ditch to fit through. There was a on the other side and she peeked underneath, breathing heavier as her eyes settled on a mysterious child-sized figure crouching behind a tree trunk.
“Sc — ” she began, her eyes narrowing as she squinted through the shadows. She quickly realized something was wrong judging by its shape: although childlike, it was muscular, crouched like an animal with unnaturally long arms compared to its size. She felt pressure on the back of her neck and a strong grip tightened, then her face was shoved down into the dirt.
“Gotcha!!” Robert snarled in her ear, rubbing it through her hair.
“What’s wrong with you!? You scared the shit outta me, assho–”
“Kids! Dinner’s ready, come in now,” their mother shouted from the back door. “Angie, you better not be crawling under that fence — Robert, she’s your responsibility!”
They started back towards the house, Robert kicking stones at Angie’s heels until they reached the back door. She pushed him inside the house and looked back over her shoulder, hoping to see Scout. Instead the forest stared back challenging her to come inside.
That night, Angie got dressed and crept down the stairs sneaking out the back door. She hopped the flower beds crossing the grass and headed straight for the hole under the fence at the far end of the garden. Armed with a flashlight and a dog leash clipped to her waistband she was determined to find Scout. The forest came alive at night, birds and bats squeaked, dive bombing towards the ground like armies of tiny soldiers.
As she approached she noticed something furry sticking out of the fence. She pointed her flashlight at the hole and saw two spindly legs covered in coarse brown fur sticking out. She leaned in closer, reaching for a nearby stick and held it out poking its belly. No movement. Rolling it over slowly, her heart sank as she saw two long front teeth protruding out and realized it was a hare.
Angie took a few steps back, throwing the stick as hard as she could over the fence like a boomerang, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her foot caught on the leash attached to her waistband and she lost her balance landing hard on her backside. Taking a deep breath, she got up brushing herself off when something came sailing through the air, landing on the grass beside her. Her entire body went stiff and blood rushed in her ears as she looked down in disbelief. It was Scout’s frayed collar.
There was a deep growling noise coming from the fence — she looked back and the hare was gone. Instead, a dark shape appeared, thrusting itself face-first under the fence and through the hole, covered in thick black fur with claws like a bear, no ears and beady eyes glimmering in the dark. It was struggling, thrashing its long arms and digging its claws into the grass as it tried to squeeze through the hole, contorting its body like a rat.
She turned fast on her heels and ran into something hard face-first, falling to her knees. Robert’s hand pressed against her face, covering her nose and mouth as he kneeled beside her and whispered in her ear.
“Ssshhhhhh, stay very still Ange, you don’t wanna piss ‘em off.” His hand fell away from her face and slid down, holding both her arms still.
“Th — they?” She whispered, her breath shallow.
“The Figgywitsss,” he hissed, nodding towards the fence. “Ever since we moved to this house, they’ve been watching every night…through the windows…waiting in the dark.” Angie shook her head, wishing she would wake up.
“You talk to them?” She managed to choke. He nodded.
“The day Scout ran away, I followed him into the woods, further than I’d ever been before and he lead me straight to them. There’s an area beyond the clearing at the cliff edge where a group of caves sit shrouded in darkness — that’s where they sleep — only leaving at night to hunt. They were everywhere and would have eaten me — I had no choice! I had to give them Scout. And now, the only way they’re going to leave is if one of us goes with them.” Robert leaned over, embracing Angie in a bearhug and lifting her up off the ground.
“I love you, Ange,” he said, cheeks wet and glistening. Angie buried her face in Robert’s chest.
“Please don’t go, Robbo,” she said, muffled by his thick sweater. She waited for him to set her down but he didn’t. Instead, his grip tightened around her and she felt him begin to take small steps forward towards the fence.
“R-Rob — what’re you doing!?” She tried to scream, but he squeezed tight and instead it came out as a squeak.
“It’s ok, Ange, sshhhh — they only need one of us,” he said.
Angie struggled, kicking his shins and headbutting his chest until he threw her to the ground, pinning her underneath him. He forced something sour into her mouth. It was his dirty sock. Her body heaved as she gagged, clawing at him until he used his whole weight to restrain her. He held her arms down, his feet pinned her legs until she tired. Using Scout’s leash, he hog-tied her before forcing her through the hole to the other side of the fence.
Exhausted, she lay in the darkness, waiting for the inevitable. As her eyes focused she saw their feet first, long and pointy. Her gaze drifted up noticing their slightly hunched backs and broken, chittering teeth. They glared down with those familiar beady eyes, their breath visible in the cold air. One reached out with strong ape-like arms and effortlessly tossed her over its shoulder, her incessant protests muffled by the sock. She looked back in horror and saw Robert’s face peeking through as he began to fill in the hole with dirt while they carried her deep into the woods.