This story is by Ross Deatrick and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Here is a boy who doesn’t know the world. The boy is just opening his eyes to the possibilities.
The young boy’s example is all he knows, and he is trying to spread his wings. His father, a city man, won’t let the boy explore the woods behind the house. Scared of the dangers himself, The father will never take him. He has no intention to.
So one day after school the boy is in the backyard playing, and decides to take a trip into the woods.
He is nervous, and afraid of getting caught, but he cant believe his feet are moving forward. He steps from the yard into the woods and enters a new dimension. This foreign place. His curiosities flaring.
There were bushes, fallen leaves, trees, and many big rocks that were perfect for climbing on. Each bit of distance he made into the woods broadened his mind. He turned to look back at the backyard to see if his parents were outside but he could not see the house anymore.
The young boy would climb up on a big rock and stand tall on top. He was the king. As he hopped off the rock he landed on a fallen branch, snapping it in half. He picked up one of the broken halves and used it as a walking stick, just like in this one movie he had seen.
He kept making his way and found a small stream of water. It was shallow, and he could stand in it. The water was not even deep enough to cover his shoes. That’s when he could hear his parents yelling for him.
He got scared, he knew he shouldn’t be out here. He ran, carrying the walking stick by his side, meeting his parents just as they were entering the woods themselves.
His father took the walking stick and threw it back into the thick of trees. It smacked some branches and hit the ground, making a loud thud and smashing leaves. The boy put his head down in shame and walked back to the house between his mom and dad.
For the next couple of weeks his parents kept a close eye on him when he would play outside. He had moments where he would stare into the woods, and dream of that short time he had been in there. He was still curious of what else was there.
Then one day the boy’s grandpa was picking him up from school. His parents were out of town for the night. He knew that this would be his chance to see the forest once again.
Before, he had stopped and taken a good look at the woods before stepping in, but this time, as soon as his grandfather had gone back inside, he quickly made his way into the woods. He was breathing heavy and his adrenaline was high.
He found another walking stick that was perfect size for him.
He got to the big rock he stood on that first time and instead of staking his claim as king he sat on it, taking in his surroundings. Lingering for a bit.
In the other world, his normal-everyday-life, he was constantly coming in contact with technology and television. Here in nature he could not believe how quiet it was. No flashing images, no commercials, no one telling him anything he didn’t want to hear.
In nature, he felt he was exactly where he needed to be.
He went to the stream again. He knew the water was dirty but he was thirsty and he wanted to drink. He got down on his knees and put his lips to the stream. It tasted chalky, but natural. He felt natural.
He sat down and played in the stream with his hand. He began to feel sad that no one else his age knew what being in the solitude of nature felt like. At least he didn’t think they would know. They only ever talked of adventures from games on their iPads.
An orange-red fox slowly walked up and joined him, taking a drink from the stream. The boy was not scared. Neither was the fox. It came up to the boy and licked his hand, and the boy pet him on top of the head and down his back.
The fox laid down beside the boy, curling up next to his knee. The boy sat there petting him for the next hour.
The boy stood up and continued down the path that the stream lay, planting his walking stick in the ground as he traveled. The fox rested.
He stumbled upon a tree that had pieces of wood nailed into it for steps and a small wooden tree house at the top.
He knew that tree house was someone else’s but he had to explore it. After ascension to the inside of the tree house, he found it was bare and empty. He loved the window that showed him a view above the trees as far as the eye could see.
He spent close to an hour in the tree house admiring the view. In the woods, everything was everyone’s. Everything was one.
When he climbed back down the treehouse he decided to head home. The sun was starting to go down, and as much as he loved the woods he was even more scared of the dark.
He was walking quickly when traveling opposite him was a grey animal with a long tail.
The boy, scared, stopped and so did the animal.
The animal stood up on it’s hind legs eye level with the boy. Upon seeing the black and white stripes across it’s face he realized it was a raccoon. The same animal as his favorite stuffed toy.
The raccoon breathed lightly. It held out a big red apple, offering it to the boy.
He hesitated, but he accepted it. The raccoon turned around and started trotting on all fours back the way he came.
“Hey! Wait up!” The boy yelled, chasing after it.
He didn’t know where he was going. The raccoon would weave in and out of trees, dodge bushes, hop over broken limbs, and zig-zag around. The boy had trouble following behind.
He lost sight of the raccoon as it got darker and while running he accidentally dropped the apple. He stopped and turned to look for it, but the shadow of the moon was slowly washing over his surroundings, making it hard to see.
He tried to look for the apple on the ground but he started to panic when he couldn’t find it. He started jogging quickly again when he heard something behind him. Little squeaky voices, reminiscent of a bird chirping. He turns and sees four sets of jet black eyes chasing after him. He runs straight ahead and starts to see the clearing into his backyard lit up from the porch light on his house.
He can feel them trying to swipe at his heels.
He is almost to the clearing when he see’s his Grandpa and the boy hears his name being called. He takes another look before making it to his backyard. The light illuminates the black and white stripes on the four creatures faces. He exits the forest and comes into the backyard, jumping into his grandfather’s arms, embracing him.
“Hey, buddy. Are you ok?”
The boy, gasping for breath says, “The raccoons are after me.”
“Silly, there’s no raccoons.” says his grandfather.
But the boy turns around and can see the four sets of moon reflected eyes staring back at him… Waiting.