The Woods Near Pinehurst Avenue

I was sick of taking my bratty little brother trick-or-treating every year. Year after year, Mom would submit to his pleas for the newest, coolest costume of the week, generally buying at least three, as Jeremy changed his mind at least a dozen times. He changed costume ideas as often as he changed socks. In fact, probably much more than he changed socks. Gross! It sickened me that she let him get away with this, and it hurt to see him change from such a sweet toddler to a real pain-in-the-butt 6-year old. The worst part was watching him fill up one of those plastic orange jack-o-lanterns with candy and stuff his face with at least half of it. Then he’d go empty his stash at the house and go back out for at least five more rounds. I guess it’s good we live in the suburbs where there are plenty of houses. I always tried to get him to stop at three rounds, but he refused to listen to me, and Mom was always working night shift as a nurse at the hospital. I think she somehow believed that by giving Jeremy what he wanted, it would somehow make up for Dad leaving us. God, parents can be stupid sometimes.

This year I told myself it was going to be different. I told Jeremy ahead of time that we would walk the closest three streets this year, and then we’d go home. He agreed at first, eager to get started, but of course, once we finished raiding the third street, all hell broke loose. I told him I was going home, hoping that he would follow me, but instead, he ran off into the woods that bordered the residential area on Pinehurst Avenue.

Although the woods were smack in the middle of our little Ikea-infused suburbia, they covered at least a 100-acre span of rough terrain and dense underbrush. Despite the overall sense of creepiness that any sane person would experience when entering the woods, many kids used the narrow pathway that went straight through it’s center as a shortcut to the next town over. Only, most sane children would have used the path during the daytime, NOT at night. Jeremy, apparently, was not only bratty, but also insane.

I sighed, broke open my spare glow stick, and headed up the path, calling for Jeremy. He didn’t answer. Of course he didn’t. I was going to kill him when we got home. I started running, figuring I’d eventually catch up with him. His legs were at least half the length of mine, and I knew he’d eventually start getting tired.

After about 20 minutes of running, panic began to set in. I should have caught up to him by now. My legs were beginning to feel like rubber in my heavy rain boots, and I tripped at least a half a dozen times over gnarly rocks and twisted tree roots. Picking myself up out of the slippery mud hole I had fallen in, I noticed a soft glow out of the corner of my eye. It was a steady greenish hue, and seemed to be inside the thicket about a hundreds yards back. Jeremy had been carrying a green light sword with him as we made our trick-or-treating rounds. A sense of relief washed over me.

“Jeremy!” I called out. “Jeremy, is that you?”

No one answered. I held up my nearly useless glow stick, and worked my way towards the light. The thick underbrush was nearly impossible to break through. How Jeremy managed to get through here, I had no idea. These hundred yards might have well as been miles.

Face bloodied, and clothing torn from the vicious branches, I eventually made it to the source of the light. My heart sank. There was no green light sword. There was no Jeremy. Instead, inside a hole in a tree, was a glow-in-the-dark volleyball with the words: “Keep Out” marked on the face. Suddenly, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and my body tensed in fear. I froze, unable to turn and face the icy breath against the base of my neck. I’d never felt anything quite so cold. But the fear of the unknown was worse than knowing. At least Jeremy maybe made it through to the town, I hoped for a moment. As I turned, my fear was joined by a compelling need to stay. I felt myself grounded to this place, and though my mind told me to run, my body ever so wanted to remain where I was.

His eyes were crimson and steady, and he smiled at me as if I were his most treasured possession. “I promise, this won’t hurt,” he whispered into my ear, gently lifting my hair away from my throat. His voice sent ripples of sensation through my body, and I felt myself melt into his arms. Suddenly dying didn’t seem so bad. I knew this was a completely irrational thought. I knew I should run. I knew I should fight, but somehow my fear had melted into desire. This too, I knew was not rational. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t that fast. All I saw was his smile before he caressed my neck. All I felt was mind-numbing bliss and the rapid beating of my heart as he drained me of life. In my euphoria, I laughed at myself for leaving this world without ever getting to kick my brother’s butt for running away. Man, this Halloween really sucked.

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