There was a school yard rhyme at my small elementary school. It was “When the air grows dim and silent, in the wood prowls something violent, don’t look it in the eye, or you will be the next to die.” No one ever really took it seriously and why would they? A silly rhyme in the vein of the one about Lizzie Borden. Eventually I realized that it was more than just a rhyme.
It’s been 11 years since this happened but I remember it as though it happened no more than an hour ago. I was 9 at the time and we lived in a nice neighborhood. My older sister was 12 and it was her idea to go take a walk down the train tracks at night. I, being young and dumb, agreed. I was scared at the time though, because the night before I had heard some animal making weird sounds. Looking back, what was most likely a coyote wasn’t what I should have been afraid of.
We started walking. My sister walked beside the tracks, while I attempted to walk on the rail. We had been out for almost an hour when she decided we should head back home. The woods adjacent to the tracks were silent, very odd for a summer night in rural Maryland. This was the first time the cicadas were quiet. I was a dumb kid, and I didn’t want to go home yet, so I did the only logical thing my tiny brain could think of. I took off into the woods. I was quiet enough that she didn’t notice I was gone till she got home.
I knew the woods well. There was a tree house I frequently visited with my friend Andie, which was where I was heading. I never made it to the tree house. I never made it there because I was stopped by something…
This thing I saw was what I can only describe as a monster. It stood about 7 feet, but it was hunched in such a way that standing straight up would’ve added another 3 feet at least. Its skin was yellowed and bumpy. In the grooves of its skin I could see dark red mixed with a whitish ooze. It turned away from the deer carcass it had been tearing apart and looked at me. God, its claws were so long. It was staring at me, and I stared back. In the eyes.
An ear piercing scream shattered the unnatural silence. I fell to my knees and tried to scramble away. I made away but it kept reaching for me with those awful claws. I out ran it, as the dense forest is no place for a 10 foot monster. It left 4 long gashes on my back, and tore my sweater in the process. I bolted out of the forest. I ran onto train tracks, and caught view of my sister. I didn’t slow down, but she got the point and started running with me towards our house. All attempts to be quiet while ‘sneaking’ back in were futile. I slammed the door open and essentially fell into the house. My sister got in the house around the same time our father ran down stairs. He lost any intention at getting mad at us when he saw my back.
After we all calmed down and my dad realized the wounds weren’t deep enough to need stitches, he started cleaning my back up. I told him what happened, and my sister said what she knew, but he didn’t believe us. He didn’t think we were lying, but he didn’t want to believe what we said. Needless to say, we stayed away from the woods after that.
I still live in that area, and every once in a while during summer I take walks down on the tracks. I listen very carefully before I leave the safety of my home. The cicadas other noisy bugs I used to despise are now a comfort. When I don’t hear them, I lock the door and hope everyone else knows what lurks in those woods at night, when the cicadas go silent.