We were collectively grounded, but only for a week, since our parents were all just happy they found us right away. 
We effectively learned our lesson and had no intention of ever entering that forest again. A few weeks later though, scary things started to happen to us.

One afternoon, on a hot June day, we met down by the swimming pond to spend the afternoon swimming and keeping cool under the hot sun. Becca and I were first there, so we locked our bikes next to the old outdoor showers/bathrooms, and headed to a shady spot under one of the trees to wait for the boys. I sat down on one of the roots and folded my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them "hey my dad said he would drive the four of us to the beach on the 4th of July, him and my mom are planning a BBQ party up there and reserved a camping spot. We can swim all day and hang out watching fireworks from the beach" I said excitedly, I looked over at her and my smile instantly faded "Becca?" I nudged her gently, she didn't respond "Earth to Becca?" Finally she turned her head and said "oh sorry I didn't hear you" the blank stare she gave me made my heart start to thump in my chest "Becca what's wrong? You're really freaking me out"

"Did your parents ever bring up that day in the woods again?" Her voice was close to a whisper and I detected nervousness. "No they figured I learned my lesson and left it at that, and we agreed we are never going in there again" I answered, confused as to why she was bringing this up now. "What if we woke it up?" I snapped my head to her "what? Why would you say something like that? Stop worrying about it, you're just scaring yourself. I see the guys over there, let's go swimming" I patted her shoulder reassuringly, even though her question left me on edge.

We swam until dusk, I had forgotten about Becca's disturbing behavior and she seemed to lighten up too, I never mentioned it to Luke or Max. 

We were the last ones at the swimming pond, we got out and dried off. We were all standing by the tree Becca and I had been sitting under earlier, gathering our things and talking and laughing, slowly making our way up to the showers and the bike rack when Max, who was in the lead, stopped dead in his tracks. Becca wasn't paying attention and ran right into his back "whoa! Why did you stop?" She laughed and looked past him to where he was staring, her laugh died in her throat. We were all frozen, staring at the thing next to our bikes. It was human but it wasn't, I can barely find the words to describe what we saw that day. It stood on 2 legs, like a human, it was very tall had to be close to seven feet or more and thin, so thin that I could see the outline of its rib cage. It stood tall with its head up high and a large antler rack pointing directly behind it with the angle it's head was in. It's face was up to the sky and it let out a sickeningly loud, shrill, glass shattering scream or howl, I'm not sure what it was but it was so loud we all dropped our things and covered our ears. We were frozen where we stood in fear. I'm not even sure we breathed.

Then it stopped quick, like when someone turns off a radio in the middle of a song, for a few seconds, I thought my ear drums popped and I was deaf. Then I heard Max, his voice quivering, "does..any..anyone..see...uh..him..err....that??" He stuttered. I had never seen him so scared, he was always the brave one, the dare devil. Ever since we were 6 years old and his family moved into the house down the block.

"Look!" Luke yelled pointing at the thing, which was now looking directly at us. It made the grunting-snorting sound of a pissed off moose, which made me imagine that it would charge right at us. "We need to get out of here" I whispered. "Ye..yea..yeah Gabs is ri..right" Max was still stuttering, but now he was slowly backing up, the rest of us following suit. "Keep it slow guys.."I whispered "we don't want it to charge at us" we all slowly backed away from the showers, while it watched us, unmoving. When we got back to the tree, it was starting to disappear behind the building. Suddenly, it took a step around the building and faced us, it cocked its head to the side like a dog would. We stopped at the tree, we were out of options, if we kept going backwards we would fall down the hill and into the pond, if we went right, we would run across the beach and right into a stone wall serving as a gate to keep people out of old farmer Wright's crops, that man was scarier than the thing staring at us at this moment. If we went to the left, we would go right into the forest, it's territory. We were stuck, the boys got in front of us, blocking us from the monster.

It suddenly snapped its head up to the sky and started sniffing, "what's it doing?" Becca whispered "I don't know, just don't move or make a sound" I whispered back. The monster was getting visibly agitated, snapping its head in all directions, then it turned and ran swiftly into the trees. 
Once it was out of sight, we all breathed again "let's go!" Max said and we ran to grab our bikes and we didn't look back until we were all safely home.

I went straight up to my room, shut my shades and my door and laid down on my bed and cried. I cried mostly because I was sure, at that moment, that we were the cause of this thing showing up in town. I was sure it was going to start stalking us, all because we were curious and adventurous kids doing what kids do. I wanted to tell my parents but I just couldn't muster up the nerve, and that made me feel very lonely.

There was a light knock on my door "Gabby? We ordered a pizza, honey. Wanna come down and eat?" My moms quiet voice sang through the door. "Yeah, let me shower quick" I called back "ok but hurry up, before your brothers get home and eat it all" I smiled at that "ok thanks mom, I'll be 5 minutes" I replied. I could hear her footsteps on the stairs. I gathered my stuff and took a quick shower.

After dinner, I hung out in the living room with my younger brother, Owen, and watch a movie. Halfway through the movie, I noticed movement outside the picture window behind our TV. At first, I thought it was my imagination and just ignored it. Then I hear a soft tap on the window, I muted the tv and slowly and quietly moved toward the window. "What are you doing?" Owen sounded annoyed."shh..I thought I heard something outside" I whispered "whatever, it's a squirrel or raccoon" he rolled his eyes and leaned back on the couch, while I reached for the curtains...too dark to see anything.

The following day, after my parents left for work, I went out the front door to the living room window. I had to see if there really was someone out there. I looked around in the dirt with no luck. Then I saw something in the bushes, stuck to a branch. It was some sort of fur, dark brown, almost black. Then I looked at the dirt and saw what looked like some sort of hoof print. I backed away and ran in the house.

I called Becca "we need to talk, all 4 of us, but it can't be here, let's all meet at the park in an hour" she agreed and we hung up. 
An hour later, all four of us were sitting at a picnic table. I told them what happened and what I found and they each one by one told a similar story. 
We are being warned.

Published by Liz Zemlicka