• Brent Streeter

Shadows of Dawn

Photo by Oleksandr Tiupa: https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-pine-tree-leaves-192136/

Dawn broke, the sun crested over the horizon, setting the sky awash in soft pinks, yellows and blues. The farmstead was quiet in the early morning. A homely place surrounded by green fields and pastures, with a serene backdrop of vast woods and a mountain range that rose beyond them.

The family that resided in the farmstead had just recently moved in and were still getting to grips with the isolation that came with it. The locals had shaken their heads when the boy’s father had asked for directions to the farmstead. And the boy had heard hushed whispers from those standing around. The woods that surrounded the farmstead were haunted by terrifying creatures of old that could rend a man in twain. The boy’s father brushed off the gossip and rumors as nonsense and codswallop, saying they were just fables made to scare children from venturing too deep into the woods. They were going to live there no matter what.

The boy awoke with the need to relieve himself and crawled out from beneath the rough spun blanket that lay atop his bed. He tiptoed past his sleeping parents, not wishing to wake them, navigating his way through a sea of empty bottles that littered the floor as he headed for the front door. It creaked open despite his father’s recent attempts at oiling the hinges, and the boy cringed waiting for a response from his parents. But none came, the boy let out a pent-up breath and stole outside into the coming day.

The outhouse was a ways off from the main house, positioned near the closest section of the woods. The boy’s father had been meaning to have a new one erected closer to the house, but had not gotten around to fulfilling it. The boy scanned the woods, still shrouded in gloom, before starting out across the stretch of dew-laden grass. The need to relieve himself intensifying with each sodden step.

He broke into a dash, no longer able to contain himself. As he drew nearer the outhouse, he noticed movement between the trunks of ancient trees just beyond it. He came to a skidding halt, sending flecks of dew flying in all directions. His eyes ran over the forest once more as he desperately tried to glimpse whatever was hiding within the woods. They stared back at him, silent and unmoving. He felt his skin crawl, he might not be able to see it now, but he could feel it. Something was watching him.

The outhouse forgotten, the boy turned on his heels and raced back towards the house and his parents within. Not bothering with subtlety any longer, he hurtled toward the house, banging the door shut behind him. His parents woke with a start.

“What’s got into you boy?” His father shouted.

The boy ran to his parents, “I...I saw something in the woods outside b... by the outhouse!” The boy stammered in agitation.

His parents looked at their panic-stricken son, with his wide eyes and soiled night garments.

The boy’s mother nudged his father in the ribs with her elbow, “Go out and check for him, dear. Something startled him.”

The boy’s father grumbled under his breath and rolled out of bed. He passed his son and grabbed his double-barreled shotgun from its resting place along with some shells. Hoisting it over his shoulder and pocketing the shells, he gestured for his son to accompany him. They exited the house and made their way to the outhouse. Upon reaching it, the boy’s father scanned the forest edge, while the boy hung back, not eager to get closer to the woods until the coast had been deemed clear.

His father stifled a yawn, “Ain’t nothing here, boy.”

“But... but I swear I saw something, sir!”

“Must’a being them shadows again, this is the third time this week, boy!” The boy’s father brushed by him, heading back towards the house.

“But this time there really was something... sir!”

“Enough!” His father spat reeling on his son, “How many times I gotta tell ya, get yer head out of them forsaken books! It’d do ya no good filling it with such nonsense!”

The boy cowered, eyes closed, waiting for the beating that was to come, but when he opened his eyes his father was nowhere in sight, and he had been left standing alone beside the outhouse. From behind him came a snapping sound, the boy swiveled his head towards the forest. Intrigued by what he had heard, he mustered his courage and crept into the woods.

He had taken but a few paces when he saw it. The creature towered above him and looked almost man-like in appearance but instead of bare skin, it was covered in thick matted fur. He felt his blood run cold as he saw the limp body of his father dangling in one of its enormous hands. The shotgun was nowhere in sight. The creature regarded the terrified boy with gentle eyes and lifted a meaty finger to its toothy maw for silence. The boy remained rooted to the spot where he stood and watched the creature move off, deeper into the forest gloom, fading away in silence like a shadow in the morning, taking the boy’s father with it.