Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Woods at Night

They came back an hour after sundown. We saw them flitting through the trees - three bounding spheres each no bigger than a man’s fist - spinning round and round in an arc as if tethered together by some invisible thread.

Mum had warned us not to leave the house when these so called "spirit lights" were out. “You run inside Robbie. Shut the doors, the windows and keep Sarah by your side at all times”

I had nodded and told Mum she won’t need to worry about me and Sarah. We’ll be fine. Soon as the lights appear, were indoors in a snap. “Promise me!”, Mum had said and we solemnly made our promise though I felt she was being a tad too melodramatic considering the mystery lights were - as far as folks were aware - fairly harmless.

Or was there something else Mum wasn’t telling us? Perhaps she knows the origin of these strange lights; where they came from, what’s causing them and why is it we never see them in the winter? Clint from Ace Hardware down in Morrinsville had said something about swamp gases and lightning and how the two seemingly isolated events could conjure light orbs able to traverse thick woods and fly around like fairies. But then Clint had also claimed to have been abducted by little green men and subjected to tests. Whatever the real origin of the strange lights, they’ve yet to cause any trouble or had the townsfolk up in arms weilding pitchforks and shovels looking for them.

So there we were, Sarah and I peering down from our first story bedroom window across the backyard and into the deep woods that made up the furthest edge of our property. The spirit lights were coming closer, maybe ten meters now from our kitchen door. The moon was out, though just a flat round blemish in the clouds. The wind had picked up and we could hear it whistling through the rafters. Across the fence the Barton’s dog was howling – a long pained keening that made the fine hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and goosebumps sprout all over my arms.

“You ok Sarah?”, I whispered, my right arm wound tight around my sister’s shoulders as we watched the lights between a crack in the curtains.

“I’m scared Robbie. Where is Mummy?”, she asked. She had Mr. Jinggles, her favourite fluffy toy held close to her chest. Her pale blue eyes searched me for comfort, and assurance that everything will be alright and Mum will be rolling up the driveway right this minute.

“Mummy’s at the restaurant Sarah. She’s working double shifts. You know how it is on Fridays”

“No fair! I wish she was here! I think the lights are scared of Mummy”

“We’ll be fine Sarah. Let’s draw the curtains and get you to bed ‘kay?”, I said as I led her away from the window, across the hallway and into her bedroom.

Sarah clambered in bed and pulled the blankets over herself and Mr. Jinggles. “Please leave the lights on Robbie”, she said. “Please!”

“I’ll leave the lights on Sarah. And I’ll be just across the hallway OK”, I assured my sister as I rubbed her soft blonde hair and gave her a light kiss before I went back to my room.

When I peeked through the curtains next, the lights had disappeared.

Then the doorbell rang downstairs.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was just a quarter past eight. Couldn’t be Mum. She’s not due home till early morning.

I threw on a robe and stopped over at Sarah’s room to let her know I was going to check who it was at the front door.

“Robbie, I’ll come with you!”, she said, climbing out of bed Mr Jinggles in tow.

“Sarah, please get back in bed Ok. I’m just gonna have a quick look. It’s probably one of the neighbours”, I said as I ushered her back under the blankets. She looked upset but knew it was better she stay in bed whilst big brother see to the door.

At the bottom of the stairs I switched on the porch lights. I saw no one; no dark silhouette through the pebbled glass panels on our front door. The first thing that ran through my mind was - this had better not be a prank by that Barton kid. He’s done it before but god help the little shit if it was him again.

I walked across the foyer and reached for the doorknob.

Then I heard Sarah scream.