The fire flickered, cutting through a blanket of darkness. The shadows danced along the ground and trees, and the orange flame danced in their eyes. The firewood cracked and popped as the golden ambers flicked in the air.
Anthony looked back at his new friends, trying to fight off the fright from his eyes. His brown eyes gave away his true feelings. He and his brother are new to the area. They all live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school. Only, Anthony chalked it off to shyness when none of the kids in the area wanted to go anywhere near the inside of their new home. The selfish part of himself wondered perhaps if it was his little brothers fault, being different and all. Anthony knew of course his brother couldn’t help being a mute. Other twelve year olds aren’t known for their compassion and understanding.
“You mean, you don’t know?” One of the boys said, a chubby kid, with a round face and rosy cheeks. He looked completely flabbergasted.
“I—I haven’t seen anything,” Anthony replied.
“He’s lying,” one of the other three boys started.
Anthony swore up and down he had seen and heard nothing. His mind had already come up with other explanations. Why bother mentioning it.
“Misses Goose,” Richie, the pudgy one, pleaded.
“I’ve seen her!” Kyle, the third boy, said.
“I hafta’ go home, it’s getting late,” the other boy said. Marty is his name. He always tried to put up a tough exterior, but Anthony saw through the façade.
The forest behind Riches house is very dense and dark; the light of the fire didn’t illuminate much. Marty stood up, breaking the circle around the fire. He kept to his story and headed home. Anthony’s eyes darted to the back of the house. The glow of the kitchen lights could be seen through the windows. It brought a little comfort, as he grew anxious.
“My friends dad told us all about her,” Kyle started. “She used to live in your house. Years ago, before the neighborhood was built. It was all forest. They say her husband went away to fight in a war and never came back, leaving her alone. No kids. She grew into an old lady. They say she went crazy.”
Anthony’s eyes locked on his. He watched as the light flickered in his eyes. There was dead silence around them, aside for the gentle breeze, swaying the tall trees.
“They say in the middle of the night, she walked fifty miles, to the nearest house, broke in, and took two kids while they slept. The parents never heard a sound. The local papers said police looked everywhere for the kids. One boy, and one girl. Seven and Nine. They never found them. Just a piece of clothing from her basement. They never had enough to throw her in jail.”
He stopped talking suddenly, and started listening for a sound in the air. They could hear the sounds of twigs snapping in the darkness of the forest. Anthony strained to peer into the dense darkness of the brush, but to no avail.
“What’s the–” Anthony started.
“Shh!!” Both boys snapped.
They sat in silence, only the billowing of the fire could be heard, and the faint sound of movement far into the forest. They couldn’t tell if it was moving closer or further away. The snapping twigs seemed to echo from all directions. Was it an animal?
They had no intention of finding out. They jumped up and darted towards the house. All three felt the urgent instinct to run, unsure why. The movement in the forest seemed to quicken. Behind every quick step, Anthony felt a presence chasing after him. Like someone was burning a hole in the back of his head, right on his heels. As they reached the open garage, they could have sworn they heard a growl from behind them.
Richie was out of breath as he reached for the door handle, to make their way inside into the kitchen. He tried to turn the handle but it wouldn’t budge.
Panic set in, as he hit on the door, hoping his parents were close enough to hear.
“Do you see that?” Kyle said, monotone.
He pointed toward the trees. All three stopped and peered out to the darkness, to the edge of the forest. There seemed to stand a shadowy mass that stood darker then normal. Blacker then the darkest spots of the forest. They weren’t sure if it was real, or what it was. Richie distractedly slapped the door, his eyes unlocked on the shadow ahead of them.
“Uh…guys?” Richie said.
“Is that real? What is that?” Anthony spoke quietly.
“Guys!” Richie yelled impatiently. “We’re gonna’ have to run around, to the front door.”
All three kids looked at each other, and back out to the trees. The strange shadow remained. It seemed to move, but it could be a trick of the flickering firelight.
“We run on three,” Richie continued.
He reached beside the cement stairs, to the bat that leaned against the wall. It said Louisville Slugger. He gripped it with both hands, and nodded slightly.
“On three,” Kyle agreed.
Anthony grew tense. The butterflies swarmed inside his stomach.
What if I fall, he thought. What if, whatever it is, decides to run towards us?
No, no, no, he thought.
They bolted out of the garage. They turned left, and around to the side of the house. They took no time to look back. Their shadows lay before them, as they paced to the front of the house. Anthony counted the shadows, and could have sworn there were more shadows then people. The light on the front porch came on as they got close. The door opened, Richie’s mom frowning.
“Why are you guys screaming?” She asked. “What’s with the bat?”
They all rambled in unison, indecipherable. She motioned for them to come in.
“You guys had enough, huh?”
They made their way to Richie’s room. They were out of breath, hearts racing. He set the bat down, and all three collapsed in the safety of the house. A few minutes passed before they spoke.
“So why is she called Misses Goose?” Anthony asked.
“Every day, she could be seen by the lake, the one behind the house. She would spend hours feeding the geese. They say, to this day, she can be seen at night, by the edge of the lake,” Kyle said, ominously. “She never had kids of her own. They say over the years many children in the area have gone missing because of her. She grabs them and drags them into the lake at night. Pulls them down to the bottom, never to be seen again.”
“I heard they never found the kids because she fed them to the geese,” Marty added.
“Don’t be silly!” Richie’s mom snapped at the door, as she came in. “Your mom called, Anthony. She said it’s time to head home.”
Anthony gulped as he looked back at the guys. He knew he could see his house from the window. It’s just a cul-de-sac over. If he cut across the neighbors yard across the street, he could make it in no time. He would have to pass the lake. The fear on his face was unmistakable.
“Okay…” was all he could say.
He stood at the front of the house. He said goodnight, and the door closed behind him. He knew once he stepped away from the light of the porch he would have to run as fast as his legs could carry him. He couldn’t deny the fear he felt. He tried his best to dismiss it. He skipped all three steps and bolted across the street. He ran between the two houses, and he could see his house ahead of him. He ran so frantically he forgot to breath. He could hear the grass beneath him as he ran, his ears listening for any sounds from behind him. He made no time for looking back. He could see the little lake out of this peripheral, trying to pay it no notice. The moonlight dancing across the surface, it sat calm and still, unsuspecting. Perhaps these stories aren’t true after all, he thought to himself. The ghost of a lady seen by a lake at night, that’s not a bad deal, he thought.
He made it, unscathed, to the security of his home. He said goodnight to mom and dad, and made his way upstairs.
His room was pitch black as he entered. He felt along the wall, searching for the switch. When the light came on, he jumped at the figure sitting on his bed, before he recognized who it was.
“What are you doin’ in here, bro?” He asked his brother.
Upon further recognition, he saw how upset he was. He had tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong?” He worried, sitting down next to him. He touched his arm, and felt his trembling. His brother just stared ahead, eyes almost vacant, his wet cheeks glistening. He clenched something in his hand, Anthony noticed.
“What is this?” He asked.
He had to pry the paper out of his hand; his trembling hands clutched it intensely. Anthony unwrinkled the paper, to reveal some drawings. The first was of a person hanging from a noose. It seemed to be a woman, with long gray hair.
Anthony’s blood felt like ice, and chills ran all over his body. He looked up from the paper towards his brother.
“Where did you see this?” Anthony asked. His voice cracked, his fear showing through.
His brother unresponsive, eyes locked in front, staring off into nothing.
“James, where did you see this?” He asked frantic. He grabbed him by the shoulders, and started shaking him, trying to snap him out of his stupor.
“Where??” he asked, his eyes welling up.
His brother’s eyes moved finally to meet his. James slowly raised his arm out, pointing in front of him, pointing his finger towards the hallway.
“You saw this in the hallway?” He asked, pointing to the drawing.
He looked back down at the paper. He noticed something at the woman’s feet. It looked like a tiny animal.
“James, what is this?”
James opened his mouth, trying to make noise, but nothing coming out. He struggled as if trying to form words, getting no more then a tiny groan.
“Are you trying to talk? Tell me!! What is this?!” Anthony asked frantically, tears coming down his face. It couldn’t possibly be a drawing of who I think it is, he thought. He had never known about it himself. His bother sure as heck wouldn’t.
James struggled to find words, fear stricken across his face. He was as pale as a ghost.
Anthony knew what he was trying to say. He was his brother, after all. He understood him more than anybody. Under the feet of the woman was clearly an animal. Not just any animal of course. It was a goose. Perhaps it sat waiting for her at the lake. Whatever doom sits beneath its surface, he hoped not to know.