The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
That Last Innocent Summer
by Sheri White
We were only twelve that summer when it happened. My friends and I had gone to the woods like we did every day. We usually had it all to ourselves, but that day we saw a woman standing in our favorite spot. Her clothes were old-fashioned and all black. She stood completely still with her back to us.
“Who is that?” Sammy whispered.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “Maybe someone’s grandma?”
“Whoever she is, I wish she’d leave. She’s blocking the swing,” Boner said in a whiny voice. He always had a whiny voice.
There was a rope swing we used to jump into the water. It had been there as long as we could remember; we don’t know who put it up, but it was a blast. The woman grabbed it with a gnarled hand, as if she knew we wanted to use it.
“Damn it. I wanted to go swimming.” Boner whining again.
“Me too. What is she doing?” Sammy asked.
“Maybe she’s got grandkids in the water and she’s keeping an eye on them?” Boner suggested.
“Maybe,” I said. “But why is she dressed like that? It’s so hot out. She even has a hat on.”
“It’s a bonnet, numbnuts.” Sammy rolled his eyes at me. I elbowed him back. “Let’s just go ask her if we can use the swing.”
We approached the woman. One of us stepped on a twig and she turned her head to look at us.
We screamed when we saw her face. Her eyes were jet black, set in a gray and wrinkled face. She let go of the rope and pointed at us with a bony finger, the long chipped nail yellowed and claw-like.
She grinned at us then, showing broken and jagged brown-stained teeth. She screamed and came at us fast.
“Run!” I screamed.
We took off screaming and crying.
“What is that? What is that?” Sammy kept repeating.
A few minutes later we couldn’t hear any cackling. “I think she stopped chasing us,” Sammy said.
We stopped to catch our breath, hands on our knees. We all had sweat dripping from our foreheads.
I stood up and turned around to see if she was still behind us, hoping she wouldn’t be. But there she was, standing—no, floating—between two trees several hundred feet behind us, watching us. She threw her head back and laughed, an inhuman sound that terrified me to my soul.
Sammy and Boner turned at the horrific scream. “We gotta go!” yelled Sammy.
Before we could run, the witch—and I don’t care what anybody said, that’s what she was—came at us impossibly fast, her arms reaching out and her dirty, broken toenails dragging through the dirt. Her stringy black hair flew around her face.
She grabbed Boner by the front of his shirt and pulled his face close to hers. Her black dead eyes stared into Boner’s blue ones. His mouth opened but he didn’t scream—he moaned, a low guttural tone—and didn’t even stop to take a breath.
The witch backed away slowly, dragging Boner with her.
We didn’t try to save him; we just stood there as they disappeared into the woods. I hate myself for that.
I saw Boner before the trees swallowed them up. He turned and looked at me and what I saw haunts me to this day.
His eyes were wide and completely black like the witch’s eyes. And his hair was now a shock of white. He hadn’t stopped moaning; I could hear the godforsaken sound emitting from his open mouth.
Nobody believed Sammy and me when we said a witch took Boner away. The cops told our parents that we were in shock and our traumatized minds made that part up.
That explanation made no sense to me.
There were search parties, of course, and pleas from Boner’s parents on TV to return their son to them, but I knew he was gone for good.
It’s been twenty years since that terrifying day. After my parents passed, I moved back into my childhood home they left to me. Sammy had moved away the day we graduated high school and never looked back. We never talked about what happened and kind of drifted away from each other in our teen years.
Lately I’ve heard cackling and laughter from the woods behind my house in the middle of the night. The witch is back, if she ever even left.
But now I also hear Boner moaning from the woods behind my house. Sometimes he calls my name, calling out for me to help him. And I know I should stay away, stay safe in my house at night.
Maybe this time, though, I can save him.
Fiction © Copyright Sheri White
Image courtesy of Rie Sheridan Rose.
More from Author Sheri White:
Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Featuring stories from R.L. Stine and Madeleine Roux, this middle grade horror anthology, curated by New York Times bestselling author and master of macabre Jonathan Maberry, is a chilling tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Flesh-hungry ogres? Brains full of spiders? Haunted houses you can’t escape? This collection of 35 terrifying stories from the Horror Writers Association has it all, including ghastly illustrations from Iris Compiet that will absolutely chill readers to the bone.
So turn off your lamps, click on your flashlights, and prepare—if you dare—to be utterly spooked!
The complete list of writers: Linda D. Addison, Courtney Alameda, Jonathan Auxier, Gary A. Braunbeck, Z Brewer, Aric Cushing, John Dixon, Tananarive Due, Jamie Ford, Kami Garcia, Christopher Golden, Tonya Hurley, Catherine Jordan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Alethea Kontis, N.R. Lambert, Laurent Linn, Amy Lukavics, Barry Lyga, D.J. MacHale, Josh Malerman, James A. Moore, Michael Northrop, Micol Ostow, Joanna Parypinksi, Brendan Reichs, Madeleine Roux, R.L. Stine, Margaret Stohl, Gaby Triana, Luis Alberto Urrea, Rosario Urrea, Kim Ventrella, Sheri White, T.J. Wooldridge, Brenna Yovanoff
This gave me chills! Great writing and very spooky- perfect. 🙂
A fantastic story. Very creepy.
Nice and spooky, lots of brooding atmosphere. Nice job!
Love the scope of this story – that you capture us with a single event then seamlessly carry us through the MCs life – creepy!