“Bro, watch you don’t whack me with that branch of yours!” Neil panted through the blinding darkness after dodging the branch coming at his face by an inch.
“It’s hardly a branch” Carter retorted, trying his best to tackle nature’s overgrowth of tall grass, weeds and bushes as effortlessly as possible.
Eamon smiled thinly as he and the others followed Carter through the overgrowth that held them back for longer through the woods, ducking under long tree branches and tripping every-so-often on tree roots that erupted through the dirt.
The young teen began to imagine that nature was trying to stop them all and make them turn back as though they were closing in on something rare and dangerous. He found the thought intriguing as well as funny.
“So, which way now, Indiana Jones?” Shaw asked with a grin once Carter had stopped, unsure of which direction to go in. He seemed to be too lost in thought to even register Shaw’s comment.
“I never knew this was going to be so big” he murmured under his breath, scratching his head as he stared at the overgrowth ahead with a defeated look.
Carter eyed his surroundings warily. The more he scanned the green around him through the darkness, the more he could feel his throat tighten from claustrophobia. The trees with their tall, long branches almost created a roof over them whilst the trunks, bushes and grass created the tight walls around them. It was starting to get to him.
“Maybe we should head back” Carter spun around to face the four boys behind him with a look of desperation as his chest began to feel itchy and tight. He wanted to get out of there. But, in return, they all exchanged him with puzzled looks.
“Dude, it’s only nine, we don’t need to be back until half ten” Dean said, checking his watch as he spoke.
“Look, I’ll lead the way if you don’t want to” Neil piped up, taking the branch from Carter before the boy could respond and began slashing away at the overgrowth just as Carter had done earlier.
Carter stepped back to join the other four as they now followed Neil’s confident lead, hoping he’d be able to find a way out of here soon. He could feel sweat form on his forehead and in the palms of his hands as he tried his best to remain calm. He shut his eyes tight and followed the direction he could hear everyone walk in, hoping that would help.
“See?” Carter opened his eyes to the sound of Neil’s voice and saw that the confident teen had found their way out of the overgrowth in under a minute.
Carter breathed a sigh of relief as they all left the dark woods in a hurry, intrigued to see what they would find at the end. However, all they came across was a large field with a road way down at the side that lead in the direction back to town.
“Are you kidding me?” Neil moaned, throwing the branch to the side away from him.
“Well, what did you expect to find out here?” Shaw asked, amused at Neil’s annoyance. It was as though he was expecting to find treasure or gold or something ridiculous, and it made Shaw grin.
“I wish whoever owned this field would actually look after it” Carter added, not being able to stand on firm ground from how the farm had hills of soil along with long patches of weed entangled in the soil, grabbing at the boys’ ankles as they walked, almost tripping them.
Dean stifled a scream as one latched onto his shoe lace, reminding him of a zombie movie he watched a few nights ago, with the dead people’s hands trying to pull the living into the dirt from their graves.
“I think it’s abandoned” Eamon said, eyeing the field like none of the others were. “On this time of year, all the fields would be covered in crops ready to be harvested. But this field is empty and even has weeds growing through it”
The rest of the boys finally took notice as well. It was strange to find an abandoned field where they lived, especially a field that looked as though it truly had been abandoned for years.
In the little town they lived in, farmers roamed the place. Wherever you went, you were always bound to see at least one tractor on the road each day. Even some of the boys’ classmates lived in a family of farmers. Eamon even remembered seeing some of the final year students at the school they went to drive into the school carpark with their father’s tractors to take their final exams. ‘Cow Town’ was what the town used to be called back in the 40s, Eamon remembered his grandmother telling him one day when she was feeling nostalgic - which was every ten minutes.
The boys glanced at one another. Seeing an abandoned field like this didn’t worry them. It was just - odd. When you live in a town like this, you never see an abandoned field. Never.
The boys jumped suddenly at the sound of Dean shouting and pointing at something behind them. They spun around to see some sort of large shape in the near distance. It was hard to tell what it was through the thick darkness of the night. Even Dean with his glasses on couldn’t make out what the lonely shape was. It was wide in diameter, but thin and slightly tall.
“Let’s go and see” Neil said excitedly, finally finding some adventure in what looked to be a boring escape from the woods.
They treaded over the bumpy field, kicking weeds that clung to their shoes out of the way until they could finally see what it was. It was a house, most likely a bungalow from the looks of it, with a long, bendy lane that travelled from the house to the long road that lead back to town, although it also took you further into the countryside if you turned left in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, Neil’s lips perked into a grin as he glanced at the others. “Wanna check it out?”
“But what if someone lives there?” Dean asked in a worried voice.
“There’s no way anyone lives in a house beside a field that looks as bad as that!” Neil protested.
“But what if someone lives in the house who isn’t a farmer? Maybe they don’t own the land and the farmer had to move away or something. And besides, the field might look abandoned, but the house doesn’t”
Neil sighed. Dean had a point there. Even from where they stood, they could clearly see the house was in good shape. There were no smashed windows, no graffiti and none of the windows were boarded up. But, the withering field still made no sense. If a farmer had to leave, a new farmer would have bought the land in a matter of days of the previous farmer selling it. There was something fishy about it that Neil couldn’t quite put his finger on, but he shook it away for now.
“Whatever. Let’s go and see anyway. If it turns out someone does live there, then we’ll leave quickly”
“If someone does live there, what if they see us and call the police for trespassing?”
“They won’t. Its pitch black out here”
“They have lights, dumbass!” Dean hissed, growing more anxious and frustrated by the minute.
Even though Dean saw himself as a teen boy who liked to mess around and have fun, he always knew when to draw the line and walk away. And that was always when Neil wanted to go further.
Neil was a good mate of his, but there were times when Neil just didn’t know when enough was enough. Too many times has Neil gotten Dean into trouble, and there was no way he was dragging him into this one, especially one where the police could be involved.
“You all can go ahead if you want, but I’m staying here”
Neil heaved his shoulders forwards and let out a dramatic sigh. “Suit yourself. Who else wants to check it out with me?”
The three boys glanced at each other. They could understand Dean’s concerns as they too thought of someone living there and calling the police on them for trespassing, especially now that it’s late and dark. However, they couldn’t help but feel the same curiosity Neil felt.
“Will you be all right on your own?” Eamon turned to Dean as another worry formed into his mind. He peered through the darkness, afraid not first time that night if anyone could have been following them and waiting for a chance for one of the teenage boys to be on their own to prey on for reasons Eamon didn’t even want to imagine.
“I’ll be fine” Dean said in a calm voice, now feeling comfortable that he wasn’t being dragged into all of this. He pressed the tips of his fingers of the soil beneath him that felt hard like rock before taking a seat. That at least eased Eamon’s mind slightly, but he was still worried.
“We won’t be too long” he promised and glanced to the others who nodded their heads in agreement.
As Dean rested his head on the palm of his hand. He watched as the others trekked their way up the old farmland towards the lonely house. They all approached the house in crouched positions as Neil took the possibility of someone living there a lot more seriously now.
Neil took the first move, placing his hands on the window sill outside and pulling his head up just an inch and peered through the glass. He breathed a sigh of relief as he looked through the bare window and saw the room masked in shadows with no furniture inside.
“See? I told you no one lives here. There’s no curtains or furniture” Neil pointed out smugly, pleased that he had been right all along. However, Carter yanked him back down to the ground again by his arm, not buying it so easily.
“Looking into one room isn’t enough! This could be a spare room that is still empty. Let’s check the other rooms first”
Neil clicked his tongue at Carter’s command, but he agreed with the plan. But it still seemed that Neil had been right as the rest of the rooms looked exactly the same, expect for the kitchen as an oven, refrigerator and a set of counter-top-tables filled the empty space, waiting to be used.
“Let’s go back around to the front and see if the front door is open!” Shaw said, now feeling comfortable enough to act as excited as Neil had been.
“I doubt it is, but let’s check anyway” Carter said as they circled the house and back to the front, only to look at each in confusion.
“So - where’s the front door?” Neil asked, eyeing the front of the building with a puzzled expression.
Instead of meeting a front door, they only saw a porch surrounded in large glass windows, but there was no door in sight.
“I guess there’s no front door?” Carter scratched his head as the boys neared the porch and were all too deep in thought to notice Shaw make his way around the back again.
“Guys! The front door is back here!”
Carter peeped his head around the corner of the house. “Eh? What do you mean the front door is at the back? Does that not mean it’s just a back door?” Carter yelled back.
“Well, yeah. But, I mean, it looks like a front door” Shaw explained. “It had a large knocker on the door and there’s a small glass window on it that looks really fancy”
“This is such a weird house” Neil murmured as he and Carter made their way back around to the back of the house, leaving Eamon at front.
Eamon was too enthralled by the large porch area that he had no idea he was left alone at the front of the house. For reasons Eamon couldn’t understand, the porch felt like a safe haven to him, a place where he could spend hours inside, never worrying about the world and it’s cruel nature. He could imagine sitting in the porch as daylight beamed in through each of the windows and down on him.
Leaning in close to one of the windows, he moved his shoulder-length, brunette hair away from his eyes and peered in, feeling a smile perk at the corners of his lips. How he wished he lived here so he could stay in that porch and draw. He could feel his dreams of becoming a comic book artist truly blossom in that porch, like a studio.
The young teen could have spent hours staring into that porch, wishing he was on the other side of the glass, if it hadn’t been for the blood-curdling scream that almost knocked him backwards out of fright that came from the back of the house.
Finally coming to his senses, he left the porch and ran to the corner of the house where he saw a panicked Shaw followed by Neil and Carter run past him as though their lives depended on it away from the house.
“What happened?” Eamon called, watching them as they ran.
“RUN!” Neil screamed. The horror on his face stunned Eamon to the point of fear, making him run without even knowing what they were running from.
As Eamon’s legs carried his slightly overweight body as fast as they could, his mind began swirling with different imaginations of what could be after them. He imagined an angry farmer with a shotgun who had caught the boys trying to enter a house that wasn’t theirs, or a farm dog that had spotted them near its territory and began racing after them. However, none of the scenarios had made sense as Eamon could only hear silence behind them. There was no angry swearing from a farmer or aggressive barking from a dog.
Eamon didn’t want to look back, the frightened look on the boys terrified him too much, but he was curious. He wanted to know what was after them. He reminded himself of the saying his grandmother always said to him. “Curiosity killed the cat, Eamon”. But in that moment, his curiosity was slowly getting the better of him, until it was too much to bare. He had to see what was after them, even if it meant his own doom.
Once he felt his legs begin to burn and his lungs feeling as though they were about to burst, Eamon swung his body around to face the house, shielding his face with his arms as he did, only to see the pitch black of night in front of him.
Eamon blinked out of confusion. Nothing was there. He peered through the darkness as far as his vision possibly could. He could see the house vaguely in the distance, but nothing else was in sight.
He gave out a relieved laugh. The boys must have pranked him. He would be angry at them for scaring the life out of him, but he was too relieved to feel any anger. However, once he turned back around and saw the three boys slumped over on the ground panting air back into their lungs, he wasn’t so sure it had been a prank after all.
Once he’d gotten his breath back, Eamon jogged lightly over to the boys where a worried Dean was hovering over them all, asking them a thousand questions but getting no answer. Once Eamon made it back, Dean turned to him.
“I don’t know!” Eamon explained. “I was at the front of the house while the others were at the back and I heard a scream and saw them running. They told me to run too so, I ran. I thought something was chasing us, but I didn’t see anything”
“That’s really weird” Dean murmured, looking from Eamon and back to the boys who were still fighting to get their breaths back. He and Eamon were both itching for answers, but all they could do for now was wait until the boys had enough air to speak.
Finally, both Neil and Carter let out their last choking coughs before they finally sat up and their breathing became more regular.
“What happened back there? What were you all running from?” Eamon was the first to ask this time.
“We don’t know either!” Carter exclaimed with anxiety in his voice.
“What do you mean?” Dean asked, feeling frustrated that he wasn’t getting any answers. “You must know what happened if the three of you were together!”
“No, you don’t understand!” Neil lashed back. “Me and Carter were round the back with Shaw. We were trying to open the door when Shaw suddenly just started screaming out of nowhere and ran for it. We thought he saw something so we ran too! He bloody scared the life out of me, he did!”
The boys looked at each other before looking over at Shaw. Seeing his shoulders shake, Carter clicked his tongue and staggered to his feet before making his way over to Shaw.
“He got you good then” Dean smirked while being awarded with a hardened look from Neil as they watched Carter make his way over to Shaw.
“Come on, dude. That wasn’t funny. You scared the life out of us” Carter said as he and the other boys took Shaw’s sudden scare as a prank. “Come on, stop your giggling and - Shaw?”
When the boys heard Carter’s voice shift from annoyed with a hint of light humour to worry, they instantly made their way over to the two boys and were shocked at what they saw. Shaw’s shoulders weren’t shaking because he was laughing, it was because he was crying - at the brink of sobbing, in fact. Tears were running down his face and his body shook violently.
Seeing Shaw like this was shocking. He was the last person the boys would ever think would ever cry openly. He was always the one who joked around and never took anything seriously. Yes, he cared for his mates when they felt down or were scared or worried about something and helped them, but he was always so light-hearted that it made everyone around him feel at ease. No one thought Shaw ever cried at anything. And here he was, close to sobbing after screaming bloody murder down the old farmland like a maniac.
“Shaw, what happened back there?” Carter asked with a softer tone as he crouched in front of Shaw. The teen didn’t answer right away, but the boys didn’t press him and gave him time to answer. They could all see he had been truly frightened by something.
Shaw brought his hand up to his face and, feeling the tears, he tried dashing them away as fast as he could, obviously embarrassed for crying in front of them. However, the tears kept falling and he gave up trying to stop them.
“Did you see something?” Carter asked again, hoping he wasn’t sounding too persistent.
Shaw sniffed and choked on the tears in his throat but shook his head until he was finally able to muster out a faint, “No”.
“Then what scared you so much?” Dean asked, although his voice too had grown softer for the troubled teen.
Shaw quivered for a moment as though remembering it all again before opening his trembling mouth. “I-I don’t know how to explain it, but when I was trying to get the door open with Carter and Neil, it always felt like something was watching me”
“That was probably the shadows messing with you. It is creepy out here to be honest” Carter said, hoping it would give the boy some ease, but he shook his head.
“That’s what I thought too, so I ignored it. But then, it began to get worse - the feeling - and then...” Shaw trailed off as his eyes grew wide with fear.
“And then, I swear I felt someone grab the back of my neck. I tried turning around because I thought it was Neil or Carter trying to mess with me, but I couldn’t move. It felt like I was paralysed and my whole body felt so cold. And then, I just had this strong feeling that I was going to die - like something wanted me dead. It was so strong that it was as though it wasn’t a feeling at all, that I was something telling me I was going to die. And then, I screamed”
The boys looked at each other, horrified. They believed Shaw experienced what he did, but none of them had ever believed in anything supernatural. He was probably feeling the stress of starting school again in September next week and how work and the mock exams after Christmas were going to be more difficult now that they were nearing their senior year. But even then, what he told them had disturbed them greatly.
“I think we should all head back home. Its getting late” Dean suggested as the others nodded their heads in agreement.
As Carter and Dean helped Shaw up from the ground and stayed with him. They all took the quick route home, climbing over the fence next to the road and stayed as close to the fence as possible as they walked in the direction home. Neil and Eamon followed behind them, both lost in thought of what had just occurred.
Eamon took one last look at the house. It looked so lonely as though it was begging him to come back. He wished he could go back and see it again, somehow get inside so he could sit in the large porch area, but he knew he wouldn’t be going back to see it again. He didn’t want to go alone and there, and there was no way the boys would want to go back to it again after what Shaw had experienced, even though it was probably stress-related.
Eamon sighed as he gave the house a final wave. He felt a pang of embarrassment for waving at a house as though it was a living, breathing thing, but thankfully none of the boys had seen him do it and, giving the house one final glance, he turned and quickly caught up with the rest of them as they made their way back to town through the night.