Katie's Stories

Walk in the Wood Exerp

The woods were evil

Today I want to share with you the first few paragraphs of Walk in the Woods, these are subject to change.

Late afternoon turned into early evening when we got the call—another body in the woods.

A local hiker had found the body of a young boy seven miles out from Oak Heath, our remote small town, and a mile or so away from the road. The body was up a longleaf pine tree, right up in the topmost branches. While I had seen bigger longleaf pines in these woods, there was no way a child could have climbed that high. 

“It was just random luck,” the hiker said when Roy sent me to question him. “I was taking a break, and I sat back against the tree. It was then that I noticed the gloves hanging from a branch.”

“I see.” I nodded.

“I was going to grab them. It was a pair of children’s gloves, the kind that ties together so that the kid won’t lose them if they take them off.” He paused, covering his mouth.

“Take your time.” I tried to hide my impatience; sound sympathetic.

“I’m fine,” the hiker waved his hand. “I jumped to grab them. They were on the lowest branch and hanging down. I thought I could get them.”

“Still a good eight or nine feet up,” I said.

 “They caught on the branch. I pulled hard and a hat fell. I looked up, and that’s when I saw him.” He coughed, his fist coming up to cover his mouth again, his skin paled.

“All right,” I put my hand on his shoulder. “Let’s get you sat down.” I led him away from my team, who were currently puzzling over how to retrieve the body.

“I’m fine,” the hiker kept muttering as I sat him down.

“Just sit here. The police will be here soon, and we’ll get you back into town.”

“Thanks,” he said, his eyes distant. “I’m fine, I just don’t… I mean, how’d he get up there?”

“That’s what we’ll figure out,” I lied. “Stay here a minute.” I headed over to the team. The air felt thick, I could feel the woods around me, like a tangible thing, I could feel it’s glee at having killed this kid. This place was evil. The team was quiet, usually, they’d be making off-colour attempts at humour by now, to deal with the uncomfortable truth that we were retrieving a body rather than a person. But the off-colour humour never materialised when the body belonged to a kid. Everyone was quiet.

I stopped next to Roy, my boss. He was a short man, seeming wider than he was tall. His face was a permanent angry red beneath the immense moustache that I swear he was growing to compensate for the lack of hair on his head.

“Well?” Roy barked at me.

“Taking a break, saw the gloves and looked up,” I shrugged. “Just lucky.”

“Some luck,” Roy said. I couldn’t see his mouth move under the facial hair. It gave the impression that he was telepathic. At least it would have if I hadn’t been able to smell the nicotine on his breath. “Speaking of luck, I wouldn’t want to be the one to get the body down. Looks like it’s wedged in tight.” Roy turned to face the rest of the group.  

“I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” Derek said.

“Shut up! Who asked you?” Roy snapped.

“What do you mean?” I ignored Roy and walked over to Derek. The hard set of his jaw and narrowed eyes as he looked up had ice running down my back. Derek, while being built like Hercules, was usually one of my more light-hearted workmates. His tone had me on edge.

“Look at the branches.” He gestured up. “And the ones above them.” I followed his gaze and saw the branches were all in bits.

“The top ones are broken. You think the body was up higher?”

“Yup.” Derek let out a sigh. “With the weather picking up, I’m surprised the kids is still as high as he is.” As if summoned the wind rose, making the topmost branches shake and the leaves rustle. We watched with bated breath as the tree moved and the slight form swayed in the branches. I half expected it to fall, but it remained stubbornly in the tree.

“The damn police better get-” Roy started but was stopped by a loud snap followed by a cacophony of branches breaking and cloth tearing. My stomach clenched as the slight frame, dwarfed by a pale blue raincoat, tumbled down out of the tree. The sound that tiny body made when it hit the ground will stay with me till I’m old and grey. The body was limp, a dead weight. It landed with an unnerving crunch as parts of the kid broke on impact and a popping sound as his skin split under the force of his landing. A bag of crisps burst apart under too much pressure.

“Fuck!” Derek yelled. Behind me, I could hear the new girl, Sandra, losing her dinner.

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