Prompt: There is a monster in the forest
“Like I said,” Samantha says, “there’s a monster in the woods and it’s lonely!” She points in the direction of the forest bordering our property, a long stretch of evergreens that extends for what seems like forever.
“Oh, honey,” I say, crouch before her and take her coat collar in my hands. “There’s nothing out there but squirrels and chipmunks, rabbits, and a few turkeys. There’s no monsters out there.”
“Mom!” she scowls, her brow furrowing. “I seen him! He’s round and furry and has four arms and no legs! And eyes! Four of them in the shape of a diamond!”
This hasn’t been the first time she has brought up the Monster. It seemed like each day this thing had made an appearance at the edge of the woods while she’s playing. At first, I was worried maybe a bear had migrated to this stretch of Pennsylvania, but after setting up a trail cam around where this Monster appeared, nothing showed up. Then, I thought about wolves or coyotes; but again, nothing showed on the footage after several days. Eventually, I chalked it up to an imaginary friend, she was young, after all. But, each day she grew more and more convinced this Monster was out there, and that he was lonely and wanted someone to speak to, someone to be his friend.
“Mom!” she shouts, pulling me from my thoughts. “Can I just go with him once? I’ll be extra careful.”
I straighten, shake my head. “No, you cannot. You’re not allowed to go into those woods without me ever.” I glare down at her, as she puckers her lips. “And don’t give me that look. Those woods are big and I won’t have you getting lost out there.”
“No ‘buts.’ Now, go get changed and get ready for bed.”
She stomps from the kitchen, down the hallway, and into her bedroom. I hear the sink turn on. I sigh and move back to the window. The shadows between the trees grow as the sky darkens. The faint moonlight hardly illuminates anything. Absentmindedly, I look into the woods, searching for the Monster that doesn’t exist. Nothing stands in between the boles, nothing lurks in the shadows, nothing big and furry looms.
“Honey?” I call, hearing the sink still going. “You almost done?”
After a few silent moments, I go to her bedroom and peek in. The bathroom light seeps between the cracked door, and none of her clothes are lying on the ground with the others. I enter, call again: “Samantha?” and receive no response. I cross the room and push open the door. Water is almost streaming over the basin’s rim, and the window above the toilet is open.
“Samantha!” I scream, turn and sprint out of the room, down the hallway, out the door. I know where she’s going. I cross the backyard to the woods, where I catch a glimpse of her within. She’s holding hands with something— someone tall and round.
“Samantha!” I scream again.
I plunge into the dark woods, weave past trees and leap over underbrush and fallen branches. She’s somehow farther, so much farther, and the thing she’s with is somehow larger, bigger, more like a bear than a person. Tears sting my eyes. My lungs are on fire. My heart is slamming against my chest.
“Samantha!” I holler, throat raw and stinging.
She looks over her shoulder as she walks deeper into the forest, and our eyes meet and she smiles, waves, then faces ahead. She and it pass by a bole and vanish. I make it to where they were only moments ago. I collapse to my knees, and search the leaves, claw holes into the dirt, cry and scream into the darkness, pleading to the heavens to return my daughter, but no one and nothing hears.
And now, I wait… I wait in the backyard every day, from sunrise to sunset, for her to appear on the edge of the forest. I pray she will let me take her hand like her friend did her, and escort me to wherever she disappeared to, so we can be together again.
Like her Monster, I’m lonely, too.
Read my previous prompt, “Unbound Past”
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