Author's note: In the spirit of Halloween, here's a little spooky treat for ya!
I'm a free spirit. Always have been. When I was a kid I often got in trouble for wandering away from whoever was looking after me, and taking my shoes off at every chance I got and running around barefoot.
One day when I was in 4th grade we went on a field trip to a botanical garden located in a beautiful area just outside the forest. It was about 5 pm when we left to go back to town. A few minutes after we started, our bus had engine trouble. We were still in a tourist area, so the driver pulled over to a parking lot where many tourist buses were parked and called for a replacement bus.
It was going to take a while for the replacement bus to arrive, so the teachers let the kids off the bus to play outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but they told us not to go too far from the bus, and to stay with the group. One of them even told me specifically with a stern voice, "You got that, Lynn? Don't wander off!"
"Ok, Miss Jones," I said with a smile, but this rebellious little girl had little regards for rules. There was a stairway that went down from the parking lot to a beautiful area with lots of trees and a small lake. Being a nature lover, I immediately had the urge to head down there. I knew I wasn't supposed to but I didn't care. So I waited till none of the teachers and my classmates were looking, and at the perfect moment I disappeared down the stairway.
I met some tourists who were walking back up to their buses, and many of them smiled and said hi to me. I was in my school uniform (a white short sleeve shirt, a brown plaid skirt, and a brown tie), so they knew I was a local student. One family struck up a conversation with me asking what school I was from, and how come I was by myself. I told them I was just going to check out the lake real quick. They all told me to be careful.
Finally I got down to the lake. The scenery was breathtaking. But there were not many people around anymore since it was getting later. My feet had been cooped up in shoes all day, and they longed to touch the ground. So I took off my shoes to let my bare feet taste a little freedom before heading back up. Ahh... it was heavenly!
I saw a dirt path leading towards the woods, and I decided to walk it. The feeling of my soles touching the dirt was indescribable. It was magical. But suddenly the dirt path disappeared and the ground was completely covered with grass. I just continued walking, not realizing that I had actually entered the forest.
I was marveling at the tall trees when I suddenly realized it was starting to get dark. I looked at my watch. Oh my god, it was past 6 o'clock. I had better head back. The replacement bus was probably there already, and I would get in trouble! But wait, which way should I go? I seemed to have gotten lost. I walked in all directions but couldn't find that dirt path again. I was overcome with fear.
I screamed for help but of course, no one could hear me. I was stranded pretty deep in the forest with no phone or anything else with me as I had left everything in my backpack on the bus. Feeling totally helpless, I sat down on a big rock and started sobbing. Meanwhile, it was almost completely dark.
I don't know how long I had been crying when I suddenly felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I looked up, and through my tears I saw an old man standing next to me. He had grey hair and beard, and he looked kind. I was a little relieved to see another human being.
"Why are you crying, my beautiful child? And how come you're barefoot?" he asked.
I wiped my teary eyes and runny nose with my hands, and told him what had happened, and how scared I was. The old man smiled and looked at me sympathetically. "So, you've been pretty naughty! Everything comes with a price, my child. But don't worry, I live not too far from here, and you can come home with me. I'll make you some hot cocoa, and first thing tomorrow morning I'll show you how to get back to town. It's too dark and unsafe to go now." He extended his hand to me. "Come, sweetie!"
I was hesitant, but what other option did I have? So I took his hand and he pulled me up. It was completely dark now. There was a full moon, but the night was a little misty. Thankfully, it was quite warm. "What's your name, sweetie?" asked the man as we were walking together.
"Lynn. What's yours?" I replied.
He chuckled and said, "Well, you remind me a lot of my granddaughter. She's about your age and very pretty just like you, but also quite naughty, and hates wearing shoes. So, you can just call me grandpa."
After walking for about 5 minutes I saw a small wooden house in the distance with a little light flickering in the window. "That's where I live, Lynn," said the old man.
As it was dark, I could hardly make out her face until I was right in front of her. Her face looked pale in the misty moonlight, and it was full of wrinkles. She was staring into the darkness, as if oblivious of our presence. But she was rocking in the chair! I thought she looked kind of like... a wicked old witch. One that eats kids!
I felt chill down my back and shuddered. What if she was a wicked witch looking for her next child to make into dinner? "H... Hi, grandma..." I greeted her trying to be polite, and my voice was a little shaky. But she completely ignored me and kept on rocking. How rude!
"Hehe, don't worry about it, Lynn. She's hard of hearing, and her eyesight is failing too. Come inside, and have a seat," said grandpa as he gently ushered me in.
The house was dark and musty. The only source of light was that lone candle flickering by the window. I could hardly see anything, but my bare soles could feel a thick layer of dust covering the floor.
"Well, make yourself comfortable, Lynn. I'll go make you some hot cocoa," said grandpa as he walked toward the back of the house. Into the darkness.
So I sat in one of the chairs. I could hear crickets chirping outside accompanied by the rhythmic creaking of grandma's old rocking chair. It was really creepy, and I shivered. I wasn't sure if I would be able to spend the night there.
I sat there patiently. But after about 20 minutes, and grandpa had not come back out, I began to feel anxious. How long does it take to make a cup of hot cocoa? What was taking him so long? I decided to wait a little longer. The continuous chirping and creaking made me restless. After what I felt was like an hour, and he had not shown up yet, I started to panic.
I got up and called out to him, "Grandpa...! Grandpa...! Where are you!? Are you ok? Do you need any help?" But there was no answer. I wasn't going to walk to the back and look for him as it was too dark and scary. So instead, I decided to go outside and talk to grandma. I approached her with trepidation. "Uh... excuse me... grandma... where's... where's grandpa?"
Again, the old woman didn't respond. She acted as if I wasn't there, and continued rocking. So I said with a louder voice (and this time I also shook her chair), "Grandma! Please talk to me! I'm trying to find grandpa!"
The woman stopped rocking and slowly turned her head towards me. "Grandpa? Amber, is that you?" she said with a feeble voice.
"No, my name is Lynn! I was lost in the woods, and grandpa... your husband brought me here. He said he was going to make me some hot cocoa and told me to sit down, but he hasn't come back out, and it's already been a hour!" I said in frustration.
"My child... grandpa is gone..." she replied faintly.
"Huh!? Gone where!? I saw him walk to the back of the house. I called him but he didn't answer!"
"Oh Lynn, my child... grandpa... he... is no longer here."
I became more confused. "What do you mean, grandma?!"
She sighed. "You see, my child, about a year ago grandpa was trying to make some hot cocoa in the kitchen when he suddenly had a heart attack and collapsed to the floor. I heard him scream and rushed to help him but alas...! Due to my poor eyesight I tripped on a chair and fell down myself, hitting my head on the edge of the table. I also screamed for help, but being in the middle of the woods, no one was able to hear us. So grandpa finally died of his heart attack. Meanwhile, I felt my whole body getting weaker by the minute, and everything became darker until finally... it was completely dark and I didn't feel anything anymore..."
Not yet fully aware of the situation, I gasped and exclaimed, "Oh, grandma... that's so horrible!" But it didn't take me long to register what I was dealing with. "But... but... that means you... you are..." I couldn't finish my sentence as I was overcome by the horror of the realization.
Suddenly grandma let out an eerie chuckle. "Heheheh! You're right, Lynn. We both died that night. So... what are you doing here? Heheheh!"
I totally froze. As much as I wanted to run, I couldn't move. You know, like when you're having a nightmare your whole body is stiff. All I could do was scream. "Oh my god, no! No, nooo...!! Heeelp...!!"
All of a sudden, I felt a boost of energy, and I was able to lift my feet off the ground, so I dashed out of there. Meanwhile, grandma continued to chuckle. Now it was louder and more sinister.
Good thing I wasn't wearing shoes, for I could run faster barefoot. I didn't know and didn't care which direction I was running, as long as it was away from that dreadful house. The moonlight helped me see so I didn't run into trees or stumble on their big roots and rocks.
After a while I slowed down to catch my breath. I looked back and saw nothing but darkness. I tried to listen for any sound, and all I could here was the pounding of my heart and chirping crickets. No creaking or chuckling. I felt quite safe, so I walked instead of ran since I was exhausted.
Then as if by magic I saw light in the distance - the reflection of city lights on the clouds. I started running again, in the direction of the light. Then I saw a highway. What a relief! It was the main highway, and hopefully there still would be a public bus that could take me home. I soon arrived at the highway and found a bus stop.
Soon a bus came. It was number 50 which I knew would go to my town. The driver was a little shocked to see me - a barefooted little girl in school uniform trying to catch a bus at that late hour. He asked me what happened, and I briefly told him I was playing by the lake and got lost in the woods. He asked me if he needed to call the police. I told him no, I just wanted to go home to my parents. He was very sympathetic and told me to go ahead and sit down (I didn't have any money or bus pass at the time).
The bus wasn't full, so I was able to find a seat with no one sitting next to me. I didn't want anyone asking me anymore questions. As you can imagine, I was really shaken up. I felt like crying but tried hard to hold it back, not wanting to draw attention.
Finally, the bus arrived in my town. I thanked the driver for his kindness as I was getting off. He asked me how far I lived, and I told him just a few blocks from the bus stop. He told me to be careful. I started running the second I got off the bus as I couldn't wait to get home.
As you would expect, my parents were shocked, relieved, and angry at the same time when they saw me. They had collaborated with the school to file a missing child report, so they immediately called the police to cancel it when I turned up at home. I had a lot of explaining to do, and I did the best I could.
But my parents didn't buy any of my story. I mean, they believed I wandered off and got lost, but that was it. The rest was completely made up or imagined. Dad said I had been reading too many ghost story books, and I had an overactive imagination.
Mom, who was the disciplinarian, was less lenient. She said I fabricated the whole thing to avoid getting punished. She was also upset that I had lost my shoes and came home in bare and filthy feet. She gave me a good spanking that night before I even ate dinner, and I was grounded for one whole week.
I had a hard time sleeping that night. I was still really scared and frustrated that my parents didn't believe me. I left my lights on fearing that "grandpa and grandma" might appear in my room if it was dark. I spent most of the night crying. As if that wasn't bad enough, the next day I was suspended from school.
When I went back to school I told my story to some of my friends but just like my parents, they thought I made it all up, except for my best friend Jen. She believed every word of it, but it also freaked her out, and she told me not to mention it to her ever again. It took me a while to get back being the carefree, upbeat, and mischievous little girl. For some time, I was moody and reserved.
Today I'm a college student, and more free spirited than ever. I'm a happy girl with a positive outlook on life, and I still love to go barefoot. But what took place that terrifying night 9 years ago still haunts me. I've had recurring nightmares about it. I have a rough idea where that house is located, and I've been contemplating going back there one of these days and doing a little investigation. If the house still exists, that is.
I wonder what I would find inside. Of course, I would go during the day, and perhaps bring someone with me. (Can you imagine going at night? Wonder if grandma would still be rocking). Hey, I'd probably even go in bare feet. I'm quite adventurous but then again, certain things are best left alone.
Please check out my other blog for more short stories (not necessarily barefoot related).