I spy with my little eye something that is red.” it was dad’s turn in our little I Spy nature game.
I scanned the bushes around us and spotted the red berries. I nudged my kid sister, Amelia, and pointed at the berries.
“BERRIES!” she screamed, excited to play this silly child’s game. I couldn’t blame her, I was 13 and she was only 6 years old.
“Very good Amelia,” I knew the educational part was coming up next, I zoned out and looked for animal footprints in the soft ground.
The air was crisp with fall in the air. The forecast was calling for the first snow fall the next day. My stepmother tried desperately for me to wear a scarf and mittens, I managed to compromise to wear my winter jacket instead as long as I kept it zipped up. Fashionably so I unzipped it once we got into the van. Although my ears were cold and I wished I at least took a toque from the bin.
We go on nature walks together every Sunday when we aren’t busy. It’s something my mom used to love doing with me when I was Amelia’s age. She’d hold my hand and teach me different types of plants and trees. That was her thing, vegetation. She was a florist, that’s how she met my dad. He would come in and buy bouquets from her for his dates. That was before the cancer.
“Your turn Jake” drawing me back into the game.
“I spy with my little eye…” I looked around. All I could see was green and leaves. ”Something…” movement caught my eye to the left of me. Deep behind some foliage about 20 yards away was an old abandoned trailer. “That is yellow,” hinting at the broken tail light.
“Yellow. Something that is yellow.” Amelia was trying hard, her eyes darting across the forest floor.
“Look far and deep into the woods Ami” she was annoying at times, but she was just a kid after all. It was only fair, this was a harder one.
My dad gave me an inquisitive look, he too couldn’t find the yellow item my eye spied. I nodded my head towards the direction of the trailer. He mouthed “ah” when he spotted the old decaying structure. A tree had fallen on top of it. The roof dented and branches were covering most of the front of the trailer. Through the tall bushes that grew around it, it had to have been there for at least a year.
Our walking pace slowed down as Ami tried to find the yellow item. “No fair!” she began to huff.
It must be getting close to 4 in the afternoon, she tended to get grumpy if she didn’t have an afternoon snack. This wasn’t my job though, her mother should have packed something.
“Come with me, I’ll help you out” I reached out my hand towards her and she took it. The other hand I moved some stray weeds clearing her low viewpoint. “Do you see something old back there? I think there might be some…”
“Is it the trailer Jake? Is it?!”
We all gave a little laugh, “yes Ams it’s the trailer light. Well done.”
“Why is it there? What happened? Does somebody live there?” her inquisitive mind will do her well in school. I on the other hand need extra reading and math practice with a tutor.
“Those are great questions, Amelia. Why don’t we make up a story about it?” this was my step-mother trying to change the tiresome Eye Spy.
“Once upon a time there was a princess.” Ami was miles deep into the Disney princesses right now. She was going as her favourite, Tinkerbell, for Halloween. Even though I’ve told her a hundred times Tinkerbell isn’t a princess. She’d protest and argue that her wings made her a princess. My step mother put me in my place whenever I tried to object to Amelia's kid logic.
I listened to Amelia rhyme off a fairytale story full of wishes and wands. I couldn’t help but let my mind wonder about the trailer. It seemed so out of place in the park. Wouldn’t they have wanted to clean it up? What a waste to leave it in the forest.
I was still thinking about it on the drive home. The possibilities have how it got there gripped me. My English tutor would have been proud of the creative ideas that were running through my head. Maybe it was an old campsite or maybe somebody lived there. An old crotchety man with a shotgun who ate squirrels for lunch.
By dinner hour I had completely forgotten all about it. Distracted by the technology and comforts of our home. I played video games instead of doing my geography studying. We had a test tomorrow but I knew the material well enough to pass. I’d rather dominate my friends in FIFA. It was something I knew I was good at.
Forced to put the video game away at 9:30, I said my goodnight to Ami and the parentals and crawled into my bed. I was surprisingly tired, must’ve been all the fresh air in the forest.
I dreamt about the forest. It was the same forest, but darker. I could still see the leaves and trees, it wasn’t night hours but everything was illuminated by darkness. A stormy glow. I was alone. I heard nothing but the sounds of tree branches creaking in the wind. Chills went up my body from the ground up, like lightning. Hairs standing up from the electric pulses my nerves emitted.
A frantic check of my pockets turned up no phone, no keys, nothing that could keep me safe. All I had protecting me was the clothing on my back and the toque on my head. I took a look around to orientate myself better. My eyes adjusted to the dark. In front of me was the trailer, tree branch from the roof missing, its dent still intact.
Rain dripping on the leaves of the trees, I opened the door to the trailer. It creaked. I was flooded with the smell of mould and rot. Timidly I tested one foot on the floor, I didn’t fall through the floor, that’s a good start. Giving my eyes a couple seconds to adjust to the darkness in the trailer, my inquiries were only partially answered. The trailer was full of moudly cushions, leaves, animal poop and beer cans. Nothing to answer my pressing questions like why the trailer was there or even who left it.
Searching for a place to sit, I used the sleeve of my jacket to brush off the dirt from a cushion at the table setting. Cautiously I placed my bottom on the green cotton. Looking around I wanted to find hints to my burning queries. On the floor beneath my black Addidas sneakers there were newspapers. Leaning over my knees the date read October 30, 1996.
Why would there be newspapers in this trailer, someone must have been using it back then. I scanned the trailer with more attention to the details, there was a dark brown stains all over the place. On the cupboards, on the floor, but the biggest stain was on the mattress. What was it?! Could it be my worst thought of blood?!
THUD, my head whipped to the otherside of the trailer to see what made the noise. THUD. It was definitely coming from inside the trailer. Bravely I walked towards the bed, where the sound was heard. Taking the final step something flew over my head, quickly I crouched to the floor arms curled over my head. My heart racing, blood pounding in my ears, I could hear the sound of wings. With a deep breath I realized it was a bat stuck inside the trailer. It must’ve come in through the broken hatch on the roof.
Phew. Just a bat. I returned to my investigation. I began to open drawers. Very little could be found. Mostly dust and empty shelves. Disappointed, I shuffled the newspapers on the floor around. Only to reveal more brown stains. But these ones looked more like splatter and drops. As if they dripped there from a blade.
My own imagination was making me whoozy and I had to sit. To distract my wondering mind I read the titles on the newspapers around me. Most of them were about Bill Clinton and the presidential election in the 90s. I had no idea who that was i paid little attention to the stories. One of the newspapers was from my hometown, where we lived with my mom before the cancer. The Alliston Herald. Front page in large bold letters MURDER IN THE FOREST.
Tap, tap, tap.
I looked for the source of the sound.
Tap, tap, tap.
I couldn’t locate anything inside, it must’ve been from outside.
Tap, tap, tap.
I huddled my knees close to my chest without thought but protection.
Tap, tap, tap.
There it was again. I closed my eyes.
A minute passed.
Opening my eyes, thinking whatever it was had moved on.
In my view I could see the whole trailer, with the bed and stained mattress behind me. I watched in horror as I witness dim light coming in from the doorway. As the door slowly dragged out it’s creep I realized something or someone was coming inside! There was no place to hide, I tried to make myself smaller, maybe they wouldn’t see me in the dark.
I watched one foot step in, then a hooded head. Whoever they were, they were big and tall. Surveying the trailer with experience, their eyes locked onto mine. They found me, began to laugh and I knew there was no surviving this encounter.
I awoke from my dream, not only drenched in sweat but to seeing my father looming over me.
“Jake, you were screaming in your sleep. I have been knocking at your door trying to wake you. Are you okay?”
I couldn’t speak. All I could focus on was the laughter from the man in the trailer.
Photo by Zack Chmeis on Unsplash