A Day Off

          Yesterday, we found a body. A dead body. 


          After lunchtime, Lily knocked on our door to go play. Jake, Tyrone and Megan were already waiting outside. We went to go play by the lake, even though we weren’t supposed to. We played tag for a bit but Jake tripped over a rock and fell in the water. 

He’s always forgetting to tie his shoes. 

          Then, he started screaming. We thought he hurt his foot or something but when he ran out of the water, we saw what it was. Gently bobbing in the water was a man facedown, the water turning red around him. Oh, no, this was bad.

          Then Megan started screaming, too. Tyrone looked like he might throw up. He has a weak stomach. Lily had her hand over her mouth and her eyes fixed on the man like she couldn’t look away.

          “We should go.” I said softly. I’ve never been one to scream when I’m scared or startled, I just stand and observe helplessly. As we all started to walk back the path we came, I said, “Maybe we should tell someone.” 

          Jake said, “No way! Ya know how much trouble we’d be in if we told ’em we were down by the lake? We wouldn’t be able to play anymore!” Tyrone and Megan agreed, Lily just stared at the ground. 

          I sighed. I knew Jake was right but it felt wrong to just leave the man there. 

          There was a rustling in the bushes by us. We all stopped in our tracks. Were we being watched or was someone just passing through? But if that was the case, wouldn’t they use the path? 

          “Guys…?” Megan’s voice was coated with fear and uncertainty. 

          As someone’s foot stepped out of the foliage, I said, “Run.” We all took off sprinting, running for our lives. All we could hear was our footsteps hitting the ground and our heavy breath. We could hear even heavier footsteps running after us. They were swift, purposeful. 

          “Come on.” I said, heading for a shortcut. But with our footsteps drowning out everything else, I don’t think anyone heard me. I kept running but when I didn’t hear anyone behind me, I slowed to a stop and turned around. They hadn’t followed. 

          Suddenly, I heard grunting and muffled screams. I slowly walked to the main path, careful not to crunch on any sticks or dried leaves. Had they all been snatched up by that person? As I neared the path, there was no one to be seen. 


          Today, I tried not to think about it, but I swear I can hear them calling my name in the wind. I thought about trying to rescue them but I don’t know where they are and there’s no way I could take on a person who handled four kids alone. There’s only so much an eleven-year-old can do in a situation like this. Now I definitely can’t tell my parents. What would I even say? They would think I did it. I can’t tell my friends’ parents either. They’d probably get really mad at me– what if I go to jail? I can’t go to jail, I’m still a kid. I decide to go outside for some fresh air. 

          As I’m walking through town, I find another dead body. Behind a store, how did nobody notice it? I walk away as quickly as possible while thinking, “At least there aren’t any by our house.” 

          I near my street and freeze. Our neighbors field. Full of cabbage, corn, wheat, carrots, watermelons, tea leaves and… another body. Hard to tell if it’s dead from yards away but it’s not moving at all. 

          I run home as fast as I can. Mom and Dad are both still at work, and what would I say if they were here? “I keep finding dead bodies and it feels like they’re everywhere I go”? They’ll think I’m crazy! I’m not crazy, I’ve never been crazy! 

          As I go inside our house, I look around alertly for any signs of– well, anything. Nothing unusual. I decide to eat something and go to bed early because all of this killer stuff is really scaring me. I eat some crackers and head to my room. I put on my pajamas and crawl into bed, trying to calm my mind and go to sleep but I can’t. My mind is too awake. With questions like, “What if the killer’s after me next?” “Are my friends okay?” “What if they hate me for not trying to save them?” “What if everyone thinks it was me and they lock me up?” 

          I can’t take this. I draw my curtains and open my door wide, scooting up to the wall at the head of my bed. Now, no one can sneak up on me. Hours later, I’ve counted one million sheep in an attempt to stay awake. It’s working, but I’m bored out of my mind. 

          When the sun finally rises, I feel so tired and weak from sleep deprivation that I wonder if I’ll collapse or faint or maybe both. I start to leave to go out for a walk again but not before remembering the bodies I found yesterday. “I’ll just be careful.” I tell myself. I go to the kitchen and look around for Mom and Dad. Nowhere. I look in their room and the laundry room. Nowhere. 

          After searching the whole house, I go look outside. Mom’s car is gone. Where’s Dad? I look around until I’ve checked everywhere except the gardening shed. I open the door and Dad’s not there either. My feet feel glued to the ground, my eyes glued to them. 

          1… 2… 3… 4, all here. Tied up with rope and gagged with white cloth. No life in their eyes, only fear and desperation. 

          Jake, Lily, Megan, Tyrone. I found them, but why are they here? 

          Suddenly, a large, dark shadow falls over me. It must be the killer. They were after me, and now I’m finally here. I gulp and slowly turn around to face them. There’s no one there. Where did they go? I could’ve sworn the shadow was over me. I whip back around to my friends. What? They’re not here anymore. Where did they go? They couldn’t have left, I’m at the door. 

          I stare at the back wall of the shed, shock and confusion flooding my brain. A car engine fades in the distance. Mom calls for me.

          “Alice! We got your medication! Sorry we couldn’t get it for a few days, how have you been feeling?” 

          What’s going on? They were just here. Am I crazy? What if there really were no bodies? No, that can’t be right. I run over and tell Mom and Dad what happened all in a rush. The whole time they were looking at me like I was insane, or something. I knew they wouldn’t believe me. 

          “Honey…” Mom glances at Dad, then at me. “You’re friends are all out of town.”