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The Little Things
The wind pressed hard against my jacket. It seemed to pick up the edges of the sleeve, and whip my hair around my face. I ran inside the warm building, filled with the fresh scent of donuts and apples. Landon, Charlotte and Natalia bounded in behind me, their shoes dirty from the mud outside. I looked over at the donuts being made, at the cinnamon being poured on top. Maddie, Cora and I watched in awe as Nick and Everett laughed about something unknown to us. We waited inside the warmth of the cider mill for long enough to buy the food and cider we wanted. We quickly ran back outside into the brisk fall day. The sun was shining down, but the air was still bitter. Sometime on the way to our car to put the warm donuts in, I noticed a bright red leaf in Everetts hand. He looked at it in an odd way, as if he was searching for something in the bright stems. Looking around I didn’t see any red trees. Especially not as red as the on he was holding. I took a bite of the cinnamon and sugar that warmed my whole body and ran up to him.
“What are you doing?” I questioned with a mouthful of donut.
“Nothing,” he quickly responded, dropping the leaf and regaining his energy. “We have to catch up, they’re gonna leave us if we don’t hurry!” I followed him across the dead grass. Ahead I could see Charlotte and Cora skipping, while Nick, Landon, Natalia and Maddie walked with ease, seeming to wait for us. As I watched my friends, I couldn’t help but wonder more about Everett. What was he looking for in that small leaf?
We followed each others footsteps to the sign that said pumpkin patch. It was down some trail that was covered in dirt and fallen leaves. Their colors ranged from golden yellow to dirt brown, but I never saw one quite as red as the one Everett was holding. I laughed with Cora and Charlotte about some random joke. Landon, Nick and Everett tried to race each other to the patch, but clearly us girls were not interested in that. We heard their voices from around the bend of the trail. They sounded surprised and fascinated, so the rest of us sped up to witness the awe they experienced. At first, all I saw was a tree. Its oak branches stretched over the whole open field and seemed to tower over the area. The leaves went from a bright orange to red at the top, kind of in an ombre way. The highest part of the tree was laced with the red leaves, but they were not too bright. We all stood there for a second, mesmerized by the entrancing beauty this tree created. A few yards away was the white wood fence that lined the pumpkin patch. We came at just the right time. The pumpkins were in perfect shape, and seemed to complete the captivating image the tree created. Behind the fence stood an even smaller trail, one that no one knew where it led.
“We need to see where this goes,” Landon exclaimed.
“Okay yeah I’m down,” Natalia agreed. We all seemed to be in agreement and started our adventure into the unknown. A few minutes after laughing and messing around, some of the group wanted to turn back.
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Charlotte expressed. “I don’t know why but I’m getting weird vibes. I think we need to go back.”
“Yeah I’m getting tired. I’m kinda over the whole weird trail thing.” Maddie agreed. After much convincing, we all stayed exploring the trail. I was absorbed in the colors the lining trees made and how it reflected the sunlight coming off of the horizon. As we walked Cora and Natalia posed in front of the leaves as Nick snapped pictures on his phone. The wind still seemed to bite my exposed skin, but I didn’t mind. As the sun drew closer and closer to the skyline, part of the group was compelled to go back again.
“I really don’t want us to be here anymore,” Charlotte repeated. “I’m not kidding I think we need to go back.”
“But I want to see where this trail leads to,” Nick explained. “I love this kind of adventure.”
“Until the adventure turns into a disaster!” Maddie yelled.
“Can we all just chill for a minute?” Cora said.
“We’re leaving. It’s cold and I don’t really want to be out here at night.” Natalia said. “Anyone who wants to join can come with. Everyone else, we’ll just wait for you in the car.” Natalia walked back the way we came, followed by Maddie and Charlotte. Nick, Landon, Everett, Cora and I looked at our leaving friends and then back at each other.
“Let’s keep going!” said Landon excitedly. As we walked down the twisting trails, the golden sun lowered deeper into the horizon. Soon enough the ball of fire was hidden behind the land, and we were covered by the pink and orange painted sky. The colorful trees started to cast dark shadows on our feet as we laughed and played music on our phones.
The time seemed to get away from us until we finally looked at our phones.
“It’s already 8:15?” I exclaimed.
“Yeah I think we need to be heading ba-” Nick was interrupted by a loud snap in the forest around us. It wasn’t the sound of a small twig or stick being broken by a squirrel or rabbit walking. It was much louder, much more aggressive. It felt like we were being followed. We all paused, the most silent we’d been all day. Our faces were frozen. I could tell fear ran through all of our veins. My eyes darted back and forth, making contact with each other person for at least a second.
“Okay guys really, it was probably just an animal,” Landon said, covering his deep fear. “We’re going to be fine. Let's just start walking back now.”
As we nodded our heads in unison, we took our light footsteps back the way we came. The sky was almost a navy blue color, with patches of black from the clouds. The trees were black and continued to cast even heavier looming shadows on our trail. We didn’t say much as we walked back. Cora and I linked arms and shuddered from fear more than anyone else. I could tell the guys were afraid deep down.
“We’re going to be fine,” Landon stated.
“Yeah really stop freaking out about it,” Nick laughed. About 20 yards down the trail, we came to a diversion in the road.
“Does anyone remember what way we came from?” Everett asked.
“I’m pretty sure it was from the right,” Nick said. “Or maybe it was from the left.” We looked at each other uneasily and took unknowing steps forward.
As if it was meant to happen, a loud noise blasted in our ears. My world seemed to blur out as I ran the direction that seemed right. I kept running until my feet tripped over themselves and I stumbled onto the dirt covered trail. I was overwhelmed. I looked around me and saw a familiar pair of hands reaching down to help me up. These were the same hands that were holding the red leaf; the leaf that seemed to have no origin. I looked at Everett, then around myself. No one else was there.
“What was that? Where is everyone?” I asked in a panicked voice.
“Kate, Kate, calm down it’s going to be okay,” he reassured me. “We all ran in different directions. I bet Landon Nick and Cora are all together. I’ll just text them.” He grabbed his phone from his pocket and started typing. The message turned blue but never delivered. No service.
“I guess we’re just going to have to get back ourselves and hope they’re there.” As we walked the direction we fell to, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander.
We walked for a few minutes in silence. I wasn’t as close with Everett as I was with others in the group. We had never really gotten the chance to talk alone before, but oddly enough I didn’t know what to say. His black sweatpants and army green sweatshirt seemed colorless under the night sky. I could see the wisps of his dark brown hair and his green eyes seemed to shine even through the night. I had never noticed that before. We held simple conversations about ourselves to distract us from the fear of the future. We laughed and learned so much about each other. What were the odds it was just me and him finding our way back?
Step by step we hoped we were getting closer to safety. The darkness of the forest surrounding us seemed to invade my mind as I thought of the worst possible outcome. Scratching sounds in the distance seemed to get louder, and the full midnight moon cast an eerie light on its surroundings. I knew I was scared but I tried my best not to show it. I didn’t want Everett to see me like that. More time passed and my footsteps seemed to grow more timid. I drew myself closer to his side, and later found myself holding his arm for safety. I don't remember how I got to that. He didn’t seem to mind, and whenever an animal scratched at a tree or the wind whistled in our ears and bit our skin, he looked at me with his warm eyes, and everything seemed better.
We looked at our phones again. The time approached 10:07 and we still didn’t have service.
“I don’t think this was the right direction,” he laughed.
“Yeah we should of ran the other way. At least we’d have more people to help then.” I smiled, though I didn't truly mean it. I was looking at the black ground as we took our next steps, still unsure of what to do.
The brightness of its stems stood out in the night. It’s red color was piercing and caught both our attentions at the same time.
“Where did that come from?” he interrupted. We stared at it in dismay, both knowing exactly what it was. Its small stature and blazing scarlet color couldn’t be forgotten. But why? All it was was a leaf from a random tree somewhere. What we both noticed about it though was how it was not from around here. We looked at the ground where it lay and then back at each other, looking much deeper into each others eyes.
Moments later the spell was broken and we heard bounding footsteps from the other direction.
“Guys I found them!” Landon yelled.
“Yes!” Cora and Nick emphasized. We hugged each other and instantly took off in the third direction of the divergence in the road. As we ran Everett and I tried to explain our strange occurrence, but no one seemed to care or understand. We shook it off and kept running, eventually returning to the pumpkin patch in the big open field. Behind us we could faintly hear the breaking and scratching sounds of the forest. We didn’t say much as we made it back to the car where Natalia, Maddie and Charlotte were waiting.
“Took you guys long enough,” Maddie snarked.
“We got lost in there,” Nick said.
“We’ll tell the story in the car,” Landon stated, “Let’s get out of here, I don’t want to be near this creepy place anymore.” We all piled into the car in agreeance, and started the engine. It was 11:47
As we pulled away from the cider mill, I looked out the window. I could still feel the wind biting at my skin and the ghostly whispers it spoke. It seemed to call us back. We drove deeper and deeper into the darkness, and I let Nick, Cora and Landon tell their story. Everett and I listened politely, but couldn’t help but meet each other's eyes in the back seats. Days passed that turned into weeks and months. Things went right back to the way they were before, and Everett and I didn’t speak as much. From time to time I would catch his glance from across the room, and I knew deep down it was the same as the one we shared in the woods. Besides that, everything seemed normal. I would still get piercing images of the leaf before I fell asleep at night, and couldn’t help but wonder if Everett did too. We had left it on the ground, but I always wondered what would have changed if we didn’t.