The Shadows

by Noah Matthews

Out of gas. Out of luck. We were sitting on a country road, not even paved, just outside Broken Bow. It was about six o'clock, and we were still hoping to log in a few miles before nightfall, but that was out of the question now.

"I'm just eyeballin' it," said Josh from the back seat, "but judging by the map, the town is only about five miles off. If we cut cross-country, that should cut off maybe a mile and a half, the road curves around before town.

"No service," I said, observing on my cell phone. "We might have to do that."

After some debate, Connor, Austin, Josh, and I decided the best idea was to start walking down the road and hope for a car to drive by. After getting the flashlight, we made sure the car was locked before we set off down the road.

After about an hour of walking and joking around, Josh asked who had the map...

"Shut up Josh, you have the map," said Connor.

"Oh no," said Josh, "I seriously don't have it. I must've left it in the car."

"Josh!" said Austin, "I don't believe you."

"Lets just keep going," I said. "We'll just follow the road."

It was starting to get dim on the horizon now. As the sun set, a country house came into view, sticking above the stalks of corn.

"Maybe we can find someone there," pointed out Connor. "Maybe they'll give us a lift."

We set off up the driveway towards the house. As we approached, we heard intense barking coming from the trees.

"Guess they have a dog," I said.

We walked onto the front porch and knocked. There were no lights in the house, and no one came to the door. In the trees, the dog continued to bark non-stop.

Austin tried the door, and it creaked open loudly. We stepped in and found everything covered in a thick layer of dust. A great staircase stretched up to a second level right in front of the entry way.

"Hello?" announced Connor.

"I don't think anyone's here," said Josh.

I took a couple of steps up the stairs, and it creaked horribly, complaining under the pressure of my feet. Taking every step with caution, I ventured to the top. I entered the first room at the top hallway, and stepped around the giant, old four-post bed that was set in the center of the bedroom. I looked out the pane-less window as creaking echoed through the house from the others following me up the stairs.

"Looks like the town is just over there," said Josh, looking over my shoulder.

Lights were shining across a vast expanse of cornfields maybe two and a half miles off. The road, however, stretched parallel to the town and wound around in a huge loop.

"Think we should try to cut through?" I asked the others. "It looks a lot closer if we do."

"Yeah, we might as well just go straight through," replied Connor.

We walked over and saw the cause of all the barking in the trees. A starving, boney dog sat in the entrance of the door, looking up at us and whimpering. It looked horrible, and didn't really seem to be dangerous.

We went to the stairs and came down single file towards the dog. It struggled to its feet as we got closer, and we saw that it was missing its right hind leg. It hobbled into the corner and cowered down away from us.

Austin slowly approached it and put his hand down on the dog's hair. You could se the fear in the dog's eyes as his body tensed up under Austin's hand. Austin pet the dog a few times to calm him down, then gently took hold of his collar.

"Butch," said Austin quietly, checking the tag on the old collar. As he said it, the dog sat up and looked at him intently.

"Guess that's his name," said Connor. "Doesn't look like he's been treated very well at all."

"It's alright buddy," said Austin comfortingly, kneeling down and pulling the dog into his chest. "You're alright now."

We all came around to pet the dog.

"It's getting dark out," said Josh. "If we're going to go, we should."

"Yeah," I said, "Lets go. Hope the dog follows."

We quickly searched the house for anything we might want or need, but there was nothing really worth merit.Butch had decided we weren't dangerous and had taken a huge liking for Austin, at his side no matter what.

We left the creaky house with the plan of going through the corn to get to town.

"Just a straight cut," said Josh as we walked around the back of the house.

"Yeah, as long as we don't turn," said Austin. "It's probably harder than it sounds, but I want to get to town."

We all agreed to that one.

We started the trek into the corn, leaving the old house behind. The corn got higher and higher the farther we went. We discussed how the dog might've come to be out in the middle of nowhere, starving to death. The topic of conversation shifted around as we made our way further into the stalks.

"This is going to be creepy once it gets completely dark," said Josh.

"Quit being a pansy," said Connor, "We'll be out of here in like an hour anyway."

"Connor you'll be scared," I said, "Don't' deny it."

"Yeah," agreed Austin.

"Whatever," Connor replied.

I flipped on the flashlight, hoping to provide some light. The corn suddenly ended as we came to a dirt mile road crossing our path.

"I'm going to take my cell phone and just run straight ahead of you guys to find service," said Josh as we crossed the mile road and went back into the corn. "If I don't get any for a while, I'll just let you guys catch up okay?"

"Alright, yeah," we agreed as he ran off in front.

Butch whimpered a bit as we worked our way further into the corn.

The corn was thick now and we couldn't see but three rows deep on either side. The flashlight gave life to eerie shadows that danced in front of us as if to mock our presence. Butch followed closely to us, whimpering as he shuffled alongside Austin. It was only noise we could hear apart from our footsteps.

"I guess this is kind of creepy," remarked Connor in a doubting tone as the wind started to whisper through the stalks.

"Breeze picked up," I commented. "It's a little..." I was cut short as Butch's barks pierced the air. We turned to see the dog staring back into the path we'd come from, barking incessantly into the night.

"Butch there's nothing there," said Austin, more to comfort himself than the dog. Butch stopped barking, but continued to whimper worse than before, still staring into the blackness. I took a step forward to pet the terrified dog, but when I set my hand on his cold back, he yelped in surprise and bolted to my right into the forest of corn stalks.

"Butch!" we called into the night, listening as his lopsided steps were drowned out by the wind which suddenly picked up through the field. We now all had a horrible feeling in the pits of our stomachs. It seemed almost childish to be afraid, but one couldn't help but feel uneasy about what had just happened.

"Guys, let's get moving," I said over the now howling wind.

"I'm sure the dog will be fine," said Austin in a reassuring tone.

Just then, a single yelp rang out from deep within the field. The wind suddenly died and we listened for anything we could. Calm. Completely calm. No wind. No sound.

"Come on," I said. "Lets go." As I turned my head, I could've swore I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. It must've been nothing. My imagination was playing games with me.

"Guys, keep going I'm seeing things." demanded Connor.

"Yeah me too," said Austin. "This is weird. The sooner we're out the better."

I agreed. I had that feeling you get when someone's watching you, but you don't know who or where they are. I turned back with Austin and Connor and I saw it again. I did a double take and still saw nothing, but I knew what I had seen the first time. It had looked like some type of tall, hunched over, black creature"walking beside me, watching me.

All of a sudden, Connor grabbed my arm.

"Dude what is that?" he was completely tensed up and shaking from head to toe, staring into the corn on my right"the same place I had seen that creature.

"Connor...there's nothing there man," said Austin uneasily.

"You don't see it?" asked Connor. I could tell he was honestly terrified by whatever he was seeing, "its right there, looking at me."

"Connor, nothing is there, I promise," I said convincingly. "Let's just get out of here."

We started jogging at first, but pretty soon we were at a dead sprint. Austin and I were neck and neck with Connor right behind us. We ran for what seemed hours before we finally stopped to catch our breath.

"We should be out by now." I remarked, turning to Austin. He didn't answer. He was just standing there, looking over my shoulder.

"Where's Connor?" I now asked, looking around and realizing he was nowhere around us, "Austin...where is he..?"

No reply. Austin just stared past me, petrified.

"Austin..." I repeated.

He started to back up, making small whimpering noises. By this time, I was too scared to turn around to see whatever horror had Austin in this trance. In a way, I was petrified too, waiting for Austin to make a move.

Suddenly, Austin let out a blood-curdling scream as he seemed to make an attempt to turn and run, but he fell flat on his face and his legs came up underneath him. He was dragged in a half circle by apparently nothing, and looked up at me with the most terrified face I'd ever seen him make.

"Noah..." he uttered pleadingly, and he was drug off into the night.

I took off after him full bore, following his screams, but he still got farther and farther away. He finally was drug out of sight, and his screams died off under the now howling wind.

I stopped and doubled over, almost too tired to stand. This can't actually be happening, this was too bizarre. I noticed those things were back moving in the corners of my eyes, or maybe that was tears.

Josh, I remembered. What happened to Josh? Where was he? The wind was so loud now; I couldn't hear anything but the cornstalks brushing violently on each other. Despite the howling wind, I managed to hear a low, deep growling sound in front of me.

"Josh?" I prayed, looking up slowly. I didn't want to look up; I knew it wasn't Josh there, but I looked up anyway.

Standing there, staring at me, was the creature I'd been seeing in the corners of my eyes all night. It had been watching me all night long, and now I saw it head on. Completely black and shadowlike, it looked at me with sickly sunken white eyes. The wind was gone once again, and the creature made no sound as it extended its shadowy claws toward me.

I was petrified, too scared to move my body. I was going to die now, there was no way out. I had no chance. I watched his wispy claws reach to my shoulder.

"Noah," I heard Josh say it, or was that my imagination? I came to life.

I turned and took off; giving everything I had for one last chance to get out of this horrid corn field. The wind picked up behind me as if to chase me down.

"Noah!" I made myself believe that it was real, that Josh was calling me out of the corn. I kept a straight path. I had to get out. I was so close now. I was twenty yards away now and I could see the glare from the town lights in the sky. Fifteen yards, and the corn was getting shorter. Ten yards away and I could see the end of the corn. Five yards...and I tripped over a log. No. There wouldn't be a log in a corn field. I turned and looked under my feet. To my horror, I saw Josh's blank, expressionless face staring me in the eyes, pale and dead.

"Sorry Josh," I breathed as I scrambled to my feet, I could see the shadows in the corners of my eyes everywhere. The wind howling, I finally made it out. I turned to see Josh's corpse dragged into the field.

I was so relieved to be out of the corn, tears were in my eyes. I couldn't even fathom what had just happened tonight. I was never going into a cornfield again, that was for sure. I walked up to the door of the first house I saw and knocked. As I stood on the porch, praying for someone to be home, something moved out of the corners of my eyes. I felt a slight breeze and a dark chill ran down my spine...

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