Little Callie Winslow was walking home from school today. She was all alone because her best friend, Bitsy who she usually walked with was home sick. Being the good friend she is, Callie had Bitsy’s books with her so she could catch up on her homework. Added to hers, her book bag was very heavy for such a little girl.
When Callie got to the path in the woods they took most days, she hesitated. Everyone always said don’t cut through there alone and Callie never had. No one she knew in her entire eight years of life ever had. It was a bright, sunny day, Indian summer and Callie was tired. She’d been going the long way around all week. But she and Bitsy had walked through the woods together since they’d started school and nothing ever happened. There was nothing scary in the woods so just this once Callie decided she would do it. Who would ever know?
Little Callie Winslow looked around to make sure no one was near. It would be just like the older boys to sneak up behind her and try to scare her if they saw her going into the woods alone. She saw no one so she stepped off the road and started up the path. A few steps into the woods the temperature dropped. Callie thought it had to be the shade since there were still a few leaves on the trees. That had to be why it seemed suddenly darker too.
There hadn’t been any breeze before but now the trees were chattering. Branches clicking, clacking, tapping as if in warning, telling Callie to turn back before it’s too late. Or were they marking her progress, her solitary state, her foolhardy venture? Callie looked to her left, to her right and saw nothing. Everyone was just being silly, telling her not to go into the woods alone. She walked a little further before the rustling started. She didn’t see anything but was sure it had to be the little creatures that always lived in the woods. Bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, maybe even a skunk although it didn’t smell like a skunk was near.
She kept going. Off to the side there was movement, something scurrying in the underbrush. Callie thought long and hard and realized she and Bitsy had never seen any of the critters she pictured in her mind. Still, it had to be one of them. It just had to be. A crow cawed overhead. Those, she and Bitsy had seen. They’d even talked to one when it hadn’t flown away at their passing. The crow today was louder so Callie looked up and froze. There was more than one and they all seemed to be watching her. And they weren’t at the top of the trees. No, today they were lower, staring at her with their beady black eyes as they called out to each other.
It grew colder still and Callie began to be afraid. She hadn’t gone all that far so she decided maybe she better go back only when she turned around the path was gone. Everything had shifted. Nothing looked familiar. She tried to run the way she’d been going but stumbled. Things that way weren’t the same either. What was happening to the woods? The rustling was coming closer, closer and the crows, oh the crows were making such a ruckus. They were so loud she couldn’t hear the prayers that she’d begun to utter.
Little Callie Winslow went into the woods today and never came out. She was never seen again. And when Bitsy’s books, homework assignments tucked inside, were found at the beginning of the path, no one bothered to keep looking for her. She would not be found but she wasn’t forgotten. Oh no. As those before, when some foolish soul went missing the next generation told their children to remember, remember little Callie Winslow and do not go into the woods alone.