The bright light of the sun flickered over us through the foliage above, as we excitedly ran along the trail that led to our secret swimming pond. Both of us had been through this path many times, so our speed didn’t arise any concern of us getting lost. Coming to the familiar fork in the trail, we stopped. The left path was longer and through the trees we could see boy scouts, about our age, coming in our direction. The right path was a shorter distance to the pond, so it seemed like the obvious option. As we were about to launch into a sprint, we stopped and glared down the path. An old man came into our view, tucking an unseen object into a dark, long trench coat, hastily walked towards us. Lifting his head up from his task, he stared at us. His pace quickened. His eyes looked dark and unforgiving, with a glint to them that could drive you mad. Shooting a nervous glance at each other, a crooked smile crept up the old man’s thin cheek bones. As we were both uneased by this, we quietly decided to take the longer path. We’d both rather endure a group of boy scouts on the small trail, than that man.
Releasing ourselves from the man’s gaze, as the forest was too dense to see through the divide of bushes to the other trail, I felt a sense of relief. We passed the Boy Scouts, recognising some of them from school, it wasn’t as awkward as we had previously thought. Now being past the situation of the old man and the boy scouts, we both instantly launched ourselves into a sprint.
Quickly reaching the pond, without saying a word we both stripped off our shirts, shorts and socks. Wearing only our boxers, we jumped in. The water was satisfyingly cool. I ran out of the pond and towards the rope swing, for I had never actually swung off it, but this time, I was determined to push away my fear. Firmly holding the thick rope in both hands, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. As I opened them, I launched myself into the air, suspended by the rope. Everything felt like it was in slow motion as I let go of the rope and soared through the air. Looking down at my target area, which was the deepest part of the pond, I felt a sense of pride. I had done it perfectly, and not gone too far and into the shallower parts.
All my feelings of success vanished as bubbles started to arise from the pond's depths, and a dark figure drifted to the surface amongst my target area. In a split second I made out a human body and face. Its eye sockets lay open and empty; a pale expression of pain and remorse draped on its face.
I let out a sharp scream as I collided with the body.
Word of this incident spread around our small town like a wildfire. The police had been at our secret pond for days trying to find evidence to pin this on someone, to no avail. The body belonged to a woman who was extremely involved within the borders of our town. Everyone was devastated.
The next day, our small community took another blow. Crying families and missing persons posters littered the town, bearing seven pictures of the boys we passed on the trail. I’ve told the police about the old man. That spark in his eyes is burnt into my mind. That crooked smile painfully echoes through my thoughts every time I picture it. The police sketch of the man is posted all over town as well; and no one seems to even slightly recognise him.
I don’t know where those boys have gone, or even if they are alive. But I do know one thing. That old man — that monster — wasn’t simply just out for a walk on that horrible, horrible summer day.
Credited to Isaac Cook