(been doing some rewriting that I will explain in future posts. for now, this is the new opening.
Also edited the previous posts/chapters for those following along. Enjoy. Or let me know if you’re not and why.)
Jamie, delicate and flaxen-haired, felt Shem’s tail thumping the blanket. The big golden sat on their bed staring out the cabin window, his coat glistening in the moonlight.
Jamie whispered, “What is it, boy?” He looked past his dog to the oak, elm, pine, and ash of the Upper Peninsula Michigan forest. The Moon, full and bright, illuminated the trees and the small, one-room cabin at their center.
Shem scratched at the door to go out.
“Do you have to pee?”
Shem whined softly.
“Shh.” Jamie glanced at his parents, Ellie and Tom, asleep on the other side of the cabin. You want to wake mom and dad?” He crawled out from under the covers and tip-toed to the door where he stood on a chair, drew back the bolt, and lifted the latch.
Cool winds rustled treetops, turning them into brooms sweeping low-hung clouds from late September skies. Dust devils spun up mists where night air met day-warmed rocks. Owls and loons, peepers and crickets, hooted and chirped. Trees bowed to the rising Moon.
Shem walked into the night. Jamie followed.
The Moon continued her ascent. The woods fell silent.
Ellie sat up in bed, her hands clenching the blanket, holding it tight against her. A cold, dank wind swirled through the cabin, lifting things slightly, inspecting them, putting them down, drawing a musk of old earths in its wake.
Moonlight entered the cabin’s single room.
Her eyes fixed on Jamie’s empty bed.
Tom rose and put his boots on in one motion. “Where are they?”
Ellie pointed at the open door.
Tom threw her coat to her. “They must be together. Shem won’t let Jamie out of his sight.”
“Something’s got them. Some wild animal.”
“Calm down, Ellie. There’s no blood anywhere. Shem’d raise hell if something got in the cabin or near Jamie.” He grabbed an iron poker from the woodstove.
Ellie stopped at the door, a silhouette against the night. “Shh.”
Tom whispered, “What are they doing?”
“It looks like they’re playing.”
Jamie and Shem romped in a grassy clearing twenty feet from the cabin. Moonlight cast long shadows everywhere as they danced about, the sole performers under a celestial spotlight.
Tom looked to the rutted dirt road that served as the camp’s driveway. No cars but theirs. He scanned the shadows.
Ellie whispered, “Can you hear that?”
Jamie danced in circles, laughing as if being tickled, his arms up as if waiting to be lifted, little hands grasping, little fingers curling.
“Isn’t that dog for ‘Let’s play’, bowing? He’s not facing Jamie. Who’s he playing with?”
Beside Jamie, Shem, bigger than Jamie and the boy’s perfect playmate, jumped up and bowed and ran around as if someone was throwing his Frisbee to him.
The Moon cleared the trees, lighting the clearing from above. Jamie’s and Shem’s shadows crept underneath them. The wind stilled.
Ellie grabbed Tom’s arm. “Do you see that?”
Other shadows entered the clearing, some Jamie’s size, some slightly larger. Shadows with nothing to cast them. Shadows where there shouldn’t be shadows. Shadows standing upright, not cast on the ground.
Jamie danced with them and they danced around Jamie. Shem ran among them, played tag with them. Jamie laughed. Shem barked.
Not a warning, not an alarm.
Something twinkled in the shadows, prisms breaking the intense moonlight into bright rainbows.
On the edge of the clearing, in the dark where the trees stood in ancient vigil, eyes gathered in the moonlight.
Ellie woke, the covers clenched in her hands.
She looked across the cabin. Jamie and Shem, sleeping together as always, in their bed.
She let out a breath. She shook her head. It was a dream. The full moon’s light came in through a cabin window. It must have disturbed her, wakened her, worried her in her sleep.
She rolled over, away from Tom to give him a little more room.
And saw dew-laden toddler-sized footprints and paw prints on the floor.
She sat up as the cabin door closed.
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