Friday’s Story #15
Lost in New Hampshire
By Keith Wilcox
They say Halloween is supposed to be scary, but I doubt whoever they are meant genuinely scary. I think they meant scary in the sort of way a roller coaster is scary – fun scary. Well, I was legitimately scared last night. Thank God I dressed up as a lumberjack because this outfit is really warm. My mom put a thick flannel shirt on me and a furry hat, jeans and work boots. I also have a toy ax but that didn’t do me much good last night. My friend dressed as a nerd. He just had on his regular clothes except with suspenders, a pocket protector, and he jacked his pants up past his belly button. If he was lost like me he’d be frozen stiff by now. But, he isn’t lost; he’s probably at home eating his candy not even thinking about me. Sure, I have a pillow case one third full of candy so I suppose that counts as food. My mom says it doesn’t, but I don’t think she’s been lost in the woods before. It was dark and I had my flashlight that she stuffed into my sack before I left. It was a free flashlight that we got from the supermarket; they gave one to everybody who bought 25 dollars or more of Halloween candy. It’s cheap but at least it illuminated my feet and where I was walking. It didn’t last all night.
The night didn’t start out miserable. I hit almost all the houses in my neighborhood before 7:30. Evan and I didn’t want to go home early so we continued to the next neighborhood which was across Main Street. We hit those houses quickly too. Then a group of kids from the high school came and that’s when it got weird. Evan ran back towards his house and they didn’t follow him. They followed me. I don’t know why. Probably because I looked more frantic, like a rabbit not knowing which way to hop. So I did the dumbest thing I could have done. I ran into the woods. The older kids were throwing things at me. I don’t know what. I kept running until I didn’t hear their footsteps anymore. I think I must have not been listening for a long time because I don’t remember when I stopped hearing leaves rustling and voices behind me. I only remember stopping. I stood there for a minute thinking how to get back home while avoiding the high schoolers. I turned left but didn’t know if that was North or what. When I entered the woods I had gone perpendicular to the road to the right and I kept going straight. I reckoned my house must still be backwards and to the left. I went left, and I used my flashlight. The last bits of light had receded over the horizon and it was pitch black without it. I walked for a long time and I didn’t see any houses or lights from houses. I changed direction again. This time because I was pretty sure I’d gone wrong someplace. I turned 180 degrees and tried to retrace my steps. It was night and I didn’t have any landmarks to go by. The best I could do at that point was guess, and I guessed wrong, I think, because I didn’t recognize anything and I didn’t feel any closer to home. I sat against my tree for a few more minutes and then kept trudging on, my spirit collapsed.
I quit the Boy Scouts after just a year, but I remembered them telling me that if I was ever lost in the woods and knew people were looking for me to stay put and wait to get found. I didn’t see how I could have been any more lost than I already was. I didn’t see the harm in continuing. If I was facing left and I walked back to the right for about the same distance then that would mean I’d need to turn right again. I turned right and walked directly towards where I thought I should see some lights. The forest is thick isnNew Hampshire, and October is cold. Why couldn’t I live in Miami? Suddenly I had an idea. I could eat my candy while I walked and drop wrappers along my path. Maybe, if things got bad enough, in the morning people would find the wrappers and follow them to me. I thought I was pretty smart. I munched and munched and left wrappers at steady intervals as I walked. The thing I didn’t count on was being found by the people who eventually did end up finding me.
I had walked for hours and gotten no closer to finding home or the town for that matter. Eventually I gave up. I sat down and cried, and I stayed there, wherever I was, until morning. I didn’t sleep. When daylight broke over the horizon in front of me I made out my surroundings. I was sitting among a group of birch trees; there were some Ash and Maple trees as well. I knew these woods must also have Beech trees, but I had forgotten what those looked like. As I sat trying to identify trees I heard voices. People were looking for me! But, I was wrong, they weren’t looking for me, they just stumbled over me. They came, three of them, through the forest carrying what looked like metal suite cases, and they wore white coats. Maybe lab coats? They were longer than lab coats. They looked like white dusters. When they saw me they stopped in their tracks and looked at each other. Then they ran to me and knelt beside me. “What are you doing here, boy?” one of them said.
“I’m lost. I went trick or treating last night, and I got chased by high schoolers, and I got lost.”
The three of them looked shocked, and one of them said to another, “Do you think we’ve got another one?” The man closest to me opened his suit case and took out a wand, of sorts. He waved it over me and a green light at its tip flashed. “Yup, he’s another one who slipped though.” And the man with the wand said “come with us and we’ll explain.”
The rest goes like this. He’s an accidental traveler. One of a group of several who have slipped forward in time and who are being collected by the government as they appear. They all appear in the same area of New Hampshire forest and they all seem to be from roughly the same time period. The boy is going to be hauled off to a detention facility with the other travelers to be “studied”. That’s all I’ve got so far…