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Journey of Fear

“Bye, Aunt Iva,” Audrey said, pulling on fluffy mittens. “It’s getting late and I have to get home before dark.” Standing on her Aunt’s porch, she breathed in the crisp, late autumn air.

Aunt Iva shivered in her thin sweater as she hugged Audrey. “I’ll probably catch a chill, but I wanted to say a quick goodbye.” Stuffing a package of homemade chocolate chip cookies in Audrey’s pocket, she added. “I enjoy your visits, dear. How would I manage doing my mopping and laundry without your help?”

Audrey shrugged off her aunt’s gratefulness. “I like helping you with chores,” she said. “Besides, you tell marvelous stories about distant lands and amazing people.”

Looking up at the sky, a frown wrinkled Aunt Iva’s forehead. “We lost track of the time! Will you be okay going home?” she asked, draping a wool scarf around Audrey’s neck.

Audrey was accustomed to her aunt’s nervous “Bye, Aunt Iva,” Audrey said, pulling on fluffy mittens. “It’s getting late and I have to get home before dark.” Standing on her Aunt’s porch, she breathed in the crisp, late autumn air.

Aunt Iva shivered in her thin sweater as she hugged Audrey. “I’ll probably catch a chill, but I wanted to say a quick goodbye.” Stuffing a package of homemade chocolate chip cookies in Audrey’s pocket, she added. “I enjoy your visits, dear. How would I manage doing my mopping and laundry without your help?”

Audrey shrugged off her aunt’s gratefulness. “I like helping you with chores,” she said. “Besides, you tell marvelous stories about distant lands and amazing people.”

Looking up at the sky, a frown wrinkled Aunt Iva’s forehead. “We lost track of the time! Will you be okay going home?” she asked, draping a wool scarf around Audrey’s neck.

Audrey was accustomed to her aunt’s nervous nature. “I’ll be fine! Don’t worry!”

Audrey noticed the temperature had dropped swiftly in the last few hours. A few snowflakes danced around floating softly to the ground. “I can’t wait for the first snowfall,” Audrey exclaimed, catching snowflakes on her tongue–they melted instantly. “If there is enough snow, I’ll go sledding tomorrow.”

Waving to Aunt Iva, she sprinted towards home. Giggling silently to herself, she thought of the possibility of no school tomorrow. Snow days were fun!

“Henson, where are you?” She called hurrying through the yard. “Time to come home dog.”

“Hoo, hoo,” an owl answered from a chestnut tree. Everything was still except the owl. Audrey shrugged and continued to jog. Henson usually followed her everywhere, but he often got side tracked by his nose and it wasn’t unusual for him to go home. I don’t blame him if he went home earlier, Audrey thought.

The sun slowly disappeared behind the hills. Audrey shivered in her coat. The cold air chilled her bones!

The one-mile hike leading home through the woods was familiar, but she never walked the hike late in the evening.

Reaching the opening that led deep into the forest, she paused. A lump formed in her throat. In the fading light, the path was darker than ever. The snow began to fall heavily and she calmly took a deep breath. In order to reach home before dark, she had to hurry.

Entering the woods, her footsteps crushed the dead leaves carpeting the ground. The inviting sounds of crunching leaves were usually calming, but as the evening progressed, the bare tree branches seemed to reach out and try to snag her coat as she passed.

A tapping sound startled Audrey and she looked up at the tall trees casting twisted shadows everywhere. A woodpecker pecked bark of a rotting tree, busily hunting for insects. Breathing deeply, and then chuckling at her own wild imagination, she continued to walk.

The snow plummeted suddenly, blinding her vision more than a few feet in front of her. Increasing her pace, she tripped over a hidden log in the path and fell to the ground. Breathless and a bit shaken, she reached down and rubbed a sore spot on her leg. A pointy branch had ripped her pants and scraped her exposed skin.

Grabbing onto a nearby tree, she pulled herself up. Luckily she wasn’t hurt too badly. The thought of being trapped in the cold, dark woods gave her goose bumps.

Unfamiliar sounds echoed behind her and she glanced back on the forest path that faded in the dark. The woods belonged to mom and dad, and the only person who lived close to the woods was Aunt Iva–there shouldn’t be anyone around.

Shrugging off her wild imagination, she turned and continued home. Television and books added to her active imagination, but she remembered it was fantasy. Just creative stories written to entertain people, but the crunching sounds kept closing in. Audrey nibbled her fingernail, while quickening her pace. A lot of noisy animals lived in the forest.

A flock of birds shooting out of a thicket of bushes stunned her, and she darted and scampered over limbs and rocks. No sound escaped as she tried to scream–her dry throat was frozen.

Panting heavily, Audrey stopped to catch her breath. Glancing around, she realized she was off the path. The landscape looked unfamiliar. She must be lost! Puffs of her breath surrounded her in a cloud of fog. Collapsing on a nearby log controlled her shaking legs. “I’m lost. I have to think clearly.”

As she thought about whom or what was following her, her breathing returned to a normal rhythm. “That’s it!” she shouted and leaped up from the log. Henson! Henson was following her!

Cupping her hands around her mouth, Audrey yelled. “Henson!” Her voice echoed throughout the woods.

Crunching sounds in the distance came toward her and Audrey clenched her fists at her sides. Was she mistaken? Was she in danger? Within moments, Henson appeared. Dashing over a log, he barked and leaped into her arms, covering her face with wet, slobbery kisses.

“I’m lost, Henson. I let my wild imagination get me in trouble,” Audrey said, stroking Henson’s ears. “You know the way home, boy. Please help me!”

Henson bounded out of her arms. Audrey followed the dog and hoped he would lead her home and not toward a fidgety rabbit.

Within moments Audrey heard the distant hum of a tractor. Her face lit up. “Dad and Elmer always feed the cattle at dusk. I hear his tractor, Henson!”

Audrey ran towards the welcoming noise with Henson at her heels. The last light of day beamed through a forest clearing. Bursting through the clearing, and into the pasture, she spotted the tractor chugging in the distance.

Dad’s familiar straw hat dotted the horizon as he drove the tractor, pulling a hay wagon behind it. Elmer, his cowhand, tossed bails of hay off the wagon for the cows to eat. Waving wildly at her dad, he tipped his straw hat in greeting.

“Henson, you did it. You helped lead me home!” Audrey danced in circles laughing. “Let’s go home and drink hot chocolate and eat chocolate chip cookies.” Henson barked at her.

Audrey raced toward the inviting lights of her house. Henson had other ideas as he darted toward the cows. His nose was busy again! nature. “I’ll be fine! Don’t worry!”

Audrey noticed the temperature had dropped swiftly in the last few hours. A few snowflakes danced around floating softly to the ground. “I can’t wait for the first snowfall,” Audrey exclaimed, catching snowflakes on her tongue–they melted instantly. “If there is enough snow, I’ll go sledding tomorrow.”

Waving to Aunt Iva, she sprinted towards home. Giggling silently to herself, she thought of the possibility of no school tomorrow. Snow days were fun!

“Henson, where are you?” She called hurrying through the yard. “Time to come home dog.”

“Hoo, hoo,” an owl answered from a chestnut tree. Everything was still except the owl. Audrey shrugged and continued to jog. Henson usually followed her everywhere, but he often got side tracked by his nose and it wasn’t unusual for him to go home. I don’t blame him if he went home earlier, Audrey thought.

The sun slowly disappeared behind the hills. Audrey shivered in her coat. The cold air chilled her bones!

The one-mile hike leading home through the woods was familiar, but she never walked the hike late in the evening.

Reaching the opening that led deep into the forest, she paused. A lump formed in her throat. In the fading light, the path was darker than ever. The snow began to fall heavily and she calmly took a deep breath. In order to reach home before dark, she had to hurry.

Entering the woods, her footsteps crushed the dead leaves carpeting the ground. The inviting sounds of crunching leaves were usually calming, but as the evening progressed, the bare tree branches seemed to reach out and try to snag her coat as she passed.

A tapping sound startled Audrey and she looked up at the tall trees casting twisted shadows everywhere. A woodpecker pecked bark of a rotting tree, busily hunting for insects. Breathing deeply, and then chuckling at her own wild imagination, she continued to walk.

The snow plummeted suddenly, blinding her vision more than a few feet in front of her. Increasing her pace, she tripped over a hidden log in the path and fell to the ground. Breathless and a bit shaken, she reached down and rubbed a sore spot on her leg. A pointy branch had ripped her pants and scraped her exposed skin.

Grabbing onto a nearby tree, she pulled herself up. Luckily she wasn’t hurt too badly. The thought of being trapped in the cold, dark woods gave her goose bumps.

Unfamiliar sounds echoed behind her and she glanced back on the forest path that faded in the dark. The woods belonged to mom and dad, and the only person who lived close to the woods was Aunt Iva–there shouldn’t be anyone around.

Shrugging off her wild imagination, she turned and continued home. Television and books added to her active imagination, but she remembered it was fantasy. Just creative stories written to entertain people, but the crunching sounds kept closing in. Audrey nibbled her fingernail, while quickening her pace. A lot of noisy animals lived in the forest.

A flock of birds shooting out of a thicket of bushes stunned her, and she darted and scampered over limbs and rocks. No sound escaped as she tried to scream–her dry throat was frozen.

Panting heavily, Audrey stopped to catch her breath. Glancing around, she realized she was off the path. The landscape looked unfamiliar. She must be lost! Puffs of her breath surrounded her in a cloud of fog. Collapsing on a nearby log controlled her shaking legs. “I’m lost. I have to think clearly.”

As she thought about whom or what was following her, her breathing returned to a normal rhythm. “That’s it!” she shouted and leaped up from the log. Henson! Henson was following her!

Cupping her hands around her mouth, Audrey yelled. “Henson!” Her voice echoed throughout the woods.

Crunching sounds in the distance came toward her and Audrey clenched her fists at her sides. Was she mistaken? Was she in danger? Within moments, Henson appeared. Dashing over a log, he barked and leaped into her arms, covering her face with wet, slobbery kisses.

“I’m lost, Henson. I let my wild imagination get me in trouble,” Audrey said, stroking Henson’s ears. “You know the way home, boy. Please help me!”

Henson bounded out of her arms. Audrey followed the dog and hoped he would lead her home and not toward a fidgety rabbit.

Within moments Audrey heard the distant hum of a tractor. Her face lit up. “Dad and Elmer always feed the cattle at dusk. I hear his tractor, Henson!”

Audrey ran towards the welcoming noise with Henson at her heels. The last light of day beamed through a forest clearing. Bursting through the clearing, and into the pasture, she spotted the tractor chugging in the distance.

Dad’s familiar straw hat dotted the horizon as he drove the tractor, pulling a hay wagon behind it. Elmer, his cowhand, tossed bails of hay off the wagon for the cows to eat. Waving wildly at her dad, he tipped his straw hat in greeting.

“Henson, you did it. You helped lead me home!” Audrey danced in circles laughing. “Let’s go home and drink hot chocolate and eat chocolate chip cookies.” Henson barked at her.

Audrey raced toward the inviting lights of her house. Henson had other ideas as he darted toward the cows. His nose was busy again!

© 2003 Sherry Pittinger

 

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