Stay Out Of The Woods

Deborah Long

Sam awoke to the smell of coffee permeating her room. Normally, she would sleep in on Saturdays, but it was Halloween. She and her mom always went big when it came to Halloween anything. It was kind of their thing.

She grinned and headed downstairs for her mom’s home-famous ghost pancakes and the best pumpkin spiced coffee ever. Grabbing her favorite witchy mug, she poured herself a full cup, and sat down with her mom to catch up on everything.

It was her senior year and she’d been spending more time with her friends. Not just because it was senior year, though. Her mom got married recently. New stepdad and stepsibs. Life was crazy these days, so it was fun to have her mom all to herself even if it was just for breakfast. Between her mom working with her stepdad, and taking care of the new stepsibs, she barely got to see her anymore. “Adjustments are necessary,” her stepdad Sean always said if he thought she was about to complain. She helped out a lot, but her mom was pretty cool about giving her a little extra space these days.

They finished their pancakes just as Sean walked in. “Morning, Sam!”

Her dog, Scooby, barked at Sean, and she hid a satisfied smile. “Morning,” she mumbled. They weren’t close and she liked it that way. Avoidance is necessary.

“Hey, babe, did you talk to Sam about the charity thing tonight?”

Sam threw daggers at Sean with her eyes before glaring at her mother. Her mom pursed her lips at Sean. “Not yet, so thank you for that.” She smiled at Sam. There was guilt in her eyes. “Honey, I know you have plans later tonight, but Sean and I have to go to a fundraiser for the new burn unit. We won’t be late, I promise. 10:00 at the latest, and then you’re free to –”

“Seriously? It’sHalloween! And the senior class costume party is tonight.”

“I would never have asked if I was able to get a sitter.” Her mom looked to Sean, who nodded his support, and she continued. “We had one, but she called last night and bailed. I did try to work it out. I promise we’ll be back in time for you to make your party.”

 Sam clenched her mug in her hand as she took another sip. This sucked. Sean ruined everything. If he wasn’t there, she and her mom would be spending the day together, probably putting the finishing touches on their costumes, making candied apples, and taking a few bags of candy to the church for their trunk-or-treat thing. Now, she was stuck babysitting. “Fine,” she grunted. “Just…please don’t be late.”

A smile snaked across her mother’s lips. “Thank you!”

“I knew we could count on you,” Sean said, all chipper and crap. She rolled her eyes at him, but he didn’t notice. She took her plate to the sink and left to hang out with her friends before she said something to Sean her mother would make her regret. Thank God for her friends.

Marcus, Kelly, and Jake were all over at Kylee’s house finishing up with their costumes for the party. They commiserated with her over her new babysitting gig, and then helped pass the time with small talk. “Y’all hear about the werewolves?” Jake asked them.

“What?” I asked.

Kylee rolled her eyes. “My brother was talking about them earlier, but I think he was just trying to scare me.”

“It’s real,” Jake said. “A long time ago, there was a pack of them that kept coming to town. They came at night, mostly to hunt animals, but sometimes people too. Occasionally, they’d find people to bite, so they could grow their packs or something. The town covers for them. People keep disappearing – all the kidnappings and mysterious deaths. I think that’s the werewolf. One family started tracking them and laying traps. They killed most of them with a silver stake, but I don’t think they caught them all.”

“I heard they’re only out on Halloween. That way they can blend in with everyone while they look for their next victim or a new pack member,” Marcus chimed in.

Sam looked at everyone. Nobody seemed to notice the absurdity of the conversation. “Halloween werewolves killed by silver stakes? Hello, shitty movie script? Come on.”

“Sounds a little far-fetched,” Kylee said. “Is Bloody Mary from the mirror real too?”

Jake grinned. “Maybe. Go check.”

“Nope!” Kylee laughed. “You go!” She gave him a little push toward the door, and they all started laughing. Sam was happy when they went back to talking about the party. When Kylee’s sister came in to show everyone her costume, Sam remembered she needed to get back home to the stepsibs. Sean and her mom would probably be ready to leave soon.

She was right. They practically ran out the door once she got there. Her stepsibs, Brianna and Jackson, stood with her on the stoop and watched them leave. Bri looked cute in her VSCO girl costume. Baggy clothes, neon shoes, and lots of scrunchies. She’d even borrowed her brother’s skateboard to complete her look. Jackson was dressed up as some Ender Dragon thing from one of his video games.

They went inside to find chili cooking on the stove for their dinner. She wasn’t happy about being forced into the situation, but at least her mom remembered the Halloween chili. She smiled. That was kinda cool.

Taking the kids trick-or-treating would be a snap. She’d drive behind them as they walked around the neighborhood, but there were rules, and she needed them to know what was up. “Don’t go running off by yourself,” she said. “Take what people give you. Don’t ask for something else or more, or whatever, and once your bucket’s full, we come home. If you don’t complain, you can have four pieces of candy before you go to bed. What do you say?” she asked them. They both agreed, but she saw the little hint of a pout on Jackson’s face. “Five?” she asked him. He grinned and clapped his little hands. Kids were so easy to please.

They hit all the houses, scored big, and were done by 9:15. After their candy, they got in their PJ’s and went straight to bed, and she had nothing left to do but turn off the porch light and wait on the couch with Scooby.

10:00 passed with no sign of her mom and Sean. After 11:00, they still weren’t home, so she texted her mom asking where she was and reminding her of her promise to be home by 10:00. She didn’t respond, so she called. She didn’t answer that either.

She sighed and patted Scooby’s head, straightening the name on his soft faux-leather collar. Sean made it for him. It was the only cool thing Sean ever did. “They backed me into this babysitting thing, and now I’ve missed half my party,” she told Scooby. “Stupid Sean, and his stupid fundraiser!” Scooby huffed in response.

She heard the car at five minutes to midnight. Sean helped her mother inside and they were laughing at something. She could smell her mom’s liquor breath from the couch. Sam stormed over to them. “How could you do this to me? I missed the party! My costume is wasted!” she yelled.

Her mom apologized in slurred speech, clinging to Sean, but Sean’s eyes narrowed. “If we need you to babysit so we can do our jobs, then you’re damn well gonna do it. I am sorry we were later than expected, but I can’t walk away from a sizeable donation so you can go to a party, not that we owe you an explanation.”

“I damn well won’t, Sean. You are not my dad, and those kids are not my kids. I did you a favor. The least you could do is be back on time.”

He cocked his head. “Those kids? I know I’m not your dad, but I own the house. Your mom and I pay the bills. Our jobs pay for your car, your cell, your costume, all the decorations you put up, and your dog’s food. You want a say in how things get done? Pay. A damn. Bill.” He scooped her mom up and left the room.

Scooby followed as Sam stomped out the back door and shot past her heading to the tree line of the forest to do his business. Who does Sean think he is anyway?This whole day has been shit! she fumed. Scooby took off after something into the woods. Crap! She started after him. He wouldn’t have gone too far. He was scared of everything. “Scooby?” she called and listened for him, but there was nothing, so she kept going. It was hard to see anything. Stupid trees. “Scooby, come on, let’s go inside. Want a treat?”

A wailing yelp came from the shadows ahead of her, and she started running for her dog. “Scooby!” Sam tripped and hit the ground hard, but her face hit something soft. She held her hand out and touched Scooby’s collar, damp and sticky. “Scoob?” she whispered, feeling her beautiful Great Dane lying dead on the ground. Sam slapped at the tears, willing them away as she stood up and tried to breathe. She needed help, but she hadn’t paid attention to where she was going, or which way she’d come from. She had no clue how to get back.

Spinning in a circle around Scooby wasn’t going to get her home any faster, but the low growl she heard off in the distance certainly helped motivate her into moving. The yellow eyes peering at her from the darkness helped even more, but before she could move the thing was at her legs. She didn’t know what to do. Play dead, run like a bat out of hell? The thing stood on its hindlegs. It had to be around 8-feet tall. Werewolf?! Panic set in as it sniffed her, dropping back down. Sam didn’t wait to find out what it wanted to do. She took off.

She heard it behind her. Trying to ignore the branches and brush tearing at her, she ran as fast as she could. She hit a rock, which knocked her backwards. There was a sharp pain in her leg, and maybe it slowed her down a little, but she didn’t think so. Just keep going. Her brain screamed at her legs. She could only pray she was going in the right direction. It didn’t sound as close as it had before, so she took a quick look behind her. It was still at the rocks. It was sniffing at the ground where she’d fallen, and then it honed back in on her and leapt at her, howling as he ran. Holy shit! She pushed her body harder, forcing her legs to keep going, but she wasn’t fast enough. She screamed as the wolf’s teeth ripped into her leg, pulling her to the ground. Sam kicked and flailed and screamed with everything she had left in her. She clawed at the ground, trying to get into a position where she could stand, and then she saw it. So close, light peaking through the trees. If she could just get there, or at least get their attention. Her whole body shook as she continued to crawl toward the light, but she wasn’t fast enough. The wolf jumped in front of her path, snarling at her. She backed up, but everything hurt, and she couldn’t go any further. She let out the loudest scream she could muster as the werewolf closed in on her, breathing down her neck. That was when she noticed the second shadow. Someone was closing in behind the wolf. “Please!” Sam begged. “Help me!” And then her entire world sank into darkness.


She sat up with a start. Looking around, she realized she was in her mother’s bed. She was covered in bandages and her head was killing her, but she was alive.

There was a quick knock on the door, and Sean let himself in. He had a tray full of food. Sean smiled widely at her. “You’re awake!” he said, sounding as chipper as he always did. “Your mom is going to be so happy!” He sat the tray on the nightstand. “We were worried about you.” He kissed the top of her head and left the room. She was a little confused as she watched him leave. As the door closed, she noticed a silver stake hanging on a nail right next to Scooby’s collar.

Join The Coversation!
Thank you! Your comment is awaiting moderation