Cate Crenshaw’s Diary: November 9
My brother is acting weird. He didn’t eat dinner even though Grandma made tacos. Tacos is his favorite cuz it’s beef instead of rabbit. Cody hates rabbit and we eat rabbit most nights.
He just sat at the table looking all sick, like he was gonna throw up or something. Grandma asked him if he got the flu from Perry Jenkins and he said “No, there’s something in the Woods.”
I knew what he meant, but I didn’t say nothing. Membering made me feel sick too.
Grandma got to yelling “You kids been in them Woods?”
I lied and said no. She tells us all the time not to play in the Woods. “Funny business” used to go on there. That’s what she calls it, “funny business.” What we saw wasn’t funny though.
I was scared Cody would tell her the truth, but he shook his head and looked all pale and sweaty. Grandma touched his forehead then sent him upstairs to bed. While I was washing dishes she took him some medicine, but she come back saying he was already asleep.
I think what made him sick was all them dead animals.
I am so creeped out.
Last night Cody woke me up. I heard crying through the wall. He was crying in his sleep. I shook him awake cuz I ain’t seen him cry since Dad’s
funral funeral. I asked him what was wrong and he said “Dad was here! I saw Dad!” Dad said his name was Mister Revels (or something like that) and he asked Cody if he wanted to come to the treehouse and play. I have never been so freaked out in my life!
I told him “Dad is dead. It’s just a nightmare. You miss Dad, I miss him too.” And Cody said “Yeah,” but I don’t think he believed me.
I saw the doll’s head on his bedside table, the one with the broken eyes. The one he stole from the Woods. I hope Grandma don’t read this. We will get in trouble for being out there. I didn’t put it in my Diary, what we saw. I’m too scared…
Crenshaw Farm, 1 week earlier
The sunlight is gray and veined, like cracked porcelain. It snags in the bare branches of trees. Funereal leaves shed like tears. They crunch underfoot. Cate likes to step on them. They sound like potato chips. Grandma doesn’t let her grandkids eat potato chips. Junk food rots the brain, she says.
Cody stalks a few steps ahead, hunched low as he investigates the shrubs blocking his path. A spear made from a sharpened stick fills his fist. A plastic bow rides his back. He has only three arrows, with blunt heads.
“Hush up,” he says and stops to listen.
Cate stops crunching leaves and huddles tight against his arm. A crow wings past, black as an omen. “We should go back,” she whispers. “We’ll get a whippin’. Grandma will make me feed the rabbits all by myself.” Cate peers over her shoulder, but she can no longer see the white frame of the farmhouse. The trees have closed over it like a lid.
Cody shakes her off, frowning at his sister’s lack of nerve. “I told you. I heard something last night. Someone screamed. If a hiker’s lost out here, we can help ‘em.”
“It was just an owl—maybe one of the rabbits.”
Determined to prove his sister wrong, Cody creeps ahead, pressing through shrubs and briars, attacking branches with his spear as if they are lions. Beyond the tangles, he stumbles into a clearing. Cate follows him and screams.
Dead babies, she thinks, sprawl across the clearing.
“Shut up, stupid,” Cody says. “What kinda girl is afraid of a bunch of dolls?”
Cate sees that her brother is right. They are not babies, but dolls of babies, baby dolls. A population of a dozen or more. They pose, sitting with arms raised in a plea to be held, or bound to stakes so they remain upright. They wear ugly dresses, roughly sewn of burlap or muslin. Fractures scar the faces of the porcelain ones; abuse of sun and rain has bleached the faces of the plastic ones.
“Whose you reckon they are?” Cate asks. “They been here a long time. Maybe they were Grandma’s.”
“They ain’t been here that long,” Cody says. He pokes at one of the dolls with his spear. It falls onto its back. One eye closes. The other eye keeps watching them.
Cody’s shoulders give a little jolt of surprise. “Look up there.”
His spear directs Cate’s gaze into the branches of the surrounding trees. Doll arms and doll legs dangle, turning in a damp breeze, kicking and waving. Red twine binds them to the branches. To Cate, it looks as if the disembodied parts are bleeding.
“Let’s go,” she says, tugging Cody’s coat. “We shouldn’t be here.”
“This is Grandma’s land, ain’t it? Whoever did this was trespassing.”
Then why does Cate suspect it is she who trespasses?
Cody shrugs off her tugging and winds a path through the dolls. In their midst lies a slab of stone. It juts up from the earth, a natural scab on the forest floor. “Holy shit!” he says, looking down at it.
Cate throws a hand over her mouth, glad that Grandma isn’t around to hear him cussing, and on a Sunday. Curiosity deadens her fear of the dolls, and she runs to him. The remains of animals are strewn across the stone slab: a crow with splayed wings pinned under two rocks, its feet stiffly curled in the air; a squirrel whose entrails are arrayed in coiling patterns. A cottontail rabbit, half flayed, its hide unfurled like a map. Dark stains shape spirals and curlicues on the slab.
Cody stares with his mouth open.
Cate is starting to cry. “We gotta go! They’ll find us!” She runs for the break in the shrubs. Briars catch her sleeve and she shrieks. Somewhere a crow screams in reply. “Cody, help me!” Tears on her cold cheeks are hot with panic.
Her brother stops staring and runs to her. He spots a doll’s head hanging by a snarl of yellow hair and takes a running leap at it. His fingers close around it and his weight tears it loose. He shoves the head into his pocket, frees Cate’s sleeve, and tugs her out through the briar wall.
They run until they see the farmhouse, white through the gray trees.
Cate Crenshaw’s Diary: November 11
Cody got in trouble at school today. He never gets in trouble. He gets A’s and B’s, and he don’t get in fights, but he got sent home.
Grandma told me he bit a kid. Bit him! Made him bleed and get stitches and everything. Cody never done nothing like that in his life. Grandma says this is something
kintergardeners kindergarteners do, not thirteen yr olds.
I asked him if it’s true and he just shrugged. Grandma says he’s suspended for the rest of the week. He gets to stay home, and I don’t. It’s not fair.
At least Grandma says he has to do all his chores and mine too, and she’ll find more stuff for him to do. He has to shovel all the rabbit
shit poo by himself and help separate the fryers from the mommas. I hate taking the baby rabbits from their mommas. They scream. I threw up the first time.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Read the rest of the story in the horror collection Kids Are Hell! by Hellbound Books.
copyright 2022 by Court Ellyn
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