Spooky Writing Contest 2nd place submission: “Oddtumn”


Josh Truesdale

2021 LSO Spooky Writing Contest – 2nd place submission

A cool wind breezed through the forest, rustling the grass and what few leaves remained on the trees. Despite the lack of human intervention, the trees were neatly lined up in parallel rows as if it were an apple orchard, even though no apples could be seen. The grass was strangely lively compared to the cold temperature and the desolate trees. It was as if the grass had been taken from June and the trees from October. Despite this, no leaves could be seen anywhere. Thalia and Gale thought nothing of this. 

Even though they were twins, the two couldn’t appear more different. Gale wore their simple jeans and black sweatshirt, while Thalia wore her favorite red dress, the one Grandma had made for her. Even though Gale was tall, standing at around six feet compared to Thalia, who was around five and a half feet, the sweatshirt was somehow too big on him, ceaselessly perplexing Thalia.

“So how long until we get to Grandma’s house?” Gale asked, palpable exasperation in their voice. Even though Gale’s height made them appear to be an adult, they repeatedly demonstrated that their maturity level didn’t quite line up.

“Two hours, Gale,” Thalia responded, emphasizing Gale’s name in a sharp tone. She was more concerned about getting her dark brown hair out of her face, the wind causing it to seemingly develop a mind of its own.

“I love Grandma and all, but I wish we didn’t have to walk this much,” Gale said, disappointed in how long the trip would last. Gale played with their sweatshirt’s zipper out of boredom, revealing a white T-shirt underneath it. Although Thalia was mature compared to them, she had a short temper, especially with Gale. Thalia rolled her eyes.

Can’t you think of anything else to say? she thought, recounting the countless times during the trip Gale had expressed this sentiment. “I’m just as sick of walking as you are, but stop complaining! We’re going to see Grandma, and” Thalia was cut off by a voice from the forest. 

“Thalia? Gale? Is that you?” a familiar voice weakly shouted from a nearby row of trees. They immediately recognized the voice as their grandmother’s, and looked to the forest  with puzzled expressions on their faces.

That certainly didn’t seem like two hours of walking, Thalia thought as Gale looked towards the source of the voice.

“Yeah, it’s us!” Gale shouted, offering confirmation to their grandmother’s question. 

“Wait, I don’t think Grandma usually goes out this far,” said Thalia, skeptical of Gale’s instant trust. “Plus, I can’t see her at all. Why would she be hiding?”

“Stop being so doubtful, Thalia. That’s Grandma’s voice, I’m not gonna walk for two more hours just to find out she was back here the whole time. If you don’t want to go with me, then you can keep walking.”

Gale had a look of pure exasperation on their face as they slowly disappeared, fading from view amidst the jagged tree branches. Soon, Gale could not be seen.

I hope Gale can make it to Grandma’s house from there, Thalia thought, knowing better than to stop them when they were annoyed. She marched on, the grass appearing more green and the trees becoming more bare, highlighting the contrast and the seemingly impossible gap in seasons. Thalia took note of this. She’d walked the path multiple times before, and while the trees and grass always contrasted, it had never been so pronounced.

Whatever, it’s probably just my mind playing tricks on me, she assumed. After all, this is my first time walking to Grandma’s house without someone to talk to.

She continued her trek, ignoring the changing nature around her. The contrast grew more and more apparent until no more leaves could be seen on the trees, leaving purely exposed, jagged branches. Thalia came to her senses when she heard a voice.

“Thalia, wait up!” She instantly recognized it as Gale’s voice, but something was off.

Whenever Gale is wrong, they’re annoyed. Why do they sound like they’re happy? Thalia knew that Gale wasn’t right in their assumption, unless a miracle happened and her grandmother was able to walk miles away from home with no ill effects. Or maybe my directions were off? No, that couldn’t be, I’ve walked this trail far too many times to get the directions wrong.

Thalia was skeptical, but looked over. She saw nothing. She paused, putting her hand above her eyes to block out the sun, and noticed a figure laying in the grass. It was hard to distinguish, but it looked to be some sort of animal. From what Thalia could tell, the creature was gray, and about her size. At first, it didn’t seem to notice her. Using this opportunity, Thalia looked around for cover, finding a patch of tall grass surrounding a tree. She instantly hid, now scared of the creature seeing her.

What is that thing? I thought that the wildlife on this trail was peaceful, she thought, knowing all she’d seen on it were squirrels, birds, rabbits, and the occasional deer. She did her best not to make any noise as she peeked out from behind the tree, using her hands to part the blades of grass as slowly as possible to minimize the chance that the creature saw her. Just then, the creature’s head raised, looking straight to the sky and revealing canine features as its mouth opened and shouted in an uncannily human voice.

“Thalia, please, I know I’ve been annoying, but I think I’m lost, if you can hear me please help!” the creature called in a voice perfectly matching that of Gale.

Wait a second, Thalia thought. This has to be related to Grandma. Thalia, in her panicked state, attempted to run through every possibility of what the creature may have done to Gale and why it was able to imitate Grandma. Eventually, she realized one thing: No matter what this thing did to Grandma and Gale, I can’t allow it to happen to me.

Thalia crawled out of the grass and slowly stood up so as to not make a sound. She looked around for anything that could explain what was happening, but the illusion of normalcy she created around herself fell apart as she saw the peculiarity of the forest and subsequently realized that the journey she was on was in no way normal. She silently tiptoed in the opposite direction, not making a sound so to avoid alerting whatever that creature was. The only noises Thalia could hear were her hyperventilation and the thud, thud of her heart. It felt like someone had replaced her heart with a drum, and then turned the tempo up tenfold. Her efforts were in vain, though, as the scraggly branches of the trees made for poor shade, allowing her red dress to occasionally catch the sun rays that beamed down like spotlights on a stage. Today was not the right day to wear this dress.

The creature began to pan its head, continuing to do so as if it knew that Thalia was present. The creature’s eyes silently locked in contact with Thalia’s. Her heart sank as if it were made of iron, knowing that she’d have to run for her life. As she stood frozen in fear, eyes with this creature’s, the forest seemed oddly tranquil for a second, but this wouldn’t last. The creature jumped to its feet, revealing its full body, which resembled a massive wolf. This prompted Thalia to begin running. The creature’s speed exceeded Thalia’s as it barreled towards her. The creature was catching up rapidly, and Thalia realized that running was no use. It lunged at her, and although she felt no pain, everything went black as she was dragged away, half asleep.

Thalia woke up in a dark place. She could see a small light far away, but she had no energy to even stand. As her heartbeat settled, her eyes adjusted, revealing the space around her. She was in a cave, and could see them.

Grandma? Gale? Both of them were to the left of her on the ground, seemingly out of energy like she was. They were looking at her with pitying expressions on their faces.

What happened? Thalia thought just before she tried to ask the same question out loud. When she opened her mouth, though, no voice came out. Gale looked at her, shaking their head, almost as if to signal “No, you can’t do that.” Thalia heard whispers from her right as a paralyzed appearance took over both of her family members’ faces. She slowly looked over, the bright light from outside of the cave both blinding her and revealing the figure of the creature, which now seemed bigger. 

“Thank you for your contribution,” it said in her voice.