“Ya alright, Mark?” He heard a faint voice shouting from somewhere behind him, snapping him out of his trance.
A sudden realization hit him. “Diane!” Mark shouted as he jumped up and then ran into the woods.
Note from Post a Book: We’d love to use this opportunity to thank WordPress and all of our wonderful followers/likers/rebloggers/bloggers. You and your blogs inspire us. And we appreciate your continuous support! Please feel free to also share our blog with your family and friends. Most importantly we will continue to post stories while you stay tuned and enjoy them!
At once, the bats flew up to the treetops. They were gone in a matter of seconds.
Mark was so shocked that, for a moment, he simply sat there.
As if confirming his utmost fear, a flock of bats, in hundreds, came charging out of the woods and headed straight at him.
There was no time to think. Mark fell on his rump, his arms flinging wildly. He managed to swat a few vicious dark-winged bats, but he couldn’t see anything else beyond the hundreds of wings flapping around him.
Mark’s curiosity gave away. He decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a quick look at the hat. He wasn’t even going to walk any further beyond the hat.
Mark glanced back at the group that huddled around the picnic table as he walked toward the hat. He thought he saw the cowboy peeking this way, but he wasn’t entirely sure.
Something was amiss. Mark could feel it as soon as he picked up the familiar hat. His stomach did a revolting flip-flop.
Lying not very far from the sign was a brown hat. Worse yet, it was right on the dirt path that snaked its way into the darker shades of woodland that eventually led to Dark Woods.
Something wasn’t right.
A sign that hung from one of the posts caught Mark’s attention. Someone had painted it with scary, dark red letters like the ones often used for the haunted houses. It said KEEP OUT!
“Sure,” he muttered to himself. “Who wouldn’t want to?”
As soon as he said it, though, he regretted it.
He couldn’t tell what Andrew was thinking. He couldn’t see the face, hidden under the brim of the cowboy hat, either.
Yet Mark was certain of one thing: an angry Andrew would not touch any food for a long, long time. Even if he did, he would only eat those jellybeans when there’s no one around.
Mark walked around and found himself thinking about lots of things: the look on his father’s face this morning, the failure of his plan, and the strange encounter in the Dark Woods. Nothing seemed to make any sense to him.
He sighed and slowed down. Why did everything have to work against him? Why did it happen to him?
Glancing at the woodland beyond the wooden fence that surrounded the park, he shuddered, even though he knew perfectly well that he was barred out from the horror of the Dark Woods.
Mark cleared his throat and mumbled, “I’ll be right back.” With that, he stood up swiftly, dropping the package of jellybeans onto the cowboy’s lap, and scurried away before Andrew had a chance to speak.
For a while, he pretended to rummage through his backpack.
He hated to see Andrew getting all upset. There’s got to be something that would cheer him up.
So the very moment Mark felt the small package lying on the very bottom of his backpack, he knew he was saved. Jellybeans. Andrew used to be big on them when he was younger.
Then it occurred to him that Andrew hadn’t brought anything with him, not even water. He couldn’t understand the cowboy sometimes, but he knew what he had to do.
Mark grunted as he sat down beside Andrew and unzipped the backpack. “Here,” he said cheerfully as he offered the water bottle.
Andrew shook his head. “Ain’t thirsty.”
Mark was the first person to reach the top. It was as if he had the entire area all for himself. And he liked that, even if it was only for a moment. He strode to a picnic table under the shade and sat down with a sigh.
Soon the others joined him. One by one, they plopped down around Mark, replenishing themselves with water and freshening up.
Andrew showed up at last. He sat down on the grass instead, away from the shade and the group.
Mark shook his head.
That was when he heard it. Slow and heavy clicking sounds, getting nearer by the minute.
It was Andrew. He was making a painstaking progress just to reach where George was.
Georg’s face lit up. In fact, he was so overjoyed that he flashed Andrew a you-just-brightened-my-day smile before he moved on again.
This time George was moving at an amazing speed.
The cowboy scowled.
George groaned. “Wait up, guys,” he croaked.
But no one seemed to hear him.
George stopped for a quick break. He used the back of his pudgy hand to wipe off the beads of sweat on his forehead. Then he shifted his heavy duffel bag into a more comfortable position. He hated being the last in the group. And he hated steep slopes.
Would he be able to catch up with the others?
Andrew, however, was not so lucky. His new boots were killing him. He hated to be trailing behind the others. Especially with George walking in front of him. There was nothing wrong with George, of course. Except he was – according to his mother – “just a little heavy.”
The awkwardness among them lingered, even as they were walking up the slope that led them to the picnic area.
By now, everyone but Mark was puffing slightly. As what his track team coach often said, he was “born an athlete.” It was only natural that Mark was enjoying himself.