Suzy Brown was only five years old, she shouldn’t have been wandering off so far from the house and into the woods on her own at such a young age. It wasn’t that there were bad people around town or hobos in the woods that would prey on a young girl, and there hadn’t been sightings of any wild animals that could pose a danger this close to town and populated areas, but…
Little children get lost in the woods. They wander off and get themselves all turned around and then they can’t figure out which path through the trees will bring them back home. Most of the time, if a kid gets lost in the woods, you send out a search party and you find them crying on a rock, hungry and scared. But sometimes you don’t.
Suzy Brown wasn’t lost in the woods that day though, she knew exactly where she was going, to her special place in the woods where she stored all of her treasures.
Little Suzy loved collecting rocks. She had done it for as long as anyone could remember in her short years, and as she got older her parents were delighted to find that her interest was genuine. Suzy asked for geology books for her fifth birthday, and her parents had surprised her with a trip to National History Museum, where she got to see all sorts of rocks. Rubies and diamonds and moonstone and even rocks from the moon.
Her treasures were stored under a flat rock that sat between the base of two small trees. Suzy crouched down on the ground and looked over her shoulder in both directions, already at five years old she was sneaky and smart. Satisfied that no one was spying on her, she lifted the rock to reveal the hole she dug out between the trees that was filling up with all of the rocks she’d collected. Most of them were filled with shiny, but brittle pieces of mica, and some of them were dark red garnets she’d found near the stream.
Suzy ran her hands over the rocks, picking some of them up for a moment to examine and then put them back down before covering up her secret treasure trove again.
This was her habit, her ritual. First, Suzy would check to make sure that her hiding place had not been disturbed and that her rocks were all there, and then she would go out hunting for more.
It was a nice warm day in spring, and Suzy headed farther away from her house and towards the stream where she found all the best of her treasures. The walk was much farther than Suzy’s parent’s liked, a good five minutes into the woods at a child’s brisk pace. It doesn’t sound far, and it never feels far to Suzy, but to a parent, a five minute jog is an uncomfortable distance away from your child.
This is why Suzy lied to her parents and always swore to them she never went anywhere near the stream.
The only person who Suzy ever told the truth to about her adventures was her Papa. He had been delighted when Suzy told him that she’d found rubies in the stream, and Papa had thrown back his head and laughed and told her that they were really garnets, a common stone.
“But they are beautiful, Papa,” she’d whined, and he laughed at her again.
“Yes they are, precious.”
Suzy’s Papa died last month of the cancer. She missed him terribly, missed being able to tell him about her adventures, but for some reason losing her Papa had only made Suzy feel even more adventurous.
Suzy skipped through the woods, brushing her hands over the tops of the tallest ferns that she passed on the path that she had made through the woods to the stream all on her own. Another thing her parents would be horrified to find out, that their daughter had defied them so often, she’d beaten a well worn path of lies.
The sound of water babbling over rocks came to Suzy before she saw the stream through the trees. She sped up, but then came to a stumbling halt about twenty feet from the stream when the ground in her path seemed to rise up in front of her and block her way, a wall of dirt about a foot and a half high and just as wide.
Suzy skirted the edge of this wall, slowly, but with more fascination and wonder than confusion. She faced the other side of the wall and saw that a bowl shaped impression had been ground into the earth, the displaced dirt curving up from the ground to form the little wall of dirt that had startled her. Turning her head, Suzy saw that a ragged path in the dirt was cut over her own, with little waves of dirt marking its straight edges as it went directly into the stream and stopped.
She walked the length of the path, noticing how hard the earth was packed down by whatever it was that had made these marks. She thought it looked like someone had dropped a bowling ball from an airplane and it had rolled down her path and into her stream.
Suzy peered into the water, watching a leaf ride the current toward her and then into the mouth of carved path that had cut into the side of the stream bed and let the water rise past its banks.
Suzy searched the water and the stream banks, not knowing what she was looking for at all, but she knew something had made that cut in the earth and that something ended up in the water, because that is where the path had come to its end.
Suzy walked along downstream, following the current. She didn’t want to cross to the other side and risk getting wet, but this side of the bank was covered in thickets of ferns and low bushes that tangled her ankles, and then she had beat her way through a forsythia bush and came out the other side covered in little yellow petals. She smiled looking down at herself, and didn’t bother trying to shake the petals away.
It was after this emergence that she saw something glinting in the stream. The sun was coming in a beam through the green canopy and reflecting off something black and shiny that was spinning in the water.
Suzy ran to the edge of the water and plopped down on her knees, leaning over to get a closer look. It was about the size of a bowling ball, just as she had thought (Suzy was such a smart girl), but it wasn’t smooth at all. It was rough and jagged, not completely round because there were jagged little knobs sticking out in places. It looked to Suzy like a volcanic rock, except it was not as porous, and it was jet black and gleaming, the water giving it a brilliant dark shine, but Suzy could still tell that the surface was rough and would probably feel like sandpaper to touch.
The rock was spinning in the stream, caught between the edge of the bank and a tangle of branches that had fallen into the water, making a dam and keep it from floating any farther downstream.
It never occurred to Suzy that rocks don’t float in streams, and this is why children should never wander off into the woods by themselves.
It is clear what had happened. Something fell from the sky, the force of its impact sent it careening into a neighboring stream where it traveled down a few dozen yards and was caught for an unsuspecting five year old to find.
It would have been clear to Suzy’s parents that the best case scenario would be that what Suzy was pulling out of the stream had been dumped from the toilet of a passing airplane. If adults had come upon this sham of a rock, floating and spinning in a stream, they may have been smart enough to call in some authorities to deal with whatever it was. But of course there was no way for little Suzy to realize the enormity of what she had done when she carried that black rock back to her treasure trove, and upon reaching her stash, decided that this rock seemed to special to leave outside.
So she took it with her into her house and into her bedroom, where only a few hours later when Suzy was back outside playing with her dog, the rock began to hum.
And then it cracked open.
Studio 30+ Writing Community's weekly writing prompt, which was to use the word 'Papa' and/or 'enormity.' I used both.
I think at this point I should admit to myself that the three pieces I wrote for prompt challenges this week are shaping up to be something a little more than just three characters dealing with creepy things out in the woods.
I mentioned the other day that I have been feeling strangely quiet, and yet I've also been having really good writing days. I am finding that when I sit down and put my fingers on the keyboard, they just start to GO. What a wonderful, refreshing change that is.