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Spooky Short Story // Appalachia

Updated: May 8, 2023


Victoria Scarce

It is well known among Appalachian mountain communities that you are not to go out alone at night. You are also not supposed to respond to strange sounds that come from the woods, or offend the “faeries” that live there. You are not supposed to go walking in the Appalachian woods by yourself, ever, under any circumstances. There is lore about skinwalkers, faeries, witches, changelings, and sasquatches. Locals will give you all of this advice, but then laugh it off, as if it’s a joke. But it’s not. They’re just trying to keep you from running down the mountain screaming. 

The Wills twins were just about as notorious as all those stories in the small town of Andrews. Emmett was thirteen minutes older than Opal and he let everyone they came across know he was the “older” brother. They laughed and played and wandered throughout the outskirts of town every day that they weren’t sitting in a classroom. 

One day Opal and Emmett Wills wandered farther than they ever had before. “I wonder what’s up this holler,” Emmett thought aloud. 

“I don’t think we oughta go up there,” replied his sister. “Ma’s gonna be lookin’ for us to get home.” And even though Opal was worried about their curfew, she followed her brother up the hill into a little opening in the woods. 

They came upon a stump in the middle of the opening. It looked worn, like it was used to having things sat on it. An odd sight, since barely anyone came up this far. Opal and Emmett circled it, examining the rough spots, and the smooth textured spots, trying to make out a possible shape of objects that had lay there in the past. “What you reckon people do up here?” Emmett asked, to no one in particular. 

“Have picnics, maybe? Sit and read?” Opal shot out a couple of ideas. 

Emmett snickered at her reply. “Ain’t nobody comin’ this far up the side of the mountain to read, Ope.”

“I’s just guessin’, Emmett. Ya ain’t got to laugh at me!” Opal whined, just a little louder than she meant to. Her voice echoed off of the trees, and as soon as it did, the air in the hollow shifted. The breeze turned cold, and a cloud floated over to cover the sun, giving the usually vibrant greens, golds, and browns a gray tint. 

Emmett shivered and Opal drew her top lip between her teeth. They both bounced from foot to foot. “Emmett, I don’t like this spot anymore. Can we get outta here?” Opal asked, anxious to remove herself and her brother from that hollow quick, fast, and in a hurry. 

Emmett cleared his throat to make sure his voice stayed even before he spoke. He was just as nervous as his sister, but would never admit that to her. “What’s a matter, Opey, ya scared?” He mocked.

Neither one of them discussed that their feet were carrying them hurriedly toward the route the came in on. Opal responded: “No, Emmett, I’m not scared. I’m just tired of standing up here, is all.”

As they rushed toward the trail, Emmett stepped on a twig and it cracked, sending a loud “CRACK,” through the forest. And at that exact moment, Emmett and Opal heard a baby crying off to their left. The exact direction they would need to travel in order to get home. 

The siblings looked at each other with terror in their eyes. They’d been told about hearing babies cry in the woods. They’d been told never to go toward the sound, and to avoid looking anywhere but the path they were taking. But they’d never been told what to do if the sound was coming from the trail they were on. Neither of them really knew what to do. The only other path that led home was obstructed by a flooded creek that was too wide for them to cross. They shuffled closer to each other and held hands. “On the count of three, Ope, we run. As fast as we can. All the way home. No looking back,” Emmett murmured to his twin. 

“Em, I’m scared now,” Opal responded. 

“Don’t be scared, just run. Fast,” Emmett’s voice trembled as he instructed Opal. He kept thinking to himself, we’re too young to die. Me an’ Opal are only eight. We can’t go yet. 

“One,” Emmett began the count.

“Two,” both twins rang. 

“Three,” a totally unattached voice whispered from behind them. They both screamed and jolted forward into a pace that could outrun hound dogs on a hunt. They could hear the baby crying in front of them, and a loud cackling behind them. 

Opal kept screaming and wouldn’t stop. Eventually, Emmett’s hearing funneled out, and all he could hear was his own labored breaths. Why had they come this far into the woods today? Had they really walked this far? 

They ran for what felt like an entire lifetime. Their legs burned with exhaustion, and their lungs were arguing with every breath. Finally, they could see the opening to the woods, the end of the trail. They were so close to civilization. Emmett got one foot over the threshold of the woods, Opal a half-step behind him. 

As soon as both of his feet were firmly outside the wall of trees, his sister’s hand slipped out of his. He whipped around to see why she had let go, and was greeted by empty space. Opal was gone. Had vanished into thin air. 

“Opal! OPAL!” He screamed into the woods. 

It was no use. She didn’t respond. He ran all the way home and told his mother what had happened. She believed him, his father believed him, along with a few other families that had lived in mountains long enough to know about the woods. But some people in town didn’t believe. They mocked him. They rumored that Opal had been kidnapped, or gotten lost in the woods. But Emmett knew that couldn’t happen; they knew those woods like the back of their hands. 

Emmett Wills never step foot back in that section of woods, but every now and then he would go to the edge, where he stepped out that day, and yell for his sister. But he never saw her again. 

One day, when he was old and grey, nearing ninety, he hobbled up to the edge of the forest, leaned his cane against the outermost tree, cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Opal!”

He heard a giggle, and a light flashed in the distance, making him jerk his head to the left. He saw a translucent figure dancing around the trees, and he swore he heard his sister giggle. 

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