It was Halloween day and the two ten-year-olds, Carter and Kat, never had anything special to do on this holiday because they were the only two children who lived in a small cluster of houses in the middle of nowhere. Kat was having the worst time of it. She was bored and her mother had been riding her more than usual, so she was feeling rebellious as well as restless. While the two were relaxing under their favorite shade tree down by the river, Kat said, “You know something, Carter, this place really stinks. It’s Halloween, and my mother is so miserable that she wants to make sure I’m just as miserable as she is. I swear, if we don’t think of something exciting to do this year, I’m going to run and scream until I pass out.”
Carter could not help but smile as he said, “Now that might be worth seeing. Maybe I won’t tell you what I’ve been planning just so I can see you blow a gasket and act like a maniac.”
“What? What have you been planning?” Kat perked up.
“You aren’t going to like it.” Carter wore a mischievous expression that he knew Kat could not resist.
The girl got up on her knees, and with her face as red as her hair, she glared at Carter and said, “Tell me what you’re planning, Carter, or so help me, I’ll—”
“Okay, okay.” The boy snickered as he lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper and said, “It has to do with the old Wilson barn.”
Kat’s face drained of blood until she was as white as a ghost. She sat back on the grass and said, in a voice tight with fear, “My mom told me never to go to the Wilson barn.”
“Why? Because she knows it’s haunted?” asked Carter.
Kat wrinkled her nose and said, with a hint of irritation, “No, my mom doesn’t believe in those stories. She said the place is old and unsafe.”
“You know what I heard? I heard that several years ago this family named Wilson had a son named Jimmy. One night he went crazy and set his house on fire while his parents were asleep. Then he went out to the barn and hung himself in the hayloft.”
“I know the story, Carter. Who do you think told it to you? I told you that story last Halloween. Remember I told you Jimmy’s ghost is supposed to haunt the barn?”
A little embarrassed, Carter mumbled, “Oh yeah. But what you didn’t say was that if you go to the barn after midnight you can hear Jimmy Wilson’s ghost up in the hayloft, kicking and banging around at the end of the rope.”
Kat had told him that part of the story too but decided that she did not want to argue with him about it. She just said, “Well, I think it’s just a bunch of nonsense.”
Carter said, “Oh really? Why don’t we find out for ourselves?”
Sounding irritated, Kat said, “I can’t. I told you my mom won’t let me go near the place.”
Carter knew exactly what to say to make Kat give in and go along. “Well hey, Kat, if you’re too scared to go, just say so. You were the one looking for some excitement. I was thinking we could sneak out of our houses tonight around eleven thirty, meet here, and be at the barn by midnight. But, I can see you’re too chicken—”
“Chicken!” Kat squealed. Rising to her feet, she glared down at her friend with her fists planted firmly on her hips. “Who are you calling chicken? Listen here. I’ll be right under this tree with my bike tonight at eleven thirty sharp. You had better be here. We’ll just see who is chicken.”
Later that night, the kids snuck out of their bedrooms. Kat arrived at the meeting place first. She had just gotten off her bike when she saw a light from Carter’s flashlight headed toward her.
The moon was to be full, but it had not risen above the trees yet. Fortunately, the old Wilson barn was only a half-mile down the dirt road and then another quarter-mile off on a side path. Both of the children had flashlights, and by the time Carter reached Kat, she was already back on her bike. “Well,” Carter said, “I bet you aren’t bored now.” The two chuckled, and Kat had to admit that she was excited.
It was rough going riding at night with only flashlights to light their way, but eventually they saw the outline of the old barn take shape out of the darkness as they drew near. They stopped about fifty feet from the barn and stood looking at it without saying a word. It all seemed like an exciting adventure at first, but now that they were actually there… It was so dark, and the huge barn opening, where the doors had long since fallen off, looked like a giant open mouth, hungry for them.
Suddenly, Carter’s flashlight went out. “Oh great. My batteries are dead,” he whispered. “You know what I think?” he said in a tone that hinted he was going to quit the adventure.
That made Kat angry all over again. She forgot her fear, and before Carter could finish his suggestion, she interrupted. “Oh, no you don’t. You got me out here by calling me chicken, and now you are going to chicken out on me? Don’t even think about it, Carter,” she whispered back so forcefully it was almost as if she were shouting.
Carter thought better of sharing his original suggestion and said, “I was going to say, we better hurry before your light goes out too.”
Kat calmed down a little, but the truth of the matter was that she was scared too. It was just that being angry with Carter helped her feel a little less scared. She responded with, “Whatever. Let’s go.”
With only one flashlight between them, they huddled close together and moved cautiously toward the huge doorway. The closer they got, the slower they went and the more fearful they became. When they reached the doorway, they stopped. Kat pointed the light around to see what was in the barn. It was big and empty, and it was obvious that they would not be able to see much unless they moved in farther. Kat said, in a rather shaky voice, “Do you hear anything?”
“No, I don’t. There’s nothing here; let’s go home.”
Kat, feeling a little more confident now, said, “No, not yet. Let’s go in a bit farther.” Without waiting for Carter to object, Kat started walking again. Carter was pulling on her arm trying to slow her down, when all of a sudden, behind them off to one side, they heard a scratching sound along the wall to their left. Kat shined the light in the direction of the noise, and they saw something move. But it was only a mouse scampering through a crack in the wall. Relieved, though a little shaken, they laughed nervously. Their laughter must have disturbed something bigger because high up in the hayloft they heard a loud boom, boom, thump, thump, thump. They jumped and let out with a yelp of surprise.
Shaking with terror, they stood waiting to see what would happen, but nothing did happen. Kat whispered, “I’m going to climb up to the hayloft and take a look.”
Carter felt that he should be the one to go because he was the boy, but Kat was already on the ladder that was affixed to the loft. Since she had the only working light, he could do little more than be ready to render help if needed. At least that is what he told himself.
The ladder was old and rotten. Some of the rungs were broken or missing, but Kat was determined to climb it. She carefully made her way up the rickety thing. She was half way to the top when one of the rungs broke under her foot. It made a terrible cracking noise, and she almost fell. Luckily, she had a firm grip on the sides of the ladder. Seeing Kat almost fall caused Carter to call out, “Come on, Kat! That’s enough. I’m sorry I called you chicken. You’re very brave; now let’s get out of here.” All the noise and commotion stirred up whatever was in the loft, and again there was a loud boom, bang, bang, bang.
Kat froze, and it looked to Carter like she might not be able to move. Actually, she was just waiting for things to quiet down. Carter began pleading with her to come down and leave with him.
Kat called down, “Be quiet.” Then, she resumed her climb. Eventually, Kat’s head came even with the bottom of the hayloft. One more step and she would be able to see what was there. She swallowed hard and slowly moved the final step up the ladder.
As her head came up to a point where she could see into the loft, she brought the flashlight up and screamed! She lost her grip on the ladder, fell, and hit the ground. Kat’s left leg broke with a loud snap. She hit her head on something hard and lost consciousness. The flashlight broke, and the barn was plunged into darkness.
Carter turned and ran out of the barn. He was so terrified that he could not think about anything except getting out and back to safety. He did not know that Kat was hurt. To his shame, he did not care. He just knew that he had to get out of the barn and back home. Once outside, he saw that the full moon was well above the tree line. Able to see the road clearly, he got on his bike and rode home as fast as he could. He jumped off his bike, climbed back into his room, jumped into bed, and pulled the covers over his head. Carter told himself that Kat had jumped off the ladder, she was right behind him, and that she made it home too.
When Kat regained consciousness, she did not know where she was. Her eyes were blurry, her head and leg hurt. She moaned in pain, and then it happened again. Somewhere above her, she heard boom, boom, bang, bang, flap, bang.
Then she remembered where she was. Worst of all, she remembered what she had seen up in the loft: two big glowing eyes looking right at her. She shook in fear, and then she remembered Carter. She did not know that he had run off. She called out in a loud whisper, “Carter, where are you? Are you okay?” But there was no answer. She called again a bit louder and then louder still. Then she heard it again: bang, bang, boom, boom, boom.
Kat squealed and then fell silent. She could not imagine what had happened to Carter. Where was he? She wondered. We have to get out of here. That thing, whatever it is, is going to come down here any minute now and do who knows what!
Try as she could, she could not stand. Her leg was badly hurt. Her eyes cleared, and there was enough light from the moon coming into the barn through the doorway that she could see that Carter was gone. She realized that she was alone with that horrible thing in the loft.
She could not run. No one knew where she was except Carter, and she did not know what had happened to her friend. She was terrified. Oh, why didn’t I listen to my mom, she thought to herself. She told me this was a dangerous place. If I ever get out of here, I’ll…
Before she could finish her thought, she heard a car drive up and park. She could see headlights shining in through the doorway. She heard car doors open and slam shut and people calling, “Kat!” It was her mother and Carter‘s dad. “I’m in here!” she yelled. “Please hurry! I’m hurt. I think my leg is broken. We have to get out of here. The ghost of Jimmy Wilson is up there. Hurry!”
Her mother ran to Kat. Concern filled her face. “Kat,” her mom cried, hugging her. “What were you kids thinking coming out here? Look at you; we’ve got to get you to the hospital right away.”
Then it happened. Up in the hayloft, a strange eerie noise cried out, along with a loud thump, flap, flap. Kat’s mom and Carter’s dad looked up at the hayloft. Kat screamed, “It’s the ghost of Jimmy Wilson!” Out of the loft and over their heads flew a barn owl. Its eyes glowed yellow in the car headlights as it soared into the night.
Kat was still screaming hysterically, “It’s Jimmy Wilson. It’s Jimmy Wilson!” Her mom hugged her, trying to quiet her.
“Kat, it’s just an old barn owl that lives in the loft.” It all made sense to her now. The noises they heard came from the owl flapping its wings and hitting the wall in the loft. The glowing eyes were the owl’s eyes reflecting her flashlight. She was so relieved that she started to laugh, but not for long. Laughing hurt her head and her leg. Then she remembered Carter. “Where’s Carter? Is he all right?”
“Yes, my brave son is home in bed.” Carter’s dad helped Kat into the car as he explained, “We heard him sneaking into his room, and we caught him hiding under the covers fully dressed. After he told us what happened, we called your mom to make sure you made it home safely. When your mom found your bed empty, she came by and picked me up to help her look for you. That’s how we found you. Now, young lady, we have to get you to the hospital.”
It took Carter a few days before he got up enough nerve to face Kat. He visited her after she got home from the hospital. When he saw her in bed with her leg in a cast, he started to cry. He felt such shame and guilt that he did not know what to say. After a few minutes, Kat said, “It’s okay, Carter. I’m okay. Please don’t cry.” Kat had never seen her friend cry before this. “Just tell me, after I fell off the ladder, what happened to you?”
“Kat, I’m so sorry. I was scared. I thought you were right behind me. I ran to my bike, and I thought you did too. I don’t know. I was so scared I just wasn’t thinking straight. If I had known that you were still there alone and hurt, I would have gone back for you. Kat, I swear I will never leave you like that again.”
“I believe you. I don’t buy that you thought I was right behind you, but I believe that you won’t leave me again. Besides, I probably would have done the same thing. I was scared too. I know what it feels like to be so scared that you’re not thinking clearly.”
This story was adapted from a flashback scene in the novel Beyond the Dead Forest. You can purchase this book on most online bookstores. fantasy, action adventure, religion and spirituality, children, kids, young adult, action, horror, dark, christian, values, church, spooky, thrilling, YA, scary, dark, good vs. evil, fun, mysterious, bizarre, obey parents, values, teaching story, Sunday school, children's worship, home schooling