“I think you’re losing it, Jamie.”
Kathryn sat cross legged, eyes wider than I’d ever seen them. Keeping her legs tight in her arm’s nervous embrace, I caught her eyes averting from mine. “Hey, it’s alright,” I whispered. “Just… keep watch here, and I’ll go help whoever’s out there. Somebody’s lost, that’s all.” Just as I’d said it, the cries of some unknown person rang once again through the birch trees. I couldn’t possibly admit it then, but I was just as frightened as my little sister. I had already learned long ago to keep fear on the inside in her presence, and boy was I good at it.
“I don’t know.” Her hands rose over her eyes. “He’s crazy. That’s why they call him that, Crazy Thomas.” I knew she’d bring him up, but I was hoping she wouldn’t. Crazy Thomas was a local legend, of sorts. Everyone spoke of the hermit, just not to him- he was dangerous. Some people even claimed he was some criminal, hiding in our northern town from the authorities. These woods were, according to the population of Dunstable, his.
“Kat,” I sighed, “You’ve never even met the old man. Besides, he lives at least a mile away from here.”
“But neither have you! And you’re about to go out there and meet him in the forest, probably. He has to be just as crazy as everybody says, or else nobody would say it! I swear they’re all right about him, and he’s out there, Jamie! He’s out there.” Tears began falling down her cheeks as she spoke. “Plus, your gloves are all wet from when you dropped them on the way here. You can’t go out there with your gloves like that.” She was always trying to take care of me. I couldn’t believe I’d even suggested camping out here in the first place. It seemed like a fine idea when the sun was out, but now that the sky was dark and the wind was frigid, it seemed as though Crazy Thomas was lurking in every corner of the forest. We both fell silent as twigs snapped violently under the shoes of some frantic creature. “Kat, I’ll be back.” I spoke assertively as our mother did whenever either one of us refused to mind. “Somebody needs help.”
I pulled my jacket closer around my neck and ascended the rickety old ladder. Kerosene lantern in grip, I stepped fretfully across the foliage and closer to whoever was out there. Time unraveled swiftly, and after an hour of nervous searching, the woods seemed empty as ever. I hadn’t heard a sound ever since I left the tree house. Maybe she was right. Maybe I had lost it. I stopped to catch my breath on the forest floor, setting aside my soaking gloves. Who knew what could happen to me out here in the middle of nowhere? Who knew what could happen to Kathryn, defenseless and petrified, after whatever happened to me happened? Looking to the sky for some sort of clarity, I faced the moon, now drowning in a flood of storm clouds. My mind was racing, and so was I. Leaving everything without a second thought, I felt my legs pounding the ground in a frenzy of adrenaline, dying to carry me back to my sister. I suppose that was when I fainted.
“Kat, stop kicking me.”
I awoke to the sound of my own instinctive words, bundled and secure in the tree house. Kathryn lifted her head next to mine, taking a few seconds to remember where she was. “Sorry,” she yawned.
“Did you help that person find their way out of the woods? Was it him?! Please tell me it wasn’t Crazy Thomas! Oh, Jamie. Please tell me it wasn’t!”
“Relax. No one was out there.”
“Nobody,” I reassured her. “I guess imagination is a pretty powerful thing.”
“I hope you’re right. Can we go home now?”
She was already standing in the doorway, sleeping bag in tow. Our parents would be expecting us any minute now, and we still had a rather long hike to get back home. Still, there was something. Something I had forgotten.
“What is it Jamie?”
“I left my gloves… and the lamp. I left them in the woods.”
“Stop what? I have to go back.”
“You really have lost it. They’re sitting right there.”
I nudged past my sister and into the open doorway, scanning the foliage below. To my horror, resting in the shade was a flameless kerosene lantern and a dry pair of wool gloves.
“Now can we go, Jamie?”