This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
He’d already turned and started across the fields, but he must have sensed me. As soon as I stepped out he turned and waved for me to catch up. He shouted too, I could hear his voice faintly. It was clear, pure, with an undertone to it that was almost a giggle. It promised so much fun. The only word I made out clearly was Adam. His name. He turned and moved off again, and without a thought I followed him.
Two feet of snow doesn’t sound that much, but for an eight year old it’s pretty deep. Especially in a field where you get drifts or where it can pile up over dead plants meaning your leg goes down two feet through snow then another six inches beyond. I shoved through the snow as fast as I could but he just kept getting further and further ahead. It took me a few minutes to realise why. While I was slogging through snow he was running on top of it. That didn’t worry me, I was already sure he was at least half magical, but it meant that he reached the woods before I’d even crossed a quarter of the distance. He stopped at the edge of the trees, turned back and waved to me. I waved back, shouted for him to wait, but he didn’t. He turned and disappeared into the dark under the trees.
I slogged on for another five or ten minutes, but the desire, the desperation, to reach him faded. I knew he was gone. Even if I reached the woods they’d be empty. With a heavy heart I turned and started the long trudge home. I followed the path I’d forged through the snow but it was still hard work. When I finally got back home it took the last of my energy to strip off my clothes, lock the door and stumble up to bed.
It snowed some more that night, clouds must have rolled back in later on. Not enough to completely destroy my tracks but nearly. Enough that my parents didn’t notice them, but not enough to make me doubt what had happened.
* * *
The next time I saw him I was nine. Well, nine and a half. It was July, the 26th I now know. As soon as I woke that night I knew he was outside. I crossed to the window and sure enough, there he was. Dressed in trousers and a T-shirt now. He smiled that wonderful smile at me and waved urgently. I grabbed some jeans on, crept downstairs as fast as I dared, jammed my feet into a pair of shoes and let myself out. Ran across the garden to the gate into the field. Once again he’d started off across the field, but this time there was no snow to slow me down. I ran after him. He glanced over his shoulder at me, then turned back and ran even faster. I could hear him laughing and I knew this was just the first of the wonderful games we’d be playing, a game of chase.
After a minute or two I became aware of someone else in the field, Tom from a couple of streets away. He was eleven and had just finished at my school, was moving up to the big school. We’d played together occasionally but I didn’t know him well. Tom was chasing him too, but Tom was faster than me. I put my head down and ran as hard as I could, determined not to be left behind. It wasn’t enough. When I reached the entrance to the last field before the woods Tom was already halfway across, and Adam was already standing by the first few trees. Completely winded I slowed to a walk, knowing I was too late. As Tom reached Adam they both turned to look at me. Tom’s face was lit by the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. He looked so happy. Then the two of them turned and walked into the wood. Leaving me alone.
I admit that I hated Tom at that moment. I’d happily have hurt him if I could, punched him despite his larger size. A child’s reaction. Understandable. One I hate myself for even now.
A policeman came knocking the next afternoon. Spoke to my parents, then they all spoke to me. Told me that Tom, from my school, had gone missing. Asked if I’d seen him. Mum must have seen something in my face, she pressed me to tell her. Gently, but still pressed. So I told them, told them about Adam. About crossing the fields. About Tom reaching him first and the two of them going into the woods.
They all smiled, the adults. Told me I’d had a dream. The policeman told me that Tom had probably just gone off to play with some friends and lost track of the time. I knew I hadn’t dreamt it, but I couldn’t convince them.
They found Tom the next day, up in the woods. Well… they found what was left of him. I can remember part of a news report talking about his body having been torn apart in a savage attack. That’s as far as I heard before Dad slapped the off button on the TV. I found out a lot of the details though, through my friends. Through the counsellors. I told my story again, but no one believed it. The adults all thought I’d dreamt it. Some of the kids did too, others thought I was making it up to get attention.
* * *
We moved a few months later. They didn’t say at the time but my parents have told me since that it was because of Tom’s death. His murder. We moved a long way, nearly a hundred miles. The new house had fields behind it too, but no woods. That was a real relief for me. I’d worried that Adam might still have found me if there had been woods nearby. That he might be able to appear anywhere near woods. I spent the first few days in the new house exploring the neighbourhood. Fields for miles around, but no woods. I felt safe.
* * *
Month after month passed and I relaxed. Occasionally I’d wake on the night of a full moon, and I would look out the window with heavy heart but he was never there.
Until the night he was. I’d known it from the moment I opened my eyes, I could feel his pull on my senses. On my mind. I stumbled to the window against my will, looked out and saw him there. The same smile, the same glow, the same aura of childish fun. But now I saw it differently. It felt wrong somehow. It was too much, pushing too hard. I was almost twelve now and a part of me was starting the terrifying journey into adolescence. That part of me resisted his siren call. It wasn’t enough.
I pulled clothes on, crept downstairs, pulled on boots then slipped out the back door. The new house had no gate to the field but there were plenty of gaps in the hedge I could slip through. As always he was already crossing the field. And in the distance, several fields away, I saw a wood. A wood where there was none, a wood where there shouldn’t be one. My heart thudded and my stomach churned. I knew that, whatever he was, he would strike again tonight.
Then I saw movement to my right. Ellie from several doors down. Just nine years old and with that same rapt look on her face that Tom had the last time I saw him. Ellie staring at Adam, then chasing after as he set off. Fear was replaced by anger, by that burning spark of teenage rage against everything you can’t change. A feeling I’d grow to know well during the next few years but which was almost new to me then. I sprinted across the field after him, determined not to let Ellie fall into his hands.
I was tall for my age, fast. I crossed the fields so fast that I nearly caught him. When he reached the tree line Ellie was still a field behind. I had time. I stumbled to a stop several yards from him, still in the field. Still in the moonlight. He stood in the trees shadow yet still seemed to glow. And he spoke to me.
I couldn’t tell you the words he used, just the feelings they conjured. Of those endless days of Summer spent playing in the warm sunshine. Of kicking through huge piles of fallen leaves in Autumn. Of snowball fights and making snowmen in Winter. Of dodging showers and kicking through puddles in Spring. Those and so many other images of childhood. A promise that every day, every moment, would be like that. All I had to do was join him, follow him.
I was nearly swept away by those feelings. A few months before I would have been. Now, though, other feelings stirred in response. Feelings of loss, as I knew those days to be ending, but feelings of anticipation. Of the new world I was starting to enter.
As suddenly as it started the deluge of images ended. I stood swaying for several seconds before coming to completely. I realised he was no longer focused on me, he was looking to the side. I heard footsteps and span just in time to catch Ellie as she tried to run past. She struggled but I was too strong. I started to drag her away. That’s when we saw his true face.
As I pulled her back his voice stopped being edged with laughter, instead the background sound became more of a high pitched screech. His face changed, flowed. Where an angelic child had stood moments before a creature from nightmares now stared at us. Burning red eyes, leathery skin, wickedly sharp teeth and clawed hands. He darted forwards a few steps, far quicker than I could move. I shoved Ellie behind me, told her to run, and faced him down. He laughed at me – a dark, hollow sound so at odds with the tinkling laughter from before he revealed his true shape. And I had no doubt this was his true form. This was the creature that had ripped Tom apart. Tom and who knew how many other children. I was no threat to him, how could I be?
I swung my arm and he found out. He hadn’t noticed the small axe I’d grabbed from the wood pile, shoving the handle up my sleeve so most of it was hidden. He’d been too intent on luring first me and then Ellie. I was only eleven but an axe swung in a wide arc still has a huge force behind it. It caught him in the side of the head, was deflected upwards from his skull. A chunk of his skin including his ear was ripped off.
The shriek he let out was hideous. Combining agony, fear, loathing and a desperate hunger. He took a step forwards so I raised the axe again. Hatred twisted his disfigured face but he hesitated. Hesitated, then took two steps both backwards and in a direction I find it impossible to describe. With those two steps both he and the wood behind him vanished. Leaving Ellie and I staring, me holding the axe which suddenly seemed incredibly heavy. I lowered it to my side as she stepped past me, reached down and picked up something from the floor. It was the chunk of skin from Adam’s face. Proof for both of us that what we’d seen was real.
* * *
The events of that night forged a bond between Ellie and I. Every full moon we had a sleepover at my house or hers. We didn’t tell our parents why, I already knew they wouldn’t listen. But we knew the truth. We had the leathery patch of skin. We only saw Adam once more, a few months later. We were staying at mine. When we looked out the window together he saw us. Recognition and anger flew across that childlike face. Followed by fear. Once again he did the strange two step movement and disappeared. To this day neither of us have seen him again.
We know of him though. Once we started to investigate we found signs of his handiwork across the world. Only on full moons and, for the most part, only in specific locations. The exception to that being that he would follow those who had seen him, or the children of those who had, wherever they were. That’s how he came to be at my new home. How he nearly took Ellie.
With all the time we spent together and our shared experiences it’s probably not surprising that Ellie and I started dating, fell in love. What’s a lot more surprising is that we turned out to be a good match. Dating and love turned into marriage and children. And love still. No mean feat.
So that’s why I’m sitting here tonight, writing this down. It’s a full moon and I’m at the desk outside our boys room. Steven is eight, Henry six. Adam hasn’t appeared to them yet but he will. Maybe tonight, maybe not, but soon enough. But he will not get them. Ellie and I take shifts outside their door every full moon. The house is locked and only we have the keys. Their windows can’t be opened enough to get out and their door makes plenty of noise when moved.
To pass the time I’ve written this down. If it gets published at all I’m sure it will be as fiction. No one would believe it’s true. You’ve read my story, I don’t expect you to believe it. I just hope I’ve planted a small seed of doubt. Follow it up, look into it. Find the truth. Ellie and I can protect our children from him, we can’t protect everyone else’s.
Our children are safe. Are yours?