by Nancy Thompson

We passed me, Tim and I, while we took an afternoon drive. Parked alongside the road in the car we were driving, only newer, I was on a cell phone. Tim volunteered to stop and help, but I told him the lady was on the phone and didn't seem to be in any distress.

I do not enjoy scary stories and believe the last one I read was titled "Adobe" or something similar. The hero was a man who had gone into a primitive desert area to look at ancient ruins against advice not to be there when it got dark. I closed the book with our hero shrieking in a corner, choking on the dust of eons while something that had looked like a dry stick and should have stayed dead gnawed on his shin bone after chasing him there.

This and the other incident was far from my mind while Tim and I spent a lovely afternoon at De Soto Bend, a neat National park along the Missouri River north of Council Bluffs. Tim fished the oxbow lake while I sat in filtered sun reading, my feet soaking in the cool water. I watched brown thrashers sift through the leaves near the forest and listened to thrushes fluting in the woods. This park has always been a great place to watch wild turkeys, deer, raccoons and other wildlife close up. It is also a haven for migrating birds and eagles.

As the sun moved behind the trees the breeze died down and out came the mosquitoes, our signal to pack up and leave. On the way to the car which now seemed parked too far way, Tim spotted a faint, overgrown road leading into the darkening woods. A road we had never noticed although we thought we had walked this way many times before. Despite my misgivings we left our belongings in the tall grass and went down the nearly invisible path.

Walking down the now rutted path, the familiarity of the place set my hair straight up. The path had now become an old gravel road moving down into a clearing, there was a stream running nearby and overgrown flower-beds outlined what had once been a yard and garden. A jay called the alarm and gold finches flew from their perches among the towering sunflowers. Tim moved quickly now, but when I saw the familiar sight of our house under the overgrown trees and vines growing through the broken windows I couldn't move my feet. "Come on!" Tim commanded excitedly from the open doorway, disappearing into the darkness and laughing. In the nearing darkness a dark shape scooted by me, probably a wild cat I told myself.

Summoning up my courage I stepped onto the rotting boards of the porch, thinking this must be a dream. The front door hung on its hinges, the faded "No Turkeys" patch still sticking to the metal door with a magnet. I noticed the wildflowers from Korea had nearly taken over the nearby woods. Everything was so old, so overgrown, we had just left this morning, what in the world was going on?

Tim's hand grabbed me from within the dark of the house and drug me inside. My mind could not wrap itself around what was going on. Tim was no longer in the dark room with me. Instinctively, I moved around the incliner but stopped as I saw my reflection in the hazy mirror of the old cupboard. Who is this old lady?, I thought and touched the dust on the mirror, trying to see more clearly. Again, something scuttled across my sandaled foot. I held back a scream and turned to the bedroom where I thought I heard Tim calling me.

Making my way to the partially closed door and pushing spider webs away, I was now so terrified that I could barely breathe. When my arm reached out to push the door open it broke on its hinges and there was a loud "POP!" I whirled away in terror at a shape now sitting up in the bed, the sound of bones and the tinkling of a cat's belled collar clattered to the floor, but I couldn't take my eyes off my hand! It was withered and old, the skin pale, drawn and powdery. Bolting for the door I heard a voice calling from the bedroom..."Tim?" Gasping for breath, my hand turned to dust as I tried to push open the door.

The loud "Pop!" woke me from my nap. Zoe, our Siamese, jumped to the floor. Tim was not there, though we had laid down together. As I sat up I was rather frightened by the shadowy face of an old woman looking at me from the doorway. She whirled in a hazy cloud of what appeared to be gauzy material and long white hair. The front door opened as I dashed from the bed.

"Tim?" I called out, walking through the living room. The woman was gone. Everything looked normal, I picked up the broom and began to sweep the pile of dust near the door.