A New Jersey Ghost Story
I roam alone in the woods, listening to the enchanted children's voices calling to me. "Little girl, come and play," they sing over and over in my ears. Sometimes I hear them from the window of my room. They giggle and whisper words that I cannot make out. They sound like so much fun that I run outside my house as fast as I can to try to catch them. I plunge into the woods, calling back to the children, but no one answers. So I stand still as a mouse, trying to hear where they are hiding.
I find it odd that no one else can hear the children. I tell my mother about the game of hide-and-seek that they play with me, but I know she doesn't believe me. She just ruffles my hair and chuckles about my bright imagination. Papa can't hear them because he is too busy reading the paper and going to work. He says I will grow up to be a writer.
One morning, I hear the enchanted children calling to me from my porch. "Sara, come out and play." I finish my breakfast so fast that the milk spills from my cereal bowl and run outside with my blue smock still dripping wet.
"Where are you?" I call as I run into the woods. I can hear them giggling, and footsteps scampering first here, then there. I laugh aloud and follow them up hill and then down. Only my foot slips in the damp leaves and I slide too fast, too fast. I fall backward, wind-milling my arms. Then a terrible pain shoots through my head and is strikes against a rock. I see a blinding light, and then nothing. I hear my name called from very far away: "Sara, Sara!" I open my eyes and sit up, rubbing my hair.
Something isn't right, but I cannot tell at first what it is. Then I look at my hand, and realize I can see the ground right through it. That's strange, I think, standing up and brushing dead leaves from my blue smock. I look around to see who was calling my name, but I see no one in the woods with me. I notice that the trees look taller than I remember them, and the pathway is overgrown with weeds.
I make my way home slowly, hoping Mother can explain to me why I can see through my hands; why the trees are so tall. But someone else is staying at my house. Mother and Papa must have gone away on vacation. I climb up into my favorite tree to wait for their return.
After a few minutes, a lady comes outside and calls up to me. She is dressed strangely in a man's long pants and a rough work shirt. I feel shy, so I pretend to be invisible. I see the lady blink a few times and rub at her eyes, as if she can no longer see me. She goes back into the house, muttering to herself and pours herself a cup of water.
Then I hear the enchanted children calling out to me again from the woods. I slid out of the branches of the tree and run to answer them. At least they haven't changed. I can see the children clearly now, as they play hide and seek in the woods. I join their games, laughing sometimes when one of the boys tweaks me on the ear or when one of the girls compliments me on my dress and blue smock. This is fun!
But sometimes the enchanted children go away to another place, a place I can't follow. When they vanish, I wander back to my house, wondering when Mother and Papa will come home. Or I play in the alley by the woods, though I don't like it when strangers try to talk to me.
One day when the children go away, I follow my nose to the door of a pretty lady who is baking cookies. I peek into the kitchen window and smile at her. How I want one of those cookies! The lady looks out the window and sees me. She smiles and then comes to the front door. I know she is going to offer me a cookie, so I scamper to the door and wait eagerly for it to open. When it does, I grin at the pretty lady, but she looks right through me, a puzzled frown on her face. Maybe she is blind, I think and so I say politely: "May I come in?" right into her ear. The lady gives a start, backs hastily inside the house and shuts the door in my face. No cookies for me then. I sigh and go back into the woods to wait for the enchanted children.
When the children come to the woods, I am happy again and we play for days and days. We sing and we dance and the boys play tricks and we climb all the trees and fall out of them. But they only come during the day. The nights are lonely, and sometimes I wait for hours and hours during the day before they come. I like to go to the pretty lady's house and sit on the half-wall while I wait. Maybe one day she will offer me a cookie. The lady's grown-up daughter passes me sometimes on her way in and out of the house. Once the daughter asked me where I lived, but I was too shy to speak to her. The daughter put some pretty metal cats near the wall where I like to sit. I play with them when I feel lonely and no one else is around.
It is beautiful here in the woods, and I like playing with the enchanted children. But often I wish Mother and Papa would come home. I miss them so much. But they never do.
Read more New Jersey folklore in Spooky New Jersey by S.E. Schlosser.