The Demon Woods
``Remember, Charlie, don't let Tucker get too far away from you. You know how he tends to wander off,'' Mrs. Dutter said to Mr. Dutter.
Charlie Dutter, a kangaroo of average build, looked down at a smaller, similar version of himself. This smaller version was 8-year-old Tucker, currently hidden under a black, hooded robe with a cartoony wand in his paw. Charlie patted his son's head, and Tucker looked up, grinning, his ears perking and pushing the hood up. Charlie kneeled, helping his son fit his ears through the little holes in the hood.
``That should do it.'' He nodded with satisfaction before turning back to his wife. ``We'll be fine, Karen. But, if you're really that worried about it, you could always come with us!''
Mrs. Dutter shook her head, but smiled regardless. ``You know I can't do that, dear. It'd be one thing if we could take Mom with us, but, she wouldn't be able to walk around that much. And for some reason, she's even more stubborn when it's just the two of you.'' She laughed, ``As if I needed to wonder where you got it from.''
It was Mr. Dutter's turn to shake his head, shrugging a bit. ``Fair enough.''
``C'mon, Dad!'' Tucker tugged at his dad's arm, ``I wanna go trick-or-treating! Hurry or all the candy'll be gone!''
``You better go, Charlie. Our little warlock might cast a spell on you,'' Mrs. Dutter said, extending her arms and wiggling her fingers with a grin.
Tucker imitated his mother, reaching out until the robe's sleeves fell down to his shoulders, his fingers twitching. ``Yeah, Dad, I'll curse you!''
Charlie laughed and once again patted Tucker's head. ``You're far too young to be cursing, kid. But, if you insist, let me just get my costume on.''
Tucker watched his dad dart up the stairs. The young kangaroo could hear some commotion going on upstairs.
``Chucky! I need my glasses; please get them from me!''
``Not now, Mom. I gotta take Tucker out. Dear! Can you please come up and help Mom?''
``Coming!'' Mrs. Dutter called back, idly walking up the stairs and leaving Tucker alone downstairs.
Tucker rushed to the front door, his disproportionately large tail almost taking out a side table in the quick maneuver. He eyed the bowl of candy sitting by the door, and looked down at his empty bag. Now, he could just sneak some candy into the bag. He looked back towards the stairs, and all seemed to be quiet. He started to reach towards the bowl hesitantly.
``Now, now... what would be the fun in just taking that candy?'' he heard from behind him.
Tucker jumped a little and whipped around, knocking down the bowl of candy. Captain Stark caught the bowl in his paw.
``Careful, Tucker! We don't want Mom cleaning all this up, or she'll be mad at both of us.''
The young kangaroo looked up at Captain Stark, one of his favorite superheroes, a fighter for justice who wore a green suit and carried a sword in hand and on his back.
``Whoa, Dad! That's a cool costume!''
``Heh, glad you think so,'' Charlie responded through the mask that covered his eyes and nose. ``It's always hard to find masks though. They never fit my muzzle quite right. But, we should get going before you can cause any more trouble.'' He grinned, opening up the front door into the night.
Tucker looked out and saw people walking down the street in Halloween attire; it was a menagerie of ghouls and monsters. He eagerly darted out into the darkness, already starting to gain distance on his dad. That was until he was tugged back by a firm, gloved paw.
``Whoa, Buddy, calm down. Mom told you to stay with me, okay?'' Mr. Dutter said.
``Aww, Dad, I want to get all the candy, and you just don't go as fast as me!''
Mr. Dutter laughed, starting to lead his son down the street, ``I see how it is. I just go easy on you.'' The two continued a few paces farther. Charlie noticed the woods on the other side of the street from the houses. ``Besides, if you run too far away from me, you might end up lost in the Demon Woods.''
``The `Demon Woods'?'' Tucker scoffed, ``You've never told me about anything like that before.''
Charlie thought a few moments. The wind picked up, blowing scattered leaves that skittered like tiny spiders across the asphalt. ``Hmm, that's because you were too young... I didn't want to scare you. But, I think you're old enough to hear about them now. Unless my little warlock is still too scared of course.''
The smaller kangaroo huffed indignantly, waving his wand around as the wind rustled his robe. ``I'm not scared! I'll curse them too!''
The sickle moon shone faintly overhead, clouds casting dim shadows all around. Mr. Dutter chuckled. ``Well, if that's the case, I can tell you. They say that on Halloween, all children who misbehave and run off get lost in the Demon Woods. The Demon Woods have a lot of mean monsters who like to eat the naughty children.'' As Charlie talked, in the distance he saw a deer in costume cross the road. He continued. ``Especially the Demon King. He has huge horns that poke out of his head and touch the night sky. He has a spooky, deep voice, bright, shiny eyes, and he groans and grunts and gobbles up the lost children one by one.''
Mr. Dutter stopped talking, looking down at his son in the darkness. Tucker seemed to be a little quieter now, but he couldn't see his face clearly to tell what the kid was thinking. Once they got to the doorstep of their first house, the little kangaroo spoke. ``They're not gonna get me, Dad. I'll out run them for sure!''
Charlie was about to say that wasn't the point of his story, but, the front door opened. An old beaver came out with a bucket of candy. She had white frilly hair, large spectacles, and a flowery frock.
``Trick-or-treat!'' Tucker yelled, holding out his bag for candy.
``Oh how cute!'' she said in a stereotypical old-lady voice. ``What do we have here? A magician and Captain Stark?''
``I'm a warlock!'' cried Tucker.
``Of course you are, dear,'' replied the beaver as she dropped a few candy bars into Tucker's bag.
Tucker immediately reached in and grabbed one of the bars to inspect it, and, nodding his approval, dropped it back in, and started to run off again. Charlie sighed and then grinned at the beaver.
``I gotta go get him. Thanks, Ellen. Nice old lady costume by the way,'' Mr. Dutter said.
``Thanks, Charlie!'' she responded brightly. ``Keeps the kids from egging my house again. Now, better get yours before he runs off.''
The older kangaroo gave chase, his strong legs making it easy for him to catch up with his son. They repeated this routine down the street. Their street dead-ended a few houses down, so they would take it all the way before turning around to come back and grab the houses in the other direction. On their way to the dead-end, they passed what sounded like a loud house-party with some teenagers mingling on the front lawn. Charlie kept his son close and continued past. The two successfully made it to the end and turned around, following some other trick-or-treaters back. They continued towards the direction of their home when Charlie saw one of his neighbors taking his own kid.
``Hey, Terrance! Taking Jeffry trick-or-treating too?'' Charlie called to his friend.
``Oh hi, Chuck,'' the wolf responded. ``Yeah. Jeffy's excited to show off his mummy costume this year.''
Tucker stood beside his dad, and waved at Jeffry. The two grew up in the same neighborhood, but didn't play together often. The grown-ups started chatting about adult stuff, jobs, politics, all of it boring to the two kids. After a few minutes, Tucker was quite bored. Jeffry had sat on the ground against his dad's leg. The kangaroo tried to tug at his dad's costume to pull him away, but that wasn't working at all. Then, Tucker saw a few kids walking along the other side of the road by the woods.
Was what his dad said really true? He'd walked through those woods many times, and had never seen anything remotely scary. He looked up at his dad who appeared to have no intention of leaving any time soon. Tucker looked around them and didn't see anyone he really knew watching them, so he left behind his bag of candy and started to walk across the street. No one noticed him as the kangaroo slipped between a patch of trees and into the woods.
Tucker kept walking in the darkness, some brambles and bushes trying to snag on his costume, but he pulled them away. The sickle moon peaked through the dense treetops, the clouds starting to gather. The wind whispered in the woods, the trees creaking like bending bones. The bushes let out hushed gasps. The dead leaves crunched quietly underfoot. Tucker pushed on. The sound from the street started to die away, save for a few shrill shrieks from some younger kids. But even those sounds eventually drifted off into the night.
It was when he couldn't hear his neighborhood any longer that he started to feel someone watching him. He looked over his shoulder and found nothing. The clouds up high blocked out the moon, and he found it even harder to see. He had to squint to see a few steps ahead of him, and even that was hard. His tail and cloak dragged through the dried leaves, rustling like a snake through the woods. Tucker started to move faster. He wasn't a baby. He wasn't scared. His large paws plodded a small path, stirring up noises that echoed around the trees. His ears caught every sound. He shivered when a gust of wind blew up his robe. He realized now that only wearing a t-shirt and shorts under his robe wasn't the best idea. His short fur was definitely not suited to fall weather like some of friends.
But, at last, the woods started to thin, and the clouds began to part. Ahead, Tucker saw a clearing. What he saw next, however, was less familiar to him. Roughly ten meters from him was a shape he didn't recognize. It appeared like a small tree, but the base was far too wide. And worse, it was moving.
The kangaroo stopped dead, his breath catching in his throat. His ears were bolt-upright. He heard it. It was grunting and groaning and creaking as it shook. The figure was a dark shadow with huge sprawling horns that seemed to reach up to the sky. It had two long arms that reached out from the two meter high body. Each arm was tipped with long, spindly fingers that waved in the wind. Tucker was transfixed by the monster, his eyes wide as he bit his lip. His heart was beating hard in his chest, but still he tried to stay quiet. It stayed there in the middle of the clearing, one huge shadow. Tucker watched, his fur bristled, as a pair of smaller arms seemed to reach from the body and pull in what appeared to be someone's head.
Then, it opened its eyes. Tucker completely froze and swallowed. They were small, beady eyes in comparison to the body, but they seemed to reflect the moonlight and shone brightly. Then there was a loud groan followed by an even louder screech and the demon's arms and horns shook.
Tucker closed his eyes. ``Go away!'' he found himself shouting before the kangaroo turned and darted back into the forest. He kept running, his wand falling out of his paw, his robe dragging a horde of skittering leaves behind him. A pair of long fingers reached out from the darkness and snagged on his robe. He screamed, tugging and yanking until the robe ripped away from him. ``Leave me alone!'' He kept running from whence he came until he started to hear other sounds.
``Tucker! Where are you?''
It was faint, but it sounded like his dad.
``Dad! I'm here!'' Tucker yelled, and kept yelling, still running as fast as he could away from the demon king. He had to get away. He heard the demons' breath whistling past him. There were more of them! His paws beat hard on the dead earth until he finally saw light. It was faint, but, he had to make it. He pushed on with all his little body had until he burst through the woods and onto the street.
``Tucker?! Tucker!'' he heard someone calling for him again.
Tucker looked wildly around until he saw Captain Stark running to him. He felt instantly relieved, even if it was just his dad in a costume. Charlie ran up to his son, flashlight in hand and immediately collapsed next to Tucker, wrapping arms tightly around him. Tucker felt his dad's strong arms squeeze around him before he felt those big paws on his shoulder, followed by Charlie's stern face.
``Tucker! What were you thinking, running away like that? You had me so scared! I told you to stay with me!'' Charlie scolded.
The young kangaroo broke down, tears streaming from his eyes. ``Oh, Dad! It was so scary! I thought you were making all that stuff up! But I saw it! I saw the Demon King! It was so big and it had really big horns and arms and shiny eyes and it was eating a kid. It looked right at me and I thought it was gonna get me! It tried to grab me and I was scared! I ran as fast as I could!''
Charlie looked dumbfounded, his anger seeming to vanish. ``You saw it?''
``Yeah! I'm so sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to. I won't be naughty again, I promise, please don't let it eat me!'' Tucker cried, clinging to his dad and burying his face into his father's chest, staining the costume with his tears.
``Shh... Shhh... It's okay Tucker,'' his dad tried to soothe him, patting his back. ``That monster won't get you now that you're with me.''
Charlie then reached under Tucker and picked him up, holding him in his arms. ``C'mon. I think that's enough excitement for tonight. Let's go home to Mom and she can make you some hot cocoa, okay? I'm sure you'll feel better when we get you warmed up.''
Tucker sniffled and nodded, still shivering from fear as his dad took him home. But, when Charlie turned around, he looked over his shoulder at the woods. It was just a story. There weren't any child-eating demons in the woods.
By: Novak ``Walto''