My Uncle Once Scared Me To Death

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Kriss MacDonald on Unsplash

Iwas nine at the time.

I was in the backyard of my family’s cabin. And I was young enough that every shadow held some unknown danger, and I was convinced that every rustle of leaves was a nightmare made real.

The setting didn’t help. The bonfire was the only source of illumination. The cabin was thirty yards away, and the other direction was miles of uninterrupted wilderness. The stillness and the silence tended to play tricks on the uninitiated. Chipmunks sounded like elephants crashing through the woods. My adolescent mind filled each unknown with some new horror.

To make matters worse, my little brother and I had a preoccupation with Bigfoot. Earlier in the day, one of the shops in town had a poster warning of Bigfoot attacks. My brother and I didn’t know this was fake.

Our uncle took advantage of this and played to our fear. He told us that there had been sightings in the area, and he even told us about the time a Bigfoot attacked him and his friend when they were kids.

This sent my small mind spinning. I thought there was a humanoid simian monster behind every tree. My uncle left to go back to the cabin saying he was hungry.

And then it started happening.

First, the leaves started rustling. I had spent the last hour being told that it was nothing more than small animals, but this sounded like someone driving a truck through the woods. I scooted closer to my aunt and little brother. She assured us it was nothing.

Then the trees started shaking. It wasn’t the gentle sway that the wind makes. No, individual branches shook violently with no wind at all. Again, we were assured that it was nothing.

We heard grunts coming from the forest, low, angry grunts. Something started throwing sticks too. We weren’t wanted there. Our aunt tried to calm us down, but she didn’t sound very confident.

I saw a pair of white shoes in the firelight. Suddenly, all the threats became tangible.

There was a man out in the woods with us.

Suddenly every story about kidnapping be real and I was inside a horror movie of my own. The fact that there were no people for miles didn’t help and I was convinced I was outside with a maniac and there were thirty yards of sheer darkness before I could get in the house.

I grabbed my brother’s hand. Our only hope was to run through night and get to the cabin door.

Just as we started to run, someone came crashing through the woods. I saw the white shoes. He had come for us.

The man with white shoes was here.

I was dragging my brother at that point. I didn’t wait for my aunt.

Until, the man stumbled and fell to the ground and started laughing. It was my uncle. After going into the cabin, he left through the front door and walked around our neighbor’s house and into the woods to begin his charade. It was hilirarious afterward, but it was traumatizing to go through. My little brother is still scared of the woods.

We were laughing and playing around but when we walked to the cabin I looked back and in the faint light of the fire I saw something.

Another pair of white shoes. I gulped.

Before I could say anything the shoes disappeared from sight.The next day we couldn’t see signs that there was anyone else outside.

I still think about it every time I’m in the woods.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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