David took the shortcut through the woods on his way home from Terry’s house. There were always things spied in the woods that he couldn’t explain when cutting through, so he nearly always avoided it after dusk. Maybe it was his imagination, maybe not. But tonight he was hurrying home because he knew he was in trouble.
David’s mother had warned him before he left that she would ground him if he didn’t get home in time for dinner tonight. David and Terry were often having such a grand time playing baseball with the neighborhood kids that they lost all track of time. When David realized that the reason he couldn’t see the pop fly was because the sun was going down, he took off through the woods hoping to minimize the damage.
Although the route was shorter than taking the road, it wasn’t a straight shot. The path wound between the ancient trees and ran along a seasonal creek bed for a bit. David ran as fast as he dared in the semi-dark, and tripped on something unseen just as he reached the creek bed. He stayed perfectly still, listening, wondering at the sound that filled his ears. It was water running. But with the lack of rain this summer, the creek had been dry since May. Slowly he rose up on his hands and knees and peered at the creek. It was as dry as could be. But the water sound seemed to be getting louder. Certain that the sound was coming from behind him now, he ran at top speed toward his house - branches smacking him in the face, brambles grabbing his ankles, spooked owls screeching and fluttering off nearby tree limbs.
The search started shortly after. His frantic parents looked everywhere, checked every house in the neighborhood, all the paths through the woods. Near dawn the next morning they caught sight of a bright red object caught on an exposed tree root in the creek bed. It was David’s baseball cap, and it was soaking wet.