We were just kids, my brother and I, probably ten and eight years old, me being the oldest. We had spent the afternoon playing at our friend Will's house just up the road on one of those early fall nights when darkness comes down faster than you would like. We were all playing Hot Wheels on the living room floor when my mom called and asked Will's mom if she would be so kind as to send us on our way, since dinner was getting cold. We gathered our things and started the walk home.
It wasn't far from Will's house to our home, but the walk was along a lonely dirt road and it had already gotten dark. The left side of the road was bordered by a horse pasture; on the right were the woods that ran behind our house. It was too dark for the path through the woods, so we walked along the dirt road. There was enough moonlight to see the road stretched out before us, and so we walked on, following that bone-white strip of dust and gravel.
To the right and behind us, in the woods, there was a sound of leaves. We stopped. The sound stopped. We were frozen on the dirt road. "Did you hear that?" asked my little brother. "Yeah," I said, "it's just a dog or something. C'mon." We stood awhile and there was no more noise. We started towards home and the sound started again. It was definitely the sound of leaves being rustled; the sound of something, or someone, walking in the forest. We stopped again; the sound ceased. "I'm scared," my brother said. We were both pretty close to being paralysed with fear, but as a good older brother, I assured him that it was nothing and that we should just head home, maybe a little faster, just in case.
So we started walking, a little faster. The noise started up again. Leaves crunched behind us; the noise had seemed to quicken. My brother let out a yell ("Aiiieeeee!") and began to run, which of course unstoppered every ounce of my own panic and I too yelled ("Waiiiiiiitfooooormeeeeeee!") out and took off after him, down the road as fast as I could go.
I caught up with him in no time, because he was standing stock still in the middle of the road. I all but crashed into him, he had stopped so suddenly.
"Blaine," he said, almost crying,"what is that in the road?"
I could not tell what it was, but in that moonlit whiteness of road, just out of the shadows of trees to the right, was a dark lump of some kind. Motionless, it just lay there in the middle of the road.
Meanwhile, the sound of walking behind us and to our right quickly halted (yes, it was the sound of footsteps - there was no mistaking it any longer!). We were stuck between something - God knows what! - behind us, and this mysterious, motionless thing in the road. We edged closer to the thing; the footsteps crunching through the leaves whenever we moved, just slightly behind us in time. Everytime we moved, something was also moving in the forest; everytime we stopped, something in the forest stopped moving.
The shape in the road was large; 'Large enought to be a dead body,' is what we both were thinking. Words would not come to us; we were children on a dark road at night, mute with terror.
I was the oldest and felt responsible for my younger brother, which is the only way I could have summoned the courage to do what I did next. Slowly, I made my way towards the object. Even close, I could not tell what it was; it seemed to be covered in burlap. I did not have it in me to reach down and touch it, yet when my brother took my hand, I found just enough gumption to reach out with my foot and push it.
The instant my foot touched the thing, it let forth a yell and exploded with motion. It grabbed at me, but I was too fast for it. I heard my brother's screams behind me as I headed back, at top speed. There was a clatter from the woods, footsteps and a growling. A figure burst from the shadows and grabbed me from the side, laughing. It was my father. Behind us, my mother, who had been hiding under a burlap sack, was holding my brother and quieting him down. I could feel my heartbeat thudding between my ears, in my throat, everywhere - but my father laughed and laughed and soon we were all laughing.
When we calmed down, our parents took us home and fed us cookies and let us stay up late and watch TV. My dad, knowing were on our way home had cut through the woods specifically to scare us. To top it off, my mom had gotten the burlap sackcloth and laid in the road, waiting for us. It was a great trick. We talked all the next day about The Great Scare -- we called the trick "The Burlap Corpse" -- and even today, after my parents' divorce and my brother and I growing up and becoming pretty separate in our geographies, as well as our tastes, we still buzz with excitement and humor whenever anyone brings up "The Burlap Corpse."