The corn had been mowed down, leaving behind fields of sharp brown stubble, stretching out under the grey sky until it hit the tree line. Every once in a while, you could hear a car zipping down the road, somewhere out in the distance. Other than that, nothing broke the stillness.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and nobody wanted to admit it. It’s a piece of enchantment you learn when you grow up. You can keep the powers of darkness at bay if you don’t speak of them. The twins, Tony and Eric, were too little to know about that though. They were up in the tree house with an ancient Grimoire, a book they ‘borrowed’’ from grandmother’s bedroom, and a National Geographic about King Arthur. They spent most of Thanksgiving Break up there, conspiring to conjure up Merlin, and discussing what they’d do once they had him.
There was some hoarse croaking from the night birds, somewhere beyond the line of trees where the shadows and the branches blur together. Then a sudden thumping from the tree house a hundred feet ahead and a frightened hiss. I caught two pairs of green eyes peeking up from the window before they ducked down again.
“Hey, it’s dinner!” I yelled up.
There was silence as I arrived at the base of the twisted oak tree.
“C’mon guys, your ma says you gotta go in and wash up.”
There was a whispered debate hissed above me, and then silence again.
“Tony! Eric! Let’s go!”
And still nothing. I clenched my teeth as the first rung in the damp ladder creaked. I pulled myself up to the door and saw them peering suspiciously at me from behind a pile of Strange Tales comics.
A couple of candles, shoved into the necks of root beer bottles, illuminated the small room. A checker board, on top of which, a crude pentagram was drawn in chalk seemed to be the centerpiece of the space. They also had a copy of Josie’s Advanced Biology textbook, open to the chapter on mating and reproduction.
“Guys,” I said, “let’s go.”
Eric was the first to speak, edging out from the corner.
“But we’re not finished…” he whined.
Tony bobbed his head in agreement. “Yeah, we have to finish.”
“Your mom sai-” I began, but Eric cut me off.
“What if he gets stuck in between, huh?”
“Yeah,” Tony chimed in, “We gotta finish the enhancement!”
“It’s called an ‘enchantment’,” I said, “Now let’s move.”
The twins glowered at me, but stomped forward. They jumped the last few rungs down and the colorless stubble of cornstalks crunched beneath their shoes. Above, the grey had turned a few shades darker, and through the tops of the pines, you could see the lone streetlight start to flicker on. Sunset happened fast in Inwood Indiana.
We walked back, the twins slouching sullenly behind me. A few beams of sickly yellow light streamed out of the house and stretched thinly on the field.
I stopped in my tracks, and swiveled my head around. Tony saw me.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
I was clenching my jaw, and staring off into the dark blotch where the woods and the shadows all ran together. “Nothing,” I said, “I thought I heard a voice…”