Footprints in the Snow
Footprints in the Snow
Snow falls rarely in Clarion, my grandpa used to say, because it only falls when the devil needs to cover his tracks.
He liked scary stories, my grandpa, and usually I did too. But not tonight. Definitely not tonight, because it was snowing thick, totally record-breaking snow. School closed early so the buses could get us home safe, but my house was the last on the run, in the middle of Claxon wood.
The bus wheels spun as Mrs. Burkett pulled away. I hoped she wouldn’t get stuck on the way home.
I hurried to the house, trying not to look at the dark shapes of the trees through the falling snow. I concentrated on not slipping.
It wasn’t until I got inside that I realized how cold I was, and the house wasn’t any better. The power was out. I hurried into the living room and flicked the switch on the heater, but of course that didn’t work. Enough weak light came through the glass patio door for me to dial Mom’s cell on the phone.
Her voice crackled with static and kept cutting out.
“Mom?”
“Don’t . . . on my way . . . soon as I can.”
“The power’s out!” I yelled into the phone but that was pretty stupid since yelling wouldn’t make the reception any clearer.
“Light the living . . .” Then, her phone cut out.
Okay, that had to mean I could light the living room fire—which I totally was never allowed to do before. Excellent. I’d helped Dad light it lots of times, though, so I got the fire set up, brought out my quilt and Sheldon the teddy for company, and lit the fire. I was alone, totally handling things.
I grabbed a couple small logs from the stack on the hearth and laid them on the fire, taking care not to burn my fingers. When I picked up a third log, a huge, brown spider fell from the bark with a slight thud on the wooden floor. Screaming, feet dancing, heart galloping inside me, I grabbed the poker and pounded at it as it ran away, and missed and missed and missed, until it disappeared under the bookcase.
Now, all I could think of was that fat, ugly spider sitting under the bookcase, waiting for a safe time to run out at me.
The logs in the fire burned and soon needed more added, and that meant touching the potentially spider-infested floor and picking up a probably spider-infested log.
I stood up. I was not a chicken. I was mature enough to handle anything. I picked up a log and only yelped a little bit when a bit of bark fell onto the floor. After I threw it in the fire, I closed all the doors to keep the warmth in and sat back down.
This morning, I’d been a kid, a regular kid. Now, I was practically an adult with survival skills and a can-do attitude.
By the time it got properly dark, it felt like the trees surrounding the house had eyes that saw me huddled on the sofa. I closed all the curtains, especially the ones that covered the big glass patio door. That felt safer, but the house still creaked and groaned.
I wished the power would come on so I could make hot chocolate and turn on the TV to drown out the sounds.
A loud knock echoed through the house.
The front door.
I jumped to my feet, heart pounding. Should I answer it?
Biting my lip and holding the poker—not because of fear, just because . . . okay because of fear—I crept down the hallway. My heart thudded so loud that I thought the whole world could hear.
I snuck into Mom’s study and peered out through the eyes of the Jack ‘o’ lantern. Nobody there. Footprints led up to the door and away again. No cars, no tire tracks.
Okay, that was freaky. Who would be out walking in this?
I crept back into the living room, closing the door behind me. That’s when I noticed the curtain over the patio door had moved. I glanced around the room but there was no one there.
Stupid imagination.
I went to the door and pulled the curtain closed. I nearly went back to the sofa but something made me peek out, and then I saw it. Footprints. Big ones.
This was ridiculous. Mrs. Burkett probably got stuck and needed help. I was mature and not a chicken, so I opened the door and called out. “Mrs. Burkett?”
No one answered. I stepped back inside, peering at the prints.
They only led to the door. Not away.
Breathing hard, I tried to think. Had I unlocked it before I opened it? No. No. It’d been unlocked. I hadn’t even checked!
I gripped the door handle, not sure which was safer, inside or out.
There was a bang, somewhere inside, definitely inside.
I screamed. The dumbest thing ever, because now whoever was in the house knew I was there too.
“Honey?” A voice called.
“Mom?” I breathed a huge sigh of relief and locked the door. “I’m here!”
She came out of the mudroom, looking frozen. She tugged at her wet coat, a shoe in each hand as she talked. “I stopped half-a-mile away and had to walk. I lost my keys in the snow, so I tried the front door and thought you couldn’t hear so came around back and walked in your footprints to the door.” She held up her bright red, soggy pair of heels. “Look, I ruined my shoes.”
Typical Mom, worried about her shoes. I laughed.
Then, frowning, I looked back outside the patio door. I had used the front door, not the back. I bent and stared at the prints in the snow, much, much bigger than Mom’s feet. I didn’t make those prints and neither did she, and there were still none leading away.
I turned and looked at her. “Mom . . .”
THE END . . .

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