Photo by Lynn Burton

The Apple Tree
By Isabelle Levine, age 9

It is autumn and my apples are ripening. Soon the whole Lee Family will come to my trunk for a grand party. 

My leaves are shaking with excitement for that day to come. I love all the happy faces and laughter. In fact, that day is tomorrow!

All year long, I gave my apples food and water, which I received from Mama Earth. They grew all summer and it is finally time to share them. 

Most of my residents are vacating for the celebration. They don’t enjoy the noisy ruckus of the party. My friend, Fuji, says that all his residents vacated his trunk and branches too. It must be an animal thing.

Today I saw a man putting tables out. It must be for the party, I thought.  Then, I heard one of my residents, a raccoon named Rocky, say, “I love it when the humans go home and I get to have the leftovers.”

“Not before I get them!” yelled an opossum named Stoplight.

“Who said you get the leftovers?” croaked a crow named Aspen.

“Oh no,” I whispered. “My trunk erupted in chaos.”

A New England Nightmare
By Tom Mercer

Succumbing to my love of quaint New England villages, I resolved to find a small rental in which to work on a book I had wanted to write for at least 20 years. 

Eventually, one October, I located a vacant house just a mile from the village of Paraquansit in rural Vermont. The small house was somewhat run down, but it offered a bedroom, a kitchen, an indoor bathroom and a tiny living room. A wood-burning stove stood solidly in the center of the house and seemed to offer the promise of warmth during the frigid New England winter to come. I never suspected that my time in the house would become a nightmare that rivaled the imaginings of H.P. Lovecraft.

I was curious about how the village got its name. One resident who I met on my second day in town, Maggie Smithson, suspected that someone simply dumped Scrabble pieces out on a table and shuffled the tiles about until a reasonably good name was generated. Maggie was not a typical rural New Englander. Most villagers kept to themselves, keeping conversation to a minimum, especially with “outsiders.”

It was on the fourth day of the second month during my stay when the odd events began. That morning, I stepped out of the house for some fresh air and immediately noticed a large animal’s paw prints in the damp soil surrounding the little house. I could not identify what sort of animal had left the prints, but it had circled the house at least three times before heading in the direction of a nearby stand of trees. I was curious about the paw prints for they were not those of a dog, cat or any other animal I could recognize. Still, I was not overly concerned…yet.

Later that same day, I drove into Paraquansit to buy some groceries and supplies. It was dusk when I returned to the house, but there was sufficient light remaining to afford me a frightening view of what had occurred in my absence. There were twice as many paw prints, and deep gouges had been clawed into the wood on every side of the house.  In the past I had lived in Colorado, so I recognized that the prints were not made by a bear or any other animal I was familiar with. That night, I fell asleep while listening for the return of the unknown beast.  

On the fifth day, I awakened to a new horror. The entire exterior of the little house was covered with some sort of green mold I did not recognize. I thought it was surely impossible for that much mold to appear overnight, yet, there it was. The mold exuded a horrible smell that hung heavily in the air around the house. 

Alarmed, I jumped into the car and headed into the village. It was there that I encountered Maggie. She was a retired teacher, so I assumed she would surely know everything there was to know about Paraquansit. I hoped she might be able to clarify the mysteries which I had experienced. However, I knew that clarification alone might not result in the dissipation of the horror I felt.

Maggie and I talked for quite a while. I told her about everything that had happened and she seemed genuinely concerned. She told me that legends maintained that the ground beneath the house I rented was cursed. She said that “No birds will even land on that property.”

I realized she was correct. I had not seen any birds land on, or even fly above, the property. She said that the native Americans who once lived in that area believed it to be the home of “Kiscatrinach,” a cryptid beast whose body was not covered with scales, feathers or skin, but something completely unidentifiable. ( Maggie added that the rough translation for the name Kiscatrinach is: “Walking curse by night.”

When I returned to the house that afternoon, I saw that all the natural vegetation within 100 feet of the house had withered and died in the short time I had been in town.  The air near the house was stale and cold, and the late afternoon light seemed unnaturally dim. 

I had seen many horror movies in my life, and now I was living in one. I resolved to let Kiscatrinach have the house all to himself.  I gathered my belongings and drove away from that cursed place, immersed in a mixed sensation of relief and deliverance which grew stronger with each passing mile.