“Following the Footprints” New Fiction from Jules Keenan
Following the Footprints
by Jules Keenan
I woke up one morning to find footprints in my backyard. Human footprints. Size nine work boots to be exact. They came from the woods and stopped at my kitchen window. Then they went to my bedroom window, where there were many of these tracks. It looked like this person had been pacing in circles, chasing his tail like a dog. But eventually the tracks broke away and I followed them to my front step. They stopped on the “Welcome” mat.
“There’s a man in my house,” I told the woman on the phone. She began to ask me irrelevant questions, like what was my name and where I was.
“There’s a man in my house,” I repeated. Eventually, after much cooperation, the woman told me she was sending a couple of officers over, and they would be there as soon as they could.
I climbed a tree.
The oak that happens to be situated in my front yard, shading my magnolias from any harsh winter wind, but also from quite a bit of noon-high sun in the pleasant months of summer. For some reason though, they grew exceptionally well, and I won many ribbons from neighbourhood competitions. I couldn’t explain it if my life depended on it, and for some reason, that scared me. What if the man in my house wanted to know?
I watched my home from the little nook in my tree, looking for any sign of movement. The slight twitch of a curtain, a shadow rushing across a window. But for a long while, there was nothing.
Then my bathroom light turned on. This startled me and made me so tense, I almost fell out of the little crook in my tree. I watched as a dark figure shuffled around. Then he stopped in the window. I didn’t move. I started to worry in the back of my mind, that a pigeon might mistake me for a statue. His hand slowly opened up the grey curtains that my mother gave me for my birthday. Our eyes locked. But I couldn’t tell you what his face looked like. He quickly dropped the curtain, and turned off the light.
I still didn’t move.
Where were the police?
There was no more movement for precisely six minutes and 27 seconds. I counted, because I was too scared to do anything else. But when I hit the 388th second, a sound caught me off guard and almost sent me flying out of the tree again.
The garage door was opening. I stared as the white metal door slowly came up. I wanted to scream, or yell, or climb higher if I couldn’t bring myself down. But all I could do was stare.
The door stopped moving. It was halfway up from the ground. It stopped because there was something in the way. It was the bouncy ball that my niece had gotten stuck there last time my sister was over. I almost started to laugh. I had told myself to get that fixed. Now I was glad I didn’t.
It was now high noon, and the police still were not there. I didn’t think that lady took me seriously. So I took out my red cellphone, and tried again. There was no connection because of the terribly cloudy weather.
I think I started to cry, but I can’t really remember, because that was when the telephone rang in the house. I could hear it echoing from beyond my living room window.
I stopped breathing. Would someone realize something was wrong if I didn’t answer? I hoped so, but I never usually picked up on a normal day, so why should today be any different?
It stopped on the third ring. My phone rings six times before the answering machine picks up.
It was 3:02 when the police came. I was cold, and hungry, and sore from sitting in a tree for eight hours.
When they pulled up, they asked me why I was in a tree.
“There’s a man in my house,” I said. They looked like they didn’t believe me. They asked my why I didn’t call the cops. I told them I did. They still didn’t look convinced. They told me to come out of the tree. But suddenly I didn’t want to, event though that’s what I had wanted to do all day. I had called the police. I knew for a fact that I did. It was even in my call log. So why would they say that I didn’t?
“There’s a man in my house,” I said again. They looked from me, to the house, to me again. I still didn’t think they believed me.
I told them to look at the footprints. So they did. They went to the woods, then the kitchen window, then my bedroom window, then my front step. They said it was fishy.
So they left, to get backup. I wanted them to take me with them, but for some reason, I had lost my voice. I was alone again, with a man in my house.
They said they would be back in five minutes. They were back in exactly seven minutes and 53 seconds. During that period. my kitchen light turned on. It was still on when they got back. They asked me if I had gotten out of my tree. I said no. They asked me how my kitchen light had turned on.
“There’s a man in my house,” I told them. Finally, I think they believed me. The now four officers went onto my front step, and knocked on the door. There was no answer. Why would there be one?
I was the only one who noticed that my kitchen light had turned out.
After a few minutes quietly discussing amongst themselves, two of the officers went around my house, presumably to my backyard. The two officers out front made some hand motions, then quietly opened the door. I heard my back door, which always squeaks, open as well. Slowly, all the lights turned on as the police squad went through my house. They came out empty handed. They said there was no man in my house.
But they didn’t realize that what they really meant was there was no longer a man in my house. He was gone. But where did he go?
The footprints were back. It had been a day, and the police never returned to check on me. But then again, why would they? They classified me as crazy. A nut job.
This time, the footprints came from the street. They came right to my front step. But it was locked. So he went to my back door. It was locked too. I followed the prints as they went to the garage. I had that locked tight too. I followed the tracks to my tree. They ended at its base. I looked up, and our eyes met again. We both froze. I didn’t know what to do. I eventually raced back into my house and called 911 again.
“There’s a man in my tree,” I told the woman on the phone. Again, she asked me irrelevant questions, like how old I was, and who I lived with.
“There’s a man in my tree,” I repeated. Eventually, the woman told me she was sending a couple of officers over and they would be there as soon as they could. I didn’t believe her.
I didn’t know what to do, so I kept pacing around my house. I went to the bathroom and turned the light on. I went to the window and opened up the curtains. The man was still in my tree. Our eyes locked again, but I still couldn’t describe his face if you begged me. I dropped the curtain, shut off the light, and left the room. I sat on my couch for at least five minutes. Then I decided what I as going to do. I would get into my car and drive away. Even a very fast and strong man, couldn’t break into a car with just his fists, or catch up with a moving vehicle quickly turning out of my driveway.
I went to the door that connected the garage to my kitchen. I flipped the switch to open the garage door. I grabbed my coat and work boots as the door opened, but then it stopped. I had forgotten about the bouncy ball. Yesterday, I was happy for it. Today, I wasn’t so sure.
The police came again. They talked with the man in my tree. I was scared he pretended to be the one who had called them, that now he was saying I was the imposter.
I got really scared. I went into the kitchen and tried to find something I could use to defend myself, or prove that I was the one who was the prey, and not the predator. But I couldn’t see very well, so I turned the light on. The only thing I found that wouldn’t put me in prison was a plastic butter knife and the car insurance papers that I no longer needed.
I was beginning to get nervous. What was the man in my tree telling them? When they knocked on my door, I didn’t answer. Why would I? I quickly shut out the light and then crawled out my bedroom window. I paced there for a few minutes, pondering what to do, until I heard my back door squeak. I crouched low, and made my way to the kitchen window. The police were in my house. I began to panic. What would they do if they didn’t find me?
I ran into the woods from my backyard. I knew a shortcut that would bring me to the street, and I could pretend that I was just getting home from a walk. So that’s what I did. But when I got home, no one was there. The police were gone. There was no man in my tree.
Relieved, I headed up my front step. But the door was locked. I didn’t remember locking the door. I went around my house to the back door. That one was locked too. I headed to the garage. It was locked tight. I sighed. I didn’t have a key on me. And my car was still in the garage. So I went to my tree.
The man was in my house again. He came out, and I watched him follow my tracks. He came to my tree. Our eyes locked again. This time, I saw his face. But I was confused by it. The only face staring back at me, was mine. The man went back inside. I called my house. It rang three times.
They tell me there is no man in my house. And there is no man in my tree. There is only me.
The police officers, now dressed in white coats, ask me irrelevant questions all day. The woman behind the counter asks me things like what my name is, where I am, how old I am, and who I live with.
But I don’t answer.
Because there is a man in my house.
But I don’t think they believe me.
Jules Keenan is a tenth grade student at Blackville High School. A member of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, Jules enjoys reading, writing, and photography. To see more of her photos like her Facebook Page.
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