I didn’t know where the footprints would lead, but I followed them anyway. I didn’t call out to the rest of my group, because I didn’t want to alert the boy, if he was indeed on the other end of the footprints. Leaving the fence and walking back the way we’d come, I was too focused on the prints.
Suddenly, I was knocked down from the side.
“Oof! Get off me!” I whispered harshly.
After we’d untangled and backed up, I saw that it was a boy. Maybe THE boy, but I couldn’t tell in the darkness and fog.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I didn’t…I don’t…why are you here?” he asked me. His eyes were wide and he glanced in all directions constantly. He barely looked at me for more than a second at a time.
“We’re looking for someone.” I stayed as still as I could so I wouldn’t frighten him further.
“I don’t know. Are you lost?”
“No. I’m not lost. I want to be left alone.”
“Are you Dylan?”
He flinched at the name, but answered, “No. That’s not me. You have the wrong person. Maybe there’s some other kid in these woods.”
“Okay. Well, how old are you?”
He finally looked me in the eye, but shut his mouth.
“Okay… Aren’t you too young to be out here alone?”
He shook his head.
“I hate to disagree with you,” I said, shifting my legs so that I could sit on the ground more comfortably, “but I think you are. There’s a curfew in this county, and it’s way past it. If you’re younger than seventeen—and I can tell that you are—you should be home right now.”
He only shook his head and looked away.
“Dylan, why don’t you want to go home?” I asked gently.
“I’m not Dylan!” he insisted, immediately looking around to see if he’d drawn any further attention. “My name is Samuel.”
“Okay, Samuel. Why don’t you want to go home?”
He shrugged. “I just don’t. Why does it matter to you? What are you going to do, make me go home?”
“Well, no. I don’t know where you live, Samuel. But I should probably take you to the police station—”
“No!” He jumped to his feet in one swift movement.
“Wait! I won’t take you to the police station!” I assured him quickly. I didn’t want him to take off running.
“I don’t believe you!” Moonlight filtering through the trees reflected off the tears in his eyes.
“I promise you I won’t. Please, sit back down.”
He looked at me for a few seconds, deciding what to do. Then he slowly sat back on the ground.
“I won’t take you to the police station, and I can’t take you home. But can you do something for me?”
“Can you show me where you plan to sleep tonight? If I saw that you had a warm, comfortable spot, I might not feel so bad about leaving you out here in the woods.”
The boy looked around us for a bit. “I don’t…I don’t know. I guess I’ll sleep here.”
“No, no, that won’t do.”
Prompt used: You weren’t sure where the footprints would lead, but you followed them anyway.
Sorry about the abrupt ending.