Me and my sister were sent to live with Aunt Lissy for a while. Things were going bad in town. Something about the water supply. The sprawling textile mill had to close for a spell. Strange noises in the distance at night. Noises in the woods, in the fields. Noises on the wind. Strange figures in the shadows. Maybe government agents. Maybe collecting samples in secret so as to not stir up a scare. Maybe agents from another mill town sent to put a ruin to our livelihood.

We heard rumors at school and around the back alleys and in the empty lots where we’d play. But nothing was confirmed. There was no truth to uncover, for the truth is a slippery snake, and only there for those that dig for it, a trophy for those that persevere. It was all so elusive.

Neither of us could sleep that first night at Aunt Lissy’s. We just laid awake thinking about it all—what was wrong with the town, why we’d been sent away. The rumors of a girl growing eyes all over her body. Eyes that actually function. The rumors of a little boy who grew a couple of extra little faces on his body. Some people say it’s only one other face, on his side. While others claim it’s up to seven or eight extra little faces, each with eyes, noses and mouths. Each face speaking some foreign tongue.

Rumors of strange little yellow people, two feet tall, thick, wide, solid, blocky, waddling around at night and up to who-knows-what. People claim to know people who know people who’ve seen them around, but they’ve only caught a tiny peek at them as they enter a shadow or waddle around a corner. The rumors of sudden disappearances. The talk of the tall, stringy ones. The “plastic people,” they call them—all stretched out and thin, easily able to hide in the darkness as they blend in with the shadows of tree branches, fences, and gutters. But again, no one has proof of their existence. No grainy, blurry photos. No eyewitnesses that we know of.

Maybe there’s just too much on our minds, maybe it’s just the strange bed, the unfamiliar lighting, the funny unfamiliar sounds of the night here, the new surroundings that keep us awake. Maybe it’s us just worrying, just thinking too much. Maybe the plant just closed for a while for stupid little reasons. Maybe something dumb and harmless in the long run. And that’s why we are here. Maybe it’s all just a brief, momentary economic hardship on my parents. And Aunt Lissy is more than happy to take us in, help pick up the slack for a spell.

Me and my sister lie in our little beds in the long, narrow back room, deep into the murky night, listening to a strange wind whistling through the long grass and rickety wooden fence. Gradually, that wind seems to sound like something, a faint whispering, something calling us out. But it is far too cold, too dark, the back field too strange and foreboding for us to venture out.

The next night, it’s the same: a breeze. A fluttering. A whooshing. The leaves rustling on the low, leaning trees. The long, thick grass blowing. The wind in the meadow, in the bog, running between the cattails, around the tree trunks, in the twisting branches, through the pickets of the fence, in the greasy murk of fog. The wind running wild and free at night.

“That sound like anything to you?” my sister asks, all tucked in her little bed in the darkness a few feet next to me in the long, narrow back room.

“Yeah,” I sigh dryly, “Yeah, it does.”

“Sounds like whispering. Something saying something,” she swallows.

The next few nights, on and off, it’s the same deal. Not every night and not all the time; just a little here and there, a little whisper in the wind. My sister is bolder than I am. She peeks her head up, trying to see out the little back window of the little cabin.

“Anything?” I ask.

“Mist. Just a dank, grainy mist,” she settles back to bed.

Eventually, the drizzly mist clears after a few nights. It warms up. The grass dries. But the whispering wind continues intermittently. We decide to creep out onto the tilting back porch, to see if anyone’s out there. We creep out and search, the breeze blowing the long grass around. But we don’t see anything, just darkness, the faint moon poking lines of light into the grass. We listen, but no one is out and about. So we go back inside.

In the daylight, we decide to go out there. After school, we stomp out back, fighting the long, thick grass, but nothing is there. My sister climbs up on the fence, looking around, searching.

“Just grass,” she reports, “Grass down to the marsh. To the bog. Then the meadow, and swamp bordered by old twisty trees. Then the dry woods on one side, and those other wet, swampy woods on the other.”

But the next few nights, it’s there again, on and off—the whistling wind, the whisper, the faintness. So we go out back after school again a few days later. We climb over the fence, stomp down the slope, and find an old well down there, the large, smooth, round gray stones all toppled over, revealing just a two foot diameter hole in the ground surrounded by tilting old trees. My sister leans and looks in, then bends down, lowers herself to all fours. I look around, studying the long grass, the forest of trees all around. I see a little cabin beyond, through the branches and leaves. Another little cabin. With a faint little speck of orange candle light in a little window. I lean to tap my sister on the shoulder. She’s looking down, into the darkness of the hole.

“I think there’s water down there…or something,” she thinks out loud.

“Check it out…there’s another little cabin over there, on the other side of the trees,” I relay. “An old tilting one.”

My sister drops a small stone into the well and listens. There is a faint ker-plunk. Followed by an echo of the ker-plunk.

“Black water,” she sighs.

“Probably old…bet that water’s been down there forever…probably stagnant.” I keep my eyes on the cabin.

There is a breath from the well, like an exhalation of air. My sister jumps back. Then a faint flutter in the air, a slight whistle of breeze in the grass, a faint whisper through the tree branches again.

“Whoa,” she smiles, looking down.

“Hear that?” I ask, looking around.

“Yeah,” she looks up and nods, “That whisper again, but…but clearer.”

“Well, we’re down here, out in the open. We can hear better,” I look around, trying to listen, trying to spot the exact location of the faint flutter.

“Aaahhhhh,” a deep, guttural noise wafts from out of the well, circling up from deep below.

I look down.

My sister looks over to me and smiles. “See. . . There it is,” she utters.

“Aaahhhhhh,” the whisper wheezes up from the well again as a breath, but this time stronger, clearer.

“Ha,” my sister claps her hands. “There it is.” She looks down, leans in, “Hello. Hello down there, sly one,” she calls playfully, grinning.

“Yeah, right,” I smirk, “Like anyone would live in there.”

“Auuuugggghhhhhh,” the exhale of breath grows even stronger, fuller, deeper.

“Yeah, we’re right here,” my sister smiles, leaning in even further.

“Heeeeellllllooooooo aaattttt llllaaaassssssssstttt,” the voice hisses a long, breathy wheeze.

“Ha!” my sister looks up to me.

“No way,” I exhale and drop to my knees.

“Thhhhaaaaaa waaaaater. Thaaaaaaa waaaatttttter,” the voice sputters.

“You want some water?” my sister asks, calling into the hole in the ground.

“Is there water down there?” I lean to ask the hole, “Too much water?”

“Is there too much water?” my sister repeats, “Too much water down there? Would you like us to drain the water? Get a bucket with a rope? Get you out of there?” she pulls back, looking around, “Maybe there’s a rope or something?” she mutters to herself as she looks about.

“Lotta logs,” I look around. Then I lean to the hole, “Want some fresh water?…I can get some from the pump up at the cabin. I can lower some down.”

“Here,” she says, pulling a rotted rope from the straggly grass. “Maybe we can lower this in…”

I reach to help with the rope, but she is already vigorously pulling it out of the tangle of weeds.

“…pull them up with it,” she tugs the rope, pulling out a small, old rotted wood bucket from the weeds. “Whoa,” she smiles as the bucket frees itself, snapping to her.

“The water,” the faint whisper calls from out of the hole. “Drink the water.”

“Ha,” my sister laughs, looking over to me.

“I ain’t drinkin’ that,” I make a face.

“The water. Drink the water,” the voice exhales urgently, “Drink the water.”

My sister looks around, up to me, then down to the hole again. “Let’s do it,” she says, staring ahead. “See what happens,” she whispers to herself.

I stand and look back up to Aunt Lissy’s cabin, up on the hill in the blowing grass. Then over to the other little old log cabin in the distance, as if to compare the two. And just then, in the distance, I glance over just in time to catch a giant centipede creeping past in the tall grass—five feet tall, thirty feet long, sloshing back and forth, catching just the last of it as it lumbers behind the tree line about two hundred feet away.