by Dorian J. Sinnott
When I was young, I remember the field across the street. It stretched for what seemed like miles, ending at the foot of a dense forest that lead to the other end of town. As a child, I spent countless hours there with the other neighborhood kids. Our afternoons were spent in the tall grass, hiding in weeds and laughing until the sun began to set just beyond the trees. Though we always insisted to stay out past dark, our parents were adamant about coming home when the last light of day bid farewell. Before the shadows engulfed the land.
There were no streetlights in our neighborhood. We were in a quiet part of town, set back from the rest of the busy activities. Aside from the field, most of our streets were surrounded by the woods. And so, the people enjoyed their comfort of the dark. And the beauty of the moonlight and stars.
I remember the summer nights, watching the colors of sunset paint the skies, running through the grass. But only to the edge of the trees. We always knew better than to enter the forest. My mother warned of its lack of trails and the wild animals that made it their home. We knew well of the coywolves that made their way out of the fields at twilight, prowling, until they slunk away in the morning dew and mist.
At night, from my bedroom that overlooked the field, I could hear their howls. Haunting. My mother always told me they’d sing after they caught their prey. Celebrating their kill in the moonlight. I knew the fields were full of deer once the sun set. And I’d seen my fair share of their skulls left behind—bones scattered. I’d nestle into my bed, trying to drown the coywolves out, waiting for dawn.
I spent every day in that field. Dragging my bike through the tall grass, following my friends as we made our oaths of staying friends forever. Oaths that vanished the same way we had, when we reached adulthood. None of us stayed in that town—except our parents.
When I visit these days, the neighborhood never really feels the same. But, it wasn’t just the nostalgia that made my old home so unfamiliar to me. It was the streetlamps lining the length of the street—bulbs glowing the moment the sun began to dip behind those trees at the end of the…
What used to be the field we grew up in was now a complex. The tall grass mowed down and replaced with pavement. The rolling grass and what felt like endless land was now gone. Buried beneath civilization. Even the forest seemed to be pushed farther into the horizon. Trees removed so more homes could be built.
“They plan on cutting the whole wooded area back there down,” my mother said. “The complex on the other side of town? They want to connect it with here. Making this all one, big, built up town.”
While I’d moved to a busier nearby city with less trees and open fields, that was the one thing I wanted to come back. The feeling of nature. Of quiet. Not development.
“What about the wildlife?” I asked. “The deer? The coywolves…?”
My mother looked sorrowful. “Some were unfortunately destroyed. Paid hunters. The rest, well… They’ll have to relocate. Find food somewhere else.”
I stay in my old bedroom whenever I visit. The streetlights remind me too much of my own home, and I find myself drawing the curtains shut to drown them out. Even though the neighborhood definitely had been built up, it at least was quiet. I find it easy to fall asleep, to the silence of the old home. No sirens. No honking cars. No shouting. Just the stillness of the walls I was once familiar with. But, sometimes in the night, I would be awoken. Unsure by what, or why. But my first thought always is of the field.
Now, my mother has asked me numerous times during my stays if I could hear the coywolves at night. I tell her I’m always in such a deep sleep, that I hear nothing.
“It’s quiet,” I’d say. “I honestly hear nothing.”
She says her dog doesn’t sleep at night. That he whines and paces and that she swears she can hear the howls of coywolves out in the field. I remind her that the field is gone. That, either they’re out in the remainder of the woods, or, she’s remembering phantom sounds from years before. She’d agree with me, though with a bit of uncertainty in her voice. But, I assured her, I’d only hear silence.
It’s been a few months since I’ve stayed at my parents’ home, but I’ve heard rumors. Reports of animals that had gone missing in the neighborhood. Rabbits, cats, small dogs. I’d remembered hearing stories from my mother about families down the street losing their cat. Missing signs posted up and down the length of the road. And then, how the neighbor’s toy poodle disappeared. No sign of it digging its way out underneath the fence.
My mother began keeping her dog in at night. She claimed people were worried there were petnappers waiting in cars on the street. Picking up small animals for bait in dog fighting rings. While I understood her concern about keeping the dog in, I assured her that it was highly unlikely.
“There are streetlamps everywhere. You’d clearly see them.”
A few more calls from my mother would come in, more stories of people’s precious pets disappearing in the night. But, it was only when the reports began reaching newspapers that I showed concern.
Sunset had always been our curfew. Back then, though, there were no streetlights, so when night fell, it fell hard. Dark. These days, my mother says the children play out late. The lamps serve as extra light, and now, with the complex built up, there was nowhere for them to get lost. Nowhere for them, as she put it, to “trip and fall in some rut out in that tall grass.”
“What about the forest?” I’d ask her. “You think they play out there?”
“Any sensible parent wouldn’t let them.”
I wanted to tell her how much times had changed from when I was growing up. Parents just weren’t the same as they used to be. Less concern for their kids, let’s face it. Technology had ways of making us mindless. Too wrapped up in other things.
I thought nothing more about it, even as more reports cropped up, until I stayed at my parents’ while they were away, looking after their dog. The dying summer air made it cool at night, and crickets chirped out in development across the street. Longing, I’m certain, for the tall grass that used to cover the land. I stayed up late, sipping tea and reading a book. The glow from the streetlamps painted the room in eerie white. Almost the way the moon would when it peaked its harvest.
At first, I thought it was in my head. But, sometime around midnight, I heard a low howl from out beyond the houses. I took it to be the wind, and brushed it off, turning the page of my book. Downstairs, I could hear the dog whimpering. I hollered down and hushed him. It was far too late for him to go out.
It was quiet for a bit, but then, I heard it again. Louder. This time, a chorus of more than one. Coywolves. That, I couldn’t be mistaken. Their howls echoed across the blacktop, through my window, and around my room. And they seemed endless. Haunting, like I remembered them as a child.
Peering out into the dim lit streets, I saw one. Silhouetted in the fog that rolled in from the forest. Standing there, at the edge of the drive into the complex. And then, just as quickly as I spotted it, it was gone. Like an apparition. Lost to the mist.
I heard from my mother they found children’s clothes out in the woods when they were working on lodging. She says the police suspect wild animals, that the kids went off playing in the forest after dark. But, I’m not sure it was the children who stepped outside of their territory.
More trees have been cut down since I last heard from my mother. More houses set to be built. The deer have all left, the last stragglers hunted. And the missing animal reports don’t stop. But, what do you do when your home has been destroyed? You either leave—leave like we all did in adulthood—or stay behind and cling to that nostalgia. Deep under that concrete and blacktop, after all, there is a field. A field that has been there far longer than any of us have.
And in the night, celebrating, there are still voices of the coywolves.
About the Author
Dorian J. Sinnott is a graduate of Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program, currently living in historic Kingston, NY with his two cats. When he’s not writing, he enjoys English horseback riding, playing violin, and traveling to comic cons up and down the east coast. He is the social media editor for Coffin Bell Journal. Dorian’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including: Spill Yr Guts Horror Zine, The Hungry Chimera, and Disturbed Digest.