I hear of a rumor that the pine woods at Guilford are haunted. I hear that they’re a portal to another dimension, another world. I post this on my Twitter, and one of my classmates reaches out, tells me that they’ve heard spirits in the woods. Another says they brought a dowsing rod into the woods, spoke to the creatures in another dimension. There are a lot of dead dogs in the woods, they say. The dogs can protect you from the negative spirits. Don’t go to the pine woods alone.

The next day, I go to the pine woods alone, ask my roommate Theo to join me when he gets out of his class.

I find a stick that I can use as a makeshift dowsing rod. I feel silly, but ask, “Is anyone else here?”

I’m not sure how exactly to use a dowsing rod. You’re supposed to use two sticks, and the ghost can move them. However, all I have are twigs, and I hold them out, wait for an answer. The sticks shake a little with my hands, but don’t seem to be nodding or moving on their own. The wind asks me to move them slightly.

I drop the stick. If there’s a ghost, I leave it to them to appear and let me know they want to haunt me.

While I’m waiting for Theo, I look for pinecones. It feels as though it should be easier than it is to find them, but most of them are chipped or broken. I want a complete, full, whole pinecone. Instead, I find twigs and needles, twigs and needles.

I dig through the needles, see how deep they go. It turns into dirt about two inches down. My hands smell like pine, and I put my hands below the needles. I worry a spider or beetle will crawl out, climb up my arms, think I’m a tree to make a web on.

I’m still sitting on the ground when I hear Theo’s voice.

“See any ghosts yet?”

“I think they’re waiting for you.” I brush the pine needles back over the small indent where I’d placed my hand. My nails have dirt underneath their beds, and I rub my palms together, heating the dirt into the creases on my hands.

Theo and I lay on the pine needles, looking to the sky. I listen for sounds, but the only clear ones I hear are my own small movements on the needles. A warbler sings its song up above, dissolving in the wind. I hear my own breathing. Theo clears his throat. I close my eyes, try to feel the land.

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