My younger brother, my younger sister, and I walked about a quarter mile up the road from our house, which was an old shoe factory still standing from the 1800’s. We clutched large brown paper bags in our small hands and jumped over a ditch into the waiting treeline, where we pulled apples from the trees, talked and explored.

After a long while, we came out and began our trek back to the house, just as we always had.

I knew something was wrong almost immediately. My siblings were talking to each other, or to me…I can’t remember. What I did remember was the feeling I had in my gut. It was the sort of feeling you get when you know you’ve just made a bad decision and you’re about to have to live with the consequences unless you do something about it. It was the sort of feeling when you get hit on the head with something and you can taste copper, like a mouthful of pennies, and the air seems to suck from your lungs causing your body to go all pins and needles.

I looked to my left, stopping in my tracks. I gazed down the road toward my house. It was broad daylight and I shouldn’t have been scared, but I was. I was the most scared I had been in my entire life up until then. My fear was focused on the road, on something unseen but felt, hurtling toward us children with purpose and malicious intent.

“Get down, now!” I said it, voice trembling, before I had even realized I was speaking. My heart was hammering in my chest. My brother and sister dropped into the roadside ditch and I lowered myself to do the same, catching the front of what looked like a black Lincoln towncar curling around the corner.

I was shaking. My siblings looked worried. They heard the fear in my voice but none of us knew why. I felt like it had to do with the car.

“Don’t move. Don’t talk. Stay still.” They listened and I did the same thing.

I was hoping that dark Lincoln would just keep rolling by. It didn’t. It stopped, right in front of us three children. It was quiet for a car, I remember that. I lifted my eyes from the grass and risked a look at what I could view of the car – it was sleek and shiny. The passenger door and the driver door both opened simultaneously.

A man stepped out of each door respectively. At the moment, I could see dress pants and dress shoes, black, as the man in the passenger seat dropped his legs out onto the pavement and stood, closing the door behind him. I could only see up to his waist. It looked like he was also wearing a dress shirt and coat, also black. He walked like a clockwork man, coming to stand in front of us. The driver, dressed identical to the passenger, came to stand next to the other man.

The chilling part of all of this is that they said nothing. They could clearly see us. I could see them, though I still didn’t dare to look at their faces. They didn’t ask us if we were okay. They didn’t yell at us for being on private property. They didn’t try to lure us to their vehicle.

They just stood there, quiet. Unmoving. Terrifying. Feet perfectly straight together and next to one another, perfectly parallel to the pavement end.

After what seemed like forever, the men slowly turned, walked back to their car and opened their doors at the same time, getting in. The car rolled on and we ran back home to tell our mother.

Years later, I brought this story up, to see if my siblings remembered it. They did, every detail.

Who were these strange men? I will never know, but what I did know is that they were not normal and the experience still haunts me. Be careful when taking apples from secret trees.