Monday, October 31, 2011

Lonely No More

He was a lonely boy. If you were to try and pick him out of a group, you’d be wrong. He would be the other one. Over to the side, by himself. The one your eye just passed over.

He had no real friends among his classmates. The other children admired his brother and the teachers were all delighted to have his sister in their class. He however, was rarely noticed at all.

Although he was basically ignored by everyone else, a week never went by without his brother physically torturing him or his sister verbally humiliating him in some manner.

The day he finally decided to leave was after his brother sat on his face and farted on him. His sister responded by laughing and calling him a word he didn’t understand. His complaints to his father were met with a snort and an easygoing chiding of “Sean, you know better than to play so rough with him.” to his brother. His mother, although more sympathetic, explained that the word his sister used referred to an ancient group of cave dwelling people and that both he and his brother were indeed acting as such with all their horseplay.

He could not tell you for sure when he first thought about running away but he had been planning it for some time. In the garage he had hidden an old backpack with supplies, a pair of jeans with a hole in one of the knees (that his mother had told him to throw away), two pairs of socks, a blanket, a flashlight, some beef jerky, a few candy bars and his entire life savings; forty-two dollars and fifteen cents.

The next day his parents had gone out entrusting his brother and sister to watch him. His brother was soon engrossed playing a video game on the Xbox 360 in the living room while his sister was upstairs in her room reading and listening to music on her iPod. This left him totally unsupervised. Giving him the perfect opportunity to slip away unnoticed.

He went to the kitchen, took two bottles of water from the refrigerator then went out to the garage to retrieve his backpack of supplies. Then with one last look at his house he started walking.

Soon he found himself on the outskirts of town heading north on a rural road he believed led to the highway. Once he there he hoped to get a ride from a sympathetic person to a different place where he could start his new life. The sun was high in the sky. He was hungry so he ate one of his candy bars and washed it down with a bottle of water before he realized that he had just drank half his water supply.

He came to an overpass where he could hear running water down below. There was a burbling river that ran beneath it and into the woods. He was thinking to himself that he could replenish his water bottle when another thought came to him. He remembered his sister saying something about “…all rivers flowed into the sea.” He had never been to the sea. He decided to clamber down the embankment and follow the river.

He followed the river deep into the woods enjoying the sound it made and how it splashed over rocks. After some time he came to a fork with a path leading away from the river. It was beginning to get dark so he decided to take the path and find somewhere to rest for the night thinking he could return by the path to the river again tomorrow and continue his trek to the sea.

The path brought him to an open field with what appeared to be an old derelict farm with a small copse of trees to one side. The farm house looked unpleasant and the barn unsafe with its roof mostly caved in. He made his way across a pasture and over a broken down fence towards the trees giving the house a wide berth. It felt like the empty windows of the farmhouse were like eyes, watching his every move.

After rummaging in his backpack for some beef jerky and his blanket using the bag as a pillow he settled down on a bald patch of grass beneath one of the trees. “I wonder if they are looking for me yet.” He imagined his parents yelling at his brother and sister and how worried and sorry they all were now. He thought how there would be police men with dogs all trying to find him. “I’ll make it to the sea and get a job on a fishing boat.” he smiled. “Then one day I’ll be the captain of my own boat!” With these thoughts running through his head he soon fell asleep.

He awoke hours later, bright moonlight lighting up the field and the small group of trees. Languidly stretching he got up to relieve himself. As he was zipping up a voice behind him said “Where did you come from?” He slowly turned around, not scared, not yet, and looked around.

A shadow detached itself from the tree he had slept under and there, he was relieved to see, stood a boy, not unlike him but with blond hair and a crooked smile.

“I’m Isaiah, what are you doing here?”

He paused a moment and then replied “I’m running away from home.”

“Wow!” said Isaiah “You sure are brave!”

The boy grinned, embarrassed at the compliment.

“You want a candy bar?” he asked Isaiah “I still have half of one left or maybe some beef jerky?”

For a brief moment Isaiah looked sad as he shook his head but his smile soon returned as he said “You want to play a game?”

The boy beamed, he was rarely ever included in any games at school and his brother and sister could never be bothered to play with him.

“What would you like to play?”

Isaiah walked up to him tapped him on the shoulder “Tag!” “You’re It!” and then ran laughing across the field. The boy laughed and quickly ran after him.

They played tag through the field, climbed a few trees and were now walking along the river bank skipping rocks and talking. The boy told Isaiah about cartoons and television shows he enjoyed but Isaiah didn’t seem to know much about any of them so he changed the subject.

“Do you live around here?” asked the boy as they walked on.

“Not far.” answered Isaiah.

“You don’t live in that old creepy farm house do you?

“No, nobody lives in there.” Isaiah sighed and said “Actually, I ran away from home too.”

“Cool!” the boy exclaimed. Then, more timidly “Maybe we can run away together.” “I was thinking of following the river to the sea.”

They were back at the copse of trees. It was a beautiful October night, warm as summer and the harvest moon dominated the night sky.

“That sounds like a good idea, going to the sea...” Isaiah hesitated.

“You’ll come with me then?” the boy asked eagerly.

Isaiah turned to the boy and said “If you do something for me then I might.”

“I thought I finally found a friend” said the boy and started skulking away.

Isaiah chased after him “Hey, we are friends...we can be friends...forever...but I’ve got to know I can trust you.” “That I can count on you.”

The boy looked up “You promise?”

Isaiah put his arm around the boy's shoulder “Yeah, I promise.”

This brought a smile to the boy's face “Okay, what do I have to do?”

“You ran away from home so you’re brave but are you as brave as me?” Isaiah turned them both to face the ramshackle farm house and pointed. “I left my haversack in there and I can’t leave without it so I want you to go in there and bring it back to me.”

“I...I...don’t...know...” stammered the boy.

“You’re not scared, are you?” Isaiah asked.

Of course he was scared and of course he said he was not. He didn’t want to lose his only friend.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

The boy took his flashlight from his pack and made his way toward the dilapidated farm house until he stood before the crumbling door hanging open on its hinges. Hesitant to enter, he stood wondering if this was a good idea. He could smell damp and rot and something else underneath.

When a strange shuffling noise came from inside he jumped back and exclaimed “I thought you said it was empty!”

“It isn’t empty.” “I said nobody lives in there.” Isaiah giggled. “Now get in there and bring my bag to me.”

“It must have been just an animal.” the boy muttered to himself.

He then squared his shoulders and entered the farm house.

The darkness inside was oppressive and thick. His flashlight appearing to cut through it like a knife. In the hall he could see entry ways to rooms on either side. He paused thinking to himself that he should have asked where exactly the bag was. If he went back outside to ask now though, empty handed, Isaiah might think he was chickening out and change his mind about coming with him. Worse he didn’t think he’d be able to muster up enough courage to come back inside either. He’d just have to search.

The boy came to a room with a tattered old mattress and moldering furniture. Here he started searching intently thinking that the other boy might have laid down here to rest. Suddenly he hears a loud rustling noise behind him. Startled, he quickly turns around, his flashlight beam bouncing off everything trying to find the source of the sound, only to see a field mouse bursting out from beneath some decomposing trash and scurrying under a broken dresser.

Stifling a scream and breathing deeply to regain his composure he moves back out into the hall saying to himself “See it was only a small mouse...nothing to be scared of...”

Toward the back of the house he finds an open door with some stairs leading down. "I've looked everywhere up's gotta be down there."

He slowly makes his way down the creaking stairs to a dirt floor. It’s hot and there is a horrible smell down here which is almost palpable. It smelled not unlike rotting meat but underneath there was something horrid, fetid and slimy.

In a dark corner he finds it. Isaiah’s...what did he call it...haversack? It was ripped open though and all the contents spilled onto the floor. Some old rotted clothing, putrid tin cans with no labels, a dusty canteen, rusty pocket knife...this doesn’t seem right. He shrugs the idea off and starts to gather the items up and stuff them back into the bag when he hears that strange shuffling noise again.

He isn’t about to be scared by a mouse again though so he finishes stuffing the items into the bag, slips the strap over his shoulder and turns to go back upstairs thinking of he and Isaiah on a boat together on the big blue sea and smiles to himself.

That’s when he notices that the house has gone eerily quiet.

A shiver goes down his spine and his smile fades. He begins to shine his flashlight around when out of the darkness something steps right in front of him...

He moves the beam of light up the dark figure in front of him. He doesn't understand what he is looking at...the smile...there's something wrong with it...there are way too many teeth.

Outside Isaiah listened as the boy’s screams echo across the field, bounce off the trees and then abruptly come to an end.

Isaiah smiled his crooked smile. He knew that later, after the body was buried under one of the trees, maybe even next to his own, the moon would rise tomorrow and then he would be lonely no more.



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