By Monica Marier
I’m in a Hallowe’en-y mood today. Enjoy!
“…Kyle looked down at Tommy, and realized that he was dead. What he thought were the sounds of muffled speaking were actually a nest of rats that had carved a hole in his rotten stomach.”
“STOP!” shouted Isaac jumping to his feet, covering his ears.
“Aw jeez,” moaned Phillip through his pillow. “I told you Isaac would freak.”
“Scaredy-cat!” called Lewis and Phillip joined in. “Scaredy-cat! Scaredy-cat!”
Alex stopped the story immediately, a fleeting expression of guilt crossing his handsome face. “Calm down, Isaac. It’s just a story. It’s not real.”
“No! I told you I didn’t want to do ghost stories! I told you!” moaned Isaac, running out of the bunkhouse.
He desperately tried to conceal the tears streaming from his eyes down his pointed features. His spidery limbs shivered in the chilly Fall night as he left bunk 2 for the seclusion of the pine thicket. Isaac didn’t much like it out here either. The wind howled mournfully through the trees as slivers of moonlight broke through the swirling tendrils of black cloud. Other than that, there was no noise out here. No humming of machines, no ticking clocks or the whir of the furnace. It was eerie and dark and very lonely out here.
The one comfort was that no one would see him cry.
Isaac cursed his own cowardice as he sobbed, his slippers padding silently on spiny pine needles. He was ten years old for Pete’s sake! He was too big to go screaming like a girl and crying every time his friends told a creepy story! But he couldn’t help it. They didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that while Alex was describing the rat-infested corpse of Dead Tommy, Isaac could experience everything.
He could smell the rotting flesh, hear the nightmarish squeaking. He could see Tommy’s eyes, milky white, staring unseeing at the ceiling while his friend screamed in unhinged terror. He heard the scream tear the very air as the rats dove for Kyle’s face, clawing at his eyes—!
Isaac had to stop himself in mid-thought as another sob broke free of his tight chest. He was scared —so scared that it hurt. Why did everything have to feel so real? He knew it was a story, yet he knew he wouldn't get a wink of sleep that night. He would be seeing Dead Tommy in his dreams all night.
Isaac squealed as he heard footsteps and whirled around.
“It’s just me,” said Alex.
Isaac relaxed. It was okay to cry around Alex.
“Are you okay?”
“No,” said Isaac petulantly.
“Look I’m really sorry. But you said you’d be okay.”
“No, you said I’d be okay. I said you were full of it,” said Isaac looking upon Alex with an expression of hurt betrayal.
“I keep forgetting you’re such a…”
“Sissy?” prompted Isaac with venom.
“That you’re really imaginative,” said Alex, ever the diplomat.
“I hate it,” muttered Isaac.
“But you’re really good at coming up with your own stories! You know your sketchbook that’s full of dwarves and orcs and manticores and stuff.”
“Yeah, but I only like nice stories, where nothing bad happens. Nothing scary anyway. Bad things… hurt me.”
“Yeah I know.”
“I wish I could be brave like you,” said Isaac. Alex often bragged that he’d seen Friday 13th and Nightmare on Elmstreet without being scared. "I'd rather be brave than creative."
“I wish I could come up with stuff like you,” said Alex with a grin. “Come back inside. It’s freezing out here, and if Phillip’s dad catches us out here we’ll be in trouble.”
“Are the others going to call me scaredy-cat again?” mumbled Isaac.
“I won’t let them,” said Alex staunchly.
Isaac stood up with a sigh. “I really hate camping.”
20 years later…
Gilda closed the word document shuddered. She’d been biting her knuckles for the last few pages, her legs curling up on the sofa as she read the last chapter. She forgot that she was supposed to be editing and would have to re-read the last chapter again. She’d gotten too into the story.
Pushing the laptop to one side she glanced up at her husband in both admiration and shock.
“Good grief, babe! I don’t know how you manage to take the English language and write something so terrifying! Woof!” she said.
He just laughed good-naturedly at Gilda as he pulled the nachos out of the oven and stirred the chili. “Sorry. Too graphic?”
“No, it’s good. I think you have another best-seller, it’s just…” Gilda left off and shivered. “Your readers better be made of strong stuff, that’s all I’ll say. Enlighten me, honey. Were you always this ghoulish? Were you one of those kids who ate R.L. Stein books for breakfast every morning and pretended to be Freddy Krueger?”
Isaac smiled at his wife as she looked up at him wide-eyed. “Believe it or not, I was actually quite the scaredy-cat as a kid,” he said.
(Based on a true story.)