“Nah, I’m alright,” Benny Jorgens said to the kid beside him, who was now reaching out to him with a burning joint in his hand. The room they were in was little more than a shed, and every inch of it was nearly concealed by a dense fog that continued to grow thicker with every second.
The kid with the joint raised his eyebrows, as if to say Are you crazy man? After a few seconds, he blew the hit he had just taken off the joint directly into Benny’s face and then shrugged. “Your loss, man,” he said through a fit of coughing. “This is the best shit you’ll find in these parts. My friend grew it right up there.” He pointed diagonally upward and to the left, and even though there was no window, the boys knew that in that direction was Bonhelm Hill, the tree covered mound that rose steeply in the middle of town. “Everyone in town thinks its haunted, so it was the perfect place for a garden.”
The boy had introduced himself to Benny once before, but he’d forgotten it almost instantly… Benny just simply didn’t care for stoners very much.
There was another kid in the room with them, and he was the one who Benny had come with. His name was Jerry Carson, and he was the only stoner that had ever become friends with Benny. This was partly due to the fact that they knew each other for two years before Jerry started smoking. Even after Benny found out, they were still best friends. Actually, Benny thought Jerry was pretty funny when he was stoned, because he talked about the most incredibly stupid stuff ever.
But with every passing day, the call of the “Pot-Almighty” grew louder, and he often found himself staring at his friends’ pipes and craving that alien feeling that his friends praised so highly. The smoke always seemed to hang the thickest around Benny, and after awhile, he began to just sit back and breathe it all in. That’s what he did to the smoke No-Name-Stoner had just blown in his direction.
“When are you going to quit torturing yourself, Benny?” Jerry asked after exhaling one of the biggest clouds of smoke Benny had ever seen come from a human being. “Think about it. You’re always complaining about your back hurting, right? Well, take a puff or two and you’ll see how well it works.” He reached out to him in offering as the other kid had done.
Take it, Ben, the voice in his head goaded. Don’t worry about anything, man. Just one hit is all it’ll take for such a light-weight as yourself to be dried, fried, and stupefied in no time. Come ooooooonnn… Pleeeeeeaassse Benny. It does a body gooooooo--
“You know I don’t do that stuff, Jerry,” Benny forced himself to say. Oh how he wanted to puff on that joint, which, he informed himself, smelled pretty darned good.
“More for us, right Dick?” Jerry said, passing the joint to No-Name.
“That’s right,” the kid said, “And I told you to stop calling me that, asshole. My name is Richard.”
“But its so dorky,” Jerry responded through a fit of laughter. He took on a pretty decently executed English accent and said, “’Ello, ladies and Gents, my name is Richard. I’ll be escorting you—“
“Shut up, man, you’re annoying me,” Richard said, playfully socking Jerry on the arm. He raised the joint to his mouth, and it seemed to Benny that time slowed down as he watched with longing as the cherry glowed. He could feel the heavy beat of his heart in his chest and he could hear it well in his head. Ba bump… ba bump… Take it!… Ba bump…Smoke up! … Richard started to hand the joint to Benny, realized his mistake, and went to hand it to Jerry. Before he could move his hand more than an inch, Benny darted out and plucked the joint from his hand with an almost ninja-like grace and speed.
He brought the joint to his mouth and instantly the smoke drifting up from it got in his eyes and made them water. He pulled in hard on the joint, wanting to get a good first hit so that he didn’t have to smoke any more than that. At first, there wasn’t any pain or discomfort in his lungs, and he thought to himself, This isn’t so bad.
Jerry had been sitting in dumb fascination, watching his best friend toke out for the first time., but then he seemed to come to and said, “Alright! That’s what I mean, bro! Come to the dark side! Yah-ha!” he gave Richard a high five and then laughed. “Now inhale, man.”
And immediately regretted it.
The moment he took in air, all the pain he had been expecting came flooding into him like a tidal wave, and he began coughing worse than he had ever coughed before (except for when he was eleven, when he had gotten a bad case of some virus the doctors couldn’t identify.) The plume of smoke that came out of his mouth matched the one from Jerry, was maybe even bigger, but Benny was not in the least way proud of it. Every breath he took in seemed painful, like oxygen itself was burning his lungs, and with every breath the coughing became worse. Finally, a large wad of phlegm dislodged itself from his chest. He went to the door and spat. He stood in the doorway breathing in the sweet autumn air. The coughing had passed and he was left merely gasping.
“Come on, man, you’re lettin’ all the smoke out the damn door,” Richard said in a whiny voice that reminded Benny of the small kids he had recently started to baby sit. “We’re trying to hot-box this shit, man, and you’re ruining it.”
Benny closed the door and flopped down on the small sofa as before. He pulled in one final breath and then sat there, staring at the wall. Jerry looked at him and said, enthusiastically, “I’m glad that’s over with. I thought I’d never bring you into the light.”
“But you just told him to come to the dark side, man,” Richard said in that too-stoned, I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on sort of voice.
“Uh….” Jerry began. “Oh yeah.” The two of them chuckled at the stupidity of their little interlude. “Hey man, I’m gonna cash this out. You wanna another try before I do?” He held it out to Richard, who shook his head, and then glanced at Benny. Benny was still getting over the last cough, and wasn’t anywhere near wanting another one. “Alrightee then,” Jerry said. “Goodbye, Mr. Roacho, you’ve been splendid.”
Even Benny kind of found Jerry’s stoned antics a little funny. His eyes had begun to feel heavy, and his muscles had this strange feeling. Well…sort of… This was feeling and not feeling them at the same time… The more he tried to describe it to himself, the harder it became to describe.
“He’s baked, man,” Jerry said to Richard. Benny looked up and laughed. Time just seemed slower and his aches were gone…actually, it was more like they were hidden from his mind. What Jerry said was absolutely correct… Benny was baked.
“I told you this was good stuff, man,” Richard said, matter-of-factly. “Grown right out in the open. I was totally surprised that no one found them, considering how obvious they were. Hell, I think if you had taken a pair of binoculars and looked up at the little clearing at the top o’ the hill, you know, the one that looks like a monk’s bald spot, you probably could’ve seen ‘em, plain as day.”
Benny tried to focus on what Richard the No-Name-Stoner was saying, but his mind kept invariably wandering off. He was definitely baked by all implied stoner meaning of the word, and he was quickly coming to realize just what the effects of this fun drug were… A feeling inside that would make you say, “Everything’s alright,” even if you were in the middle of a war; only being able to focus well on one thing at a time (but focusing on those things with a much greater level of intensity than Benny had ever before experienced.) He believed that it was the first time he had truly relaxed in years. He had been in a car accident a few years before, and his back had given him trouble ever since. But now it was like a mild discomfort rather than an aching pain. Yes sir, Benny was enjoying his first buzz alright.
He was enjoying it a lot.
“Hey, Richard,” he said in a voice that sounded like someone else entirely to Benny himself, “you got anymore of that stuff?”
Richard replied with a very wide, very toothy grin.
Five minutes later, Benny left the little shed that Richard used as his “hang-out” room, closely followed by a thick cloud of smoke. Someone seeing this might have been reminded of one of those cartoons in which the sky was clear except for one cloud that only followed one unlucky person. But luckily enough, the old dirt road was completely deserted, except for Benny. He quickly closed the door to the shed, preserving the smoke that Richard had been so fond of.
Everything around him seemed kind of dull and plain, like the vibrancy of all the light was gone. But in a way it was almost pleasant to see a less…bright outside. He turned right and began walking towards town.
In the short amount of time it took him to reach Geoff’s Market (which marked the beginning of the small rural town of Minde,) Benny managed to come to one conclusion: walking sucked. Especially when one was stoned. He walked into Geoff’s, all too aware of how red his eyes probably were. He didn’t bother to greet ole Geoff himself, as he had everyday for the past four or five years. Instead, he went straight to the soda fountain and got himself a drink. Benny was so high that he didn’t even look at what type of soda he was getting.
Then came the moment of truth. He had to face ole man Geoff Wisenhower, the owner, in order to pay for the drink, and it was common knowledge that Geoff liked to gossip to anyone who’d listen, including Benny’s mother, who would always listen. Oh well. Too late now. I shouldn’t have come in here, he thought with despair. This was the first time since he’d taken his first hit that Benny actually didn’t enjoy his buzz. He wished he could cast it aside for a few minutes while he paid for the soda, and then slip back into it. But of course that was not possible.
There were sunglasses for sale in between the soda fountain and the counter, and Benny stopped to linger there a moment. He pretended to try on glasses, when really he just wanted to look at himself in the mirror. To see how obvious it is, he thought. And boy-o-boy were his eyes red. His eyes hadn’t been that blood-shot since the last time he sat by a campfire (for the smoke seemed to follow him no matter where he went.)
Benny groaned low in his throat. There was absolutely no way he could fool old Wisenhower into believing that he was sober. He gulped and walked on, feeling like a man on death row walking toward the bed where they would lie him down and inject him with a sweet dose of destiny. He came around the corner of the sunglass display and faced Geoff.
All at once the heaviness in his head lifted and his eyes gained a drier, less full feeling to them. His normal train of thought returned, and he was startled by how quickly it came. The term “smacked-me-in-the-face” came to his head. “Good afternoon, Mr. Wisenhower,” Benny said cheerfully. Even though his buzz seemed to have miraculously disappeared, he still found as many ways as possible to avoid eye contact. Better safe than sorry.
“Is something wrong today, Benny?” Geoff asked after ringing up the soda.
Benny forced himself to look Geoff in the eye and say, “No, sir, I’m just not feeling all that well today is all. It started after lunch so I think it might’ve been something I ate at school. I just want to go home and take a nap.” Or another fat hit of that weed, he thought to himself.
“You better do that, son,” Geoff said. “You look pert’ near dead tired right now.”
I bet I do, Benny thought sarcastically. “Well, how much do I owe you?” he asked.
“You know what?” Geoff said. He punched a few buttons and the price on the little digital screen above the register disappeared. “Free of charge, my friend. You’ve bought enough of them, Lord knows, and this one dollar out of my till won’t matter all that much.”
“Thanks a lot Mr. Wisenhower!” Benny said. He turned and began walking toward the door.
“Call me Geoff,” the old man said. “And tell your ma’ I said hello.”
“Yes, sir. I will! See ya later.”
There was a mirror hanging on the door (for what purpose, Benny knew not,) and he glanced in it briefly as he went out the door.
His eyes were completely white.
As he walked down Griffin street toward town, the disappearing buzz made a dazzling reappearance, and he couldn’t help but speculate in mild amazement about how he had managed to “sober up” just long enough to pay for his drink. It was a trivial thing to dwell on, and he knew it, but as far as he could tell, your everyday garden variety stoner couldn’t just put aside his/her high whenever they wanted to. The fact that he just had done it made the concept all the more amazing.
He thought about how Jerry always seemed really paranoid in public while he was baked. It was like he thought everyone who looked at him would know he was high (which was probably true, but if he had just acted normal, most people would have just taken it as allergies or crying.) Benny knew for a fact that “disappearing buzzes” weren’t normal, because if they were, Jerry would’ve used the skill quite often instead of wasting so much time being too paranoid to face people.
Oh well, he thought. Probably just some fluke of nature. Some chemical neurosis gobbldegoop…that sorta stuff… I bet it’ll never happen again. Shit!! What am I going to say to Mom? ‘Hey mom, I know your favorite color is red, so I decided to poke myself in the eyes so they’d be just right! Crap, crap, CRAP!!!
He kicked a rock off the road into the ditch. As the dirt road abruptly became pavement, it occurred to Benny the he could go to the park over on Bonhelm Street, hang out until his buzz (which was still as fresh as ever) wore off, and then walk home. That was about all he could do, actually. And besides, he reminded himself, he could always go up on Bonhelm Hill while he was there and look for some leftovers from whatever that kid had grown up there—“the best shit you can find around these parts!” Richard had said.
As Benny came around the corner of Griffin and Crow, Bonhelm Hill came into clear view. The town of Minde was set up in a strange fashion, or at least the land the town was situated on was strange. A ring of hills made up the border of the town, and all the houses were built on the inside downward slope of the hills. In the next area, the flat middle ground, there was the business district, running all around Bonhelm Hill, which loomed directly at the center of town like a big bull’s eye. The hill itself was completely covered in trees, except at the very top where it was bald. The lower trees on the hill were gnarled and dead whereas the higher ones were alive and vibrant. It had been this way since even the oldest residents of Minde could remember, and no one had ever dared to venture forth with an opinion as to the cause of this phenomena. As far as Benny knew, it usually happened the other way around, with the higher trees losing their vitality as opposed to the lower ones.
But that was how basically everything in Minde was… Backwards. Strange. Not normal. Unlike other places. Even the delivery people who delivered to the three local grocery stores constantly had a look on their faces that clearly said Get me the hell out of here.
That was just the way it had always been. And always would be.
Benny thought about a lot of stuff as he walked down Crow St. towards Bonhelm Hill. But mostly he thought of Laura LeVille. She was a girl who was always in his thoughts but who never existed to anyone but him. It was kind of sad, really… Benny’s imaginary friend as a child, but who seemed flesh and bone to him, was exactly like him in every way, except the difference of sex of course. Benny never made friends because he didn’t need them. He had Laura. He could talk to her all he wanted, even during class, and no one would know. They never fought and she was his best friend… his only friend.
Here’s the sad part: Benny fell in love with the person he had created for himself. But by the time he was ten, he heard from her less and less, until eventually one day she was gone. Sometimes he’d fight with himself about whether or not she had ever actually existed, but the fact remained the same: she was gone.
But when he was thirteen, he had found a way to contact Laura all over again. A way that seemed fresh and exciting. And it was so simple. If he went to the park on the east side of Bonhelm hill and just sat there, listening to the birds and feeling the breeze, he’d slowly begin to hear whispering. Then she’d be there, talking to him and gossiping like she had never left. Whenever he would try to ask why she had left, she’d say “I’m not the one who left.” Then she’d go on about something else like he’d never asked. Benny would stay there, sitting on the bench with the poetry FUK U carved in big letters across the seat, talking silently to Laura for hours.
That was one of the reasons he wanted to go down o the park. He was curious about Laura’s opinion on his latest decision.
But there was a reason for him to go to the Bonhelm Area that didn’t involve fake girlfriends or a new-found addiction. Something about that park called to him. The feeling was just like the one he had gotten while watching all of his friends passing a pipe full of green. He couldn’t go by there without at least standing there facing the park, and beyond that the hill. In those moments, he believed he saw why all the houses in Minde had been built facing Bonhelm Hill.
All the kids thought the hill was haunted for a couple of reasons. The first was the ring of dead trees that surrounded the hill. When you walked through that thirty foot strip of dead trees (most of them willows,) everything would just seem so gray. Most kids walking through there would get the feeling like someone was sneaking up on them, and since they had all grown up being told the hill was haunted and evil, and that they should never visit it, their minds played tricks on them to make their fears at least seem justifiable.
The second reason was that a man was spotted quite frequently, just standing at the top of the hill. No one ever saw him go up there, and no one ever saw him come down, but at least half of the folks of Minde, adults and children alike, had spotted the Man. The Man became a symbol to all generations that passed through Minde-for he had
been spotted ever since the town was first founded- which represented the fact that not all things in life can be properly explained.
Benny understood perfectly well why Richard’s friend had chosen Bonhelm Hill to plant his garden: it was protected by Minde’s fanatical superstition. No one would go up there and pot would blend in pretty well when being looked at with binoculars. Apparently Richard’s friend just assumed the man was either a myth, or not a stoner-type.
Benny had been walking with his head down, and when he looked up, he was already at Bonhelm Park. The gate was partially closed, and with the next gust of wind, it creaked open in an eerie, scary story like fashion. Ben chuckled and went through. Yep, just as welcoming as ever.
All the trees throughout the park were lush, green oaks that grew so close together that only a few places in the park were ever touched by direct sunlight. Benny supposed that anyone flying over Minde would see what undoubtedly looked like a target, with the Bald Spot on top of Bonhelm Hill as the bull's eye. He walked along the path for a while, enjoying the light breeze thrown by the ever thickening clouds in the sky. Finally he came to the bench with FUK U carved neatly into the seat. For a moment he just stood there staring at the bench, thinking. One moment he was thinking about Laura, and then, with a speed that startled the hell out of Benny, there was a flash and a feeling someone was pulling on an invisible hook lodged in the back of his head.
The park seemed to melt away rapidly, leaving behind a black so dark that it hurt his eyes. He tried to shut them to block out this horrible Blackness, but his whole body was paralyzed. When all the color was gone and there was only darkness, flecks of red started appearing all around him, growing and swelling, merging together until he started to see an image. At first it was blurry, and as soon as it had cleared, Benny wished it had remained blurry.
What he saw was a bird’s eye view of a destroyed Minde. Sort of. This version of his home was kind of opposite the other. Instead of a ring of hills, the town was surrounded by a monstrous crack in the earth. The residential area was in the middle, like an island in the middle of a round chasm, and where Bonhelm Hill had been there was now nothing but a crater roughly as deep as the hill had been tall. Flames engulfed the town and smoke filled the horizon.
All at once he was hurled downward, toward the burning mirror-image of Minde. As he glided through the streets at a sickening speed, he saw madness. Lots of it. With every turn he saw murder, rape, plunder. Grown men molesting young children; mothers killing their children and laughing maniacally as they did so; people jumping out of buildings, engulfed in flames.
And the screaming.
So much screaming…
A split second later he was back above the ruins, looking down on mayhem itself. He looked at the crater in the center, and directly at the bottom of it stood the Man, clad in black as usual. Benny was forced by his dream to speed toward the ground, and the Man, faster than Benny had ever gone. When he stopped, he was about ten feet above the man. As Benny watched, the dark Man raised an arm and pointed at him. “I see you,” he said in a sing-song voice. It was the voice of a little girl, and it chilled Benny to the core
to hear such a voice coming from this terrible man. He tried to scream, but found his voice was just as useless as his eyelids. He felt sick. The ruined world melted away, leaving that painfully dark blackness, which ripped in two like a sheet of paper.
Benny felt his knees hit the ground and he doubled over, grabbing the bench for support. He couldn’t stop the vomit in time. It came out in one single jet, a little getting on the bench, but not much. He stayed in that position, gasping for air and clutching his chest, for a good thirty seconds. He looked around at the park and said, “What the hell?”
Then Benny fainted.
Judging by the light when he woke up, Benny guessed that he had been out for at least three hours. He was on his back when he opened his eyes, and even though the sky was nearing twilight, it still made his head flare like something was trying to break through his skull.
That’s strange, he thought. I fell asleep in the park. All the trees form a canopy there, and I shouldn’t be getting blinded right now.
He slowly opened his eyes again. It didn’t hurt as much this time, and he sat up to examine his surroundings. “What the hell?” he said again. It was the last thing he said before passing out in the park, and the first thing he said upon waking up on top of Bonhelm Hill.
Benny had never actually been on top of the hill, and the view on all sides was incredible. He looked at the houses-
-of Minde as the day winded down. The sky was purple and red. Something about that sky brought back his memory of the vision. He remembered the mother laughing as she broke the neck of her baby. He could vividly remember her toothless mouth and the one single golden tooth. Her gums had been purple, almost black. Benny shuddered at the image.
And the Man… He had pointed and said-
“I see you,” came the voice of a small child. Benny was on his feet in less than a second, doing an about face to see who had snuck up on him. It was a man slightly taller than Benny, with a chiseled, ashy-pale face. His hair was shoulder length and jet black. Yet when he moved, little streaks of silver could be seen. It was almost entrancing. The first thing Benny had noticed was that the man in the black suit had his eyes closed. He was walking up the side of the hill toward Benny, and he seemed pretty sure of his course, but he never once opened his eyes to see where he was going. He spread his arms out to his side and said, “Do you fear me? Have I threatened you in any way?”
“No,” Benny said, trying to sound as calm as possible but failing miserably. After a pause, he said, “Why do you keep your eyes closed?”
The man laughed and stated coolly, “Because if you looked into my eyes, Benny-boy, you’d be under my control.”
Now it was Benny’s time to chuckle. “I don’t know how you know my name, but that isn’t going to freak me out enough to make me believe that you could control me with your eyes. Freak.”
“Would you like to see them?”
The man came and sat by Benny. He brushed his hair back and turned his face toward Benny. He opened his eyes to reveal white eyes with little red streaks for the irises. The pupils were just small pin pricks of black in the centers. The first thing Benny thought was How amazing.
“My name is Natas,” the Man said, “and you are under my control.”
Jerry and Richard had both began laughing as Benny left the shed. Well, fell out of the shed. That boy was so high that he couldn’t even walk straight. “So what’s the deal with that kid?” Richard said. “That was some cool shit when he grabbed that doobie, though. One second I’m reaching out to you, and then WA-CHOW! out darts his hand to pluck it from me in less than a split second. I didn’t even see him move, man! That’s cool and creepy at the same time, ya know? I wouldn’t want to scrap with him, that’s for damn sure.”
“He’s fast, that’s true, but he isn’t that strong,” Jerry said. “We’ve fought once or twice, but I don’t think either of us were really using all we had. Even though we were pissed at each other, we were still friends.”
“Hey man,” Richard said slyly. “You want to break out some real stuff?”
“Uh-oh, Richard’s got a secret!” Jerry said and laughed. “Whatcha got, man?”
“Heroin, dude,” Richard said. “Lets get fuckered up.”
About seven minutes later, a terrified scream came from within the shed, but there was no one on the road to hear it. The door slammed open and Richard rushed out, tears flowing down his cheeks and a green piece of rubber still tied tightly around his arm. He tripped on the door-jam and fell in the dirt. He scrambled backwards, crab-walk fashion, wanting only to put more distance between himself and the shed. He quickly regained his feet and began running as fast as he could toward Minde.
The whole time he was running, and even when he stumbled into Geoff’s, he kept repeating one sentence in a high, hysterical voice: “It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t-“
The Minde district police got two notable calls within the week after Benny sat with Jerry and Richard, taking his first couple of hits of marijuana. The first was made by Geoff Wisenhower, calling to report that “The little druggy bastard from up the road” had stumbled into his store, ranting and raving. Geoff said he thought the kid was probably hopped up on some type of drug, but he couldn’t tell which one due to the boy’s hysteria.
Barry Newstead was the one who took the call, and he wrote it down without even becoming the slightest bet interested. To him it seemed typical; junky disturbing the peace. Whoop de doo. Happened almost every day, because if there was anything Minde wasn’t short of, it was junkies and potheads. He jotted it down on the little pad before him, trying to write and eat at the same time. A little drop of jelly fell from his doughnut and splashed on the note. After hanging up the phone, he scooped it up off the slip of paper with his index finger and stuck it in his mouth. “Hey, Johnny,” Barry called across the little room that made up the station for the police. There were about six desks crammed in there, and at all of them sat a hard working secretary, taking calls and sending the message along to Johnny Harrison, the sheriff. “We got another peace disturber at Geoff’s.”
“Tweaker?” Johnny asked.
“Probably,” Barry said through a mouth full of doughnut as he began to cross the room. “He said the kid was ranting and raving, saying things like ‘it wasn’t my fault.’ Said the kid acted like he was hopped up.”
“What caused him to make the call?”
“Apparently the kid collapsed on the floor in a fetal position, and every time someone tried to help him up, he’d yell at them and tell them to go away because it ‘wasn’t his fault.’ You want me to send someone out there?”
“No,” Johnny said. “I’ll go check it out. I need to get out on patrol anyways. When Carson comes in, let him know where I went and tell him I’m gonna have his ass on my wall if he’s late for work one more time… And for Chris’ sake, stop eatin’ those damn doughnuts around my phones!”
“Yes, sir,” Barry said, once again with a full mouth. He threw the jelly filled- half eaten- in the wastebasket, wiped his hands on his jeans, and smiled.
“You make me sick, Newstead,” Johnny said, and then walked out of the room. In the lobby, he grabbed his coat and checked his pockets to make sure he had the keys to his patrol car. Yep, right where they always were. He stood before the glass doors at the front of the building, looking out at his little town. Carson and he were supposed to take the night patrol, so he had just showed up to work, but judging by how crappy his day had gone at home, he guessed the night was going to be long. Very long indeed.
He couldn’t have been farther from the truth. For Johnny, the night was going to be rather short.
Geoff Wisenhower went to the back of his little mini-mart, and Richard took the opportunity to slip out. Now that he had calmed down a little, he came to realize that he couldn’t let anybody know what had happened to Jerry. If he just covered the whole
thing up for a while, sooner or later people would start to think that Jerry had wandered off into the woods while messed up on some drug or another… Yes… that would have to do for the time being.
It was dark outside and a couple of stars had already appeared in the sky. Richard didn’t need light to get back to the shed. He had lived in Minde his entire life, and the shed was a place he had discovered when he was a child. He knew that in order for his plan to work, he had to move Jerry’s body out into the trees off the road somewhere. Then if they sent a search party, they’d only find a kid. The autopsy would show that the kid had died of an overdose of heroin. The story of Jerry wandering off while high would make sense…
What Richard didn’t know was that the police were already en route.
By the time Johnny Harrison showed up at the little mini-mart on the edge of town, ol’ Geoff was standing out in front with his hands on his hips, a posture which clearly said, Where the hell have you been?! Johnny pulled right up next to the door and got out. He parked close just in case there was a struggle.
“What’s goin’ on, Geoff?” Johnny asked. “I got a call to come out here. Somethin’ about a tweaker?”
“Little bastard ran off while I was talking to ya’ on the tellee,” he said. “I just managed to catch a glimpse of ‘im as he went around that bank over there.” He pointed down the road toward the shed.
“Alright,” Johnny said. “I’ll go see if I can find him, see whats going on. I’ll stop back in on my way out.”
Johnny got into the care. He didn’t bother calling the station to tell them where he was going. He figured it’d be a routine check-out. Find the kid, identify him, get him home, no harm done. As he circled around Geoff’s, he thought about how he would buy roses for his wife. He hadn’t been a very good husband lately, and he needed to get back into the habit soon.
Already the night seemed tedious, but the end was in sight.
When the headlights of the sheriff’s car came around the corner to where the shed was, Richard had managed to get Jerry half way out the door. Jerry had vomited all over himself, and Richard believed he had drowned in his own spew. As the headlights fell upon Richard, he dropped the body and began a full out sprint into the forest.
Harrison got out of his car and began running after the kid, pulling out his flashlight as he ran. “Hey, kid! I’m from the Police Department! Stop so I can talk to you!”
He could just barely see the kid ahead of him, darting in and out of the trees. Then all of a sudden Harrison felt more alone than previously. He stopped running and
listened… Nothing. No breaking twigs, no panting or rustling sounds. Johnny stood there, hands on his knees, breathing hard for a few minutes. He knew he’d probably have to go back and report the incident.
“I see you, Johnny.” It was the voice of his mother, the way she had sounded right before she died. Johnny turned around and there stood a man like no other. Such dark hair. When he spoke next it was the smooth, melodic voice of a confident young adult. “I have been waiting for you, big boy.”
“Who are you?”
“Someone you’ve known for a long time,” the man replied.
“I’ve never met you before in my life.”
“As far as you know.”
“Open your eyes when you’re talking to an elder and a law enforcement officer, boy. Not making eye contact is disrespectful.”
“Do you want me to open my eyes?”
“Yes, thank you.”
The young man with the splendid dark hair obeyed.