Posts Tagged ‘Blood’

Midnight Snack (Short Story Excerpt)

January 16, 2017

author-3

1.

February 4th, 2017.

Stark City, Oregon.

6:59 p.m.

Gabriel Lester craved blood. Lots of it. Fresh and hot; straight from the jugular of his prey. He hadn’t tasted the rich, red delicacy in what felt like forever, and being a creature of the night, he needed it.

Like humans need air.

So, stomach churning, Gabe looked up at his two unsuspecting victims, and grinned—baring his long, white fangs.

Now, they’ll know true fear!

For a moment, no one moved. The man and woman across the table looked at Gabe with what seemed like fear welling up in their eyes. Fear of what he intended to do. Still smiling, Gabe curled his hands in imitation of Count Orlok in Nosferatu, then the man let out a disgusted groan.

A groan which jolted the eleven-year-old boy back to reality.

Instead of a dark, dreary castle in the Romanian wilderness, Gabe sat in a bright, cheery dining room. His family lived in a small, two-bedroom house in the Dibert District. He liked it there, but his stepfather, Ronald Keene, didn’t.

Ronnie didn’t like much of anything.

“Take those out, Gabe! Don’t bring that crap to the dinner table!”

Gabe’s grin faded.

Aw, man…

“Where did you get those, Angel?” Gabe’s mother, Marcy, asked, glancing at Ronnie.

“From Dad.” Gabe took the plastic vampire teeth from his mouth and stuffed them in his pocket. “He got them out of a gumball machine, said they were magic. Pretty cool, huh?”

Ronnie, a big man with a fat belly, meaty arms, and a flat-top hairdo, chortled and reached for his beer. His third can of the night, and nowhere near his last.

“Well, Ronnie’s right. You shouldn’t wear those at the table.”

Gabe nodded. “Sorry, Mom.”

Ronnie belched—“Bruuup!”—and shook his head. “Marcy, why do you keep calling him ‘Angel?’ He’s almost a teenager…”

Marcy turned to Gabe with a maternal pout. “Because he’s my little angel.”

“Great.” Ronnie sighed, took another drink.

Ugh! I miss Dad already.

Deflated, Gabe stared at his plate. Steak; so well done it looked like burnt leather. Mashed potatoes; good, but tainted with garlic. And his least favorite vegetable of all: Brussels sprouts; chewy and bitter. A worse dinner he couldn’t imagine; all of it dictated by his stepfather’s brutish tastes.

Poor Gabe. The combined aromas alone killed his appetite, but he had no choice. He had to eat it.

Every last bite.

“Hey!” Ron barked. “Don’t let your meat loaf!”

Gabe looked up, resentful of Ronnie’s tone. He didn’t find the joke funny, but knew what it meant. “Yes, Ronnie,” he droned, picking up his fork and knife.

“How were the three days with your father?” Marcy asked. She looked haggard, wore a nervous smile. Eyes flitting from Gabe to Ronnie, Ronnie to Gabe.

“Uh, we just hung out. Talked a lot. Watched movies.”

“Oh, God. Your father and all those old monster films.”

“Yeah…”

Setting his beer down, Ronnie let out another hearty “Bruuup!

“When does he leave again?”

Gabe sawed into his steak. “This weekend.”

Ronnie laughed. “Lenny’s going on the road with his fruity little theater group again, huh?”

“Now, Ron—” Marcy began.

“What’s the name of the show this time? The Amazing Life of Professor Crabapple?”

“The Life and Times of Professor Appleton,” Marcy corrected.

“Whatever.” Ronnie shook his head. “Prancing around a stage ain’t no example for a boy. I can’t believe you married that pansy.”

Clutching his utensils, Gabe’s eyes narrowed.

“Now, Ron—”

“Well, at least you two have a real man to take care of you now.” Smirking, Ronnie cut himself a hunk of dry steak and stuffed it into his mouth. “A guy like Lenny just doesn’t understand what’s important in life…like having a family.”

You asshole.

Trembling with the urge to jam his fork into Ronnie’s eye, Gabe turned to his mother. Marcy shrugged, gave him her usual apologetic look:

Don’t take it personally, Angel.

But of course, he did.


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JLR

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Equation (Short Story Excerpt)

May 2, 2016

 

The great machine approached the dead planet with reverence, descending to the edge of its ionosphere. There it hovered with infinite patience. Searching. Recording temperatures, atmospheric conditions, radiation levels, and orbital speed. Scanning for any and all signs of life or sentience.

Just as it had been programmed to do.

In its current state, the machine appeared to be a long, trapezoidal bar; dark, metallic, and smooth. Light from the nearest star reflected off its surface, making it look aglow with energy. It waited until the planet completed one full rotation, then collated its data:

There had been life.

Once, but no more.

Noiseless, the machine began to mutate. Slats appeared along its massive length, and from its center both ends pushed outward…growing…curling…until its ends met and fused, forming a perfect circle with no end and no beginning.

Then it descended ever further, forming a ring around the dead, ring-less planet.

Again, the machine waited; every molecule vibrating from a constant stream of information. Inside its artificial imagination, the machine soared through the planet’s sky, burrowed into the crust, and immersed itself in bodies of liquid. Learning. Knowing. Understanding. It saw how the planet formed—nothing new to its memory function—and how life first appeared; also not new, but very rare. It saw how the microscopic plant and animal life became macroscopic, forming a symbiotic relationship between them. It saw great beasts rise up in a harsh, predatory world. Then, disaster. Gigantic mineral formations slamming down. Falling temperatures, crystallizing the liquid. It saw mass extinction, then rebirth. New life began. Smaller this time; less bestial but just as savage. A dominant species emerged; warm blooded, capable of thought and learning. Hence, this species evolved. In time, they began to build. They began to create. They began to change their world.

But always, their habit of enslaving and destroying each other remained.

A strange species, the machine decided. Capable of astounding visual and written works, yet capable of atrocious violence—against both themselves and the myriad species around them. Their technology focused on communication, but failed to overcome their natural divisions. Strange deities of their own design presided over them, influencing them. Even their growing knowledge of the universe didn’t help. Belief in what the machine understood as non-corporeal, non-quantifiable, and nonsensical ideas fueled this species, and somehow couldn’t be shed. In the end, they overpopulated and polluted themselves into extinction.

The cycle of this planet they in their various languages had called: Earth.

Now, having absorbed all it could, the machine had a question to answer:

Are they worth restoration?


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JLR

What Came Over Her (Short Story Excerpt)

September 2, 2015

author-1

1.

June 3rd, 2016.

Stark City, Oregon.

11:57 p.m.

Smiling, Wendy Marie Hunicutt stepped onto the pentagram. “Now it begins,” she whispered, sinking to her knees.

“Payback’s a bitch, Kara!”

The pale, flabby girl had drawn a crude circle on the floor in chalk. Within this circle, she’d drawn a five-pointed star. At each point of the star, she’d placed a small black candle. Five tiny flames now lit the empty room; flickering, twisting the darkness around Wendy’s naked body. The azure ring on her left hand glimmered in the soft light. The initials carved into the gold band read:

K.L.V.

“You’ve fucked with me for the last time!”

Kneeling in the star’s central pentagon, Wendy closed her eyes. Blood spurted from her wrists, splattering against her legs, pooling around her knees. The razor she’d used to slit her veins lay outside the circle, next to an open tome of ancient writing. Beneath the razor lay a portrait of Kara Vance. Blonde, dimpled, and buxom. The All-American High School Cheerleader Goddess. Her blue eyes had been slashed by the razor. Black candle wax hid her perfect smile.

“And now I’m free…”

Ignoring the hot sting in her forearms, Wendy concentrated, forming a vivid mental portrait of Kara. Her favorite portrait:

Kara, resplendent in her cheerleader uniform, falling from a great height. Hurtling into darkness.

Crying.

Shrieking.

Thrashing.

All the way to her death.

I’m gonna make you suffer worse than I ever have!

Still, Wendy’s blood spurted. Her jaw quivered. Gooseflesh rose on her arms and legs. Beginning to feel faint, she bit down hard, took a deep breath, and began her ominous chant:

Possideo

The memory of that fateful first encounter resurfaced. Walking into the Robert Sloan High School cafeteria for the first time. Seeing Kara Vance, daughter of Stark City Councilman, Kirk Vance, in the flesh. Everyone knew Kara. Everyone wanted to be her friend. There’d been an empty spot at Kara’s table, and Wendy had committed the sin of sitting down, and the mortal sin of speaking to her.

“Why are you talking to me?” Kara had asked, much to the delight of her squealing sophomore posse. “You’re freshman trash. Even worse, you’re Meyer trash. We live in Hinckley, honey. Our parents can buy and sell your parents…”

Then came the laughter. Brutal. Haunting. Unrelenting.

“Deleo

Nude, bleeding, bathed in candlelight, Wendy remembered the utter confusion, anger, and shame as complete strangers ridiculed her. People she hadn’t harmed…people she didn’t even know.

“Supero…

And from there, everything escalated.

“Possideo…”

Dirty notes on her locker. Insulting texts to her phone. Obscene messages on her Facebook page. The unfortunate nickname: Windy Huni-cunt.

“Deleo…”

Condescending looks in the halls. Snide remarks in class. Prank phone calls in the middle of the night.

“Supero…”

Threats. Shoves. Bubblegum in her hair. Key marks on her mother’s car the first and last time Wendy drove it to school.

“Possideo…

The time three friends of Kara’s friends—since Kara’s posse would never sully their own hands—jumped Wendy in the bathroom, resulting in a black eye, bruised ribs, and a sprained ankle.

“Deleo…

And the rumors. The filthy, vicious rumors. The least cruel being that Wendy had blown several of her male teachers for passing grades. The worst being that she’d molested a boy she’d once babysat.

“Supero…

Dying, Wendy recalled how at first her parents hadn’t believed her. How they’d told her that everyone deals with bullying at some point, and to tough it out. But when the abuse became undeniable, they’d gotten involved. Or tried to, at least. The teachers, the principal, the entire school system; no one could help.

Maybe they just didn’t want to.

“Possideo

Changing their landline had gotten their house egged. Getting a new phone increased the online harassment. Shutting down her Facebook caused a bag of dog shit to appear in her locker. Kara and her friends just created a fake Windy Huni-cunt profile, anyway. And there they posted the vilest messages and pictures the real Wendy had ever seen.

“Deleo

For three years, Wendy has endured this torment. Three long, miserable years.

“Supero

With no end of suffering in sight.

“Possideo

Three times she’d applied for a school transfer, and three times she’d been refused due to overcrowding.

“Deleo

And lest she take comfort in the fact that her last year at Robert Sloan would be Kara-free, Wendy received an anonymous typewritten note in her backpack:

Dear Ms. Huni-cunt,

Don’t think for a second that just because someone graduates their influence can’t be felt.

Good luck in your senior year.

Sincerely,

A Friend

“Supero

Thus, hopeless, harrowed, and untouched by any boy she’d ever liked, Wendy Hunicutt came to this abandoned boathouse overlooking Stark Reservoir, armed with a book, a razor, and a raging thirst for vengeance.

“Possideo…deleo…supero…

And there, at last, Wendy found peace…

Read “What Came Over Her” compliments of The Abyss E-zine @ http://theabyssmag.blogspot.com/2018/07/what-came-over-her-by-jesse-lynn-rucilez.html


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JLR

In Spite Of Her Will (Short Story Excerpt)

January 13, 2015

January 11th, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
8:49 a.m.

Nurse Vanna Meadows didn’t want to go into the room at the end of the hall, but she had no choice. She’d avoided it as long as she could, and now her job demanded it. Demanded that she complete her patient rounds. And her conscience demanded that she do everything in her power to help that poor old man.

Goddamnit…why didn’t he ask the doctor for help? Why did he have to ask me? I’m just a nurse…a lowly goddamn nurse who doesn’t want any part of this!

With a mournful sigh, Vanna left the nurses’ station and started down the hall. Toward the room. Toward the emaciated old man whom Vanna wished she’d never met.

Toward the biggest, momentous decision of her young life.

Even now, Nurse Meadows didn’t know what she’d do once she stepped inside. She knew she’d see her patient lying there, hooked up to the heart monitor and inching ever toward the end of his long life. Perhaps beseeching her again with his kind yet weary gaze. Perhaps reaching out to her in his innocent yet cruel way; gnarled hand extended like a beggar seeking alms. Except in this case, alms meant quite a bit more than money, or even food. It meant the ultimate sacrifice.

Maybe he’ll be sleeping this time, Vanna thought, scrubs rustling, shoes squeaking against the tile floor as she meandered along. Maybe I can put it off for awhile…

Though twenty-three–young by adult standards–and just seven months into her job, Nurse Meadows had never given her career choice a second thought. She’d gone through nursing school with an ease which had earned her the jealousy of her peers, and had set her sights on a position at Stark City’s most prominent hospital: Stark County Medical Center. Once hired at SCMC, she’d been placed on the sixth floor telemetry unit, and in the previous seven months she’d seen it all. Heart attack victims, stroke victims, crash victims, and every other form of rotten luck made manifest in the physical world. And none of it had bothered her. Not the blood, the sobbing of family members, or the endless echoes of grief in the sterile halls. Vanna prided herself on being just as, if not more, professional than the nurses twice her age.

But all of that changed the day they wheeled Hubert Cranleigh up to her floor and left the ancient man in her charge. That had been a week ago. Prior to this transfer, Hubert had languished in the intensive care unit following a massive heart attack. At age ninety-one, his recovery had been less than ideal. But the doctor and ICU nurses had done their jobs and gotten him stabilized. Hubert could open his eyes and talk for brief periods of time; even making sense every once in awhile. So things had been looking up for everyone involved–

Then tragedy struck.

One night, Hubert’s eighty-nine year old wife, Lois, had slipped and fallen in the rest home and broken much more than her hip. She’d been rushed to Stark County Medical just as Hubert had, but even emergency surgery hadn’t been able to save her. And the single worst moment of Vanna’s life had been when she’d stood by as the doctor informed Hubert that his wife had died. That, because of Hubert’s delicate condition, he couldn’t be moved–even by wheelchair–to Lois’s room. Which meant that poor old Hubert had already seen his beloved wife for the last time.

No book, no song, no poem could ever describe the utter heartbreak Vanna saw in Hubert’s eyes that ruinous day. Hubert didn’t just cry, he bled pure sorrow from every pore of his withered flesh. His bones rattled with every breath. His heart monitor jounced in time to the childlike blubbering which still rang in Nurse Meadows’ ears.

Damnit! Vanna thought, slowing her pace even more. Halfway down the hall now, the syringe in her pocket bounced against her leg. A heavy reminder of the heavy decision she’d almost made.

I don’t know if I can do this, Mr. Cranleigh. I really, really don’t…


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“In Spite of Her Will” was featured in The Borfski Press, Issue #2.

Buy The Borfski Press Issue #2 in both print and digital format here:

https://theborfskipress.com/2017/06/19/issue-ii-out-now/

Thank you for reading!

JLR

Bobby’s Fight (Novella Excerpt)

August 21, 2014

bobbys-fightPrologue: The Twilley Restroom

1.

October 9th, 1992.

Hinckley, Oregon.

12:03 p.m.

Gotcha! Clint thought as he pushed through the restroom door. The husky ten-year-old had been awaiting this moment since he’d awoken that morning. Payback for what happened yesterday. His prey, a third-grader named Bobby Williams, stood at the center urinal, wearing a tee-shirt and jeans. Clint glowered at the thin, dark-haired boy. Following him here had been the easy part. Now, he had to finish it before anyone could stop him.

Just you and me, weirdo.

To his left, Clint saw a metal lunchbox on the counter. Bobby’s lunchbox; the one he loved and brought to school every day. Clint’s heavy gait echoed off the tile floor as he walked toward it.

“Hi, Clint.”

Mid-step, Clint froze.

How could he know it’s me?

“Why don’t you leave me alone today? You’ll just get us both in trouble again.”

Clint looker over, grit his teeth.

You’re lucky I slipped yesterday. You won’t be so lucky this time…

Sneering, Clint walked to the counter and seized the lunchbox in his grimy hands. The lid bore the logo of Bobby’s favorite movie, Void Hunter, and the face of Bobby’s idol, The Almighty Ve’yn. Most kids liked Void Hunter—an outer space epic—but few idolized Ve’yn, its main villain. Half man, half dragon, Almighty Ve’yn looked quite sinister. Scaly green hide. Cold obsidian eyes. Curved black horns. A ridge of dark green fins atop its skull and down its spine. A lipless, skeletal mouth.

Very demonic.

Not that Clint cared. He didn’t like Void Hunter or the character Ve’yn. Clint liked sports and hotrods and playing in the dirt; not reading all day like the creepy little kid zipping up his pants and turning toward him.

Let’s see how you like this, Bobby-wobby.

The angry fifth-grader stiffened. His blue Seattle Seahawks jersey reflected:

GAULT

00

in the mirror behind him.

2.

Clinton Otis Gault had always been a problem child. To Roger and Christina, his stable and affectionate parents, it seemed as if he came out of the womb contentious and dissatisfied, and his long, difficult birth foreshadowed the next ten years. At age two, Clint specialized in catastrophic temper tantrums. At age three he showed great skill in throwing his toys at whoever annoyed him. Roger and Christina knew they had a monster on their hands, but didn’t realize how big a monster until much later.

At age four, Clint found himself playing second fiddle to his newborn sister, Leslie. From the moment she arrived—in Clint’s mind, at least—Leslie became the undisputed star of the Gault family. Aunts, uncles, grandparents; everyone gathered around her, laughing and making gah-gah noises, which always made him furious. Leslie this and Leslie that, he’d think. But all she does is make splat!

Then Clint started grade school, and his disposition went from bad to diabolical.

3.

“How’s it goin’, dipwad? I found this by the sink. Ain’t it yours?”

Clint never forgot the moment Bobby turned to see him holding the lunchbox. The little weirdo had sounded so calm, so assured when he’d first walked in, but now—now Bobby looked frightened to tears.

“Yeah,” Bobby replied, his voice soft but firm. “Let me have it.”

Clint’s sneer became a menacing smirk. “Come and get it!”

Bobby blinked. Desperation shone in his eyes as he struggled to remain calm. Then, much to Clint’s sadistic delight, he stepped forward, reaching out with both hands—

Whoops!

Still smirking, Clint let the lunchbox slip from his grasp—

Clang!

The lunchbox unbuckled and sprawled open, spilling out a half-eaten sandwich. Bobby winced from the sudden clatter.

Whoops!

Teeth grit, Clint raised his size nine-and-a-half sneaker and stomped on the lid—

Thunk!

The thin metal—as well as Ve’yn’s demonic face—crumpled beneath Clint’s thick rubber sole.

Come on, dipwad! Let’s see what ya got!

Gaping at the spectacle, Bobby froze. His tender face slackened with disbelief. He shivered, almost weeping, and took a deep, shuddery breath.

Payback time!

Relishing the moment, Clint ground his heel with the cold intent to destroy that which Bobby loved. He did a good job, too. The lid squeaked and grated against the tile floor, and when he lifted his foot, Clint saw a deep, crescent-shaped dent in Ve’yn’s face.

Good! Now he’ll cry…

But Bobby didn’t cry. The frightened boy just stood there, trembling. Proud of himself, Clint stepped back. Then, pretending to be the star kicker for the Seahawks, the bully reared back—

Whoops!

and kicked the dented lunchbox with all his might—

Thwack!

The tin box skidded across the tile—

Eeeeee!

bounced off of Bobby’s right shoe—

Smack!

and came to rest by the toilet stalls. The clamor echoed for several moments—music to Clint’s freckled ears—then stillness returned, broken by the two boys’ soft, unsynchronized breaths.

4.

Children can be cruel. Sometimes, that cruelty spreads like a social disease. Husky and big-boned, Clint wouldn’t outgrow his baby fat until his late teens. So the teasing began in kindergarten. One little smartass branded him pudgy and the term stuck like a fresh coat of paint. Pudgy this and pudgy that, everyday, until the boy snapped.

But being husky and big-boned had advantages, Clint discovered—once he’d shoved a few kids around. And by age nine, Clint had earned an enviable reputation on the Twilley playground, much to his parents’ and teachers’ chagrin.

Then he met Bobby Williams, and everything changed.

5.

Fuckin’ weirdo…

Clint shook his head. Bobby stood there; the ache of seeing his prized possession lying stomped and ruined on the floor evident on his soft face. When would the little weirdo lose his temper and fight back—or at least try? How much more pathetic could he be? Watching him, Clint laughed, baring pizza-stained buck teeth.

“What’s the matter? Is wittle Bobby-wobby gonna cwy?

Bobby, pale to begin with, now looked very ill. He turned to Clint with an expression of utter devastation, beseeching him with wet, flickering eyes. Crying now. Hard. Struggling to speak, his voice became a soft gurgle. A whine. A whimper of defeat which fed Clint’s savage hunger.

“How about a black eye, Bobby-wobby?

Bobby gasped. Clint curled his grimy hands into grimy fists.

Too bad, dipwad!

Bobby flinched, stumbled backward:

AAAHHH!

Rage surged through Clint’s veins as he raised his right arm. His moment, at last! His moment to teach Bobby Williams a lesson! Remind the little weirdo that he ruled Twilley Elementary! That books and straight As and strange eyes meant very little in the big boy world of muscles and pain! And as he stepped forward to throw a wild haymaker, Clint growled like some vicious, feral animal, envisioning blood and bruises and broken teeth—

But the punch never landed, and Clint’s triumph turned to tragedy.

6.

Clint hadn’t liked Bobby from the moment he first saw him. The thin, reclusive boy had transferred from Dale Palmer Elementary; the ghetto school. His parents lived in Stark City, not Hinckley—which made them trash. The little creep just didn’t belong, and Clint—a shining example of the typical American bully—had vowed to make his life miserable.

It began with dirty looks. Whenever he passed Bobby in the halls or saw him at recess, Clint glared like a bull preparing to charge. Bobby just ignored him, spending more and more of his free time in the school library. Taking this as a challenge, Clint went out of his way to shoulder check Bobby here and there—accidentally-on-purpose, of course—just to see what kind of reaction he’d get. But Bobby always backed down. As one of the Big Kids, Clint’s natural bulk struck fear into the hearts of even the sixth grade boys, and he terrified Bobby. Which just encouraged the angry fifth-grader. Soon, Clint tried to corner Bobby every chance he got, hoping he’d get the nerve to fight.

And yesterday, he’d tried again.

7.

WHAT THE FUCK?

Pain, intense and sudden, caused Clint’s haymaker to arc downward. It felt as if a steel clamp had snapped around his throat, and he couldn’t breathe. Face red and bunched with agony, the bully lurched back, clutching his throat with both hands. Grappling with the invisible vise around his neck. Watching him, Bobby sighed.

HELP ME!

“I told you. I told you I didn’t wanna fight you.”

Clint heard Bobby’s voice, but the words held no meaning. Not then, anyway. Still struggling, he stumbled into the counter and fell to his knees—

Smack!

“I hope I never have to tell you again.”

Clint screamed in silent anguish as pain exploded in both kneecaps. Trembling, the bully collapsed, caught himself with one shaky arm. Help! he mouthed, eyes bulging. But the strange little boy just stood there, staring at him. Through him. As if he didn’t exist.

Like yesterday, a chill swept through him. But this time, Clint couldn’t deny the dark truth which lived inside Bobby Williams.

8.

Yesterday, while skulking about the Twilley Elementary playground, Clint saw Bobby by the fence, head down, hands in his pockets. A perfect opportunity, which Clint seized by sneaking up behind him. “Why don’t ya ever look at baseball cards with anybody?” he’d demanded after shoving the little weirdo down. “How come all ya wanna do is read those stupid books?” And Bobby, scared and crying, hadn’t been able to answer. He’d just lied there, refusing to fight. So Clint kicked him. Hard. Still, Bobby had refused to fight. And when Clint tried to kick him again, something odd happened. It had felt like being pushed; an invisible hand slamming into his chest. Then his legs had flown up and, for an instant, Clint hung in midair before crashing to the ground. Very embarrassing. And in the midst of scrambling to his feet, Clint had locked eyes with Bobby…and felt his blood run cold.

I slipped, that’s all, Clint later told himself. Slipped on the sand…

9.

OH, SHIT—HE’S GONNA KILL ME!

In a heartbeat, Clint’s life passed before his eyes. Not his entire life, of course, but the parts which seemed crucial to understanding the way it would end. He saw himself taunting and teasing the boy who now held his life in his hands. Staring him down. Calling him names. Shoving him. Being cruel for cruelty’s sake. Just because he’d felt like it. Because he didn’t like school or teachers or the other kids and needed someone—anyone—to abuse. And because Bobby seemed so different—not just to him, but to everybody. Nobody ever talked to him. Nobody ever sat with him at lunch. Something had to be wrong with him. Very wrong. And now, Clint understood that he’d been right about Bobby being weird and different, but wished with all his heart that he could take it all back. All the pain. All the bullying.

But he couldn’t; so now he would die.

PLEASE, BOBBY! I’M SORRY!

The room—or perhaps Clint’s brain—began to spin. Tiny sparks of light flashed and fluttered before his eyes. His trembling arm felt numb and ready to buckle. HELP! he wanted to shout. SOMEBODY FUCKING HELP ME!

Then, for some reason Clint never understood, Bobby said, “Almighty Ve’yn! What’re you doing…” And in the brief moment in which Bobby paused, the agony around Clint’s throat disappeared.

“…here?”

10.

After the altercation by the fence, Clint decided to work the system. Holding his scraped elbow, he’d ran to the yard duty teacher and told her that Bobby pushed him off the swing for no reason. But his plan backfired. Both of them wound up in after school detention. And after that humiliation, Clint endured a stern lecture from his father. He’d even had to apologize to Bobby and his bitch mother right there in the parking lot. Once home, his own mother had yelled at him, grounding him for the whole weekend. And worst of all, he’d been deprived of dessert. He’d watched in sullen resignation as Leslie ate his share of ice cream, and swore he’d get even the very next chance he got.

Today, of course.

11.

FINALLY!

A noise like the shriek of a rusted gate escaped Clint’s throat as he flopped onto his back, spasming as if electrocuted. His trachea felt bruised and swollen, his neck wrenched and stiff. Large black splotches clouded his vision; a grim reminder of how close he’d come to death. His skull ached, and he placed his hands over his face in a pitiful attempt to block out both pain and reality. I can breathe! he thought, thanking God and Bobby and—to be safe—The Almighty Ve’yn.

Just please don’t kill me…

Lost in agony, Clint didn’t see what happened next. Didn’t see the lunchbox rise and float over to Bobby’s outstretched hand. Didn’t see Bobby frown at the dent in Ve’yn’s face, sweep his hand across it, and make it disappear. He did, however, hear the resultant thunk! of the metal popping back into place. And as he laid there on the cold bathroom floor, he flinched. Like a frightened child.

“Thank you, Almighty Ve’yn!” Bobby said. Clint never understood that, either.

Please don’t kill me…

Tears now. Crying. Cowering. Everything the bully had once harassed and berated Bobby for doing. But Clint didn’t care. Afraid to move, he took shallow breaths and prayed that either Bobby would leave or someone would enter an end this nightmare. Even if it meant everyone finding out that Bobby had won, Clint prayed it would end. And his tears of fright became tears of joy when he heard footsteps moving toward the door.

Please don’t kill me…

Then the footsteps stopped, and Clint’s heart lurched inside his chest.

“I’ll tell you why I never look at baseball cards, Clint,” Bobby said, a slight echo behind his words. “Because I’d rather read than watch stupid games. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Clint shuddered at the sound of Bobby’s voice. Yesterday, he’d demanded to know why Bobby never looked at baseball cards, but now he didn’t care what Bobby did or didn’t do, as long as he didn’t go near him. As long as he didn’t have to look into those dark, wicked eyes.

Please! Don’t! Kill! Me!

“You’re dumb, Clint. And you made me hurt you. Remember that.”

I’m sorry, Bobby!

A moment passed. Silent terror filled Clint’s mind. Then the sound of footsteps again, followed by the opening and closing of the restroom door.

In the silence, Clint lay there all alone. Sobbing behind his grimy hands. Thankful to be alive. Terrified of even the thought of Bobby Williams. Not just beaten, but crushed.

Forever scarred by Bobby’s vengeance.

“I’m sorry,” Clint whispered, breath hitching as he rolled to his side. “Sorry…”

Sweaty and numb with dread—or shock, as Dr. Brix later explained—the felled bully struggled to his feet and lurched to the door. The teachers had all retreated to their classrooms and lounges while the kids frolicked outside for recess, so he faced a short, empty hallway, leading back to the cafeteria. Beyond the cafeteria lay the main hall, which led to the principal’s office. Which, for the first time in his young life, is where Clint wanted to go.

“Sorry, Bobby. Sorry…”

Thus, gasping, wiping his eyes, the disheveled fifth-grader bolted forward; away from the restroom; away from the library. And most of all, away from Bobby Williams.

Running as fast as he could on shaking, rubbery legs.


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JLR


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