All I wanted to do was play ball with my friends, so I sneaked into the garage and grabbed my bat and ball. I knew enough to be quiet, my mother's hearing was quite good, still, something went wrong and I knew it when...
My heart sank to my knees.
"I know you're out there. I need you to go to the store. Right now, buddy boy."
I let out a deep sigh. It was already four o'clock and by the time I got back my friends would have split the ball field. It would be dark, too, and it was just a few days before Halloween. I always got the willy's this time of year.
"Russstee?" The voice was shrill.
I put down the bat and ball and shoved my hands into my pockets. When she was like this, there was no stopping her. "Yeah, I hear ya. I'm coming."
I made my way through the back of the garage and up the steps to the front porch. Normally, I went out the front, but I still held out hope I'd get in a few minutes of ball and this way was shorter. I passed the wrought iron fencing, the spikes that reached for the sky with no forgiveness in them. I shuddered at their sharpness.
My mother stood on the porch. Her belly pushed out her apron stained with blood, big ham-fists hung at her side, clenched tight. She was angry. I could tell. After all, I'd had enough experience.
"Go to the store and no fooling around. Aunt Mindy is coming for dinner and I want to serve liver and onions, her favorite meal. Make sure you ask for the best liver they got."
"I will, Ma." I took the ten dollar bill she held out and shoved it into my pocket.
"See you don't lose it, now."
"I won't." I headed down the steps and across the lawn. Jeff Rigby hailed me from across the street.
"Hey! You going over to the park?"
"Nah. I gotta go to the store. My aunt's coming over."
"Too bad." Jeff glanced at the sky. "Gonna be dark soon. You don't wanna be passing that graveyard after the sun goes down."
"I know." My belly quickly turned to ice. My uncle, Aunt Mindy's husband had died just a week ago. He was laid to rest in the family plot, a space of ground in our local cemetery rimmed with concrete and sporting a headstone that dated back to the mid-nineteen-hundreds. Our family had been here a long time and my uncle had become our plots most recent inhabitant. There were other plots, one for my mom, my dad, my aunt, and me....
"Just come pitch one inning. That's all I'm asking is for one."
I hesitated. "Just one?"
"One. I promise."
I followed Jeff to the park. I pitched a solid inning, not a single kid got on base, but even I knew when to quit. "I gotta go," I told the fellas and sped off across the park.
With the sun lowering into an early evening I ran as fast as I could over to old man Miller's grocery. I passed the cemetery without a glance, crossed two streets, and barreled up to the front door. Our town wasn't big enough for a large grocery store and sometimes Mr. Miller closed the store early when it was quiet. Sure enough, the door was shut and locked tight.
Uneasiness crept through me. It wasn't wise to upset my mother or father. No, not wise at all, and following on the heels of a bad report card, well, suffice it say that a beating would not be the worst thing to happen to me.
I walked slowly toward home, thinking over my options. It wouldn't do to knock on neighborhood doors asking for liver. My mother was sure to find out. I thought about a dog, or maybe even a cat, but their livers would be too small. Maybe a larger dog or even a cow might do, but I didn't think I was capable of killing.
Nope. I shook my head. Didn't think I could kill a thing. But, perhaps something already dead. A pet perhaps or... But I didn't know anyone who had just lost a large dog or cow. Not even a sheep. My heart thudded out a rapid beat of fear and panic. I could not, could not, go home without a liver.
I thought of the garage, of the steps down to the cellar, the bugs, the moss, the dirt, the mud. The hours of lonely thought in the dark, of wondering if there was a spider descending unseen from the ceiling ready to make a nest in my hair. A scorpion, sneaking out from a mud crack, tail up, ready to sting. All flights of the imagination since I wouldn't be able to see a thing. But many the time I'd exited my personal chamber of horrors with red stinging rashes, bumps, sores, and bite marks.
A wintry wisp of wind crossed my face and I clutched my coat closer. The cemetery lay to my left, cold and inhospitable. Oak trees with gangly bare arms spread out across the barren landscape peopled only by tall cement statues and wooden crosses.
I thought of my uncle.
He'd been victim to an autopsy so he'd been cut chin to stern. It would be easy to break open the stitches and grab his liver. Why, I could even sneak home, grab the shovel, and even dig through the trash to find a substitute bloody white paper bag . Mu mom had tons of those. At least three, maybe even four a week went into the trash. I convinced myself I just needed a little courage to see me through.
I hurried home, grabbed the shovel, one paper bag with bloody wax paper contents, then another one just in case, and hurried back to the cemetery. Forty-five minutes later and Iwas done. The loose dirt came up easily, the coffin exposed. I held my breath and opened it.
Laughter drifted out from the opened window. Yellow lamp light illuminated the front porch where i sat, holding my stomach, thinking of what I'd done. All because I was scared of my parents, scared of a hole in the dark where I'd spent almost a week the last time I'd done something wrong. The measles, his mother had told his teacher. Strange....
When it was time for bed, I crept upstairs, finally admitting that yes, a certain relief had visited itself upon my soul. I almost felt happy I'd gotten away with it. My muscles were tired, my body exhausted. It wasn't long before I fell asleep.
"Whatcha done, boy?" a voice asked.
My eyes shot open and there, sitting on the bed next to me was my uncle. The gash on his belly black with dried blood gaped at me, an opened mouth, waiting to swallow me whole. "Ah, ah..."
"Done took my liver, huh boy? Fed it to the family?"
I didn't know what to say. Fear ratcheted through me, my heart galloping at a pace it could not keep up for long.
My uncle drew back the sheet and placed his hand on my chest. "Not long for the world are ya. Done did something a might worse than spending a few days in the dark." He harrumphed. "Spiders ain't the worst thing in the world."
Terror crept through me. My eyes felt as if they were bulging out of my head, my lips were so dry I couldn't speak and my throat felt like the Sahara desert.
"I want my liver," my uncle said. He scratched what was left of his belly.
A brutally cold finger traced its way down my chest. A gush of warm blood followed it, staining my sheet crimson. I managed to gasp, "What are you doing?"
"I said I wanted my liver, but if I can't have mine..."
The following morning, my parents stood at my bedside, my mother screaming, my father staring in wonder at the body so skillfully opened, barren of one liver. I tried to get their attention. I screamed, jumped up and down, floated in and out the opened window. My mother gasped, slammed shut the window, and pulled down the shade, leaving me in the dark. With that, they were out the door, locking it behind them. I could hear them whisper as they walked down the stairs.
"We'll say he went to stay at his aunt's. You know she's been so lonely." My mother coughed.
"Perhaps out of state would be better," my father added.
I tried to get out the window, but although my body was lighter it was too dense to pass through an obstruction. The same with the door and the walls.
So, now I sat.
In the dark.
Wondering and imagining.
Probably, for the rest of my life. Whatever that might be.
I hope you enjoyed the story. I had fun adding my own dimension to an old Canadian ghost story. Drop by and visit the other authors participating in the blog hop to win more prizes.
1. Katie O'Sullivan 2. Constance Phillips, A Writer's Musings 3. Danielle DeVor: Loving the Dark since 1976 4. Shawna Romkey Author blog 5. Dangling on the Edge of (In)Sanity 6. Maer Wilson 7. Cindy Young-Turner 8. Loose the Hounds 9. All Hallows Eve with Author Louann Carroll 10. L. V. Pires 11. Author Avery Olive 12. Iyana's Rainbow 13. Lindsey R. Loucks 14. Moms Bookshelf ?Halloween? 15. Sophie Weeks, Author 16. Dr. Shay West, Author of Scifi and Fantasy 17. What scares you? Barbara Strunas Blog 18. Kit Bakke's Cut & Paste 19. Scariest Hallowe'en EVER! 20. Tamsen Schultz, Thrillers and Chillers
Here, you can enter to win an e-book of Gemini Rising or A Shadow of Time OR you may be the lucky winner of one DVD of my two most favorite horror movies.
Leave your name and e-mail address in comments (e-mail is kept private) to participate. I will pick the winners on the Monday after Halloween as I'll be out of town for the holiday.
Thanks for joining me.
And be careful passing those graveyards.