Point and Click... Who's Dead?
Age Rating: 10 +
The wind blew ever so peacefully down Oakwood Pine Lane, carrying the promise of a winter whiteness yet to come. Several leaves latched onto the breeze and danced a waltz with the wind. Down in the street they went, graceful enough to shame professional ballerinas. Twisting and turning on little cyclones of wind and constantly being joined by newcomers, they danced down the street, past 8467 Oakwood Pine Lane. There was nothing remarkable about the house itself. The house was painted a light grey with a dark brown, shingled roof. It was one story tall, as most of the houses on the street, and made a very pretty sight, what with the vegetable garden coming into season and the flowers on the windowsills struggling to maintain their glory against the coming of winter. A neat little concrete path made its way straight to the brown, wood door. The chimney was smoking gently, the tendrils of smoke performing its own dance before disappearing into the crisp air.
Little Henry was so full of energy that day, as he burst through the door in a whirlwind of laughter and his cheeks reddened by the chill of this early November day, brown curls askew. He threw off his little blue coat, leaving it in a heap on the floor, and ran into the kitchen, his feet pounding a steady rhythm against the tiled floor. Henry’s mother smiled as she saw the 7-year-old bounce through the door and seat himself at the four-legged table.
“Hi Mom! Can I have my snack now? Everyone’s waiting for me to come back outside,” he called out as he clambered into his chair.
“Okay honey, it’ll be ready in a minute.” Henry’s mother set the dish of peanut butter crackers and a glass of milk before him. Henry gobbled it all down in record time and drank the entire glass of milk at once. Gasping for breath, he jumped off the chair.
“Hold on there! Where’s the fire?” asked Henry’s mom, grabbing his sleeve. She wiped off a milk mustache with the unused paper napkin as he stood impatiently.
“Mom! Zero Hour’s in five minutes! I’ve got to be there or I’ll miss the game!”
Henry’s mom walked him to the door and briskly shook out the tousled blue coat. “What’s Zero Hour?” she asked.
“It’s a new game everyone’s made up! We’re not allowed to tell grown ups about it though. It’s a secret,” dramatically lowering his voice to a whisper towards the end of his statement.
“I see,” Henry’s mom said, doing up the silver buttons, then she ruffled his hair. “Go on now, scoot!”
Henry did not need to be told twice as he raced out the door to meet a group of about seven or eight other kids his age on the sidewalk. They all cheered at his coming, and one called out “Hurry up! We’re all going to be late for Zero Hour!” Henry called back, and as he reached the group, they all ran off, laughing and talking amongst themselves. Henry’s mom smiled as she watched them go, and then closed the door.
That evening, with Henry tucked soundly in bed, Henry’s mom watched the late night news. It was all more broadcasts of the current events, all depressing news from Iraq and a robbery of fifty thousand grand from such and such bank in Nevada, then it was about to repeat itself on the half hour when a new bulletin came in. Several young children had mysteriously gone missing, gone with no trace. When she heard where this was happening, Henry’s mom shuddered and was instantly on the alert. Those missing children had come from one of the nearby surrounding neighborhoods, Ashton Avenue. It was too close for comfort.
As she went to bed that night, every noise was an intruder with a knife, every shadow hiding a twisted mind that wished her child harm. Twice, convinced that Henry was in grave danger from the man with the bloody knife, she ran into his room to find him quite alone and sound asleep. She gave him a kiss each time and went back to bed, only to catch herself straining to hear the slightest sound that might be their only warning for survival. At last, she fell into an uneasy sleep, where in her dream, a shadow of a man came to life, picked up a kitchen knife, and crept towards Henry’s room as she was helpless to do anything but watch.
The next day, as Henry readied himself for outdoor playtime, his mother watched him anxiously. Tired from an uneasy sleep, she washed the breakfast dishes. Henry was pulling on his jacket when she spoke up.
“Henry, I don’t think you should go play outside today.”
“But I have to Mom! Today is the fourth level of Zero Hour, preparation for the Final Stage tomorrow! If I don’t go today, then I won’t be able to do the Final Level tomorrow and all the other boys are going to call me a sissy!” he cried.
“I still don’t think you should go sweetie. Last night I heard on the news that several kids your age were kidnapped nearby. I don’t want you to be next.” She forced herself not to sound to worried, to sound like this was only a matter of conversation and not a gnawing worry that tore at her heart.
To her surprise, Henry laughed, a bone-chilling adult laugh that would never be normally heard from a child his age. Then in his regular voice: “Don’t worry about those kids Mom! We know about them, and they’re all just fine! They’re all sleeping. We saw them all yesterday.”
Alarm bells rang in Henry’s mom’s head.
“Yeah. You mean Becky, Monica, Bobby, Pete, Sam… all those people, right Mom?”
“Do their parents know where they are?”
“Of course!! Leader said so, and Leader’s always right.”
And before his mom could ask anything else or do anything to stop him, Henry laughed that terrible laugh again, raced out into the crisp air and ran as fast as he could towards his friends.
That night, there was a fierce argument that night about the subject of “Zero Hour”, tears being shed on both sides and raised voices that attracted the neighbors attention. Henry’s mom had started the argument, saying that Henry she thought that he shouldn’t play Zero Hour anymore and should stay inside tomorrow… a suggestion that invoked protests that raised the roof. Henry yelled at his mother, saying she didn’t understand anything and she was a mean old hag. To that, Henry’s mother grounded him for a week to even louder protests, if that was even possible. It had ended when Henry had angrily stormed off to bed without saying goodnight, and his mother was left crying in the living room. It was too much for her stressed mind to see her only child turn his back on her.
Henry woke up early and stormed off to Zero Hour the next day without breakfast or saying goodbye to his mother. Henry’s mother was at first shocked, but then a new idea formed in her mind, twisting and hardening into a rod of steel. She was determined that she was going to find out what this “Zero Hour” business was about once and for all, then call the police if it was anything serious.
She followed the group of kids from afar, never loosing sight of them, but never going within ten yards either. They kept going farther and farther, until at last, they reached their destination unknowing about the wearied mother behind. They led her to the edge of the neighborhood to an old truck where a scraggly man with stubble on his chin waited. He looked like some sort of freaky tramp used to living on the road. Even at this distance, Henry’s mother could make out the mounds of trash on the passenger seat, although the back of the pickup was quite empty. The kids all cheered when they saw him, and one called out “Hey Leader!”
More and more kids continued to come, all from different directions. One, Henry’s mother realized with a pang, was dear little Hannah Arble, a sweet little girl who was the daughter of Grace Egrington. She was dressed in a long-sleeved, plain, white dress, her blond hair accentuating her pale blue eyes. Henry’s mother and Grace were good friends, and their children were always ready to play in the treehouse. Henry’s mother almost forgot where she was and was about to laugh when she remembered the look on Henry’s face several days ago when Hannah insisted that the particular day’s game was to be ‘house’ and not the customary ‘missile launch’ game. Henry was to be the daddy, Hannah the mommy, and all twenty-six of her stuffed animals to be the babies. Dragging herself away from this happy memory, she focused her mind on the current events.
The kids all piled into the back of the rusty pickup truck, and then the man drove them all off towards the nearby forest. Alarm bells rang loud and clear, and Henry’s mother ran off behind them in full pursuit. She was relieved to find, however, the truck was in very bad condition and could not go very fast on this bumpy road, not without dropping any of its precious cargo. Keeping to the trees on one side of the road, she continued to follow them. The kids, Henry among them, discussed animatedly about what sort of adventure awaited them today. Although they couldn’t agree on exactly what sort of new thing would happen today, they all were in one mind when they said it was sure to be fun. Hannah, seemingly from what Henry’s mom could pick up, was a newcomer to the game.
The came to a cave after 20 minutes of slow driving. The kids all clambered out of the car in complete disorder with some friendly tussling. Henry’s mom had been forced to follow the truck at a fast-paced trot, and had fallen behind a little due to recent lack of exercise. She caught up in time to see the kids all lined up in single file order, moving slowly into the cave. Each of the children seemed to be receiving something from the “Leader” as they went into the cave, and those already inside the cave were calling for the others to hurry up. Henry’s mother concealed herself behind a bush and peeked through the leaves. It was impossible to see what the twisted man was handing the children as he was standing on the opposite side of the truck. Henry’s mother was sure that whatever he was giving them was no good, and she was convinced when he took a large piece of plywood off the back of his truck (apparently the children had been sitting on it so she hadn’t seen it before) and closed off the entrance. Making no sudden movement, Henry’s mother slowly got out her cell phone, carefully covering the speaker with two fingers before she opened it fully so it wouldn’t give her away with its customary ringing welcome song. She was about to dial when she heard the man walk away from the cave, and he came to the other side of his truck, where he seemed to be taking shelter behind the tire. He began to loudly count down.
Kids were laughing uncontrollably to be shushed by others who were suppressing laughter just as hard.
One of the kids laughed outright, causing some of the others to break free of their control to be quieted angrily by the others.
Henry’s mom was frozen in place, held fast by a roaring curiosity of what would happen when that man got down to one.
The kids were all silent now, their breathless anticipation making the air quiver.
Henry’s mom’s brain had shut down, destroying all mother instincts and the only thing left running was this terrible curiosity that held her finger right over the ‘nine’ button on her cell phone.
There was a click, followed by several others. Part of the mother instincts awoke… just a little.
The kids’ anticipation was suffocating.
Henry’s mom’s mind jerked to life, and went into overdrive, and she began dialing 911 as fast as she could.
A voice came over the phone on the first ring. “911… what is your emergency?” But before Henry’s mother could unlock her throat for a single word…
Gunshots were heard from the cave, rang through the clearing, and a few bullets tore holes in the plywood. One of the bullets smashed the window of the pickup and whizzed over Henry’s mom’s head.
“Hello? Is anyone there? Hello?” came over the phone, but Henry’s mother had become oblivious to all sound. There was nothing left for her… absolutely nothing…
Suddenly, something awoke inside her heart, spread to the very tips of her fingers and toes. It was hate, a cold fury against this man. It tore her insides, screaming for revenge on this twisted fiend, this stinking piece of filth who hurt her child, this… this son of a b- Henry’s mom lost her mind, descending into a savage state of mind that does not have the word ‘civilized’ in its vocabulary. Abandoning all pretences of caution, driven by this hate and the tiniest fragment of hope that maybe… just maybe… Henry could be alive... Henry’s mother threw herself upon the surprised tramp with a bloodcurdling war cry, the phone dropping from her hand in mid-leap.
“Ma’am? Are you alright?”
When the police came to investigate, perhaps ten minutes later, the wind carried a smell from the direction of Hornsthorn Swamp. It was a horrid smell, a mixture of mold and with an undercurrent of death. They followed the smell, which became more unbearable every with each step. Some of the men and women were forced to halt due to nausea. Those who had blunt senses of smell reached the edge of a clearing in the forest, where the swamp had perhaps about three feet of soggy mud shore before it merged, almost invisibly, with the murky water. Creepers hung ominously from the hanging branches, and a still mist hovering over the swamp. Proceeding forward with the utmost caution, they found little Henry, quite unharmed, and the unmistakable source of the smell; a pile of the missing children’s bodies in the swamp with one strangled adult woman on top of the pile. They were all dead, some of the children from gun wounds and others from oddly angled arms, legs, and necks. Many of them had their eyes open, staring at nothing, most with looks of pain and confusion on their faces, and all were in various states of decomposing. The bodies at the top were the freshest, the blood still shining red and staining their clothes, marking the little T-shirts, jackets and jeans, and in one case, the blood was dyeing a little girl’s plain, white dress to a dark crimson patch over her belly. The crimson patch was, even now, growing, after all life had left the body itself. The woman’s body on the very top had gone into the stage of rigor mortis, a gruesome snarl plastered forever on what was once a happy face. Henry had an insane smile on his face, connected to the dark, adult laugh he gave off, a mirror of the twisted tramp’s mind. He waved cheerfully at the shocked policemen, and put a finger to his lips.
“Shh,” he told them in the voice of the utmost reasoning, and almost as if they had been making any sound at all. “Don’t wake them up!” he reprimanded gently. Then he gave a dark chuckle.
“They’re all sleeping.”
Note: NO I am not becoming suicidal, NO I am not becoming depressed, YES writing a short story was a school assignment, YES I would like to read comments on reactions to this, NO this is not really how my mind works on a regular basis, YES there are connections to Lord of the Flies in this story because we've just finished reading it in English class. *takes a deep breath* Any questions?