by IGNACIO CARRION
The price of admission to their club is an answer to a question. The question is whispered to the candidate at the beginning of the evening. After dinner, when the coffee is being poured, he is obliged to answer. The men converse quietly; anticipating that they will have to stop talking soon to give the young man the floor. He’s standing next to the sofa. He’s very chilly and regrets not having chosen a spot next to the fireplace, if for nothing else, to add some color to the story. “Ok, it’s now or never,” he says to himself as he takes a deep breath. The custom is to repeat the question to the group and begin. He clears his throat and looks around the room, making eye contact with a few members but ignoring most.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”
“I’ll tell you the worst thing I’ve ever seen and along the way I’ll also confess to the worst thing I’ve ever done.” He pauses to collect his thoughts and begins.
The summer was hot and boring. I am an only child, and so I was always left to my own devices. My father worked and was never around. Although my mother didn’t work, I don’t remember her at all through that summer. It’s as though she disappeared until the day when much to my surprise, both my parents appeared to tell me that we were moving. I was eight.
There was a handful of kids my age on our street that would typically come by my house in the morning. One would look through the screen door to see me sitting on the couch watching TV. After he could see my mother wasn’t in the room, he would say, “Hey pussy, ready to go?”
“Yeah, fucker – give me a sec,” I would respond.
I’d put on my shoes and let myself out the back door to get my bike. I would ride it to the front of the house, joining the small group of boys, and we’d start our day.
One morning late in the summer we set out but didn’t stick to our normal route. I yelled to ask where we were headed. No one answered so I yelled again; this time making sure my voice was louder than the wind in our ears and punctuating the sentence with a curse word. David, who was just ahead of me, turned his head very quickly and yelled, “You’ll see!” Then turned and yelled again for good measure, “But for now, just shut the fuck up.”
We rode for what seemed like forever though it couldn’t be too far. The newness of the route deceived me.
We ended the ride in front of a house that had clearly been a fine house about a million years ago. It stood abandoned, choked by an ancient wisteria vine that filled the air with a sweet, ripe scent that reminded me of an old lady. It was at the end of a dead-end street on a large lot, and it didn’t look like there were any neighbors nearby.
We left our bikes in the front yard, next to a gravel driveway and gathered.
“Boy told me about this place,” David said. He was the kid who had told me to shut the fuck up earlier.
“Bullshit,” Hank interrupted, “he didn’t tell you.”
“Well, OK,” David started again, correcting himself. “I heard him tell Patsy about it. He said he’d bring her here today so we better take a look and then leave. We don’t want to be here if he comes. Jason, you stay out here and be our lookout. If Boy shows up, you need to sound the alarm.”
“Fuck that,” said Jason, “I’m coming with you guys.”
It was settled. We would explore the house as a group with no one on the lookout for Boy.
Boy had gotten his name when his brother David was just a baby. The story goes that David, never having said a word, pointed at his older brother and said, “Boy.” Their parents thought the baby was some kind of genius and decided on the spot that the elder brother would be called Boy from then on. Earlier that summer Boy had bragged about turning sixteen. He was big for his age and always smelled like onions. Though we all were, David, his brother, was especially afraid of him. It was as though Boy had decided to hate his brother from the moment David had pointed at him and made his first sound.
Boy had been with Patsy the last time I saw him. It’s clear to me now that the girl was mentally challenged but back then we all thought she was just dumb. And a slut. It was well known that Boy was having sex with her. I was on my way to the public swimming pool and wanted David to come with me. As I knocked on his door, Boy snuck up behind me. He wrapped both his arms around me and lifted me up so his mouth was right next to my ear. I could smell his body odor which was familiar and foul and realized I couldn’t move.
“Hey buddy,” he said to me, not knowing who I was, just knowing I was one of his brother’s friends. “I just fucked the slut. Her pussy was real good. How about I fuck you next? You want that?”
In spite of the heat I shivered and kicked with both my legs at him, missing him completely but managing to get loose. “No, you fucking asshole,” I said as I got up and ran away from him to my bike. Once safely on my bike I turned to him and repeated myself for good measure, “You fucking asshole.” It was only then that I noticed Patsy had been standing well behind us on the sidewalk. Watching.
I had not factored running into Boy today. Suddenly I wished that Jason had agreed to be our lookout. But I wasn’t going to chicken out. I joined the rest of our small group as we made our way around the back of the house. I saw right away that Boy had been there. The back door was broken as were the windows, the broken glass mingling on the ground with the grass and weeds, shining brightly in spots as I shifted my gaze. That’s when I noticed something moving in the brush. I walked away from the other boys towards it and it took a little jump in my direction. While the other boys made their way into the house, I found a gray rabbit.
I bent over to touch the rabbit and started talking to it like I’ve seen people talk to babies. It must have been someone’s pet at some point because it didn’t try to get away. I had never been this close to a rabbit, much less touch one. I was just getting used to its very soft pelt when I heard one of the boys scream from inside the house. I was a good twenty feet away from the back door when they burst out of it. The first was Jason, then David, whose look seemed weirdly vacant, and who managed to wave me towards him as he turned to run. Then the other two.
At the same time, I had gotten up to follow. Without realizing it, I had gathered the rabbit in my arms and, not knowing why they were all running, I followed suit and started to run towards my bike.
I had managed to make the corner when I felt something tug at my jeans. My body was lifted off the ground by the force and I flew through the air and back towards the house. I landed hard on the ground. I tried to break the landing with my left arm and in the process dropped the rabbit. The rabbit scampered a few feet away from me as I realized that my arm hurt like nothing I had ever felt. I noticed the rabbit looking at me. I noticed the blood gathering around the small pebbles now embedded into the palm of my left hand and then I noticed Boy standing in front of me.
He looked down at me and smiled. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and his jeans weren’t zipped up. His pubic hair protruded from his pants as I tried not to look. It was the first time I had ever seen that.
“What’s this?” he asked looking down at the rabbit.
“I don’t know,” I said, feeling immediately stupid.
“You don’t know? What are you? A retard? Like Patsy?”
Patsy, by then, had also made her way out from the house. Her breasts were exposed, as she also didn’t have a shirt, but her shorts were on, if slightly off-kilter. She looked over at me. Her face was bloody. Her eye swelling and her lip split. She’d been crying. She had not wiped her nose.
“Don’t worry about her, buddy, we’re trying something new today and she’s not quite used to it,” Boy said as he bent over and picked up the rabbit. “Is this yours?” he asked and smiled at me again.
“Yes,” I said, knowing that was not the right answer.
Boy’s response was to jut out his lower jaw and nod his head.
The other boys were all gone by then. I knew this because except for the breeze and a few distant birds, there was silence.
Boy held the rabbit close to his chest, then rocked it a bit as you would a baby. Then he kissed it. He looked at me, then looked at Patsy, then kissed the rabbit again. We were a summer triangle on the point of collapse.
Boy lowered himself to the gravel and reached behind him. From his back pocket he pulled out a switch blade. Patsy started making a guttural, pathetic sound that started as a “no” and swelled to a sob. I sat on the ground, guarding my arm, which I was sure was broken.
Boy placed the rabbit in the center of the triangle and rolled it on its back. He pressed the button on the side of the knife, which immediately doubled its size with the blade now exposed. He made a point to show me the knife, slicing the air in front of him slowly, once then again, making an invisible “x”. Like the broken glass on the ground, it sparkled for a second. Then in a graceful movement, he lowered the knife to the neck of the rabbit and slit its throat. The rabbit had tried to get away the whole time but quickly quit moving. A small puddle of blood spilled and gathered beneath it, the red tint contrasting wildly with the gray of its fur and the white of the gravel.
The moment held us immobile. Then it was released.
“I’ll bet you think this is over, don’t you buddy?” Boy said to me.
I had no idea what he could mean.
“Don’t you?” he repeated.
Then I thought, Yeah, this should be over, but it’s not.
Reading my mind, he said, “It’s not over, not by a long shot.”
With the hand holding the rabbit he turned its body so that its head was opposite to where it had just been. The movement made the dirt underneath it mix with the blood. The track left a semi-circle in front of the rabbit and Boy. Then he took the knife, now with clear access to the belly of the rabbit and sunk its tip into it. Without much effort, he cut down and up in a semi-circle through the rabbit’s stomach.
“Look,” he said, “she’s smiling at you.”
I stared at the rabbit, trying not to think about how quickly my arm was swelling. Trying not to think about the pain. Trying not to think about Patsy who was still saying, “No, no”.
Boy set the knife down next to the rabbit and then used both his hands to split the rabbit apart. He reached into it and pulled something out. They were tiny sacks that appeared to be strung together. He pulled and out they came from the belly of the rabbit. It took me a second to realize the rabbit had been pregnant. He dropped the string next to the dead rabbit with the last bit still in her. Then he got up and walked towards me. I took a deep breath and I ran all the way home.
The worst thing I ever saw was what Boy did to that rabbit. The worst thing I ever did was not say anything about Patsy, until now.
He takes a deep breath. As he exhales, the group of men seems to take his cue and also breathe in the last of the evening. They will think about him later. They will think about the gray rabbit and about Boy and Patsy. They will come to the conclusion that they have new blood in their ranks.
Later that night, sleep is elusive as it’s been for the last couple of months. The insomnia started late in the summer when one night he had been dreaming about the day Boy killed the rabbit and, though he had never suffered from it, he realized he had been sleepwalking. He woke up in front of his bedroom window. He had been dreaming that Boy was standing outside in the middle of his backyard without a shirt and with jeans undone.
Sometimes the thing that goes bump in the night is the house settling. Sometimes it’s something else. Tonight the bump wakes him and, thinking he is fully awake, he gets out of bed to look outside his window. Just as he thought, Boy is standing outside like he had in the dream. Boy is no longer sixteen. He is much older, almost old. He wears sunglasses even though it’s dark, and he is without a shirt. His body is ripped. He’s tattooed. He speaks and though he shouldn’t, he can hear the words as though Boy is whispering in his ear.
“That’s not the way the story really went, did it buddy? That’s not the way it ended.”
He turns away from the window and heads back to bed. If he is lucky he might be able to go back to sleep. If not, tomorrow will be a gray day.
No, that’s not the way the story ended. He thinks that maybe if he says it out lout, he can end the exorcism he started earlier in the evening. He addresses the bedroom and finishes the story, telling it not as himself, but as if he was the wisteria-choked house, or the old, scarred trees or some other witness.
After he killed the rabbit, Boy moved towards him, scooping him up in one movement. Patsy rushed over to get him to let go but Boy easily backhanded her with his free hand. She fell on the ground and let out a now very audible cry. Boy carried him inside the house. He tried to get away but all Boy had to do was grip his arm, now fully swollen. The pain was too much to do anything else but concede.
Boy took him to the living room of the house; there he had set up a pad for himself. He drank from an open beer bottle and held him down much like he had the rabbit just a few moments earlier. Boy unfastened the younger’s pants and pulled them down. The underwear he just ripped off.
Afterwards, he pulled his pants up with his one good arm and slipped out of the house afraid to wake Boy and almost tripping over Patsy who was by now just whimpering on the ground. Ignoring the pain, he took a few steps and stopped in front of the rabbit. The ants had already started to get to her. He bent over and picked up the string still sticking out from her stomach. He gently pushed each little sack back into her.
“Sorry,” he said to the rabbit and got up.
He didn’t run into anyone as he made his way home and when he got there, he walked directly to the couch and fell asleep. He woke to his mother screaming, asking him what he had done to his arm.
Later that night, when he and his parents returned from the hospital, David stopped by. David didn’t ask about the cast. Instead, he shared the news: Patsy flipped out after they left the house and killed Boy. She took his knife and slit his throat, then made his stomach smile.
Ignacio Carrion is a writer and designer living and working in Houston who hopes that Orwell is getting residuals. He is currently working on a novel in three parts inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Ignacio’s micro, During the Day He’s a Good Man, appears in the January 2013 issue of HelloHorror and his shorty story, Boy, appears in the June 2013 issue of HelloHorror.
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