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  • Writer's pictureJay F. Servedio


Timothy sits along the riverbed and watches the sun sink. His head hurts but he observes the sky. Squinting and waiting for the pink and red. The river sloshes as the sun slips and there he sits, without a care in the world and eyes for the pink and red. He wants to see those colors. After a bit, the colors come. Timothy’s eyes stay glued. As does his smile. And the three of them stay till the sky's colors left. Then the smile, the stare, and the boy they belong to hit the road. Solitude is no stranger to him (a boy of eleven years with no mom and pop, not anymore, at least), but the dark is. And Timothy doesn't want to stick around to find out what comes after the colors leave.

He takes to the path he walks every day: the one between the schoolhouse and Mr. VanHouten's farm. Mr. Van Houten (who'd lost his wife and son three winters earlier) never has a problem with Timothy walking through his property, because Timothy always helps the septuagenarian during the harvest when the workload kicks up; but he does have a problem with the boy not having a bed to sleep in or a meal to eat. Which is why Mr. VanHouten is waiting on his front porch til he sees the Timothy. He wants to convince the boy to stay with him: Work on the farm, with a meal and bed to look forward to everyday. Above it all, he wants some company, the thing all people need most. He thinks Timothy needs it as well.

Timothy makes his way about an eighth of a mile from the VanHouten property line, preparing a smile and a wave for his friend; questions about his day and "if he needed any help with the corn tomorrow." It's going to be a cold, dry, November day, that's at least what Ole Missus Gillis said earlier, when he left the school house. He has nothing to bundle up with, but he is still willing to help the old man.

Timothy finally sees the candles that light up the windows of the VanHouten home. He thinks he sees Mr. VanHouten sitting on his porch, reading that old book of his. He raises a hand and opens his mouth, about to send a "Howdy!" his way... and then Timothy steps on a bear trap that is covered by the leaves. Instead of a greeting, it's a scream of pure, unadulterated suffering that makes it past his lips.

Mr. VanHouten's eyes shoot up from his book, to see his young friend writhing and screaming like rabid hyena.

"Oh Goodness! Timothy!" The old man screams. He gets up and starts to make his way over to the boy, but before he's even within fifty feet, a tall man with an axe in his hand saunters to the boy.

"PLEASE HELP ME SI-" Before Timothy can finish the thought, the man buries the axe his stomach. Mr. VanHouten has never heard such screams. He's never seen such horror.

Timothy starts to seize and he screams become gasps. His eyes roll back into his head as the man with the axe raises his weapon above his head once more and brings it down to the floor, splitting the young boys face into perfect halves.

The shock leaves Mr. VanHouten's body as he empties his bladder and bowls just a bit and he spews bile uncontrollably.

The axe man turns his attention to Mr. VanHouten.

Mr. VanHouten finally can see his face: the axeman has no lips, he's missing teeth, and one of his eyes has cataracts.

Mr. VanHouten backs away in horror, and he trips on the bottom step of his porch, smacking his head on the wooden steps behind him.

The axeman moves with an unnerving swiftness to the old man.

"PLEASE, DON'T DO THI--" but before the final word leaves his lips in full, the lipless axeman in front of him brings the axe down on the aged man, cracking open his chest at the clavicle, and burring itself deep in his ribcage.

Instead of a shriek, a gurgled yell and a river of blood flow from Mr. VanHouten's mouth. He coughs up red as the axe man places a foot on his chest and pulls the axe out of his body. Once more, the behemoth of a man raises the axe high to the sky and brings it down into Mr. VanHouten's skull. Bone and blood are split and splattered when the blade meets the brain. Cranium seeps out of the old man's mouth and the axe man pulls his wedge from his neck. He turns and walks and whistles away from the horrific scene, content with his work for the night.

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