Another excerpt from my upcoming novel, Fragments of Light:
One by one, they shuffled out of the falling rain to the shelter of Fat Billy’s carport.
Although the rain had only been falling for twenty minutes, which was about the time it took for them to leave the woods and walk to Fat Billy’s, the sky had been black, with purplish storm clouds bulging for most of the morning.
“Told you we should have left the woods a lot sooner,” complained one of the boys.
“Quit bitching you pussy,” said Fat Billy, as he opened a door to a small store room under his carport and handed out small orange rags, like the ones used in mechanic shops.
The boys dried themselves off with the rags the best they could.
“Anybody home?” asked someone else.
Matt was not sure who it was that asked that question. His focus hadn’t been the best
lately, Steven’s either, and it caused a wave of speculation amongst the other boys in the
“Maybe they’re gay,” someone suggested.
That could have been the case with Matt, who always seemed a little light in his loafers, but not Steven. During quieter times, when Matt and Steven weren’t around, they speculated like this.
“Matt told me they saw something in the woods one afternoon,” David said, but when pressed for more details, he just shook his head. “He won’t tell me what they saw, but personally I think it’s something that scared the living shit out of them.”
“Out past the power lines, near that swamp area, I know there’s wild pig out there,” someone else volunteered. “Maybe that’s what they saw.”
It was decided amongst the others, though, that this wasn’t likely. If all they saw was a damned wild pig, why were they so quiet about it? The question hung in the air, as the boys unloaded their backpacks.
“What?” asked Fat Billy as he sucked greedily from his canteen, water dribbling down his chin, spilling on to his too-tight, camouflage t-shirt.
“Is anybody home?” Dennis said.
“No,” Fat Billy replied.
“Well lets go in and dry off, find something to eat,” someone else suggested.
Fat Billy considered this for a while, weighing the options. He knew his parents didn’t like it when he brought “the whole neighborhood” into the house to eat, drink or watch TV.
“Yeah man, come on,” Dennis said. “We won’t wander all over the house. We’ll stay in the kitchen. We can play cards or something.”
Suddenly a flash of lightning, followed by a booming crash of thunder, etched itself across the sky and all the boys jumped, startled.
“Come on man, lightning can reach under covered areas,” Matt added.
Reluctantly, Fat Billy let them inside and the six of them sat down at the kitchen table.
“Let’s play Monopoly,” someone said, but then Fat Billy’s face lit up and he grinned.
“I have a better idea,” he said, and he ambled out of the room.
Fat Billy returned a few moments later with a tattered and faded white box, a board game of some sort.
“What is it?” Matt asked.
“It’s a Ouija board,” Fat Billy said.
“That shit doesn’t work,” someone snickered.
“Like hell it doesn’t,” Fat Billy said. “My mom has thrown this thing out like four
times and every time it ends up back on the shelf in Shari’s old bedroom.”
Shari was Fat Billy’s older sister, who died a year or so before in a car accident.
“This used to be hers,” Fat Billy said.
“Hey maybe should try to contact her, and see what she thinks about you going into her room, digging through all her shit,” Dennis said, a slight touch of cruelty in his voice.
“Fuck off,” Fat Billy said.
“What’s wrong Bill,” Baxter asked. “You afraid she’s going to rise from the grave and come get you.”
“I wish she’d rise from the grave and come get me,” Dennis said. “Shari was a total fox, one foxy momma.”
“Watch your mouth man,” Fat Billy said, warning him.
“What are you gonna do Billy, sit on me,” Dennis said, laughing.
“Be cool Dennis,” Steven chimed in. “That shit’s not cool.”
“Whatever,” Dennis said, rolling his eyes. “It’s all just weird. Why don’t your parents clean out her room or something? It’s creepy that they just left it like it was when she was alive.”
“We are,” said Fat Billy. “I just don’t think my mom is ready to.”
The storm outside was growing in intensity and the lights flickered, or a moment, as they pried the Ouija Board out of its dilapidated box.
“Hey,” Baxter said. “Where’s the little pointer deal?”
“Our fucking dog ate it,” Fat Billy said. “But we have a different way of doing it. It’s actually more reliable. People can cheat with the pointer. I have a better way.”
Fat Billy got out of his chair and walked over to kitchen cabinet and opened it. Another loud clap of thunder shook the windows inside the house and in the distance they heard a “ZZsst” sound, following by crackling and the electric went out without ceremony.
John, who had been quiet up to now, began making ghost noises.
“Knock that shit off,” Baxter said.
Dennis laughed and muttered, “Baxter’s afraid of the big, bad ghost.”
Finally, Billy returned with a needle and thread and a few candles and sat down back at the table.
“What is that?” John asked.
“What does it look like?” Fat Billy asked.
“A needle and thread,” John said.
“Say what you want about him ladies and germs, but our man John is no retard,” Matt said, chuckling.
Fat Billy slid the thread through the eye of the needle as Matt lit the candles with a box of kitchen matches. Once the thread was slid all the way through, Fat Billy held the dangling needle above the letters on the board.
“We ask the questions and the needle will point to the right letters,” Fat Billy said. “Yeah, but you could just move your hand with this too,” Steven said.
“Just watch,” Fat Billy said. “You’ll see. Any of you can hold my hand to make sure I don’t move it. Who wants to go first?”
Dennis volunteered and he took the piece of thread in his hand.
“How do I do this?” he asked.
“Just as it a question,” somebody replied.
“Will I get laid tonight?” Dennis asked.
Save for the natural swing of the needle dangling from the thread, nothing happened.
“I think you can take that as a no,” Matt said with a laugh.
“Shut up man,” Dennis said. “The box for no is right there, it didn’t go to no. Let me try again, I’ve got a good one this time.”
“No fair man,” said John. “I’m next. It’s not my fault he wasted his stupid turn.”
“Fuck it man,” Fat Billy said. “It’s not like the storm is going anywhere. We’ll all have plenty of turns.”
“Okay,” said John in a begrudging tone.
“It’s cool man, it’s okay, I think I’m getting the hang of this shit,” Dennis said. “Okay, here we go. Shari, are you here in the house with us?”
Fat Billy made a move as if he were going to protest, but then he stopped and watched. Slowly, but surely the needle and thread began to swing faster, until it began to hover near the “yes” box and then, suddenly, the candle nearest Dennis suddenly flickered out.
A hush fell over the room, followed by some oos and ahhs.
“Did you see that shit?” Baxter said. “Oh shit.”
Dennis, in turn, dropped the thread and needle.
“Fuck that man,” he squealed. “That’s it. I’m done.”
“You stupid fucker,” Matt said. “You blew on it. You blew the needle and you blew the candle out of the corner of your lips, I saw it.”
“Did not,” Dennis said, feigning righteous indignation, but unable to keep a straight face for very long. He suddenly burst out laughing. “You’re a fuckerhead Matt. I had them going until you opened your big mouth.”
John took his turn, but in the process, somehow managed to stick himself in the hand with the needle. This was followed by a round of “Smooth move Exlax” from everyone sitting around the table.
“Shit, you dummy,” said Fat Billy. “Go get a wash rag out of the sink, don’t bleed on my mom’s new tablecloth, she’ll have a total fucking cow.”
“Who wants to go next?” someone asked.
From the other side of the table, barely audible, Steven piped up.
“I’ll go,” Steven said.
“Look out, the mystery man is going to take a swing at it,” Dennis said.
Steven took the thread in his hand and watched as the needle spun lazily from the thread.
“What are you going to ask it?” Matt asked, a slight worried look creeping across his face.
“Not that,” Steven said.
“Not what?” Dennis asked.
“None of your fucking business,” Steven said.
“What is that?” Dennis asked. “I get so sick of the secret, secret shit with you two. What are you a couple of faggots?”
“Fuck you Dennis,” Matt said. “You don’t have a clue what you’re fucking talking about.”
Steven closed his eyes for a moment, as if concentrating, and took deep breath. He opened his eyes and in a calm measured tone he asked, “Have I ever lived a past life?”
Again, a hush fell over the room and everyone stared at the needle. It dangled uselessly at first, but then it slowly started to move, like it was being pushed by unseen currents of air, until it clearly pointed to yes. And with that it fell back into place.
“He’s faking too,” Dennis said. “God, this is so fucking stupid.”
“No, he didn’t, I was watching that time,” Fat Billy said. “Unless he’s one of those dude’s that can mentally bend spoons with his mind. There’s no way he did it. I’m right here. I’m fucking watching him.”
“I wasn’t faking it,” Steven said. “I swear. I could feel it pull. It was fucking creepy.”
“Of course it was,” Baxter said. “It was a creepy fucking question you asked. A past life? That’s weird. And you had to ask about Billy’s dead sister? It’s all creepy shit. This is devil stuff.”
“Somebody shut his ass up,” Dennis said.
Steven settled himself down, took another deep breath and continued.
“When did I die in my past life?” Steven asked.
A loud clap of thunder shook the house and they almost all jumped again. This time all the candles on the table, six of them, flickered as if something large and unseen had swept past them and the table.
“Shit Billy, you have a window in here open or something?” John asked. “I feel kinda cold.”
“Did you see that, did you see that,” Baxter screamed frantically. “I saw it. It was like a fucking blur.”
Matt didn’t want to say anything but he’d seen it too, and it reminded him all too much of the thing that had recently chased him and Steven through the woods
Dennis rubbed his arms and added, “It’s probably just the fucking creeps man, but I’ve got goosebumps too. Maybe we should just stick to Monopoly.”
“Be quiet,” Matt said. “Let him ask his questions.”
“Look at Matt, taking up for his girlfriend,” Baxter said.
Matt snorted sarcastically, “Yeah right, I’m not the one who got caught beating off in the green house.”
“Shut up, that’s not true,” Baxter said.
“Bullshit, Sean and Bobby caught him in the act, pants own around his ankles and everything,” Matt laughed.
“That’s not true,” Baxter said. “I was trying to take a dump.”
“Yeah, with your pecker in your hand, right,” Matt said.
“Well at least I don’t,” Baxter stopped in mid-sentence, trying to think of a comeback.
“What,” Matt asked, obviously on a roll. “You don’t stomp kittens to death any more.”
“Man, come on,” Fat Billy said. “That’s not cool.”
The shock of the taunt stopped Baxter in mid sentence and for a moment it looked like he was either going to start crying or lunge across the table at Matt’s throat.
“Come on let him come, I’ll fuck his ass up,” Matt said, standing up in front of his seat. “You’re a fucking pussy. You stomp a poor defenseless animal, but you won’t bring it on with me.”
“Knock it off Matt,” John said.
“Not until he takes it back,” Matt said.
“I’m not taking shit back, you little faggot,” said Baxter. “At least I had a medical excuse. My hyperactive meds weren’t working. It made me do things. But you’re just a faggot.”
“You gonna take that shit from him,” Dennis said, turning to Matt. “I’d knock his teeth out if I were you.”
But Matt ignored Dennis.
“Fuck you kitty killer,” Matt yelled.
“Faggot,” Baxter yelled back, his bottom lip now quivering.
“Kitty killer, kitty killer, Baxter is a kitty killer,” Matt chided, before launching himself into the Meow Mix jingle from TV commercial. “Meow, meow, meow.”
Half the table was now laughing, while others were visibly fighting moral battles within themselves, unsure of whether they should rescue Baxter or let him take his medicine.
“Who’s the faggot now huh?” Matt said. “Look at the little faggot cry.”
“I’m not crying,” Baxter said defiantly as his Adam’s apple twitched and a hot tear burned down the side of his cheek.
“Enough,” yelled Steven. “All of you. You’re all a bunch of rude fuckers. I was in the middle of something here. Go wash your fucking face Baxter.”
And just like that, the tomfoolery ceased.
“All of you act like a bunch of fucking women,” Steven said.
Steven then re-acclimated himself and asked the question again, “When did I die?”
Again, the needle jerked and then tugged and then began to point to a series of numbers, as Fat Billy deciphered.
“Eight, eight, sixty-eight,” Fat Billy said. “Does that mean anything to you Steven?”
Steven nodded, “Yeah, that’s my birthday.”
“Somebody hold his hand,” Dennis said. “And make sure he’s not blowing on the thread.”
“I’m telling you, this is really happening,” said Billy. “It really does answer shit for some reason here in my house, especially with the needle and thread.”
Both Fat Billy and John held Steven’s wrist in place.
Steven asked, “Where did I die in my past life?”
Thunder. The rain poured down and lashed the house and awnings. The crepe myrtles bent and blew wildly in the gusty winds.
Again the needle jerked, this time almost violently.
“Fuck, did you feel that shit?” John asked, looking at Fat Billy.
Fat Billy just nodded and quickly crossed himself, spitting out a quick Hail Mary, as if to fend off whatever evil may be approaching
Slowly the needle began to trek across the board, slowly but clearly spelling out, “V -I-E-T-N-A-M”
This time everyone was silent, and everyone had chills.
“What was my name?” Steven asked.
T – Y – L – E – R, the needle spelled out.
With that, Steven’s eyes fluttered and rolled into the back of his head and his body went limp and cold
“Catch him,” John shrieked like a girl.
Fat Billy caught Steven and they gently laid him down on the kitchen floor until his closed eyelids slowly began to flutter as he slowly came to.
Thunder roared again, deafening, shaking the entire house and rattling the kitchen windows so hard they were all sure they were going to implode.