By David Bernstein
Jeffery Mayer walked home from school on a humid autumn afternoon. He sported a brand new pair of Athletica sneakers, his gray
short sleeve shirt and a pair of worn blue jeans. He had just completed taking a geometry test and was ecstatic to be rid of the thing. A
weight, no a bunch of weights, had been lifted off his back. He had decided to reward himself that evening.
It was ten minutes after six and Jeffery had just finished his dinner. His mom cooked his favorite meal; a well-done hamburger with a
side of golden curly fries.
After dinner he put the remains of the cattle in the garbage and his plate in the sink. “Good dinner mom,” he told her as he exited the
He proceeded upstairs to his bedroom, making sure the door closed completely. Once secured in his room he went into his closet,
opened a walnut colored chest and from under a black winter coat he pulled out a bottle of Winter Jack’s Rum. This was going to be
his reward, his night to get drunk and relieve the pressures of everyday life. He threw the bottle onto his bed, grabbed his school
backpack and a thick flannel shirt. It was a blue colored checkered flannel that his Aunt had given him for his fourteenth birthday.
Everything in his pack was then emptied onto his bed, from schoolbooks to paper clips. Jeffery wrapped the shirt around the bottle
and put it in his pack along with a flashlight and a box of stick matches, after which he grabbed his pocketknife and attached it to his
belt. He looked around the room and made sure he had not forgotten anything vital to the evening’s events.
Now came the hard part, getting out of the house. Leaving undetected wasn’t the only problem. He wanted to be
within moderate yelling distance of his mom (having a
bottle of whiskey stashed away in a backpack often made a
fifteen year old boy feel that way.) He would be a bit more relaxed at that point. By the time he reached the end of the driveway she
would come out and ask him where he was heading. At that distance Jeff believed his mother’s radar, or as she liked to call it, mother’s
intuition, would be out of reach or at least not as effective. He was responsible, especially for a fifteen year old and would never go out
without telling his mom where he was going.
The boy stood at his bedroom doorway, eyelids shut, allowing his ears to see where his eyes could not. Concentration was the trick.
Listening was the key to a clean getaway. The ever so watchful Mom was in the downstairs bathroom. Jeff closed his bedroom door
gently making sure to turn the knob before it shut completely, avoiding the clicking sound the latch made when it popped itself into the
strike plate’s hole. The floor creaked a little here and there as he worked his way to the stairs. For the most part he was like a ninja
creeping up on an unknowing target. Down the stairs he went making sure each footstep was where it should be. Like all young lads, he
knew which steps creaked and where. He reached the bottom and stopped. Nothing. “Good,” he thought as a smile emerged on his
face. Now came the wait. A minute went by and still nothing. Then after about three minutes, there it was . . . the inevitable flush. On
that note Jeff yelled “I’m going out ma,” and flew out of the front door before he could hear her say anything. He sprinted for a few
seconds before slowing to a casual walk.
He reached the mailbox at the end of the driveway when he heard the rusty spring and creek of the hinges on the screen door as it
“Where are you going?” his mother yelled.
Jeffery stopped and turned around, “To Mike’s house to hang for awhile.”
“Do you have your key?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“All right, have fun and tell Mike’s mom I’ll call her tomorrow.”
“I will,” he said.
Jeff walked down Old Pond Road . It wasn’t a very
populated area where he lived. When he told people who
lived outside of New York that he lived in New York , they
would assume tall buildings and cement sidewalks. The only
sidewalk, and a weed torn crumbling one it was, in
Salisbury Mills was located in town. It connected Bob’s Fill Up to Tremont’s Hardware Store.
Jeff walked along the dirt road, kicking stones into the ditch running along the side. He’d forgotten to pack snacks, but Mike’s mom
always kept their house stocked well with the best goodies a kid could want.
The walk along the road was a ways so Jeff decided to take a trail through the woods. Coming home, if he didn’t spend the night at his
buddy’s house, he’d walk the road or get a ride, but for now the woods were fine.
He’d known there were no such things as werewolves or other creatures lurking amongst the forest, but a murky, animal littered
woodland was daunting nonetheless.
Coming to where the trail picked up off Old Pond Road , he leaped across the ditch, wind-milling his arms as he almost fell backwards,
but managed to still himself and proceeded onward.
Jeff grinned, his senses absorbing the forest’s ambiance. Its wildlife and sanctuary feel gave him a sense of untamed freedom. In earth
science, he learned about plant life (poison ivy catching his interest the most), insects and local fauna. The most formidable local animal
was the black bear. Deadly and powerful, but easily scared off as long as it wasn’t startled. They mostly fed on plants, but were known
to have attacked humans.
Since bears were few, (Jeff had never seen one around the area) he worried more about rattlesnakes, having run into one a year ago.
Its rattle a shaking blur of death, alerting Jeff, and keeping him from getting bitten. The slithery reptiles packed enough venom to take
down a horse.
Jeff’s worries were smothered like a small cinder as he meandered along with pleasant thoughts of Cindy McNamara. She was the
school beauty, as close to perfection as one could ask for. The daydream was quickly wrecked by a blood curdling scream. It came
from somewhere up ahead and to the right. It came again, a girl’s voice. The hairs on the back of Jeff’s neck stood at attention like tiny
soldiers during roll call.
He raced up the trail, his backpack sloshing side to side when he noticed a slim, but worn path breaking off from the main trail. The
girl screamed a third time. It was definitely coming from the direction of the offshoot path.
Jeff inched his way along, pausing to listen after each step forward. The forest was quiet as if all the critters had been listening too. Jeff
wanted to turn and head home, but the cries sounded like someone was in trouble, not stuck or lost trouble, but in life threatening
angst. He wanted to yell and see if the person would respond, but he was afraid.
The path disappeared around a bend in the forest. The trees were especially thick and close together like the people who gathered in
Times Square for New Years Eve.
They seemed to be swaying, but no wind was present. Jeff crept up slowly, peering around the curve.
Incomprehensible shock slapped him in the face like a giant hand. His mouth hung open, his breath caught somewhere in his chest. He
began feeling lightheaded before remembering to breathe.
Cindy McNamara was tied, naked except for her white underwear and pink bra, to a stake in the middle of a small clearing. Her skin
was filthy with smears of mud. Cuts and gashes lined her body like demented tattoos. He wanted to run up and untie her, but she wasn’
t alone. He heard someone talking. The voice was familiar but he couldn’t place it.
Cindy was gagged, a cloth of some kind stuffed into her mouth, held by duct-tape. Her captor must have gotten tired of the cries. He
must have told her to shut up, but she apparently didn’t listen. Good for her.
Jeff wasn’t sure what to do. If he left for help Cindy could be dead by the time it arrived. He felt frozen, conflicted like a hung jury.
Maybe he was dreaming. No, this was real. There were monsters in the forest, things more ferocious than bears and snakes. People
were by far the most frightening off all the species.
Jeff waited. What could he do? What should he do? He was just a kid. This was an adult matter and if he tried to help he’d probably
wind up like Cindy and that would do them no good. He was about to leave when Robbie Doyle, the class bully, entered the picture.
Robbie had a machete in his hand and walked up to Cindy, holding the blade against her cheek.
“Fucking whore,” he said. “My momma said you and your whole family are nothing but whores.” Cindy mumbled something
“I told you to keep quiet, bitch. But you don’t listen.” He backhanded her so hard that even Jeff could feel the sting. Robbie turned
and walked back out of view before returning with stacks of wood, placing them around Cindy’s feet. He kept up the process. He was
going to burn her alive.
“This is for your own good. You can’t help it. You need to be cleansed of the Devil’s touch. I can see it all over you like some disease.
I thought maybe I could bleed it out of you, but once it’s inside you it’s too late.” He continued piling on the wood.
Jeff had to do something, but this was too big for him. He needed a plan. Robbie outweighed him by a good thirty pounds and ate kids
like Jeff for lunch at the playground. He had never liked Robbie, but this was beyond comprehension.
The next time Robbie left Jeff’s view he came back with a small gas can. Cindy began screaming again, her cries muffled, as he started
splashing gasoline around her feet and the wood pile.
Robbie tossed the can when he was finished. It clanged off a rock and fell dead. The machete was back in Robbie’s hand before Jeff
“Got to get it out of you first,” Robbie said and began slicing slits along Cindy’s legs, stomach and arms. “The Devil’s in the blood so
we have to bring it to the surface where we can get at it the best.”
Robbie’s voice had almost completely changed. He sounded possessed, maybe he was, but Jeff had to act now.
He took off his pack, unzipped it, taking out the flannel and bottle of Winter Jack’s Rum. A branch snapped loudly under his foot as
he shifted his weight.
“Who’s there?” Robbie shouted.
Jeff quickly put the flannel on and took the knife from his belt, opened it and tucked it up his sleeve, blade out. He took a deep
breath, grabbed the bottle and walked around the bend.
“Robbie,” he said. “You’re doing it all wrong.” Robbie looked stunned as if he’d crapped his pants. “Your mother would be angry as all
hell with you.” Jeff’s heart pounded as if asking to be let out. He found it difficult to catch his breath.
“Jeff Mayer?” Robbie said, confused.
“It’s me, you ass.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Your mother sent me to make sure you don’t screw this up.”
“My moth . . .” he began. “Momma?” His face scrunched up as if it had lost its moisture.
“You need this, Robbie.” Jeff held out the bottle of rum. “Without this the Devil will surely overcome your efforts.” He glanced at
Cindy. She looked petrified, like a puppy getting its first serious beating, his heart broke. He wanted to wink at her, give her a sign that
he was here for her, but he didn’t dare risk it.
Jeff didn’t like the way Robbie was gazing at him, disbelief written all over his face. He had to sell it.
“How else would I know about the cleansing? That is what you’re doing? Isn’t it?” He kept inching forward, his heart in his throat.
“She don’t even know I’m here. I’m doing this for her. You’re a lying demon.”
“Mother’s know all about their sons and what they think. Don’t you know that, Robbie? She told me to keep an eye on you, make sure
you didn’t mess up.” Jeff was now a few feet from the machete wielding classmate.
“Take this,” Jeff held out the bottle and let the knife fall to his right hand. “Pour it down her throat, thin the blood so more flows from
Robbie reached out to take the bottle, Jeff let it slip. Robbie went to catch it, dropping the machete to use both hands. Jeff brought his
knife up like an upper cut, catching Robbie in the chest as he bent over. The knife went in, but only an inch before stopping, the breast
bone acting as a medieval buckler. Jeff’s hand continued sliding over the handle before hitting the blade and slicing his fingers. He hadn’
t gripped the damn thing well enough. Pain, like an angry hornet’s sting, engulfed his hand.
Robbie’s face contorted into an angry grimace. “You tricked me,” he yelled, Jeff’s knife still protruding from the breastbone. Jeff went
to swing at Robbie, but the bigger kid was faster and beat him to the punch sending Jeff flying backwards and to the ground.
Robbie had tears of rage in his eyes. He pulled the knife out and picked up the machete. “I’m gonna kill you,” he roared. Robbie
charged like a wild beast, knife and machete both held high. Jeff rolled to the side just before Robbie came crashing down. Jeff tried
getting to his feet to run towards Cindy when he felt a sharp sting in his left calf. He looked back and saw the machete sliding through
his pant leg. He kicked with his other foot striking Robbie in the head, dazing him.
Jeff quickly crawled along the muddy forest floor, Robbie already coming after him. The kid was tough.
He reached the bottle of Winter Jack’s Rum and felt Robbie’s hand grab his leg. Anticipation of another slice, Jeff twisted around,
bringing the bottle with him.
The bottle smashed into a diving Robbie’s head, shattering into small and large shards. Jeff had to shield his face from the flying debris
and scurried away from the downed ogre.
Jeff pushed himself up, still holding a piece of the broken bottle readying for another attack, but none came. Robbie lay on the ground,
only a slight twitch here and there. Jeff looked at Cindy, tears streaming down her face, before looking back to Robbie.
Jeff approached the boy with caution, nudging him with his foot. He bent down and saw no debris moving from where Robbie’s mouth
lay against the ground. The boy’s eyes were open, but lifeless. Jeff had seen this before when his father hit a deer while driving, killing it
instantly. He was told to stay in the car when his father got out to check on the animal, but he got out anyway. It was his first time
staring at death. This was now his second and it looked no different. Jeff felt for a pulse anyway.
Jeff untied Cindy who immediately cried hysterically as she hugged him fiercely. They were both bloody and bruised, but managed to
make it out of the forest. A passerby in a car stopped and took them to Jeff’s house. They were both taken to the hospital and
released, suffering from some contusions and lacerations.
Jeff learned later that week that Robbie had fallen on the knife, his knife, during the struggle. He didn’t ask for the knife back. It
served its purpose he figured and was of no use for anything else. He’d buy a new one, eventually.
Cindy and Jeff remained friends until she went away to college. He’d heard she married and was living a happy life. He had his own
wife and kids. On his fortieth birthday, twenty five years since that awful day, he received a card in the mail. It was Cindy thanking him
for what he did and letting him know that not a day went by that she forgot. Jeff smiled and kept the letter until the day he died.