Out Of Focus

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A twisted tale of youth and manifest evil.

Submitted: July 20, 2016

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Submitted: July 20, 2016

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The way into the woods was like a giant black maw with the sun setting behind it. A silhouette of a little girl in a sundress stands on the path through the field and stares at it through a harsh dying August twilight. She turns her back on the woods and walks away from it for the last time…
August, in this part of the country, is a sticky hot bug infested idea God has every year. But for those of an age of carefreeness it’s a magical time. A time for exploring, building forts, rock fights, swimming, collecting bugs and hunting for toads. And for an eight year old tomboy like Dana, exploring the woods behind her house. That’s how she came to find the old well.
The old well was a three foot high circular rock wall with two rotten beams that once supported an A-frame roof. Half covering it was a moss padded wooden lid that allowed one to look into the black coolness that kept a little girl’s secret.
Dana ran down the stairs skipping treads and landing hard with all of her sixty pounds on both feet. She hit the bottom making a soft boomsound, sending dust fairies high into a shaft of afternoon light. Making a beeline for the front door, she passed the the living room off to the right where her dad sat reading the paper in an old musty wingback chair re-packing his pipe.
“You better be wearing shoes, child!” her mother yelled from the kitchen and then muttered “If she woke the baby…”
Dana‘s only answer was the slamming of the screen door. She leapt from the old porch and was off again like a shot when she hit the door yard. Her eyes narrowed and her lips pulled tight. Dana was on a mission.
The tall grass felt good under her bare feet. It tickled the back of her knees as she ran through the open field just off the path to the forest not far behind her house. Dana looked forward to her ventures through the forest and she liked her long chats with the dead boy in the well.
Summer was ending. The days were getting shorter and there was a change in the light and a change in the air. School would be starting soon, that meant Dana would be going back to the city. Back to an old Brownstone her family called home. So she wanted to spend as much time at the well as she could. ‘The dead boy was so lonely.’ she thought, and they would talk for what seemed hours, sometimes about silly things and sometimes about the presents she brought him. She wanted him to go home with her. She also wanted to tell her mom about him but then she didn’t want to share him. All he wanted was to talk to her.
Dana hated piano lessons and clothes shopping. She made anyone in the same room with her aware of this fact. Dana’s mother, in frustration one day, promised her that if she completed her lessons without too much fuss by August that she could do as she pleased until they left for the city. Dana agreed to the deal and did her best. Her mother was hoping that she would grow out of this tomboy stage soon, but didn’t count on it. Dana always seemed different to her mother. She was like a slightly out of focus picture. Everything was in the right place. She looked like an eight year old girl...just a little out of focus. ‘She’ll grow out of it.’ her mother thought.
The air was dry and alive with winged summertime missiles that would lodge in your throat if you ran with your mouth open. Dana had done this on a few occasions, always gagging or coughing up tiny corpses and spitting them out.
She could see the entrance to the woods now. Giddy with excitement, she almost forgot the dead turtle.
Dana was a thoughtful child. She would sit quiet for hours, even as an infant. The doctor told her parents there was nothing to worry about. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” he said, and laughed but Dana’s mom wasn’t laughing. And by 4 Dana was moving out of focus.
She lifted the dead reptile by the long end of the broken stick the turtle was impaled on and entered the forest. She ran under a blue and green canopy, shushing through the dead leaves and chasing a shaft of sunlight with the turtle out in front of her like a carrot on a stick. She smiled and thought ‘This was better than the cats!’
Drifting like the wind, it played with the dead leaves that made a golden bed on the forest floor...and waited for her.
Dana‘s mom was sorting laundry when she thought there were some clothes missing. She finished emptying the hamper and climbed the stairs to Dana’s room. It didn’t smell like a “little girl’s” bedroom but that wasn’t strange for her. She sat the hamper down on the old rope rug that was beside the bed and did a quick search of her daughter’s room. A room she once shared with an older sister when she was Dana’s age. She sat on her little girl’s bed and tried to think. She absently took a lighter and a cigarette from her apron pocket and lit it. The smoke curled up and dissipated in a small draft made by the open bedroom door and an open window just above a child’s pink and white Queen Anne desk. She got up and closed the window and found herself in a daze staring out across the field and at the woods. She knew those woods. She had hidden all over it as a child and she knew her daughter was there now.
Walking down the hall to snuff her smoke in the bathroom sink, she couldn’t help thinking about her mother. ‘Did I worry her like this?’ she wondered, and couldn’t help but shudder. She felt a coolness touch her.
It watched the little girl run by from a low branch in a dead tree. It thrilled and shook with the passing energy. It had waited so long for her. Dropping to the forest floor, it followed her across the forest to the dead boy in the well.
They held hands across the table and dad said the blessing that evening. Her baby brother staring at her from his high chair, feet bouncing to a polyrhythm of his own creation. Dana whined at her mother to make him stop. This had become a fairly recent ritual at the table. She despised him. Dana’s mom distracted the boy with a spoonful of mashed sweet potato. It would seem the spell had broken. They continued their meal in peace. Dana had an idea.
Dana had many ideas lately. They were coming faster than she could sort them. She felt so smart. She’d always done well in school but this was different. She felt as if she vibrated. She didn’t even sleep anymore. She just lay in her bed and let the idea pictures play out on her open eyes. That night she suddenly turned to side putting her back to her bedroom door. ‘Mommy’s watching me.’ she thought. She knew.
Dana’s mom watched her daughter through the slightly opened door. She wasn’t sleeping and they both knew she knew it. That was the point of this nocturnal exercise, she guessed. And another day ended.
She giggled. It swam through the trees elated. The corps lay at her knees. ‘This one wasn’t as messy. I must be getting better.’ she thought.  And she was getting faster.
It dared to sweep her hair off her brow. She pretended not to notice. It needed to show a little more restraint. Dana toyed with the entrails thoughtfully for a bit before placing them back in the cavity.
It dove into the summer heat like an otter through a sun warmed pond. It found a perch in an old gum tree, a safe distance from this wonderful child. It hummed to itself and tried to focus.
Dana wrapped the white spotted corps in one of daddy’s old t-shirts with the two footed logo. “The dead boy was gonna love this.” she said out loud traveling through her own world, it seemed, on her way to the well. She was radiant. It followed at a safe distance. It was drawn by her energy. Dana vibrated with it.
The days were getting shorter and everyone seemed to be more anxious lately. Dana felt it, at home, in town and in her forest. Soon she’d be back in school playing kickball with her friends again, telling whoppers about what they did over the summer and going to soccer games. Dana smiled at the thought of telling Roger “The Know It All” about what she REALLY did over the summer and laughed out loud when she pictured him puking all over his school uniform. She knew she couldn’t really tell anyone. No one would understand. ‘No one would believe her anyway.’ she thought. But her smile didn’t fade. The little girl was happy. The little girl wasn’t done yet.
The dead boy in the well waited. He waited eagerly everyday for the strange little girl and her gifts. A well can be a lonely place, even for a dead boy. He had moments of peace, although he wasn’t quite sure that was a correct description. More like spaces of time that past without measure. In a way, the girl had awoken a feeling in him. A sadness, he thought. Maybe he’d lost something. Time was strange in this place. Time was different, if it meant anything at all. After the little girl had left this time, she had left him with the promise of a surprise. She said he’d never be lonely again.
It floated above the oaks, elms, gum trees and sycamores keeping a gitty safe distance from the child as she left the woods taking that beautiful energy with her. It would drop to the forest floor when she had cleared the empty field. It would retrace her path feeding on her residual that shone with a temporary glow. That child was life because that child was death and she was brilliant. It gorged on the child’s path until the path faded to nothing, then spent the rest of the evening playing in the trees and pining for the child.
Hearing the screen door slam over the sound of chicken frying not far behind her, she yelled at Dana to wash up for supper. Feet stomping up the stairs the only response. Dana’s mom closed the McCall’s magazine she was reading and crushed out her last cigarette. She hadn’t really been reading. She was playing in her past. A place she visited more than ever since their arrival at the summer house this year. She turned the chicken, expertly avoiding the snapping grease, as she let the past fade. Time to set the table.
 
The little girl in the sundress was walking through the woods and spotted a pile of rocks beside the path. On closer examination she noticed ‘Not rocks. At least not all of them were rocks.’ she thought. In the pile were oak balls, horse apples and dried mud balls among small to medium stones.
“Those are mine!” a boy’s voice shouted from behind dead scrub oak.
“So?!” She responded back in a snit. “You can have ‘em.”
That summer the two of them were inseparable.
 
The shine was off the morning by the time the boy found her. The little girl in the sundress was crouched down over something. He ran to see what it was. As he reached her he heard her mutter “The dead are stupid.” and then she noticed the boy.
“I hunted it.” she said when he got to her right shoulder.
“It’s a dog!” he said, a little fascinated and a little grossed out.
“Of course it is, Dummy!” she said, but not in a hurtful way. Not like the others.
They both stared at the old Labrador mutt. An old frog gig sticking out of its neck and a bloody rock next to it.
“I had to break it’s skull.” she explained. “It wouldn’t die for a long time (‘the dead are stupid.’ she thought. Can you see it’s brains?!”
The boy stood over the dead dog and plunged the gig in and out a few times, just for the feel of it. He sniffed up a snot and shook off a tear.
“Are you crying?” she asked incredulously.
“No.” the boy said and let the bloody gig fall to the ground after sliding off the corpse.
He turned his back on her and said “What else can we hunt?”
“First we have to bury this one.” she said, standing on the stiffening mutt.
“I know where we DON’T have to bury it.” he said, hoping he could impress HER this time.
She followed him across the forest to an area she hadn’t explored yet. The boy talked all the way there. He talked about silly things and he talked about a daddy he never saw anymore. The little girl in the sundress was too busy looking around to really listen. The boy babbled on until they reached the well.
“Oh Wow!” she said.
The boy giggled as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. It was like a Happy Dance, she supposed.
The boy excitedly ran up and yelled “Hey!” into the opening. He voice coming back to him in quick succession.
“Hear the echo?” he said as he turned to her all proud.
The two of them did a lot of hunting that summer...and not all of it in their woods.
That summer the two of them were being watched.
 
It came into being that summer.
It gorged itself that summer.
 
Dana loved chicken. She gorged herself on it that night. Her little brother stared and bounced his feet at her the whole time. Her mother studied her secretly over dinner. Dana was in a rare mood. She ate all of her spuds, fried green beans, two drumsticks and a thigh. She even smiled at the baby.
The little girl in the sundress and the boy were busy on her last day of summer. They had played with a box of kittens they found the day before, but they had started to smell already. They worked together one last time putting the little furry parts back in the box when she said.
“I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Why?” he whined back.
“You know why, Dummy.” she said.
He didn’t take offence to this. She was his best friend in the whole world. The’d be just like brothers if she was a boy.
“ I got a surprise for you, though.” she said with a grin as they both stood, each with a side of the box of gore.
“What is it?” He said, doing his stupid Happy Dance.
“Promise you won’t tell?” she asked.
“I won’t tell.” he gushed with excitement.
She looked at him with exaggerated doubt.
“I cross my heart and hope to die…” he went on.
She smiled.
It was there. It watched the little girl in the sundess. It wanted to touch her. It wasn’t brave enough...yet.
 
Dana rolled out of bed fully clothed. The house was deep in sleep. She was giddy with excitement. It was time.
She found the path easy enough on this moonlit night. Stopping only once to readjust her bundle, she all but ran through the field. Shifting the unaccustomed weight again as she reached the woods, Dana pulled the flashlight she had dangling around her neck like a backwards necklace. She flipped it on, using it only for reference at times since she knew these woods like she knew the streets in her part of the city. She knew every rock and dead tree. She knew her way to the well.
It saw her through the bedroom window. It watched as she exited the house. It left the old gum tree as she crossed the field. It was beside her when she entered the forest. It was hungry.
 
The little girl in the sundress, the boy and their box reached the well.
“Can you hear that?” she said to the boy, trying to hold back her smile and failing.
“Hear what?” he said, smiling back only because she was.
“Listen, Dummy!” she whined.
The boy cocked his head to listen.
“No.” she said, and made a shushing noise while pointing toward the well.
“Is that my surprise?” he asked with his best library voice, shifting again from side to side.
“Maybe…” she said, drawing her word out slowly.
The boy gave her a tight lipped grin and rolled his eyes up as in an “Oh golly” gesture.
She thought she loved him at that very moment.
The boy leaned over the cold rock wall so that he could hear his surprise.
It watched all this with interest. The little girl in the sundress radiated glowing energy. It wanted to touch her. It was ravenous. It was also afraid.
 
Dana reached the well. She turned her flashlight off and set her bundle down.
“Is that you, Girl?” the dead boy in the well called out.
Dana’s silhouetted face appeared in the opening. Out of breath, she tried to speak.
Through quiet short gasps she said.
“I brought you...the...surprise I...promised.”
It was watching her. It was getting close again.
Dana knelt by her bundle and started unwrapping.
It watched as Dana started to glow brighter. It was drawing in closer.
The dead boy in the well yelled up “Who else is there? Is that you?!”
 

The little girl in the sundress was unnaturally fast. The boy lay broken at the bottom of the well on a bed of gore. The last thing he remembered seeing was a cardboard box falling, then...nothing.
 

She was reaching for her baby brother when she suddenly stopped. With unnatural speed she snatched it out of the air and tore it’s head off. Dana dropped to her knees, bone tired.
Her mom stepped out from behind the well and took the baby boy. She gazed down at her eight year old daughter and noticed she was finally in focus. She pulled her daughter close. Dana gave a big yawn.
 
“Um...Hello?” the dead boy in the well pleaded.
 
Friday morning. Their last morning at this breakfast table until next summer. Dana’s dad had left to catch the train into the city for work. It was just the three of them. Bleary eyed and yawning over their Cheerios. The baby gurgled and smiled at Dana and she made silly faces back.Dana’s mom got up to get the coffee pot. Dana said.
“Mom?”
“What, pumpkin?”
“H’come you wouldn’t talk to him?”
“Because, Babydoll…
 The dead are stupid.”


© Copyright 2017 R.Guy Barringer. All rights reserved.

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