Sam did not forget that he wanted his revenge.
The winter in the woods was long and carried well into May. Vinnie stopped worrying about keeping Sam fed. With the bodies of water frozen over they couldn’t even get to the fish, but the boy’s strength did not diminish. He craved no food, but occasionally sucked on ice.
Sam spent his days with his training. He climbed slick rock faces and cold trees and executed, as far as he was concerned, awesome kung fu kicks. At night he asked Vinnie an endless stream of questions on all topics. For his part, the ghost tried to answer, but did not know everything.
At night Sam slept. Vinnie had grown less worried about protecting the boy and could go away for hours at a time. He visited the homes by the lake and looked inside, occasionally finding magazines or books that were open. Vinnie also occasionally followed the highway, watching the rare vehicles driving by, often with radios playing. Any bit of information he could gleam from these sources, Vinnie would use during Sam’s interrogations. It was a long, dull winter.
The snow stopped falling, and then vanished from the ground. A week later, Sam returned to Carltonville.
He followed the road most of the way, but far enough from it that he couldn’t be seen. Vinnie, nervous about the trip, floated along ahead of him. As they drew closer to town they noticed more animal life than in their neighborhood. Furry little creatures ran as the boy and ghost walked past. Birds flew away.
Sam walked in a grim silence, resisting Vinnie’s attempts at conversation. “We have to be quiet,” he said.
They reached a sign declaring that they were entering Carltonville and Sam decided to move away from the road. “We’ll come up from behind,” he said. “They’ll never see it coming.”
They came out of the woods at the edge of town facing a row of backyards. Sam hadn’t seen the town in more than a year, but knew instantly where he was. “Hey,” he said, excitement showing in his voice. “My friend Curt lived over there.”
Vinnie saw the house and noticed a clothesline with drying clothing flapping in the breeze. He looked at the tattered shreds Sam wore. “Do you think Curt would mind you borrowing some of his clothes?”
Sam looked down at his exposed body. “Good idea.” Staying close to the tree line, Sam crept toward the house. “Vinnie, is there anyone in there?”
The incorporeal skull streaked into the house and back in a flash. “Empty,” he said.
Sam ran into the yard and grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt that looked like they would fit. He ran back to the woods and took off the rags he was wearing. The new clothes were damp, but so clean. Catching his reflection in the window of a shed, Sam pulled twigs and leaves from his nappy hair. Then he heard a car.
Sam ducked behind the shed as the crunched the gravel of the driveway and came to a stop. Vinnie, hoping Sam could be found and perhaps return to a normal life, watched in silence.
A man got out of the car. Sam had only met Curt’s father on rare occasions, but recognized him. A tall, thin white man with streaks of white in his beard. He started toward the front door of the house but, remembering something, changed his path to come around to the back. He started bringing in the laundry, the line squeaking as he pulled the clothes in and folded them into a basket. Sam and Vinnie stared from behind the shed.
Sam noticed something. Curt’s father glowed. The same sickly green pseudo-light from the ritual seemed to ooze from the man’s skin. “Do you see it?” he whispered.
“What?” said Vinnie.
“The light. He’s glowing. He’s one of them.”
And Vinnie did see it. The man had the same distance from the physical plane that Sam had. He was changed.
“He’s one of them,” Sam said again.
Before Vinnie could react, Sam was running across the back yard.
The man looked up a soon as he heard a noise. Vinnie saw that the man, to his credit, did not react with panic, but prepared to fight. It was too late however. Sam leapt from eight feet away and came down on the man’s chest.
The man fell. Clothes spilled to the ground. The boy punched furiously. Blood spattered onto the back wall of the house.
The man rolled over, tried to detach his attacker, but could not. The grappling pair knocked into the clothesline pole and it fell. Sam grabbed the line and looped it around the Man’s neck.
“No!” the man as he tried unsuccessfully to get the line off.
Sam pulled the line tight, kneeling on he man’s back. The man struggled and writhed. He clutched at Sam, at the ground, at anything. Nothing could help. His eyes bulged and his face turned red. The eerie glow faded at the same time the man stopped moving. Half a minute after that Sam let the line go and stood up.
Vinnie saw the man’s ghost as it left. It was pulled away to places unknown before it could tell what had happened. Vinnie was not happy with the outcome of the trip into town, but it was plain to see that the man had been twisted and wrong deep down. He would not have helped Sam.
Sam was catching his breath when they heard another vehicle turning into the driveway.
“Run!” said Vinnie.
Sam was in the woods again in seconds, but stopped to look back. Curt and his mother were getting out of their van, which had pulled in behind the car. Curt was wearing a baseball uniform and calling for his dad.
“They’re not glowing,” Vinnie said. Sam saw that they weren’t.
“We better go,” he said.
As he snuck away, Sam heard screams as the body was discovered. He felt bad for Curt, but knew it was better this way.
They went back to the car.
“I killed him because he was evil,” Sam said.
“I know,” Vinnie said.
“The ones who killed my family will all glow like that, I bet,” Sam said. “I have to lay low for now, but soon… soon I’m going to kill them all.”
Vinnie made what can only be described as the mental version of a deep sigh.
“I know,” he said.
At the edge of Carltonville police have come and gone at the scene of the murder, but a group of three stayed behind.
“None of us want to hear it,” one said “but it has to be one of our group who did this.”
“We don’t know that,” said another.
“Barry would have been strong enough to overpower anyone in town who isn’t one of us,” said the first one again. “Someone in the group has turned. We have to call a meeting. See where everyone was today. It’s possible the killer will even reveal themselves by not showing up.”
“It isn’t one of us,” said the third. “There’s someone else.”
“What do you mean?”
“Over here,” he ushered them behind the shed. “Evidence. I didn’t report this officially. This is our concern, not there’s.”
He pointed down at the tattered remains of a suit of children’s clothing.
Originally posted on AbwatwaX on Sunday, March 6, 2011