by James Wayland
“What? You’re not scared, are you?’
“No.” This was a question that no twelve-year old could answer honestly.
“Then come on, it’ll be fun. We might even get some shit.”
Tyree chewed his lip, struggling with a difficult decision. For a few years now he had yearned for a chance to hang out with his idols, Wayne and Timmy, the neighborhood hooligans, but he didn’t find breaking and entering exciting. He was scared shitless. If his dad knew where he was and what he was considering, he wouldn’t be able to sit without discomfort for a couple of days just for mulling it over.
Wayne had let Timmy do the talking up to this point, but now he took over. “I don’t think he’s got it in him.”
“No,” Tyree said at last, unwilling to back down. “I’m cool. Let’s do it.”
They were farther out Blackberry Lane than the newcomer to the trio had ever ventured on his own. The shrubbery and the moss-draped trees that curled overhead overwhelmed the old dirt road, casting twisted shadows on the three restless kids. The boys were definitely out in the sticks--all of their phones and gadgets had stopped receiving a worthwhile signal some time ago. They had passed two abandoned homes in various states of decay already, but the older boys had already “picked those ninnies clean,” as Wayne put it.
He went on to brag about the ten bucks he had gotten for an old television at a pawn shop and an ancient stack of porno mags he had found in a closet on one of these outings. Timmy had settled for an album collection he found in the attic, a heaping stack of records with offerings from Black Sabbath and The Doors.
“Who knows what we’ll find this time?” Timmy was anxious to get inside the old place and start scavenging.
“Calm down,” Wayne said coolly, a confident smirk shaping his ruby red lips. “We’re getting there. This is the kid’s first time on the job and we’ve still got a little walking to do before we get to our next score. I say we light up and let go.”
Timmy laughed and proffered a pack of Marlboros. He had gotten a wino to buy them for him at the local Z-Mart.
Tyree’s heart began to beat faster. He had never smoked a cigarette before. This was so cool. What if they found something really neat in there? Maybe there would be some old comic books or baseball cards somewhere. He suddenly found himself looking forward to this curious endeavor.
Wayne lit his cigarette and Timmy did likewise, passing the pack and a black lighter to their new accomplice. Tyree clumsily lit his cigarette and took a deep drag, immediately gagging and falling prey to a wicked coughing fit. The other boys were laughing and he felt like his lungs were on fire.
“Easy now, little man,” Wayne chuckled. “Just get a little at a time, all right? Patience is a virtue.”
“Yeah,” Timmy concurred. “Try it again.”
When he felt he was able, Tyree inhaled a small portion of the pungent smoke; tasting it on his tongue and feeling it grate his throat as he sucked it into his lungs. It was awful, there was nothing good about it. Somehow he struggled through the rest of the wretched smoke, smiling and pretending to enjoy it as his peers seemed genuinely impressed. After what seemed like an eternity, Tyree dropped his cigarette butt to the ground and used his heel to grind it into the dirt. That was the only part of smoking that he enjoyed.
Shortly thereafter, they finally reached a place the boys hadn’t explored. Tyree stopped, a sudden sense of unease gripping them. This house looked like bad news.
“Come on,” Wayne said, nudging him ahead.
They slowly marched toward the decaying home that sagged before them, slumping beneath a loathsome burden of vine and mold. There was a bad smell surrounding the place, a bitter aroma that was damp and earthy.
Wayne took the lead, trying the door just to see if it was unlocked. It wasn’t, but that wasn’t a problem. He used his driver’s license to open it and the door swung open, the hinges creaking from lack of use. The odor was worse inside and the interior was hot and humid. All three were struck by how uncomfortable the old house was as soon as they were inside and the feeling grew tenfold when the door hissed shut behind them.
“Man, this place is the pits,” Timmy muttered, wincing as he gazed around at the rampant rot and mildew that covered the walls and the uncertain flooring beneath them.
“I don’t know about this,” Tyree said, carefully thinking things over. This was stupid. “Anything we find here is gonna be ruined.”
“No,” Wayne corrected him. “Anything we find here is gonna be really old and maybe really valuable.”
“I don’t like this shithole one bit,” Timmy chimed in. “I’d rather kiss a fat girl on the ass than start rummaging through this place. Shit, we might get lice just from being close to this dump.”
Wayne sighed. “Quit stoking your puss and let’s see if there’s anything here or not, okay? We’re already inside, and that’s the hard part.”
“All right, but let’s do it quick. It’s not like we’re gonna get anything good.” Timmy conceded, but he did so with a smoldering glare.
Now Wayne was more determined than ever to find something. There had to be something.
He set off, leading them through room after room, canvassing the first floor of the old house and finding nothing. The other boys were right; anything that might have been of interest—like that old stereo in the den—was gone to shit. The whole place stank and there was water dripping from the ceiling and pooling up in the floor in various places. It was like something out of a horror movie.
“I don’t think we’re gonna find anything,” Tyree declared. It was a sentiment he would have liked to express five minutes ago, but he was worried about looking scared in front of his new chums.
“The kid’s right,” Timmy readily agreed.
“We haven’t seen what’s upstairs yet,” Wayne countered. “Anything up there would be in better shape.”
“Something up there is leaking,” Tyree interjected.
“No shit. Aren’t you curious about that?”
“I’m not curious about anything here. This place stinks and there’s nothing worth taking, so we’re just spinning our wheels.”
“I wanna know what’s upstairs, kiddo, and you’re coming with me. You’re both coming with me. Right, Timmy?”
Timmy swallowed hard. He didn’t like this place any more than their new running mate, but he didn’t have the nerve to stand up to his bullish friend. “Yeah, but come on, let’s do it already. I wanna get outta here too.”
Wayne led them to the crooked staircase that disappeared into the darkness above. The windows on either side of the landing looming before them were covered with something—newspaper perhaps, but it was impossible to tell. It was too dark to make out anything.
“No way,” Tyree said after a single glance upward.
“Don’t be such a geek,” Wayne said, trying to sound tough even though a little tremor had crept into his voice. “We’re going upstairs and then we’re gonna get out of here.”
Tyree shook his head. “Nope. There’s no we about it. You guys have fun. I’m out.”
“If you’re out of this one, you’ll never be in on another one,” Wayne threatened.
“Well, it was real swell rolling with you fellas.” Tyree started walking and never looked back. Seconds later, the door slammed closed behind him.
“Stupid little prick,” Wayne spat. “What does he know?”
Timmy didn’t say anything.
“Let’s do it, then. Let’s grab some shit and get out of here.” Wayne dug a lighter out of his pocket and started up the stairs.
Timmy reluctantly followed, unearthing a lighter of his own and putting it to use, feeling like a complete jackass the whole time. They crept into the gloom, their lighters good for no more than a three-foot circle of flickering light. There were only three rooms, one on either side of the rise and one centered at the rear.
Wayne tried the door to the right and it swung open, revealing a putrid bathroom coated in mold and grime, host to a foul stench that was impossible to ignore. There was an inch or so of water in the floor and a steady drip from beneath the sink. Thick black slime was leaking from the base of the toilet, and large brown cockroaches were running all over the mildewed walls.
“The hell with that,” Wayne hissed, slamming the door and marching across to the one on the opposite side of the rise.
“This is stupid, man, there ain’t nothing here,” Timmy protested. He was sick and tired of this shit, Tyree had been right to get the hell out of this rotten place. Timmy wanted to be outside with him.
“You never know until you try,” Wayne said as he thrust the door before him open. His eyes immediately lit up. “See what I mean.”
The room before them wasn’t nearly as dirty as the others, but it was a far cry from clean. The window was uncovered, so they didn’t need their lighters to see in the enclosure, but the glass had not been cleaned and the dust that had gathered on the panes dampened the light. It was a child’s room, or at least it had been once. There were tattered stuffed animals and ragged clothes all over the floor and a pile of something neither teen could discern lying on the bed. The closet door was open, revealing a few weathered cardboard boxes filled with battered toys.
The pile on the bed moved. “What the hell was that?” Timmy wondered. He sounded terrified.
“I don’t know,” Wayne said matter-of-factly. “Maybe there are rats in that pile of shit.”
“Come on.” Wayne led Timmy closer for a better look despite Timmy’s labored pleas that they leave. There was something large shrouded in cloth on the bed, a misshapen sack or something, and before it was some kind of an antique doll that looked like a superhero. The figure was the size of a Barbie Doll and its costume and cape were actually made of cloth. It was in pretty good shape and it was obviously something collectible, so Wayne grabbed it. The mysterious object shifted again and the two boys jumped back.
“Shit,” Timmy whispered through clenched teeth, his sphincter tightening and his heart pounding like a jackhammer. “What the hell is that? The whole thing moved, man, the whole thing. Rats my ass!”
And it was still moving.
“Let’s get out of here,” Wayne said, backpedaling with the doll in his grasp.
Then the misshapen object turned into the light and they could see what it was, a horribly deformed figure, massive and monstrous, its skin a mottled shade of pink so alien that the thing appeared anything but human. The cover slid free as the behemoth rose, its bulging eyes falling on the intruders who had violated its sanctuary.
“Holy Christ!” Timmy turned and fled, running for the door with a wail.
Wayne was so terrified that he couldn’t move. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. This was all wrong.
The monstrosity saw the toy in his hand and roared, spittle flying from its horrid maw, showing him its fleshy gums and the spindly green teeth that lined its crooked jaw.
“Mine,” it bellowed, rushing toward Wayne and bringing him down with a single vicious swat.
There was a moist crunch as Timmy rushed through the door and into the hallway beyond. He was turning toward the stairs when the only door in the house that he and his friend had not invaded banged open directly behind him. Something was coming his way, but here it was too dim to make anything out, so the horrified teen spun, thumbed his lighter and brought forth a flame. Timmy’s efforts illuminated another monstrosity running straight at him, this one three times the size of the creature squatting over Wayne.
The giant knocked Timmy to his stomach and his head rolled to the side. He found himself staring at what remained of his best friend in the bedroom they had defiled. The monster that sat atop Wayne in that wretched space gave Timmy a warm smile and began scooping dripping handfuls of Wayne’s brains out of his shattered cranium and cramming them into its twisted mouth.
“Mine,” the thing bellowed a second time, taking hold of the doll and running back to the bed where they had found it. As the larger monstrosity went to work and Timmy’s suffering began, the other abomination curled into a ball and began singing to its favorite toy.