Something by the name of Jerry. It was last week when I was changed. Nine fifty one to be exact. At nine fifty, ordinary sixteen year old boy. Nine fifty-one, something entirely different.
It was five of us that day. Now that I think of it, our little group would be best described as a pack of wolves. It seemed we were always on the hunt for one thing or another (most of these things would've gotten us in trouble with the police if we had been caught). We all even had our own place in the pack.
George the thick headed leader, who thought he was Elvis reincarnated anddestined to be famous, was the alpha male. I had no doubt he would have been famous, just not as the next singing sensation. The next serial killer was more like it. It was his decision of what we did. We might make suggestions of what to do but if George didn't want to, we didn't.
The other bad ass was a walking mountain of fat and muscle named Frank. Frank, not Francis, unless you wanted to end up sporting a completely black face. Last year one boy made the mistake. Needless to say, he wasn't back to school for two months. Two broken legs and one shattered arm can keep a boy from homework. Usually, he played the position of Beta, backing up George and making sure we all knew who the leader was. But here's where I need to come to his defense. Frank, at times, could be a great guy. I owe him my life but I'll get to that part later.
Of course I can't forget Travis. If George was the leader and Frank the muscle then Travis had to be the clown. He usually wasn't very funny but every once in awhile he had us laughing our asses off. Mainly though, he's the one person who always has the knack of getting under that last nerve. He and I both were just members of the pack, playing no really special role.
And then there was Jerry. Jerry was…well how could I put this? Jerry was the grunt of our group. Just like the omega wolf of the pack; we accepted him and he was one of us, but barely better than an outsider. When we were bored or something went wrong he bore our aggression. Always being picked on and teased, he rarely complained. After all it isn't unheard of for the omega wolf to accept his position and even be happy about it. I wondered what kept him there, taking the abuse with a dumb smile on his face but after a few seconds of thought on the subject my mind would drift elsewhere. I can't say that I had no part in the teasing and I can't tell you that I felt remorse over it. But now I know my mistake and paid for the three years of treating Jerry bad.
Anyway, we were hanging out at Frank's that morning, since his mom made the best food and knew to let us have our privacy. Somehow the conversation drifted to how bored we all were when Jerry spoke up.
"I know what we can do."
"Yeah? What's that asshole?" George asked. "Play with dollies, or some gay shit like that?"
"No." A big grin lit his face as if he knew something we didn't. "My uncle has a cabin boat out on the docks. I think I could get the key without him knowing. He has a pound of weed hidden under the life preserve cabinet. He won't miss any if we take a little."
What Jerry suggested actually sounded like fun. Of course, we didn't come out and tell him that. No, we laughed and snickered until we thought he wouldn't feel like he had had such a good idea after all. Then we admitted to go.
"Fine since I'm bored shitless anyway, I guess we can go. Even if a dipstick like you came up with the idea," Greg said. He was sitting behind Jerry in the computer chair. He had it backwards, sitting on it with his arms propped on the back. He reached out and gave Jerry a wet willy.
"Okay, I'll meet you guys there at seven," Jerry said and started to walk out the door.
"You ain't going to go with us?" Travis asked meaning when we go to the park. He was talking with the Southern accent which none of us like but we put up with it, since he was the one who kept us stockpiled with cigarettes.
Jerry turned around to answer, with a flicker of movement on his face that I couldn't quite place. "Nah, I have other things to do."
"That's alright but give me a fiver before you go," Frank piped up. He was holding out his hand with his palm up.
Jerry hesitated for a second, and in that moment I saw that weird little flicker cross his face again. Jerry walked over to give Frank a high five even though he knew exactly what was going to happen.
Frank is a big guy and he has a large hand. When Jerry gave him a high five, Frank's hand clasped Jerry's hand and he would start to squeeze until Jerry said "uncle".
While Frank was performing his ritual on Jerry, I studied latter's face. The nagging feeling that I should know something about the look that had crossed his face wouldn't leave. It was when he said uncle that the realization finally hit me.
A smirk. Jerry had been smirking.
Now that was weird. Why would someone who is being picked on, be smirking? I thought about it for a minute, then it drifted to the back of my mind. "Teenage boys don't think about anything but sex," is what my dad would have said, but that wasn't true. I really did try to figure out the smirk, but for some reason I forgot about it. Now I know why. My subconscious was trying to keep me from making the connection. If I had made that one small connection I believe that things would be different now.
But, alas, if we could change the past no one would be living in the present. We all would keep changing and changing until we reached the black void, that was before God (or the dust particle, if you believe in that) and then change ourselves out of existence.
After Jerry left we decided to head down to the park and see what kind of trouble we could stir up. We still had a couple of hours to kill, so we hung around scaring all of the little kids. We even had time to help Travis do one of his things.
Ever since I met Travis, I knew the boy had some fascination with burns, particularly cigarette burns. During times of high stress, so he told me, he would take a cigarette and put it out on himself.
"You have to be careful though. You can't let anyone see your burns or they'll start talking. But oh man. You just don't know, the pleasure that comes from burning yourself," he told me. I sat there looking at him, trying to decide if he was telling the truth or if he was shitting me.
"You're crazy dude. There isn't any way in hell that I'd let you burn me and then say it actually felt good," I replied. After I heard his response, I knew that this idiot actually believed in that bullshit.
"Yeah? Well, things might change. I'm tellin you, and the only thing that feels better is doing it on someone else," he said looking straight into my eyes. He kept staring until I had to look away. I believe that I had seen the real Travis, that day, lurking under the kid who wanted to be a cowboy and it scared me a little. But not enough. What I'm about to say makes me sick, God help me.
It excited me. No, don't get me wrong. It didn't get me sexually excited, just the feeling that I actually enjoy the things he was talking about. Not the part about burning myself, hell that is crazy, but the part about burning others. And I was right after all, it did fell great.
On the days when the park was almost empty, we would wait until there was only one kid left. It had to be a boy. We always left the girlies alone. Swinging, sliding, climbing the jungle gum, or playing in the sandbox, it didn't matter, just as long as the kid was alone.
When we approached him, and I don't know what it is about kids that age, but he would have a big smile on his face. It seemed to say, "Hey! Alright! The big kids are going to play with me. How lucky can I get?"
After the kid said hello, we would form a circle around him just in case he might read something on our faces. But they usually never stopped smiling or quit talking until we grabbed them.
However, that day a little boy with red hair who couldn't have been over ten took one look at us approaching and bolted. Now that I think about it, I believe the little shit must have had sixth sense and knew what was going to happen. We knew he hadn't heard from one of our other victims. Before letting them go we made sure to persuade them to never talk about what we did.
We chased him nearly all over the park. He led us on a fast paced game of follow the leader until we finally caught him near the merry go round.
"Please! No, don't. Please let me go," the boy cried. Even when Greg clamped his hand over the boy's mouth, we could still hear his pleading. Glancing around to see if anyone was watching we carried him into the woods at the back of the park. The trees and bushes grew in thick clumps, but there was a small path that winded through the tiny forest. If you followed it all the way through, it would eventually come out at the back of the Seven Eleven.
I've heard my dad mention something about a shortcut he and his friends used to take to get to the general store when he was young, but oddly enough it seems like all the other kids have forgotten about it. Or maybe they sensed something bad about the trail and chose to stay away, but we didn't care. As long as no one used it while our group had our little sessions with the little kids, it was the perfect spot.
About halfway between the park and convenience store, the trail widened out into a small clearing. Two old logs that we use as benches rest on one side of the clearing and on the other side is a huge oak tree. Laying around it's trunk is around two hundred cigarette butts. Beer cans, candy wrappers, styrofoam cups, cigarette packages, and even a few used condoms littered the ground. Almost all of the trash belonged to us, since when we first discovered the clearing it was clean except for a few old hypodermic needles that had white crust inside them.
Even the condoms belonged to our group. Greg and Frank say that they have brought their girlfriends back here and screwed their brains out, but I don't believe a single word. They came here alright, no pun intended, but not with a girl, just their right hand for company. Hell, I even came here once or twice, there it is again, and stroked my weasel but I didn't use a condom.
In fact I was going to have a quickie with my five fingered partner one day, but when I neared the clearing I heard someone inside moving around. Making more noise than I wanted to, I walked through the last bush getting ready to start yelling at the little kid who was invading our territory. But instead of a little brat, Frank was sitting beside one of the logs.
He was by himself and I noticed that his belt wasn't buckled. His face was a deep red and sweat was pouring down it. Looking flustered and angry he shot to his feet, stumbling a little. When I asked him what he had been doing his voice betrayed him.
"I was, uh, going to Seven-Eleven, as if it's any of your business. I got…tired so I stopped and sat down to rest for a second. I was just sitting there resting when you barged in here and started you damn interrogation," Frank said in nearly a single breath. If I hadn't known before, I was now sure that I had almost caught him doing what I wanted to do.
I stood there for a second thinking of what to say. Frank wouldn't meet my gaze; he was looking at his feet. When I didn't say anything he raised his head and looked at my shoulder.
"What? You don't believe me? Well, fuck you! I'm leaving," Frank said and started to walk off in the direction I had just came from, in the direction of the park.
"What?" he yelled.
"I thought you were going to the store? You're going in the wrong direction," I said. All of a sudden the picture of the scene hit me and I wanted to burst out laughing, but I didn't dare. If I did that, Frank would never be able to be my friend again.
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He looked at me, this time in the eyes at least, and blushed.
"Uh yeah, I knew that," Frank said. He turned around and stalked off, in the right direction this time but when he walked by I reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Frank, it's okay. I won't tell anyone."
"What? I wasn't doing anything! Like I told you, I was just—"
"Stop it. I know what you were doing and it's no big deal. I'm pretty sure that we have all used this spot to uh…rest," I said. Frank's shoulders dropped a little and he seemed to relax some but he still wouldn't give up.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Frank—" I started to say something else, but I stopped. The look in his eyes convinced me. He would never admit the truth. I might as well have been trying to talk a two-pack a day smoker to quit and go cold turkey. No way, no how.
"Okay, Frank. I believe you," I finally said and that was the end of it. I never mentioned it to Frank again, but when Greg would start in on one of his stories about getting into the pants of some nameless girl, Frank would keep taking quick little glances at me. It was as if he was just waiting for me to tell everyone about what he was doing, and then have a big laugh at his expense.
Already panting and wheezing from chasing the little red headed brat we were exhausted by the time we reached the clearing. Greg carried the boy over to the big tree and used some rope to tie his hands around the tree. He rummaged in a pile of leaves near the trunk and picked up the roll of tape we used just for this purpose.
I guess we all had a bad case of nerves, because when Greg tore off a large strip of tape, nearly everyone jumped except for the boy. He was sitting down and crying. After securely taping the boy's mouth, Greg walked over and sat down next to me.
"Shit! My leg hurts where that little bastard kicked me," Greg said. He rolled up the leg of his jeans and looked to see if he had a bruise. There was already a dark blotch on his leg that would become a big purple bruise.
"You got a shiner alright," Travis said.
"Nah, It doesn't look that—" I started but Frank interrupted me.
"Hey guys. Mebbe we shouldn't do this. You know…what I mean is I have a bad feeling about it."
"Ahh, is little Franky afraid," Greg said replacing his jeans. "What? Are you a chickenshit now?"
"No, it's just…" Frank paused. His face was pale and I could see little beads of sweat standing out on his forehead. He shook his head and said, "Nevermind."
"That's more like it," Greg said. He looked at his watch. "Travis, hurry up and do your thing so we can get the hell out of here. We only have twenty more minutes before we have to go meet the dipstick."
Travis stood up, tapped a cigarette out of his pack and used his zippo to light it. He squinted against the smoke that drifted by his face, and for a minute the illusion of a cowboy was complete. The boots, the five gallon hat, and the faint whispers he called a mustache combined with the hardened look of his squint gave him the look of a classic cowboy villain from one of the numerous westerns. I couldn't decide what it was, but Travis just looked like the bad guy. What I mean is that even though nothing on the outside suggested that, it was more of a feeling. And then he coughed and the illusion flew apart; he was nothing more than a sixteen year old boy playing dress-up.
After taking another deep drag, this time foregoing the raspy cough, Travis walked over to the boy and stood there looking at him for a second. Even though his back was to me I knew Travis was using his fire smile, one look at Travis when he wore that smile would convince anyone that he was crazy, because the boy started to thrash around and try to break the rope binding him.
The boy was sitting in a pile of brown leaves looking up at Travis. His dark green eyes were full of tears and some of the dead leaves had stuck to his face.
In a quick movement, Travis's hand shot out as quickly as any old gunslinger in the movies and jerked the tape off the boy's mouth in a wet sounding rip. Pieces of skin stuck to the tape. Blood ran down over the boy's mouth, dripping off his chin.
Instead of screaming, which surprised the hell out of me since I know I would have howled in pain, the boy craned his neck forward and clamped his teeth over Travis's right ring and little fingers.
"Owww! Mother fucker," Travis cried. He jerked his hand, but the little boy was firmly clamped on them. He turned around and looked at us for help, but we were busy laughing our asses off. Seeing that there would be no help from us, Travis raised his other hand and hit the boy on the side of his head.
Ushering a small squeak the boy fell back down among the leaves. When he managed to raise himself back up, there was a small trickle of blood running out of the cup of his ear. The eyes which looked up at Travis, weren't pleading anymore. Nor were they overflowing with tears. No, those eyes were what a real cowboy's eyes would look like; hardened and full of anger, but not the blind rage that filled so many fools, rather a dull smooth anger that could be called upon for strength. I didn't know about Travis, but that look scared me.
The laughter suddenly died in my throat, causing me to choke.
Apparently, Travis did not see the raw strength behind the kid's eyes or he chose to ignore it because he hit the boy again. This time on his jaw. Travis turned around and I saw that he was actually smiling. The last punch to the kid's jaw must have hurt his hand because he was holding it in his other hand.
"Damn, that hurt. The little—" he stopped talking as he caught sight of our faces.
Not a single one of us was laughing. I don't know what was written on the faces of my friends, but as for myself I figured it must have been fright. Because after Travis hit the red-haired boy for the second time, he fell down again. He hit the ground as a normal boy, a boy with a bloody face, but when he raised back up something was wrong with his face besides the blood.
Travis flattened his nose. Just squished it flat, was the first thought to go through my head when I saw the boy's face.
His nose was nothing more than a small bump in the middle of his face and as we watched it flattened out even more and seemed to melt into the rest of his face. His eyes grew into diagonal slits and the pupils disappeared entirely. He smiled and I would have to say that was one of the scariest things I had ever seen, and I realized why. The teeth were growing. Not only were they getting bigger but sharper. His ears were stretched out, as if invisible hands were pulling on them like silly putty.
The whole change couldn't have taken longer than ten or fifteen seconds, from small boy to nightmarish creature. That one moment at the end seemed to stretch on forever. That moment was the sound of the tape, binding the boy's hands, which looked more like talons now, snapping. We sat there gawking before the realization hit us that he was free.
The monstrous thing that had been a little red-haired boy was free and it couldn't have been happy with the way we had been treating him.