Six years ago, they stared into the mesh wiring of a dog pen. Four hunting dogs ran back and forth along the other side of the wire; some of them seemed elated at their company while others growled.
“You have to do this,” Mike said to his friend. He was eleven years old but his eyes looked much older. There was anger there, and malice.
Todd didn’t understand the emptiness in his friend’s eyes. Nor could he comprehend the intentions that lurked there.
“Why do I have to?” Todd asked.
“These dogs belong to Mr. MacCaffery, right?”
“And hasn’t his son Kevin been beating you up at school?”
Todd nodded. He hefted the baseball bat that rested in his hands. It felt huge; it made him feel like Thor gripping his hammer, ready to birth thunder.
“People are mean,” Mike said. The intensity was still in his eyes but, again, Todd didn’t see it. “People will walk all over you if you let them. Especially people like Kevin MacCaffery. And if you can’t beat him up, you need to look for other things to do in order to get even.”
Todd stared into the pen, his face flushing.
“Just do it,” Mike said, thumbing the latch to the pen. “It won’t be so bad.”
Mike grinned. “Trust me.”
Mike opened the door and Todd stepped inside. He gripped the bat and started swinging. The snapping of bones and the stifled yelps of dogs was like some sweet undiscovered music.
Todd found himself thinking about that day as he stood by his friend again. He could still hear those sounds from time to time, like teeth being smashed against the floor. The two of them stood in a small darkened apartment. The room smelled of dust, sweat and fear.
An old cot sat in the middle of the room, illuminated by a single overhanging bulb. In the sickly white light, the frail man that was strapped to the cot looked as if he were made of wax.
Everything in the room seemed cold: the floor, the air, Todd’s fingers, the hatchet he held in his hands. He had seen his mother use this hatchet from time to time, cutting up chicken and steaks. Holding it in this place and knowing what it would be used for seemed rather surreal.
“You have to do this,” Mike said. It was a comment he had made to his friend countless times, particularly since Todd’s dad had died. His voice was soft and seemed to cause the overhanging light to flicker.
“I know,” Todd said.
“Just think of it,” Mike went on. “The girl you love…she was in bed with this guy. She was touching him. Her mouth was on him. Their bodies were—”
His voice was interrupted by the wet pounding sounds of the hatchet sinking into flesh. The second attack clinked against bone. The man on the cot tried to scream but the barbed wire fastened to his face was so tight that it would not allow him to open his mouth. The scream made it no further than the back of his throat where it collected in what sounded like the revving of a weak engine.
When it was done, they left the rented room and walked down the hall. The sounds of people living their lives behind closed doors followed them outside. Children were laughing, dishes clinked together and televisions spewed their nonsense.
Outside, the night air was crisp and frigid. The moon was half full and seemed to be hiding part of its face so that it would not bear witness to what had just been done.
“You did good,” Mike said.
Todd only nodded, looking to the sticky crimson stains on his hands.
“You know,” he said, “my dad’s name was Mike, too.” He said this as if the thought had never crossed his mind before. “He died when I was little.”
“You don’t say,” Mike replied. He gave very little thought to this and started walking down the street.
Todd followed him. They headed into the night together, side by side.
The streetlights that escorted them revealed only one shadow.
It stretched into the darkness behind them, as if trying to run away.
Barry Napier has a BS in Professional Writing and works as a freelance writer. His fiction has been included in anthologies such as Bound For Evil, Northern Haunts and It Came From Planet Mars. He also has various short fiction and poems appearing in a number of future publications. He lives in Lynchburg, VA with his wife and daughter. He is still mildly afraid of the dark. Learn more about him at http://www.barrynapierwriting.wordpress.com/.