Shadow of the Hand, by Kevin Lazarus

Kevin Lazarus on the streets of Carthage Falls

Kevin Lazarus in Carthage Falls

(From: The Dark Side of Carthage Falls, the Anthology – by Kevin Lazarus)

The old orchard wouldn’t soon be forgotten. Often on our way home Brett and I would stop near the grassy path and tempt ourselves with the possibilities—of running headlong down the path. Not stopping at the old tractor and not exploring for new discoveries, but just running hard; cutting loose, pulling out all of the stops to temp fate—just for the thrill of it!

We would laugh and push one another, taunting the other to move closer to the head of the trail. So close to the branch covered opening that we could feel the hair bristle at the back of our necks. And then run frightened—like the little kids we were—back to the sidewalk; where often we would find Carly watching us, staring at us like fools. There was something about her? It would be sometime before I would dare to venture down that path again. Not for one second would I have guess that it would be by myself and that my worst fears would be realized…

Autumn birthdays and Halloween all jumbled into to one. With enough cake and candy to give an elephant a sugar high, it was most excellent! Add to that a sleepover and it made for one sweet trick-or-treat night. By that evening we had canvassed the entire neighborhood and returned to riffle through our booty.

I sat and watched Brett, dressed like a pirate (we were both pirates—no surprise there), drooling over a pile of candy that would choke an elephant. The two of us and several other friends had all of our candy on the carpet in mounds, going through it, counting it to see who had the most. And that kid, the one with the most, would be Peter. He was that kid that, not matter what he did, he almost always seemed to come out on top. Like a little miser, he kept scooping it all back into one massive pile, with a boyish grin, while laughing a sinister laugh and repeating over and over, “read ‘em and weep boys!” Yeah—he went as a cowboy.

Stuffed with candy and hotdogs from dinner, and cake from my birthday—and more candy, we retired to my bedroom to tell scary stories, and of course—eat more candy.

We sat in a circle, still dressed in our costumes, each taking a turn trying to scare each other. We passed around a flashlight, holding it under our chins to make our faces look creepy. Brett told the last story—The Hand—which freaked me out. He took particular delight in laying it on heavy, adding every creepy detail he could think of. We were scared out of our minds.

Daniel, this pudgy little kid that I grew to like because of his sincerity, suddenly went off on Brett, “you aren’t all that scary!” With that, the banter intensified resulting in a little shoving match between Daniel and Peter, because Peter disagreed with Daniel—he thought Brett was plenty scary. Finally, Brett broke it up by revealing to the others that I had some real scary stories to tell; bragging about the orchard and then telling them that I had been hearing creepy footsteps at night while walking home. Brett and the others suddenly got real silent staring at me. “Go on,” Brett whispered, “tell ‘em what happened to you!”

My heart sank as he spoke and I felt an uneasy chill as I considered his request. A large part of that cold feeling that was flowing through me was because I was angry with him for revealing something that was very private to me. I had sworn him to secrecy and he had taken an oath not to tell—so much for secrets, I thought. The silence grew thick as the other waited for me to reveal my story.

Finally, I relented and, taking the flashlight from Kelly, I walked them step-by-step through my peculiar trips home—the fact that it always happened after dark. Recounting every detail, every step, from the dark shadowy places where the streetlights didn’t shine to the lonely sidewalk where I heard the sound of the footsteps.

Every moment or so, one of my friends would jump in and reveal that they heard of similar things happening to other kids at school.

Then when we finally got around to the orchard where Brett and I heard the sound of a breaking limb, it all ended with an onslaught of boyish conjecture as to what actually happened to the little girl found dead in the orchard.

“I heard that there was some guy they caught,” said Peter. “He liked little kids!”

“What’s wrong with liking little kids?” blurted Kelly. His sandy hair hung nearly clear down into his eyes as he looked at us like a deer in the headlights. You could’ve heard a pin drop as the rest of us stared at him in disbelief. Finally, Brett leaned over and whispered something in his ear. Kelly’s face turned a little red as he did. “That’s sick!” he finally declared.

“No, no,” interrupted Daniel, “it was the old farmer—there was something hinky about the guy!”

“I heard they never caught him,” Brett added. “That he just disappeared—”

Daniel excitedly took over the conversation. “One of the girls at school said she thought she saw some old guy following her home!” At that, the room fell silent.

After a long pause, Kelly quietly said, “for real?” His eyes were wide and I could see that he was truly scared.

“For real,” whispered Daniel.

As Daniel spoke, I had this overwhelming feeling that I knew who the little girl was. The intense need to find out if I was right, was more than I could bear. “Who is she?” I asked quietly.

Daniel turned to me, his eyes wide with fright. “Carly—it was Carly—you know—”

As he said her name I could picture her in my mind, still standing there on the sidewalk that day Brett and I went into the orchard. But before I could say anything, Kelly freaked out screaming something about a weird looking shadow on the wall. Every single one of us spun around and stared at the wall and the outline of the window from the streetlight shinning through it. A shadowy little hump was moving around at the bottom of it.

At that instant I knew where it was coming from and quickly turned back around towards my bedroom window. I followed the light coming through the window. As I did, it became apparent that it was the top of Daniel’s head. And as soon as I pointed it out to the others, we all started laughing hysterically, rolling around on the floor and the bed.

Daniel, his attempt at damage control for being so wimpy, held up his hands in the light and started showing hand shadows on the wall. Now full of giggles, we all joined him in doing the same—seeing who could make the scariest shadows. Then someone farted and we laughed even harder! So hard, in fact, that Brett fell off the bed.

Brett, lying on the floor holding his stomach while pointing at us, because apparently we looked funnier than he did, continued laughing until snot literally began to drip from his nose.

The laughter died down to a low rumble after my stepfather yelled down the hall at us. Of course, we had no idea what he actually said…we couldn’t understand him. But we had a pretty good idea what it was. It was late and he’d had enough of our noise.

Kelly didn’t quit with the shadow show. He twisted his hands in all kinds of ways to create anything he could think of. We found ourselves being drawn back into the contest with every hand in the bunch joining in, but this time much more quietly. Oh there were still snickers and momentary outbursts of laughter that we would hush back down to a dull roar, but the festivities continued.

It was then that I noticed that one of the hands looked especially wicked. “Hey, that’s really cool! Who’s doing that one?” I pointed.

“Wow!” said Kelly, “that really is cool!” We all looked at each other and then one-by-one, those of us that were sure it wasn’t their hands, withdrew them from the light.

Almost instantly we realized that everyone had removed their hands. As we stared at the wall facing us, there was still one shadow—a solitary, boney looking hand!

We stared at it in stunned silence, no one daring to say a thing. It was as if it was frozen stiff—and lifeless. Brett began breathing hard, his eyes tightly shut. But I didn’t dare take my eyes off of it—not for one second! Then someone in our little band of brothers started whimpering and was on the verge of a good scream.

All of a sudden, the hand moved and Daniel let out an ear piercing squeal! Every single one of us scurried across the floor to the other side of the room and, clinging to each other, frightened beyond words, looked up at the window. But it was gone! What ever had been there had just disappeared!

My bedroom door blew open with explosive force. There in the doorway was my stepfather wearing only his BVDs. “What the hell is going on in here!” he yelled. “I thought I told you it was time to give it a rest?”

I nodded nervously, but not because I was afraid of him, but I couldn’t tell him that. He wouldn’t have listened to me anyway. I suppose it all worked to my favor, because he bought my frightened nod and slammed the door as he left.

We huddled silent, not sure what to say, daring not even to move—at first. Finally, I sat up straight and looked at the others. “You saw that—you saw that right?”

None of them said a word, but Brett and Kelly nodded.

“What the freak was that?” I whispered.


New installment: THE DARK SIDE OF CARTHAGE FALLS, January 04, 2012

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Copyright 2011 Kevin Lazarus/DreamStream Productions Inc.

Kevin Lazarus NOW on SMASHWORDS!


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