Shadow of the Hand by Kevin Lazarus (Part 1)

(The continuation of 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…

(Shadow of the Hand, TO BE CONTINUED PART 2 : Monday November 21, 2011)

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Copyright 2011 Kevin Lazarus/DreamStream Productions Inc.

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