For Zephronias, who wanted a ghost story....
. Knock. Knock. My hand
-- the one that hadn't gotten messed up earlier today -- fell heavily against Mr. Szernacki's door. After a minute, it creaked open. The old men glanced at me with instant impatience
"Oh, it's you. The Henkins boy." He gave me a once over, saw my torn clothes, bruises, abrasions. My bloody left hand. "What kind of trouble are you up to this time?" he snorted.
"Please, mister," I gulped, "you've got to help me. I'm being chased."
"Chased? Ha!! Whose house did you egg
this time, you little brat?" Damn, I thought he didn't know who'd done that.
"Please mister, it's not a person. It's.... it's a ghost." I turned and pointed across the street. "A ghost riding.... that."
Mr. Szernacki's gaze followed my finger, to the small red and white moped sitting innocently against the curb.
"What, that little thing?" He looked back at me, rolled his eyes, and scowled, "Randy, go pull your asinine pranks somewhere else." The door slammed.
I glanced back across the street. The moped continued to sit there, unmoving. For a second I thought maybe it twitched, just a bit. Keeping one eye fixed on it, I moved to the next house, and the next house, and the next....
Some blocks down, I looked back to see where the moped was. I'd lost sight of it, but I knew, I knew it hadn't lost sight of me.
Guess I oughta start at the beginning. Me and Chuck Woolney, we were the junior high terrors of the town. There wasn't no place we hadn't egged or toilet papered or tagged with spray paint or at least something like that. And there wasn't a snotty wuss in our school we hadn't given a swirly or a wedgie or a good old fashioned indian burn.
And every year our best pranks came on 'bicycle race' day. You see, our town has this big dumb bicycle race, and all the shops get closed up and everything shuts down so guys can look like morons in tight pants, while they pedal up and down the streets of the town like a bunch of sissies. Man, I always hated that race. Me and Chuck tried to get in it once -- just once -- when we were just kids and too dumb to know how lame it was. But they caught us poking holes in some doofus kid's tires and gave us a stupid 'lifetime ban' -- like we'd ever want to come back to such a lameass thing.
So instead of biking around in the stupid race like the rest of the losers, we started figuring ways to sabotage
it. Like changing the signs around, or putting oil on the road, or knocking open a beehive on the path. But this year we came up with our best plan yet. We were going to run a wire across the road on that downhill spot right after that scruffy, undeveloped curve on Singer street, and tie it to the trees on either side. It would be right below the handlebar level for those racing bikes, and those stupid biker would get caught up in it and piled up all over themselves. It was going to be awesome!!
So while all the twits and droolers were at the start of the race in Town Square, Chuck and I were laughing our asses off stringing this wire across the road, right where nobody would see it. Except, nobody was supposed to be on the street on account of this being the race day and the course being laid out and all, but then, right after we got that wire tight between the trees, and at just the right level, we hear this puttering sound.
It was this jerk, Davey Chipman, who stocks shelves at Mr. Calvert's hardware store. Man, I hated that guy. Busted me and Chuck stealing nails once, turned us in like a snitch. Anyway, who knows what lame ass reason he had for being here at all, but I guess he was really late getting to the race, because he was gunning that dinky moped of his as hard as he could down that hill.
Chuck waved at me frantically, like I was supposed to do
something, but I couldn't take my eyes off Chipman, barreling down that hill, straight towards that wire. If he'd been on a bicycle he just would've been probably knocked off of it or something, but he was on that stupid moped. And so, when he hit the wire, it was right at throat level. The moped kept going, careened on another half block before skidding into the grass on the side of the street. But Chipman, he'd been snapped right off it. Broke the wire, but not before it had sliced deep into his neck, leaving his head titled back at an angle that was just wrong. Wrong and bloody. And I just stood there, clenching and unclenching my fists. I'd never seen so much blood in my life.
Chuck was freaking. I mean, you can't blame him, because this was some fucked up shit. I mean, this, we fucking did
this. We killed this guy. Just like that.
It took me a minute to even realize that Chuck was even crying, asking over and over again, "what are we gonna do, man, what are we gonna do?"
"Okay, okay," I tried to calm him down, "this was an accident, so we make it look like an accident. We just.... we just take his body to the lime quarry and dump it, like he fell in."
Chuck nodded. It wasn't the best plan, but we had nothing else. We dragged Chipman's body to the side of the road, and all the time I'm thinking, shit, it's a fucking body
. An hour ago it was a person, but now it's just a fucking body
. And we did this. This is crazy.
I made Chuck wait with the body while I found a house nearby with an old pickup truck parked outside. Didn't look like anybody was around, and the window was even open a few inches. I hot wired it, slammed on the gas in reverse up that road, slammed on the brakes when I got to the spot. We grabbed the body and piled it in -- any other day, a half dozen people would've been up and down that road, but today everybody would be at Town Square, listening to hokey speeches and playing stupid games and warming up their legs. We stopped again to grab that stupid moped, and took the five minute drive to the quarry.
When we got there it was dead quiet. We balanced Chipman on his moped and gave it a good running shove. It worked beautifully. He skidded and flopped on his side just before the edge, just like a real accident where he'd lost control, then over it he went. Down that forty, fifty foot drop. We went up to sturdier ground and peeked over the edge. Yeah, it looked like an accident.
We stayed real low in the truck, driving it back to the dude's house. And then we laid low for the next couple of weeks.
They found Chipman's body six days later. Everybody moaned and wailed about what a terrible accident it was, and how everybody loved Chipman, all that stuff. But nobody even imagined it was anything but his own reckless driving that got him into it. Some people had even seen him speeding around on his moped that day, and so weren't at all surprised it ended badly for him. Even with the near-decapitation, it was just, "well that's what happens in these kind of accidents."
And then I felt awesome about it. Not that Chipman was dead, that I couldn't care less about, but that I'd gotten away with murder
!! Well, not murder exactly, since it really was an accident. But I'd gotten away with it. Free as a bird
So a few days aft that I called Chuck, told him let's go out and party, but he was in no partying mood. "Nightmares
," he told me, "they don't stop." But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst was, he could've sworn he'd seen the moped again. Here and there, out of the corner of his eye, he was sure it would be there, and then he'd turn his head or blink or rub his eyes, and it was gone.
This went on for days, and through all this, Chuck just wasn't any fun to hang out with. And he's my only friend, so I just wasn't having any fun, which pissed me off. So finally I dragged him out to the quarry. The sheriff
had taken out Chipman's mangled-up body, but surely nobody'd bothered to drag out that wrecked hunk of junk he'd supposedly ridden over the edge. So there it would be still, not wandering around town sneaking up on Chuck.
The quarry was dead quiet. We started down the gravel road towards the edge, when Chuck froze and pointed. There was a gleam of red behind tall weeds off to one side. I rolled my eyes and walked straight over there, pulling them back to reveal just some stupid kid's red wagon, rusty, probably there ten years. Chuck turned red for being such a pussy over nothing, and we continued on to look down into the pit.
But the moped wasn't in it. Guess they must've taken it out after all. But down at the bottom, there was something, a gleam, like a reflection of sunlight. "Maybe that's a piece of it," I called out, pointing at it. Chuck leaned over the edge. And then, in the corner of my eye I caught the briefest flash of red from behind us. And it was the moped, new as day, jetting towards Chuck. I didn't have time to warn him, not even to make a sound. It hit him in the back of the knee, knocked him forward, carrying him over. It was only then, as Chuck and the moped plummeted together down the rock wall, that I heard the grating buzz of the moped's engine, mixed with Chuck's final scream.
I looked down there for a minute. Chuck's body, sprawled in a red stain, so like Chipman's. Dead. Splattered next to the moped, once again broken and battered. I covered my mouth and turned and walked a few steps back, toward the road. I'd heard that if you think you're in a dream, you pinch yourself and that wakes you up. This didn't feel real, but I pinched myself and it hurt and I didn't wake up. So I went to look into the pit again. Blood was still oozing from Chuck's dead body, but.... the moped was gone.
There was a rustling in bushes not far away. I ran. I didn't let up until I got to Chuck's house. By the time I got there I'd gotten my story together -- Chuck wanted to see where Chipman's body was found. Who wouldn't? And then he probably leaned over too far and fell in, but I couldn't know for sure, I would tell them, because he was already at the bottom when I got there. That's how I would tell it.
But I never got to the door. Just as I reached their front steps, the moped roared toward me from behind the house across the street, and I took off running, down the side of Chuck's house, to the wooden gate leading to his backyard. The moped was closing in, I could hear it bearing down as I flung open the gate and slipped my body through, but I didn't have enough time. With a vicious crack, the moped hit the gate before I was able to get all the way through, slamming it on the fingers of my left hand. I screamed, in pain, in terror, my hand stuck and continuing to get crushed as the moped leaned against the gate, spinning its wheels hard. I kicked back at the gate as hard as I could and that gave me just enough room to jerk my hand through before it slammed completely shut.
It made me sick to look, my bloodied fingers torn open by that fucking vengeful thing. It wasn't done. It would kill me, just like it did Chuck. I had to get out, get someplace safe. I knew they kept a ladder in the backyard. I found it, and with my good hand, I struggled to drag it up and lean it against the house. Once I was standing up on the roof, I looked down on the street, up and down the lanes as far as I could see. No moped. I heaved a sigh and tried to think, think, think of what to do. I stood up, and felt an eerie breeze behind me, prickling up the hairs on my neck. I knew, then, that somehow, impossibly, that dinky, stupid moped was up on that roof with me, behind me. I heard the buzz of its engine and the squeal of a tire. I turned just as it hit me, knocking both of us off and into the bushes below. Their branches broke my skin, pierced my ear, but I was pumped up by fear, struggled out, spun around and around. No moped in sight.
So that's when I started going door to door, trying to get somebody to help me. But nobody would, nobody cared, nobody thought it was anything but a prank. Every door I knocked on gave me no answer at all, or the same kind of thing as Mr. Szernacki. Oh, the moped would be there whenever I turned around. And they'd scoff. A ghost story, what a stupid gag, they would think.
Finally I saw the sheriff's car, pulling down the road. I waved him down. "Sheriff," I cried out as he rolled down his window, "I did it, I swear, I did it. I killed Davey Chipman. I dumped his body in the quarry on his moped, and now the moped is coming after me!! It killed Chuck!! It's trying to kill me - look." I panickedly showed him my battered hand.
The sheriff regarded me for a moment. Then shook his head, "Randy, I've seen you pull some stupid, stupid gags, but pretending you killed somebody, that's just sick. And, chased by a moped? That's stupid. Now run on home, before I change my mind and put you in a cell."
"A cell, put me in a cell," I nodded, "I'll be safe."
But the sheriff just scowled and rolled up the window as he pulled away. "Wait!!" I called after him, but to no avail. And just when his car was out of sight, I saw the moped again. Just sitting next to a tree in somebody's yard. Just sitting there, waiting, doing nothing.
I stumbled back a few steps, then ran towards my house. Now my legs were aching. Nothing doing, I made myself keep going until I got there, went straight to the bathroom, and threw up. I soaked my messed up hand in the sink to get the dirt off, then tried to bandage it as best I could. No bones were broken, at least, so far as I could tell, but it hurt like hell.
Suddenly I heard it, right outside the bathroom door, buzzing and squealing. It banged into the door, once, twice, three times with tires grinding against the floor and that smell of hot rubber sneaking under to sting my eyes. And then it was gone, like nothing had happened. I looked around the bathroom for any kind of weapon, settling on a toilet plunger. But even as I cracked the door open, I thought to myself, this won't do shit.
But the moped was gone. The door was a mess, black tire marks all up on it. How was I going to explain that? I darted down the hall to my own room, slammed the door shut, locked it. I yanked a shelf off my bookshelf, not caring about the knickknacks on it falling to the ground, and leaned this like a board up under the knob, grunting in pain as I forgot about my bad hand and moved it the wrong way.
I collapsed on the bed.
And then I was back on the street, only it was all wrong, because there was nothing but the street. Just starry night sky rushing by on either side as I stood still in the middle, turning to look around here and there, looking either direction down a road which stretched on endlessly. Nothing. Darkness. I turned around again, and there I was, face to face with bloody, mangled Chuck, leaning on that moped, like he owned it.
"Hey Randy," his voice was at once pained and mocking. "Come back to the quarry, Randy. Why'd you leave me in the quarry? It's loooonely down there. Come on, come back to the quarry." He reach a bloody hand out toward me, a broken bone jutting though the meat of his arm, and I remembered my own sliced up hand. I lifted it, looked at it. The flesh began to melt off, to drip from the bone....
I sat bolt upright. I was still in bed. My hand was still bloody and bandaged. I could swear that I heard the buzzing of the engine, as if heading up some street off in the distance.
Suddenly, it was all hilarious. Like, the best prank ever -- to kill somebody by accident and then be haunted by their moped. What an awesome gag that would be to play on somebody, to get them to be hunted, hunted down and inevitably, eventually, killed by a stupid moped. It would never stop, and I would have to be out there again sometime. Or maybe, if I just stayed in here, I would wake up one morning and it would be in the room, coming at me, whirring black tires tearing at my flesh, at my face.
There's no running, no hiding, I chuckled, unable to control it. I threw open my door, ran out of my house turned back in the direction of the quarry. Back to the quarry, laughing, there to stand on the edge and take on the ghost of a stupid, dinky moped, face to face. I laughed as I ran. I ran as I laughed. The laughter came out of me in howls now. Davey Chipman was dead and waiting for me, I laughed. My dead friend Chuck was in on the gag, I laughed. And there was the quarry, just ahead, and down that path I went, and somewhere I heard the angry buzzing of a pathetic engine, and the squeal of tires, and I laughed, and laughed, and laughed right up to the quarry's edge.