Chapter 3: It's Not Just News
The soft, blue, almost eldritch glow of the television reflected off the dark surface of the living room window. Bucky sat there, quiet, listening to the talking heads on television blab on and on about who was dating whom, how much it was going to cost to do something, who might upset some kind of election and who just got declared “not guilty” in a very nasty criminal trial. What Bucky cared about was Peter, and the fact that for the last day and night, no one knew where he was. He couldn’t be found, and no one would listen to her.
She had spent the previous day at school hanging around the creaky gate that lead to the dry grassy hill where the haunted well was rooted. The only person had who noticed her was Clement, the short, curly haired preadolescent who hated his own name, and consequently gave nasty nicknames to others. She had known he was the instigator of yesterday’s affair, but no one had listened to her.
“What are you hanging around here for, Bucky?”
“I hate that name, Clement.”
He kicked some dirt.
“Looking for your boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
Clement smiled. “So you are looking for someone?”
“You know darn well,” she had started yelling, “who I’m looking for. You and your cohorts threw him in the well.”
Clement laughed and kicked some more dirt. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I saw you!”
Clement stopped laughing. He had that, “give me your lunch money” look he was so famous for, and stalked over to her.
“What exactly did you see me do?”
“I saw you walking down from the haunted well. You and your friends.”
He stopped. His face had gone blank like when the TV goes out, and he just thought for a minute. He began to smile.
“That’s all you saw?”
“That’s all I needed to see.”
“Well, heck! We play around that thing all the time. Morris dropped his basketball down there and we were trying to fish it out. Ha! You’re full of fantasies, that’s what you are. Haunted well! There were no ghosts when I went up there yesterday.”
Suddenly she spoke, rather fast. “To do what?” She had thought she’d catch him at his own game.
“To get Morris’ ball, you moron.” He had walked away, laughing. About halfway to the gym building he had turned and looked at her, almost said something and kept on walking. Bucky had waited; then when it looked like Clement was gone, she ran as fast as she could up the hill and right to the well. She looked down in it, but couldn’t see anything, not even the reflection of water that you sometimes can see when you look down a deep well. She called out to Peter, yelling down the well. There was an echo. She waited, and there was nothing more. She did it again, and heard the echo and waited. Nothing.
She must have spent nearly an hour calling to Peter, but there were no answers. She had gone home, and gone up the stairs to her bedroom and quietly cried herself to sleep.
That was yesterday. Today, nothing remarkable happened, and more toward evening Bucky was sitting in her small, stuffy living room with her mother, who was lying nearly asleep in a lounge chair next to the sofa where Bucky sat, soaking in the blue light of the big screen. Bucky’s mother loved the news. She would sit mesmerized for hours, watching news program after news program. This particular evening there was absolutely nothing on the evening news about the missing boy.
“So that’s about what we can expect for tomorrow, Angela.”
“Thanks, Ted. Now to Phil, with weather.”
“No, Angela, I just did the weather.”
“Ah, yes, Ted, and you did a smashing job.”
“Thank you, my little rabbit.”
“My little bunny?” Ted looked nervous.
“What did you call me?”
“Am I going to lose my job over this?” There was silence on the TV.
“Am I done?” said Ted. “I think I’m done.” I’ll just go home.” Angela looked blank. These were two typical TV news anchors with bright smiles and well-shaped hair, dressed in smart, European suits and blouses with matching sweaters, and not conveying any sort of confidence whatsoever to the viewing public.
“Right. Now here’s Phil with weather,” said a confused and flustered Angela.
Phil, who had dark, shiny hair, now appeared on screen. “We just did the weather, Angela, but I can bring you traffic.”
“I really don’t care, Ted.”
“I mean, Phil. Just say something.”
Bucky reached over to her mother’s chair to get the remote. Her mother was staring at the screen with the same glazed eyes that stared out at you from a lobster tank at a fancy restaurant. Bucky let her fingers touch the remote; there wasn’t a stir from her mother. She let her thumb, gingerly, touch the side of the remote and still nothing happened. She gently put her whole hand on the remote and her mother said nothing. She quietly slid the remote off the arm chair, as if it were a bomb, and brought it closely to her face so she could read the dials.
“Ugh,” her mother groaned.
“Leave the news on. I want to hear about the TV star who lost his job because he acts like such a jerk. That’s such good TV. Then there’s a special about that heiress who got arrested and is now in rehab and I think she might finally get that tattoo she always wanted. I really want to see that.”
Bucky just put the remote back on the arm of the lounge chair, got up and went into the dining room, small and dark, and looked out the glass sliding window to the tiny box of a back yard. The table fan, on the dining room table, was oscillating and making a quiet yet distinct vibrating noise.
The reflection of the power light from the fan looked like two little red eyes staring at her through the window.
“Mother, can we move the fan?”
“After the hot months are done.”
“This is October.”
“Why do you want to move the fan?”
“It creeps me out.” Bucky turned to walk back in. She fell on the sofa and heaved a sigh.
“A fan creeps you out?”
“There are two beady, red, shiny eyes staring at me in the back yard window.”
“That’s the reflection of the power light on the fan.”
“I know,” said Bucky, without a little impatience. “It creeps me out. Like some little creature is staring at me.”
“What? Don’t tell me I’m paranoid. You’ve been saying that all day.”
“You’re not paranoid, dear. You’re just realistic.”
Bucky stood up in a huff and went upstairs to her bedroom. She lived alone with her mother, Gillian Newcastle, in a split level town home near the west end of Grand Lights. She was only a block in one direction from Ewart’s, and only a block in the other direction from Peter’s house. Her room was as small as a cracker box almost. It was big enough for one little bed, a tiny dresser, two stuffed animals and a handful of story books. There was a window where the moon shone in too bright, and there was a photo of one of her favorite movie stars on her wall. The evening moon made it look gray in her room. It had been gray during the day, and it would be a dark and moody blue-gray during the night, for the clouds had rolled in, and rain was imminent.
She lay down on her bed until she heard her mom turn off the TV, climb the stairs and walk down the tiny hall to her own bedroom, and close the door.
Bucky got up, walked quietly downstairs, and went into the dining room. The fan was still on and the red light from its base still made the double reflection in the double paned window glass look like evil eyes, staring at her, watching her, to see if she would do something. She turned off the fan and the eyes winked out. Done.
Bucky then quietly went to the coat closet near the front door; she was still dressed in her school clothes. She took out her long black coat and checked to make sure the keys to the house were still in the pocket. Check. She then quietly opened the front door, turned the lock to keep anything out, and closed it behind her. Then she walked the long, dark, neighborhood block to Ewart’s, and to the well.
It was cold, and a little misty. There was a slight fog on the ground, and if any little red eyes had looked out at her from the dark front windows of the houses she was passing, she’d faint away. But there wasn’t anyone watching as far as she could see, and nothing made a sound. It was as quiet as a grave.
She almost slapped herself to keep from getting spooked.
Don’t think about graves and red eyes and haunted wells until you get there, she thought to herself. Then Bucky did the bravest thing a girl her age could have done. She climbed the chain-link fence into the school yard near the gym, which was on the side of the street closest to her own, and she ran toward the squeaky gate that led to the well. It was swinging gently, as if someone had just run through it.
“Clement, no doubt,” she said aloud. She now talked aloud to herself just to keep from running home. “He’s probably waiting to throw me in the well.” She stopped and looked around. It was absolutely still except for the swinging gate, but it wasn’t swinging wide. It was a slow, kind of lazy swinging, like it was being moved by the wind, and there was a wind. The clouds had come in low, and there was mist, and there was fog, and now there was a breeze, a very steady breeze.
“It’s just the wind, you silly girl,” she told herself. “Time to go to the well.”
She nearly fell over her feet as she ran up the steep and dusty hill to the well. It started to rain and the dirt and burnt grass and weeds would become muddy. She made it to the well, a typical stone thing with a wooden roof over it, but no bucket, and yelled down into it.
“Peter! Peter, are you there?” She listened. There was the echo, and then nothing.
“Peter! I need to know if you’re all right!” Again, an echo and then empty air. She was really frustrated. The wind was blowing, the air was getting colder and the rain was starting to pelt. She turned to leave and just then, she thought she heard something down the well.
She turned swiftly and called again.
“Peter! Peter! Is that you?” She waited for the echo to subside. It was quiet. As she turned to go, for she was getting soaked, she distinctly heard, “No, it is not,” coming from the well.
“There is someone down there!” She turned and looked in. She couldn’t see anything in the dark.
“Who are you?” She waited.
“I’m not Peter.”
“Are you all right? Do you know where he is?”
“Yes to both questions? Or to just one?”
There was silence.
Bucky was confused.
“Stay there and I’ll get someone.” She turned to leave.
Bucky stopped. She turned back. The voice sounded distant, like the wind. Maybe she was imagining it.
She thought she’d give it another try. “I need to know if Peter is down there.” There was silence. Then, a small, far away voice like a breeze distinctly said, “Go home.”
“What?” Bucky had a chill run down her spine.
“Go home,” the breeze told her, “and lock the door.”
That was it. Brave or not, she was getting nowhere here and that was just too spooky. She took off at a leap and slid down the muddy hill, getting sludge and weeds all knotted up in her socks, ran through the gate, but slipped on the asphalt playground and skinned her knees. With her eyes tearing up and the wind starting to really blow, she was afraid it might be a bad storm, even a tornado coming in. She stood up, took a deep breath and ran for home. Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw Clement running as well, but there was no time to stop and ask questions.
After her long run, she stopped at her door and fiddled for her keys. Maybe they fell out when she climbed the fence to get home, she was in such a hurry, but no, there they were, and just in time, because the lightning in the sky was starting to flash, and in a second, the loud crack nearly deafened her. She opened the door, ran in and slammed it behind her, panting and trying to hold back tears. Her mother wasn’t coming downstairs so she must really be sound asleep; that was a loud crack of thunder and a loud slam of the door.
Bucky took off her wet coat and hung it on the hall-tree by the door to dry, then she went to the stairs, but the fan in the dining room was on. Also, the TV had been turned back on and the voices coming from it were soft, as if the volume was turned low, but she could make out that it was again, just the news.
“I thought,” again she was talking out loud, “that I had turned that fan off.” She went into the dining room and sure enough, the reflection of the red lights looked like little imp eyes staring in at her. She turned the fan off. The light on the fan faded out. She turned to look out the back door window at the oncoming storm and froze in place. She took in a gasp of air and the hair on the back of her neck started to rise. There, through the double paned glass of the sliding back door window, were two little red, beady eyes, staring right at her.
Before she passed out, she heard Phil on the TV signing off, “Remember Grand Lights, it’s not just the news, it’s SPECTACULAR!”