Patrick Mackenzie (Afternoon of September 9, 1994)
Another day at my new school had ended, but my torment had just begun. Tony Moretti and his gang of miscreants had waited for me near the bus loop. As soon as I had spotted them, I quickly ran over to and hid behind an old sycamore tree, waiting for each of them to look away so that I could make my escape. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that they had ridden the same bus as me.
“Hiya, Bud,” Tony said, sliding in, next to me, on the hot, brown, leather seat. Meanwhile, two of his henchmen had sat behind us while the other two had taken their seats across the aisle. “Some stunt you pulled in the cafeteria today.”
“I swear, Tony, I didn’t mean any trouble,” I cried out.
“Oh, I’m sure you didn’t, but you sure as hell caused it,” Tony’s voice grew angrier, more threatening. “You see, after lunch, Principal Ricci had called me into his office. He said that I had threatened you, which you and I both know that is not true, is it?”
I shook my head. I actually did not remember whether or not he had threatened me, but at that very moment, it felt right to agree with him.
“No, it isn’t, yet somehow, I had nearly gotten suspended today all ’cause some rat said that it was,” Tony’s nose began to flare up. Now, normally I’m not very good with social cues, but I couldn’t help but feel as though I was being accused of something here.
“You think that I am the rat?” I asked. I could feel my heart in my throat.
“I know you are,” Tony responded.
“Tony, I’m telling you that wasn’t me,” I assured him as bullets of sweat dripped down from my face. “I would never snitch, even if you had threatened me.”
Thankfully, the bus driver had soon arrived at my stop. Without a second thought, I quickly ran past Tony and his boys and out the door. I think the driver may have yelled at me for running, but I didn’t care to look back. I didn’t want to see if Tony and his boys had followed me because I already knew they did and did not want to be slowed down by my curiosity.
I ran and ran so fast that I hadn’t even realized I had a turn too early into the wrong neighborhood. I could feel the boys catching up to me. Luckily, I had been in this neighborhood before and remembered exactly where to go.
“You’re dead meat, Mackenzie!” I heard Tony yell as I made my way down the dirt path, leading into the forest. “Dead meat!”
I had stopped, suddenly, at the running stream. It looked as though it had gotten deeper since I’d been here last. It had been rainy these last couple of nights.
“Got you surrounded, Mackenzie,” Tony and the boys had caught up to me and had formed a circle around me, making it impossible for me to escape. “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”
Before I knew it, I was on the ground, getting kicked around by each and every one of them. Tony took a couple of jabs to mostly my jaw and neck. Although, he did go a little higher up on one of them, knocking my glasses off and shattering one of the lenses. The other boys mainly kicked me in areas such as my stomach, ribcage, and lower back. Fortunately for me, I was able to keep my groin safe and well-protected.
This beating went on for a little bit, until finally, just when I thought all hope was lost, an angel appeared. “Hey!” she yelled, getting Tony’s attention. “Leave him alone!”
“Get out of here, lady, this doesn’t concern you,” Tony exclaimed as the young woman started walking towards him.
“Well, it sure seems as though it should be someone’s concern,” the young woman noted. My vision was blurred, so I wasn’t entirely sure, but I think she may have gotten closer to me to see if I had still been breathing. That was until one of Tony’s henchmen had stepped in front of me, basically motioning her to back off. The young woman then chuckled. “Fine, fine, although I wouldn’t stay out here too long if I were you. They may get ’ya.”
“Who’s ‘they’?” Tony had stopped in his tracks just as he was about to resume beating the snot out of me.
“Oh, you don’t know?” the girl smiled and took a bite off her rope of cherry red licorice. “Well, they call ’em ‘The Child Butchers,’” she began. “They’re known for rummaging through these very woods, looking for small children, such as yourselves.”
“Yeah? And to do what with them, exactly?” Tony asked, clearly not taking the girl seriously. Each of the boys laughed at her, along with him.
“To eat them, of course,” the girl responded. Suddenly, all of the boys in the group went dead silent, Tony included. “But not right away. No, first, they’ll hang you up by your feet, then make a slight incision right there on your neck,” she continued, dragging her somewhat long fingernail across Tony’s throat. “To drain out all of the blood, so that it isn’t quite as messy when they start gutting you.”
“Then what do they do?” one of Tony’s friends asked, petrified of what the answer may be.
“Well, that really depends on what they’re in the mood for. They may turn your insides into a stew or maybe cook you over a fire like a rotisserie chicken,” the girl explained as she looked at the frightened boy. “I hear kiddy pot pie is their specialty though,” she spoke, now looking back at Tony.
“You’re bluffing,” Tony said, trying to mask his own fear with denial. “There’s no way any of that is true.”
“Oh yeah? Go on and check out their old shack if you don’t believe me. It’s right through there,” the girl replied, pointing in the direction of the shack.
It was then that I finally, but slowly, got up the strength to sit up and look where the girl had been pointing towards. I knew exactly which shack she’d been talking about; I knew it all too well. I had even made myself to never go back there because, although I’ve never stepped foot inside of it, I’ve always had a gut feeling not to. Now, I know why.
“But just know, as soon as you’ve crossed that stream, you have entered their territory and I can no longer help you,” the girl noted as the group of budding ten-year-olds contemplated on going.
All of the boys looked at one another. Many of which had been too scared and immediately backed out, leaving only Tony and one other kid. Ralph Bianchi had been Tony’s best friend and right-hand man, but even his loyalty was beginning to reach its limits.
“I don’t know about this Tony, maybe those guys were right to run,” he expressed to an equally scared Tony Moretti, who of which had been staring across the water for a good two minutes now.
“C’mon, don’t tell me you actually believe this crazy broad, too,” Tony scoffed, finally facing his dear ole’ pal.
While the two boys argued, I watched as the girl scavenged around for a rock. It had been the first time I had gotten a real look at her (through my one good lense, that is). She had long, curly red hair and porcelain skin. She wore a heavy, brown jacket over a striped shirt, paired with some distressed, baggy jeans and Doc Martens.
When she finally found a rock, she had launched it into the patch of bushes across the water while Tony and Ralph weren’t looking. This gave off the illusion that someone was coming towards them. The boys immediately ran away in a frenzy. It was just me and the mystery girl at this point.
“You alright?” she asked, making direct eye contact with me, the black and blue (and a whole lot of red) boy who’s still too woozy to stand up, out of the dirt.
I didn’t answer her right away. I still feared her having something to do with the Child Butchers.
“Hey, it’s okay, I won’t bite,” she assured me as she crouched down to my level. She then offered some licorice, but I politely declined. Some of my teeth had been knocked loose during the mugging. “My name’s Adeline, by the way. What’s yours?”
“Patrick,” I said as I stretched out my arm to be grabbed by her hand. She lifted me up to my feet and spotted me as I hobbled over toward home. “Wait, what about the Child Butchers?” I asked, stopping in my tracks.
“Eh, don’t you worry about them. They’re on vacation,” she explained as she reached out to take my hand once more and led me over to a large log that extended across the water.
Adeline and I walked the rest of the way to my house. A trail of my blood followed closely behind us. “Ma is gonna kill me,” I let out a big sigh. “I got blood all over my uniform.”
Adeline snickered at my suspense. “Dude, you just got the shit beaten out of you. I think your mom will understand.”
She’s clearly never met my mom. “You know, you never told why you were wandering those woods?” I asked, changing the subject.
Adeline did not answer. Instead, she just smirked and started on another piece of licorice. It was then we had gotten up to the front porch and I could vaguely see the door swing open. Jacob had stepped out and started looking Adeline up and down as if he knew her.