An Excerpt from: Zion's Crossing

Copyright © 2012 H.T. Barkman

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

Approaching the house, the light grew dimmer instead of brighter and the smoke hung like a picture frozen in time. His heart quickened again till his chest hurt. Reaching for the front door handle, his free hand went to take off his hat which he discovered had fallen somewhere in the fields.

Taking a deep breath, Jed turned the brass handle on the front door. Heat escaped from the inside, blowing past him, and tearing at his vest. Coming in, he closed the door and the hot wind subsided. The outside of his house appeared normal, however the interior didn’t. A single black light hung from an extension cord, dancing to a song somewhere deep inside Jed’s head although he couldn’t really hear it. The black walls swirled with unintelligible designs of neon peach and lime colors. The walls swayed to unheard sounds. Jed reached for the wall to steady himself and closed his eyes. Gulping down sour anxiety, he counted all the prime numbers to five hundred and fifty seven.

The structure of the hall appeared correct, but had mutated into a sick haunted house. His voice shied away from calling out for anyone. The further inside he went, the more sounds emerged. His steps forward made little progress getting down the hall. If he made it to the kitchen, maybe things would take a turn around. He reasoned the sun must’ve blistered his brain or dehydration was wreaking havoc and he was entertaining hallucinations.

“Do you need help?”

The speaker sounded a little mentally handicapped from a slight lisp. Jed turned to find a young boy of eleven reaching his hand forward, offering guidance. His thin medium brown hair hung lifeless in a bowl cut with the top of his head coming to a peak, either from his bad haircut or his actual head pointing. The little boy smiled.

Jed inquired, “What’s your name?”

“Odysseus, but my friends call me Od for short,” the boy replied, but he pronounced Od as odd.

“I’m Jed...”

“You need help,” the little boy said.

“Yes.”

“Follow me. You hungry? Wanna go to the kitchen?”

“Yes, that’s where I’m heading. It’s a good thing you’re here,” Jed said.

Od’s clouded blue eyes made it hard to read his reaction. He appeared to be smirking, but Jed didn’t want to believe that, for it anticipated bad news. He couldn’t trust smirking or a smirker. Taking Od’s hand, Jed held on quietly. Being unnerved by a little boy wasted energy Jed needed to solve bigger problems.

The painting on the wall faded into the recesses of the paneling the further they travelled down the hall. Jed was aware he had walked and made no progress, but when Od found him the journey sped to magnificent speed, therefore Jed became grateful for this little boy.

“Hey, you!” a shrill voice shouted. “Let go of my son, you pervert.”

Jed recoiled at the language and spun around locating his accuser. A pretty middle-aged woman stood, feet spread apart in a firm stance, with her fists on her hips. Jed let go of Od, but Od’s grip continued to clench his hand. The mother ripped at her hair, continuing to scream profanity at Jed, demanding the release of Od.

“Let go of me,” Jed said lowly at first, and then repeated loudly with urgency.

Od’s mother overheard and began ripping out her hair. “I said let go of my son, you mother fucker!” She ripped out another clump of hair and threw it to the ground in anger.

“Mommy, this stranger wants to take me to his playroom. I told him no, but he wouldn’t listen… Mommy, I love you. I just want to be with you. Why did you leave me alone with this man?”

“No, ma’am. That’s not true! He found me,” Jed cried.

“I don’t believe you. How dare you take advantage of an innocent child suffering from dysig!”

Jed stared at Od. Finding no truth in her statements about Od’s condition, he looked back to her. Her madness perplexed him--how come she didn’t just come and take Od off his hands? He would’ve welcomed her, but instead she stood her ground, unmovable.

“Odysseus,” she whimpered. Darkness oozed out of Od’s tearducts, ears, and nose on command. Jed sensed Od played with his mother in a cruel way she allowed.

Renewed by this realization he turned to her and calmly said, “Ma’am, Od offered to help me, and I accepted. I wanted to go to the kitchen, I’m thirsty from plowing the fields.” He patted his overalls to play the Amish card to its fullest.

The upset mother stopped her self-destruction and mulled over what he said. “You know his condition makes his aphasia amnesic.” She let go of a fistful of hair and in a much softer and kinder voice she coaxed, “Come on, honey, let’s go home.”

Od’s grip tightened. Jed’s hand ached.

Od groaned like an animal on the verge of attacking. The darkness cleared enough from Od’s eyes to reveal a hateful stare. Jed saw the more he tried to let this little boy go, the boy’s strengthened his grip to that of a grown man three times his size.

“Let go of me!” Od whined. “Mama, what does, ‘I like little boys mean?’”

This sent the boy’s mother back over the edge. How can she not see his blatant dishonesty? Jed wondered. Clawing at her face until blood dripped from the open wounds, she bit big hunks from her arms and spit them out. Red spittle stained her chin. She still did not move. A gallop thundered in the hall. A bear reared up behind the mother who paid no mind to it. While the bear in fury roared and swiped its long claws at the air above her head, she continued mauling herself, blissfully unaware of her surroundings, championing her son by berating Jed. Od’s face widened with delight, but continued to egg his mother on.

With one clean swipe, the bear tore off one of her arms and put it in its mouth. Chomping with satisfaction he took the other arm and consumed it. Jed stared in horror, not noticing the absence of care from his captor Od. The bear dropped to all fours and went to face his meal straight on. Where the butt should’ve been was replaced with another intimidating head.

“You creep, I will destroy you for messing with my son if it is the last thing I do,” the mother said.

The bear ripped her in half and, within six bites, consumed her whole. The other head threw up a taupe semisolid, foul smelling substance with each step of the retreating bear.

Od let go of Jed’s hand, “Oh well, I knew her luck would run out.” His lisp disappeared. He started skipping down the hall, whistling in time with his arms swinging.

Jed fell on his knees sobbing and prayed, “Dear God, Where am I? What is my purpose here?”

Trying to comprehend what he witnessed, he understood none of it.

“The truth is patient,” he muttered, closing out his prayer. The hallway lighted up in the regular white light. The paint and carnival sideshow disappeared.

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