October 26, 2008

The Mile

Billy Larue rushed up to his bedroom window. Grabbing the cuff of his shirt sleeve, he rubbed away the condensation and peered outside. He could just now begin to see the full moon rising, silhouetted by the maple trees as the last of the autumn leaves lightly fell. They slowly floated to the ground before they came to rest on the dew-covered lawn. Dying they were, he thought. He desperately wanted to go outside and play in them one last time, before winter claimed them. But he knew it was already too late. They had already begun to wither once they had touched the ground -- death decaying.

Remembering then why he had come upstairs, he half jumped and half climbed up onto his bed. And sitting there, he waited. Soon the sound of wood hitting wood made soft thumping noises out in the hallway. The woman made a low gutteral noise as she entered the room. Almost, he thought, like an animal. Setting her cane aside, she smiled at him and held out her long flailing arm.

"Here, Grandma," he half whispered.

"I'm too old for those stairs," she laughed.

"Never," he said, "Just take two at a time and be done with them."

"Oh world," she said, "Two stairs! I'd certainly be done with them then."

"Here," Billy said, holding out his hands, "Right here I am."

"I see you," she chuckled. "Now give me those bandages. We'll have to hurry; it's almost dark."

"How do you know when it's dark, Gram? You're blind."

"Oh, well ... that's my secret now, isn't it?" she said.

"Well I suppose..."

"Give me your hand -- the one you'll use."

"This one I'll use." Billy said, giving her his left.

"Let's begin then." she said.

Twenty minutes later Billy was standing in front of his mirror admiring himself. "The best ever!" he said.

"Let me see," his grandma said. Reaching out, she found his wrist and slowly started patting down the young boy's torso. Yards of bandages covered Billy's upper body. "The best ever!" he said again.

"How are your legs?" she asked.

"Perfect," Billy replied. "But how?"

"Pins and needles," she said, "That's why you'll walk like this."

She stumbled forward with her arms held out, imitating a mummy. They both laughed.

"You didn't," he said, "Nary a one. I was watching you."

"Another secret." she said, "Just a grandma's touch."

"Will you go with me this year?" the boy pleaded.

"You don't need an Old Witch walking you around." She started, "This cane of mine has seen too many miles already. Besides, you and Bessie will be alone this year. It's time. Somebody's got to light The Mile."

Billy walked over to his window. From the second floor of the house he could see the faint outline of the old rickety fence that skirted the property. Letting his eyes follow the driveway to the very end, he could barely see the gate. It was as tall as the cornstalks that lined the road. And, it was exactly one mile from the house to the gate. Along the driveway, Billy could see the jack-o-lanterns that they had placed there three days ago. There were over a hundred of them.

"We've got to hurry!" he said, turning to his grandma, "It's almost time."

"Go get your sister, then." she said, "But don't forget these."

The room had darkened considerably, and only the wick of one flickering candle danced in the twilight. The old woman's hands seemed to disappear into the folds of her dress and then they reappeared with a box. Just like magic, he thought.

She handed him the box and then smiled. "Go now then," she whispered.

Billy seemed to vanish from the place he once stood. Candlelight bounced off the walls and he was gone. His footsteps could be heard as he took to the stairs. Yelling over his shoulder he said, "Thank you, Grandma."

Outside in the courtyard, Bessie danced with excitement. The night was warm but the wind had picked up since the afternoon. There was a storm coming. "Hurry Billy!" she cried out anxiously.

"I am," he said. Carefully holding the box that Grandma Mabel had given him. Every motion was almost reverent.

The moonlight shined down on the silver clasp of the box as he unsnapped it. Inside were two candles and a single wooden matchstick. One match, he thought to himself. What if it takes two? He gave the box to Bessie and he let his mind wander as he summoned up his nerve to strike the single stick. Bessie looked at him with wild anticipation. She held out one of the candles and waited.

An eerie howl swept across the cornfields and they both turned to look at the horizon. Lightening flashed in the far distance. The storm was moving away from them toward Barrow County.

"Now," he whispered. Bessie leaned in close with one hand cupped around one of the candles as Billy struck the matchhead against a stone that lay on the ground. Fire lit up and briefly danced and then the flame disappeared.

"No!" they both screamed. And as they stopped to look at each other, the matchhead jumped again and a tiny spark lit the other side of the matchstick. The two held their breath as they leaned in close to light the candle Bessie held in her hands.

"Now the other," Billy said. Bessie's hand disappeared into the long black cape that she wore and then reappeared holding the other candle. Just like Grandma, he thought.

Lighting the other candle, the two flames jumped in the night as they quickly moved from jack-o-lantern to jack-o-lantern, bringing life to the haunted house behind them. They turned to see Grandma Mabel standing in the doorway, waiting for them to finish.

One by one the jack-o-lanterns came to life. Ghouls and goblins shined through the hollowed out pumpkins. Images of Dracula and Frankenstein danced in the night among witches and warlocks. When they had finished, they stood at the gate. The first Treaters had arrived. Billy unlocked the wrought iron gate and he and Bessie slowly pushed them open.

"Trick or Treat," the first guest said. And they all ran down The Mile toward the old haunted house, back from where Billy and Bessie had just come.

By Beaux Kyle
© 2008

1 comment:

Krëg said...

Good story. I liked it a lot.


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