The Time of Stone
“I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time … for every purpose and for every work.” —Ecclesiastes 3:17
“No sir, I never much did trust the month of August. Real quiet-like summer goes to sleep, and the cold of autumn wakes up. Summer and spring, they got flowers, but old autumn, it’s nothin’ but cold ground and hard stone. Autumn holds the secrets of the winter that’s waitin’. It’s the time when things start to die.” —Granddad Sam
“At this I woke …” —Jeremiah 31:26
210 Carver Street
Every town has a murder house.
Some cities make a big deal about places where someone loses it and kills people. They turn it into a tourist trap and make you pay to come look at it. I think there’s one a few counties over where this girl went nuts and hacked up her family one night with an ax. There’s another one where some guy poisoned his relatives at a picnic by slipping cyanide in their cups. Yeah, don’t drink the lemonade in Rockbridge County.
Sometimes you have to look pretty hard to find the really scary places, even in Virginia. In the Shenandoah Valley we have some Civil War stuff and a few battlefields, but those places will only give you a shiver here and there. There are darker places, though, ones that make your blood go cold just looking at them. I know a place like that. You go down Main Street, and then take a left on Delphine Avenue. After that, make another left. You want the eighth house on the right, the one with the broken fence and the big backyard. That’s 210 Carver Street.
A lot of bad things happened in this house, things I can’t forget.
A year ago, a guy lured my older brother Bill Caid down into the basement and murdered him. When the cops finally caught the killer, he fessed up real quick and talked about how my brother lasted a week while he cut on him. I tried not to watch the news on that freak after he was locked up, but one time I saw a picture of him. He looked like a normal guy.
In the daytime, 210 Carver Street doesn’t look weird either. Not until the sun sets, like it is now. Then, it’s almost like a strange sort of magic happens. I know it’s only my imagination, but the house seems to change.
The warped fence pickets that surround the house now look a whole lot like a row of curvy rib bones. Surrounded by shadows, the place looks even colder than it did before. It looks hungry. It’s hard to explain, but it looks like it’s just waiting for someone to walk through the door and go down the steps into the basement.
Everything’s got a hunger to it, my Granddad Sam used to say. Looking at 210 Carver Street, I know he’s right.
As the sky slowly goes from blue to black and everything around me starts to get dark, I get to thinking about all the different places somebody could hide in the house and be watching me right now.
The wind picks up some, making the trees sway back and forth, like they’re dancing real slow. Everybody knows that vampires and ghosts aren’t real. Zombies, werewolves, and other weird monsters are just things in movies and books. A night like tonight, in a place like this, makes you wonder if there’s something out there worse than what happens in fiction. And maybe there are worse things than killers.
Man, I should just go home.
Home. That word makes me laugh a little. I’ve bounced around to a lot of foster places, but my real house … I mean, the trailer I used to live in, always looked rundown when I was a kid and had a lawn that was just a bunch of knee-high weeds with some rusty bikes piled up on top. The place on Carver Street’s a dump, too, all boarded up and nearly swallowed by vines and too-tall grass.
Bill shouldn’t have died here. He was smart and funny. He didn’t do great in school, but he did better than I ever will.
Everything should be different. Bill should be alive and nagging me to stop dyeing red streaks in my hair. And I’d tell him that since I’m listening and not growing it out too long I can make it whatever color I want. I bet what he’d really get on me for is that I’m still wearing the same worn-out army jacket I found at a thrift store when I was twelve. Hey, once you break something in, why get rid of it, especially when it finally fits? But he’d only mess with me a little bit about all that junk before he’d tell me to enjoy my senior year of high school and then take me out on a hike. We’d go to the National Forest and see the waterfalls or take a ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway and find a trail out there. That’s how things are supposed to be. But that’s not how they are.
Instead, I’m out here, staring up at 210 Carver Street. The guy that lived here was grade-A crazy. There should be more to it than that, but there isn’t.
That’s when I hear it—shhh shhh shhh. It’s not a hushed shhh, like somebody trying to shut me up. No, this is a sharp sound, like somebody dragging something heavy across concrete.
Nobody else is on the street right now. Hell, most of the people have moved off this block or are trying to. Everyone thinks this place is haunted. I doubt it. People are just scared because of what happened here. They were cozy in their beds while my brother was locked in a room where no one could hear him. Even though they didn’t find any more bodies in the house or buried in the yard, the police always wondered if others had been lead into that basement. Bill may not have been the first—
I gotta go. I’ve been here long enough. No matter how long I stay here, 210 Carver Street will always have secrets. So will I.
Mine? There’s something wrong with me. I find things. I’m not talking about coming across a penny on the sidewalk or stepping on a tack. It’s not what I find but how I do it.
I don’t control when. Instead it just happens, like it is right now. It feels like there’s a fish flopping around in my ribcage, and then my head hurts — first a little and then a lot — and now it’s like my stomach’s filling up with hot lead.
The pain ramps up until I think my head’s gonna split in two. I get this feeling like something’s stabbing through my eyes with an ice pick. Then POOF! the book I’m holding slides through my fingers, like it’s made of smoke, and disappears. One second nothing’s there, and the next there’s an old boot sitting next to me.
Great. I’ve got this piece of junk boot, and I’ve lost a pretty good book. It was one of my favorites, and I took it with me everywhere. I’d dog-eared the pages with the good parts, you know, the ones with all the action. That way I can skip the character development crap and all the middle parts where the main character wallows in self-pity blah blah blah.
I’ve been able to lose and find stuff ever since I was a little kid. Once I lost a cup, and then a pile of trash appeared on the couch. Yeah, my mom was real thrilled about that one. She made up some excuses, convincing herself that I didn’t have anything to do with it. Even though she still doesn’t know what I can do, she always thought I was a little off. I guess moms can kinda sense stuff like that. Did the 210 Carver Street psycho’s mom think he was a first-class nut-job?
Bill was the only person who knew about what I can do. He told me to never tell anyone else, and I haven’t. Not my parents. Not any of my foster parents. And definitely not the social workers and counselors I have to see sometimes. He—
None of that matters. My book is gone, and I have a boot. Not sure what else to do, I kick it off the sidewalk and into the bushes.
Finding and losing isn’t the greatest weirdness to have. Flying would be far cooler, and shooting lasers out of my eyes would be excellent. Most of the time, the one I got stuck with sucks.
Maybe others can do stuff like I can, but I’ve never met anyone or heard of anybody like me. I don’t know if that makes me feel special or just weirds me out. But it definitely makes sure that I never tell anybody. Hey, sometimes it’s okay to hide things like that and let everyone else think the world is as normal as they’re hoping it is.
Shhh shhh shhh.
There it is again. What is that?
Shhh shhh shhhhhhh. It was in front of me before, but now it’s somewhere behind me. Like someone’s circling me.
The hair on the back of my neck stands on end. Before tonight, I figured that was just something they talked about in books to let you know things were going to get scary. I always thought that was a cop-out. Instead of saying what’s going on or that the character’s scared, all the horror books talk about goosebumps and hairs standing on end. But I actually feel mine stand up.
I don’t have a cell phone. I wouldn’t have anyone to call anyway. This isn’t exactly 911 material. This is just me being dumb. It’s probably a stray dog sniffing around for scraps. Judging from how loud that sound is, though, it would have to be a pretty damn big dog.
“Is somebody there?” It’s stupid, but I can’t stop myself from running my mouth. As soon as I ask, though, I’m afraid someone will answer me.
No one does.
Instead, a rumble echoes in the distance. It’s kinda far-off, but a storm’s coming. When I was little, my brother Bill and me lived with my grandfather for a while. He used to say all this stuff about thunderstorms and how noise is nothing to be afraid of and that was all thunder was — just the sky being loud. I remember this one time he said, “Thunder, well … that’s just the water wagon rollin’ through heaven. That’s its big ole wheels turnin’.”
I never bought it. I always thought thunder was something to be afraid of because it sounded so big.
“No, it’s the lightnin’, Dylan,” Granddad Sam had said back then. I can still remember sitting in his little house, feeling like the storm would pry every board apart to get at me. That night he had scooted closer, smelling like wood-smoke, and said, “You gotta understand, thunder … it’s just sound. That’s the rattlesnake’s tail warnin’ you that that ole rattler don’t want nothin’ to do with you. But lightnin’, boy, that’s the snake’s strike. That’s what’ll get you. It’ll be quick and sure as hell.”
Shoving the memory away, I flip up the collar on my jacket and take off. Leaving the street, I step into a patch of woods and keep going. As I squeeze past a coupla pines, their thin needles rake across the side of my face. I then step over some brambles, careful not to get my boots stuck in them. That’s when I hear something. It’s not the weird sound I heard earlier. It’s some kind of mewling noise.
Then I see a small orange kitten as it tries to wriggle out of a thorn bush. It freezes when it notices me, like I’m some sort of monster or something. Then, after it gives me another long look and decides I’m not some cat-devouring creature, it sits down and watches me expectantly. Hey, even I can find a few things the normal way.
Sure, the little furball looked at me with begging eyes just a little bit ago, but she’s all claws when I scoop her out of her bramble jail. As soon as she’s out of the tangle of vines and briars, though, she starts purring and nuzzling my fingers.
No collar. No nothing. She’s pretty dirty. Looks like somebody dumped her out here to get rid of her. Her owners probably just didn’t want her anymore. That happens a lot. Things look cute when they’re little, and then when they get all scraggly and it’s work to take care of them … well, they get booted out.
Kittens should be pudgy. This one’s skinny, and her bones are nearly sticking out of her skin. One of her ears is scabbed over.
I rub her head. As she purrs again, a wave of thunder rolls over us. That storm’s a lot closer than it was a few minutes ago.
It’s strange, but it feels like something’s coiling around me, getting tighter and tighter. The wind stops for a bit. Everything is still. You ever get that feeling … the one like you’re standing under a giant piano? When you know something’s right over your head, getting ready to fall and smash you to bits?
Before I take a step with the kitten, a branch snaps. All around us, the forest erupts in pops and cracks. Another branch, the one above my head, creaks and groans like something heavy just jumped onto it.
And then silence.
The cat bunches up in my hand, trying to disappear. As her eyes narrow to slits, her ears fold backward. With a final squeak of a hiss, she darts up my arm and dives into my jacket.
Greasy black clouds ooze over a mostly black sky, choking out the last bits of moonlight. The stars are gone. A few lonely porch lights dot the darkness, but all of those houses seem so far away now. The air keeps feeling thicker and thicker, pressing in on me. I can still see but not all that good, since things are so damn dark.
Suddenly, the sky erupts in another loud clap of thunder. This one doesn’t start soft like the other one. This one sounds like someone dropped a bag of bricks off a roof. The sound swells and washes over me, like a giant wave crashing on a beach.
The cat’s still in my jacket, shaking. I zip up a little more and start walking. I guess I should reassure her that everything’s okay. But things aren’t all right.
Something’s here with us, and it’s getting ready to do something awful.
So I pick up a thick branch, but it’s rotten and breaks apart in my hand. A random raindrop splashes against my face. Then the sky opens up, and the rain starts pouring. A streak of lightning rips through the darkness.
I start to walk forward but then see a guy standing in front of me. He has a knife.
Grinning, he says, “Don’t worry … because soon it’ll all be over … “
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