“Hey, Paddy!” Whisper-yelled James, my friend from school, from outside my window. Summer air trickled in slowly, as sweat bounced onto my forehead. Ma had given me a hand held fan.
“What do you want, James?” I called back. James lingered outside the window, most likely standing on Pa’s prized petunias, like he always did.
“Paddy, someone came to town!” he exclaimed. I sat right up, suddenly interested. In the small town of Woodhollow no one came, unless they were lost, but even then they steered clear of the town, as if they would rather have their cars stuck in a tree rather than come into the town. No one blamed them for their decision. Woodhollow was the center of ghastly rumors of serial killers, witches, an’ crimes. No one knew why no one left. Probably ‘cause it was cheap living here. Far from any city, an’ in the desolate region of the countryside.
“Who came into town?”I asked, whispering. James leaned over the trampled petunias, an’ he was quiet for a moment.
“I dunno,” He was quiet for a moment. “I’d thought you’d know.” He continued.
“Why would I know? I haven’t been out in 3 days!” I gasped in betrayal, ”You think ya know someone”.
“Rumor ‘as it that they walked in with swagger, dressed in all black, must ‘ave been so hot for him under the thick coat he wore, Sheriff Dipper chased after him calling out ‘hey stranger who are ya’?’ he just ignored him, an’ kept on walking, like he was searchin’ for sumthing.” He stopped.
“What happened, anything else weird.” I prodded
“That’s all, I dunno what happened next.” James said abruptly, turning around. Thick, heavy footsteps thumped through the side of the house, an’ James started to run. Those footsteps signaled that my older brother Prescott was gonna’ come into the garden. He now stood parallel to the window.
“Paddy,” he sang tauntingly, “if you leave the window open, then the skinny-man’s gonna’ get’cha!” he wiggled his thin fingers. I’d give him a black eye if it weren't for the insect screen in between us. The skinny-man was an urban legend ‘round these parts of, a skinny, tall man with long body parts. His decrepit, wrinkled face made a creepy smile, an’ round hollowed out eyes.
“What’cha want?” I ask frustratedly. Tucking in my covers so he didn’t suspect James was at the window.
“Wanna go int’a town with me?” he asks.
“Well, I’ll be! Prescott William Waterson, you’re asking your sick little sister to go shoppin’ with ya when she’s havin’ a fever?” I chastised, then recalled the man James told me about. I stood up stretching.
“I’ll come. I need the stretching anyways”
As we headed into town, the first sight we saw was an Old Man McGregor, the town’s oldest resident and part-time nutjob, chewin’ his straw, he looked us up and down, and our cart.
“Y'all folks better head on back home, the man in black’s ‘ere ‘gain” he called.
“Our Ma an’ Pa won’t be happy with that happening, better to go on to the market, than face the punishment for not.” Prescott called back, his head looked down to the ground.
“Hey, Paddy d’ya know what Old Man McGregor meant by that?” he asked, as if McGregor had gotten to him an’ made him anxious. Nothing EVER made Prescott Willam Waterson anxious. I weighed my options, as to tell him about what was up, but if Prescott told Ma an’ Pa I was hanging with James again, they’d beat me up then send me flyin’ out the door.
“Jessica came to the garden, tellin’ me about some visitor, in all black garb.” I lied. Jessica Bixton, the girl I had lied about telling me, hated me. “I thought she wanted to scare me, but ya’ know me.”
“It's impossible to scare ya.” Prescott said. It was a line we had memorized. Because it was true. Nothing scared me. But this sent chills down my spine. We headed down to the market in the square. We saw the way people parted, like a vignette around the stalls. People rushed to get their things, as opposed to the usual Sunday slugs that passed through mushed together like blobs of tan and pink. In the middle was the man in black. I didn’t know their gender yet, but I just considered it a man ‘cause of what Mcgreggor had said to me an’ Prescott.
Everyone had separated from them. Prescott made a loud an’ sharp squealing noise, an’ took a quick breath as Molly Jakobson came through the crowd. We all did, since she walked to the man, and she said what we had not.
“Hello Sir, what a fine day we’re having ain’t it?” Her thick an’ long, blonde hair was in ringlets, it bounced off of her shoulders and traveled down to the backs of her knees. Her tanned skin glistened with sweat. The person humphed in response.
“What's your name?” She asked.
“Where ya from?”
“What's yer’ favorite color?”
“How’d ‘ja get ‘ere?”
She gave up an’ walked to her mother, who looked downright angry an’ scared. She examined her daughter, tuck’in her behind her. I could hear Prescott’s angry breath. He had a wee bit of a crush on Molly.
After he calmed down we rushed back home. Over dinner, Prescott nearly drove a hole through the table in anger recalling the moment. As a result Ma an’ Pa decided to go to the store for some time until the Man in black went away. For the sake of Prescott’s pride, they said that it was to make sure that the man wasn’t made into a paste as a result of Prescott’s anger despite it being for their acute fear of the man.
The sky faded into an Ombre of colors, an’ all was quiet an’ peaceful.
The next morning mother forced me out of bed, as I silently prayed to the lord, to find me a way to skip school for the day. Prescott, father, an’ I had to walk through the town’s market. Today the square smelt different as we walked through. A scent lingered and I couldn't put a finger on it. It wasn’t a good smell, it was pungent and metallic. In the heart of the town’s market, there was a hoard of people. Guttural screams echoed through.
“What’s all this hubbub now?” Pa asked, pulling me and Prescott in the big crowd.
In the middle of the crowd lay Molly Jakobson’s corpse, cold and stiff. Blood tinted her blonde locks red, eyes hollowed, and lips turned up in a creepy smile. Like the Skinny-man I turned away. It was too late, her body was imprinted into my mind.
First went Molly.
Prescott pulled me away into the corner, but I could imagine that it was harder for him than me. Although he was 2 years older than me, he knew Molly on a first name basis. Heck, he even knew her ma and pa. Whenever they would come down to our home, he would chat loudly and thump them on the shoulder like an old friend would. As we walked back home, Old Man McGregor’s warning rang in my head.
the man in black’s ‘ere ‘gain
What in tarnation did that mean? The words funneled in my head again and again. Before I knew it, We were home again. As we stepped through the threshold, Ma called Pa to the kitchen.
“Gerard, there was one thing I asked you to do. One thing. The kids need to go to scho-'' She yelled. Pa went into the kitchen, and most likely told about the hoard and Molly. Oh. Poor Molly. Tortured until the flame inside her blew out. I dunno how gruesome Pa had explained what he had saw to her but she was as pale as the magnolia trees that blessed our orchards.
We sat in the sitting room, on the fluffy couch. Pa and Ma had left an hour ago to talk to the Jakobsons. Prescott looked half dead. His eyes were red and puffy. His hair that usually was neatly tucked into a band, now messy and all over the place. His shirt was open in some areas.
“Are you-” I started to ask, a bit startled by how high my cracked and unused voice was.
“No, I don’t want to be reminded.” He cut in, his voice was thick with unshed tears.
I’m going to sneak out tonight.
In the dead of the night,
I’m going to avenge my lovely Molly
Ma and Pa sit in the sitting room staring at the door and the small window. When supper ends I go to Prescott’s room. I lay next to him, and stare at the ceiling, then there is a shifting. Prescott moves and in a swift motion knocks me out. I can hear him talking while I am losing consciousness
“Sorry Paddy, I love you, but I have to do this.” He says.
When I wake up, I look up. Maybe last night’s events were just a nightmare, a cruel, dark nightmare. I stand up and stretch, looking at the clock’s arms at 8:00 AM.
“Paddy, bring Prescott out,” Pa yells from the other room.
“He isn’t with you?” I ask, Pa looks horrified, I drop to my knees. Pa now walks across to the coat rack pulling out a coat from a hanger. He walks outside.
It’s been an hour when the door closes shut, with force. Pa thumps in, his face ruddy and red. Stricken with tears, his sobs encompassed the living room. We understand why. In his arms, is a 12 year old boy. All brown hair and big boots. Ma gives a shriek as I realize who it was.
Prescott lies dead in Pa’s arms.
On his arms engraved, Where I am from you should not know.
For the rest of the evening, we cry ourselves a river.
Next was Prescott.
James comes by the next day. He knocks on the door. Which I open, as my eyes crack open to the sun, Ma shuts the door as James tries to speak.
“I thought I told you not to talk to that boy!” She whispers.
“Why?” I ask “You have always told me why but I don’t know why!” I burst in as my father pulled in a deep breath.
“His family branches out from the Skinny-Man.” She admits.
“Like I would believe that! The Skinny-Man is a legend Ma!” I yell.
“He was based off of a serial killer in Woodhollow back in the 50's.” She says firmly pulling me onto the sofa. That was the end of that. A few days later we had the funeral. A mortician had managed to clear off the cuts in his skin. As I watched my brother's corpse I wept tears of acid rain.
That night I lay in Prescott’s bed as I thought about what Ma had said.
Prescott had died sneaking out.
James’s family was shunned for their serial killer past back in the 50’s.
Something in between stuck out to me as I thought.
The next morning, Ma, Pa, and I went to town. Pa went to the market, Ma was taking me to the library, but was distracted by the neighborhood gossip.
Despite Woodhollow being a horrible, old, disgusting town, they had enough resources to house a library. This time the library was dead silent. Unlike before where it buzzed with the noise of children. Old Man McGregor looked at me and smiled.
“First customers today.” He said. When I looked up, the man in black was behind me. Fear crippled into me. I walked to the other side of the library. He followed.
We continued this until they took off their mask. A woman looked down at me. Her voice was horace and rough.
“Kid, you shouldn’t be here.” She warned.
“Are you go-go-going to kill Mr. McGregor like you did my brother?” I asked as harmful memories shot through my head.
“I thought you seemed a bit bright for a kid.” She noted.
“What do you mean?” I asked confused.
“I mean that I ain’t the killer.” She said calmly, tucking her mask on, pulling her hands into a pocket pulling out a pistol. I turned around. ”He is.”
Mr. McGregor stood with his lips curled into a sadistic smile, hands on a gun pointed at the ladies head.
“I’m gonna kill ya!” He called. “Just like I killed ‘yer older brother. He screamed with pain when I dragged that knife through his arm. So much that I had to drown him to finish the job.” He called.
She walked backwards, but his bullet was trained at her.
“Drop ‘yer gun,” he called. She threw it.
We were doomed.
Then he came closer and as he touched the trigger, a loud noise resonated through the shelves and Mr. McGregor fell to the ground. People outside must have heard the noise and started to pour in. They saw us. Sheriff Dipper came in.
“Lady, yer’ under arrest.” he pulled another gun on her.
“She is innocent!” I screamed as Ma and Pa pulled me away.
Late that evening, Ma and Pa did not leave my side, and were yelling at me. I explained what had happened. The sun was about to set over the hills and our white magnolia trees. Ma and Pa sat at the top of the hill a watchable distance from me, when a familiar silhouette showed at the bottom of the hill. The lady in black waved to me, as I ran down the hill to her. She had gotten off on the promise that she would leave the town. Her voice reeked of a city accent. She smiled at me and bade me farewell. As I walked back to my parents, who looked at me and smiled, and we stared at the sunset over the hills as the world faded out of my sight.