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Drama Mystery Thriller

“Jamie! Come on!”

“OK, I’m comin’,” Jamie said, grabbing his pillow and “handy-dandy, battery-powered lantern” (it said so on the box). He handed the lantern to Blake, who was seven years his junior.

Jamie had just turned thirteen, and felt as though camping out in the backyard was kids’ stuff, but since there was no power, and since his cell phone died an hour ago, he decided to join the rest of his family out back.

Dad had called Pacific Gas and Electric earlier today and he was told that a transformer had blown somewhere in the area, and it would be at least two days before it would be repaired. So rather than try to sleep inside the house which was stiflingly hot, the Wariners decided to sleep outdoors where they were more likely to cool off.

Mom and Dad had a large, blue tent with a mesh window they could open to allow fresh air in. Jamie and Blake had a small, camo-colored pup-tent. It was much smaller than Mom and Dad’s, but was still big enough for the two of them. Besides, who wants to sleep with Mom and Dad? That’s just gross.

A large fire was blazing in the firepit, and Mom was putting marshmallows onto long sticks she found along the outskirts of the yard. The smell of the wood burning reminded Jamie of winters in Minnesota, when Dad kept a fire going in the wood-burning stove. The odorous memory took Jamie away for a moment.

“Wanna roast a marshmallow?” Mom was asking, handing Jamie a stick with a fluffy white cloud on its tip.

“Sure,” Jamie said, embarrassed by how happy he felt right now.

He sat next to Blake on one of the logs that lined the edge of the firepit and held his marshmallow over the dancing flames. Together, they looked like two boys with invisible fishing lines in a blazing lake. Mom and Dad joined them, sitting opposite the boys.

“Did you boys get your sleeping bags and pillows situated?” Dad asked.

“I haven’t yet, but I will,” Jamie said, retrieving his marshmallow from the fire and blowing it before taking a bite. The charred black orb opened up and white lava came flowing forth, dribbling onto his t-shirt and hands. “Mmmmm,” he said, licking his fingers.

“And what about you?” Dad said, addressing Blake.

“Yep, mine is ready to go,” he said proudly.

“Only ‘cause Mom helped you,” Jamie chided Blake.

“That’s enough,” Mom said, scowling at Jamie.

After enjoying another toasted marshmallow, and telling scary stories around the firepit for an hour, the family decided to turn in.

Jamie woke up sometime later to Blake shaking him. “Jamie?” Blake whispered.

“Yeah? What is it?” Jamie answered, angrily.

“Shhh. Something’s wrong,” Blake said. “Listen.”

Jamie rubbed the sand from his eyes and listened intently. “What am I listening for?”

“Wait.”

From somewhere in the yard, a long, low growl filled the air. It seemed to be coming from everywhere; in front of them, behind them, above them, and on either side of them. Jamie froze and nearly urinated on himself. “What the hell?” Jamie whispered.

“I don’t know,” Blake said, starting to cry, “but I’m scared. We need to get to Mom and Dad’s tent.”

“No, we can’t go out there. We don’t know what that is.”

The growls continued, they seemed to get louder and then softer, and the boys could sense it moving around the yard.

“Your lantern!” Blake said, reaching.

“No, Blake,” Jamie scolded, “we can’t draw attention to ourselves!”

The growling suddenly got louder and higher pitched, and within a split second, Mom and Dad started screaming at the tops of their lungs. Jamie heard yelling, growling, what sounded like Dad hitting the monster and what sounded like the monster hitting Dad back.

Mom let out a scream that was instantly cut off, as if she was unable to finish it. And he heard Dad cry out “You son of a bitch!”

There was a scraping sound, followed by Dad yelling “No! Put me down!”

And more hitting, always more hitting.

At some point, Jamie was overcome with fear and anxiety and passed out amidst the turmoil going on outside their tent. When Jamie’s eyes next blinked open, the sun was up and the only things he heard were the chirping of birds and the soft snore of his younger brother.

He extracted his arm from under Blake’s head and crawled to the tent opening. He unzipped it quietly and pulled open the flaps. He took a hesitant look outside. From this angle, everything looked in order. A pair of birds were bickering over the remaining birdseed in Mom’s bird feeder. Tom Alexander’s dog, Jake, was barking two houses down, but Jake always barked; nothing new there. The sun was shining brightly, and the overgrowth of trees in the field below swayed to and fro in the breeze.

Feeling somewhat relieved, Jamie turned his head toward Mom and Dad’s tent to the left, only their tent was no longer there. And rather than being trampled, the grass where it had been stood at attention.

Jamie was confused, and took a step toward where his Mom and Dad’s tent had been. No scraps of blue canvas, no tent poles, nothing to indicate that his parents’ tent had ever been there. Alarmed, Jamie looked toward the center of the yard. The firepit; it was gone. Both the firepit itself and the logs that served as seating around it. Simply gone.

“What?” Jamie asked the air. He rubbed his temples and looked back and forth between where the firepit should be and where his parents’ tent should be. He turned toward his house, thinking he should at least go inside and call someone. However, Jamie’s confusion turned to panic as his family’s home – a modest rancher – was gone. In its place stood a large three-story home. “What the hell?” Jamie said, certain he was losing his mind.

He looked around. Mom’s bird feeder was gone, Jake had stopped barking, and the field below that had been an overgrowth of trees was now a bustling town.

He decided to go to his brother. He wanted to make sure Blake was okay, of course, but he also wanted some assurance that he hadn’t gone as cuckoo as he feared. He rounded their small pup tent, crouched down and crawled into the opening.

Jamie’s scream could be heard for blocks. It was certainly loud enough to rouse the family that was living in the three-story house. Blake was no longer in the pup tent. In fact, he wasn’t anywhere. Nor were Jamie’s Mom and Dad.

The owners of the new house called the cops, who arrived quickly and tried talking with Jamie. Within five minutes, they were calling for a Mental Health professional to assist. Jamie was inconsolable, and making no sense whatsoever, but when he saw Dr. Friedman show up, he went from sad and confused to angry and violent. He was handcuffed and shackled and placed in the back of an ambulance for transport to a nearby hospital.

Outside, Dr. Friedman spoke with the police who were still on the scene.

“It was tragic, actually,” Dr. Friedman said, removing a white cloth and using it to wipe his glasses.

“It must have been two years ago now, Jamie had gotten ‘hold of his father’s handgun and was playing with it in the family’s basement. Blake, who must have been four at the time came running into the room looking for Jamie.

“Jamie jumped when Blake ran in, and his finger squeezed the trigger and he shot Blake… dead in the center of his chest. He was killed instantly. Jamie’s Mom couldn’t take it, shot herself in the right temple. About three months later, Jamie’s Dad had a massive heart attack. He held on for a few days, but ended up dying himself.

“Since then, Jamie has been in and out of the hospital, in and out of foster care. Unsettled and unstable, you might say. You guys did a good thing calling me.”

In the ambulance, Jamie could hear everything Dr. Friedman was saying. And although he sensed it must be true, he had no immediate recollection of any of it. As far as he knew, he’d gone to bed last night after spending the evening with his Mom and Dad around the firepit, telling stories and eating toasted marshmallows…

Jamie jumped, and immediately looked down at his t-shirt.

There, in a small, sticky puddle was a dribble of congealed marshmallow.

September 07, 2020 17:48

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5 comments

Prachi Pati
10:16 Sep 21, 2020

I was so immersed in the story that I didn't want it to end! I kept wondering, which part was true? And was completely shocked by the Doctor's story. But that congealed marshmallow comes in as a ray of hope. Really enjoyed your story:)

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Judith Buskohl
17:37 Sep 17, 2020

Your story was very interesting to read. I wish you would have continued it longer to see what happens with Jamie and the stain on his shirt. Well written though and very interesting.

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Elliott Laurence
08:59 Sep 13, 2020

Well written. An excellent start to the mystery of what truly happened to Jamie's family. Keep it up.

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Shani Buchholz
20:17 Sep 14, 2020

Thank you, Elliott! I appreciate your taking the time to ready my story and especially for your comments. Take good care, Shani

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Elliott Laurence
08:59 Sep 13, 2020

Well written. An excellent start to the mystery of what truly happened to Jamie's family. Keep it up.

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