The tweener, p.1
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       The Tweener, p.1

           John Watson
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The Tweener
The Tweener

  John Watson

  Copyright 2011 John Watson

  We all had our own reasons for being scared of, “Big Rumor”. Mostly it was fear of its unknown inhabitants, but in my case, it was something a little stranger.

  Brumford Hall Convalescent Hospital For The Mentally Ill is an antebellum house sitting, smack bang, in the middle of a large plantation in my family’s little part of Georgia. The house looks beautiful, at least that’s what our parents always say, but we know better. The two attic windows that stare out across the property like baleful, black eyes, the howls and hollers that screech across the nighttime sky and my own personal bugaboo, the creeping ivy that stretches up one side of the house. When the wind blows, the ivy leaves rustle and the plant appears to slither across the wall. It reminds me of a visit to the county fair when I was just a little kid. Pops took me into a travelling reptile house, snakes and lizards at every turn. I was okay until the man in charge dropped a baby boa across my shoulders, the feel of its skin setting me off on a screaming charge out the door. The memory of that day brings a flush to my cheeks and I tug down on the brim of my Braves hat to hide my shame from Jimmy Whitter, my lifelong buddy and partner in crime.

  He points at the hospital sign, oblivious to my rosy cheeked secret, and say, “Whadya think Davey, they ever gonna fix that thing?”

  rum or Hall Convalescent Hospital For The Mentally Tormented is what the sign reads now. It’s been that way for as long as we can remember, and it’s what led to the nickname all the kids use for the place. Rumor just seemed right, given all the stories that filtered out of the place, stories of raving lunatic murderers and snaggle-toothed madmen.

  “I don’t think so. It’s gonna close down soon enough, so why bother?”

  Jimmy shrugged and looked at me as I fiddled with the brim of my hat again.

  “Your Mom know you’re still wearing that thing? It’s a mess dude, and it’s way too small, and what the heck is that smudge on there?”

  “It’s Tom Glavine’s signature, at least what’s left of it, and, yes, she knows. Drives her nuts cause it gives me headaches with the band so tight and all, but I want a new one for my birthday. Maybe even tickets for opening day too, it’s just around the corner”, I reply smugly.

  “Dude, that thing gets any tighter it’s gonna drive you crazy and we’ll have to put you in Big Rumor permanently.” Jimmy cackles wildly and hollers, “I, I, I”, before launching into a guttural riff of Ozzy’s, “Crazy Train”.

  “Come on Amigo, let’s ride”, I say as I straddle my bike and head for the woods surrounding the hospital. “Catch me if you can”.

  The woods are our own personal playground. Over the years we’ve built forts and castles made of fallen limbs, climbed to the highest branches of the tallest trees and, best of all, raced around the dirt trails that are cut throughout the green expanse. We can ride those trails with our eyes closed, expertly avoiding exposed roots and leaf covered sink holes, taking hairpin turns at breakneck speeds, all of it leading up to the grand finale of our trip, the big air jump off Whitter’s Peak. Jimmy got the honor of naming it as he was the first one brave enough to make the drop off the natural incline and live to tell the tale.

  Today was no different. We raced, taking turns at the lead until we reached the magic spot which was always the cue for Jimmy to pump his legs a little faster to get there first. I’d never tell that I let him get there ahead of me, the jump always puts a little knot in my belly and seeing him do it so effortlessly stilled my nerves a touch. He raced ahead, the distance between us quickly widening. I was fast running out of steam and my throat was screaming for a drink of water. I took the jump a good thirty seconds or more after Jimmy, and as I sailed through the air I spied his bike laying on it’s side and watched in shock as he bolted towards the opening of the woods yelling, “I’ll bring back help, I promise”.

  Time seemed to crawl to a standstill as my bike drifted towards the trail. I looked away from Jimmy just in time to see a giant of a man standing in the middle of the pathway. Instinct made me tug on the brakes, midair, and when I finally hit terra firma, the man reached out and grabbed hold of my handlebars. The sudden stop sent me lurching forward, the crown of my head slamming into his chest before sending me backwards off the bike in an inglorious tailbone splashdown.

  Tears sprung to my eyes, and I fought to hold them back. The man gently laid down my bike and lumbered towards me. He looked even bigger now that I was on the ground looking up. He was dressed in a hospital gown covered in smiley faces, each one of them with a bullet hole through its head, the back of which was open and flapping behind him like angel wings. He knelt in front of me and cocked his head sideways. The movement made the wispy blond hair on his head fall away to one side revealing a livid looking scar carved from ear to ear. He swept the hair back, trying to cover it, but it proved to be as useful as an air freshener in a campground shitter. I almost laughed aloud as I thought that, one of Pops’ little gems that one, but one look at the giant choked the giggle before it escaped.

  He stared at me with the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen, all the while gnawing furiously on his fingernails. It looked to me like they were mostly all gone, but he still managed to spit out the occasional porcelain sliver, speckles of blood flying in their wake.

  I was scared, but still managed to find my voice, trying desperately to kill time till Jimmy came back with the Cavalry.

  “Hi, my name is Davey. What’s yours?”

  He smiled at that. A trickle of blood running between his two front teeth, caused, I’m sure, by the very visible piece of fingernail that was protruding from his gums.

  “Gabriel”, he replied.

  “Cool name. You live around here?” My heart was thundering in my chest and I willed it to hush so that I could hear help coming, but the blood rush was deafening, making my head throb.

  He nodded his head back towards Big Rumor, his hair falling to the side again.

  “What you in there for?”, I asked, kicking myself for the question as soon as it passed my lips. What if he was a killer or, worse yet, a child molester.

  His smile quickly disappeared and a cloud seemed to pass across his eyes. “They don’t believe me Davey, no-one does, but I know things. Do you understand?”

  “I….I’m not sure”. The conversation had taken a quick turn towards the weird and I wanted to back it up a bit. “You from around here Gabriel?”

  “Oh I’m from here there and everywhere and all points in between, but mostly I’m in between. I want to go somewhere, but I have to save just one. You want to be that one Davey? You want me to show you?”

  He held out one of his hands, big as a shovel and equally as dirty. I looked from his hand to his sparkling blue eyes and back again. I could see him nodding that it was okay and, against all good judgment, I reached out for his hand. His skin felt just like the snakeskin back at the county fair and I tried to pull back, but his grip got a whole lot firmer.

  “Let me show you”.

  The world around me started to spin out of control, the trees turned into a single green blur, before finally disappearing completely. We were enveloped in darkness, yet I could still clearly see Gabriel staring at me, piercing my soul. I felt a brief moment of heat on my face and then we were surrounded by fire. The flames danced around us, pausing every now and then to reach down and lick at our flesh. I felt no pain, but fear gripped me. I wanted it to stop, begged to God for it to stop, but the flames kept on dancing and then shaped started to appear from between them. Children ablaze, their clothes and skin fused as one, mouths wide open, but unable to scream, vocal chords charred to uselessness. This time the tears came for real and I clenched my eyes shut.

  “Open up”, Gabriel w
hispered. “Please, it’s over, I promise”.

  I opened my eyes slowly and, sure enough, we were back in the really real world of Brumford Woods. Gabriel continued to hold my hand, and I could see that he too had been crying. We sat there for a moment, motionless, and then we heard the voices coming close, Jimmy’s yelling, the loudest of all….”over here, this way”.

  Gabriel leaned in close and placed his other hand on my elbow.

  “It’s time to save you Davey. This will only hurt for a little bit and then you’ll be fine.”

  I opened my mouth to ask what he meant, but the only sound that came out was a scream as the giant snapped my radius bone in half. The world swam once more before turning to black.

  I woke to the smell of disinfectant and the sound of beeps. My mom leapt up from the side of
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