Words Hurt. Like Hell.
Tell Time: 7 minutes
Scare Rating: 4 Ghosts
Detective Samuels walked Kyle to the squad car parked in front of the boy’s home. He opened the back door and pushed the young man, gently but firmly, on to the hard vinyl-covered back seat.
Walking around the vehicle, he waved off the social worker perched, like a vulture, on the sidewalk. She hovered anxiously, ready to intervene. She’d have a chance to talk to the boy later, but first, the investigator needed some information about the horrific crime scene inside the boy’s house.
Detective Samuels took a deep breath and let it out in a harsh sigh. He was well versed in working hardened thugs over, but across the seat from him sat a small, scared young man. Maybe he should have opened with an easier question — the way the social worker might have. Maybe he should have tried to get to know him first; sought to earn the boy’s trust. But he didn’t.
“What the heck happened in there?” he asked.
Kyle took in a deep breath and released it in hard shudders. With the palms of both hands, he wiped dirty tears from his cheek, sniffled hard, then looked up for just a moment to find the detective’s stern, inquisitive face, before looking back down at his hands, which wrung each other nervously in his lap.
“It all started a week ago. My friends and I were just hanging out in the neighborhood,” the boy said, barely louder than a whisper. “We were bored, and we wound up at Old Lady Griffey’s house.
“One of us had the idea to grab a bunch of the rotten apples that had fallen to the ground in front of the place and fling them at it. They made a real neat thud sound, and some pretty cool patterns, too. So we took turns chucking them at her house, to see who could make the biggest splat against the clapboards.” The boy paused and looked up again to find the same stern — and thus far, non-judgmental — face looking back at him, attentively. So he continued with his story.
“Anyways, she came out quick and told us to get off her property and go home. Honestly, I don’t think any of us thought she’d care, the way she doesn’t keep the place up and all. ”You can’t tell us what to do, you old witch!’ I shouted at her,” Kyle’s gaze fell to his folded hands in his lap. “I shouldn’t have said it. I shouldn’t have said anything. But my buddies were with me and I guess I wanted to look tough.”
“So she says to us, ‘old witch, eh? You have no idea, and you have no respect! Words hurt, little one. They hurt like Hell … as you’ll soon find out.’ Then she did a little dance; she stamped her shriveled little feet twice, one after the other, making loud knocking sounds on the boards. Then she spun around, and waved at me, as if to dismiss me.”
“What’s that got to do with what happened in here?” the detective asked. He hadn’t lost patience yet, but he was clearly only interested in solving a crime. So far, the story didn’t seem to be getting him there.
“Well, so then I was at school a few days ago, and my buddy James started teasing me about my haircut,” Kyle continued. “I tried to ignore him, but people started laughing at me. So I got mad and I told him off. I told him he was ugly and pathetic.”
“And?” asked the detective, trying to stifle evidence of his growing impatience of all the side stories.
“Well, and then he did get ugly and pathetic,” said Kyle. “I mean, it happened kinda slowly, but as class went on, his face got really ugly. It kinda just pinched in on his nose, like it’d look if his face was made out of dough and someone punched it in and it just stayed like that. He got this mole on his chin. His face broke out in huge pus-pilled pimples. And his eyebrows got thick and bushy and grew together. It got worse and worse through the afternoon, and everyone started to make fun of him, until he could get away to the nurse’s office. Now his family’s got him going to see all sorts of specialists to see what’s the matter with him, and they’re scared that it’ll spread to his sister — she’s real pretty — and no one can figure out what happened to him. But I know.”
“I see,” said Detective Samuels. He couldn’t keep a nervous tone out of his voice. What he was hearing was impossible; ridiculous, really. But hearing it, straight from the mouth of the boy who said he’d done it, somehow creeped him out
“So what does this have to do with what happened to your mom in your home tonight?” he asked, trying to regain composure and control.
The boy’s eyes got big and filled with tears as he remembered the events of only an hour before. He tucked his face into his folded arms and sobbed hard. The detective awkwardly put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to try to offer comfort.
“Son, you’ve got to tell us what happened. We can help. Who killed your mom?” Detective Samuels asked. “You were there, you’ve got to know. Just tell us.”
“I DID!” the boy shouted into his chest. “I killed her!” he yelled out, before being consumed yet again by a new fit of sobs. Almost incoherently through the violent tears and gasps, his story continued to spill out.
“Mom and I were arguing. I don’t even know what we were fighting about. She wanted to ground me for sassing her. I told her I wasn’t grounded. She told me I was, and that I couldn’t tell her that I wasn’t.
“I got even more mad, so I started yelling at her. I called her a wretched excuse for a mom. Right when I said that, I could see her form start to change. She started to shrivel up. But I didn’t care. She warned me to watch it or I’d be in big trouble. She told me that I was in a hole and that I should stop digging myself deeper. But even though she was trying to control me, to control my anger and to control the situation, I could tell that she was getting confused, and scared, by what was happening to her body. And I could tell that she knew somehow that I was doing it to her.
“But I couldn’t control myself. Something came over me. I could see her desperation and her fear, and it made me even angrier,” Kyle said. “I told her I hated her, and that I wished she was dead. I said, ‘Blast you Mom, you’re the worst! I hate you and I wish you were dead!'”
Her face just went blank; I saw the horror in her eyes, the full realization. And then I saw the compassion and love, like on Christmas morning when she watches me open my presents. Why’d she have to look at me like that? At that, Kyle burst into tears again. “I think her heart must have busted first. And then she just … ripped … apart. The parts of her body, her limbs, just blasted off of her and fell around her falling body.
“She was dead. Just like I wanted her to be,” he said, almost as if to himself.
For a full minute, the detective couldn’t speak. He was processing what he’d heard; trying to reconcile it to the scene inside of the house. Eerily, it fit — more than any other theory he might have come up with himself. Finally, he managed to form a sentence around the sole thought in his mind.
“If you did that …” he started. “If you were cursed, and if you were able to do that … that horrific crime in there, then clearly there’s no way we can help. Why, then, did you call the police?”
“I didn’t call you to have you help Mom!” the boy cried out desperately. “I called you to try to help me!”