"GRAVE ERROR"

BY

JOSH BECKER

11/22/82


          Tim sat underneath the back steps of his house and began rearranging his possessions for the thousandth time. He had the dashboard of a '53 DeSoto to his right, a broken Philco television in front of him and the top of a Frigidaire gas range to his left. Surrounding these were a multitude of other broken, rusting items that Tim had foraged in the junk yard. Every day after school he would either go to the junkyard for more things or go under the steps and rearrange what he already had. There was no specific reason why Tim chose one piece of junk over another, nor why he was never satisfied with the way they sat under the steps, but that's just what he did and he didn't question it.
          His parents occasionally did, though, but never got anything close to a reasonable answer and always let it go. Twelve-year-olds had to amuse themselves somehow, Tim's father would say, as he had collected coins at that age. Tim's mother could easily understand collecting coins; if you were diligent enough and got together a good enough collection eventually it would be worth something. No matter how long and hard Tim stuck to what he did it would still be junk.
          However they never got mad at him for his avocation because they felt partially responsible. If he didn't collect and arrange junk, what would he do? He certainly had no friends to play with and never had. His father had been transferred five times since Tim was born and even though his present position seemed pretty solid, all that moving just couldn't be good for a young boy's growth process. How could a child be expected to acclimate himself to a school and his fellow students if he never got to spend more than two years there?
          So his parents tried to be understanding. The fact that Tim only weighed 75 pounds, was 4'10" and looked like a starving war orphan didn't help make him friends, either. Tim had inherited both his parents' blond hair and light complexions, but they were both good-looking healthy people. Tim looked like death warmed-over.
          Being the new kid at school as often as he was and looking the way he did made Tim more than used to being picked on and teased. He was so thoroughly immune to it that the kids picking on him always grew quickly bored of it because of Tim's lack of response. It's no fun to tease someone who doesn't care.
          Yet, deep deep down, Tim really did care. A lot. It had once been much closer to the surface, but had done him no good there, so he forced it further and further within himself until, by the ripe old age of twelve, he had nearly lost touch with it. Now he went about his routing of going to school, doing homework, going to the junkyard and arranging his possessions with a quiet, grim intensity that subliminally frightened both his parents.
          There was, however, one other thing that did interest Tim -- Hank Murrow, one of his present classmates. Interest wasn't exactly what Tim felt, it was more like fascination. Hank was a half a foot taller than he, dark-haired, good-looking and well liked by everyone. Exactly the opposite of Tim. Without knowing it he was always finding himself staring over the top of his book at Hank while he read, or sitting off to one side of the school yard and watching him swing on the swings, or play kick-ball, or talk to his friends, or anything he did. It all deeply intrigued Tim.
          One day Hank arrived at school wearing a pair of brown suede boots and immediately everyone grouped around him saying what "cool" boots they were. Tim came home from school that day and begged his parents for a pair of brown suede boots. This completely surprised them because Tim had never taken the slightest interest in anything he'd ever worn. They happily relented believing this might possibly be the beginning of a new awareness on Tim's part.
          When Tim wore them to school the next day no one noticed them; not during his first class, his second or his third. During recess, while everyone else played and talked, Tim sat off by himself as he always did and read a book. When he looked up from his reading to check the time he saw Hank Murrow across the yard staring right at him. For one moment their eyes met and locked. Finally hank's head moved down a bit. Tim followed his gaze and realized he was looking at his boots. In that half second Tim was certain that Hank would now be confirmed that he was a total asshole for rushing out and buying the same boots as him. It took all of the strength in his feeble little body to look back up, and when he did he found Hank pointing at his boots. Now he was sure Hank and his friends would come over and kick the shit out of him for his effrontery of treading on Hank's territory. Instead though Hank brought his fingers and thumb together into an O.K. sign and winked. Tim didn't know what to do, whether to nod or smile or wave or wink back and before he could decide Hank had turned back to his friends.
          Tim never wore any other shoes from then on.
          That night Tim had his very first wet dream -- and it was about Hank. They were in the school locker room getting suited-up for gym. The teacher blew his whistle and everyone hustled out to the gymnasium -- everyone but Tim and Hank. Tim was already in his black shorts and yellow shirt, but still wore his brown suede boots. Hank just wore his tight jeans, his back to Tim. He slid his jeans down to his ankles and kicked them off and with no underwear beneath lay down on the long wooden bench. Tim looked down and found his gym shorts bulging out from his erection. With a slight yank up on the right leg of the shorts his hard cock came poking out. He walked over to the bench where Hank was lying and stood over him. Hank looked up at him and winked. Tim climbed on Hank's back, grabbed his shoulders and…
          …He woke up having ejaculated all over himself and his bed. He switched on the lamp, threw back the covers and found his limp, sticky penis hanging out the fly of his pyjama bottoms. He grabbed a handful of tissues, wiped himself and the sheets off, then disgustedly threw them out. Pulling the covers back over himself he curled up in a sweaty, shaking ball and began to cry.
          It wasn't like he was that aware of sex and its myriad variation, but he certainly knew what a fag was. He'd been called one regularly enough for the past several years, but he never really thought he was one. He fell asleep still crying with the light on.
          For the next several weeks he couldn't even bring himself to look at Hank for fear he would see right through him to what he really was. Each night as he lay in bed the image of Hank lying naked on the locker room bench would creep back into his mind and before Tim could vanquish it he would get an erection. His disgust for himself increased daily. It amplified as he masturbated to get rid of the damned hard-on. Hatred engulfed his being as he wiped the sperm from his hand and stomach. Soon he found himself jacking-off to the image of Hank as he lay under the steps surrounded by his possessions. When he woke up in the morning with an erection he was sure it was because he had been dreaming of fucking Hank. He wanted to die.

* * *

          Tim wandered through the junk yard searching out "cool" things, although lately nothing seemed particularly "cool" anymore. He made his way to a virtual mountain of junk and began pushing the surface stuff out of his way with his foot. Beneath some rusty paint cans and a cracked toilet bowl shone the edge of a car bumper; a nice shiny '56 Cadillac front bumper with chrome missile heads. Clearing some more stuff out of the way he gave it a yank and it didn't budge. Tim wedged his feet into the junk, grabbed the bumper solidly with both hands, pulled with all his might and moved it a half an inch.
          "Need some help?"
          Tim looked up and coming over the top of the junk mountain was Hank Murrow. Tim's entire state of being went into a major panic. His exterior froze.
          Smiling widely, Hank made his way down, landslides of junk cascading before him. "What kind of bumper is that?"
          "Cadillac."
          "Neat. Let me give you a hand."
          Hank dropped down another step until he was right above Tim with the bumper between them. He spread his legs, wedged his feet in for leverage and grabber the bumper. Tim grabbed it right below, putting a few inches between their hands, then looking right at each other they both pulled as hard as they could.
          It moved another half inch, stopped dead, began sliding a millimeter at a time as both their faces went blood red, then burst forth from the refuse, the two boys simultaneously losing their footing and tumbling down the mountain. When they hit the dirt at the bottom Hank was laughing happily. Tim watched in utter amazement.
          "You're probably wondering what I'm doing here, right?" asked Hank.
          Tim nodded.
          "Well… I heard that you came here and I wanted to know why."
          "From who?"
          "Pierce saw you here a while back and told me."
          Tim looked at him skeptically. "Why would he tell you that?"
          "Why?" asked Hank a little amazed. "Really?
          "Yeah, really?"
          "Well,,," Hank looked away. "He was making fun of you. He said you were a garbage-picker."
          Tim looked at Hank for a long moment. "Aren't I?"
          "A garbage picker? Hell no! A Cadillac bumper's not garbage -- it's cool stuff."
          "Really?"
          "Yeah," nodded Hank. "Really."

          Hank and Tim spent another hour looking for cool things and found a Zenith radio that looked like it might work and an old lawn mower with an engine that looked restorable, if either of them knew anything about engines.
          "Let's get out of here," said Hank wiping his hands on his jeans.
          "Yeah," agreed Tim feeling like the bottom had just been yanked out of his guts. "I guess I'll take this stuff home."
          "Leave it here. You can pick it up on the way back."
Tim's guard went up. "From where?"
          "Hell, I don't know," shrugged Hank shoving his hands in his pockets and starting out of the junk yard.
          Tim thought for a moment, looked down at his new possessions, saw Hank walking away and took off after him. "Hey, wait up!"

          They walked in silence until they got to a nearby woods.
          "Why'd you get the same boots as me?"
          Tim got embarrassed. "…They're cool."
          Hank looked back at him and smiled. "Damn straight."
          They kept walking until they got to a stream, which they began to follow. The stream got progressively wider and further beneath the level of the ground and trees. When they got to a dead tree that had fallen across the stream forming a bridge, Hank jumped up on the trunk near the protruding roots and looked down on Tim.
          "Why are you always looking at me?"
          Tim got so red and embarrassed that he had to look away. "I don't."
          "You don't anymore, but why did you?"
          Tim shrugged. "I don't know."
          "All right," Hank went on. "Why did you stop?"
          Now Tim was completely turned away from Hank, his heart beating in his ears. "I don't know."
          Hank raised his eyebrows, then started across the bridge. The tree wasn't very wide so he put his arms out to his sides for balance and began carefully placing one foot before the other. Tim watched for a moment then jumped up and followed.
          Halfway across it was about twelve feet down to three inches of water moving slowly around large jagged rocks. Hank stopped and slowly lowered himself until he was straddling the log. Tim stood behind him.
          Hank looked back apologetically. "When I get up too high I get dizzy."
          Tim continued to stand and now Hank felt slightly embarrassed. He turned, put his hands out before him and began to shimmy across the log. Still standing, Tim followed.
          Suddenly Tim realized that the sight of Hank before him was nearly the same as the image of Hank on the locker room bench, only instead of being naked he was in his tight blue jeans and instead of lying still his butt was going up and down and up and down.
          The blood rushed madly to Tim's head and cock and within a second he had a massive hard-on bending the wrong way in his pants. In a panic he reached down his pants and tried to straighten it out before Hank noticed.
          Just then Hank stopped, looked back grinning, saw the strange expression of Tim's face, glanced down and saw his hand down his pants fumbling with his prick. For a moment Hank seemed thoroughly puzzled, then it all became clear.
          "That's why you looked at me. And that's why you stopped looking at me." Hank stood up and faced Tim. "You're a queer! You're a fucking fag!"
          Tim stood helpless; caught in the act.
          Hank made a face like he was totally grossed-out. "Man, I thought you were just a loser, but a queer? That's sick!"
          Welling up from a lifetime of abuse a force entirely unknown to Tim moved him a step forward and with both hands he gave Hank a hard, sharp push. He stumbled back several steps looking right into Tim's eyes, brought both his hands up to keep his balance which he couldn't find, began tilting one way, then the other, then both his feet shot out from under him. Hank hit the tree pretty hard with his side, made an attempt to grab it, failed and fell head first into the water and rocks. Tim watched from above as Hank's head hit the sharp pointed edge of a large rock and split open like a melon. Hank bounced and splashed in the water and within a second the stream ran totally red. Hank continued to quiver for a few minutes, then stopped. The water stayed red.

          Time stood unmoving on the log bridge expressionlessly watching as the life-blood slowly drained from Hank Murrow's body through his split-open head. It was twenty minutes before the water began to clear and a half an hour before it was transparent again.
          One foot set carefully before the other, Tim made his way off the log bridge and stood on the bank of the stream. He felt that he had to run away, but something held him. He tried looking away, but couldn't. His gaze was inexorably held by the corpse's lifeless eyes.
          As the full horror of the situation stole over him in a wave of convulsive shaking, Tim realized what he had to do.
          He climbed down the muddy bank, stepped into the stream and pulled Hank Murrow's limp body from the water. With all of the strength in him he dragged the body up the bank's incline and as deep into the woods as he could. With a sharp stick he cleared away the mat of leaves covering the soil, then with his hands he began to dig.
          Several hours later, when his nails were a bloody mess and the hole was about three and a half feet deep, Tim climbed out and with a dull glaze over his eyes he grabbed Hank's dead arm and pulled him into the grave. The hole wasn't long enough and Hank's feet wouldn't go in. Tim set to digging again.
          When the body finally fit Tim immediately started pushing the soft soil back in. A clod of dirt fell right into Hank's open mouth. The idea that there might possibly be a worm in that clod of dirt caused Tim to begin shaking again. He quickly filled in the rest of the grave.
          When the dirt was level with the ground around it Tim walked over it to tighten it down. He then added more dirt and walked on it again. When it was level and tightly packed he grabbed handfuls of leaves and scattered them over the freshly dug rectangle of dirt. Once covered he walked over it to smash them down, then added more. There was still a pile of excess dirt and this he began throwing and kicking to spread it out, then he sprinkled leaves over it. With a stick Tim smoothed out the dual tracks that Hank's heels had torn up from the stream to where he now reposed. When he reached the stream he tossed in the stick. He was about to turn away when he noticed a dull red smear on the rock with the sharp pointy edge which Hank had landed on. Tim waded out to the rock, grabbed a mass of mud and pebbles from the bottom and scrubbed the stain off. From the bank he took a mound of fresh moss and laid it over the rock's sharp edge where the spot had been.
          Reviewing his actions as he stood in the stream, Tim decided he had done all he could do and washed his hands in the ice cold water. The dirt around his ripped-up nails wouldn't come off, but he knew with some soap and the fingernail brush it would.
          Tim stepped out of the stream, climbed the bank and started home for dinner.
          As he passed the junk yard he saw the Cadillac bumper, the radio and lawn mower that he and Hank had scavenged earlier. He stopped, piled the radio and bumper on the base of the mower and pulled his new possessions home.

* * *

          Lying on his back in bed that night, the light out, no images of Hank Murrow came to arouse him. Hank on the log blotted out Hank on the bench and instead was a star-filled night sky. Tim rolled over onto his right side, his hands drawn up to his cheek, and sleep silently crept over him.
          As it did the night sky became the day-lit woods with beams of sunlight playing over the leaves on the ground. Tim walked through the spots of light as though he had nowhere to go and no reason to hurry. The wind lightly ruffled the branches and the shaking leaves sent the sunlight gliding back and forth. Suddenly the ground shook, the soil began to rise, the leaves dropping off to either side as Hank Murrow's dead and buried body ripped out of its grave, his split-open head dangling brokenly and his white, cold hands clawing their way up Tim's legs. He tried to scream, but had lost his voice, his limbs seemingly caught in molasses and unable to move as Hank pulled himself up out of the ground. And then they were face to face, Hank's hands groping up to Tim's throat where they began to tighten. As the bone and cartilage in Tim's neck began cracking and tearing, Hank winked his dead eye and…
          …Tim burst awake in a cold sweat, his body frozen except for his thighs and crotch which were warm with urine.
          No more sleep came that night and instead Tim read a Perry Mason book. When the dawn came and he'd read more than half the book he finally drowsed off. An hour later his mom woke him for breakfast.
          The next night was an exact repeat of the previous night, only this time Tim finished the book. At breakfast he could barely focus his eyes and had almost no energy to lift his fork to his mouth. His mother moved back and forth across the kitchen as his father read the paper. Neither noticed his total exhaustion.
          "Did you know Hank Murrow?" asked his dad.
          Sweat broke out of every pore on Tim's body. "Who?"
          "Hank Murrow," repeated his father, still hidden behind the paper. "It says here he went to the same school as you."
          Tim looked down into his plate. "No. I don't know anyone there. Why?"
          "It says here he's been missing for two days. He left for school Friday morning and his parents haven't seen him since."
          Tim chopped his sausage up into tiny little pieces with his fork. "Maybe he got kidnapped."
          "Maybe," mumbled his dad moving on to another article. "You never know."
          After breakfast Tim went under the steps and rearranged his possessions. When his dad went out to the garage to work on the car, Tim went back inside. His mom was out of the kitchen, so Tim sat down at the table and read the article in the newspaper. Hank was missing, his parents were very worried, no one had seen him since he left school and he hadn't mentioned where he was going to any of his friends. There were no speculations on where he might be or what might have happened. Tim looked up from the paper and wiped his cold sweaty brow.
          For the next two weeks both the nightmares and the articles continued. Tim finished all the books in his room and borrowed a couple from his dad's study. A few days later he returned those and borrowed more. The local police were checking out all possibilities, but hadn't yet uncovered a single clue. At least that's what the paper said. Tim realized it must be true when a week later the articles stopped. But not the nightmares. They were always the same and never allowed Tim to get back to sleep before the dawn.
          So he began drinking coffee, which he didn't particularly like the taste of, but enough milk and sugar made it palatable. His parents took it as a sign of growing up. Tim also purchased some stay-awake pills at the drugstore and took those, too. And slowly but surely he adapted to two hours of sleep a night and large amounts of caffeine in his system because the bad dreams never ceased.

* * *

          In college Tim took accounting and did very well at it. He still had no friends which left him a lot of time to study, plus he had all night, too. By the age of twenty his thin blond hair had already begun to recede a bit and he had a constant pain in his stomach that he was sure was an ulcer, although he never went to a doctor for verification. He'd had a small spurt of growth between the ages of fourteen and sixteen that brought him to 5'4" and abruptly halted. He now weighed 102 and was one of the thinnest, shortest men at college.
          He lived in a dorm room with a baseball player who despised the sight of him. The baseball player did his very best to stay at his girlfriend's apartment whenever he could manage, which wasn't often enough for him. After a semester he moved out leaving Tim to himself and that was fine with him. He had enough troubles without having to sneak out of the room every night so as not to wake up someone who hated his guts.
          The University had over twenty-five different libraries on campus and Tim found a tiny, one-room library that almost no-one used. That's where he spent a great deal of his free time reading most anything he could get his hands on. Aside from the intensely bored library science student assigned to overseeing the little library, Tim rarely saw anyone there more than once. An occasional student dropped in to study, but since the library specialized in literary journals, the students never came back because there were no reference books. The only other "regular" there was a tall, emaciated girl with coke-bottle glasses and orthopedic shoes. She always sat at the furthest point away from Tim and she actually real all of the literary journals.
          One day during the second semester of his sophomore year, Tim sat in the green, cracked leather chair he always sat in totally caught in a Dostoyevsky book.
          "Excuse me."
          Tim looked up and looming over him was the bespectacled, emaciated girl.
          "Yes?"
          "Uh… um, have you got a pencil I could borrow for a few minutes?"
          Tim was immediately taken with the fact that she smelled like baby shampoo and Ivory soap.
          "Sure," said Tim opening his notebook. "You writing a poem?"
          Her thin face grew bright red and her ridiculously magnified eyes began blinking crazily. "Yes, I am. How did you know?"
          Tim smiled. "I've only seen you down here every day for a year and a half and you read every literary journal from every school in the country, so I just assumed you might be interested in poetry."
          "I am. Are you?"
          "It's okay."
          The conversation stopped and the girl began shifting her weight from one orthopedic shoe to the other. Tim took the longest, sharpest pencil from his notebook and handed it to her.
          "Thanks," she said. "I'll bring it right back."
          "No hurry," replied Tim with a smile. A tiny little smile cracked the edges of her tightly drawn lips, then she turned and went back to the other side of the library. Slightly amused, Tim went back to his book. After a moment of not being able to concentrate, Tim looked up and saw the girl intensely staring at a notebook. Setting Dostoyevsky aside, he made a wide circuit around the room and ended up standing behind the girl. She had his pencil poised over a blank sheet of paper apparently unable to begin the poem. Beside the paper, attached to the three rings of the notebook, was a plastic pocket containing no less than five pencils and five pens.
          "Can't think of a subject?" asked Tim.
          The girl looked up, startled. "What?"
          "You haven't written anything. Having trouble coming up with a topic?"
          She seemed befuddled, looked down at the pencil in her hand, then at the multitude of pencils in her notebook, then up at Tim. She quickly became very embarrassed.
          "Don't let me bother you," said Tim sauntering back to his chair.
          "Wait."
          Tim turned back. "Yeah?"
          The girl looked thoroughly confused and looked away. "…Nothing."
          He looked at her, looked back at his chair, then back to her. "Uh, you wanna get a cup of coffee?"
          This time she let a real smile cross her face.
          "Sure."

          Her name was Judy and she was majoring in English literature. Even though Tim was in accounting he still had read quite a lot, so they had a fair amount to begin talking about. After several cups of coffee they came to the conclusion that she liked writers with style and he preferred writers with a good story to tell. Her favorite author was William Faulkner and his was Robert E. Howard, whom she'd never heard of, let alone read. He assured her she didn't need to bother because Howard had no style, which was why he liked him.
          They walked across campus and one topic segued to another which segued to another. She was the oldest child of a family of eight kids and her mother had passed away when she was twelve, so basically she became the mother to the other seven kids. Her father made pretty good money as the foreman of a small though prosperous furniture factory, but at thirteen Judy got a part-time job at the town's only bookstore. For the next seven years she cooked the meals, went to school, worked four hours a day and saved her money for college. She really could have started a few years earlier; she'd finished high school, had been accepted by several universities and two of her brothers were already working, but she had stayed until her littlest sister was old enough to take care of herself. And before Tim and Judy knew it the sun had set. She invited him to her house (where she lived with five other girls) for dinner and being so caught up in the moment he accepted.
          From then on they saw each other every day, whether it was for a few moments between classes, or for lunch, or dinner, or occasionally when they would study together in the evening at Tim's dorm room -- she couldn't study at her place because it was a madhouse.
          At first Judy wasn't sure about being alone with Tim in his room, but she did like him and they were just going to study. In fact, beside talking and drinking tea and coffee, that was all that they did. When they were together she seemed to do almost all of the talking. He asked a lot of the questions and would add something now and then, but for the most part he listened with a look of mildly removed interest as though there were yet another person whom he was giving equal time to.
          Soon, studying at Tim's dorm became a regular thing with Judy. She liked the easy atmosphere and was fascinated by the odd assortment of items Tim kept around: a big shiny car bumper, several old radios and phonographs, a lawn mower handle and a multitude of smaller things. They were so oddly out of place in a stark dormitory room that the place seemed comfortable.
          After several months like this Judy had fallen deeply in love with Tim. She wasn't sure that he was in love with her, though. She had nothing to base it on having never been in love before. As a matter of fact she had never even had a boyfriend before, so it was all brand new to her. Judy's fear of going alone to Tim's room had quickly vanished, yet now, three and a half months into their relationship, they had not even touched, let alone anything else. Something seemed wrong. Not only that, but whenever they studied together Tim always read a novel, he never did his accounting work. Whenever she asked about it he always said it was done. When was he doing it? She assumed that he did it after she left, though that usually wasn't until eleven or twelve and they both had 9:00 A.M. classes. When did he sleep? He never seemed tired, either. Haggard, yes, but never tired.
          Judy decided to not rock the boat and see how things went the next semester. She gave him her phone number and address at home, which was less than twenty miles from his house, and made him promise to visit her during the break and meet her family. He said he would.

* * *

          Tim had indeed visited over the break as he'd promised and Judy's family had liked him. They were all real pleased that she had found someone. The next semester was very much like the one before and still Tim made not the slightest advance on her. Finally, one night as they both read in his room, Judy set her book aside and looked at him for a long time. When she felt she had summoned enough courage she gave a little cough and he looked up.
          "I love you," she said in a tiny little voice.
          Tim looked at her blankly and in that moment she was sure that their whole relationship had just come to an end. Without the slightest change of expression he said, "Wanna get married?"
          It was like a big wind had come along and blown all the years of loneliness and despair out of her soul. She felt lightheaded and refreshed. "Yes. Yes, that's exactly what I want."
          Tim shrugged. "Okay."
          In exulted happiness she rushed to him and held him tight. They kissed for the very first time. Tim felt his cock swell in his pants and a sharp bolt of pain shoot up his spine to the center of his brain. Judy felt him stiffen, but was too happy to wonder why.

          They were married a week later in a church a couple of blocks from campus. Tim's parents and Judy's father and family all drove in and it was a nice, small affair. Tim's father offered to pay for a honeymoon anywhere they wanted, but they declined thinking it better to finish up the semester.
          That night they checked into the nicest hotel in town and took their nicest room. They drank a bottle of champagne in the bar, then took another bottle up to their room. When they were both rather drunk Judy stood, kissed him lightly on the lips, extinguished all the lights except a lamp on the dresser and went into the bathroom. Tim finished his champagne, removed his coat and tie and began massaging his scalp with his fingertips.
          Judy emerged from the bathroom quite a while later attired in a short, rather sheer nightgown. The light from the bathroom behind her gave Tim his first real glimpse of her tall, thin body. His heart began pounding heavily and the pain in his head increased. Clenching his teeth with all his strength, he watched as she turned out the light behind her, crossed the room until she stood before him, knelt down and slowly undid the buttons of his shirt. He sat frozen fighting back the throbbing pain. Taking his hands she urged him forward until he was standing, then she pulled his shirt off from behind and let it fall to the floor. She led him to the vast king-size bed, had him sit, then bent down and removed his shoes and socks. His breath came in shallow short spurts and the dimly-lit room started flashing red as his brain beat against the walls of his skull. Gently she pushed him back on the bed, unhooked his belt and waist button, then very slowly eased down his zipper. She ran her open palms up his thighs, lowered her fingers under the waist of his pants and shorts and brought them down over his swollen erection, which bobbed up and down. She lifted his feet out of his balled-up pants and shorts and tossed them aside. With her right hand grabbing the left side and her left grasping the right, she deftly pulled her nightgown over her head. Beneath she wore nothing at all. She stepped forward and lowered herself on top of him, his cock against her stomach, and brought her face to his. Tim was certain that his head would explode any second. He felt her tongue move up his chin and between his motionless lips and suddenly his pain transformed into a power he'd never known. He put his arms around her back, rolled her over so that his legs were between hers, took his cock in his hand and roughly thrust himself into her. Tim felt something give inside her as he pushed himself all the way in. Her whole body spasmed and she let out a tremendously deep gasp in his ear. She locked her legs around his as Tim began pumping furiously, his eyes rolled all the way back in his head. He ground his hips and dug his fingers deep into her flesh. She dug just as deep into him and arched her back to meet his forward lunge and then his body gave a jolt and a quiver and in a mad rush all of Tim's pain, anger, despair and guilt flooded out of him. He hung over her for a moment shivering and jittering, then a deep breath hissed out of his chest and he collapsed beside her totally unconscious. Tim slept undisturbed and unfettered for the next twelve hours -- the amount of sleep he usually got in a week. Judy found this response to the whole thing somewhat strange, but having nothing else to compare it to she curled up beside him, pulled the covers over them and joined him in sleep.

* * *

          Tim and Judy rented a flat off campus and set up house. Tim got a part-time job at a gas station, Judy found another bookstore job three nights a week and somehow they made ends meet.
          Ever since their wedding night there seemed to be a change in Tim. He no longer seemed as jittery as he once was and his haggardness began to diminish. Now Judy was much more likely to find him asleep on the sofa or doing accounting homework than reading novels. In fact, as soon as they were married he seemed to give up novels entirely, as well as the huge amounts of coffee he had constantly consumed, not to mention the amphetamines (although Judy never knew about those in the first place). The nightmares were completely gone. Since Judy never knew about those, either, it was no surprise to her that Tim slept well.
          Two months later, Judy showed up at the gas station where Tim worked with a strange expression on her face. Sort of a cockeyed grin. She waited in the station until he was done scrubbing the bugs off the windshield of a '68 Charger. Tim came in, saw her and the odd expression she wore and knew something was up.
          "Tim, can we talk?"
          "Sure, what's up?"
          "Not here." She nodded toward the garage and Tim shrugged. They went into the garage and stood under a pick-up truck on the hoist.
          "Well?" said Tim.
          "Well,,," she trailed off.
          "Well what? Come on, I'm at work."
          Judy reached out to lean on the main post of the hoist and got grease all over her hand. Tim gave her a rag from his pocket. "Well…" she continued. "I'm pregnant." She finished wiping her hand and gave him back the rag. He mechanically put it in his pocket.
          "Well… I… uh… that's great!"
          "Really?"
          He looked at her enlarged, downcast eyes behind her thick glasses and smiled. He took her in his arms and hugged her. "It's wonderful, it really is. How far along are you?"
          "Two months."
          He moved back and looked at her. "Two months? Then…"
          "It was probably our wedding night. That's a good sign don't you think?"
          He pulled her to him and hugged her tight, an odd, puzzled look on his face.

* * *

          Seven months later Judy gave birth to a son. They named him Gordon for no other reason than they both liked the name. he was a very healthy baby even if he never seemed to stop crying. The doctor assured and reassured them that that was perfectly normal.
          Both Tim and Judy graduated and in no time Tim got a job with a small accounting firm just five miles from his parents' house and fifteen from Judy's father's house. They borrowed enough money for a down-payment on a small wooden house just two blocks from Tim's office and things moved along smoothly -- except that Gordon would not stop crying.
          Once again they took the baby to the doctor and once again he could find no medical reason for the problem and explained that some children were just like that. He advised patience and understanding.
          Several years passed and little Gordie came to accept that it wasn't that bad a place he'd been born into -- at least during the day. Night was another story. Until he was three he could not be left alone to sleep and even then it was a real trial getting out of his room. He would beg and beg to sleep with them, however the line had to be drawn sometime and that was that. There was no way they could shut his door or not leave on the night-light and even then he would still beg. And every night, like clockwork, Gordie would awake screaming from a nightmare having wet his bed. When this happened Judy had to go in and sit with him until he got back to sleep. Several times Tim had tried, but with him the child's fears never seemed to subside.
          Their recommended a child psychologist who recommended that they not allow Gordie to watch T.V. Obviously, the doctor surmised, something he had seen while still very young had implanted itself in his unconscious mind. Both Tim and Judy thought this was a crock of shit, their son had been like this since birth. As Tim argued this point with the psychologist, Judy felt a strange sensation, like Tim was a bit too vehement about it not being something Gordie had seen on T.V. or through his window, like Tim knew what it was and wasn't telling. Of course that was completely absurd, but still…
          Five more years went by and Gordie's troubles only increased. Now when he had his nightmare there was no way to get him back to sleep. He had been seeing the psychologist regularly since he was five and was able to explain the nightmare in awful detail.
          He was in the woods and it was a pretty day, the sun shining brightly, when all of a sudden the ground beneath his feet began to rumble and split open and two rotting corpse hands burst out and grabbed his legs. He tried running but was rooted in his place as the corpse pulled itself out of the ground while clawing up his body. When the head emerged it was cracked wide open with the brains hanging out. The dead hands would grope up to Gordie's throat and began squeezing just as one protruding dead eye would blink at him. That's when he always woke up.
          The first time that Tim heard Gordie's nightmare he got so shook up that he got in the car and just left, returning many hours later completely plastered. From then on he had been drinking quite a bit. To Judy's point of view Tim was darn near an alcoholic now. Judy forgave Tim his iniquities because she knew they were based on love for their son. Nevertheless, something more than was already wrong seemed wrong.
          Life had become unbearable for all three of them. Gordie was averaging two or three fitful hours of sleep a night and could not function in school, Tim was drinking all the time and was obviously messing up at work, Judy was a total nervous wreck and had no idea how to help her son or husband.
          No matter how much he drank Tim could not blot out the fact that the sight of his own son scared him. He stayed late at the office and found any pretense possible to not come home, but it didn't help. The image of his wide-eyed petrified child stayed with him no matter where he was or how much he drank.
          If this weren't enough, Gordie began wandering off without telling anyone where he was going. Several times he had left for school and had never shown up. He'd come home hours later and not have the slightest recollection of where he had been. Neither Judy nor Tim had the heart to get mad at him, so instead they would get mad at each other. And since neither was very good at arguing or yelling, long silences developed.
          Judy no longer wrote or read poetry, but instead brooded silently throughout the days wondering just what had gone wrong with her life. Something had to break, and though she knew deep in her heart that it most certainly wouldn't be good, she wished for it to finally happen.
          On a sunny October day with a hint of chill in the air, Judy sat in the kitchen lost in a long stare out the window, the full cup of coffee before her ice cold. The front door opened and Tim came in. It was much too early for him to be home from work and from the sound of his footsteps she knew something was wrong.
          "Tim?"
          She heard him fix a drink and drop into a chair. She entered the living room to find him angrily glaring at the floor.
          "What's wrong?"
          He took a big gulp of scotch and winced. "I got fired. I fell so far behind with my work and did such a lousy job with the shit I did do that they fired me. I don't blame them, either."
          "What are you going to do?"
          He laughed sourly. "I can always go back to the gas station. Maybe I can handle their books and make an extra dollar an hour."
          Judy didn't know what to say so she didn't say anything. The silence thickened.
          Well, she could always go back to work, she thought, it would keep her busy anyway. Maybe this was what she was waiting for.
          The phone rang and Judy answered it. It was Mrs. Collins, the principal at Gordie's school. She wanted to know if Gordie was sick because he hadn't shown up for class. Without thinking about it Judy lied and said that he was. She hung up.
          "Gordie's wandered off again."
          Tim slugged down the remainder of his drink and stood up. "He'll probably be home in a little bit, but I'll go take a look for him anyway." He went to the door and left without looking back.
          Tim got into their '76 Skylark and began slowly cruising the streets, turning his head back and forth looking for his son. Somewhere deep within he hoped that he might never find him, yet he knew that he would. The pain and misery would just keep going and going, only now it would be worse because he'd lost his goddamned job. At first he had been able to happily lose himself in the numbers, the exactness, the answer always lurking somewhere in the figures if he could just reach it. After a while he just couldn't concentrate fully and the answers seemed to elude him. As the shit got thicker the answers got lost completely. He turned left on the highway and left the town behind. Gripping the wheel until his knuckles were white, he ground his teeth together and drove faster, the odometer silently gliding around. Without the slightest thought of where he was going he had pulled off the highway, down several side streets and come to an abrupt halt in front of his parents' house. Tim looked blankly at the old wooden house. He felt lost and helpless. And then it suddenly hit him with an electrifying jolt. He knew why he was here.
          Leaving the car he hurried up the driveway. As he passed the wooden steps leading to the side door he bent down and glanced underneath -- his possessions still remained as he'd finally arranged them. Continuing past the house, he walked briskly pulling the cool early evening air deep into his lungs. Then the junk yard was right up ahead. As he walked past Tim scanned the mountains of refuse to see if there was anything obviously worth taking, but it all basically blended from a distance and he continued on by.
          As he entered the woods the setting sun cast an orange glow on the colorful autumn leaves and dappled the ground with spots of light. He came to the stream and began following its winding path until he reached the place he hadn't seen in eighteen years -- and exactly where he had dug in the dirt with his hands stood Gordie, his eyes wide open and staring at him.
          "It's here, daddy," croaked his son in a strange, trembling voice. "It's right here."
          Tim stopped. "What is?"
          Gordie shook his head helplessly. "I don't know. Whatever's trying to get me when I sleep. You've got to stop it."
          Tim nodded and stepped forward. "You're right. It's all got to stop. Right now." He placed his hands on his son's shoulders and massaged the knotted muscles in his thin neck.
          "Please, daddy, make it all stop! Please…?"
          "Yes, son, that's exactly what I'll do. I'll make it all stop." His grip tightened around Gordie's throat. "I'll make it stop for both of us."
          Gordie's eyes widened as his father began squeezing his neck with all of his might. The boy quickly started gagging and thrashing as Tim lifted the small body off the ground and began shaking the life out of it.
          Suddenly the ground beneath them began to tremble and quake, violently erupting upward causing Tim to lose his balance and drop his son, who plummeted to the ground unconscious but still breathing. Two green rotting hands burst upward through the dirt and leaves and took hold of Tim's ankles. He tries desperately to pull away, but the dead hands of Hank Murrow held fast. Tim tried to scream but couldn't as Hank's putrid, skeletal face moved upward through the dirt, his dead-white eyes staring into Tim's, the hands clawing up his legs, shredding his pants apart as they climbed. The boney, rotting hands found Tim's throat and closed around it with an intensely powerful grip. Hank's dead face loomed an inch in front of Tim's, leaves clinging to decayed shreds of muscle and skin. Hank's mouth opened and a horrible guttural voice came out along with a steaming awful smell of rot and puke.
          "You've finally come back…"
          Tim uttered a high-pitched whistle as his windpipe crushed inward.
          "You wanted me and now you can have me," groaned Hank, his face moving in toward Tim's. "You can fuck me in my rotting asshole for all of eternity just like you wanted!" A shred of slime came down over one white eye causing it to wink, then the horribly putrefied mouth slammed forward onto Tim's and the black, maggot-ridden tongue slid forth down his throat.
          Tiny capillaries in Tim's brain began exploding one by one as the eighteen-year-dead Hank Murrow pulled him down into his shallow grave with him. The Earth settled smoothly over the top, not a leaf out of place.

          Gordie was found two days later wandering aimlessly up the highway with absolutely no memory of where he'd been nor how he'd gotten the bruises on his throat. He spent a week in the hospital, then returned home to his mother. His nightmares stopped and never returned.


 

 

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