Author : Matthew J. Beckman
The Deputy stood in front of the patched screen door, staring down at Danny Willis. Moths flickered around the porch light.
“Were you up there three nights back? In the canyon?”
Danny licked his chapped lips. A moth landed on the side of the Deputy’s face and he brushed it away.
Footsteps approached from within the pitch-black interior of the trailer. Danny’s father stepped halfway onto the porch holding the screen door open. The stale musk of cigarettes and sweat he brought with him brutalized the night air.
“Deputy.” He peered down at Danny, squinting against the porch light. “What’s he done now?”
“Just need to ask Danny a few questions, Art. The Parker boys are still missing.”
Art grunted. “Kids are always running off. No goddamn respect anymore. Get inside when you’re through.” He went back inside letting the door slam. From the cavernous darkness came the sound of a loogie being hawked.
“Did you see the Parker boys go into the canyon?” the Deputy asked.
Danny nodded slowly.
“Did you go after them?” Danny didn’t answer. He’d been interviewed by the Deputy before. He knew what he meant by “go after them”.
The Deputy sighed. “Did you see anything strange? Something like lights?”
Danny nodded again.
“Look, Danny. Their bikes were up there. Nothing else. Their parents are frantic. They’re just little kids. You gotta tell me what you saw.”
“You’ll never believe me.”
Danny looked away into the darkness and then frowned at the Deputy.
The Deputy nodded.
Danny lay on his bed in the darkness tonguing a fresh swollen lip. The window was open, and the desert air was cool and clear. Through the thin walls came the droning sound of Art sleeping off a bottle of Kessler.
Danny made his decision and slid off the bed. He pulled a Crosman air rifle from the closet and slipped out the window. He slung the Crosman over his shoulder, dragged his Mach One from underneath the trailer, and started pedaling towards the canyon.
A quarter of an hour later, Danny’s bike was lying on its side beneath the manzanita overlooking the pump station. He squatted in the sand with the loaded Crosman balanced on his knee. On other days he sat up here waiting for neighborhood kids to come by, walking or maybe on bikes. Terrorizing them was Danny’s favorite pastime, even though sometimes he felt sick afterwards.
He thought back three nights ago and shivered. The Parker boys, the lights. The strange humming that filled the air and then his head. Transfixed and unable to move, the garbled vocalizations, so terrifying, became words in his head.
“Which one?” the voice demanded. The Parker boys stood below, frozen in a shaft of light.
“Which one?” it demanded again.
“Not me! Not me!” Danny had shouted in his head.
From across a gulf of echoing wind, he’d heard the boys whimpering.
“Not me,” he’d said again, straining against the swath of light holding him. Then he was released, gasping and retching in the sand. When he’d looked up, he’d seen two small bodies lifting into the sky.
Now he looked down the canyon toward home and then up into the night sky. A moth landed on the muzzle of the Crosman and began walking down the barrel towards Danny’s hand. He closed his eyes and cast his thoughts to the stars.
Take me. Take me. Take me. Bring them back.