On Monday, the first day back at school after game night, Toddy and Scottie were both absent.
Len informed me that Scottie had gotten a bad flu and his mother wouldn’t even let anyone into the house to see him. At that point, I had no idea how bad his sickness actually was, but still decided to ride my bike out to Toddy’s and try to get him to resurrect Scottie’s character. I figured I could play the angle that he’d really appreciate it, being sick and all.
I got to Toddy’s and found the front door locked, which was very unusual because Steelhead Rob’s truck was parked in the drive. I knocked on the door and Toddy’s mom answered. She looked angry. “Toddy doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“What?” The combination of her attitude and her declaration hit me like a gust of cold wind.
She slowly shook her head, as though the disappointment she felt was so profoundly heavy that it was a struggle just to move. “You were supposed to be his best friend.”
“I am his best friend.” I felt confused, almost panicked. It was like being ambushed.
If she saw how bad it hurt me, she didn’t care. She slammed the door in my face.
I pedaled home in a daze. I took Dark Regions Road because I didn’t want anyone to see me. Truth was that I thought I might actually started crying, and hardly anybody ever used the old dirt road. Halfway down I pulled my bike off the road and walked the path down to the old pump house. I really don’t know why they called it the old pump house, to be honest. I don’t even know what a pump house is. Far as I could tell, it was just an old concrete slab foundation next to the Chalmers Creek swimming hole.
The words “I hate myself and I want to die” were spray painted on one of the rocks at the edge of the water. I’d been with Toddy the day he’d written that. It was the name of a Nirvana song. He claimed he thought it was funny. That hadn’t been long, however, before he started acting erratic and confrontational.
I listened to the stream gurgle by, trying to figure out what to do. The swimming hole had an ancient, mossy smell, as if that spot was older than the rest of the world. I always found it comforting, and that day was no different. I didn’t leave until the sun began to set.
On the way back to the road, the sight of new graffiti on the side of a boulder stopped me in my tracks. The words faced towards the creek so that I hadn’t seen it on the way down the water. In bright, blue letters, the statement said Sir Drexler rides, and everyone else dies.
As I gazed upon those words, trying to figure out what the hell was happening to my best friend, the sound of horse’s hooves sounded in the distance. I picked up my bike and ran for the road. I didn’t see anything behind me, but the thundering sound of the beast closed fast.
I made it to Dark Regions and jumped on my bike. Just before taking off I looked back into the woods. Far in the distance, for just a heartbeat, I thought I saw two fiery blue eyes watching me from the shadows beneath a pine tree. I pedaled harder than I knew I was capable of pedaling. It took me a solid quarter mile to realize that I was screaming.
Part 5 is HERE.