Misplaced Innocence - Part Three
The darkness in the tunnel felt almost tangible, a musky fowl stench filling the air. Charlie slowly edged his way through the pipe, his feet already damp from the remanence of water that slicked the bottom of the stone. He could not only hear but feel his heart beat in his ears, the pounding gradually increasing pace with each step. Will’s mocking jaunts had stopped for the last few minutes, along with the sound of his footsteps that Charlie had been following.
‘Will?’ Charlie’s shout leaked out, more of a whisper, his heart beat stronger still, the pounding almost deafening.
The tunnel meandered sharply to the right. Around the bend an unseen cracking sound echoed, reverberating through the silence.
‘Will… where are you? Will?’ Still no response came. Charlie pressed his back to the curved wall.
Another crack rang out. The sound once more splintered the darkness. Charlie took two deep breaths, once in, and out, in and as he exhaled the second breath he pivoted around the corner, in the same motion he began to swing the branch, his eyes closed as he prepared to strike. Before he could, an unseen weight hit him full on in the chest, knocking him to the floor, the wind forced out of his lungs with the impact. The weight now landed on top of him, at this close proximity even in the low light he could make out William’s face, inches from his own.
‘Did you not hear that! Run you idiot!’ With that William picked up his weight, grabbing Charlie by the collar and dragging him to his feet. Without another thought the two were running out of the tunnel, they lowered themselves from the entrance and continued their speed only slowing as they traversed the shallow river.
‘There was something else…’ Sophie paused, unsure whether to continue as she wiped dry the plates, ‘…yesterday I am sure I saw someone in Janet’s house… In William’s bedroom.’
‘Now that’s one thing I don’t understand. If Charlie was missing I would be out looking constantly but I would expect someone to stay home, in case he calls, in case he came home himself. I don’t get why she would leave the house empty…’
‘She just wants to be with her family, you know it’s not been easy since her husband left and I guess she couldn’t stand being alone there, without William…’
‘Well her family should be staying with her, not the other way round.’
‘But that’s just it…’ Sophie pulled away from her husband as she began to pace around the table. ‘If Janet is staying with her sister who was in the house?’
‘Was the patrol car still parked outside?’ Daniel responded after a moment. ‘Were the police still stationed outside?’ Sophie didn’t verbally respond, just a small nod in affirmation. ‘Well there you go then, I am sure the officer just needed a piss, got caught short and went inside.’ Janet looked unconvinced. ‘Look I will go over there tomorrow, talk to the officer and ask him to check it out. I doubt it, but it would be incredible if after all this William was sat playing in his room, wondering why his mum wasn’t home.’
Before the conversation could go any further, Sophie still concerned, her nails glued to her teeth in worry, they were interrupted by the phone ringing on the kitchen wall. Pacing over Daniel picked up the receiver.
‘Hello 724 933… Oh… Jesus… where?’
‘I am telling you it was a bone breaking…’
‘It was a twig, calm down.’ Charlie interjected as the boys, now calmer, meandered through the trees.
‘…the Stone Giant just snapped it like it was nothing… probably using it to pick the flesh from his teeth.’ William continued, unperturbed by the interruption. ‘Hey and you ran too!’
‘Yeh… well… it was getting late and I know you wanna be home before dark.’
‘Yeh… course.’ A knowing smile spreading William’s lips. ‘I don’t care anyway… Stone Giant or not we are coming back tomorrow… with or without you I will find out what’s in there…’ Another crack rang through the rapidly darkening trees as the boys reached their bikes at the edge of the forest. ’Maybe we set off earlier though…, ya know… so we have longer before dark.’
Charlie’s father walked over to his bed, gently sitting down beside his son, taking him by the hand.
‘I am sorry Jimmy, but you have to stop this… I know it hasn’t been easy on you, on any of us and I can’t imagine what you are feeling… but you really can’t be talking to William. And… you could not have been for the last few days.’ His father paused looking toward Sophie for a moment, gently she nodded, raising her hand to her mouth stifling her own tears. ‘Charlie… Will’s gone… he has been for the last week… they found him down by the river this evening…. I am so sorry Charlie… William’s dead.’
The words hit Charlie like a rock, first a sharp strike to the head and then he felt the weight pressing down on his emotions, squeezing them so tight they felt like they were leaving his body empty. He shook his head, first softly, his mind trying to grasp how this was possible. He was now shaking his head more aggressively as he cried out. His father gripped him pulling his head tightly to his chest. At first still not wanting to believe it, Charlie flailed before the truth washed over him.
‘You know now Charlie… I mean you understand you haven’t really been talking to Will… to anyone…’ Charlie’s mother now spoke in her soft tone, as she bent down and picked up the walkie-talkie from the floor. ‘It isn’t possible… no one is on the other end of this.’
Charlie stared at the walkie-talkie and then up to his mother’s face, it had felt so real, the conversations. He gently nodded despite not fully understanding and pressed his face back to his father’s chest as the tears erupted from his eyes. Sophie looked to her husband, a slight breath of relief escaping her lips.
The walkie-talkie spluttered static before Darth Vader’s voice filled the room. Sophie’s face changed, no longer reflecting any signs of relief. Her eyes widened and teeth gripped shut. She looked to her husband and Charlie, both were staring directly at her right hand held by her waist. Her eyes slowly followed their gaze down, her arm raising to meet her stare half way. Her knuckles stressed white as she unconsciously squeezed her grip around the black plastic.
Jimmy’s father stood, ready to come to his wife, as he did, Sophie looked out the window, it took a moment before the scream erupted from her lungs, the black walkie falling, crashing from her hand to the ground. In the window across the street, William’s window, a figure stood, the low lighting from the street highlighting the side of a face but making it impossible to make out any further features but this time, this time there was no doubt, she was certain there was someone there. By the time Daniel had reached his shaking wife any remanence of the figure was gone, the window and the room beyond empty.