Thirteen-year-old William had three things to do now. Get out of uncle’s rooms without being seen. Get over to the woods. Get into the chest tomb and…
Then it hit as bad has any punch from Tony Longstaff. The emotions welled up, panic rushing at him and caught his breath. Felt like his chest was going to burst open. He was pacing, frantic, back and forth suddenly unsure of the plan. He dived over, crippled as convulsions kicked, forcing involuntary retching. He couldn’t falter now. He had to do it, can’t mess up. His head down into the toilet bowl violently spewing.
He spat out, waited on the moment trying to calm his anxiety. Scatter brained he stood up, kept telling himself to keep calm. But his thoughts racing. He had to think, like a man, like someone in control, like… like… he didn’t want to think it, but the name straight in his head… like UNCLE.
He was anxious, striding the room. What would happen if he simply waited here? If he didn’t leave. Waited for night, for someone to come and report him, someone to come and get him. To take him somewhere. To take him to a place… that would be even worse. Terrible things would happen to him if he stopped here.
No one knew he was here. He thought of the other boys. The one’s who bullied him, put him up to stuff. Jove was the worse of the pack, throwing punches and kicking wasn’t his stuff. No, he’d make sure he humiliated him; hurt him with the cruellest of words, calling him for weeks on end. If anyone could drive someone to killing, it was Jove and his goading.
William had just over the hour.
Looking out of the window it was getting dark. His legs felt leaden. A nervousness heavy in his belly. He had to leave. The weight in his guts forced him on the lavatory, bursting he groaned, wanting to let go of the tension.
There was a way out. A secret passage. Uncle ordered him through it when making for the abandoned graveyard. That was a place to remind him what’ll happen. It’s where he’d end up, inside a chest tomb, where the others lay, ’cause they thought better. The monster liked taking them in the chest tombs, heightened the thrill he’d tell them, knowing the dead lay below.
He shuddered; it would’ve just taken one quick slash to have it done. But he hadn’t, stricken and powerless he lay paralysed and took the abuse. He’d even taken the knife back fearing he’d know it was missing, and that earned him a beating for not leaving it there for the next time, when he’d have to do it properly. Tony punching home the words. That he hadn’t done it, in the eyes of others punished as well, existing in a silent world, detached from the other boys. He’d lost the bet, broken the pact, he didn’t know which was the worse the abuse or constant bullying from Jove and Tony.
He made his mind up. After weeks of the stress it was too much to bear.
He thought he’d heard a noise, listened, maybe the rooms settling, didn’t sound like a floorboard creaking. He slipped into the passage.
The narrow stairwell, barely lit and dark he followed around the spiral turns. It felt cold and damp. Closer he got to stepping outside his heart again thumping. He held back a breath, waiting. He couldn’t hear the dogs, could they hear him? William eased the lock and opened the door, a second’s wait, and then he ran.
And so did the dogs.