The boy could no longer remember what brought him to the house. Nor could he recall it’s exterior or upper floors. It appeared as though he had wandered, alone, into the place late at night.
His memory of the it seemed to only become clear in the long hallway of ghostly, blue curtains and milky beams of lunar light, leading to an open door. There were sounds coming from beyond the door which drew him in. They were abstract and indistinct sounds that grabbed his morbid curiosity. If nothing else, the boy was sure, there would be a story on the other side.
He reached the threshold and peeked within. He found a steel staircase. The boy descended and realized he had wandered into a dismal boiler room.
It was filled with steam, perspiration from labyrinthine pipes and distant hisses. A fire raged from within a sinister incinerator at the far end of where he walked. Juxtaposed to the light from the mini inferno is the silhouette of a hunched over, grimy man pushing a squeaking cart filled with something.
Upon seeing this the boy rationalized that he was actually dreaming. Were he awake then the mysterious contents of the cart would have been completely unknowable. His dreams had a funny way of giving him every gory detail, whether he’d asked for them or not. The dream told him that the cart carried pieces. Pieces of people.
The child became terrified.
The terror built up inside him. It collected and grew, making it's way from his gut to his lungs. It became a paralyzing scream that locked him in place. To release the scream-now expanding in his chest-he opened his mouth, from which, no sound came.
He tried again.
A branch of the terror broke off and quickly ascended to his brain. Panic consumed him. He could not whisper nor speak.
The hunched man began tossing limbs into the greedy fire. It gobbled them up ravenously.
A ray of hope began to break apart his fear. Perhaps he had not been discovered and could hide among the thousands of shadows around him.
The dream shattered that hope immediately as it told him that the man disposing of unsightly things already knew he was there. He knew the whole time. The only reason for his previous lack of action was that this is a professional man and must complete one task at a time. The boy was to be next.
Tears began blurring the boy’s vision. Nothing around him was in focus. It had all become a world of lights and darks.
If only he could scream then maybe someone would come. If only he could scream then he could wake up.
A final foot (or was it an entire leg?) was devoured by the fire. The man pushed his cart back into a dark nook. Then he wiped the sticky blood from his hands on his damp and stained apron. Through the chaos in his mind the boy heard the man's thoughts, “Fire's hungry. Has more room. Fire not full. Has enough room left. Enough for a little boy who can't wake up.”
Copyright: © 2010 D.R. Pinney
D.R. Pinney's work has previously been featured in, "Nickel City Nights", "The Absent Willow Review" and, "Everyday Weirdness". He lives in Johnson City, New York.