Benjamin sprang to his feet, stammering. “You can’t — you — you what, you can’t what?” He looked up and down the hallway, half-expecting Eury to jump out and for it all to be a prank.
It would serve him right.
“I looked in the closets, under the beds, in the cabinets,” Andi said. She looked as ragged as everyone else, her green dress streaked with dust.
He took a step toward her, feeling something crunch underfoot — just another shattered knickknack out of thousands.
“I made that at Bible camp,” one of the twins lamented behind him.
Benjamin grabbed Andi by the shoulders, aware of her shocked expression but not caring. “Show me where you looked,” he said, and she nodded, taking one of his hands and dragging him off on a whirlwind double-check of the house. Over, under, inside, outside, behind, between…room by room they went, and everywhere there was no Eury at all.
“Did she go outside?” he panted, after they’d looked under the kitchen sink, past the smashed and leaking bottles of drain cleaner and furniture polish. He thought of poison and of little kids thinking it was fruit juice or Kool-Aid, and struggled to push those images out of his head.
“I don’t think I heard a door slam,” Andi said, but Benjamin was already pushing past her, throwing open the back door to survey the large yard and small farm before him.
“Benjamin,” Andi called, but he was off the back porch and into the yard, scattering fretful chickens as he ran to the barn.
She was pissed off, she’d gone to hide, and she’d gotten lost. That simple. It had to be that simple.
“Eury!” he called. “I’m sorry! Please come out!”
In the barn, a couple of cows in a corral looked at him with disinterest as he scaled their gate to poke around and behind them. He smeared a huge cow patty with a misstep and almost fell in it.
A huge mound of hay, into which he jammed his arms to the shoulders, feeling around, getting nothing for his troubles but pokes and scrapes from the thick, dried stems.
Under and behind a big tractor, nothing. In a few empty horse corrals, nothing. Up in a huge hayloft filled with shadows and rusted equipment, nothing.
He ran out of the barn, still tracking green-and-brown cow leavings behind him, and saw the others wandering the yard to no positive effect.
“Have you found her?” he called, knowing what their answer would be but hoping otherwise.
“Where else could she –?” he cried, turning just in time to see…
“Oh, God,” he said. “Oh, no, Eury!”
What he saw — the immense, thick, woods behind the Harts’ home — filled him with terror but renewed hope. Of course that’s where she would have gone! That’s where he’d find her!
Until the terror reasserted itself. Find her how?
It didn’t matter. That’s where she’d be, and that’s where he had to go. He spun away from the others before even getting close to them, and sprinted toward the dense treeline. His arms pumped; his lungs felt like sandbags.
“Hey!” someone shouted, and Benjamin was aware of the footsteps of someone bigger pounding up behind him. Before he’d even made it halfway to the woods, someone tackled him, the two of them floundering to the grass in a tangle.
Randall rolled him over, eyes flashing with frustration. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“She’s in there, she’s in the woods and she’s lost and I have to –”
Randall shook him like a Magic 8-Ball. The back of Benjamin’s head thudded up and down on the back lawn.
“You’re not going back there,” Randall said. “You’re gonna get lost, too.”
“Let me go, let me…”
“Benjamin, I get lost back there sometimes. If you go, we’ve got to have the cops look for both of you!”
The thought of cops chilled Benjamin. They’d be on their way. No way to fix things now. No way to make things right. Eury vanished and the house vandalized top to bottom. When the cops got here, so did the end of everything.
But if they waited for the police, it would be too late. Eury was out there, scared and alone, with the snakes and wildcats and boars and God only knew what else. She was too little to climb a tree if something came at her. Every second they wasted was a second she got closer to —
He wriggled and squirmed and tried to get out from under his friend’s implacable pin, but it was no use. Randall had leverage, size, and fury on his side.
“I have to go,” Benjamin said, and first one, then a dozen tears eked forth. And they could all see him bawling, but he didn’t care. By the time they’d find her, Eury would be dead. Dead, dead, dead. Just like Lloyd, just like him…
Randall let him go and left him lying there on the grass, sobbing and gasping. Benjamin drew a hitching breath and tried his last resort, his nuclear bomb. He screamed the one thing that would bring Eury out of hiding no matter where she was, no matter what mood she was in. The thing that if he screamed it would summon her up to kick his shins bloody. The thing she hated most in this world.
Her full name.
“EUROPA!!” he shouted, with every bit of air in his lungs. “EUROPA!!”
He lay where he’d been left as his friends stood helplessly by. As he screamed, his stress turned to panic, which collapsed into hysteria such that Benjamin was laughing uncontrollably, wracked with the absurdity and pointlessness of it all.
Dead like Lloyd, another one dead. Dead like Lloyd, another one…
Yet he continued screaming.
Half an hour later, his voice torn to deranged ribbons, he was still calling her name as the cop car pulled up.
Today’s Words: 1006
Total Words: 20048
Notes: The four of you who have been reading these posts will notice this one is three days late. Well spotted!
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)