's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Flyblown "

Submitted by Lawrence Lewis

When I was seven years old I got flyblown, that’s what my daddy called it. Have you ever heard such a vile word? Have you ever heard anything so ugly? It brings to mind corpses, and rotten meat. It speaks of death and disease and the slow, smelly process of decay. Mostly though it reminds me of the shed behind my parents’ old house and the terrible things that happened in there. It reminds me of the time I was flyblown and how, five years later, I watched my best friend die.

The shed was already old when we moved in to the house and looked it. The paint was mostly chipped away and what little remained was discolored and somehow obscene. It had been white once, but time and apathy had turned it a moldy black-brown. Beneath the paint the shed was made of gray wood that was in no better shape. The planks were frayed and chipped in a thousand places and the foundation had shifted enough that some of the planks had been pulled apart, leaving behind empty gashes filled with splinters.

The whole thing was half hidden behind low-hanging branches, cloaking it in sinister darkness. I wondered how anyone could live in the house with that shed so close in the yard. I learned eventually that the owners had parted with the house very easily, selling it for much less than it was worth. Now I wonder why, but had I been given that information back then I could have told you without hesitation: the shed was a bad place and the owners wanted to get away from it. I sometimes wish I still had that sort of easy conviction. Maybe then things wouldn’t be like they are.

My parents had gone to see the house twice before moving in but somehow my mom had never noticed the shed before the day we moved. I was moving a box into the house – my N64 of course, my stuff took priority – when I saw her standing just inside the backyard staring at the shed, mouth agape. I put my box down and moved beside her, lacing my fingers into hers. She jumped at my touch and stared down at me. Her hand was trembling and I squeezed it.

“It’s so ugly,” she said, returning her gaze to the shed. I stared after her but didn’t say anything. There was no way I could have expressed what I was feeling at the moment. To me it wasn’t just ugly, it was terrifying.

My dad walked up behind us carrying two large boxes labeled ‘books’ and craned his neck to see what we were looking at. “What’s up guys,” he said. His arms were shaking under the weight of the boxes but otherwise he was solid, not even gasping for breath. That’s how I’ll always remember him: solid, unflappable.

“It’s terrible Jerry,” my mom said.

“What that old thing? Nah it’s just a little old and beat up. Nothing a little love can’t fix. Just like me,” he said and smiled at my mom, tipping her a wink.

She didn’t respond, just turned to face the shed again. “I hate it.”

I had let go of her hand and picked up my box to join my dad. I didn’t want him to see me holding mom’s hand instead of working. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t tough like him. We left my mom standing there but I turned back to look at the shed one more time and shivered.

It was a year later that I finally went into the shed. I had been avoiding the shed entirely; pretending it wasn’t there when I went outside, keeping my shades closed whenever I was in my room so I wouldn’t have to see it. As long as I didn’t acknowledge it, it couldn’t hurt me. My mom, for her part, was taking to it a little better than I was. She had begged my dad to tear it down for months but eventually he had convinced her to let him keep it and he had started working on trying to make it presentable again. He had partially succeeded; replacing some of the worse planks and applying a fresh coat of paint took away some of its menacing edge, but nothing could fix the almost unnatural way it leaned or the palpable sense of fear I got whenever I looked at it. On the day I went inside, my dad was sick – the first of many illnesses he would suffer in that house and that would eventually eat him away from the inside – and working on a model plane. I had been watching him for hours, fascinated with the process; the way he could take a clutter of small pieces and form something so magnificent. He worked silently and I watched the same.

He was nearly finished when he suddenly stopped and said, “Shit.” I smiled the way children do when they hear a word their not supposed to use being uttered by someone who tells them not to use it. My dad smiled back and there were wrinkles around his eyes that hadn’t been there when we moved.

“Don’t tell your mom,” he said and I nodded. “Do me a favor,” he said, “I need one of my tools from the shed. Wanna go get it for me?”

The smile fell from my face and my stomach turned. He must have noticed because he laughed and said, “Easy sport, you don’t have to.” He started to stand but I shot up.

“No I can do it,” I said. It had been raining for days at this point and my dad wasn’t supposed to go out in it. Mom had told me this was very serious. Besides, I couldn’t look weak in front of him.

“I just felt sick for a second,” I said, “musta been those eggs you cooked me for breakfast.” He started to say something but I was out the back door before he had the chance.

The rain had only made the shed worse. It seemed to sag more than usual and I had a brief vision of myself walking inside and the whole thing coming down on my head. I pushed it away and started toward the shed.

The rain had peeled away some of the new paint, revealing spots of grey. It looked diseased and I almost turned and ran back into the house but I knew that dad would be there and he would want to know why. I couldn’t bear to tell him that I was scared. So I walked to the shed, shivering as my hand touched the door. The hinges moaned and the door opened into darkness. There were no windows and the branches blocked what little sunlight was filtering through the clouds. As I stepped inside I was blind.

The wind blew and the walls rattled and this time I did run, making it as far as the door before forcing myself to stop. Dad had been in this shed hundreds of times and it had never fallen on him. He never ran away from it. He wasn’t a wimp and neither was I. I turned around and made my way toward the back, where dad kept his tools.

I had to move slowly, sticking my foot out in front of me to make sure I didn’t hit my leg on anything. There were piles of junk everywhere, some of it rusted from years of disuse. My dad had relatively little in comparison; just a few boxes of tools stacked neatly on a work bench, a pair of gloves on a hook and the large, novelty sunglasses I had gotten him for father’s day when I was barely able to walk.

The inside of the shed was sweltering and I broke out in a sweat almost immediately. There was a loud buzzing, like angry bees, echoing all around me. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from but it made me want to run again and I started humming to myself to try and drown it out.

When I reached the bench it took me a moment to realize that the buzzing was coming from inside one of the tool boxes. I realized I had been holding my breath and I let it out slowly, the heat seeming to drain from my body along with it. It was just a bee stuck inside the box and the walls were giving it a strange echo. I was stupid, but at least I wasn’t scared anymore.

I grabbed one of the gloves off the hook and unlatched the box. The bee would come shooting out as soon as I opened it and if it didn’t look like it would be leaving peacefully, well it was just too bad for it that I knew how to use a weapon. The box was old and, though in considerably better shape than anything else in the shed, the latches still stuck. I had to put some force behind it and the top shot up and hit the bench with a bang. I winced. If the bee had been angry before, surely it would be furious now. I braced myself, raising the glove high and squatting a bit; but nothing came out of the box.

I stood up and peered inside. There was no bee, but there was something. It was something I had never seen before. It was smaller than a bee, but not by much, with black wings and legs. It looked like a fly but the head and thorax were almost all white, with only a few black spots peppered randomly. The abdomen was colored black at the top and faded to white in the back with more of those black dots on top. It was the eyes that caught my attention though; they were large and black, like dolls eyes, but with a red hour glasses piercing through the center.

The eyes were like the abdomen of a black widow and more menacing than any bee. The thing was perched on top of a screwdriver, motionless, regarding me with those red pupils. My breath shortened and I vaguely remember saying something, I’m not sure what, but I’m sure it was a plea for the thing to go away.

It occurred to me then that my dad hadn’t told me what tool he needed. In my haste to look brave I had left before he had the chance. All I had to do was go back and ask him what it was and when I got back, the thing would be gone and I could laugh at myself for being a dummy.

Better close the box, said a voice in my head that I don’t want to believe was my own. I reached forward to grab the lid and the thing lifted off. It moved through the air slowly, bouncing up and down as if it couldn’t barely handle its own wings. It landed on the back of my hand. I stared at it, not wanting to move for fear of what it might do. It looked so much like a fly, I don’t know why I was so afraid of it but in a second that fear was justified. It looked up at me, almost like it was apologizing. Sorry sport, I imagined it saying, but I gotta do it. I don’t want to, but I gotta.

There was a sudden sharp pain and I lashed out, smacking the thing with the glove. It flew off my hand and landed on the ground, twitching. My hand throbbed and a thin trickle of blood bubbled up out of the small hole the thing had put in my hand. It seemed to be obstructed by something and it came out in thin rivulets. The thing somehow went airborne again and I lashed out with the glove, uttering a choked scream. Tears had welled up in my eyes and the thing seemed to triple as I hit it again and again with the glove until eventually it was little more than a bloody stain on the wood.

My hand ached and I was crying as I ran back into the house and into my dad’s arms. He stroked my head and whispered to me until I was calm enough to explain. As I told him about the bug a pained expression crossed his face and when I told him how it bit me he interrupted me.

“Show me,” he said and grabbed my arm as soon as I held my hand out. He jerked me forward hard and I started to cry again. I hadn’t realized how scared I was until I saw how scared he was and I was starting to panic.

After staring at my hand for a few seconds he cursed and told me to wait there and left the kitchen. I can safely say that, until a few years later, those few moments alone in the kitchen were the worst of my life. But life has a way of showing you that you could always be worse, no matter how low you get.

When he came back he was holding a pocket knife. He ran it under the sink for a few minutes, muttering to himself. It wasn’t until he knelt down and grabbed my hand again that I knew what was about to happen and I really started to cry. I jumped and screamed and sobbed loud enough that I’m sure the neighbors could hear me, but he never let go of my hand.

When I was finished he stared at me, his eyes glassy and concerned. “It’s gonna hurt,” he said. “Sorry sport, but I gotta do it. I don’t want to, but I gotta.” He lowered the knife and I closed my eyes.

It did hurt, but not as much as I expected. There was a prick, and a tear as he ripped something out of my skin, and then it was over. I opened my eyes.

“Don’t look,” he said, but of course I did. The tip of the knife was bloody and in the huddled in the small pool was a small white dot shaped like a peanut. It was fat and segmented and beneath the blood it was white with tiny black spots. At one end there were two small points, like fangs. A though popped into my head, ridiculous but powerful: guess I’m a vampire now. I laughed and passed out for the first time in my life, but not the last. I was flyblown.

I woke up on the couch, my dad standing over me and holding my hand. He had applied a bandage to it and drawn a little doodle in sharpie. It was stick figure that I could tell was supposed to be me, flexing cartoonish Popeye muscles and frowning. One tough cookie, it said underneath the drawing. I laughed and dad smiled. “Don’t tell mom,” he said, and I never did.

A year later my dad died. He had been sick for a long time, I had just been too young or too stubborn to notice. Towards the end when it got really bad we visited him in the hospital less and less. He was barely awake most of the time and when he was he rambled incoherently about things that made no sense. Sometimes though he would mention the shed and my heart would give a little jump, but he never mentioned the incident; not until the very end.

On one of my last visits to the hospital he was more cognizant than normal, or at least he seemed that way. He would nod when I asked him questions, though he would also nod just about every time he heard my voice and he would also sometimes shout nonsense sounds or single words. I was holding his hand when suddenly I realized that he was very quiet and very still. I had been reading a book to him and when I looked up he was staring at me intensely.

“I had to do it sport,” he said. “I’m sorry it hurt, but I had to do it. Don’t tell mom.” His face was red and his eyes were too wide. He started to shake and foam leaked out from the corners of his mouth. He was eyes rolled into the back of his head and he gripped my hand too hard for me to get out. I screamed. I screamed for I don’t know how long until a nurse finally came in and wrenched me from his grip. Another nurse grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the room. That was the last time I saw him alive.

Only two more events are worth noting from that period of my life before I get to the part I’m avoiding; the only part that anyone would care to hear. They both happened very soon after that last visit in the hospital. The first was at the wake. I remember there being more people than I thought my dad knew. The funeral home was packed and everyone was crying. It still hadn’t totally hit me and I felt strange being the only one with dry eyes. I felt very cramped with all those people and it was hard to breathe. By the time we had lined up to view the body I was on the verge of a panic attack and ready to run. I remember thinking about the shed and how I had forced myself to go inside. I forced myself to remember that feeling, to be brave for my dad. As we walked by the casket I forced myself to look inside. Dad looked much different than he had in the hospital. He looked like himself again. They had dressed him in an old grey suit, the only suit he owned, and made up his face to give it a look of vitality. The line was moving slowly and I got up on my toes to peer inside and say goodbye when I saw it; a small white and black shape rested on one of his hands. A red hour glass peered out of inky blackness, regarding me coldly. Pitch black wings fluttered in the shadow of the casket and a buzz filled my ears. Don’t tell mom.

I fell back from the casket and into my mom’s leg. She put a hand on my shoulder and I looked up at her. Tears had filled my eyes and her image was blurry and for a moment seemed to kaleidoscope in my eyes. I opened my mouth to tell her about the fly but all that came out was a sob and I buried my face in her pants. She shushed me and led me out of the funeral home and away from the fly. I peered back once but I couldn’t see it on dad’s hand anymore.

I don’t remember much about the funeral. It was a sunny day and a pleasant breeze was blowing. The pleasantness of the day made me angry, a sentiment that I believe shaped my life for the next several years – until long after the incident I’m here to discuss. I didn’t listen to the words of the preacher and didn’t offer any of my own. I just wanted to get through the affair and go home and hide in my room. It was a short funeral and it seemed they began to lower the coffin almost as soon as we had gotten there. I was glad. The wind stopped blowing and there was a sudden stillness in the air. In that sudden stillness I could hear a buzzing. A loud, frantic buzzing and the sound of something fat smacking against wood. If anyone else heard it they didn’t react. They all kept a stony silence as that thing smacked against the lid of my dad’s coffin, trying to escape. But then it was done and they began the process of covering the coffin with dirt, and the fly was stuck in there with my dad until kingdom come.

Five years later I met Eric Lorimar. Ours was an easy friendship and the only one I really had in those days. I was a punk with weird hair who suffered from blackouts whenever faced with anything more stressful than a pop quiz; he smoked cigarettes in the bathroom and sometimes liked to dress up in girl’s clothes and flirt with the older boys. We weren’t winning any popularity contests but we liked a lot of the same shit and life was easy around him.

In the years after he died a lot was made of our relationship and how Tom Cheely fit into it, especially once the cross-dressing thing came out. We had a lot of labels pushed on us, mostly very unpleasant ones, but it was always very simple: we were friends. There was nothing more to it. We enjoyed each other’s company because no one else did. Even Tom was our friend in his own way, but he was never really a part of us. He was a hanger-on, a third wheel we tolerated because he sometimes made us laugh and had a seemingly endless supply of cigarettes and booze.

What is true, and what most people got correct, is that I lied about how Eric died. I’ve never once changed my story in all these years, but I’ve never told anyone the truth either. Not the real truth. It was Tom’s idea to check out the shed and it was Tom that led him and Eric to their deaths; but I’m the one who caused it. It was an accident, but it was my fault all the same.

When I would black out I would dream. The dream was almost always the same: I would be standing in my backyard at night staring at the shed. In the dream it was even more warped than in real life. The walls bent at impossible angles and the wood was splintered and jagged. The air around the shed seemed to shimmer as if a fire were burning. As I stared, the door would open and the shed would be empty. I would approach it in much the same way I did when I was seven but in the dream I never tried to run; I never could run. It always felt as though I were being pulled forward. When I reached the door I would pause and reach up to close it but a hand would grab my wrist and pull me forward into the darkness. It was my dad and where his eyes should be there would instead be the eyes of the fly and the hourglasses would burn a dark crimson.

I never told anyone about these dreams, not even Eric. The strangeness of them turned my already potent fear of the shed into something much more powerful. I regarded it the same way one would regard a poisonous snake that just slithered over their boot or a mountain lion in their backyard. It was to be avoided at all costs.

Eric came over to my house almost every day and I never once mentioned it to him. Somehow I think he picked up on my fear because he never even asked about the shed though I would sometimes see him staring at it through the kitchen window.

I met Tom six months after meeting Eric. I don’t know where they met, or how, but one day Eric came to my house with Tom in tow. I immediately disliked him. He was everything Tom and I weren’t; tall, muscular, handsome. He had an easy way to him, like life was just a minor annoyance he had to deal with and not the terrible challenge it was for me. He was a few years older than us and already in high school and he was popular. Eventually I warmed to him, though I never entirely got over my distrust.

There was something off about Tom. He smiled a lot; I only have a handful of memories of him not smiling, and he had a habit of staring. Sometimes when the three of us were in my room watching a movie I would catch him staring at a spot on the wall, or a book on my shelf and just smiling. He would do this for long periods of time, never taking his eyes from whatever spot he had chosen. His smile would look hungry somehow and that nonsense (guess I’m a vampire now) would pop into my head and I would go cold all over.

He was smiling like that on the night Eric died. We were in the kitchen making food when I caught him staring at the shed and smiling. I gasped when I saw him and immediately wished I hadn’t. His eyes rolled in his head and settled on me, that smile still plastered to on his face. I felt my gut turn and I tried to smile back but my face didn’t want to work.

“What’s with the shed,” he said. I was suddenly convinced that he already knew. Somehow he knew about the fly and my dad and the dream and what the shed did to me. He was a part of it, a weapon the shed had sent to bring me back in. Nonsense, of course, but it gripped my heart with a terrible strength and it wasn’t until I felt Eric’s hand on my back that I realized I was panting heavily and the light had begun to swim in front of my eyes.

“It’s just an old shed,” Eric said and I felt such a surge of love for him that it almost could have knocked me out.

“Why don’t we ever go in there,” Tom said. “What’s in it?”

“Nothing,” I said between breaths.

“Then why are you breathing so hard? What are you so nervous about?”

“Knock it off Tom,” Eric said. My head was throbbing and my heart was pounding in my chest. A buzz had crept into my ears and it was growing in pitch.

“What are you hiding in there? Is that where you keep the bodies?”

“Come on Tom.” Tom licked his lips and there was a strange glint in his eyes. In the dark his smile seemed to stretch across his entire face and his eyes looked pitch black.

“It is isn’t it,” he said, “There are a bunch of dead bodies in there. We have to investigate.” Before Eric or I could stop him Tom had gone out the back door laughing and was jogging toward the shed.

“Shit,” Eric said, “Sorry. I’ll go get him.” As he moved toward the door I grabbed his wrist.

“You c-can’t,” I said. My breath was still catching in my throat and I sat down in a chair to try and stop my head spinning. “It’s...,” but I didn’t know how to finish that sentence.

“I know,” Eric said. Gently, he took my hand from his wrist. I could see in his eyes that he did know.

“I can’t go in there,” I said.

“You won’t have to. I’ll just go get him and tell him you’re afraid of it and he’ll lay off. Tom may be a jerk, but he’s not an asshole. But you realize you’re gonna have to tell us why. He won’t let up until you do.” Eric smiled and so did I.

“I know,” I said, “and I will. It’s…a long story.”

“We’ve got plenty of time,” Eric said and then he was gone. I watched him approach the shed. Tom had gone inside at some point and I hadn’t seen it but the door was wide open and it made me think of the dream. As Eric approached it he paused and cocked his head to the side as if confused. Then, suddenly he ran inside.

I didn’t know what to think of that. Something about the way he had paused had been wrong; and why had he run inside? It was a small shed, there wasn’t much room to run. What if Tom had been hurt. I was shaking and sweating and tears began to spill down my cheeks. I hoped they would come out soon and get back and see me this why, crying and trembling like a baby, and we would all laugh about it. I knew they wouldn’t. I had been brave for dad once and gone into the shed, I could be brave for Eric and do it again.

This is where the story changes dramatically from the one I’ve been telling for years. Everything up to this point has been the same but had I told anyone what really happened next they would have locked me up. I would be heavily medicated in a cell somewhere, muttering to myself and slowly losing my grip on the world. This is the truth.

I went outside, the air was cool and breezy and the moon was full. I stared at the shed and it seemed to open to pure darkness. I called out to Eric and Tom but there was no answer. The shed loomed in the darkness and it seemed to stretch and shimmer in the moonlight. I could hear a buzz coming from inside, like a fly trapped in a coffin.

My heart had dropped into my stomach by this point and my legs were weak. Walking the few feet to the trees was the hardest chore of my life and by the time I crossed into their shadow I knew something was very wrong. The darkness beyond the door only got darker as I moved closer. It was impossible to see beyond the frame, it was like looking into deep water: impermeable but not empty.

As I approached the door the buzzing drowned out the rest of the world. It filled my head and my body, like the crash of a waterfall against the surface of a deep lake. I reached a hand out – the hand that was flyblown so long ago – and I was seven years old again; a quivering little boy too afraid of an old shed to move. I bit my lip hard enough to draw blood and leapt into the darkness.

I can’t explain what happened in those few seconds between my backyard and the hell that I jumped in to. There was a sense of splintering, of being ripped apart and rearranged. I tumbled through colors and smells and sounds, sensing none of them completely, receiving only the barest snatches of them before they were shoved out of my head to be replaced by another. I felt outside of myself, outside of everything. I was big. I towered over everything, looking down on my city and seeing it as a series of crude blocks arranged in meaningless patterns. I saw the shed and I saw myself inside the shed being molested by the fly. Then I saw my father and he stared into my eyes and said, “Don’t tell mom;” and then I was crashing back down into myself, back into the darkness and the buzzing and the sound of my own screams.

I woke in a dark room to the sound of screams. For a moment I thought they were still mine and then I heard the echo and knew they weren’t. I was more scared then than I have ever been in my life. The scream belonged to Eric and beneath it was the buzzing. I stood up too fast and my head swam and I thought I might black out but I forced myself to stay focused and my head cleared. It felt clearer than it had in years in fact.

As my eyes adjusted I saw that the room was a chamber of earth. A series of tunnels had been dug into the walls and they led in many different directions. I yelled for Eric and got only more screams in return. I looked around at all the many paths, trying to figure out which to take. The buzz echoed all around me, seeming to come from every tunnel at once. I closed my eyes and tried to focus; I had been running from that sound for half my life; maybe that would make it easier to run toward it.

Without thinking I ran, picking one of the tunnels at random. I shouted Eric’s name as I ran and it echoed back at me a thousand times. Slowly, I became aware of the red light that was beginning to fill the tunnel. It came from inside the walls and it moved. It squirmed and flickered like it was alive.

Eric’s screams were becoming less frequent now and soon they had stopped completely. I ran faster, my heart pounding in my head and my legs burning. I felt sick. My body felt like it might shut down if I went on much longer and my vision was dimming even as the light burned brighter.

I found Eric in a chamber much like the one I had come from. He was crumpled on the floor and bleeding from hundreds of red welts that covered whatever skin was bared. His clothes had been ripped and torn mostly to shreds. He was shivering. I ran to him and knelt down. As I went to touch him a voice piped up from one of the tunnels.

“There was nothing I could do you know.” It was Tom, but he sounded far away. His voice was flat and when I looked up I saw that his eyes weren’t even focused on me. He was staring at the wall, transfixed by the points of red light that were now dancing in front of his eyes.

“Tom,” I said. “What happened? Why was Eric screaming?” I wanted to be mad, but something about the way he was staring at the wall and speaking so softly only made me more scared.

Tom turned his attention from the wall and looked at me. His eyes were red, like he had been crying, and there was a large gash in his cheek. It looked like he had been scratched. “One of them got me too,” he said. “Got me right in the cheek, but I got it.” He held up his hand and I saw it was covered in blood. Snaggled bits of flesh were caught between his finger nails. In his palm was a fat larva, covered in blood and wriggling obscenely. He dropped it on the floor and slammed his foot down. It exploded with a loud pop.

The buzz intensified, the walls shook, and I knew I had to get out. I grabbed Eric’s wrist to pull him up and it shifted under my hand. I fell back with a shout. Eric had moved under my grasp, but not in a way that was natural. I knew I shouldn’t have looked, I should have just ran right then and spared myself that image. But I did look. Of course I looked. It is human nature after all, to want to see the things that haunt us.

The light was still dim but it was bright enough for me to make out the barest details. I pushed Eric with my foot, rolling him onto his back. I wanted to scream, but for some things a scream isn’t enough. My throat shut completely, forcing the breath from my body. What I had thought was Eric shivering was his skin moving, or rather being moved from within. Inside every welt was a thick, white tail wriggling back and forth, burrowing deeper into its new fleshy home. The tails covered his body like a morbid second skin. Not an inch was uncovered. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open, locked permanently in a scream. Deep inside his throat I could see more of those rotten larvae, fat and plump and evil. One was hooked through his uvula like an impossible piercing.

I should have vomited; I should have cried; I should have screamed. I should have done many things but my brain wouldn’t allow it. To react in any way was to face what I was seeing, to admit that it was real and not just some nightmare. I don’t think my mind could have taken it. Until, that is, it had no choice. As I stared I became aware of another sound beneath the incessant buzz, one much worse. It was a chewing sound, like someone loudly eating soup. It was muted but growing louder and by the time I had processed what it was it was too late to look away. Eric’s right eye shifted in the socket suddenly and sank deeper into it. The pupil rolled and seemed to stare right at me. A low moan filled my throat, trying to push its way out of my mouth. The eyeball stared at me and then it bulged in the center. The black of the pupil broke like an egg yolk and ran. The veins stood out in the sclera before they too popped, filling the socket with blood. Something pushed and pushed at the eye, pitching the meat up like a tent. Then there was a pop and I finally screamed.

I remember looking up and seeing Tom digging at the walls, laughing as a thousand flies erupted from within; I remember running down a dozen tunnels with no idea where I was going; I remember realizing the red lights I was seeing were eyes and the walls were alive; and I remember the buzzing. I understood then that it wasn’t chasing me, just following me. I knew it would follow me for the rest of my life. Then there was darkness.

My mom found me later that night, laying outside the shed and staring up at the moon. I had scratched my hand open, digging almost to the bone. I was muttering to myself when she found me. I was saying, “He had to do it,” over and over again. She shook me and screamed for several minutes before I finally looked at her and said, “Dad said I’m not supposed to tell you.” Then I blacked out.

I was in the hospital for a week. They never found Tom or Eric’s bodies, but they did find some of their blood in the shed. There was never a trial but I became a celebrity. Some people demonized me, others defended me. Everyone knew something horrible had happened but nobody knew exactly what, not even myself; not really. I made up a story about finding Tom hurting Eric in the shed and attacking me. I said he must have taken Eric somewhere while I was passed out. Nobody believed me and I knew it was a weak lie, but without any evidence nothing could be done.

My mom and I eventually moved and people eventually forgot. People always do. I was married for a while but it didn’t work out. My mom died a few months ago of a brain tumor. It had gone undetected for too long and after they found it, she went quickly. Before she died I told her what happened in the shed and what Dad had done. I don’t know if she understood me or not. She just nodded and then closed her eyes. She died a week later. The doctors later told me – I suspect as some form of self-gratifying apology – that the tumor had just been too small to detect; it was hardly larger than a fly.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written this confession, nor will it likely be the last. I suspect this one will join the others in the fireplace soon. I’m sure no one remembers Eric or Tom or me. Our whole lives are little more than a thirty year old obituary in a small-town newspaper and a five minute fling on the news. Someone will read it someday though and maybe Eric will find some peace. Maybe, for just a moment, he’ll be remembered.

I still hear the buzzing. I hear it all the time now, even in my dreams. Every day it gets a little closer, a little louder; a million flies buzzing in my head, pushing their way out.

The sound of death.