's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Taking Credit

Submitted by Brendan Cleary

"Are we almost there?" Christopher asked, it was getting dark. His mom wouldn't approve of him being out so late.

"Yeah, just a little bit further." Max said, before taking a swig from his water bottle, even he seemed like he was getting tired. In the shadow of the trees, a bird let out a strangled wharble. It made Christopher flinch, he was already on edge. A part of him didn't want to see the thing that he had only hours ago begged Max to show him, and that part of him was a lot more persistent and convincing than he expected.

Max turned back to Christopher, and noticed the nervous look in his friend's eye.

He handed the water bottle to Christopher, who took it quickly.

The cold, refreshing water did a fantastic job numbing the part in Christopher that wanted to go back.

They were deep in the forest, deeper than Christopher had ever been. The trees seemed unfamiliar here, thicker than the ones back home, taller too.

There were these peculiar white trees which had markings dotting their body. They looked to Christopher like eyes, and he couldn't help but feel like he was being watched whenever he passed one.

Max stopped, and stared at one of the eye trees. He pointed at a cut into the trunk, about three feet up, and nodded. "This is the place where the guy tried to cut me with his switchblade, he missed and hit this tree."

He peeked around the tree, as if he expected someone to be behind it, and turned to Christopher.

"He chased me over this way, the body should be just behind the bushes." Max pointed to a large group of colorful berry bushes, which seemed to be covering some sort of clearing.

"You didn't tell me he had a knife, I thought you said he had an axe?"

"He had both, he had a switchblade in his right hand, and an axe on his belt, when he missed me with his knife, he attacked me with his axe."

Christopher nodded, it made sense. "What were you doing out here anyway?"

Max didn't answer, he was too busy skimming his way through the bushes, looking for an opening. "I killed someone." That was the first thing Max had said to Christopher that day. It was recess, they were on the swing sets, lazily hanging a few feet off the ground.

"Why?" Christopher had asked him. "Because he would of killed me."

"I won't tell anyone, if the cops ask me, I'll just say it was Kyle Broach." Christopher had said, and he had meant it. The two of them had known each other for only two years or so, Chris came into the school midway through sixth grade. but they have considered themselves friends since the first day they were introduced. Max was Christophers best friend, and Christopher was Max's only friend. Max had apparently done something in the fifth grade to make him a social pariah, but Christopher had never been interested or curious enough to find out what that incident was. He thought it was probably for the best that he didn't know. Max gave him a tired look, he lowered his head, as if it was too heavy to keep raised.

"I was walking in the woods, and this guy starts chasing me with an axe. I didn't recognize him. He was an older guy, he was wearing a black suit, and he was wearing these glasses that were too large for him, like Mia Pezzler's glasses."

"Did he say anything?" They were alone, the nearest kids were playing four square, and they were too invested in their game to notice the two kids discussing murder.

Max shook his head slightly, more of a twitch than a head shake. "He said my name, and then he took out his axe and started chasing me. He chased me for a while, and then he tripped, dropped the axe, and I killed him."

Neither of them said anything after that, what was there to say? Max seemed to have reached the end of his account, and Christopher couldn't think of anything appropriate or helpful to say in response.

Finally, while the person in the third square of the four square game was arguing that he wasn't out, Max spoke.

"I could show you the body." He said softly, as if he was hoping Christopher wouldn't hear him.

How could Christopher say no to an offer like that?

Wanting to see a dead body is a universal desire, that's what Christopher believed. Why else would we have so many movies and tv shows that involved them if it wasn't a secret desire to see a real life cadaver?

Christopher watched a show with his parents called CSI, one of the many shows they watched as a family, and almost every episode began with a person or group of people finding a body.

Christopher was always jealous of these people, and secretly wished he could be in a situation like that. What did a body smell like, he wondered. How would he feel, when he saw the body of a person, no longer breathing? He wanted to see a body. He wasn't like one of the bad guys on CSI or anything. Mostly, Christopher just wanted to see how he himself would react, would he be disgusted, would he be intrigued, would he vomit, would he dry heave? He hoped he didn't vomit, but he had a famously weak stomach. He had made sure to eat as little as possible during dinner. His belief being that the less he had in his belly, the less he could throw up. "Here we go" Max said, finding a break in the bushes.

"We went through here." Max gestured to Christopher to follow him as he went through. As they got through to the bushes and the body behind it, Christopher found that giddy mixture of excitement and fear that he felt when they began this trek returning. The bodies on the screen had lost their luster, he wanted to see the real thing, he was dying to see them. He laughed at his own private joke.

The two traversed through the berry bushes, to find themselves in a large clearing, the pastel colored sky opened up above them. The grass was streaked with blood but there was no body, just a blood red trail leading back into the forest on the other side. The two boys looked at each other. Someone else had been here.

"Did you tell anyone? You told me you wouldn't tell anyone?!" Max frantically paced around the clearing. "I didn't tell anyone."

"Maybe the police took the body, right? Maybe they're IDing the body right now and they're going to find my fingerprints on the murder weapon!"

"The axe?"

"Yeah! The axe!" Christopher had never seen Max this stressed out. Then again, he couldn't blame him, Christopher assumed he would react the same way if he was in such a situation. "The axe was still in the body, my fingerprints are all over that thing. God, they're probably at my house now, asking my parents why their son would ever do such a thing. Oh my god, oh my god."

Christopher handed the water bottle back to Max. Max grasped it in his fingers and crushed the bottle, distorting the shape of the plastic.

"Calm down." Christopher said, trying his best to comfort him. "The police didn't move the body, there would be barricades and police tape set up here if they did. We probably would have been stopped by a bunch of officer on our way here. Besides, do you see any tire tracks? Don't you think the police would have bought some police cars, maybe an ambulance?"

"But why an ambulance? He's dead!"

"I don't know." Said Christopher, frustrated. "What other vehicle would you carry a body in?"

"I don't know, a hearse?"

"Those are only for funerals." Max sighed. "Yeah okay... so if it wasn't the police... someone still moved the body. Maybe someone who knew the guy I killed I... I think we should leave."

"What?" Christopher said, all doubt or fear had been washed away by a desire to see the corpse. "We've come all this way and you're just going to back out now because someone moved the body?"

"This could have happened minutes ago, we could run into the guy!"

Christopher stared down at the blood, it seem to be painted onto the grass, the blood trail seemed old, he didn't know how old, but it certaintly wasn't fresh. "Look, at the blood, it's dried. That means that the body has been moved a while ago."

Max sat down and put his head in his hand. "I think we should still leave. I just thought this would be quick... I thought we would come here see the body... and maybe bury it or something."

"You wanted to bury it? Why didn't you tell me??"

"Well, I don't think you would have come with me if you knew that I planned to bury the body, would you?" "I would've, man. I still would've."

Christopher wasn't lying, but he didn't think Max believed him.

"...I'm going to peek ahead okay, I wont go far. You don't have to come with me, but I'm going to find that body. Are you coming?"

"What if the body's super far away, are you just going to follow that blood trail?"

"... If I have to. I don't think it will be. I mean, you cant really carry a body that far."

Max shook his head. "I'm leaving. I don't want to do this anymore I..." He got up and began to walk away. "It's not worth it Chris, lets just go home." "I'm sorry." He truly was. "You bought me out here to see a body, I'm going to see abody."

Christopher left without another word, disappearing into the dense orange trees. He didn't have to follow the blood trail far, it ended at the mouth of a open grave. A shovel was next to the grave and their were a smattering of footprints around the hole. Many of the nearby branches and twigs had been snapped or broken, as if some sort of fight had happen here. Christopher peered into the grave. Besides a pair of cracked glasses, it was empty.

He heard shouting, deep in the woods. It sounded like multiple voices, loudly arguing about something .

He ran towards the sounds, not caring how dark it was, trying as hard as he could not to give attention to the small part of him that was terrified.

In a section of the woods filled with those strange trees with the eye markings, he saw a group of people, five or six, it was hard to tell in the darkness. They were standing over a body in a black suit.

He got as close as he could to them without being seen, finding a large rock, ten feet from them, to hide behind.

"-You really think I'd believe that?" Yelled one of the people, a tall woman wearing a crossing guard uniform. "That makes less sense than this guy's story." She pointed to a portly man in a bathrobe.

"My names Lyle." Said the man in the bathrobe. He said it softly, as if he had already told them his name and he was doubting if they even cared to learn it. "One of us has to be telling the truth." Said a guy resting on a tree. He seemed strangely calm, and looked more like he was waiting for a ride than someone discussing something over a corpse. "The question we need to figure out is who? Once we've figured that out, we can figure out what to do next-"

"That's not going to get us anywhere" Said a Woman in a hoodie. She was the only one of the group who seemed somewhat dressed for the occasions. The others apparel made it seem as if their decision to seek out the body was spur of the moment. "We're all going to believe that we were the ones who did. We all have memories of doing it after all. Who do you think we're all going to pick? Our own memories, or testimonies by people we don't even know."

"Well, you're not wrong. I'll try to make things easier." The man said, adjusting his stance. He pointed at the woman in the hoodie. "I'm pretty confident you were the one who killed him."

Christopher was too busy trying to get a good luck at the body to get the implications of what the Man had said. He leaned over to the right, realizing he would satisfied if he only got a good view of the head.

As he moved away from the stone, he had to readjust his hand position, causing him to snap a branch.

With the sound like the snap of a horse neck, the men and women were staring at them. Their faces were a blend of annoyance and shock.

"Oh great." Said a man in a turtleneck sweater, who was squinting to make out Christopher. "Now a kid's involved."

Christopher nervously walked forward, these people didn't seem like they were going to kill him. "Can I see the body?" He asked .

Lyle burst out laughing. No one else found the question funny.

"Just one question." Said the crossing guard, she lowered herself so she was at eye level with Christopher. He didn't have the vocabulary to put it in these terms, but he always found it quite patronizing when adults did this.

"Do you think you killed this man?"


Everyone collectively breathed a sigh of relief. A few people muttered an "oh thank god" under their breath or some variation.

"I don't know who killed this person, I was just walking out here and noticed all of you guys, and wanted to see what was going on. That's all" Christopher said, lying.

"You don't know who killed this guy?" Said the strangely relaxed man. "Well you're in the same boat as us."

Lyle adjusted his bathrobe. "I don't think we should be telling this kid anything. What if he-"

"He heard everything, man! Who knows how long he's been listening to us!"

"My name isn't man! Okay! It's Lyle."

No one cared.

Christopher looked around, the man's words from earlier finally sinking in. "You said she killed him..."

The turtleneck sporting man was quick to correct him. "No, that's just what he thinks. You see, we all have memories of killing this man... but, obviously, only one of us could have done it." The turtleneck man's hands were caked with dirt, was he the one who tried to bury the body?

"It was me, we can stop arguing about this." The crossing guard said. "You heard me. I remembered his death in way more detail than any of you. I don't know if any of you really do think you killed him, or if this is all just weird joke, but I know I killed him. My brain wouldn't just lie to me about something like this."

The others just sighed, it was obvious from their reaction that they have heard this argument before. Christopher got the sense that they had been here a long time.

"Can I see the body." Christopher asked calmly, he didn't really care if these people were confused as to the identity of the murderer, the biggest priority for him at the moment was getting a good look at the body. "I just want to see the body and then I'll go home." The man in the turtleneck, who seemed to consider himself the leader of the group shook his head and blocked the boy from looking at the corpse. "No, I'd rather you just leave. I don't want to bring you any deeper into this. You can- "Let him look, Dexter." The man leaning on the tree said, who now had his eyes closed. "Just let him look."

Dexter looked confused for a moment, and then nodded, as if he had just realized something. He turned to Christopher, now sporting a far away look in his eyes. "Yeah, you can look."

Lyle gave them all a look that seemed to say, are we really doing this, are we really just telling this kid everything?

He had a very expressive face. The others back away from the cadaver to give Christopher a better view. They had all seem to come to the same silent conclusion that Christopher should be able to see the corpse. The part of Christopher that he had stopped listening to told him that there was something off about this, and that the best thing to do would be to leave, but he didn't listen. The body was old, it was practically a skeleton, only a few pieces of skin were still hanging onto the body. He was dressed in a suit that may have once been nice, but was now ruined beyond repair. In his stomach was an axe that seemed to have become fused with the body. Christopher didn't know how someone would be able to pull it out, let alone put it in in the first place. Christopher stared at the body, expecting to scream, or laugh, even throw up. He was just looking for his body to... react in some way.

But he didn't. He felt nothing.

Christopher didn't feel much of anything staring at the long dead body, maybe it was the age? Maybe if he had found a fresher one something would of triggered, all he wanted was to feel something, it didn't matter to him what.

He got close to the skull, maybe it was about proximity, maybe if he got real close, showed his eyes all the gory details, his brain would finally start reacting as it should.

Christopher looked deep into the eye hole of the skull, two black pinpoints on a white cracked surface, and he saw recognition. He finally felt something.

Christopher backed away from the body. His whole body had become a shade paler.

"I killed him." Christopher said. "I snuck up behind him and killed him." He was finding it hard to breathe. His memory was like a film projector he had no control over. Over and over again he saw it, him sneaking up on the man, axe in hand. Hitting him once, sending him to his knees, hitting him twice, lodging the axe permanently in his back.

It kept repeating, with no real context or explanation. He could remember the fear on the man's face, but not the reason for why he had attacked him. He could remember the man's pleas for mercy, but he couldn't remember the man's name. He knew he did this. His utter certainty trounced any questions that questioned the logic of the situation. why would he do this, he thought. Why?

You know why, the part of him that he had forgotten about said, the part of him that was trying to protect him from this, to see a dead body.

"I killed him" He said again, louder this time.

This confession caused the group to argue again, debating on what to do now. The man on the tree just leaned back and smiled. "I wish we didn't have to do this. This is the second time that-"

"I killed him"

"We had no other choice."

"I killed him!"

"Dammit he's going to bring the police straight here!"

"I killed him!"

"No you didn't , you didn't kill him honey. I did! He was a thief and I got... carried away in the heat of the moment. Please don't say you killed him, please stop screaming."

"I killed him" Christopher yelled As Lyle yelled at him to shut up and was stopped from strangling him by the others.

"I killed him!" Christopher yelled, as red and blue lights suddenly drenched the dark woods. The others fell silent, and all of them bolted like deers.

"I killed him!" Christopher yelled, as the hurried footsteps of the police officers got closer and closer.

"I killed him" Christopher yelled as the police shined blinding flashlights on his sobbing face.

"I killed him" Christopher yelled as the police officer surrounded him and debated how to handle this. Out of the corner of his leaking eyes, Christopher thought he could still see the man leaning on the tree, reclining admist the chaos. But that couldnt have been, because no one else seemed to notice him.

"I killed him" Christopher yelled as the police officers began handcuffing him. "Just temporarily, until we can figure out what's going on here" one of them said. "I killed him" Christopher yelled as the police officers escorted him to the police cruiser. "I killed him" Christopher yelled as the door was closed on his terrified face.

Next to him in the car was Max, trying not to meet his eyes. "I killed him" He told Max.

Max nodded slowly, not correcting him.