A group of kids decides to whip out their Ouija board at the old rock quarry after dark, what could go wrong? More importantly, what is after them?!
Suffer the Little Children by Dennis Freeman
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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“You’re not goddamn going,” Anthony said, trying his father’s favorite epithet on for size. He was only twelve but, thanks to Jacob Anderson, he had quite a colorful vocabulary for his age. He surveyed his little brother’s face and saw no sign of shock at the use of “the GD word” but only a solemn, pouting lower lip.
Greg was eleven and, even though they both went to middle school, there was an unspoken but well-defined hierarchy. Anthony hung out with kids from his class who were mostly twelve and thirteen and despite being only a year and nineteen days older than Greg, he knew his little brother would be categorized as a “baby big kid” by his friend James.
“Come on, Tony!” Greg whined. “All my friends are gone for Thanksgiving break. Let me hang out with you guys.”
“Can’t do it, sprat.”
“I’ll tell mom you and your friends were playing at the quarry!” Greg exclaimed.
Tony was momentarily worried by this threat but let it slide. He knew Greg would be upset he couldn’t go but he’d never endanger his own well-being by telling their mother something that would surely land Anthony in his room with no Xbox One and the cable disconnected for no less than two weeks.
“Do that and you’ll never get to hang out with us,” Anthony said. “What am I supposed to do, Tony?”
“Stop whining for starters.” He said it much more harshly than he intended. Greg cast his eyes down at his feet and Anthony sighed. He put his arm around Greg after checking around the street to make sure nobody was watching) and tried to comfort his brother. “If you get hurt playing at the quarry with us mom would shit a bird!”
Greg giggled at this like Anthony knew he would. The mental image of their mother shitting feathers tickled Greg and the first time Anthony had said it his little brother had nearly died laughing.
“I guess I’ll just play Xbox. You better be home by five though. Mom and Dad will be asking where you are, and I hate pretending like I don’t know,” Greg said.
“Promise!” Anthony raised a three-finger scout salute.
“Look, I’ll talk to James and the guys and see if I can’t get them to let you come with us next time. Okay?”
Greg smiled and nodded. Anthony would probably mention it to the guys but he knew he wouldn’t put up to much of a fight if they said no. Anthony wasn’t a mean brother by any means, but he was a follower by nature. Greg knew this even if he didn’t know exactly how to articulate it. He watched as Anthony mounted his big red Mongoose and took off down the street to meet the rest of the “James Gang” as they called themselves. Once his brother was out of sight Greg sighed and went inside to get a soda and retire to his room to play Xbox.
Greg sat in the floor by his bed surrounded by a plethora of empty soda cans and candy wrappers. Had his mother walked in at that exact moment she would have “shit a bird” at the sight. He turned off his console and began to stuff the wrappers into his already overflowing waste basket. He took the cans downstairs and put them in the recycling and plopped down onto one of the bar-stools in the kitchen. It was only eleven-thirty and Greg had already exhausted his patience at the new Madden game.
“It’s going to be exactly the same as the last three,” Anthony had said one day when Greg had excitedly described the commercial to him. As usual his brother had been correct in his assumption. Great graphics aside, the Xbox wasn’t keeping Greg’s attention and he started to think about what Anthony and his friends could be doing down at the quarry. Anthony was only a year older than he was and Greg couldn’t imagine that he and his friends were doing anything that he himself couldn’t do. “Fuck it,” Greg muttered under his breath. His cheeks flushed hot at the vocalization of what his mother called “the really bad word” and he went into the garage to grab his bike. He would ride down to the quarry and see just what his brother’s friends were up to. He would go what his father called “incognito” and watch from afar at first.
He grabbed the backpack his parents had bought him for hiking trips and put on his khaki Brahmas which clashed with the black athletic shorts and orange Clemson basketball jersey, but he wasn’t out to win any fashion contests. He pulled his curly locks back out of his face and put them into a ponytail. He had had long hair since he was a baby and with exception of a handful of trims he had always worn his hair long. The older he got, the less serious the teasing about his hair got, and now he even received a few compliments. Mostly from girls.
Greg mounted his blue Huffy and started off down the street. He rode down Alberta Street and took a detour between a pair of houses on Jackson. The trip itself only took about ten minutes but it felt like forever to Greg, whose mind wouldn’t stop speculating as to what he’d see when he got there. He wondered if the James Gang would be doing dangerous stunts on their bikes or perhaps they were wrestling by the scummy pond that was in the pit left over from the rainy weather they had had.
“They may be hanging out with girls.” He thought.
This brought a fresh flush to his cheeks. He was eleven and his “girls are icky” stage had been over for almost a full year but he still wasn’t sure about the fairer sex. He had a basic grasp on what boys and girls did together when they were older but the thought of it still caused a weird mix of emotions he wasn’t able to understand. He felt his pants begin to tighten in the crotch and forced himself to think of something else. The last thing he needed was to run into his brother and his friends with a raging hard on. He wouldn’t live that down in this lifetime.
The next one either for that matter.
Greg dropped his foot down and drug it through the gravel as he decelerated . He approached the edge of the quarry warily. He saw Anthony’s bike parked by some bushes among four others and left his own a few feet away. He adjusted his backpack and crouch- walked down the narrow path beaten down by adolescent foot traffic and made his way to the edge of the pit. He looked down and saw the five boys who made up the James Gang laid out on the rocks by the water that was pooled down there. He didn’t see any girls, but he did see that two of them were smoking cigarettes. He did a double take when he realized that his brother was one of the ones smoking. A cigarette hung lackadaisically from the corner of his mouth and his eyes squinted against the smoke as he skipped rocks across the surface of the water.
Mom would shit a bird. He grinned maniacally at this. Two of the kids looked like they were playing a board game, checkers it looked like, and James and another boy that Greg didn’t recognize were talking next to Anthony.
Not talking, Greg thought. Arguing.
A little shoving match broke out between James and the other boy and Anthony moved to in between them to break it up. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and moved it nimbly between his fingers as he did this. Greg noted that it probably wasn’t the first time his brother had smoked. Greg couldn’t tell what the boys were arguing about, so he decided he was going to try and sneak to a pile of broken stones about ten feet away from the boys. He once again began to crouch walk but avoided the path. He would be too easy to spot.
“You’re a fucking liar!” Charles exclaimed.
James regarded him menacingly, but Anthony held him back to avoid a full-on fist fight. “I am not! My dad told me the story himself! You calling my dad a liar, fat ass?” James shouted indignantly.
Charles cast his eyes down not wanting to meet James’ angry gaze. He was thirteen and although the jibe about his weight hurt, he was still young enough to believe that everything their parents told them was the truth. He was okay with calling James a liar but to call his father, an ADULT, a liar was an entirely different animal.
“Sorry James,” Charles said, his face glowing red.
James blinked at the sudden shift the conversation had taken. “Me too.” His face softened a bit. “I’m sorry I called you a fat ass.”
Anthony, sensing the drama was over, moved back over by the water. He flicked his cigarette into the scummy pond and went back to skipping rocks.
“He told me that back then the water was a lot higher and kids would jump off the rocks and into the water,” James said. “He said after a couple of guys died that they closed the place up. Some of the kids that did sneak in said they saw ghosts or some shit.”
“That make sense,” Charles said. “It’s the other part that sounds weird.” “That’s what he said.”
“Maybe it’s true though. Like a horror movie or something,” Anthony added.
“Dad said that some of the kids kept coming down here even after they closed it up. They saw things. Like, weird things,” James said.
Anthony nodded as if this were to be expected. The idea of ghosts was not unfathomable for his twelve-year-old mind. “If they died suddenly, like, broke their necks when they dove in or drown or whatever they probably stuck around. Unfinished business or to try and keep other people from dying,” Anthony offered.
He spoke in a scholarly tone like a professor teaching the ways of the worlds to his pupils. Even Eddie and Tim had stopped playing checkers to regard Anthony with intense, wide eyes. Anthony looked up and saw that all his friends were staring at him now.
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “That’s what I think anyways.”
James nodded in agreement. This minor gesture made Anthony swell with pride. James was their de facto leader after all and any praise, spoken or not, was brag worthy. Eddie and Tim went back to their game, Eddie squinting in concentration.
“Want to all meet back up here, tonight?” James asked. “Sure. Hey James…”
“I was thinking about something. Can my little brother come with us? I know he’s a little younger, but he isn’t a spaz or anything.”
“You want to bring your little brother?” James asked with a chuckle.
“Well yeah. I mean, if you guys don’t mind.” He looked over towards the other three for conformation.
“I guess.” James said. “I’ll bring my sister’s Ouija board. Everybody meet me up here at nine-thirty. I got to go and make sure I don’t miss dinner.”
“Our mom will never let us out after nine.”
“Well then don’t come,” James said. His tone was dismissive but his eyes were sharp and predatory.
“We’ll…we’ll figure it out.”
Greg’s grin was wide and toothy as he rode back to the house. Anthony had done what he said he would. He stood up and asked that Greg be included. He wouldn’t let on that he had been there, and he knew he’d need to act surprised when Anthony asked him if he wanted to sneak out with him tonight. In most cases he would never even consider sneaking out after curfew, but he knew he’d never get another chance like this one if he chickened out. His brother had stuck his neck out. The ride back felt a lot faster than the ride to the quarry because he felt like he was floating.
That night the two of them snuck out of the front door. Anthony had been adamant about Greg and himself bringing their keys. It wouldn’t do to get home only to find out they had locked themselves out. Greg double checked the pocket of his jeans and assured Anthony he was ready. The two of them had left their bikes in the yard to keep from having to open the garage and pushed them halfway down the street before mounting up.
They made their way down the various streets cautiously. The street lights illuminated the way for most of the trip but the last half mile was on the outskirts where the lights were fewer and far between. Anthony narrowly avoided a pothole that would have sent him ass over teakettle and ended the night in the emergency room instead of the quarry. Calling his parents from the ER to tell them he and Greg had snuck out and landed in the hospital would be a surefire way to end up in the morgue shortly after.
They parked their bikes where they had stashed them earlier that day and Greg hit the button on the side of his watch to illuminate the time. It was a quarter to ten and the two of them moved as quickly as they could without falling down to the pit where the rest of the James Gang was waiting.
They were sitting in a semicircle with candles and the Ouija board sitting in the center. After perfunctory introductions of the newest member of the gang, Anthony and Greg took their place, completing the circle.
“Are we all ready?” James asked.
Nobody said anything at first, they only stare at each other.
“Ready,” Greg said.
James acknowledged him with a smile and soon the others followed suit. “Ready, James,” Charles said.
“Ready,” Anthony said.
“Ready,” Eddie and Tim said in unison.
James nodded again and beckoned them to touch the planchette with him and, of course, they oblige.
The second Greg’s fingers made contact with the light wood of the planchette he felt an unnatural chill run up his spine. His balls started to draw up into his body as the first real fear of the night began to sink in. Greg had been nervous when they snuck out of the house because if they were to get caught, his mother would do far more than shit a bird. She was bound to shit a flock of them. This felt different somehow.
It was more unnatural.
Greg surveyed the rest of the boys. Their faces were a plethora of silhouetted features and each of them took on the appearance of skulls. Even Charles’ usually pudgy face appeared gaunt in the candlelight. The pit’s pool of water lay stagnant and the smell of the sludge and algae hung in the air. He was vaguely aware that Anthony’s breath was coming out in hitches and jerks.
“Are there any spirits here?” James asked suddenly.
Greg looked up at him and even in the low candlelight he could see that he was going pale. Nothing happened at first and everyone (Greg included) let out a sigh of relief. He hadn’t really expected anything to happen, but the unknown had terrified Greg. Before he could get far into his own inner monologue the wooden planchette moved slowly to the YES on the board.
“What in the actual fuck?” Anthony said.
Greg looked over at his brother who was now ghostly white. At a glance, he could see that everyone else was too. Though pale, but a creepy smile had been plastered to his face and his eyes appeared to glaze over.
“What is your name?” Greg asked. It was out of his mouth before he could stop the compulsion and Anthony stared at him mouth agape.
Greg opened his mouth to apologize when the planchette once again began to move until it came to rest on the letter “N”. They watched in fascination as the word “Nergal” was spelled out before him. Greg was about to ask it another question when it suddenly started to move again, this time spelling out “Jaqon”.
“I guess there’s two of them,” James said.
“I’m done.” Charles pulled his hands back from the planchette and started to get to his
James looked at him, pointedly annoyed, and rolled his eyes. “Don’t be such a baby.”
“I’m not being a baby. I’m just done with this shit. This is creepy.” “Just sit down.”
“Fuck you, James. I said I’m fucking done with…”
Charles was silenced mid-sentence as a shadow coming from the pond wrapped itself around his throat. His hands flew up to his neck as his air was cut off. Greg screamed and jumped back as he saw the tentacles reaching for them. They appeared to be made up of the shadows. Charles’ face was turning purple when he fell to the ground, still clutching his throat as the shade dragged him back towards the water.
Greg sprung to his feet and turned toward his brother who was already up and backing away from the tentacles. Eddie and Tim were both fighting against shadows that had grabbed them by their legs and James was being dragged by his arm into the water. His screams were ear piercing at first but were soon cut short into a gurgle as his face was pulled under water.
Greg would have continued to sit and stare at James as a tentacle wrapped itself around his leg had he not felt someone yank him by the back of his shirt. His collar tightened around his throat and he had a moment of panic.
It has me! he thought as he pulled forward towards the pool to escape the force pulling
Anthony spun him around and leaned down into his face. His lips were moving but Greg couldn’t hear him over the sound of guttural, inhuman screaming. Terror was taking over when Anthony brought his hand across his face. Greg blinked wildly and tears began to well up in the corner of his eyes. Anthony had never hit him like that but suddenly the sound coming out of his mouth was audible.
“Run Greg!” Anthony screamed.
Greg didn’t need to be told twice. He took off in a sprint past Anthony who followed closely behind him as they beat up the path towards their bikes. Greg was too terrified to look over his shoulder to see if they were being followed and mounted his bike after a running start. He could hear Anthony pedaling behind him. He felt his heart beating out of his chest as he pedaled like a mad bastard trying to beat the devil.
When he had cleared the first two streets, he snuck a glance behind him and saw that Anthony was at least fifteen feet back. He slowed a bit and allowed him to catch up. As they pulled up to their house, Greg’s bike struck the curb and he was thrown from his bike. . He landed hard on his shoulder and rolled onto his back. Anthony came up next to him and bailed off of his bike without stopping. He ran to Greg and pulled him up into his lap. They were both breathing hard and tears were flowing freely as Greg crawled up his brother’s body to embrace him. Anthony hugged him back and soon they were both sobbing and screaming into each others shoulder.
“Thank you so much,” Greg said between sobs. “Thank you for grabbing me!” “I love you,” Anthony said.
It seemed to be the only thing he could say. He was still saying it when a black tentacle reached out from the darkness and wrapped them into a cold embrace.
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