In the previous episode, Mark’s uncle–and Rivertown’s sheriff– has called to see if Mark’s missing friend, Tim Flynn, has been staying at the Skandersen house. It’s been three days with no word. Mark decides to do something about it. Readers chose that he hike out to the old Indian Cave in the woods to see if his friend is hiding there.
It came to me immediately.
“The old Indian Cave,” I said it out loud.
Tim and I had found the cave by accident some years before, throwing a ball around while we were hiking. Waste of time, that, since it hit the trees more often than not. I’d thrown it to Tim and he tipped it, knocking it into the thickest ivy I ever saw. We went after it, ripping off leaves.
We pulled at the layers and vines of that ivy until Tim thought he saw the ball. But what he really saw was a chunk of busted up pottery. We didn’t think much of that, but Tim found three arrowheads that day and I found one. I still have it in a shoebox.
Can you tell that I’m stalling for time, here? That I’m having a hard time telling you what happened out at the cave?
It was a good half-hour hike, if you knew the right paths. And hell, I was fifteen. I knew every path around Rivertown.
I was distracted the whole walk. Got smacked in the face with a few branches, but I was lost in worry about what made Tim leave so fast. It had to have been bad this time.
I neared the cave, coming around behind it. The plan was to jump out at Tim, then laugh. Seems stupid now, but we did stuff like that. I came charging around the side of the cave.
“Aaaarrrggghhhh!”–I was yelling like the half-assed idiot I was.
A filthy sock. A pair of jeans, torn at the leg and caked in mud. Both Tim’s. The Flynn’s didn’t keep full closets of clothing. Tim’s stepfather drank most of his paycheck, when he had one.
So Tim had been there at the cave. Left behind bits of what he’d been wearing. But where did Tim go that he didn’t need his pants?
I looked throughout the cave, the land around it. Nothing.
Then the wind blew. And, oh Jesus, the smell.
Imagine you packed your freezer with venison you got hunting. Imagine you had a really good year, and that thing was packed fit to burst. Now imagine you went on vacation. Your freezer broke, popped open, and rotted sour deer filled your house with the most rancid air possible.
Now you’re close to imagining what hit me out there in the woods.
“Tiiiiiiim!” I screamed it.
What could he be doing out there to make a smell like that? He must be nearby, I figured. Maybe he ate something bad he found; maybe he took a dump after he digested it.
You see, I kept telling myself Tim must have made the smell. He was near. He was okay.
I was lying to myself back then, like I’ve already lied to you– that wasn’t mud caked on his sock and pants.
It was blood. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.