Web Site: sandy henry writes
Three years after recovering from a breakdown, Kyle's buried secrets resurface...along with his penchant for murder.
by Sandy Henry
He’d put it off as long as he could.
Now he had to go. He figured he’d run right in, tell them he needed replacement contacts and be out in twenty minutes. Simple.
Kyle Morasco wasn’t always so afraid of doctors. As a kid, he almost looked forward to visiting old Doc Vrabel, whether it was for a sore throat or a booster shot. He always got a Tootsie Pop, orange with the chewy chocolate center.
Then, when he was a little older, the needles and syringes didn’t faze him at all. He was kind of fascinated by the blood as it drained from his arm and filled the tube, although the tech and his mom just thought he was brave. His mother, Evelyn, had always believed the best about her only child.
Until the day she’d learned the truth and had him committed.
It was three years ago. He was seventeen when he killed his best friend. Kyle and Paul had grown up together in the same Pittsburgh neighborhood a few suburban miles southwest of the city. They did everything together. And they’d nearly died together. But Kyle didn’t die. At least not in the natural. Only the inside of him passed on, his heart and soul rotting away like Paul’s flesh and bones beneath the ground in St. Margaret’s cemetery.
He entered Kresky’s Optical and walked up to the desk. His left eye twitched, but he didn’t walk all that way without both lenses. It was like looking through an ice cube with just one. And his glasses, which made him look like a dork, were somewhere in his dresser at home.
The older woman at the counter smiled, returning Kyle’s wink. “Name please?” she asked, staring at the appointment book, pen in hand.
“Oh, I don’t have an appointment,” Kyle explained, glancing around. The place was almost empty, which he’d expected at this time of the day. It was dinner time. “And I don’t need to see Dr. Kresky. I just need a replacement lens. My left one has a small rip in it.”
The woman looked up, chewing on the end of the Bic ballpoint. “Oh, Dr. Kresky isn’t here any more. Dr. Cotter owns the place now. And he won’t sell you anything without first examining you.”
Kyle sighed heavily. “Will I have to wait long?”
Dr. Lewis Cotter came in close with his scope. So close that Kyle stifled a laugh. And a gag. Dr. Cotter’s breath was repulsive. But it smelled like nothing Kyle could identify. Kind of a pungent mix of garlic, cigarettes and raw chicken gone bad maybe. Kyle swallowed, trying to focus on getting his prescription and getting the hell out. He stared straight ahead, into the tiny white light, as he asked, “Where did Dr. Kresky go?”
“He died?” Kyle jerked his head, stunned. “What happened to ‘im? He was my mom’s age.”
“That a fact? Stop moving,” Dr. Cotter ordered, grabbing Kyle’s chin and holding it level. “Dunno what happened to him. Just that he’s dead.” Kyle swallowed, praying that the orange juice he’d just polished off would stay put.
A short time later, Kyle was being fitted for his new contacts, clear save for the faint tinge of jade green which made them easier to find in the saline solution.
“How’s that feel?” the pretty brunette optician asked.
Kyle blinked twice. “Good. They feel just fine, thanks.” He stared into her pale blue eyes, wondering if she could read his mind. Or if she’d seen him staring at her chest a few minutes ago. Her name tag identified her as Breanna, and she looked like she’d just stepped out of the pages of Playboy. He guessed her age to be around twenty-four or twenty-five, and like the others in the tiny office, she sported a starched white lab coat. But underneath she wore a tangerine sweater—and a matching bra. He could see the satin ribbon at the top of each cup, as well as a satiny orange strap on her left shoulder.
“Good.” She smiled, revealing a row of perfect, bleach-white teeth. “Now we’ll just get you some products and send you on your way.”
Ten minutes later, he was walking down Carothers Avenue toward home. He’d cut through the cemetery like he always did, even though it was a little out of his way. It comforted him to spend time with Paul. He’d talk to him like he did in the old days, and most times it made him feel good.
But sometimes the ache in his heart was so bad that he was tempted to return to his old habits. The habits that had left his friend dead and Kyle locked up in the psych ward at Presbyterian Hospital.
It was dark now, but the moon was full and bright. Kyle walked over to Paul’s grave and sat down in the grass. Out of habit, he pulled a few weeds that grew in front of the headstone. Then he dug his fingers into the dirt. He unearthed a pocket knife—the knife Paul had given him as a birthday present when they were fifteen.
The knife that Kyle had plunged into his friend’s gullet three years before.
Only Kyle knew about the knife. He’d told the cops that he’d thrown it into the Allegheny River after he’d confessed to killing Paul. They believed that he’d tossed the pen knife from the Sixth Street Bridge on his way to the community college. But he couldn’t do it. No matter what else had happened, the pewter handled knife had been a special present. And he would never part with it. Unless he returned it to Paul.
Kyle didn’t say too much as he sat at the grave side. He was still getting used to his new lenses, which somehow felt bigger in his eyes. He knew they’d be more comfortable tomorrow. And then next week, he was scheduled to go back in to Dr. Cotter’s for a quick checkup. He’d argued with him at first, stating emphatically that he’d worn contacts for years, and he’d never had a problem. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But they had him by the balls. They’d informed him that they wouldn’t process his insurance if he didn’t come back in, so he relented. Besides, maybe he’d get to see Breanna again. He considered telling Paul about Breanna, but he’d wait until next time. Maybe there’d be more to tell.
He shoved the knife back down into the dirt and pulled the blades of grass over the hole. Then he grabbed his bag of saline and eyedrops and cleaners and got to his feet. He dusted off the back of his jeans with his hand.
And then he saw him. Moving in the distance at the same row of headstones. He thought it was a man, but it was pretty dark. It might have been a woman. He squinted, trying to make out the dark form.
The guy turned swiftly, staring at Kyle. Kyle gasped—the man had no face. Just a mouth, open and round, like the carolers depicted in Dicken’s stories. And there was blood all around the lips. Kyle blinked
Then he opened his eyes and the form was gone.
A few hours later, Kyle finished his Kraft mac and cheese and scraped a few stray noodles into the disposal. His mom would be mad that he hadn’t eaten the vegetable soup she’d made, but she was at her night class and wouldn’t be home to bitch at him until after ten o’clock. He figured he’d at least score a few points by taking out the trash, though. He bundled it up in a big plastic bag and carried it out to the Rubbermaid bin in back of the house.
He popped the lid with a burp, then he jumped as a big black rat leapt from the can! Its claws scratched Kyle’s arm, and it hissed before scurrying off the edge of the deck and under the small crevice where the wood fence met the grass.
“Shit!” Kyle shuddered, shaking his arm and stomping his boots on the wooden deck. Then he plopped the bag into the can and securely fastened the lid. As an afterthought, he picked up a red brick at the corner of his mother’s flower bed and set it atop the trash bin.
He was turning to go back inside when he caught movement out in the yard. He squinted in the dark toward the rear corner, or the back nine as he called it, which was barely illuminated by the distant streetlight. “Lady?” Kyle walked over, holding out his hand. As he approached, he could see his dog, a collie-shepherd mix, near the porch swing his dad had made when Kyle was ten. “Come on, Girl,” he beckoned. And then he remembered.
He’d helped his dad bury Lady in the yard beneath the tree.
Suddenly, the dog’s lips curled back and she snarled. Her eyes, a deep fudge brown, glowed blood red in the darkness, and Kyle backed up. Slowly, silently, he receded toward the house.
Then the red eyes were gone.
“How did you like the soup?” Evelyn asked, as she loaded the dishwasher. Kyle finished his Cap’N Crunch cereal. He washed the maize-colored milk down the sink and handed her his bowl.
“It was good,” he lied, hoping she didn’t catch him.
“Good.” She grabbed him by his arm as he was walking off. “No you don’t. Where’s my kiss?”
Kyle kissed her on the cheek, rubbing his sleepy eyes.
“Say, did you get the green contacts this time?” Evelyn asked, staring up into Kyle’s face.
“They’re not really green. They just have a little bit of color so I can find them in the saline.”
“Kyle, they’re green. Like Kermit green. Go see for yourself.”
Kyle yawned. “Whatever. I’ll be home after school. Later.”
After Evelyn had gone to work in the small law office down the street, Kyle showered and dressed for his mid-morning class. He’d transferred from Community to Keystone College downtown. And his first class today was at 10:45. He stood before the mirror, straightening the collar on his oxford shirt. He blinked.
“Shit. She wasn’t kiddin’. They sure are green.” He moved in for closer inspection, checking out the contacts in the mirror. He should have taken them out and cleaned them before bed—he’d promised Breanna he’d use all the crap she’d sold him— but they finally felt comfortable and he didn’t want to mess with them.
He stepped back, studying his reflection. His eyes were the color of spring grass, and with his lingering, late-summer tan, his eyes looked freakish, possessed.
He’d tried to rationalize the bizarre things he’d been seeing. But he couldn’t tell anybody. They’d think he was crazy again, and they’d put him away. No, whether he thought he was slipping back into the abyss or not, he couldn’t share his fears with a living soul.
Maybe he could share them with Paul.
He still thought of Paul Wygand as his best friend, even all these years since his death. He hoped and prayed that Paul had forgiven him, and that he was in a better place. He would have to be. The end was a long time coming.
The pair had discovered the thrill of getting high together back when they were about sixteen. It had started with a joint or two, but by the end of their senior year, they’d tried it all.
At first, Kyle was pretty good at keeping his secrets from his parents. But when his dad discovered him shooting up one night in his bedroom, he’d hit the roof. Tim Morasca beat the hell of his son that night, then he checked him into rehab the next morning. When he was released from the clinic a month later, Kyle was a changed kid. He worked harder in school and brought up his grades. He got a job working at a movie theater, where he’d met his girlfriend, Hope. And for a while, things were good.
But then Kyle’s dad split and his parents got divorced. That’s when things really started to fall apart. And when Kyle and Paul renewed their friendship.
They were hanging out in the big shed that sat off from Paul’s house. It was Friday night, and they’d been partying hard. A case of Busch, then some Stoli’s. Then Paul pulled out his secret stash.
Kyle closed his eyes now, craving the rush he got from the needle as it pierced his skin. He’d been clean since…the accident. That’s what they all called it. The accident, the end result of a misunderstanding about a girl, Kyle’s girl. November 6th, 2001. That was the day that Kyle Morasco and Paul Wygand had the first fight of their lives. And the night Kyle stuck his best friend in the gut with the pocket knife.
Kyle glanced again at his reflection in the long mirror on the back of his closet door. He wiped a stray tear from his cheek. Yes, he’d go and talk to Paul after school. That always made him feel better.
Kyle stuffed his Sociology textbook into his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. He was squeezing past the chairs in the narrow aisle when Jenna Navaro grabbed him by the arm.
“Gross. What happened to you?” she asked, staring at the scratch marks that raked across his forearm.
Kyle glanced down, his eyes nearly popping from his skull. He watched, horrified, as a large white maggot wriggled from the bloody scratch made about twelve hours before by the huge rat in his backyard. The plump larva wriggled its way free from the oozing wound, then Kyle jerked his arm away and raced out the door.
Out in the hallway, he blinked hard and forced himself to glance down at his arm. This time, all he saw were three red scratches. No blood. No ooze. No maggot. Kyle closed his eyes. It was happening again—he could feel it. It was taking over his mind and he didn’t know how to make it stop. He decided to cut his next two classes and visit Paul at St. Margaret’s. But first he needed to see Breanna about his lenses. He’d gotten lots of ribbing and snide comments about them at school, and they made him feel like a freak.
Kyle tossed another wary glance at his arm, then he looked around, self-conscious. He wondered if anyone else could see the freak that lived inside him.
“But why don’t you like them? I think green eyes are sexy.” Breanna smiled, and for a moment, Kyle was ready to give in. “Kyle?”
He loved the way she said his name. Two syllables, the way it was meant to be pronounced. Here in his hometown, people seemed to screw it up, and it came out “cow.” He’d always thought his name was nice enough on paper. But until now, it had never sounded so lyrical.
Breanna leaned in, this time revealing a lacy lavender bra beneath her buttoned lab coat. “You test drive them just a little bit longer, like, say, for our dinner date tonight.”
Kyle was instantly alert. “Dinner? Um, you mean with me?”
Breanna twisted a strand of shiny chestnut hair around her finger. “Yes, with you. If you don’t mind going out with an older woman.”
Kyle smirked, his green eyes sparkling. “I sure don’t. Where do you want me to pick you up?”
“How about 7:15, right here? I’m working until seven.”
By the time Kyle got to the cemetery, he’d all but forgotten his terrifying visions and hallucinations. All he could think about was Breanna. He knew that Paul would be happy for him…if he were here. And he’d probably go for Breanna himself. After all, she looked an awful lot like Hope. And Paul had found her to be very attractive.
Kyle forced the memory from his mind as he sat down on the grass. He scratched some bird poop from the top of the headstone with his thumbnail, then he dug his hand into the earth and pulled the pocket knife from its hiding place.
“Man, I wish you could see her,” he said, thoughtlessly cleaning under his fingernails with the shiny blade. “She’s gorgeous. Long brown hair, blue eyes. And she’s older, mid-twenties I’m guessing.” Kyle laughed evilly. “Bet she could show me a thing or two, huh?”
He thought about the reason he’d really come. He wanted to confess to Paul that he thought he was losing it again. But he was too excited about his date. He didn’t want to spoil it. It was probably better that he just try to forget.
He folded the blade into the body of the knife and pushed it down into the dirt. He checked his watch as he jumped to his feet. He had a good three hours to get ready for his dinner with Breanna.
Kyle was tripping along happily when suddenly he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. He turned to look into the face of a stranger.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret,” the man began, his voice deep and resonant. Kyle tried to pull from his grasp, but the old man, dressed in a black overcoat and hat, clung firm. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Kyle asked, finally yanking his shoulder free.
“Look it up, Sonny. Antoine de Saint-Exupery.”
The man smiled, revealing a row of unnaturally-white dentures. “You’ll find out. Soon enough.”
He changed his shirt three times. Finally, he settled on a steel blue tee with a cotton button-down and his favorite jeans. He didn’t want to look like a kid—Breanna was a good four or five years older. He grabbed some hair product of his mom’s—it smelled expensive—and he worked it into his short blond hair. Then he popped out his cat’s eye green contacts and rinsed each one carefully. He’d promised Breanna he’d dump his old solutions down the sink—she was pretty sure from the careless attitude he’d had about his eyes they were probably all expired.
But he’d misplaced the bag and figured he’d just finish the rest of the saline in the medicine cabinet. He popped his right lens into his eye and shrieked like a ten year-old girl. It was like a poker from Hell’s fire searing into his retina. He plucked the lens out and lay it on the sink top. Then he splashed cold water in his eyes until the burning stopped.
Ten minutes later, the lenses were clean and comfortable, and most of the redness in his right eye had faded. He’d finally located the Kresky Optical shopping bag.
He’d been a good boy and used all new cleaners and saline, which would probably make Breanna happy. Breanna and Kyle, he thought to himself. That sounded nice. Kind of like Barbie and Ken, with the same initials and all.
He needed to be cool. It was one date. She might not like him when it was all over. Maybe she’d think he was boring. Or worse—inexperienced. He took a last look in the mirror and nodded. Cool.
His mom had let him borrow her forest green Mustang convertible. The car was a total chick magnet, no matter who was driving it. Even Woody Allen could look cool behind the wheel of that car. Kyle pulled up to the store just as Breanna was leaving.
She looked incredible. Totally hot. Wearing a short black miniskirt and a snug lavender blouse, she spotted him at the wheel of the Mustang.
“Wow. Cool car.”
“Can you bring me back after to get my car?” She pointed her long manicured finger toward the lot behind the store.
She slid in beside him and pulled the door shut. It was dark out and too chilly to ride with the top down. Kyle prayed silently that he would somehow run into every guy from high school who’d called him a loser. Every girl who’d ever turned him down. Cool.
He took her to the Church Grille. It was an odd place—a grand old stone church that had been converted into a chic, trendy restaurant. They brewed over a dozen specialty beers, and the menu was diverse, offering everything from burgers and fries to salmon and shark steaks. The booths were constructed of refurbished church pews, and huge beer vats were lined up on the former altar.
Kyle pushed his plate away. “I’m packed.”
Breanna wiped her red lipstick with her napkin. “Me, too.”
Suddenly, all the pigment drained from Breanna’s face and she stared over at him, resembling an x-ray. He blinked. X-ray. She reached over and touched his hand across the table, and her icy fingers made him recoil from her touch.
And then her face returned to normal. “Kyle? Are you alright?”
“We need to go.” He threw forty dollars onto the table and slid out of the pew.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, following him past the throng of patrons waiting near the door. She reached out to take his hand, but he pulled back.
They didn’t speak on the drive back to Kresky’s. The place was dark. Finally, as they pulled up beside the red Sebring in the lot, Breanna asked, “Did I do something wrong?”
“I want different contacts.”
“Excuse me? What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’m serious. I want clear ones, like I had before. And I’m not leaving here without them.”
Kyle sat on the short stool at the counter. Breanna walked over from the opposite side and took a seat.
“I’m sorry, but we’re gonna have to order you a new pair. We don’t have your prescription in stock.”
“Well, that’s not good enough. I don’t want these. There’s—there’s something wrong with them.”
Breanna took a deep breath, her Wonder bra straining the buttons on her shirt. “I know it. And I’m sorry.”
Kyle looked up into her pale blue eyes. “What do you mean you know? “
She leaned in close, and he could smell the Chardonnay on her breath. “Kyle, you’re sweet. I like you. But I have to be honest—we can’t get you new lenses. Ever.”
Kyle could feel panic rising up in his throat. “Wh—what are you saying?”
“You’re one of us now. You see things, experience things that other people can’t.” She licked her full red lips. “You know what I’m talking about.”
No I don’t, he wanted to scream. But he couldn’t process it. Finally he choked out, “Who are you? What do you want with me?”
“Don’t you want to come with us, Kyle?”
He backed away from the counter. “Us?”
“Uh huh. All of us. Call us whatever you like—we’ve heard it all. Zombies. Undead. Some even call us vampires. None are really accurate, but it doesn’t matter. Just come with us.”
Kyle ran over to the shelf and grabbed a bottle of eyedrops. He twisted off the cap and squirt some solution into his eyes. It burned a little, but he was able to grab hold of the lens in his right eye.
“That won’t matter. They’re glued on. You can never take them out.”
He turned to look at her. She was a hag now, wrinkled and lined, loose skin hanging on the bones in her face. He scraped at the lens with his nail, trying to loosen it, pry it off. The hag threw back her head, her long wisps of iron-gray hair falling over her hideous face, laughing. Kyle slammed his fist into the glass countertop, shattering it into a million jagged shards. The loud, crackling laugh reverberated inside his skull until Kyle placed his hands over his ears to shut it out.
He stood over Breanna’s body. She was beautiful in death, as she had been in life. Except now her lavender blouse was steeped in her blood, a large shard of glass protruding from her neck. Her blue eyes stared straight ahead, asking why?
Evelyn Morasco clutched the police officer’s arm when she spotted him by Paul’s graveside. It was dawn, and she’d been up all night worrying, praying he’d come home safe and sound.
She ran over, followed by the cop. “Oh, Kyle, thank God you’re all right.”
But Kyle didn’t turn around. Rather he sat upright, shoulders fully erect. And he never uttered a sound.
“Son, your mother’s been worried half out of her mind. You alright?” He stared at velyn. “Answer me, Boy.”
They walked around and stood behind the granite marker. Both gasped, then his mother collapsed in a heap on the grass.
Kyle was covered in blood, Breanna’s blood, and his own. In his hand, he clutched the bloody penknife.
At the end of the blade was Kyle’s right eye. His left, green and glowing, stared straight ahead. And at that moment, he knew the man he’d seen earlier in the day had been right. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Just then, perhaps out of habit, Kyle pushed the bloody knife into the dirt. It was Paul’s after all, and it was as it should be.
For now they were even.
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|Reviewed by Shirley Cheng
|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|You did a strong job writing this, and for a first attempt at horror you did a damn good job with this one. I liked the flow with this one, it reminded me some of Ray Bradbury.|