A New Friend for Darius {Part 2 of 4}

Crypts & Cannibals: A Collection of Short Horror Stories

A New Friend for Darius {Part 2 of 4}

The baseball bashed into the back of Theodore's head.

"Play ball," announced Darius as Theodore scanned for signs of where Darius might be hiding.

"Not tonight. I have too much on my mind."

"Are you hoping that the pills will make me go away?"

"I know they won't," replied Theodore crassly, "Nothing makes you go away."

The boy's callous laughter disappeared down the hallway towards the kitchen. Theodore followed the sound into the long room featuring a wide, open fireplace for cooking. The room begged for a redesign but only suffered the misplacement of modern appliances.

"Goddamnit, Darius," cursed Theodore as he began replacing the scattered orange pills and green capsules into their bottles, "What the hell do you want?"

"To play," replied Darius, "You're my only friend, and I want to play."

"Maybe later," said Theodore to the empty space where the boy's voice emanated.

When all the pills were back in their bottles, Theodore padded his way up two flights of stairs, walked solemnly down the hallway, and opened the door to another staircase. Moonlight streamed in through the windows wrapping the large office situated higher than any other part of the house.

Father's big telescope hogged the space in front of the windows facing the lake. Theodore pointed the large tube toward the back of 842 Oakstead Drive.

"She's there again, isn't she?" asked Darius.

"Of course," retorted Theodore, "She'd rather be with him than her family."

"You know the solution."

"Fuck off, Darius," snapped the annoyed teenager as he looked around the room, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy who tormented him every night.

"I want to play," demanded the boy with anger swelling in his tone, "I want to play, now. I don't want to wait until later."

"Okay, stop," snapped Theodore as he felt the sharp pressure on his arm, "I'll check the traps. Just give me a fucking minute, you little bastard."

Theodore's toes mushed into the wet mulch of the garden. The heavy mist turned to rain as his flashlight beam revealed the hissing rat trapped in the cage behind the evergreen bush. The rodent screeched obscenities as its wire prison cell was roughly carried into the house.

Even before Theodore opened the door to go back into the mudroom, he could hear Darius' menacing giggle bouncing off the wainscoted walls.

Theodore set the trap on the floor in the mudroom, opened the pest's cage, and the rat charged out. The rodent ran less than five paces before its head and neck smashed against the floor. The small creature snarled and hissed as its floated upward in the air with its neck and torso smushed as if someone was gripping it tightly.

The crunch of bone followed by sucking and slurping sounds signaled that Darius' meal met with his satisfaction.

Theodore watched as the blood left the rodent and appeared to float in the air while the dying sacrificial offering deflated like a helium balloon after too many days. Another chomp and sloppy gulping sound followed as Darius' greedy face appeared with his teeth clamped hard on the rat's neck and shoulder. His eyes ablaze and flushed red with blood.

Theodore watched in horrific, mesmerized silence. Each greedy draw of the rat's blood into Darius' mouth flowed away from his pointy teeth, filling in more parts of the child's body. No matter how many times he witnessed the ghost child take human form, Theodore shuttered at the thought of what the little hell-spawned boy really wanted.

"Thank you, big brother," piped Darius as his arms wrapped around Theodore, hugging him tightly, "You're the best."

Theodore studied the boy's hair against his chest. Every dark strand perfectly combed. The boy's black suit, white shirt, and dark red tie remained neatly pressed. Night after night, the boy's attire looked exactly as it had while the child rested in the open coffin that his parents presented in the great room to mourning family and grandiloquent guests.

But the Darius that Theodore remembered didn't have this pale skin that shimmered with a ghostly radiance. Its translucence glowed of its own accord, even in the absence of light. While the boy's skin was disquieting, the child's glowing red eyes pressed any sympathy for his brother to the back corners of Theodore's mind.

As much as he wanted to be repulsed and push the child away, he hugged Darius back as he grappled with the guilt of not protecting his little brother better. He could feel the bump and disconnected vertebrae in the boy's back where the boy landed against the table when Father threw him in anger.

Darius stepped back from Theodore and announced, "It's time to play."

The brothers launched into the same nightly ritual that many siblings share. A ball tossed back and forth. Cars racing down long hallways. Wrestling and laughing without another care in the world.

"Darius, I have to go bed soon," said Theodore when a recess in their antics gave him pause him to glance at the clock.

"When will you finally help me?" inquired the boy.

"I don't know," replied Theodore, "Soon, maybe, I don't know."

The red tint in Darius' eyes glowed brighter and darker as he listened to his brother's response. The car in the boy's hand flew across the room, smashing into a thousand pieces against the wall.

"I see the gash across your face," screamed the angry child, "She hit you again; she's making you take those pills. How long do you have, brother, before you join me?"

Theodore ran the tips of his fingers across the long wound on his cheek. Mother's ring dug a trench that morning when she struck him as he lay in bed.

"But Darius did it!" he'd protested at her as he felt the warm blood oozing through his fingers while pressing them hard against his face.

"Not another word from you," she'd yelled angrily at the teen as he tried to get out of bed, "Put every one of these fucking toys and clothes back where they belong!"

Theodore's eyes pleaded with his little brother to find a different solution, to map a variant outcome, but Darius glared back at Theodore. As much as he didn't want to, he accepted that the little dead boy understood the adult occupants of this house as well as anyone.

"Join me or bring her to me," stated the angry child, "I need someone to play with me."

Theodore stared at his ghostly little brother. The knot in his stomach grew tighter and tighter. Anger, pity, and confusion slushed through his gut. He knew in his heart that the demon child was right. One day he would join the boy if he didn't help the child soon.

"Okay," Theodore said, relinquished, "But how do you know that she'll come?"

"Do what I told you to do, I promise that the little girl at 842 Oakstead Drive wants to have a friend as badly as I do," said Darius, the angry red tint in his eyes moderating. The little boy looked at his feet for a moment and then stared back at his older brother, "It's lonely here and I just, I just want a friend to play with me."

To be continued...