He was falling, and as the water seared his throat, he lost the ability to speak, or scream, or plead for the time that he needed. The time to grow beyond the slender apparition that was his body- lithe, tanned arms and legs that flailed in the emerald waters of the placid lake, frantically pushing at the loneliness as the Others laughed.

He choked on his words but  they had never mattered anyways. In his short years, that had become all too clear. And now he understood… The laughter had found its way to the surface from a much deeper and darker place. A place of nightmares in a  little boy’s dreams, where wild horses run from creatures with glistening fangs and glowing eyes.

From the inferno where love is lost and knows not its name.

In that moment, as time twisted and bent the golden rays of hope, a voice stilled his pain and the ache of acknowledgement that he was less. The voice swirled around him and carried the Words to the depths of his soul until there was only Love.

He felt the arms close around him and caress his still soul, and he crossed through the barrier where only one thing ever mattered.


He was home, in the embrace of  his Father’s love, and all around him the glow of those that had come before enveloped him and his pain turned to joy. He knew them, even tho he had never met most of them… And they knew him as well, and he was never more sure of anything.

But now they spoke as one and he was lifted from that place and his heart filled with love. They dressed him in silver armor and blessed  him with words. He knew then that he must leave, for there was much to do. And with that pure heart and the power of love the Others would feel his sword, for now it was tempered in the fires of  Truth and the battle was joined.

The 10 -year- old blond boy turned to look back and then stepped into the darkness….

Matty opened his eyes and squinted at the light streaming through the bedroom window. He wiped at the tears with the back of his hand and shook his head. It had been a bad stretch and his only salvation at times was his dreams, but sometimes, even they took him places he didn’t want to go anymore.

He turned to his left and looked across the darkened room. Gerry was still asleep, wrapped in the blue and white quilt that was his favorite. It was embossed with the shapes of little airplanes and vehicles of all types- cars, tractors and trains, and even a few ships… Tugboats nearly identical to the ones in a children’s book that lay askew on the braided carpet at the foot of the bed. It had been on the bed when the boys’ father read the younger brother to sleep the night before, but had unceremoniously found a new resting place as the boy somersaulted his way through a long fall slumber.

Matty shook his head and    pushing his blankets aside, swung  his pajama clad legs over the side  of  the homemade bed. He felt the  heavy pine frame rub against the  backs of his thighs, as he tugged at  the light blue cotton pj’s and  changed into his saturday duds.

He donned a cotton shirt that was a bit frayed at the collar, due to its age and the fact that it was a hand- me- down, bequeathed to him because he had older cousins who had outgrown it.

Still, it was a comfortable shirt and not suitable for school or church, so Matty often wore it on the weekends. Now though, the sun was getting lower in the sky as summer waned and vast flocks of migrating birds filled the skies. Soon, a sweater or winter jacket would be required to ward off the cold until the backyard apple tree bloomed once again, and the birds returned from their winter retreat.

Matty secured the bronze colored button on his dungarees and slipped into a fresh pair of socks that he took from the maple dresser drawer at the foot of his bed. It was a small dresser that housed the clothes of both young boys, in the tiny, east- facing room. There was simply no room for another large piece of furniture, so each boy shared that and the closet that seemed to be overstuffed with clothes. Some belonged to the brothers but there were also prissy little dresses at one end of the closet pole that belonged to their sisters who shared a bedroom behind the boys. In that room, three girls were bivouacked, and they shared one closet and two dressers… and the overflow ended up infiltrating the boy’s bedroom. Such was life in a large family, tho…

It was only 6:30 A.M. when the blond ten year old finished dressing. He was alone and would have the run of the house for the next half hour, since saturday was a breather of sorts and generally more carefree. He crawled back onto his bed and pulled back the heavy blue drapes that blocked out most of the morning sun, and surveyed the backyard of the tiny red cape. Little stirred in the early light.

He searched the deep shadows under the evergreen trees and scanned the sideyard for motion of any kind, and felt a  chill run through his body. There was nothing to see, but he no longer trusted his eyes or his ears to keep him safe. That time had passed . Now, the dreams reminded him that there was evil in the shadows and sometimes in the places where little boys played, so he no longer trusted the silence. He perched in the window for a bit and opened it enough to feel the cool morning air seep through and push its way through the thin shirt as it raised goosebumps on his bare arms.  It felt nice tho… invigorating in a way that made the young boy a little jittery and needing to pee after the long night of restless sleep.

But, he stayed in the window for a while longer, and listened… He did this every morning before anyone awoke. It was his secret ritual of sorts- a kind of tradition that made him feel that he was connected. He sometimes waited for a half hour before the first call of the mourning doves settled gently from the highest branches of the blue spruce in back of the old farmhouse where his grandparents once lived. It was an eerie call that wafted on the frosty morning air, just as the first hint of light pushed away the darkness in the eastern sky.

And there it was– The haunted  cooing of the gentle birds as they awoke from their slumber and warmed themselves in the first rays of the October sun… Matty closed his eyes and let the gentle call wash over him. He shivered as it repeated and like a beacon, slowly brought the rest of the outdoor creatures to life in the backyard… Soon, the rustling of the awakened squirrels could be heard, and as the 10 year old boy opened his eyes again, the departing shadows exposed the shape of the garden- dwelling cottontail who had now started to forage  amongst the scattered leaves that had fallen from the grandfather apple tree. He was hard to make out in the early light, but Matty had very sharp vision and watched intently as the young rabbit chewed on the remains of a macintosh apple that had fallen from the tree. It had nearly rolled  into an area of bramble where the light brown creature hid from the marauding hawks  during the day. The bunny could, if necessary, take one quick leap, and return to the safety of that brush at the first warning chatter of the grey squirrel, who along with the resident blue jays, seemed to be the first alerters when danger was amiss.

But now, everything was quiet and Matty slowly closed the window and turned away. He quietly crawled to the edge of his bed and slid to the floor. Gerry fidgeted and turned in his sleep, but did not awaken, as the boy froze in his tracks. This morning, he wanted to be alone, because he had planned something that he needed to keep secret. So, he waited until the 7 year old boy started to snore again, in little gasps, and then he took the blue football sweater from the bedpost where he had draped it and softly sneaked away…

He was outside within a few minutes, and before anyone knew he was awake as was the plan, and as the first rays of the sun pierced the dense scrape, Matty had made his way to the hollowed- out base of the giant tree, where he had secreted away the awful item… Something he knew that he should not have. Something that he had come across in the most peculiar way, in the depths of the haunted woods not far from home, where he was often afraid to be alone, and the trees spoke to him in groans and wind driven clatters as he scurried through, looking  over his shoulder in case the demons were at hand.

The black steel casing had almost escaped his keen eye that day, but the unnerving ‘snap’ of a dead twig had alerted him and drawn his eye to the area as a neighborhood dog shuffled by, his nose down as he followed the scent of something that he found interesting and Matty breathed a sigh of relief… But, then he saw it, wedged in the crook of  a rogue stump. What was left of the  tree had an almost monstrous quality about it. What was once a graceful matron of the marshy area was now a gnarled and unrecognizable hunk of rotting chaos.

It was as if the devil himself had created that evil- feeling shape and the boy nearly ran, but was drawn back by the curious object. It was put there recently or it would have been covered with leaves by now.  Matty looked around but saw noone… He pushed his way past the overhanging branches and nervously approached the strange entity. He looked around again, and listened, but he was alone, so he climbed up onto the rotted base and managed to stretch and reach the charcoal- colored object and wrest it from the crook of the upper stump. The cold steel felt intimidating and heavy but he hefted it and turned it over in his hands. Engraved in the dark steel was the word ‘Crosman’, followed by the numbers ‘.177cal.’

He knew immediately what he was holding. It was identical to one that the son of the farm foreman had. A boy who was three years older than the young 5th grader, and who was accustomed to handling firearms. In fact, he and Matty had spent many secret hours, roaming through the dense cornfields and forested areas of the farm, toting the pellet pistol and a pump action BB rifle around, pretending to look for invading Nazis or even hostile Comanches… It had not gone unnoticed by the boy’s father, who scolded them half- heartedly, with a smirk that exposed his real feelings- they were boys, and boys should know how to use guns. It was in their nature.

The scolding was more to placate the boy’s mother, who insisted that the guns should be kept locked away until an adult could supervise their use and guarantee that a stray pellet or BB didn’t find its way to the wrong window, or worse- a vulnerable eye…

Every incident like that was followed by a moratorium, until the attention waned and life continued on the busy farm. Then, the two friends would sneak away with the hidden guns, usually more attentive to the minutia of concealment and subterfuge. It became a game within a game.

But now, Matty had possession of his own weapon, and had also procured a handful of lead pellets from the supply that his next door cousins maintained. In that house, rifles and shotguns were the norm. It was a ‘hunter’s house, and Uncle Al was proud of his large collection of weapons, including a rifle that was rumored to be able to ‘take down’ the largest land animal on earth- the African elephant… Of course, that was what the boys were told, never having witnessed it in action, or for that matter, having hunted such an enormous creature! Squirrrels and woodchucks were about the average size of the quarry, in reality, even tho both cousins insisted that it was only a matter of time…

In Matty’s case, it would be two more years until he  wore down his parents and was finally gifted his first Daisy BB rifle, a replica of an 1894 Winchester saddle rifle that he would spend countless hours with, honing his skills as a marksman.

The pistol was a different matter, tho. To the slender blond boy, it was something that exuded power. Something that, in his mind, might make a person take notice. Maybe even stop.

He turned it over in his hands and then held it at arms length, and pointed it at the hollowed -out tree that had been its hiding place the past two days. He imagined an animal emerging from the dark recesses of the tree and pulled on the trigger. The wolf-like creature lay dead at his feet, its fangs bared and dripping with the blood of the innocents who had not been aware.

He felt its power and it spoke to him using comforting words. Noone could hurt him now. This was the arm of God, and the mystery of the gun’s appearance no longer mattered, any more than his cries for help had mattered before… His eyes were cold and expressionless as he pulled the trigger, again and again.

There was not so much as a click… Matty opened the breach and loaded the dull grey pellet. He cocked the gun, pulling back on the casing.

He felt its power tingle inside him and send chills throughout his body, ending in his groin. He was alive again, and angry. His mind reeled and time froze as he turned to face the heavy hand and the foul breath, only this time he was in charge and the monster would be slain… No more… No more… It was all a blur as he held the point of the spear to the demon’s throat and waited for the right moment.

The whirring flutter interrupted his thoughts and he spun and fired…Wildly, towards the sudden sound…. An awful sound, mournful and choking, shattered the stillness of the morning and then from the upper branches of the stately tree, a tumbling mass of cream colored feathers came, twisting and falling… careening off the blue fingered branches and finally landing with a sickening thud on the cold ground at the boy’s feet…

Matty looked down, stunned. The young dove twitched and opened its beak, pleading for mercy, as a small spot of blood grew larger on its cream- colored neck. Its eyes stared blankly at the 10 year old hunter and the dying bird tried to extend one wing as the boy’s eyes filled with tears. The gun slid from his hand and dropped to the ground near the gasping bird, as Matty kneeled down. He gently lifted the trembling bird and held it close to his heart, but it was too late and he felt the trembling subside and then it was over.

He didn’t move or look up at the rustling of wings in the tree above him. He stayed there and searched his heart for the reason as one last call from the mournful survivor wafted from the blue spruce followed by the whistling wings as the mate took flight.

For once, the Others were silent.