Seth (Part 3)
By Steve Stred
As the fall of 1976 turned into the winter, I soon forgot about what had occurred, the mind of a youth able to put traumatic events behind it.
But things wouldn’t be all well for long.
No, three years later, Seth would visit me again.
I’d just turned sixteen when I saw him once more.
The summer of 1979 hadn’t gone how I’d pictured it.
After the events three years ago, I managed to put it out of my head, but I refused to return to the creek. My parents spiralled a bit further; depression, despair.
The farm started to become run down, so I picked up the slack, putting school aside and almost overnight was a full-time employee. I did what I could and helped with where my dad no longer was.
Slowly, through all of this, I became friends with the son of one of our feed supplies. Derek was a few years older than me, but it was nice to chat with a boy close to my age when they’d come each week. They’d drop off chicken feed as well as anything else we’d ordered that week.
Along the way, Derek started to come visit on the weekends. He lived in the town nearby but hadn’t spent much time in the wilderness. We’d go hiking or kick an old soccer ball he would bring. It was Derek who first introduced me to alcohol, having swiped a few cans of beer from his dad.
By the time the summer of ’79 arrived, he had a fake ID that let him buy beer for us each weekend and we’d get drunk and rip around in his beat up pickup truck. At the end of July, he picked me up and we drove into town, specifically to buy the AC/DC album ‘Highway to Hell.’ I’d heard some AC/DC but this album put them over the top for me.
Derek cranked the tunes, I cracked some suds and the nineteen-year-old and the sixteen-year-old bombed up and down the dirt roads around town, looking for trouble but never really finding any.
My parents were dead set against me getting my license. My dad already let me drive the farm truck and the farm equipment during the day, but they wouldn’t let me get my real license. Part of me believed it was because they didn’t want to open the door to the possibility of me leaving one day. One son was already gone forever, if the second left they’d be done for.
So, it was Derek who let me have a turn each night. He’d drive out of town, then pull over. I’d hop behind the wheel and slam the gas pedal each time, trying to spill Derek’s beer on his lap.
I lived for these moments.
During the day I’d bust my hump helping at the farm. Each night, I’d go to sleep exhausted and sore.
But the weekend would arrive and I’d hear Derek’s truck rattling down the driveway and the hardships of the previous week all disappeared.
I’d yell to my parents that I was heading out and off I’d go, laughing before I even got in the truck.
It was a normal weekend when Derek disappeared.
We were about twenty miles north of town, listening to some hard rock. Derek had guided the truck up a rough back road, into a clearing. He parked it and we piled into the box of the truck, popping open the two folding chairs that we kept there for just such an occasion.
He tossed me a beer and we sat in the chairs, feet propped on the box of the truck and sipped the warm drink.
“Gotta piss,” he said to me at one point, tossing the crushed empty towards me as he leaped over the side. He stumbled and I laughed. He gave me the middle finger and trudged into the deep weeds and bushes that lined the clearing.
I zoned out, watching the sun slink lower towards the horizon, when it dawned on me that Derek hadn’t returned yet.
“You get lost?” I hollered out.
Hearing no reply, I stood, searching the edge of the clearing for any sign of his mop of brown hair.
Finding none, I called his name again. This time a rustle in the bushes replied, the branches waving around as though Derek was making his way back to the truck.
When I saw the long, skinny fingers appear and push back the branches, I didn’t even hesitate. I jumped out of the box of the truck, got behind the wheel and turned the key. When the engine came to life, I slammed my foot down as hard as I could and didn’t look back.
I knew the thing that had taken Seth had also taken Derek. I also knew I was in deep shit. I was the last person to see Derek alive. I was sixteen, driving his truck and I had been drinking.
But I didn’t care. I drove straight into town and made a bee-line to the police station.
At first they didn’t believe the drunken ramblings of a teenager, but I finally convinced the one officer that they needed to come look for Derek.
I ran back outside, but before I could get in the truck, he hollered that I wasn’t going to be driving drunk and to get in the back of his cruiser.
I did my best to direct him to where we’d parked. It was tough as daylight was fading and soon the night would reclaim its hold on all details visible to the eye.
The officer turned his spotlight on as we slowly bounced and rocked up the forgotten road. When we came to the third clearing, the reflection of a discarded beer can got our attention and he pulled the car to a stop.
“Stay here,” he said, making his way to where I said Derek had went to relieve his bladder.
The air crackled with anticipation. I expected to hear the officer scream as his head was torn off, but after a few minutes, he walked back over, flashlight darting all around the clearing as he went.
“You see any animals?” he asked, sliding back into the driver’s seat.
“A lot of odd tracks over there. I can see where your friend stopped to piss. The ground was soft enough that his footprints are pretty visible. There’s a lot of animal tracks around it though. I’ll get the dogs out tomorrow and we’ll take a look. My guess,” he paused, finding my eyes in the rearview mirror before continuing, “Bear got him. I’m sorry to say that. I’ll take you home and contact his parents.”
Arriving back at the farm in a police cruiser was not an ideal moment, but the officer filled in my parents. My mom gave me a hug and told me go inside while they spoke more with the officer.
They never asked me much about what happened with Derek. They had too much darkness already to open another door leading to misery.
I never heard if the police went out to search for Derek. I doubted they did.
I decided to search for him on my own. I would take the farm truck when I could and return to the clearing every chance I had, but as the weeks passed, the tracks faded.
At the start of December that year, I went out to the clearing, finding the first snowfall in the air as I drove. The light flakes twinkled and danced as they travelled down to the ground from the clouds above. As I turned up the old road, I spotted something running away in the distance and at first I assumed it was a deer. I steered the truck through the slippery muck, arriving at the clearing for what would most likely be the final search until spring. The snow had increased as I’d drove, the flakes growing thicker and coming down faster.
Stepping out of the truck, the cold air caught me off guard, sending a full-length shiver through my body.
Before I could even take a step towards where Derek had walked into the trees, something moved off to my left. Turning, I saw it wasn’t a deer this time, but my deceased brother Seth running and jumping through the snow.
“Come play!” he cheered as he fell to the ground and started to make snow angels.
I found I was crying.
People always said bad things happen in three.
Never again, I thought. Never again would I allow the dark creature to visit me and force me to kill my brother.
“Goodbye Seth,” I called out, waving at him as I returned to the truck and started to drive away.
I would return to the farm, pack my bags and go as far away from this wretched place as I could.
But it was not to be.
No sooner had I started to descend through the snow on this poor excuse for a road did I sense someone was sitting beside me.
Looking over, Seth was sitting in the middle seat smiling up at me, while on his right sat Derek.
My brain turned to mush as I let out a cataclysmic wail, the pitch enough to crack the glass on the mirrors and create a spider web across the windshield.
My foot was controlled by forces beyond my own, the gas pedal pressing ever closer to the floor.
The truck bounced and shook as it sped up, hurtling faster and faster down the road.
I kept yelling, while now Seth and Derek joined in, the three of us forming a demonic symphony.
I took one last look over, watching as my brother and friend flickered, in their place sat the black mold encrusted thing that had kept coming back for me.
It laughed maniacally staring straight ahead before looking over and smiling as Seth had.
“Tree,” it spoke, forcing my eyes back to the front, where through the cracks and the snow I saw a large birch tree only feet away.
I never felt the impact nor the sensation of being ejected through the glass.
I flew through the air long enough to think of all the good times with Seth, with mom and dad. Before I landed in a mess of torn skin and broken bones, I was able to spot the beast dancing on the crumpled hood of the truck.
Then all went black and the snow went red.
The police would find the truck and the remains of the driver who’d been ejected from the cab.
Three sets of footprints were found around the deceased.
A child’s, a man’s and something unidentifiable. Those same tracks were found on the hood of the crushed truck.
The police refused to put that in the official report, instead stating the cause of the crash was speed, conditions and alcohol.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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