Seth (Part 2)
You can read Part 1 HERE
By Steve Stred
I killed my brother for the first time when he was four.
It told me I had to do it.
After that night no noises came from under my bed, no fingers found the soles of my feet.
It wasn’t until five years later that I saw Seth again.
But maybe that’s a story for another time?
The fall of 1976 was a glorious time to be alive.
I’d turned thirteen as summer wound its way to an end. My parents reluctantly let me get a stereo and with the Thin Lizzy 8 track jammed in, I would dance my room most nights. I’d hum along to ‘Jailbreak’ not completely confident in my knowledge of the words.
My mother and father never fully returned to the same people they were before Seth had been taken. I missed him most days, but frankly, I’d kind of moved on, happier now that I was still alive.
I tried to stay out of their way, but at the beginning it was impossible. Cops came, questions were asked and everything was a blur. I had made a decision and I’d need to live with it.
Now, a thirteen-year-old with time on his hands, I began exploring more of the land that surrounded the farm. It didn’t really dawn on me that it’d been five years until one night I’d returned from a walk and found my parents at the kitchen table. They had old photo albums opened before them and mom was busy wiping away tears with her handkerchief.
“Everything ok?” I asked, kicking my boots off and walking to the table.
“Just remembering Seth. Been five years already,” my dad said. His eyes were red but he was steadfast in refusing to cry in front of me.
“Five already. Wow. Seems so long again.”
“Not for me, for us,” my mom snapped, leaving the table. My dad and I sat silently until we heard their bedroom door slam.
“I’m sorry, dad. I didn’t think.”
He waved his hand, brushing it away. I hadn’t meant to be disrespectful or upset my mom, but figured it’d be best if I went to my room.
Closing the door, I stared at the end of the bed, that nightmarish time flooding back.
I turned off the light and tucked myself into bed. I deserved to not eat dinner that night or any night after for that matter.
Sleep came quickly, the morning arriving in the blink of an eye.
I found mom in the kitchen the next morning. I approached slowly, gave her a hug and a kiss on the head and whispered ‘sorry’ in her ear. She gave me a hug back and smiled, before continuing about her morning.
I made some toast and then let her know I was going to go do my chores and then spend the day outside. The weather had been great lately, so I wanted to make the most of my time before it became too cold and the snow arrived.
Once I’d finished my chores, I waved at dad who was working on a tractor and headed to the far end of the north field. I’d been meaning to spend some time there earlier in the year but just never got around to it. Now, hopping over the wooden fence, I looked back and was surprised at how far away the farmhouse actually was.
I made my way down a natural path, snaking and winding through the trees that still stood, and found soon I had arrived at the edge of a creek. I remember my dad saying he used to fish up in this area when he was my age, but I didn’t realize it was this close.
If I’d have known this place existed I’d have spent every day here during the summer, splashing and cooling off.
I took some time to investigate the shoreline, searching for any old junk left behind that my dad might have discarded but found nothing. No fishing poles or chairs. I figured it was getting close to lunchtime now having been walking for a bit and should head back. I knew I’d be visiting the creek again next year.
But after only a few steps towards home, I heard a splash, a giggle and the sound of my dead brother call my name, laughing as he wanted me to play.
Turning, there he was, standing waist-deep in the creek. He waved, laughed again and motioned for me to come towards him.
I took one step. Then a second. A third.
Seth splashed water towards me with both hands, his face a ball of sunshine in the gloom of the forest.
It was during his third attempt to splash me that the mirage of his appearance flickered for a brief moment. The sun reflected just perfectly through the water as it arced towards me and I saw not Seth but the thing that had taken him five years ago. The black-mold covered eyes. The long, thin fingers with the sharp nails growing out of the end. Its body had changed ever so slightly, dark fur growing over the entirety.
I wanted to scream.
Instead, another thought popped into my head, a thought that I used to propel myself forward.
So, I did. I never looked back, never looked to see if Seth was still there or the cackling howl of laughter I heard fading behind me was in fact from that monster.
I rushed into the farmhouse, up into my room and slammed the door shut.
I didn’t believe I was truly safe in my room but I had no other plan that seemed better.
When the weekend arrived, I’d decided to face my fears head-on and go back to the creek. I asked my dad if I could take the .22 and some bullets and go hunt grouse. He thought that was an excellent idea, not knowing that I was hoping to take down a beast, not a bird.
I kept the .22 cracked open until I hopped over the fence, then inserted two bullets, one in each chamber and snapped it shut.
Arriving at the spot near the creek I was pleased to find the area deserted, even if slightly annoyed that I wouldn’t be able to open fire.
I found a broken tree that had toppled over in some long-forgotten windstorm and took a seat. I crossed my left leg over my right and settled the rifle in my lap. I should’ve known better than to relax as shortly my eyes grew heavy, my vision blurred and within a matter of minutes, I was sleeping where I’d sat.
The delicate caress of razor-sharp talons rustled me from my slumber.
My eyes snapped open and I was looking into the coal-black decay of the creatures face.
I fumbled the gun, it dropped from my hands to the dirt beside a tree. I tumbled over backwards, more in an attempt to put space between me and the thing than a clumsy manoeuvre.
The thing hissed and leapt onto the tree, looking down upon my cowering self with amusement.
Then it jumped.
While in the air, it transformed, landing beside me not as the hideous creature but as Seth.
My brother smiled and kneeled beside me, his teeth rotten and emitting a stench that turned my stomach.
“Brother, I’ve missed you,” Seth said, in a voice half his, half the creatures.
I rolled to my left, found the .22 and popped off two shots between Seth’s eyes before I could even fully comprehend what I’d done.
My brother fell to his knees, smile disappearing. The body fell forward landing with a thud in the mud by the base of the tree.
My dad found me a few hours later. The sounds of my screaming had led him to my location.
I explained what happened while I tried to wipe away the tears and the snot that just kept pouring from my eyes and nose.
He listened, but if he believed me, I couldn’t tell.
When he finally picked me up and carried me home, I looked back over his shoulders, finding no sign of my brother or the creature.
I slept for a few days, finally getting my energy back. My parents didn’t ask me any more questions or details about what had happened out by the creek.
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.
But once again, I think that’s a story for a different time and a different place.
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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You can visit Steve’s Official website here