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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 47: Brown 16
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David left Ralph and Michael standing over Bill's body, because neither of them would stay by himself. He sent John to find someone, anyone, to tell. He followed Derek back to the cabin.
Derek began to gather his things from his bunk. David had been asking where he was going. He had been too upset to answer, but finally he paused and looked at the older boy.
"I'm leaving," he said. "I don't want to be here."
"But the police will think you had something to do with it if you disappear."
"Let them think that. I'm not staying."
Derek had carried his stuff up here in armloads; he had no desire to carry it out that way. Bill's backpack was there, and he began stuffing his things into it.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm packing my things."
"But that's Bill's backpack."
"He doesn't need it. I do."
"That's not the point. You're stealing his backpack."
"I'm borrowing it. If he asks for it back, I'll return it to him."
Derek kept packing. He noticed that Bill's spare sleeping bag and small tent were still lashed to the bottom of the aluminum frame; Bill treated camp like a wilderness event.
"You know you can't leave here," David said. "The police are going to want to talk to you. We're going to have to explain you to the camp director."
"You don't get it," Derek said, stopping his work as his emotion rose. "I've seen this movie. Everybody dies. I'm getting out of it."
"That's ridiculous. You can't compare real life to some movie you once saw."
"On the contrary, most of the time my life really is like some movie I once saw. And I don't want to be in this one. Frankly, I'd rather be in the one where the weird guy picks up the hitchhiker and tries to kill him. At least in that one the hitchhiker manages to survive. In this film, I'm going to end up dead. And so are you. And so is everyone else, except maybe the killer, whoever that is."
David was silent. Apparently he hadn't realized until just this moment that Bill's death could not have been an accident, and that it probably meant the others weren't accidental, either.
"I need my bike," Derek said.
"What?" David answered, as if pulled from some distant thought.
"My bike," Derek said, somewhat louder. "I need it. It's in the lifeguard shack, and you have the keys."
"Oh, right. Sorry." David checked his pockets. "I've got them. Let's go." Leaving his gear behind, Derek followed him into the darkness toward the swimming lake.
The bicycle would take a couple minutes to be ready. After all, they had fixed the inner tube, but left it on the table to dry. Together they quickly replaced it on the wheel, put the tire over it, and mounted the wheel back on the bike. David knew what he was doing, and with a few deft moves had the chain back through the derailer and over the gears properly, and then tightened up the whole thing. They flipped it upright, and used the compressor to inflate it. Derek was ready to go.
David turned and stepped out of the shed. "I really wish you wouldn't–what the," but he never finished his sentence. Something poured onto him, and then a flame like a lit match fell from above and he burst into a human mass of fire. He screamed; perhaps it was presence of mind, first aid training, which threw him to the ground. He rolled over the grass, but it, too, flared up, as if it had already been soaked. Derek could smell the gasoline; he called for help, but for the moment he was trapped inside the shed by the fire in front of the door.
Spilled gasoline burns away quickly. David was probably dead already, and Derek wasn't going to stay around to be next. He rolled the bike out and threw his leg over it as he went. He almost forgot to go back for his things at the cabin, but it was on the way to the parking lot, and he figured he shouldn't leave without them, so he went that direction.
John lay on the ground in front of the cabin. The handle of a butcher knife protruded from his back, probably stolen from the kitchen. Derek could only shake his head, and go into the cabin. He walked over to the backpack; the straps would have to be adjusted. Bill was big, and Derek was younger. He fiddled with the buckles and pulled in some of the slack.
While he was working, he heard a noise behind him. Pretending not to notice, he opened the main flap of the pack and pulled out his knife and his frying pan. Then he whirled around to face his fate.
It was Ralph.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #91: Novel Mysteries. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: