Burning Bully Baer

Billy froze where he was standing. The crackle of the fire consuming the liquids around him got louder. Billy never realized how loud a fire could be. He began to shake, his over-sized jeans rustling.
The flames were jumping closer, closer. Beads of sweat formed on his thick upper lip and forehead. The first kiss of flame surprised him. It felt cold. He stared at his hand, watching his skin bubble and blister. Billy wet himself.
He glanced at the fire, and was mesmerized. His mind drifted back, to the day he moved to Elkhart, Indiana. Home of those people who don't drive cars, or have electricity. Amish, that's what they were called. A bunch of country bumpkins, especially his seven-year-old neighbors. Stupid kids, always whining when a guy plays a joke. He missed the excitement of Detroit.
I can't believe these hicks fooled me, he thought. Locked in this garage, all cause I thought . . . believed they had some pictures of naked girls. I'm so stupid!
Billy was jerked back to the present as the flames kissed him again. A low moan began deep inside him, building in intensity.
"How's it feel, Bully Baer?" Jason Maxwell called.
"Yeah," Alex Purdy said, "we got you good!"
Billy screamed.
"Jason," Alex said, "I'm scared. He's screaming real loud."
"I know. It serves him right. Yeah, how's it feel, Bully Baer? How's it feel?"
"Maybe we should. . . ."
"What?" Jason asked. "Go get him? Unlock the door? No way! He should burn in H-E-double-hockey-sticks. That old mean Bully Baer's getting what he deserves."
Jason spat on the ground. He thought about the last three months, since Bully Baer moved here. He remembered how he thought Bully was so neat, with his baggy jeans and his baseball cap on backwards. Why, he was practically an adult, with all his big city experiences, a man-of-the-world. Yep, Bully was Jason's hero all right. How many other ten-year-olds did he know, that knew how to rap? Or knew all those cool gang signs? None, that's how many. But Bully wasn't very nice to him, or Alex.
Jason remembered how Bully would laugh at him, call him a geek and retard, when he tried to copy the gang signs or wear his baseball cap backwards. His jaw clenched, when he remembered how Bully made Alex cry, the day Alex sang his very first rap song.
Billy screamed again
I'm supposed to drop and roll. They taught me way back in kindergarten, a couple of years ago. But what do you do when the floor is on fire?
"Serves him right," Jason said.
He began chewing on his lower lip.
Alex, all color drained from his face, turned towards the garage door. He took a step, then stopped. He looked at Jason, then back at the garage. When Billy screamed again, he covered his ears. Alex kept seeing Billy's blue baseball cap burning, catching his dark brown hair on fire, in his mind. He squeezed his blue eyes shut, hoping the image would go away. Alex swallowed, his stomach churning, his thin body shaking.
"I'm going to get my mom," Alex said. He ran to his house, not bothering to look before he crossed the street.
Jason watched Alex run home. He coughed. The smoke was thick and black. He heard mean old Bully Baer call for help, then have a coughing fit. He bit his lip harder, as he thought about all the mean tricks Bully Baer had pulled on Alex and him, since he moved to the neighborhood. He spat again, and was surprised to see it was bloody.
Billy hurt. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. He fell to his knees.
Jason made a decision. He ran to the side of the house, and grabbed the hose. He turned the faucet as far as he could, then ran back to the burning garage. He placed his thumb on the nozzle, like when you want to make your own rainbow, and the water sprayed towards the door in an arc.
"Oh my God," Nancy Purdy screamed, "oh dear God. Someone help him."
"My baby," Lisa Baer shrieked, "my baby, oh my poor baby."
"Heaven help that poor boy," Emily Maxwell said.
Alex was crying, tears making clean streaks along his thin, dirty cheeks.
Thomas Maxwell grabbed the hose from his son and directed the water farther inside the garage. Keith Purdy, holding a handkerchief to his nose, ran into the garage. Randy Baer pulled his tee shirt up over his nose, and followed him. They found Billy by the bike rack, two feet from the door.
Keith grabbed Billy and held him close to his chest. Randy gently touched his son's blistered hand. The men looked at each other, then ran from the garage.
Jason looked at Alex. He heard the sirens in the distance. Somehow, this didn't seem like a good idea any more. He squinted his brown eyes tight as he watched Alex's dad carry Billy from the garage.
"I hurt," Billy said. "Daddy, I hurt."
"You’re going to be okay Billy," Randy said. "You hear me son? You're going to be just fine."
Billy was crying, his plump chest heaving with the effort. Jason saw he didn't have any tears on his cheeks, and started to cry too. This was not what he had planned.
Alex hid his face behind his hands. He didn't peek when the paramedics rolled Billy away.
"Intubation tube in place, IV of Ringers Lactate started," the paramedic said.
He glanced at the monitor, watching the steady rhythm of Billy's heart, as he took his pulse manually. His eyes glanced from Billy, then back to the monitor, as he felt the pulse grow weaker. He watched the heart line slow, then begin to flutter, the line jumping all over the screen.
"Hang in there, kid," he said.
The paramedic placed a bag valve over Billy's face and compressed it, forcing air into his lungs, as he rhythmically compressed Billy's chest. The cardiac compression's did not stabilize Billy's heart.
"I have to shock him," the paramedic called to the driver. He quickly squeezed lubrication on to the paddles, set the voltage to 2 joules and placed the paddles on Billy's chest.
"Damn, no change! Shocking again."
The monitor showed a flat line. He set the defibrillator to 4 joules and hit Billy again. When there still was no change, he began CPR again. He knew it was no use, but it wasn't up to him to make the call. Only a doctor could list this boy as Dead On Arrival.
It was eight o'clock, and Alex was ready for bed on time. He didn't feel like watching TV. It didn't seem right, somehow, that he should watch his favorite sit-com, when Billy Baer was dead. Alex felt a shiver go up his back, and pulled his blankets up to his chin. He turned on his side, and closed his eyes.
He wrinkled his nose. Something smelled real bad. The smell grew stronger, and his eyes popped open. It smelled like smoke.
Alex jumped out of bed and turned on his lamp. Bright light flooded his room, and he was momentarily blinded. He scrubbed his eyes with his clenched fists, clearing his sight.
"Nooooo," he screamed. "You're dead!"
Bully grinned. He twirled a garden rake in his hands, thrusting it, like he was brandishing a sword. Then, he waved his hand over the rake, and it burst into flames.
Alex blinked rapidly. His knees began shaking, and he started to sway back and forth.
"Hey, Alex," Bully said, "let's play a new game." Alex didn't wait for Bully to make his move. He ran as fast as he could out of the room, his short legs pumping up and down.
Bully leapt after Alex, thrusting the burning rake at him. He cackled with glee when the fiery twines scraped down Alex's back.
"Mommy! Mommy!" Alex screamed. He waved his arms wildly, slapping at his back. Hurting and scared, he ran out the back door. He had to put the fire out, he knew that, knew his life depended on it. He dove into their swimming pool. Sinking quickly, Alex knew a moment of relief. Finally, the fire was extinguished.
Alex kicked his legs, pushing towards the surface. His lungs were burning. He wouldn't be able to hold his breath much longer. He kicked harder.
Bully was waiting for him. He pushed the burning rake at Alex's face. Alex tried to scream for help, but a guttural mewl was all that came out.
"Eat your eggs, Jason."
Jason continued swirling pieces of egg around his plate. Hunched over the table, his foot rhythmically kicking his chair leg, Jason kept his eyes downcast. No one observed the tell-tale darkness beneath his eyes.
Emily Maxwell paused to pour her husband a cup of coffee, before answering the ringing phone. Thomas grunted an acknowledgment from behind the newspaper.
"Oh Nancy, no!" Emily cried. She abruptly sat down. Her right hand shaking, Jason watched, fascinated, as the cordless telephone's antennae tangled in his mothers long hair. He heard the crisp rattle of paper, as his father emerged from behind his paper.
"Em, what's the matter?" he asked. Thomas walked over to his shaking, pale wife. He took the phone from her stiff fingers.
"Hello! Who is this. . . ."
He stopped in mid-sentence, not believing what he was hearing. Another child dead. Thomas squeezed his eyes shut as he gripped the counter.
Jason sat on the gravel driveway, poking a stick into an anthill. The sun warmed his back as he crushed the ants. He knew his mother wanted him to come in, he knew it was time to wash up for supper.
"Jason, don't make me keep calling you!" she shouted. It was the fourth time she had called him.
"Here I come," he said quietly. He sighed.
Standing up, Jason paused long enough to slowly bring his foot down, crushing the anthill.
"Eat your peas, Jason," Emily said, "Tom, you want more? There's plenty left."
Thomas shook his head 'no'. Emily was probably one of the best cooks in all of Elkhart County, yet tonight, the food had a distinctly burnt taste to it. Even the chilled, home-made applesauce. He shook his head again, as if to clear it, and sipped his coffee.
Jason pushed his peas around, smashing them methodically. He stared intently at his plate, squishing peas with slow, deliberate movements.
"Mom, Dad," he asked, "can I tell you something?"
Emily leaned forward, her left hand lightly touching Tom's arm, her right hand outstretched towards Jason.
"Last night, Bully and Alex . . . they," he said.
Emily could feel the muscles in Tom's arm tenses and jump.
"Son," he said, "Alex and Billy are dead. You know that."
"I know, Dad," Jason said. "It was in my dream, they. . . ."
"Listen to what you just said, boy!" Tom said. "You had a dream, but you're awake now, so forget it."
"Yeah, but King howled," Jason insisted, "and it was real scary."
"Dammit boy! It was a dream, nothing more."
Jason looked at his father. Emily saw how pale her son looked, circles under his eyes darkly contrasting with his almost ghostly white face. She shivered.
"But," Jason said, "where is King."
"He's part hound, boy, you know that. He's probably out chasing some coons or squirrels." Thomas shook his head and pushed his chair back, the legs making a loud screeching noise along the floor. He pulled his arm from Emily's grasp and walked quickly into the den.
"Jason," she said, "I'm sure King is okay. He's a good dog. . . ."
Jason's eyes shifted towards his mother's face, then back to his father's retreating form. He drew a deep breath, nodded, and returned to the tedious task of smashing peas.
"Jason. . . Jason! Time to come in," Emily said. Emily stared at her son, her right hand drawn up in a tight fist, over her heart. Her left hand caught the low gasp she uttered, as she watched Jason torture the praying mantis he had in his hands. Her stomach churned and rolled as she took several deep breaths -- the mantis lost his other leg. . . .
"Jason! Stop fooling around and get in here," she called, "I mean it now. Jason, don't ignore me!"
Jason watched the mantis quiver, then slowly turned to look at his mother. A single tear rolled down his cheek.
"Okay, I'm coming."
Jason slowly stood up and took a step towards the house. He paused, wiped the tear from his cheek, then slowly ground his heel into the dying praying mantis. He shoved his fists into his jeans pockets, shoulders hunched in, and slowly walked in to the house.
"Tom, I'm worried about Jason."
Thomas grunted an unintelligible sound, his eyes not leaving the television screen.
Emily leaned forward, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She trembled slightly, remembering the look on Jason's face as he tormented that poor praying mantis. A single tear rolled down her cheek, unchecked.
Jason sat on his bed, staring at the beads of blood forming on his fingertips. He pulled another small chunk of skin off of his left thumb. Tears rolled down his cheeks, the drops mingling with the tiny red splatters, forming pink trails along his palms.
He closed his eyes as he leaned back. He felt by his side for the kitchen knife he had snuck upstairs. He yawned.
That mean old Bully Baer can't get me, he thought, cause I'll fight him. And I can win. . . I know I can. . . .
Alex grinned, his lips pulled back in a tight snarl. He looked at Jason, then turned slightly to look at Billy. Billy waved at Jason.
"Hey buddy," Billy said, "miss me?"
Alex pointed towards Jason's closet. Billy took a step. Jason shivered, as beads of sweat formed on his forehead. His nose wrinkled. He hated the burnt smell in his room. King pushed his way out of Jason's closet, prepared to leap onto Jason's bed, as Alex pointed directly at him. The dog howled.
Jason screamed. His screams mingled and harmonized with Kings howls.
"Jason, wake up!" Emily said, as she shook her son. "It's okay honey, I'm here. It's only a nightmare."
"King!" he sobbed, "King, oh King. . . ." He ran from his room, calling King, looking. . . searching. He ran through the kitchen, sliding and almost falling. There was a small puddle of water on the floor. His sobs came faster, louder, his chest heaving from the effort.
"King, oh please King! King," he said. Jason ran through the kitchen. He stopped, staring at the washing machine. It hummed and rocked, the water swishing and swirling. His mother did the laundry on Saturdays, Jason knew that. His hand shook as he reached towards the door. Today was Thursday.
Emily raced into the room. Her breath caught in her throat, as she watched Jason open the washing machine door, his movements slow and deliberate, as if in slow motion. She fainted when she saw King's glazed eyes staring back from inside the washing machine.
"No! King!" Jason screamed.
Jason sobbed softly. He could hear his mother and father talking downstairs. It didn't matter what they said, he knew who had killed King. And he knew who had killed Alex. Bully Baer would kill him, too. He closed his eyes.
"Jason. . . Jason," he said, "wake up, Jason. . . ." Bully stood at the foot of Jason's bed, an eerie grin on his face. Alex stood dripping water on his floor, next to the closet. Jason heard a low growl, and gasped. King snarled at him as he leapt onto the bed. Jason began to tremble.
"Bully," he said, "I mean, Billy. . . I'm. . . sorry."
"Too late Jason," he said, "it's just too late."
Emily tapped lightly on her son's bedroom door. Poor baby, she thought. He's so tired.
She opened the door and sniffed. The pungent smell of something burning filled her nostrils. Her eyes swept around the room.
Emily could see a small puddle of water, next to the closet. She stepped into the room, her hand slowly creeping up to her throat. She stopped at the foot of her son's bed.
"Jason? Son?" Her eyes opened wide, her hand tapping a soft beat along the bed. She jerked her hand back, puzzled, and saw the moisture on her palm.
"Jason, where. . .?" Emily called again.
Emily reached for Jason once again. She yanked the covers from his face. He was smiling so peacefully, so sweetly. . . .
"Jason, why didn't you. . . ."
Emily screamed when her hand touched her sons cold, damp cheek. She grabbed him, clutching him to her breast, and moaned. Emily heard a wailing sound. She didn't realize it was coming from her.

Author' s Note : This story was written in 1997, very loosely based on a true event that happened in Indiana. This is My first true horror attempt, and I found this genre to be fun - and extremely difficult - to write. *grins* To be honest, killing King was the hardest thing I've had to write, to date! But, I was (and am) pleased with the story . . . I do hope you enjoy reading it. *smiles* Shari Lyne