A Friend Indeed
By Melissa L. Webb
“It’s only a field,” Lucy muttered to herself as she stared into the night, her eyes searching for the well-worn path in the overgrown grass.
“You don’t have to do it,” Kyle said from beside her. “You can take the chicken way out.”
Lucy rolled her eyes. They were in high school. They were too old for name calling. “Why don’t Shawn and Beth have to do it?” she asked, motioning to the other side of the field. Two more of their friends stood there, their flashlight beams bouncing around the grass.
“They’ve already done this,” Lisa said, banging her flashlight against her leg. “It’s our turn to prove ourselves.”
“This is dumb,” Lucy said, her heart hammering away in her chest. “Everybody in the neighborhood plays in this field. There’s nothing out here but weeds and trash.”
“Then why are you so afraid?” Kyle snickered. “You know as well as anyone there’s something wrong with this place.”
She did know. People walked through the field all the time. Kids spent long summer hours on their own out here, yet the field had a strange vibe to it. Something was off. That never left anyone’s mind as they used the place.
And no one dared entered it after dark.
No one except them.
“Come on,” Lisa snapped. “It’s not difficult. Just walk across the field. That’s all you have to do.”
Kyle nodded. “As long as you don’t look back you’ll be fine. That’s all there is to it. It’s a piece of cake.”
A shiver ran down Lucy’s spine. “What happens if you look back?”
Kyle shrugged. “No one knows. Either no one has, or….”
“No ones’s lived to tell about it,” Lisa added evilly.
“Only the brave walk across this place at night,” Kyle said, handing Lucy a flashlight. “Are you ready to be brave?”
Her eyes drifted back to the field, trying to see through the darkness coating it like a blanket. Anything could be out there. How could she be brave when anything could happen?
“Oh, please,” Lisa said, pushing past her. “I’ll go first. I don’t want to wait all night for a scared, little baby to take her first step.” She looked Lucy dead in the eyes. “You need to grow up if you want to continue to hang out with us. We don’t socialize with losers.” With that she stepped onto the path, her flashlight beam sweeping back and forth with each determined step.
Lucy watched, her breath caught in her throat. How could anyone think this was a good idea? The night paused, like a thousand eyes fixed on them, waiting for one wrong step.
“Hey, Lisa!” Kyle yelled, startling Lucy out of her thoughts. “Don’t look behind you!”
“Very funny, Kyle,” she called with a laugh.
Lucy couldn’t believe it. “She’s not afraid.”
“Of course not,” Kyle said. “She’s not a coward.”
Lucy glared at him, but held her tongue. What happened to her friends? They use to be fun. Now all they did was put her down.
Lisa reached the other side and waved her flashlight proudly.
Kyle waved his back, then turned to Lucy. “Are you ready?”
“I…,” she started, looking back into the dark field. “I don’t know.”
“Fine. I’ll go next,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Maybe once you’re left all alone you’ll be more eager to cross.” He stepped into the field. “See you on the other side.”
Lucy watched him go, dread building with every step he took away from her. Why were they so eager to humiliate her? Was this the only excuse they could find to ditch her? She knew she would never be one of the cool kids. She was too unsure of everything. She didn’t have the confidence the others had.
Sadness crept over her as she realized the truth. They did want to move on. They wanted to shame her into giving them an out.
Well, no way. If they wanted to stop being friends they’d have to tell her to her face. She wouldn’t let them use her fear of the field as an excuse.
She waited as Kyle triumphantly stepped on the opposite sidewalk, flashlights spinning like mad in celebration. Someone shone one in her direction, clicking the light off and on in three rapid burst.
It was now or never.
Lucy took a deep breath and pointed her flashlight on the path ahead. She could do this. All she needed to do was walk.
She took one step into the field and then another. She could imagine the look on her friends’ faces as she drew near. She refused to hand them a excuse for destroying their friendship. Let them be the bad guys.
A rustling stirred the grass behind her even though no breeze touched her skin. The night was calm. There wasn’t any reason for the sound.
Lucy’s eyes locked onto the flashlights in front of her. She didn’t know what was behind her but she refused to turn around. Kyle said she’d be fine if she didn’t look back. She didn’t know if they’d been teasing her or not, but she didn’t dare risk it. It wasn’t like the field was a normal place.
She reached the center and took a deep breath. She could see her friends clearly. She was all most there.
“What is that behind you?” Shawn yelled, pointing with his flashlight.
Lucy started to turn, then caught herself. “Knock it off,” she yelled through clenched teeth. “It’s not funny.”
“Yes, it is,” Lisa called back. “You should see how funny you look standing there with your eyes about to pop out.”
“Why did you stop?” Beth asked. “Did the little baby pee her pants?”
“Aw, do you need a diaper change?” Kyle said with a laugh.
Lucy felt tears sting her eyes. When had her friends become such monsters? High school changed them and the thought sickened her heart.
She had half a mind to turn around and leave them where they stood. Who needed friends like these? She certainly didn’t. She could make new friends. Friends who didn’t treat her like dirt.
Lucy started to turn when she heard footsteps on the path behind her. She froze as ice settled into her veins. She was no longer alone.
“Who’s behind me?” she called, the shakiness of her voice betraying her fear.
“No one’s behind you,” Kyle called impatiently. “Stop being a baby and get over here. You’re almost done.”
“No, someone’s behind me,” Lucy insisted. “I hear them.”
“We’ll leave you here, Lucy,” Lisa snapped. “Is that what you want? Take a few more steps to prove yourself or we’ll leave you alone like the baby you are.”
Terror wrapped around Lucy as the footsteps stopped behind her. Something was there and her friends weren’t going to do anything about it. She tried to take a step forward but fear turned her legs to cement.
A strangled cry escaped her lips as she felt a warm breath drift over the back of her neck. “Help,” she managed to squeak out.
“This is lame, you guys,” Lisa said. “Let’s go. I’m done with this loser.”
They turned and walked away, heading away from Lucy when she needed them the most. She stood there, tears falling from her eyes, as despair fought the fear for control.
They abandoned her.
Fingers curled around Lucy’s shoulder as a voice whispered her name in her ear.
She spun around, pulling away from whatever it was. As her eyes swept over the path, the landscape changed around her.
Flames rolled across the field, churning in delight as ashes fell like snowflakes against her skin. Moans rose from the sea of fire as a chorus of screams tore through the night.
Black eyes stared out of a twisted white face as the creature who touched her drew its hand back. Its body was nothing more than shriveled flesh under the black leather it wore. It towered over her as it grinned down with a blood red slash full of teeth.
“Hello, Lucy,” it spoke. “I see you’re in need of some new companions.”
“Um,” was all she could manage to get out as the fire raged around them.
“Don’t worry. You and I will have lots of fun. We can even teach those losers a thing or two.”
A smile spread across Lucy’s lips as she felt her sanity slip away. She dropped to her knees, staring up at the monstrosity. “Hello, friend.”
© 2015 Melissa L. Webb