I remember the fire. Although there is a lot more I think I remember, I do remember the fire; both of them. The first, a simple campfire that we made after picking up dead limbs from the forest all day. We wanted to cook hot dogs and marshmallows and be warm. The second, the one where people died, I remember too well. The screams. People on fire, screaming in pain, not knowing which way to run. They tried to outrun the fire, which only made it worse. I wish I could get those terrible images from my mind.
He said to call him "The Storyteller". He came out of nowhere. He just walked up as if he owned the land we were on and made himself at home. He was an adult; us, just kids. We thought he was sent there by our parents to keep an eye on us. He grabbed a sharpened stick and started cooking a hot dog before saying anything. We all looked at him and each other and shrugged our shoulders. It was surreal in a way that this old man was babysitting a bunch of kids at a weenie roast. It did not compute; until he started talking.
That was when everything began to get foggy. His voice seemed as smooth as ice cream on a hot day as he started telling us stories. At first, funny stories. We laughed so hard we were rolling on the ground. But, suddenly, out of the blue, he looked us each in the eye and said, "Do you want to hear a scary story”?
We each looked at the other and nodded, “Sure." You always want to hear scary stories when you camp out.
But this story was true. Oh my God! I could not tell you his age on a bet. He could have been 30, or 70, I could not tell. He had dark hair, but it was white through-out. He had a beard, closely cropped, again black but with white streaks throughout. He wore an old railroad man’s hat but somehow I knew he had never worked on a railroad. Then I remembered there were railroad tracks nearby and I knew then he rode the rails. My dad said to always stay away from those "bums", but no one moved and neither did I. We just sat, mesmerized, as he started his story.
His voice. His voice was intoxicating. He could make you dizzy talking and we hung-on every word. He didn't talk loud, everyone had to lean-in to hear him, but every word seemed to be so important you didn't want to miss it. It started like a fairy tale, "Once upon a time"....
.....there was a man that wasn't a man. He ran like the wind and could cover great distances in hours instead of days. He was half of this world yet half from another world, a world that you can see if you look up.... really fast".
With that, we all looked towards the star-studded night and he continued, "Yes, one of those stars is where his father lived. He came her long ago, an unintended stop and had his way with a woman who died giving birth to his son. That son was raised by wolves and even thought himself a wolf until they sent him on his way when he was old enough to fend for himself".
With that, the old man asked for some water. I handed him my canteen and he drained it dry, throwing the empty canteen back to me without so much as a thank-you.
He looked at me with dead eyes and started again… "What does a man who is half of this world and half of another world do? He did all he knew to survive. He stayed hidden in the deepest forests eating small animals that he could easily chase down. He ate berries from bushes and this was his life. Until they came."
He stopped as if thinking back, trying to remember, or just stringing us along, I don't really know now. Some of the other kids grabbed their canteens and drank, waiting for the story to continue. But the man stopped and made himself another hot dog, or two more if I remember correctly. He then drank another canteen of water from someone’s canteen, before he continued.
"I guess you want to know who "they" are, right"?, he said. Of course, as we were nodding our heads, he told us.
"Well my little friends, it was people. People like your parents, who had to have their big houses and big yards with their little white, picket fences. They kept taking and poaching until he had no room to hide. The more forests that were destroyed, the less room he had to run free. He was seen running through a field one day, chasing a rabbit for dinner. Pretty soon the stories started. Rumors that he had eaten people were rampant and search parties were sent out, bounties placed on his head.
"He was a hunted man, but all he wanted was to be left alone". He stopped, then looked around, his eyes wild, an insane look on his face as he began screaming at us all. "I will kill you all for you are the children of the children of the murderers who killed my son!"
He grabbed a boy my age and broke his neck. You could hear it, much like a branch snapping. He held him up and looked up at the stars and talked in a language that only he, and maybe a race in another world, would understand.
I shouted "RUN, RUN", and kids started running is every direction. My house was the closest, only a hundred yards away but it may as well been a 100 miles. I ran, and as I looked back, I was terrified as he caught another child, killed her and held her up to the sky. It was the same routine every time he killed someone. It was the only way any of us could have possibly gotten away from this insane man.
Some made it to my house. My dad came running out of the house, confused, trying to make some sense out of what was happening. He grabbed me and just as I started to tell him what happened the Storyteller was beside us.
My father yelled for everyone to get inside the house. As we ran up the steps the Storyteller grabbed him and threw him like a rag doll. My father got up and ran inside. The crazed man stood outside and laughed and spoke in tongues not of this world. The front steps ignited in flames for no reason; none that we could see anyway. My father shot the Storyteller, once, twice, three times and still he stood, The house was quickly engulfed in fire. My mother tried to get everyone out the back but somehow the back door had caught fire also.
The man was still outside, now on his knees, looking up and screaming at something in another world about taking something or someone from his very soul.
Suddenly the Storyteller was up and running. As fast as a racehorse he ran, until he was out of sight. My father busted open a window and each of us were lowered out. This man, if he was a man at all, had killed six children and as our house lay in embers, surrounded by fire trucks and police cars, we heard a sound like no other.
A sound not heard ever before by anyone there; a sound not of this world. A scream that pierced the area for miles and miles and was never heard again. When describing the sound the closest anyone could agree upon was, it was the sound of pain. A sound that only could come from deepest part of a person’s soul.
This can also be read on my new blog, "Sibbett's World" I'm setting up. Just a place to keep my stuff and work on some experimental things I've been thinking about.