When Hackett Garreson was six his family was killed in a car crash. He survived
When Hackett was ten his guardian was murdered and he was left for dead. He survived.
Hackett was in twelve foster homes in three years. He survived.
Now Hackett is with a family that loves and accepts him for who he is. But once more evil is stalking him. This time he must survive to make sure his new family survives, too.
Failure is not an option.
Come share Hackett's adventure as he learns to accept love without fearing loss. Some violence and mild swearing. And young love and a few kisses, too.
~ 1 ~
Screaming woke the boy up. He sat straight up in bed, heart pounding and gray eyes staring wildly into the dark room. He’d thought it was a bad dream. Until the screams came — again and again.
The screams had words scrambled into them. No! Stop! Please! Over and over the screams sounded, mixed with the words, ringing in his ten-year-old head. Screams and words, screams and words, until he clamped his hands over his ears trying to shut out the sounds. It muffled them, but he could still hear them. Tears ran down his thin cheeks, and he rocked back and forth in bed, clamping his lips shut, trying to keep from making any noise that might draw the screams closer to him.
Usually the screaming was short, but tonight it went on so long the boy crawled under his bed, more afraid than he had ever been before. He didn’t know how long he lay in the dust and the cold, shivering as much from the fear of the screams as from the freezing temperatures in the tiny unheated bedroom.
He awoke with a jerk of alarm. He was still under the bed, but the light in the room was graying. His fingers and toes were so cold he could hardly bend them. He lay listening, straining to hear anything, but the house was quiet. It creaked slightly in the rising winter wind, and he could hear tree branches brushing the roof.
Eyes round and pale in the gloom, the boy peered out from under the bed like some fearful post-apocalyptic creature looking out into the dying world. Despite the silence, he stayed under the bed for a long time, shivering quietly. Finally, when it was light enough for him to see the grain pattern in the warped boards of his bedroom floor, he crept slowly out from under the bed.
His thin legs and arms and his dingy underwear were coated with dust. Narrow rivulets of tears and dirt streaked down his face, accentuating the hollow cheeks and sharp cheekbones.
He sat on his bed, afraid to leave his room. Afraid of what he’d find outside the safety of his closed door. So he sat and shivered, watching the light grow steadily, turning his threadbare room brighter until the weak winter sun peeked over the hill behind his house and slanted a few beams of white-yellow light through his flimsy curtain.
His heart began pounding in his narrow chest, and suddenly he was afraid to stay inside the tight confines of his shabby bedroom. He felt trapped.
Shudder-sighing once, he stood. Taking one tentative step, then another, he approached the bedroom door. Timidly he reached for the knob. It felt like ice to his stiff, cold fingers, and it turned hard, creaking loudly. He winced at the sound but kept turning the knob until the latch snicked into the stillness, then he froze, afraid to continue but afraid to stop.
He stood a long time, posed as for a still-life drawing, until he forced himself to pull the door open. As he stepped slowly into the hall, he glanced left toward Aunt Cindy’s bedroom door. It stood partially open, and light from the room created a slanting bar on the worn wooden floor of the hallway. He approached the door hesitantly.
From the look of dread and fear on his face, an observer would have thought the dusty, thin boy was approaching the lair of a dragon rather than the bedroom door of his aunt. The woman, who had taken him into her home four years before when his parents and sisters had died in a car crash, was all the family he had. She had sheltered and clothed and fed the frightened six-year-old, loving him and caring for him as if he were her own son.
Now he stared fearfully at the half-open door just inches from his hand. Breathing shakily, he reached long, thin fingers out and pushed the door open. The ceiling light was on but was too weak to give much illumination to the tiny room. The boy could see the double bed was unmade, the covers hanging off the side in a waterfall of tangles. The sheets had uneven dark and light stripes, and he stared wide-eyed at them.
He looked at the floor and saw similar patterns and streaks. His fingers felt sticky, and he pulled them away from where he gripped the edge of the door and stared at them. They were covered in something dark, like syrup. He sniffed them, but they smelled funny, familiar but not sweet like the syrup Aunt Cindy bought for their pancakes. They smelled sharp and metallic.
The boy turned right, toward the closed bathroom door. He wanted to wash the sticky stuff off. It scared him. Inside the bathroom, he switched on the light and reached for the faucet on the sink. And froze again. His fingers were covered with reddish-brown stuff, slimy and sticky and terrifying.
His heart began to pound, and his breathing came in short, rasping gasps. Blood! His fingers were covered in blood!
Panicking, he whirled out the bathroom door and down the hall, screaming his aunt’s name. There were more streaks on the threadbare living room carpet and the worn linoleum of the kitchen. The back door stood open, and he crashed through it, still calling, screaming for his aunt.
He skidded to a halt on the back porch, feeling splinters pierce his bare feet but not caring. The man was sitting on the porch steps looking at Aunt Cindy lying in the dust of the yard. She was covered with blood, and her gray eyes were staring dully and sightlessly at the cloudy sky. The man turned his head when he heard the boy.
His unshaven face was splattered with blood, and his eyes were red-rimmed and dull. In his hand he held a broken bottle, the jagged edges of the glass gleaming crimson.
The boy’s eyes swiveled from the bloody corpse of his aunt to the broken bottle in the beefy hand of the man who was slowly and shakily rising from the steps.
“Now, boy,” the man began, “it were an accident. She were yelling at me and hittin’ me.” He held one bloody hand up in supplication, and the boy launched himself at the man, screaming.
The man batted the boy aside as if he were a fly, and rage engulfed his face. He pounced on the child, picking him up by his left arm and shaking him violently. The boy kicked at the man and swung at him with his free right arm, shrieking and sobbing.
The boy felt his left arm snap, but he was beyond caring. This bastard had killed Aunt Cindy! He punched and kicked the man, crying and wailing. Suddenly the man swung back, and pain crashed through the boy’s face. He held up his free hand in defense, and the man swung again and again with the broken bottle.
Pain. So much pain. In his face. His arm and hand. His neck. His chest.
The man flung the boy from him, and he landed on the porch. More splinters pierced his back, but the boy didn’t notice. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed and blackness took the pain away was the man staring from him to his aunt lying lifeless in the dirt then raising the broken, blood-smeared bottle and moving toward him.
Maybe I’ll see Mommy and Daddy and --
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