TUESDAY, AUGUST 6, 1985
THE NIGHT was now still as the boy lay on his back. The ground beneath him littered with pine needles and broken branches of summer’s demise. The grass, which encircled him, swayed in the slight breeze. Its blades, interwoven in separate stages of breath and decay, bent and rose in a melody of submission. The moon, flush only two days before, shadowed as it succumbed to the end of its cycle.
If he could see, the boy would have noticed the stars above his head, effervescent in the cloudless sky as they shone majestically before withering into nothingness. If he could feel anything other than pain, he would have felt the breeze as it whispered across his bared chest.
But the boy knew none of this.
He saw only opaque nonexistence behind his swollen eyes. His perceptions were internal. His mind capable only of what was developing within him. And yet, ascending to the top, like the froth on the beer he had drank before all of this began, the voice of his sputtering heartbeat emerged. Its pace coexisting with the dry hum pulsating in his ears.
As he listened, the two sounds broke apart, the chant of each flowing in a different direction. And in a layer which encased them, another sound rose. An off-key piece of a song he couldn’t quite place floated somewhere in the distance.
He tried to make sense of what had taken place. Of how he came to be here. Fading thoughts of betrayal ran through him as he labored to stay alive.
His breath snagged.
Fear sliced through his brain. His mind shivered into fragments, shards of thoughts scattering like a shower of hypodermic needles. Dried tears, entwined with the blood seeping from the wounds beaten into his head, stained his battered face.
Although the boy wanted to move, he could not.
His life essence wept into the earth, after the pipe had crashed again and again into his body, after the blade plunged over and over into his chest. His left eye brutalized by the abuse. His throat ravaged, his lips, torn and bloated, his gums savagely inflamed, displaying empty hollow sockets where his teeth had been.
But all this the boy could endure. If he could rise above the suffering, he would survive.
Hope arrived as a whisper and blanketed his misery. It flowed into a quiet awareness, a liberation from the blackness he could see coming to greet him. He steadied himself for a deep inhale.
The boy felt his ribs rise.
He tried to swallow the blood and excess saliva which had pooled in his mouth. Something was in his throat.
His eyes shot open.
But the boy was oblivious to this; he remained sightless as his mind concerned itself only with the assailant now lodged inside his trachea.
He began to sink.
His bones no longer felt the plot of earth on which he lay. Colors and sounds whisked by as the boy tried to lift his arms to stop his descent. Blood surged through his lungs. His pulse grew deafening, relentless, drowning out the sounds escaping him as he struggled to inhale. Faces swam in his mind. Friends from school, his siblings, his parents. Memories popping up in brisk progression as he slipped further away.
Deeper into the blackness.
As his breathing moved in and out in a strand of stuttered hisses, a peculiar sensation overtook him. Its ambiance beckoning with the sensation of embracing a favorite childhood toy.
And silently, the boy let go.
Finding himself submerged inside this welcome cocoon of nothingness, the boy realized his suf
had dissolved. Here, in this new place, he could finally recognize the sounds coming from the darkness below.
There were only two.
The haunting words of Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast and laughter—the melody surrounding him as his friends walked away.
And on the dried August grass of a sparsely inhabited field north of Houston, Texas, a body lay.