"And the Horseman rode him down...and the horseman rode him down with arm poised with a flaming pumpkin...with a flaming pumpkin...Zeb!!! Where the hell are you!!" That would be me not paying attention.
"What? Who?" I said. A few snickers followed this.
"Where the hell were you, cloud nine? No couldn't be, THAT would be too close. Had to be cloud fourteen. God," Mr. Tain was really fuming. "Rehearsal over. Go home. Get rest. Come back to Earth; whatever you do after you leave this God forsaken school. DAMN."
"Sorry Mr. ..."
"Don't, just be here and have your attention here as well on Monday."
"Alright," I mumbled.
I pulled off the crown that gave me no head and sauntered into the dressing room to disrobe. I pulled off the black cape and suit. Then pulled off the black T-shirt exposing my developed chest and abdomen. I was a nice pale color. Just about everyone living in this small northern town has that complexion. I pulled off the black pants and shorts. I hung up everything in its rightful place in the dressing room and looked myself over in the mirror. I was muscular, developed. I did weightlifting and exercise. I stood five inches higher than the five foot mirror and weighed about 140 lbs, but I haven't checked in a while
As the gym coach said many times who happens to be a woman, "Perfect specimen. Not a shred of fat, just muscle." She wanted me to try out for wrestling, football, hockey, and a whole slew of others. The only thing that really interested me was track. Not even weightlifting competitions interest me. I do that for fun. However, I ran. I ran with a passion. Maybe out of frustration, maybe because I have nothing better to do, but I was good. And that was not self-promotion
I pulled on my street clothes and headed out into the cool air. This time of year, the leaves turn those shades of orange, red, and yellow, and the weather turns cool and windy.
I lived in a small town called Sleepy Hollow. Yep, the one and only, well, actually the one in six, but you know which one I am talking about. Tourism was a popular thing around here. All about that fucking headless horseman. That play went on every year. Sort of like a tradition. Something the parents could be proud of. Our high school didn't put on much more. I really didn't pay attention to the legend anymore. It all has become so mundane. Boring.
The town itself, however, I never got sick of. It was beautiful. Just amazing. White picket fences, cloudy most of the time, cool, and windy. I guess it wasn't just the town, it was more of the climate as well.
I stepped out of the auditorium, thrust my hands in my coat pockets, and walked home. The wind rustled a bunch of leaves around my feet and blew through the trees. Just that created an eerie feeling that I love so much.
"Zeb!! Hold up!!" I heard from behind me.
"Shit!! Christ!! You Scared me, Justin."
"Sorry," he said as he came up next to me. "Why'd you bolt from there so fast?"
"Just had to think."
"Oh." We walked in silence for just listening to the wind and the absent birds. "What about?"
"Are you sleeping over tonight?" I asked avoiding the question. `See there is this guy, Ben Jones. I have only seen him from afar, but I know that I am in love with him. Undeniably. He is smart, funny, and cuter than hell. I didn't exactly want to share what I have been thinking about.'
"Yeah, man, wouldn't miss it for the world."
"Great, I'll see you when my mom drops me off at about...6:00"
"OK, see you then," I said. Justin diverted off his street. He didn't live close to me, it was twenty minute walk to his house. I started to cut through the park, like I do every day after school. The forest I cut through is kinda creepy at night, which it was fast approaching. I quickened my pace. Oh, I could hear the wind whisper my name and I started to whistle.
`Gee, doesn't this sound familiar.' Did I mention that it is All Hollowed Eve, a holiday which this small town takes very seriously. Well, it isn't exactly the day. Close enough.
"Zebbadiah," it said.
I froze in my steps. The wind doesn't whisper that, impossible. Now I am not a superstitions guy. The legend to me is a joke, a fairy tale. There are no such things as ghosts. "Jesus, David. Must you?"
"Yes," the wind whispered back.
"David!! Get your ass out here!!"
"Ohh, you are good!" The bushes spread and out stepped David. He was too a good friend, a practical joker, but a good friend. He was the only person that I told I was gay. `Jeez, he said, that is a mouthful.' He seemed unphased. I was pleased with the response. Since then, he has been trying to hook me up, but to no avail. I told him about Randy, and he said that he will feel him out for me, since I am to scared to. I don't think he did it.
Both of us started to walk along the trail since he lived just a house down from me. "So is Randy your boyfriend yet?"
"You know the answer to that."
"You chicken shit"
"And you know it!"
"I will have to do it for you. But he is going to think that I am gay and interested. I mean come on, I have this friend who is interested in you and...um...he happens to be...um...gay. You cannot tell me that will sound like a line."
"Yeah, it does."
"Come on," he turned to me and had a pleading face on, "Garrett, I want you to be happy and you are torturing yourself with this. Just go up to him and ask. What is the worst he can do?"
I stared coldly at him, of course being night, he didn't see it. " There is a lot he can do!"
"Point taken," he said after pondering the hidden
I got home and dumped off my school shit and picked up weekend shit. I ran down the hall yelling, "Mom, we gonna go?"
"Aren't you going to take a shower?"
With a single bound I turned 180 and walked back to retrieve shower shit. Taking one was fast, hell, I wanted to get out of here. I love my mom dearly, but weekends are mine. "K, lets go," I yelled as I ran out of the bathroom.
"Remember honey, you said you'd do the leaves tomorrow."
"Damn, I forgot."
"Zeb, watch your mouth."
"Sorry mom. I'll get home as soon as possible and do them." `So much for my weekend,' I thought.
The drive was solemn. This weekend I was going to tell Justin that I was, well, gay. I was nervous. I might be walking home. Justin met me at the door.
"Zeb, what kept ya," he said rubbing my head. "Oh, a shower." He giggled. I couldn't help but giggle back. "Come on, I got a lot planned."
"What, like an activity schedule?"
"Shut up you shit! It is not a schedule."
"Is so," I said under my breath.
"I heard that." We ran up to his room, up the stairs and to the room far into the corner of the house. He had the coolest room. It had a corner window. Wood, old fashion frames. Wood floor and oak bookshelves. It looked very cozy. I would give anything for this room. Anything.
I dumped my carryall onto the clean floor and just stared blankly. "Why do you do that every time you step into this room? You have since you were four."
"Cus, it is just so awesome...Awesome."
"Shut up you dork. It is a room..."
"A room, a room, just a room? This is not just a room, this is a study, sleeping quarters, comfort zone, personal space. It is the coolest place that I have ever seen." At this, I could see him blush. Was this that gay characteristic of interior decorating kicking in. I shut my trap.
There was a moment of silence broken by... "Boys, dinner. Your favorite, Spaghetti and meat balls. Come and eat before it gets cold." Justin's mother was so cool. She just was.
"You know she is early. I had this whole thing worked out."
"My good man, be spontaneous," I said as I walked out of the room. "Comin'?"
Dinner wasn't anything to write home about. Just like every other time. I love him to death, as a friend, but he has got to lighten up on his plans. We went back to his room and hooked up his playstation. There wasn't a TV in his room, just a computer, but in some feet of technical accomplishment, one which I cannot master, he hooked it up to that. And just like every other time, he beat me in this racing game. I guess that is because, I only play at his house.
This is except for the last three races. We always played twelve. The last three I beat him. After this, I looked at him. I just stared blankly. Like there was nothing to say. This was unordinary. Not part of the plan.
"You want to call it a night?" He said.
"What, no movie?"
"No, I feel spontaneous tonight."
"Should I be worried, you have never been like this?"
"No!" he yelled. "I mean, no. I'm fine."
"Ok," I said reluctantly. We prepared for bed. I jumped into my shorts and tee-shirt with my back to him. And we hopped into his full sized bed. It was a little cramped, but we were used to it. He tossed and turned.
"Listen, maybe I should just grab the floor tonight," he said.
"What, no, what is up with you, loosing races, early night, floor. This is unlike you and it scares me." Even in the moonlight I could see a mist forming in his eyes. "Look your crying."
"I am not."
"You are, its ok, who cares, but me, and it is a good care. What is it?"
"I don't think that I can tell you, you of all people." He got out of the bed. And just stood staring out the window.
I could tell that he really does want to tell me, but is scared. I took the risk. I got out of bed and came up behind him. I gave him a hug from behind and held onto him. He didn't shed a tear, just whispered something so faintly, I could barely hear it. "Garrett, I'm gay." I didn't budge. "Why aren't you packing up your things."
"Why would I?"
"Because I make you sick, being attracted to other guys, being attracted to you."
I gave a hint of a laugh, then he started to giggle, which got me going, then it turned into just laughing. We fell to the floor. As soon as one of us would stop, we would look at each other and laugh again. Eventually it subsided. "What were we laughing at?" I asked.
"I said you were attractive."
"See, not so funny anymore, is it?"
"Quite serious as I would say."
"So your not angry?"
I got up. "Of course not, it is foolish to be angry at one of my own kind." I held out my hand and helped him up.
We sat on the bed and looked out the window. Apparently what I said, just registered cus he looked at me with a blank face. "What, do I have something hanging from my face."
"Yes," I said simply. "Does that bother you?"
He crooked his head and made a twisted smile. "Shut up you dork."
"Are we going to get some sleep tonight?"
"hmm, I might just want to ravage your body tonight."
"You'd like that wouldn't you, well, I don't think so."
"Ha." We both climbed into the same bed
and slowly fell to sleep. Nothing more was needed to be said.
All was out now.
In the middle of the night, I awoke to an awkward feeling. I opened my eyes, to see Justin's lips pressed against mine. I hated to do this to him, but I gently pushed him off me. I just looked into his eyes. They were eyes of passion and of love. Pity, I could not return them. "Justin. I love you..."
"And, I lo..."
"As a friend."
"ve...Just a friend?"
"I'm sorry, we both may like, love guys, but I don't love you like that. Please don't be angry." I felt a tear on my chest. "Please don't cry." I pulled him to my chest. I let him. I let him cry. I have torn out his heart and plastered it on to a wall. And it killed me. But it had to be. "Justin, I'm sorry."
"No," he said between sniffles. "Don't be, it isn't your fault. The heart is nothing that we can willingly control."
"I can still be sorry. I feel bad." He gave a smile in the moonlight.
"Thanks though, for being honest."
"Come, sleep now."
"Can you do me a favor tonight, just this night?"
"Hold me. Hold me close."
I smiled. "Sure." I wrapped my arms around him and held him close for the remainder of the night. To bad I wasn't in love with him because I have to admit that it felt good. I stayed awake for most of the night, thinking. I liked that Ben Jones, I want him, but facing reality, what are my chances. 648 in 100,000. Those are some horrible odds. But I can always hope.
I heard it. Must have been my imagination, but I thought I heard some laughing, more like a sinister laugh, from outside the window. My first thought was that someone had seen us, but that would have been impossible, seeing as it is completely dark in this room and nobody's voice could get through the double pained glass. Besides, it was the middle of the night.
"Headless horseman, my ass. The old wooden
bridge still stood. Legend said that he couldn't cross into the city.
So we are safe." I fell asleep, having dreams of my play. I
had a hard role to play.
The sun broke the horizon spilling into the room. I awoke with it, Justin still in my arms. I slipped from under him and relieved my bladder in the bathroom down the hall, then went back to the room. Justin was still asleep in the bed. I just looked out the window, hoping to see something of significance. Saturdays in Sleepy Hollow are boring. I scanned from right to left.
"God Damn!!" A black cat jumped from the large oak tree outside his window to the oversized sills. I fell from my seat and hit the floor with a thud. I sat up and stared at the cat who was staring at me. I saw a shimmer of green then red in its eyes. Then they returned to normal. "What the fuck."
"Ohh, man, what time is it? And what was that noise?"
"Six thirty, and me falling."
"Why did you fa...Tabby!! There you are." He arose from the bed and opened the window. He picked up devil cat and started to pet him as his own. He set the cat down on the bed and retrieved some food from under his bed. "It must have been days."
"You take care of that thing?"
"Yeah," he said blankly, like it was the most ordinary thing in the world.
"Aren't you afraid of rabies, and superstitions?"
"Hasn't bitten me at all, and what? You don't actually believe in that. I'll have you know that I walk under a latter every day and open my umbrella in the house for kicks."
"Dork, seriously, it isn't safe."
"Ohh, be spontaneous," he mocked. I just gave him an ugly face. After the cat was done eating it looked at me, again I saw the eyes. Was it my imagination.
"Just keep it away from me."
"Why, you scared!" he again mocked. He picked up the cat and walked toward me, extending it like a weapon.
"No, seriously. Umm, allergies."
"Ohh...sorry." He dropped the cat, which made a quick exit. Then he just stared at me. "Sorry about last night. I didn't mean to be so pushy."
"Its ok, it was flattering. Sorry again, I don't feel like that."
"Its ok, so what do you want to do today."
"Mall," both of us said at the same time.
Which happen to be built on the opposite side of the bridge. A thought
which crossed my mind for a second or two.
The mall was fun, it was the teen hangout. So was the bridge. We just browsed the stores. Nothing that we could actually buy. We were poor. We could afford lunch. Which of course we had.
As we munched our poison I asked Justin, "You believe in that headless horseman legend?"
"Who doesn't in this town? I mean, you have to." Changing subjects completely: "Who do you like?"
I blushed. "Ben Jones," I whispered.
"I knew it. Ha. It had to be."
"I saw that face you made toward him."
"What face?" Then there he was right behind Justin, eating lunch with a couple of his friends.
"That one. He's right behind me isn't he?" I couldn't answer. It was entranced.
Then something weird happened, he got up and walked to our table. He stood there for a second, surveying the scene apparently. Then sat down at the empty chair. "Guys, now I am fairly smart, but you are much better than I, can you help me in math?"
Justin states for the both of us: "You ask this now?"
"Sure I'll help," I blurt out. Justin just looks at me, but I must have this stupid face on, cus he just laughs.
"Great, I'll swing by on Tuesday about sixish, I know your in the play and all."
"Sure, that would work."
"Great, see you then." He gets up and sits back at his table.
"I see you made a new friend," Justin says with a giant smile on his face. This snaps me out of my trance and I look at Justin. What I see horrifies me. He is bloody, with bone exposed and flesh ripped from his face. An eye is missing. I swallow and look at my hands, then look back up. Justin is whole again.
"What the fuck," I say under my breath.
"Nothin'. Now what were you saying?"
"He was completely coming on to you. I expect more than a tutoring lesson on Tuesday."
"Really, one can only hope."
The rest of the afternoon passed without incident, however, I couldn't help but think of what happened. As night approached my anxiety rose. We went back to Justin's and horsed around for a while, then we just talked about everything, like we always do. This time. Once he was asleep, I looked out the window.
I could see the bridge, the old wooden one. An orange flickering light was inside. In a bridge that old, it is unsafe. "Shit," I whispered. Remember your horror movie training guide. Never go out into the night.
But was I actually thinking of that now, hell
no, I wanted to see what the hell that was. I dressed into jeans
and a shirt and snuck out of the house.
I walked down the road, 100 feet, I could see a figure on the bridge. He was huge. 50 feet, there was a flash of dull light and my foot sunk into soil. 25 feet, I walked to the entrance to the bridge. It was then that I realized that I wasn't walking on grass. I was on actual dirt. I looked behind me, no city. It looked like a scene out of our play. 18th century houses, were lined along one street.
"Oh my God."
"Ichabod," the wind whispered. "Garrett, Ichabod."
I stood at the threshold to the bridge and there before me was a man on a horse. The man was headless. He turned his horse to stare at me and in his far hand he held the source of the light, a flaming pumpkin.
"No you have me confused with...with..." `Shit, what's my name.' In confusion I looked at myself, only to find that I was in 18th century clothes. "SHIT!!!"
"Your time has come to an end." His hand extended and I found the pumpkin aimed for my head, I ducked and stared after it as it exploded on the ground. I looked back at only to see the horseman, riding me down.
I ran, with my might, `so much for the legend.' With each step, I yelled "Shit!" "Ben!!! Help me, JUSTIN!!" `Ben, my love, help me.'
A root appeared and I tripped. I got up
and looked back at the oncoming horse. He was still there, the devil
himself. The blade of his sword extended, I saw my life before me,
Garrett disappeared off the face of the earth that fateful day of all Hollowed Eve. He never did fulfill his dream of being with Ben Jones. Ben and Justin are together now, both went through grief together and found each other then. Then never forget that the one they lost brought them together.
The police did searches. But the townsfolk knew what happened to him, he fell victim to the lure of the horseman. Inevitable for some. His name will be spoken in years to come for it has been etched with the rest on the trunk of the devil's tree.
The devil's tree still stands in the woods.
And every Halloween it can be seen in bloom with black leaves, which fall
to the ground and degrade a day after. It is the cycle of the spirits.
Every five years someone falls victim to the lure and their name is etched.
The trunk has become full of names, the newer carved on top of the healed
older. The tree beats with its own life, and bleeds with the blood
of humans when harmed. Supplied by the victims it truly is the devil's
tree and it's owner, truly is the devil.