"Why don't we stop here?" John asked, pointing to a grassy area between two fields.
His friend Mark looked the place over. The tall grass blew in the wind; it stood un-mowed. Still, it didn't look like a field or a pasture. "It looks like somebody's yard."
John gave him a soft punch in the arm. "Do you see a house? Do you see any farm buildings? I don't. Come on; it'll be fine."
The two teens stepped off the dirt road, walked across the ditch, and plopped down next to a head-sized rock. They took off their knapsacks and dug out sandwiches and water bottles.
Mark glanced around them. "This place gives me the creeps. Let's hurry up and get going."
"What's your hurry? It's only a couple of days before school starts again. Try to enjoy yourself." John took another bite of ham and Swiss.
"Maybe it's the clouds. It's getting kind of dark over there. We might get rained on before we get back. It's already after five o'clock."
John shook his head. "Alright, you wuss, finish your sandwich and we'll go." He took another bite of his own food and took a swig of water.
Marked sat his sandwich down and turned to the rock. "I can't believe you killed her."
"Hmm?" asked John.
Slowly, Mark turned to look John square in the eye. His own eyes widened with rage. "I can't believe you killed your own sister."
"What are you talking about? I don't have a sister." John leaned away a little.
"I knew you was devil-spawn the first time I laid eyes on you." Mark stood and glared down at John. "If I had seen you before I married your pa I would never given God's own oath of matrimony. And now look what's happened; you done killed my baby daughter."
Setting his water bottle down, John stood slowly. "This ain't funny, Mark. What are you talking about?"
Something changed in Mark's expression of anger. "I know what's got to be done now. I got to do God's work. I got to send the devil back to Hell." He stooped down to pick up the head-sized rock. Standing, he glared at John.
Keeping his eyes on Mark, John stepped back. "Ok, Mark, this is really not funny. Come on, you jerk, stop fooling around. We can leave. We don't have to stay here."
A scream leapt from Mark's mouth as the boy lurched forward with the stone held high for bashing.
With pulse pounding and eyes wide, John made for the corn field. It's easy to get lost in corn. Mark's scream lashed out, driving John forward even faster.
John noticed the barbed wire just shy of running into it. He turned away and ran along the fence, looking for a break that would let him into the field.
Mark followed, shouting "Back to Hell, you child of Satan!"
An old fence post, the moss covered wood nearly the same color as the grass, stuck out into John's path. Without thinking, John turned again, heading back into the yard. He glanced back to see Mark only a few paces behind.
A stone in the grass caught John's foot. The boy fell, his shoulder hitting another stone. Much of his breath left on impact. Gasping for air, he rolled on his back. He saw Mark standing over him, stone in hand.
Mark's expression changed again. He no longer looked at John but seemed to look past him into the ground. "That's right, back to Satan's pit with you. I'll tell your pa that you murdered my baby daughter and then you jumped in the well to kill yourself. We'll bury you in that hole and your wickedness with you." He turned back toward the ditch. As he approached the area where the boys had picnicked, he dropped the rock.
Air ventured back into John's lungs. He watched Mark walk away. With the threat gone, he collected himself and waited for his racing heart to slow. The low-hanging clouds raced by above him.
With his wits gathered, John pushed himself off the ground. That's when he realized that the stove he hit and the stone that tripped him were part of a ring. The ground within was depressed as though it settled over time. He tried to shake it off and headed back to the ditch.
"What the hell was that all about?" John demanded.
Mark looked up at him. "What?"
"What do you mean ‘What'? You just chased me around the yard with a rock. I could have bashed my head in on that stone circle over there. What the hell's the matter with you?"
Mark's eyebrows rose in innocent confusion. "I don't know what you're talking about. I've just been sitting here eating. What's your problem?"
John dropped down by his knapsack. "Fine, let's just finish eating and get out of here."
The two boys finished their food in the silent roar of the prairie wind while the clouds blotted more of the sun. Without a word, they gathered their belongings and headed back to the dirt road and their hike back to town.
As the wind whistled through an old wooden gate, Mark muttered, "I can't believe you killed her."
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