As the last of the words came out of Jack's mouth my stomach tightened. I knew without a doubt what was in those barrels. Or what used to be in them. I didn't want any part of them. I wanted out of that barn and far away from that journal as possible. This was bad juju and I was scared. A feeling had crept over my body like a thousand centipedes crawling on me at once and I wanted to scratch at them. In fact I wanted to itch them till they bled. Itch until it hurt so bad that I couldn't think about those damn barrels.
The thought of centipedes brought me to my senses and I peeled my eyes from the journal, that lay there on the barrel, and looked up at Jack. He was standing there, arms raised above his head, with the hammer in his hand. The horror in my eyes must have been enough to cause him to pause and I was able to deflect his strike just enough that it was only a glancing blow off the rim of the barrel. The thud echoed off the cinderblock walls and seemed to drop to the floor. He had tried to bust a hole in the barrel. " What the hell do you think your doing", I hollered at him. "Are you fuckin crazy", I asked him. "Just trying to get a little Jap Juice", he said. His eyes were glassed over and I knew he was in his crazy mode. I had to get him away from those barrels at all costs. "Grandads comin down the hill right now", I lied. "Lets get out of here. If he catches us he'll be pissed." I watched Jack transform or morph or whatever you want to call it, back into his old self and we both ran out of the barn. I stopped halfway and ran back inside too get the hammer. I looked everyehere but couldn't find it. When I looked back at the barrels I swear I could see them moving. Almost breathing. Breathing in the dust motes that were dancing in the flashlight beam only moments ago. Maybe not breathing but feeding.
Back outside we climbed up in the treefort and just stared at each other. "You think that stuff is true", he asked me. " I don't know", I replied. "Theres no other entries after that one so probably not", I reassured him. I didn't think he needed reassurance. Quite the contrary I believed. "He died", Jack said blatantly.
There was no emotion in his voice and it made me nervous. "He flat out got killed by the Jap Juice", he said.
"What are you talking about, and what the hell is Jap Juice?", I asked him. "That polock from the journal", he said. " He went up and looked inside the barrel and whatever was in there killed him", he sputtered. He was getting excited and the color in his cheeks was turning bright red. He looked like a kid who has just finished a romp in the snow and has came in for cocoa. Soon he would begin cussing. Jack always cussed when he was excited. "Jap Juice is the shit in them fuckin barrels ", he yelled. "It's the secret weapon that dude was talkin about". " Theres no such thing as Jap Juice", I told him. Although at this point I wasn't sure myself. I just wanted to go back to being a kid and building a tree fort. " Then you explain why there is a journal about barrels, in your barn, sitting on a bunch of barrels", he said to me matter of factly. I retold the story of the boat company again and I could tell he wasn't buying it anymore. I wasn't either but I was too scared to do anything else. For good measure I asked him," if that's what you think is in there then why do you want to open it up and kill yourself". "It's probably expired by now', he said. I thought to myself," big boy what's in those barrels doesn't expire and if you open it your soon to be not chuckin anymore wood like old Mr. Wood chuck. That barn killed him too." I didn't say that because to do so would just verify what we both were thinking. "We will ask grandad tonight at supper", I told him. That seemed to appease him for now and we tinkered with the fort some more though niether of us was really into it now. We were both lost in thought over those stinkin' barrels.
Supper rolled around and we scrambled back to the house. After washing up we took our places at the table. We said grace and I secretly asked for a little assistance with these barrels. We gorged on meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy. Grandma sure knew how to cook. I had almost forgotten for a moment about the barrels when Jack piped up. " What's in the barrels down in the bottom of the barn", he asked Grandad. As long as I live I will never forget the expression on grandads face. He instantly went white and he choked on his food a little. "You boys stay out of that barn", he said. "You got no business being in there in the first place". "If I catch you in there again you won't like it none too well". That was final and Grandad meant it. He never even finished his dinner. He got up and strode into the back bedroom. I could hear him on the phone talking in a raised voice though I couldn't make out what he was saying.
We finished our dinner and were having apple pie when grandad walked back into the room. He looked sternly at me and said," Tomorrow morning your friend needs to go home and no more building on your playhouse until I say so". With that said, he walked outside and I heard the rumble of the old Lincoln engine and the gravel crunching under the tires as he drove down the driveway. I looked at Grandma for a little help and she just went about her business like nothing had happened. That this was just another normal night.
I was dumfounded and I looked over at Jack and he looked back at me his eyes screaming " I tolds you so".
Sleep didn't come easy that night and when I finally drifted off, it was a restless sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke to a strange noise. I lay there listening for a minute when I heard it again. I rolled over to see if Jack was awake and if he had heard it. Jack was gone.