I sat up and listened. Perhaps Jack was taking a leak. I strained my ears for the slightest sound. All I heard was the tick tock of Grandmas cat clock hanging on the kitchen wall. It's tail wagging back and forth with each seconds passing. When a new hour passed he would stick his toungue out at you and meow the hour. I felt that familiar pang in my stomache that I had been feeling all weekend. It rose up and into my throat and I thought I would be sick. I knew where he was. I just hoped I didn't know what he was doing.
Quickly and quietly I threw on my shorts and sneakers and crept down the hall. Jack must have been very sneaky to get out of the house without waking any one. Old people are notorious for waking up at the slightest sound. When I reached the door I paused and contemplated my exit. I knew the door squeaked when it reached a certain point on it's outward journey. It was a rather loud squeak and on an ordinary day, unnoticeable. When trying to sneak out of the house to stop your sadistic friend from possibly killing himself, a dull roar. I looked up at the cat clock on the wall. His tail wagging, each second, swish, swish, as if telling me time is running out. It was then I realized it was almost three in the morning. The cat would begin to meow in two more minutes. I would make my exit and hope the sound would cover up the squeak.
At precisley three am the cat began to meow, and in the erie silence of early dawn it was a horrible sound. The meow became a moan and it sounded like death being stretched out and scraped over sandpaper. I held my breath and pushed open the door just as the cat death called. Outside I quickly shut the door, squeak in perfect tempo with the last of the three cat calls. I crossed the wooden planks on the deck on tip toe for fear of a loose board which would also give away my awol status. Off the deck I ran across the lawn sprinting for the barn. The barn was only about a hundred yards away but I just couldn't run fast enough. The dream of trying to outrun the monster had finally come true. My legs jsut wouldn't move fast enough and I was bogged down. The difference was I was running towards my monster and it woould catch me only because I was running straight into it's mouth.
When I reached the barn I stopped. I didn't want to confront Jack. If he was sneaking down here in the middle of the night then he was definatley in one of his moods. I was sure there was no way I could get him and myself back into the house without being caught. If we got caught without Grandad figuring out what we were doing down here then I could accept that and whatever punishment would be forthcoming. I just wanted this weekend over and I guessed my friendship with Jack would probably be over. I wasn't cut out to hang with him, it was too much work.
I peaked around the corner just in time to see the hammer claws smashing into the top of the third barrel. The one we never got to check. The flashlight had been propped up to shine on the top of the barrel and it created a shadow on the back wall of the barn. The shadow was huge and it featured a boy, grossly misshapen, with a hammer in his hands. The hammer looked like a sickle and I couldn't help but think that he looked like the grim reaper. The claws of the hammer had just punctured the barrel piercing the skin in two small spots. As Jack struggled to pull the hammer free the barrel began to move. I saw it but I'm not sure Jack did because he continued to wrestle with the hammer. It puffed out then returned to normal shape. It did this several times, each time greater than the last. It was breathing or something was trying to get out. I froze, head peeked around the corner, I couldn't move , my eyes were glued to that barrel and it's breathing. Jack remained clueless to the movement and the hammer began to loosen in it's death grip with the barrel. The pulsing began to deepen and I could see the barrels sides stretching. I tried to yell at Jack to stop but my voice just croaked. Croaked like that damn cat on the wall in Grandmas kitchen.
The hammer finally pulled free and Jack tumbled backwards. A small wisp of smoke or gas escaped form the holes. Then the screaming began. The sounds were terrible and I had never heard anything like it. The barrel began to thump and shake. The screams were coming from the holes in the top of the barrel and even though the holes were tiny the screams that came from them were immense. It sounded as if a thousand people were trapped in there and all of them were being tortured at once. Jack had regained his feet and stood in front of the barrel. Oblivious to the sounds coming from the barrel. He did not notice the moving and the thumping. Standing there in front of the barrel his hair wild upon his head. Blood began to trickle from his nose, then it came from his ears. A small stream of light poured from the hole and made a small circle of light on the rafter beams. I could see the dust motes floating in it's beam.
The holes began to enlarge themselves, peeling open ever so slightly. Something began to emerge from the hole something clawlike in shape. The hole began to open more and more and still I stood, unable to move or speak. My legs were frozen. Jack too stood in front of the barrel unmoving. Although now his arms were raised in a victory gesture. He had gotten what he wanted and now it was time to reap. Except something inside me told me Jack wasn't the reaper anymore.
The hole was getting bigger and whatever was emerging from the hole was making steady process. Blood was gushing from Jack's nose now and he was leaning over the barrel. I felt blood trickling down my face and I knew mine was bleeding as well. My ears were aching from the endless screaming. I knew Grandad was going to hear it and would come soon. I only hoped it was soon enough. I couldn't help Jack and Grandad was the only hope to end all this. I wanted my cocoa and I would give anything to hear Mr. Gumbel on the TV again. I just needed to wake up. It was all a dream. It had to be. This did not happen in ordinary life. This was the stuff bred only from the imagination of a child and forced into the terrible shape of a nightmare.
The screaming stopped. It stopped just as suddenly as it began. Only now, the light beam emerging from the hole was the size of a basketball. The thing had retreated and I thought maybe it was over when the clawshaped thing attached to something that resembled an arm shot from the barrel and grabbed Jack by the face. I could see worms or maggots moving in and out of the flesh on it's appendage. The claw end had wrapped itself around Jack's head, long finger like tentacles snuck around the back and sank into his scalp securing their hold. I heard a muffled scream from Jack and I felt a warm flush of fluid down my leg. Jack began to struggle and only succeeded in pulling the thing out of the barrel even farther. His screamed harder and harder and though muffled by the claw thing I knew instantly where I had heard that scream before.. Jack managed to pull the thing free from his face but the tentacles that had wrapped around the back of his head were firmly implanted. There were small tubes coming from the claw that were attached to his eyes. They were consuming them and what was left was dangling from the end of the tubes as if attached by suction cups. Jack stumbled and the thing regained it's grip and began to draw him closer to the barrel. Closer to the hole. Just as Jacks head was pulled into the hole in the barrel, blocking the light and sending the dust motes dancing to where they had come from, I screamed. I dropped to my knees and watched in horror as Jacks body was drawn onto the hole. I could hear the bones snapping as the body was forced to conform to the size of the hole. I began to feel dizzy and as I watched his legs disappear into the now gory blood soaked hole in the barrel. Grandad appeared and shoved me aside and the last thing I remember was Grandad pounding something into the hole. Shutting it, closing the entrance just as Jack's bloody Nikes' disappeared into it.