The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 11
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 11 The Devil’s Throne
Anne stormed out of the magic shop. Ignoring Sam’s frantic calls after her. As she revved up the truck, Anne noticed Sam standing in the doorway of the shop. Their eyes briefly meet as she drove past. Sam appeared truly upset. Well there was nothing to help that. Anne wasn’t going to sit there and listen to that nonsense.
Death walks with you girl.
What did that old woman know anyway? All that talk about chains, death and a tower. It stirred something up deep down in her being. Making her uneasy. She needed to calm down. Think straight. What was wrong with her?
She drove into town. The sun was finally making it’s presence known. Banishing the early morning fog back to the nether-realm that spawned it. Early morning Saturday, the town was dead. A strong coffee would be great about now. But Nolly’s wouldn’t be open for another hour. And Anne wasn’t too fond of what passed for coffee at McDonald's.
Instead of coffee, she drove past the middle school. Behind the school was the entrance to Snyder’s Park. Growing up in town with parents that couldn’t afford to go on vacations during the summer, Anne had hung out in the park plenty of times when school was out. Her and Sam had traipsed all through the park on many a hot summer day. The last time she’d been to the park, she’d been a junior in high school.
Anne parked the truck in the school parking lot. Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe it was the thought of a nice walk on a chilly autumn morning. Whatever the reason, Anne thought a stroll through Snyder’s would clear her head.
The park was built on Butler Hill way back in 1893. A winding cobblestone road ran through the park. Held over from the old cart and buggy days. Two stone pillars stood guard at the park’s entrance. In total, the park was about 60 acres, most of it was woods, but there was a large clearing at the top with some benches and two gazebos. Anne had spent quite a few summer days sitting on a bench reading a novel. The other big attraction at the park, the one that all the local kids came to see was The Devil’s Throne. A strange rock that resembled a crude looking throne. The rocks somewhat sinister look and red color gave rise to its name. Kids would dare each other to touch or sit on it. A rumor once spread that one of the kids that sat on the chair had become possessed. Supposedly this kid, Pete Sellers, started acting weird. Talking in some ancient language and killing neighborhood pets. His parents believed he was possessed by a demon. They tried to get the church to do an exorcism the story went, when they couldn’t, poor little Pete was sent off to an asylum. Never to seen again. His parents moving out of town in shame. Anne had never read any of such thing happening in town. Had never found any proof that Pete was even a real kid. Probably some of the older kids had started the story to scare the shit out the younger ones.
Of course, Sam had once dared her to sit on the Devil’s Throne. She’d come close to doing it. But the attempt ended with both girls hearing a strange noise in the woods. They’d freaked out and ran away, not stopping until they were past the stone pillars. Out of breath the two had looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Anne sighed. Things were different then. They were just kids. They’d had no responsibilities. Her dad had still been alive.
Cadaverous trees lined the sides of the park road. Having shed their leaves for Autumn’s harvest. Multicolored leaves coated the ground and the road. The only green to be found was the occasional evergreen. The morning was calm. The only noise to heard were dogs barking off somewhere in the distance.
Reaching the top, Anne found the area deserted. She hadn’t expected to find anybody here. Except perhaps for some high school kids fooling around. In recent years the gazebos had become a popular make-out spot.
Anne sat down on a bench in the nearest gazebo. The floor of it was littered with leaves and trash. Sadly, in recent years, due to budget cuts, the upkeep of the park was a lower priority. Especially in an off season like fall.
There were beer cans, food wrappers, someone’s sneaker, and was that a used condom? Anne considered kicking it away with her boot. But decided she didn’t even want to touch the thing. Instead she left the gazebo. Walking over to the second one. There was some garbage scattered there as well. Nothing that looked like a condom though. She sat on the wood bench. There was a nice view of the opposite side of Butler Hill. Steeper than the other, there was no paved road leading down. This side was very heavily wooded. Anne remembered hearing stories as a kid. That weird inbred hillbillies lived down there. Making moonshine and killing anybody that found them. Just another story to frighten kids.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Anne turned away from the side of the hill. A small red rubber ball came to rest a few feet from where she sat. Startled she looked around. Standing several feet away was a young girl. She couldn’t be more than ten or eleven. The girl stood still as a mountain. Her heavy jacket looked filthy. Her pink wool hat hung loose on her head. Tufts of long matted platinum blonde hair masked the girl’s face. Something about the clothes the girl wore seemed off. Out of place. Out of time.
Anne reached down, keeping her eyes on the girl. Fearing she’d disappear if Anne looked away. Picking up the red ball, she stood. Offering it like a form of tribute.
“Is this yours honey?” Anne stepped forward. Slowly.
Was the girl homeless? Maybe a runaway. Or could the story of the hillbilly’s in the woods be true. Perhaps this little girl was one of them.
Anne continued towards her. Holding out the ball.
“I won’t hurt you.” Anne reassured her. “What’s your name?”
The girl grinned as Anne closed the distance between them. Her teeth dirty and uneven.
“We’re the dreamers.” The girl said. Before running off like a flash of lightning.
Anne stood there for a split second. Holding the red ball, her mouth agape.
“Hey!” She shouted. Giving chase as the girl ran into the woods. Darting down the hill. Weaving between bare trees. At least she hadn’t run down the steep side.
“Come back here!” Anne managed to holler as she ran.
She followed the girl, crashing through dead brush like a drunk moose. Trying not to trip and fall as she ran. The girl on the other hand moved like she was born in the woods. Moving in and out of the brush and trees with a queer grace.
Anne’s boot caught on something wet and soft. She slipped, going down face first. The ball flew out of her hand as she tried to save herself as she went down. Scrapping her right hand on a rock, hidden under the dead leaves.
Anne sat up, just in time to see that the girl had vanished. Gone off further into the woods. She looked at the palm of her hand. The skin was red. Blood trickling out of a good-sized gash across it’s center. She flexed her fingers. Her hand hurt like hell, but didn’t appear to be broken.
“Shit. Shit. Shit!”
She rubbed her hand. Trying to work the numb pain out of it. Anne got into a kneeling position. Her knees felt moist. Crap. Did she skin her knees too?
Tentatively reaching down. Her knees felt fine. Her jeans weren’t ripped. Yet there was a bright red stain on both knees.
Then she saw them. Ten, maybe more. Lined up in a bizarre pattern on the ground. Dead birds. Their stomachs’ gutted. Their eyes plucked out.
Anne stood quickly. Backing away from the horrific display. She felt sick to her stomach. Wanting to run blindly away. To be swallowed up by the woods around her, like the girl. The girl. Did she do this? Or was there someone else out here. Here right now, watching her.
She needed to get out of the park. But the girl was still out there somewhere. If there was a maniac out here… Shit. The girl could be the maniac’s kid for all Anne knew. As best she could, Anne retraced her steps and found herself on another part of the cobblestone road.
How the hell did she get here? She looked down one end of the road then the other. Which way to go? Right or left.
Anne choose left.
She hadn’t been walking along the road long before she saw it there. Up ahead of her. The Devil’s Throne. It’s simply a dumb rock. Just keep walking.
Anne took a deep breath. Between her little run and finding the dead birds, she was breathing heavy. Her heartbeat felt like a machine gun blasting away in her chest. Sweat dripped down from her temple. Her hair was damp, clinging to her forehead and neck.
She started forward again. Drawing parallel to it, Anne stopped. A small red rubber ball sat on the throne. Anne frantically scanned the area. There was not a soul in sight. How did it get here? Was it the same ball?
Anne reached out towards the ball. What if she touched the throne? It was just a story. Plenty of kids had touched the thing, sat on it, they were fine. Nothing had happened to them.
Except for poor little Pete.
Was it her imagination? Or was it giving off electricity? No. That wasn’t possible.
“Lucy Locket lost her pocket.”
Anne spun around. The little girl stood there by the edge of the road. She smiled warmly. Her voice was sweet.
“Kitty Fisher found it.”
“Who are you?”
“Nothing in it, nothing in it!”
What was she saying? Was that some kind of child’s song?
“Who are you?!” Anne was feeling frustrated now.
The girl laughed again. Then in an instant, her face became serious. “You know who I am.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You know. I told you.”
“I know? I’ve never met you before. How could I know.”
She wanted to grab the girl. Shake her till she answered her with anything other than a riddle.
“Are you from around here?” Anne asked. Deciding to try a different question.
The girl nodded. “Do you think I’m pretty?”
“I think your pretty.”
“Thank you.” Anne said.
“Thank you.” The girl answered. Confidently. Tilting her head to the side. “Thank you.” She repeated. This time more mechanically. “Thank you.” This time she tilted her head to the opposite side. “Thank you.”
Anne started to back away. Back the way she’d come.
“Don’t you want the ball?” The girl pointed to the throne.
Anne shook her head. “No.”
The girl shrugged robotically. Then smiled eerily. “I’m hungry.”
The girl ran off into the woods, pinwheeling her arms as she went.
Forgetting about the throne, the ball and the dead birds. Anne ran down the rest of the road. Not stopping till she was past the stone pillars.
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