TITLE: The Meadow
The tiny lamp haloed the blue-lined pages of the spiral notebook. The digital clock glowed 2:07A.M. as Nathan hunched over the desk with a pencil eraser pressed against his lips. Brow creased.
The nightmare had awakened him. Again. The scuffling behind. The odor of spoiling meat. The darkness pressing against him like water as he sprinted in slow-motion toward a pale ball of light. Sniffing a hint of her floral shampoo, he sensed Charlie beside him tonight. Sometimes his hand clutched the holey canvas sneaker stuffed with Jason’s bloody foot. This time that terrible burden jiggled inside his backpack.
When he woke up, he was alone as usual—body upright in bed, mouth sucking shallow breaths, beads of sweat dribbling down his neck. But the worst thing for Nathan? The awareness that much of the dream really happened.
Sad, bitter images of Jason bent over his sketchpad in the meadow haunted him. He shook his head and muttered. “So stupid. Why did you go out to Ben’s after dark? Why did you die and leave us alone?” When he heard his words, Nathan wanted to swallow them. Shame washed over him.
He sighed, rubbed his watery eyes with a fist, and wrote the first lines:
We stared with wonder and terror at the rusted steel rungs hammered into the rock sides of the dark shaft. Little did we know then, that ladder would take Charlie and me straight to hell and back. …