It is 7:34 PM. This story takes place in Bay City, Michigan. This is a story of murder. This is a story of the corruption of two youths, as grief, guilt, dread, and retribution cloud their minds.
And when the story has concluded, I hope that we all think about what people are willing to do to swear vengeance. To lend a hand to the victims. To be a lunatic.
Butch rips open a pack of ramen Noodles and pours the crushed up noodles into the bubbling, boiling water. Ray is sitting on the couch in the living room, watching re-runs of Breaking Bad. An expression stretches across Ray's face, as if a light bulb just "dinged" above his head.
"Butch, you saw that fight today right? Well, not really much of a fight, but, you know."
"Yeah, that was fucked up, dude. What did Lance even do?"
"Absolutely nothing, Josh is just a douche. Well, here's the thing- you hate bullies right?"
"Well, yeah. Doesn't everyone?"
"That's exactly my point. Everyone hates bullies, but does anyone do anything about it? No. They don't do shit about it-"
"Okay, so what?"
"Listen, I feel like that we could do something. I mean, we're pretty well built. And we both met over boxing. How about we help out Lance, and make sure that he doesn't get his ass kicked again?"
"So, you're saying that we should just beat the shit out of Josh?"
"There's more to just beating the shit out of him. We could help people out, dude. You know, instead of physically traumatizing them, we could just scare them a bit, y'know? Just shake 'em up a little bit. Remind them of all the people they've harmed, they'll be scared shitless, and they won't do it again."
Butch chuckles, and then slowly walks back into the kitchen.
"You're fucking insane, Ray."
"What's so insane about wanting to help people, Butch?"
"There's several other kinds of ways we could help people out, dude."
"Butch, you seriously think teachers will do anything? They don't give a shit about bullying. Not at our school, that is."
"Ray, I'm not doing it. I'm not going to help you scare the shit out of kids."
"Look at it this way. There are kids that do some fucked up shit because of they're neglect at school, people take their own lives over this shit, dude. If we try this, and if it actually works, we could help people. They won't have to be afraid at school anymore."
Butch nods his head.
"Butch, help me out with Josh. And if you don't like it, then we'll call it quits. Please."
Butch stares at Ray, partially biting his bottom lip.
It is now two days after their conversation, the final school bell rings, and Ray and Butch follow Josh out the front doors. Butch slaps Ray on the chest, stopping him.
"Dude, we're not doing this today, are we?"
"No we're not fucking doing this today. What we are doing, is surveying the path he takes after school- see, look. Josh takes a shortcut through the woods every day after school. That's perfect."
"So we just jump him in the woods and then leave him? Dude, that's fucked up-"
"It's the only way we can do it. It's not like we're going to kill him."
"Well, he's obviously going to know who we are."
"Masks, Butch. Ski masks. I have a white one for me, and a black one for you."
There is a long pause between them. Butch scratches his forehead.
"Alright, Ray. Whatever you say. When do we start?"
"Next Wednesday. We get him next Wednesday."
It is a week later. It is Tuesday. Butch is awakened in his sleep. His eyes are wide open, he is confused, and scared. He hears humming and ringing, a bright light radiates through out his room. He sees an owl. The humming stops, and the owl speaks. It's voice is raspy, and deep.
"Five things will happen to you: You will deny who you are; A red figure will appear in the branches; It will happen again; You will mourn; I will return."
The owl slowly fades until it's presence is no longer able to be seen. Butch stares at the ceiling, until his eyes close.
Wednesday. Butch's alarm clock wakes him. He showers, eats breakfast, and then stuffs the black ski mask that Ray gave to him into his backpack. As he walks to school, he meets Ray halfway.
"Today's the day. You still in?"
"Yeah, I guess- but, dude. Something weird happened. I don't know. It was this weird dream. Something talked to me, and told me something will happen. And that it'll happen again, and again, and again."
"They're just dreams, dude. They don't mean anything."
School passes by, and the final school bell rings. Ray looks across the room and glances at Butch. They both bow their heads quickly at each other. As they both meet each other halfway across the room, they walk out the door, following Josh. On their way out the front door, Ray whispers one word.
Butch reveals an uncomfortable expression across his face.
Halfway into the woods, Josh is still clueless he is being followed. Ray and Butch crouch under a fox hole, and they put their ski masks on.
"You look nice."
"Shut the fuck up, Ray."
"Alright, here's the plan. You see that tree over there? I'll be there. Take this branch, and walk ahead of Josh. Hide behind THAT tree over there, and when he walks past you, take his knees out."
"Are you fucking kidding-"
"Butch, we're doing this. Now go.
They both part ways, and get in position. Butch's sweaty, shaking hands are grasping the branch firmly. He's breathing out of his nose heavily. Ray is staring at Butch intensely, hoping that he executes the first move swiftly, and perfectly. Butch can anticipate the time of Josh's arrival by his feet crushing the leaves.
Butch swings the branch with outrageous power and the branch impacts Josh's right knee. You can hear the noise his knee makes as the branch hits, a popping/crunching sound. Josh yelps in pain, but before he can call for help, Ray tackles him, and gags his mouth with a sock he kept in his backpack.
"Listen here you piece of shit-"
Josh lets out a muffled scream, Ray gestures Butch to whack him again. Butch hesitates as Josh lets out another muffled scream.
"BUTCH. FUCKING DO IT."
Butch lets out a brief battlecry and bashes Josh in the head. A small projectile splatter of blood flies out of his forehead.
"Hey, Josh. Now listen to me. Stop- stop whining. Knock it off- I swear to fucking God, if you don't shut up I will bash your brains right the fuck in, do you understand me?"
Josh whimpers and then remains silent.
"You hurt Lance. He did nothing wrong to you."
Ray grabs Josh's face violently.
"What did Lance do Josh? Hmm?"
Josh's eyes are wide, and a single tear slowly falls."
"WHAT THE FUCK DID LANCE DO? HMM?"
Josh lets out a powerful, hysterical, muffled scream. Ray breathes heavily, and then gestures Butch to whack him once more.
"I- I can't, Ray. This is too much."
"Don't be a little bitch, Butch."
"I can't fucking do it. IT'S TOO MUCH."
Ray groans, and then snatches the branch out of Butch's hands.
"Stop fucking screaming. You piece of shit."
WHACK. WHACK. WHACK. WHACK.
Josh whimpers, each whimper losing speed. He wheezes, and he remains quiet.
"R- Ray. Ray. Why did you-"
"He wouldn't shut up."
"RAY. WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT?"
"Lance is gonna be alright."
Ray chuckles, and then he begins to laugh hysterical. Progressively repeating the same phrase.
"LANCE IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT."
Butch slowly begins to retreat, keeping his eyes on Ray. A hysterical Ray, that is rolling all over the leaves, laughing excessively. There's even a moment where he makes a puppet out of Josh's limp, lifeless body. Butch falls back, rips off his ski mask, and then vomits. Ray points at Butch, and then laughs even harder.
"Bu- BUTCH. BUTCH. YOU OKAY BUTCH? WHY ARE YOU SO QUEEZY BUTCH?"
Butch glares at Ray intensely, slowing arising back on his feet.
"Fuck you, Ray. Fuck you."
"Awwwh, BUTCH. DON'T BE SO- DON'T BE SO RASH."
Butch grabs the ski mask and runs away from the hysterical Ray.
"BUTCH. COME BACK, BUDDY. BUTCH!"
Wednesday night. Butch is looking at himself in the mirror. Confused. Scared. He closes his eyes, and when he opens them, there is a man in a tuxedo, wearing an owl mask, standing behind him.
"Butch, do you know who I am?"
Butch stares at the man through the mirror.
"Do you know who you are?"
"I don't know."
"Are you a good person?"
"I don't know."
"It is happening."
The man slowly fades away until his presence is no longer able to be seen.
The school intercom feedback rings throughout the halls, when it's finally stable, the principal begins to speak.
"Students. I am saddened to announce that exactly 8 hours ago, police found the dead body of Josh Hudson, skin peeled, hanging from a tree. This is a very tragic moment in Bay City. School will be called off for the day, in respect for Josh's friends, as well as his family."
When the announcement ends, the principal sobs.
The classroom is silent. One girl is heard whimpering, which then turn into sobs. Butch looks across the room at Ray. Ray is playing with his pencil, paying no attention to the students whatsoever.
Ray pulls out his phone, and starts texting. Moments later, Butch's phone vibrates, he pulls it out, and reads Ray's text.
"You have no idea how crimson a body is with it's skin peeled."
Butch's hands begin to shake, as he slowly inserts his phone into his pocket. Seconds later, a loud ringing bursts into his ear drums, all of the students in the classroom look at him, with owl eyes. The teacher slowly approaches him, humming.
"A red figure in the branches."
There is a pause.
"It is happening, Butch."
"I don't understand."
The ringing ends, and the classroom is back to normal.
As the class is dismissed, Butch slowly follows Ray. Ray is heading into the woods. As Butch follows Ray into the woods, Ray pauses.
"I know you're here, Butch."
Butch slowly steps into plain sight.
"You know Patrick Johnson, right?"
Butch stares at Ray with hatred. Ray chuckles.
"Well, it turns out, that Patrick, was picking on poor, worthless, Timmy Withers."
Ray pulls out a bruised and bloodied Patrick, gagged, and tied up.
"I caught this little fucker about two hours after I peeled Josh."
Butch breathes heavily, and he opens his mouth.
"Ray. What is wrong with you?"
An expression of shock and insult spreads across Ray's face.
"R- RAY. RAY, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?"
A sinister grin slowly stretches across Ray's face. Stretching from ear to ear. He pulls out a kitchen knife, and begins to sing. And when the chorus hits, Ray slides the knife across Patrick's throat. Ray closes his eyes, and shakes with pleasure. Exhaling with joy.
"Butch. I love this."
A piercing ringing noise rams into Butch's ear drums, and Ray's face morphs into an owls head. As the owl begins to talk, it's voice is mixed with double voices. One high pitched, one low pitched.
"Butch. It has happened again."
The owl begins to sob, and then chuckle.
Butch blinks. It is night time, Patrick's bloodied, skinned figure is sitting on his lap. Butch screams, kicks the figure off of him, and then gets back on his feet.
"What the fuck..."
Butch falls to his knees, and begins to scream with rage.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON-"
Butch punches the tree in front of him with force, and hatred.
Hours pass, and Butch is halfway home. He looks up, and he see's the man in the tuxedo with an owls head standing under a streetlamp. He speaks with concern. As if he's genuinely worried.
"Butch. Where is Ray?"
Butch stares at the the man with confusion.
"Butch. Do you know where Ray is? Butch? Do you know where he is? Butch? Do you?"
"I- I don't."
"What is happening?"
"You must kill him. You must. You must kill him. You must. Kill him you must."
The owl fades.
Butch wakes up. School is still called off. He turns the television on, and the channel that pops up is the news.
"There has been another recent murder of a 16 year old high school boy by the name of Patrick Johnson-"
Butch turns off the television. His eyes begin to water. He looks to his right, and he sees the man in the tuxedo sitting next to him.
"You know what you have to do. Don't you, Butch?"
The owl chuckles.
"Good. That's good."
He puts his hand on Butch's knee.
"Butch. Do you know what you are?"
"You're a lunatic, Butch."
Butch smiles at the man, and he fades away.
Butch slowly gets on his feet, walks to the kitchen, grabs the kitchen knife, and walks out the door.
It is 7:34 AM. And Butch is in Ray's living room. There is blood on his face, and his shirt. There's a puddle of blood that leaks onto the living room floor. An expression of excitement suddenly snaps on Butch's face.
"Hey, Ray! Hey, old buddy. Let's order a pizza!"
Butch chuckles, and then stares at the floor.
"Ray? Hey, buddy. Come on. You can't stay on the floor forever!"
Butch slowly walks to the kitchen, and he looks at Ray's dead body. Massacred mercilessly. Butch begins to chuckle, moments later, he begins to sob.
"Ray? Ray. RAY. RAY, WHO DID THIS TO YOU? RAY? HEY, COME ON. WAKE UP. WHO DID THIS TO YOU. WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING. COME ON. STAND UP. LET'S ORDER A PIZZA. PLEASE. STAND UP. WAKE UP. WHO DID THIS TO YOU?"
"It has happened."
Butch looks up, and in front of him, there is the man in the tuxedo with the owl head.
Butch smiles at the owl.
"Could you please tell me who did this to my dear friend?"
"Butch. I am so proud of you."
Butch cries with happiness.
All is silent. And the owl reaches his hand out to Butch.
"It is complete. Take my hand. We must leave at once."
Butch slowly stretches his arm out to grab the owls hand. As soon as their fingers touch, Butch is snapped awake by his alarm clock.
Cold sweat. Shaking. Butch turns on the light, all is normal. He turns off the alarm on his phone, and he sees that he has one new text from Ray. The text reads,
"Hey, you saw that fight at school, right? What did Lance even do anyway?"