DRAKE’S DARKEST NIGHT (Fiction)
Written by Kevin L. Howard   

Drake sat shivering in his bed.  The north wind howled, screaming through the cracks in the old house.  His room inhaled the crisp air.  Winters in New Hampshire were rough, and this old farmhouse, with its slits and holes, couldn’t compete with the cold breath of winter.

 

            Drake watched the curtains move from side to side with each new gust from winter's lungs.  He hated his room, not because it faced northward, but because it had a shifty mind of its own.  It was cold and damp.  For the last seven years he went to bed fearful, peaking over the covers.  Being twelve should have spooked away his fears, but age had failed to bring courage.

            On this overcast night in December, he heard more creaking than usual.  Why did his parents give him this corner room?  He wanted to be on the other side of the house where they were, or upstairs where his little sister slept.  Instead he got the rundown room on the north end, a wooden wind tunnel.  But these were hard times and his family was fortunate to still have the farm after last year's bad harvest. 

            "One day I'll live in a big mansion in Hollywood where it's always warm," he said out loud.  The house moaned with its own troubles, boards squeaking underneath the weight of their burden.   

            A scratching sound on the outside wall gave Drake chills.  He even stopped shivering to listen for the intruder.  He knew that at any moment the goon would yank away his covers and they would be face to face, boy against villain.

 

~~

 

            "Frank, you made it!  Your parents turned in at their normal time?" Bill asked.

            "They were sound asleep when I crawled out the window," Frank said.

"Nice weapon," Bill said.

            "Think it's big enough?"

"Looks like you found the equipment.  I hope your brother doesn't go looking for his overcoat or shoulder pads tonight," Frank said, the fog from his breath moving skyward.

            "Speaking of shoulder pads and football, remember when Drake tackled you over there and you hit your head on that rock?"

            "I also remember you crying when I sacked you later that day," Frank winked.

            Bill turned away, his twelve-year-old face testing the shades of red. 

            The two were inseparable since their earliest memories.

They trudged through the long narrow field of snow separating their houses from Drake's.  All three played football in the big open field with five other friends every Friday during the summer.

"Look at the snow coming down tonight," Bill pointed, his black hair tucked carelessly under his wool cap.

            "I wish they'd cancel school tomorrow," Frank said.

            "They never cancel school."

            "I know, but I can wish."

            They stopped as they approached Drake's yard.  "Ok, remember what we planned," Bill said.

            "Drake will wet his pajamas," Frank smiled.

 

~~

 

            Drake heard a ping on the window.  His eyes gaping, he stared at the ceiling.  He couldn't move.  This time it wasn't a limb scraping the house; something had hit the window.  He swallowed and prepared to fight, tears puddling in his eyes.

            Then a familiar tap brought relief.  His feet turned to popsicles as he scurried over to the blue curtains and pulled them back.  He smiled when he saw Bill's face.  Drake strained to open the window, then he remembered his dad had recently nailed it shut.

            "Is Frank still at his grandmother's?" Drake mouthed to the face in the window.

            Bill tilted his head sideways and leaned closer to the window to comprehend.

            Drake breathed on the window, then etched his question with his finger.

            "Yes," Bill said, nodding his head.

            Drake noticed the snow accumulating, falling in rapid rhythm, like white Corn Flakes poured out from the heavens.  He wanted to go outside with Bill.  Drake thought back to when seven of the guys built a snowman in that same yard last year.  The moist snow had visited suddenly that day.  They rolled up a snowman in no time, and then Bill pelted Frank in the face with a snowball.  That's when it broke out.  Bill, Tim, and Drake against Frank, Mike, David, and Barry.  It was the battle of battles.  Snowballs blazing as fast as they could roll them.  Drake remembered the adrenaline rush he had felt as snowballs whizzed past his head.  He ducked behind a tree and waited until David stuck his head up from the old barrel.  Drake caught him off guard and delivered one right between his eyes.  David fell backward, as though hit with a grenade.  It was boyhood triumph at its best.  Drake remembered how his hands burned from the cold of the wet snow.

            Back in his room, Drake noticed a movement several yards behind Bill.  At first it appeared to be a dog.  Drake's eye's widened.  It was someone hunched over and carrying a stick.  Drake knocked on the window to warn his friend, but Bill was bent over tying his boot laces.  Drake tapped loudly on the glass, hurting his knuckles.  He looked again at the figure.  A husky man wearing a ski mast moved toward Bill.  The wind howled again through the bushes, rattling the window panes, whistling through the crevasses.  Drake could now see the ax.  He beat the glass furiously and tried again to raise the window. 

            Bill remained bent over, fiddling with his boots.  Maybe the wind kept him from hearing the warnings.  The figure held the ax high and walked toward Bill, looking down at him as though the boy were wood to be chopped.  Bill remained oblivious.  Drake's hair stood on the back of his neck.  As his skin quivered with fear, goose bumps lined up for roll call on his arms and legs.

Shattered glass spewed onto Bill, the blast knocking him down.  There was an echo and then a ringing.  Drake felt the crash of lightning on his right shoulder.  He could see neurons swirling in the backside of his eyes.  He felt dizzy, like when he landed on his head last year trying a cartwheel. 

Bill rubbed his eyes and sat upright, with snow on his cap, and glass protruding from his cheek.  Window fragments lay scattered on the snow, smoke hovering. 

Drake looked at the figure in the snow, with red droplets sprinkled around the corpse, the ax still in its grip.  Drake gazed down from his twelve-gauge shotgun at Bill;  they stared at each other. 

~~

 

Drake opened his eyes.  He looked around his room and over at the window.  It was still intact. He felt beside his bed for the cold metal of his new shotgun and found it untouched.  He saw nothing but snow when he pulled back the curtains.  No corpse, no Bill, no ax.  Only snow. 

Drake crawled back in bed where he listened for more sounds.  The wind shrieked through the trees, and the room turned darker as the clouds slid their canvas over the eyes of the moon. 

Drake had drifted back to sleep when a tap at the window provoked him to sit up in bed.