Welcome to 2018, and the year's first installment of First Sunday Short Fiction. We have a little bit of shiver-inducing horror for you this month. We hope you enjoy the story as much as we did! And remember, if you want to submit a story of your own, you can find instructions on our submissions page.
Do You Remember Frankie J. McKinney? by Evan Purcell
Hey, man. I didn’t see you there.
Yeah, I tend to sneak up on people. I’m stealthy, I guess.
Um, what are you doing out here? It’s really late.
I could ask you the same question. After all, you heard what happened to Frankie J. McKinney, right?
Yeah. He disappeared.
He disappeared. That’s one way of putting it.
Well, I was just walking back from the library. Mom said…
You always do what your mother says, don’t you? You’re really smart, aren’t you? I mean, we were in pre-calculus together, so you must be smart. Frankie J. McKinney was smart, too. It’s a shame what happened to him, especially after what happened to his dad. Life isn’t fair sometimes.
But poor Frankie, he just shouldn’t have played Cops and Robbers.
I really gotta go. I think my mom…
Mothers can wait. Don’t you wanna know what happened to Frankie? I could tell you.
Come on. It’ll just take a second. You should know these things. It happened over there. In the woods behind the bank. That’s where he was. And since you live nearby, it’s best you know what happened.
Frankie was hanging out with his three best friends. You probably know them, too: Georgie Ray, Aaron, and Dennis. Aaron was the fat one and Dennis had that tooth problem. Anyway, they’re a year older than us, but for some reason, they liked to hang out with Frankie. The four of them would play Cops and Robbers.
I always tried to join them, but Frankie said they liked keeping an even number. I think that was a lie, though. I think it had something to do with where my dad works and how I’m always…I don’t know. Whatever. I was always excluded, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, the night Frankie J. McKinney disappeared, the four of them decided they would play their little games out in the woods. Right over there. You see? That really dark area with all the twisted trees? That’s where they were.
Frankie wore his daddy’s old policeman hat, you know, for obvious reasons. He had a fake pistol too, small and plastic with a little orange tip. Dennis had a fake pistol, too.
Georgie Ray and Aaron were the robbers, so they had those black mask things over their eyes. Aaron even had a cloth bag with a dollar sign written on it. If I had joined them - which I couldn’t - I would’ve been a robber, too.
You know, I should be going. I can see you at school. Maybe you could finish…
John, we never talk in school. Besides, it’ll only take a minute.
As I was saying, the four boys went inside the woods right over there. Frankie was a little scared. Unlike the other three, he didn’t have a father to take him hunting anymore. Besides, he was younger than the rest, too. He was our age. So, yeah. He was scared.
“Are you sure we should go in there?” Frankie asked, but the others ignored his question. They headed deep into the woods, and Frankie clung to his policeman’s hat like a talisman, like some big, strong safety thing.
Once they got far enough into the trees, Georgie Ray said, “Okay everybody. We’re going to split up. Cops should stick together, and the robbers…”
As he started explaining the rules, something howled in the distance. Something big. And loud. Frankie wanted to run away, but he couldn’t because Dennis beat him to it.
“Sorry, guys!” Dennis said and ran back home. So much for their precious even number.
Frankie tried to follow him, but Georgie Ray grabbed him by the shirt collar. “We can’t play Cops and Robbers with no cops,” Georgie Ray said. There was a little anger in his voice too. After all, Frankie was younger, and he’d begged them to be a cop this time.
Frankie stayed. There’s nothing like a little peer pressure to keep kids in line. Of course, I was never friends with these guys, so I wouldn’t know how strong that bond was. But I do know a little something about guilt. Frankie did, too. He didn’t want to go back on his deal. So he stayed.
The other two boys ran into the darkness. Aaron shouted, “Catch us!” and Georgie Ray shouted nothing at all. Well, maybe Tommy gun noises. He was good at those.
Frankie trudged forward, his fake pistol cocked and ready. His two friends had run in opposite directions, so he decided to turn left and follow Aaron’s path. Aaron was the slowest in the group. The fattest, too. Honestly, he wasn’t a very good robber. And he couldn’t do a Tommy gun noise worth a damn.
No matter how hard he tried, Frankie couldn’t stop making noises with each step. There were too many dead leaves on the ground. Remember, this was the beginning of October. Fall had just started. It wasn’t like it is now, with most of those leaves dried up and gone. They were still all over the place. And they crunched.
Frankie stopped, trying to gauge which direction to turn. It was too dark to see Aaron’s footsteps, but he had a feeling he should head toward the left, which meant going deeper into the shadows. That seemed to be where Aaron would’ve gone.
Before Frankie could take another step, he heard a crunch. Then another. Someone was walking toward him, slowly. Very slowly.
“Uh, guys?” Frankie shouted. “Is that you?”
There was no answer. Of course there wasn’t. Even the crunch noises stopped.
Frankie was shaking now. He knew there was something else in the dark - not Aaron, not Georgie Ray - something unknown. God knows why his brain would jump to that conclusion. He always had an overactive imagination.
But this time? This time he was right.
A figure stepped out from between two twisted tree trunks. He was tall, taller than Aaron and much taller than Georgie Ray. Hairy, too. God, you should’ve seen this beast. Hulking. Massive. A real creature, you know?
“Aaron?” Frankie asked, but his voice quavered and it was obvious he knew this wasn’t Aaron.
The figure stepped closer.
Moonlight streamed through the tree branches, but this black shadowy shape stuck to the darkness.
He stepped even closer.
“Who are you?” Frankie asked.
Then, the figure stepped into the streaming moonlight, and Frankie had his answer.
It was a werewolf!
Why, yes, John. Yes, it was. How did you know?
You talked about moonlight a lot. Plus, the hairy stuff. I’m not an idiot.
Of course not. I know you’re not an idiot. After all, we had pre-calculus together.
So yes, Frankie J. McKinney stood face-to-face with a werewolf. And an imposing one at that.
Can you imagine the terror, John? Can you imagine the vein-throbbing, awful terror of standing inches away from a monster whose every muscle is trained to kill you? It must be horrible. It must be indescribable.
He had no time to think, no time to weigh his options. He spun around and barreled his way through the trees.
And with every step, the werewolf kept pace.
Frankie heard it gaining on him. He heard its thunderous footsteps getting closer and louder. This creature was a superior specimen, a true hunter. There was only one way this was going to end, and Frankie knew that. He tried to run faster, but it was so dark, and he kept fumbling around through the branches.
He saw a clearing up ahead, and just as he was about to approach it, he ran straight into Georgie Ray. He felt the air get knocked out of him. Georgie Ray did, too.
Poor Georgie Ray crumpled to the ground, and his little fake bag of money sailed through the air.
Trying to catch his breath, Frankie spun around to see where the werewolf was, but there was nothing behind him. Not even shadows. He could barely breathe - he couldn’t breathe - but he was once again safe.
“Jeeze, Frankie!” Georgie Ray shouted. “Watch where you’re going!”
“Sorry,” Frankie mumbled.
“You made me drop my stupid money bag! I guess that means you beat me. But seriously, Frankie…”
Aaron jumped out from the next tree over and shot Frankie with a pellet. Frankie felt its plastic tip ram into his side. “You’re dead, Frankie!” Aaron said. “The Robbers won!”
“You won,” Georgie Ray grumbled. “Stupid Frankie just got me. He cheated, too. I didn’t even…”
“Guys! Stop!” Frankie shouted. “There’s someone else here!”
“Who? An adult?” Aaron asked. He looked around.
“A werewolf!” Frankie whispered. He went from a shout to a whisper very quickly.
“A what?” Aaron asked. Georgie Ray didn’t say anything. He just laughed.
“A werewolf,” Frankie repeated. “He’s here. He was just chasing me and…”
“This is stupid,” Georgie Ray said.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” Aaron said.
“I’m not. We need to get out of here!”
“I agree,” Georgie Ray said. But instead of running away, he grabbed Frankie’s policeman’s hat and threw it as far as he could. Then he ran away. Aaron ran away, too. That’s what they were good at, after all. Running away. Only this time, they ran in the same direction, toward the street, out of the woods. Heck, in less than five minutes, they were probably back in their kitchens, sipping on hot chocolate and watching television.
But Frankie, poor Frankie. He really needed his hat back. It was a present from his dad. You remember what happened to his dad, right?
Yeah, something like that. Some disease or whatever. That hat was one of the last things his father gave him before, you know, cancer stuff happened. So it was important.
A smarter kid would’ve left the woods and gone back in the morning. After all, the werewolf would’ve had no use for a policeman’s hat. None of the little woodland creatures would’ve, either.
But no. Frankie wasn’t a smarter kid. He was just Frankie, and even though he wasn’t brave, even though he wasn’t much of a cop at all, he still went back in there.
Exactly, John. But what do you expect? You know this story isn’t going to end well.
Frankie trudged deeper into the darkness. He knew exactly where the hat had landed. He couldn’t see very well. The moon had slipped behind some clouds again. He kept whispering, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
He was trying to convince himself the werewolf was in his imagination. Maybe “delude himself” is a better way of putting it. What do you think?
Anyway, he didn’t waste any time. He walked directly toward his cancer dad’s cop hat, but it wasn’t there. He looked all around his feet. Nope. No hat. Nothing. Just pebbles and dead leaves and his own muddy sneakers.
He looked up and right in front of him, just two feet away, was the werewolf. It gripped the cop hat in one of its claws.
“Um, hello,” Frankie whispered. “Can I, can I have my hat back?”
The werewolf attacked, of course. Because if he didn’t, then this wouldn’t be much of a story, would it? The next day, Georgie Ray and Aaron and Dennis went back into the woods, but they couldn’t find Frankie anywhere. Not even pieces of him. The woods are dark and deep, and they couldn’t quite remember where they left him.
Grown-ups never found him either. It was like he never existed, like there was never a pretend policeman named Frankie J. McKinney.
So, um, how do you know all this?
Do you really have to ask that question?
Because I know you’re not stupid. Far from it. We were in pre-calculus together, right? You’re clever. Besides, you’ve been slowly backing away from me. And your eyes! God, I can see everything in your wide, gaping eyes. They keep staring at my new hat.
You want me to say it out loud, right? You want me to verbalize the truth about myself?
Well, I can do you one better. I can show you. What do you say?
Don’t be shy. You know you’re curious.
I am a little curious.
That’s better. Come on. Come with me into the woods, and I’ll show you what’s left of Frankie J. McKinney. I’ll show you where I left him.
I don’t know.
Hey, I’ll let you poke him with a stick.
story ©Evan Purcell, 2017
photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash
About the Author:
Evan Purcell is a writer and teacher who has lived everywhere from America to Zanzibar. He is currently living in Bhutan, a tiny kingdom in the Himalayas. He teaches English and drama to high school students. In his free time, he goes camping and cycling through some of the most beautiful valleys in the world.
Evan's Amazon Page
Evan's Author Page at Tirgearr Publishing