So, feeling the need to sharpen my claws a bit, I put out a request for random topics to write about. My friend and fellow nerdgirl, Alison Baziak aka CranialSpasm, answered the call by suggesting Little League… I took the topic and ran with it. Below you have the result. A gruesome little tale I call “The Play”.
Jefferey Seeter hunkered down low over the plate, trying to look as mean and menacing as possible. His cheeks felt warm due to the eyeblack he had smeared on them before donning his blue and crimson helmet. None of the other boys used it, but Jefferey felt like it gave him an edge. He was the oldest boy on the team, but also the smallest, dwarfed by even Kevin Carlyle, 2 years his junior and nearly a head taller. Jefferey stepped to the side, one foot off the plate. He ground his cleat into the dirt and spat a wad of purplish goo out onto the red clay. He chewed the big, grape flavored gumballs from the gigantic gumball machine at Reed’s Corner Drugs. He hated the taste of the things, and he often wasted three or four quarters on red, pink, white, yellow, or orange gumballs that went right into the trash bin, but the color was the closest thing he could find to chaw spit, and something about that made him feel tougher.
Jefferey wasn’t often bullied due to his size, and when he was, it usually originated from a visiting rival team, rather than his own peers. The boys were a close knit group, most of whom had grown up together, playing with Tonka toys in the sandboxes at one another’s houses before they could fully stand on their own. Boys will tease and taunt, as boys do, but there was no malice directed at Jefferey, or anyone else in their group, and for that Jeffery should’ve been grateful.
Instead, he spent most of his life living inside his own head, the one place where he could be the biggest, strongest, most coordinated of the team. When reality interceded and forced him to look at the world for what it was, little Jefferey looked with longing, envious eyes at Jason Reeves, the team’s resident Golden Boy. Jason was always the MVP. Even when the coach picked some other boy to hold the title and have Gatorade splashed all over him, everyone knew that it was Jason whose luck, talent, and skill had carried the team. Jefferey watched Jason with venom in his heart, wishing that it were he who lead the team to victory, he who scored the winning run, he whose good looks and easy charm enchanted everyone he met. And so, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Jefferey, upon coming across a book of ancient rituals in his older sister’s bedroom, began to pursue by way of mystical means what he had been unable to achieve by natural ones.
The book was bound in rough, thick leather and was much heavier than it ought to have been for its relative size. It was black, almost unnaturally so, and on its cover was emblazoned a symbol in red, raised from its surface like a scar – a star over which was imposed the face of a goat like creature with eyes that seemed to burn like cold, twin stars. The book felt warm, warmer than it should have, like it was a living thing and not an object made of leather and paper and glue and ink. Jefferey’s hands shook as he picked up the book, that eerie warmth seeping into his skin, invading his body like an unwelcome presence, but before long, all of the unease and trepidation was forgotten, replaced by anticipation at the promises scrawled out in brownish ink on yellowed pages. The young boy scampered off to his room and hid the book in his sock drawer, waiting until it was safe to remove it from its hiding place.
Late that night, hidden under his covers, Jefferey poured through the pages of the ancient tome by the light of a flashlight. Normally he read comics or adventure stories this way, so his mother or father peering in to check on him wouldn’t notice anything amiss, or so he hoped. His sister had made an awful fuss at dinner, but she was quick to change the subject when their parents asked for details on the book itself, he noticed.
Jefferey struggled through page after page of words he couldn’t make out, symbols he didn’t recognize, and pictures he tried to pretend didn’t terrify him, before he finally came upon something that sounded truly promising – A page headed with the words “The Rite Of Ultimate Power”. That was just what Jefferey desired – the power to make his dreams into reality, to hit the ball so that it soared over the heads of the spectators, to steal bases as if he were out for a casual stroll, and to run like the wind and leave everyone in his wake.
The small boy read what he could, and did his best to sound out the words that were beyond his limited vocabulary. After some hours, he fell asleep with his pale, innocent cheek laying on the open book, an ideogram of a gigantic beast emerging from what looked like a well pressed up against his face.
Jefferey was awakened late the next morning by the sound of his father mowing the lawn. Wisps of nightmare, barely tangible yet hauntingly powerful vaporized as he opened his eyes and sat up, knocking his red, fire truck shaped flashlight to the floor. He didn’t remember much of what he’d read, or what he’d dreamed, but he had in his mind a clear and startlingly focused plan of action, one from which his little mind dared not deviate. He threw on some clothes, pulled a baseball cap over his messy hair, and grabbed his baseball bat, along with the book, which he jammed under his shirt, before leaving his room and racing down the stairs and out the back door.
It was several hours before Jefferey’s mother came looking for him to call him in for dinner. He sat in a corner near the edge of the family’s huge backyard, his back to the house. “Jefferey,” said his mother, hand shielding her eyes from the harsh light of the early evening summer sun, “What are you doing?” Jefferey looked up, startled. “Nothing, mom!” he said, Standing up and turning around. The mangled, bloodied corpse of a chickadee rolled slowly down the steep little embankment near the edge of the yard, coming to a stop at the chain link fence separating the Seeters’ yard from the forest beyond. Beady little eyes peered out from the shadows.
Jefferey had spent much of the afternoon carving the symbol from the book onto the bottom of his bat, near the handle. He had used the pocket knife he’d been given when he was in Cub scouts. A part of him felt a pang of guilt, or maybe regret, at using something so innocent and pure for such a dark purpose, but he had shrugged it off. The book had called for a blood sacrifice, and after staring for hours at the family cat, Jefferey had given up that idea and gone in search of smaller prey. He’d spied a chickadee bathing in an overturned frisbee which had collected a fair amount of rainwater. Using his baseball bat and the one skill he possessed, he had knocked the small feathered thing out of the air with a surprisingly soft “Thwack!” and gathered up the twitching form. It was bleeding a little, but Jefferey didn’t really mind much after what he’d done to cause it. He wiped his hands off on his jeans before finding the corner of the yard furthest from his mother’s field of vision and getting to work with his pocket knife, splitting the creature’s tiny ribs and prying its still warm heart from its fragile little body.
The coppery, slick smell of the blood still hung heavy in Jefferey’s nose as he swung the bat experimentally. It didn’t feel any different. He didn’t know what he had expected, but this certainly wasn’t it. He sighed. He supposed the magic words might have some effect, but he was too afraid to use them just yet. Instead, he stood in line with the other boys in the dugout, eagerly awaiting his turn at bat. This could be his moment! This could be the day when everything changed, when tiny Jefferey Seeter became Camden County’s biggest hero. He drifted off into a day dream, one in which he had just scored the winning run and the team surrounded him, cheering. Jason Reeves stood off on the sidelines, looking bewildered and a little jealous. In Jefferey’s hands, the bat began to emit a dull, radiant heat.
Coach Clark prodded Jefferey out of his fantasy. “Hey, Seeter, get your head outta the clouds! You’re up!” Jefferey was embarrassed, but he refused to let it show, not when so much was riding on this one play. It was the bottom of the seventh, bases were loaded, two outs. This really could change things for little Jefferey Seeter, he thought. He dug his heels into the soft clay in front of the catcher, positioning himself where he thought the ball was most likely to fly. Focusing all of his energy on the symbol now carved on his bat, a symbol he could see floating in his field of vision like it had been burned into his retinas, he began to chant, slowly under his breath. Timidly at first, then gaining in strength.
“Ragaar, raggar, FORTISIMIO ROA!” he finished just as the ball whizzed towards him, crashing through the air like a great big bullet. He swung the bat and felt it connect, before the world became a dizzying blur, a dark and menacing place where the only victors were them that survived.
Blood. He saw blood. Lots of it. He sort of stepped back into his body as a collective scream went up from the stands. He looked first at his hands, which were larger than they should’ve been. He felt… different somehow. He barely had time to register the fact that he was several inches higher off the ground than he should’ve been before he looked up and caught sight of the pitcher. Blood was everywhere, and the kid was on his back over the mound, one foot twitching. The coaches from both teams, as well as the umpire and several parents were already forming a circle around the boy. Someone yelled “Call 911!”. Someone else cried out that their mother had fainted. Jefferey was shaking. He dropped the bat at his feet, noticing the smoke curling from the carved end. He looked up again in time to see a policeman rushing towards him. “Hey, you! Number 7! Come over here!” he cried. Jefferey wasn’t number 7. He was number 13. Unlucky 13. He looked around, confused, and that’s when he saw the other boy. The boy that looked just like him, the number 13 standing out on his uniform. The boy caught his eye and smiled, tossing and catching a baseball. His eyes glowed red for the briefest of moments. “Reeves! The officer needs a word with you.” Coach Clark put an arm around his shoulders. Jefferey felt numb as he was led away. He looked back towards the dugout, at the pale faces of the other boys. Jefferey Seeter waved at him and smiled…