Not far from the forest in which the door to another world had been closed for the last time, the sunlit grass rose in a steep hill, levelling out in a pleasant field at the top, where the council had the sense to install a public barbeque and a pagoda. The whole park was visible from there, so on a cheerful sunny day it was ten to one there would be at least one family sitting in foldable chairs, taking in the sunshine and drinking beer with sausages sizzling nearby. The day Zane Blaire almost lost his life was no exception.
Zane was thirteen, and the last thing he wanted on this fine spring day was to actually be out on a fine spring day. What he wanted was to lie on the couch at home blowing people’s heads into fragments on Call of Duty, or maybe decapitating peasants with a large axe in Skyrim, with a bowl of chips between his knees and a coke within arm’s reach.
But the Owens’s had invited the Blaire’s to the barbeque, and they had two kids of Zane’s age, or so his mother said; they were actually nine, so Zane just had to come. Besides, the sunlight would do him good. Zane could practically feel the melanomas growing beneath his skin.
Most of the parents were sitting in a rough semicircle, looking out at the view and drinking beer and talking about impossibly boring things, while Mr. Owens and Zane’s father were standing at the barbeque, doing pretty much the same. Zane had been dismissed with a soccer ball and told to keep the Owens twins occupied, which would have been fine except that they were the most annoying little shits Zane had ever come across.
Curiously, the mood was tense from the beginning. The two families had gotten on relatively well, but before Zane had been told to go play, he noticed lots of tight lips, icy smiles, sharp words. One of the Owens twins – Hayden – had been almost reduced to tears by his father when he dropped a plate and broke it. Zane almost felt sorry for the kid until half an hour later when he deliberately tripped Zane and made him graze his face on the gravel and just laughed at him.
Zane imagined grabbing Hayden’s laughing mouth and ripping it wider and wider until the whole top of his head came off. Instead, he gave the kid a light, good natured push and sent him onto his ass.
Mr. Owens, halfway through a heated political argument with Zane’s father, whipped around the moment Hayden hit the ground and stared at Zane. Mr. Owens was covered in fly bites and a film of hot sweat, his bald head red and angry. Zane stared at him, feeling the horrible sinking feeling he got when punishment was imminent.
Hayden’s face was scrunched up in an expression of pain as he staggered to his feet, rubbing his ass, and his voice rose to a whine just loud enough to pierce the ears of everyone in a twenty meter radius: ‘Zaaaaannnneeee!’
Zane was already stepping back with his hands up in surrender. Mr. Owens was on his way over, spatula gripped in one white knuckled hand. Zane pretended not to notice him and pointed at Hayden, who was smiling at him with a cruel gleam in his eye. ‘You tripped me!’ Loud enough so Mr. Owens would hear, for all the good it would do.
‘You think it’s funny to bully little kids, Zane?’ Mr. Owens was there suddenly, looming over Zane, who blinked up at him.
‘He tripped me!’ he said. He glanced over Mr. Owen’s shoulder at his own father, who was walking slowly over from the barbeque with a look on his face like he wasn’t sure if he should step in or let Mr. Owens dispense justice on his son. Then Zane lifted his elbow to prove his point, showing where the blood was leaking from a fresh graze. It was the worst thing he could have done.
As soon as Mr. Owens saw the blood his face changed. His eyes widened slightly, as though surprised at something, and his tongue darted out and licked his dry lips. He opened his mouth to say something, and then stopped before any words came out. Zane stared up at him, suddenly full of fear but not sure why. It was something in Mr. Owens’ face. He was standing there in front of Zane, but he was vacant. A fly landed on one of his open eyes and bit it, and he didn’t so much as blink. A black spot spread into the white of his eye.
Mr. Owens smacked Zane with the spatula so hard the end snapped off the metal handle. Zane’s world went white for a split second and he found himself lying on his side at Mr. Owens’s feet, the left side of his face numb.
He started struggling to his feet when the handle struck him in a back handed blow and he was down on his ass, just like Hayden had been a moment ago. His ears were ringing but he could hear shouting in the background – his father – and crying. Dad’s coming, it’s okay. That was the thought foremost in his mind as Mr. Owens thrust the broken end of the spatula straight through his neck.
Zane was on his back now, and Mr. Owen was on top of him, stabbing, pulling out, stabbing again. Zane watched fountains of his own blood spraying up into Mr. Owen’s face. His eyes were wide and with each thrust his expression grew more ecstatic, an incredulous smile spreading across his face, as if he just couldn’t believe how much fun he was having. Everything silhouetted against the sun, so far above, and with every thump of his fast beating heart the glare deepened and the sky flashed white.
There were people around now, but Zane could only see their shadows – mostly he was just focused on that bright bald head above him, laughing now, like a madman, screeching with laughter. His weight shifted as the others tried to pull him off, but whoever they were, they weren’t enough.
The world had narrowed to hold just those wide, screaming eyes, one of them with a spot of black that had grown and merged with the pupil to make one giant pit with a narrow ring of white on the outside. Zane saw his own hands reaching up, scratching at Mr. Owens’s face, digging into his eye sockets. Just like with the fly, he didn’t blink, and he just kept right on laughing as Zane pulled his eyes all the way out of his head. There was a tug, as if the eyes were trying to pull back, but then he saw it was because his dad had finally managed to wrench Mr. Owens off him.
The sun blocked out a moment later as what looked like ten people crowded around him. He felt pressure around his neck and a tight feeling all over. He was very cold. That was the last thing he remembered.