Friday, January 24, 2020
By Randy Romero
It was a bright, humid day in July of 1992. Pre Google. Pre Netflix and YouTube. Pre social media. Before everybody carried a cell phone in their pockets. It was a time when the world wasn’t so crazy and parents weren’t afraid to let their kids play unsupervised. And it was the summer Drew Parker would never forget.
The sun was blinding and the heat was blistering. Billy Locke wore his lucky red cap for shade. It kept his eyes and face out of the scorching glare of the sun.
Billy was biking home with Drew from the baseball field. They took a shortcut through the woods, as they usually did to avoid the local bullies that loitered around town.
“Race you home,” Billy said with a sharp grin.
“No fair. You already have a head start,” Drew complained.
“Ah you’re just making excuses because you know you can’t win.”
“I could beat you any day of the week,” Drew said, though he didn’t sound too sure. Drew carried a few extra pounds on him and he wasn’t quite as fast or agile as Billy. When they played baseball, Drew always made sure they played on the same team so he wouldn’t be on the losing side.
“Then let’s go. I’ll make it interesting. If you beat me, you can have my Gameboy.” Billy was competitive, but also compulsive. He wasn’t even thinking when he offered up his Gameboy as a prize. He would’ve said anything to get Drew to accept his challenge.
“Oh, it’s on now,” Drew said.
Billy shot ahead of him on his red Schwinn. Drew pedaled his feet off in an attempt to catch up, but Billy was leaving him in the dust. Drew huffed and puffed as he worked his way uphill. He reached the top and let his bike glide down the small hill and pick up speed. He was closing in when Billy jammed on his brakes and skidded in the dirt. Drew pedaled past him, then came to a stop.
“Hey, you stopped first. That’s a forfeit. I win. I’ll take that Gameboy anytime.”
Billy didn’t reply. Just stared quietly off to the left. Drew circled back to see what was so captivating.
Hiding under the shadow of a dead sycamore tree, Drew saw the well.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Drew said. The sight of it creeped him out, hidden in the darkness. It was as if the sun refused to shine on it.
“Me neither,” Billy said. “We ride our bikes through here all the time. I can’t believe we never noticed it.”
They got off their bikes and walked towards it. It was a dry well, dark and deep, with an old fashioned wooden ladder descending down.
“Let’s check it out!” Billy exclaimed.
“No way, man. I can’t even see how far down it goes. I’m not messing around in there. It’s probably crawling with spiders.”
“You’re such a chicken.”
“Am not! I just don’t want to go messing around in some dark, dirty well. Besides, I’ve got to get home. I can’t be late for dinner or my mom will freak out.”
“So go. Nobody’s twisting your arm to stay.”
Drew didn’t want to leave his friend behind. But he wasn't about to break curfew. His mom expected him at five o'clock sharp, and she would raise hell if he was even a second late.
Drew told him to be careful, got on his bike, and pedaled away.
Billy stood around the mouth of the well, contemplating, reconsidering. The ladder was old and didn’t look too sturdy.
“Billy,” a voice whispered.
“Who said that?” Billy stammered.
“Billy,” the voice called again, beckoning him. “Billy Locke. Come on down. Don’t be afraid. There’s nothing to fear down here. Just follow the sound of my voice.”
Billy followed the strangely hypnotic voice and descended the rickety ladder. It got darker and darker with every rung he slipped down. He was almost at the bottom when he looked down and saw two glowing red, malevolent eyes staring up at him.
“Hello, Billy,” it whispered. Billy scrambled up the ladder, but one of the rungs snapped on the way up, and he felt something seize his ankle. It dragged him to the bottom of the well, Billy screaming all the way down as he disappeared into the darkness.
Billy Locke never made it home that evening. His parents called Drew’s parents and Drew told them about the woods, about the well, about Billy staying behind.
Billy’s parents led a search party out to the woods. Drew was there, escorted by his parents. He showed them the exact spot. He was certain of it. He remembered the dead sycamore tree. And Billy’s red Schwinn still rested in the dirt.
But the well was gone, as if it had never even existed. And so was Billy…