Mr. Greenwood lived alone, ever since his wife Martha passed away three
years ago. Sometimes he wished he had died instead, for his life now was a
void, each day an eternity of solitude and almost unbearable boredom. The
one thing which kept Mr. Greenwood alive was the children.
Mr. Greenwood's house sat in the middle of Woodard Drive. It was a small house, and in recent years he'd seen no reason to keep it well maintained. The once radiant green paint of the outside walls had faded from the sun and chipped at the slightest touch. The porch was a death trap of rotted wood which the postman despised. He no longer carried his letters to the door, choosing to leave them lying under a heavy stone on the top step.
Mr. Greenwood's yard was overgrown, weeds stretching towards the heavens, but it was large and spacious, far surpassing that of his neighbors. This was what brought the children with their army men and rag dolls to wage war in or explore the unknown jungle in front of his door. Even the tiny and muddy pool which lay at the far edge of his property line proved a great attraction.
Often he would stare through the peephole of his door and watch the youngsters with a bitter hatred, every now and then he would find the energy to go marching outside with his cane, unleashing his fury at life on any child unlucky enough to come within his reach. It was this emotional outlet which kept him somewhat sane for in those moments he felt truly alive. His heart would pound with youthful energy and he would bound down the creaking steps swinging his cane with unmatched rage, bashing the little demons as they fled his domain.
Neighbors complained about his outbursts, fearing for the safety of their children. Twice the local sheriff had paid him a visit. Greenwood would smile and point out that the children were on his property and if their parents were too irresponsible to heed his warning then they shouldn't bitch and complain when Johnny came home with a bruise on his back. The brats got only what they deserved.
No one ever had the nerve to press serious charges because, despite his appearance and home, Greenwood was quite rich. He owned both the town's paper and the factory which provided work for nearly everyone in the town, though he never really bothered with either anymore, content to let them others run them so long as he received his due each month and no one in his employ overstepped their bounds.
When Mr. Greenwood's partially devoured body was found rotting in the musty wine cellar of his home, not a single person in town shed a tear. It was believed by some he'd passed away from natural causes and due to his reclusiveness was not found until after the rats of the Greenwood house ate their fill of his liverspotted and withered flesh.
Some however know the truth.
The legend isn't talked about much and if so it's whispered solely by those who drank too much to contain their fear, or by children who carry flashlights in dark to frighten the new kid on the block.
They say it was an afternoon like any other, late in the summer of '63 as the sun reached its zenith in the sky. Bobby, Jerry, and a few other neighborhood lads were hard at play in Greenwood's yard, using it as a battlefield. Their toy guns making an awful racket as they ran to and fro proclaiming each other dead. Mr. Greenwood had been quiet for several days and the children, as children often do, had forgotten their fears.
When Greenwood flung open his door and came out yelling like Lucifer himself, the children were caught off guard. Most tried to flee as quickly as they could, tripping over one another in their haste, but young Bobby Malkin stood his ground. A normally sensitive and reserved boy mature beyond his years, Bobby had decided to reason with Mr. Greenwood if for no other reason than he secretly pitied the old man. Bobby never got the chance to open his mouth. With a skull smashing blow, Greenwood caned Bobby over the head, and carried him away in his gleeful maliciousness. The other children stopped to stare in horror as Bobby lay unmoving at Greenwood's feet. Greenwood paused suddenly aware of Bobby's condition. He kicked the boy repeatedly demanding the child stop acting and leave his land. Blood leaked from parted lips as Bobby's head rolled staring up at his murderer with the twitching whites of his eyes. Greenwood turned, storming off towards his house. He made his way up the steps and slammed his door so hard it nearly fell off its rusted hinges.
The other children carried Bobby home. The sheriff and paramedics were called but Bobby was dead long before help arrived. The sheriff paid Mr. Greenwood a visit that night while the whole neighborhood watched. He knocked on the heavy door and was let inside after some brief bickering.
An hour and half later the sheriff emerged, shooing the crowd away. He promised them Greenwood had been dealt with and would bother them no more. When the last of the mob had slunk homeward, the Sheriff drove away twenty thousand dollars richer.
Mr. Greenwood watched the townsfolk depart through his livingroom blinds then set about happily preparing a late dinner. He whistled gleefully at a day's work well done. No matter what the sheriff had proclaimed the little bastards would think twice before coming into his yard again.
Shortly after nine o'clock, Greenwood sat comfortably in his reclining chair reading the paper. The story of Bobby's death had made the front page. Greenwood was proud of his editor's work and his haste in getting the story into the evening edition, and even prouder of the careful slanting of the article in defense of his boss. It showed the man knew his place.
A knock sounded at his door. He cursed having to set the paper aside. What fool would dare bother him on an evening such as this? The idiot sheriff had already been dealt with and no other citizen surely would that stupid. "I'll be there in a second!" he yelled, kicking on his slippers. Cane in hand, he made his way towards the door and opened it.
Mr. Greenwood's jaw dropped in shock. A pack of children stood before him. He knew them all: little Jerry Jenkins in grass stained jeans, Sarah White in a pink spring dress, Mat Rodatz in his punkish hippie clothes, and too many others to name. They pushed inside, knocking his frail form to the hardwood floor. He fought against them with all his strength, loosing his grip on his cane. It clattered onto the floor nearby as the children's small hands wrestled to hold him down. Greenwood roared in anger promising pain and death. The children smiling eerily ignoring his scream, their eyes feral and hungry.
It was Sarah who bit him first, more of an accident in her struggle than a preplanned method of torture, ripping a chunk from his right shoulder with her baby teeth. Greenwood howled in pain. The children laughed and cheered as Sarah spat his flesh across the room, her teeth a dripping red.
Jerry took his turn, his teeth sinking deep into the old man's throat. As he tugged upwards, a geyser of blood sprayed his face. Mr. Greenwood choked. Unable to breathe, he died long before the children were done; they continued to gnaw upon his soft and withered body.
They dragged his corpse to the top of the stairs leading downwards into his much beloved wine cellar and tossed it into the darkness below. Then the children fled into the night.
Greenwood's body lay there for weeks, rotting, before it was found.
A little note from Eric reads:
I am a 27 year old writer with over 95 fiction acceptances by markets like Eternal Night, Bloodlust Uk,
Story House, etc, two chapbooks (Dark Kamra-sold out and BAD MOJO coming
from Undaunted Press next year), and 20 articles/reviews to my credit. I
also run the print magazine Night Shopping. I have been an editor for The
Haunted, The Swamp, Alternate Realities, and The Smoky Mountain News and am
a member of the HWA.
Copyright © 2002 by Eric S. Brown.