Writing

The Sleepover (Short Story)

 

“Hey Chris!  Wait up!” Mikey Owens shouted out as his older brother Chris sped away on a ten-speed.  Mikey, who could not ride a bike even at the age of seven, mounted his kick-scooter and pushed off the gravel as hard as he could in an attempt to catch up.

No one could really understand why Mikey was having such a hard time learning how to ride a bike.  His father had taken the training wheels off his Huffy when he turned five, and he kind of got the hang of it until he crashed into the old elm tree near the driveway, breaking his arm and giving him a nasty scratch on the right side of his face.  Mikey hadn’t been able to get his balance quite right when riding a bike since.  He had been a little afraid of getting hurt again, but that was alright with him.  He was cool with his little kick-scooter. It got the job done.  He didn’t even care that Chris and the other guys made fun of him because he couldn’t ride a bike.  Being the youngest of the bunch, he figured they had to rag on him about something. He liked his scooter. He felt it kind of made him stand out from the crowd, though that could have been due to the fact that the crowd was all on ten-speeds two blocks ahead of him.

The Owens brothers were headed for the Boyd house.  Mrs. Boyd ran a daycare business from their house and her boys, Alex and Joey, were like brothers to Mikey and Chris.  Alex was just a year older than Chris (who was twelve) and Joey was ten.

It was mid-June of 1991.  School had just gotten out and the boys were ready for another summer at the Boyd’s, watching movies, playing war or basketball, and hanging out in the tree house that Mr. Boyd built in their backyard.

Once a week the guys would get together for a sleepover at the Boyd’s house and watch scary movies.  It was kind of like a summer ritual. These evenings usually consisted of video games, pizza, pop, and a good dose of slashers like Jason Voorhies, Freddy Kreuger, and Michael Myers.  The only one who was unable to attend these sleepovers was Mikey, who had been deemed too young by the adults.  But he was seven now and he was finally able to convince his parents that he was mature enough to participate in the weekly event.

Mikey’s first scary movie sleepover was kind of a big deal for him and his friends.  Throughout the entire week, Mikey felt more like one of the guys.  The week started just like it did last summer.  Their days consisted of watching some TV and playing Nintendo.  Once they got bored with that, they would go outside and play either war or basketball.  The boys were divided up into two teams no matter what game they played.  It was always the older brothers versus the younger brothers.

Mikey once asked why he and Joey were always on the same team, and Chris simply replied, “‘Cause you guys got ‘Y’s and the end of your names—Joey, Mikey…like puppies.”

“Puppies is with an ‘IE.’” Joey added.

“Whatever,” Chris continued, “You guys are pups.”

This prompted Chris and Alex to call Joey and Mikey “puppies” from then on, which as a rebuttal, forced the “puppies” to dub themselves “The War Dogz,” even spray painting it on the inside of the treehouse in the Boyd’s backyard, their adopted headquarters.

But all of the sibling rivalries were behind them for the night, as they headed inside for the main event.  The boys hung out in there usual spot, the Boyd’s family room, where the boys would watch movies, play video games, and eventually camp out for the night in their sleeping bags.

As the boys impatiently waited for the pizza to arrive, they took turns playing each other in Tecmo Bowl, battling aliens in Contra, and beating up bad guys in Double Dragon.  As soon as the boys heard the knocking on the front door, they immediately dropped their game controllers and raced towards the kitchen.

“Okay,” Mrs. Boyd said, “Settle down guys, settle down.”

The boys, barely heeding her suggestion, grabbed paper plates, cups filled with pop, and of course slices of pepperoni.

“Remember to bring back your trash when you’re done!” Mrs. Boyd called out from the kitchen.

Pizza and pop meant it was movie time.  Being that it was Mikey’s inaugural “Fright Night,” the boys put it on him to choose the first movie.  The choice was between three horror movies that they picked up at the Video Hut, and since this was his first time, Mikey wanted to choose the scariest movie to watch first. He wanted to prove to the other guys that he wasn’t a wuss.  Mikey, however, wasn’t a big fan of scary movies. They gave him nightmares and he scared easily. His older brother Chris knew this.

“Yeah, Mikey,” Chris said with a smirk, “What scary movie do you wanna watch first?”

Mikey knew how big of a test this was, so he picked the video with the scariest VHS cover.  The movie was called The Gate. It centered around two young boys who discovered a portal to Hell in one of their backyards. There were some moments that made Mikey cringe, but all in all, he found it fun to be around the rest of the guys as they enjoyed the movie. It was a movie that Mikey wouldn’t have been able to watch on his own.  One part that particularly frightened him was a scene where a zombie was trapped inside the walls of the boy’s house. The undead thing eventually came out of the wall to chase after them. This didn’t scare Mikey as much as he thought it would have because he was with his buddies.  At one moment in the movie he looked over at his older brother, the very person who made a career out of tormenting him, and smiled. Chris smiled back at him.

After the movie was over, the boys took a little intermission and Mikey used the opportunity to go to the bathroom.  As he closed the door, a feeling of dread came over him.  He no longer had his friends to protect him from the monsters in his imagination.  He was all alone.  The first thing that he noticed was the closed shower curtain.  Immediately he thought back to the time Chris jumped out of the shower and scared the living crap out of him.  But this time he didn’t imagine his older brother behind the shower curtain, waiting to jump out for a good scare. Behind the curtain, he couldn’t help but imagining the zombie that chased the boys in the movie. Mikey slowly walked over to the shower, knowing that the zombie was intent on jumping out and feasting on his brain. There was no way he was going to pee with that image in the back of his mind.  At first he just thought about leaving the bathroom without peeing, but he really had to go.  He felt it was time to conquer his fear.  He slowly grabbed a hold of the shower curtain and on the count of three he whipped it open, and for a second—one split second—he saw the dead man laying there in the tub, its head cocked to the side, blood and pus oozing out from its mouth.  But there was nothing there, nothing at all.  Mikey exhaled a sigh of relief and turned to the toilet.  What he saw next scared him even more than the possibility of the zombie in the bathtub.  He swore he could see something moving behind the wall, just like in the movie.  The wall in the movie was pale white, as was the wall of the bathroom in the Boyd’s house.  But he wasn’t imagining this, there was actually something moving behind the wall.  He closed his eyes, counted to ten, and told himself that it wasn’t real and that it was just a movie and that there was no such thing as a zombie or a demon crawling inside the wall.  Wasn’t there?  He opened his eyes and finished his business with his head down, never looking up at the wall.  He flushed the toilet and washed his hands, not looking at the wall, not looking back at the shower, not even looking at the mirror.  He knew exactly what was going to be there if he did. He could feel the eyes watching him.  He knew somehow that the zombie was still in the tub, that there was something behind the wall, and that there was something right behind him. And there were all trying to get him.  Mikey started to hear heavy breathing coming behind him, and felt the cold breath on his neck, that sent chills up his spine. He quickly ran out of the bathroom and joined the rest of the gang in the family room, looking back towards the bathroom once. There was nothing there. Everything was fine and he instantly felt stupid for even thinking that there was something coming after him.

The guys had already begun watching the next video, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

“Took you long enough.” Chris said to his little brother.

“I really had to go.” Mikey said, shrugging it off.

Mikey started watching the movie, but this time he was in his sleeping bag and quickly fell asleep.  In his dream, he ran throughout the Boyd’s house—which now consisted of a labyrinth of corridors—as he was being chased down by the zombie from the movie.  No matter where he went or how fast he tried to run, he seemed to be going slower and slower.  He kept on trying to call out for Chris or Joey or Alex, but nothing would come out of his mouth.  Finally, he came to a dead end in the maze of hallways.  He was trapped.  He turned to see the dead man bearing down on him, grabbing him by the shoulders with his cold dead hands.  Mikey was paralyzed with fear.  He couldn’t run or even fight back, he just stood there helpless, staring into the zombie’s dead eyes.  The zombie reached down and bit Mikey’s nose, gnawing and jerking his head until it ripped Mikey’s nose clean off.

Mikey woke up in a puddle of sweat.  He looked around and the rest of the guys were asleep in their sleeping bags.  It was all a dream.  There was no zombie chasing after him.  The very thought caused Mikey to smile.  Then he felt something drip down on his lip.  When he wiped it he realized that it wasn’t sweat, his hand was covered in blood.  He grabbed his nose to make sure that it was still there.  It was but it was covered in blood.  He looked down and his white t-shirt was splattered in blood.  He screamed as loud as he could as tears began pouring out of his eyes.  He only stopped crying when he heard the rest of the guys’ hard laughter.

“What’s going on?!” Mikey cried.

None of the boys could answer through their fits of laughter.

“What happened to me?!” he screamed.

“Settle down,” Chris said, “It’s just a nosebleed.  It must be the heat.  It is kinda muggy in here.”

“It’s not a nosebleed!” Mikey began crying again, “It’s everywhere!”

The laughter stopped as the lights came on.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Mr. Boyd asked.

“Nothing, Dad,” Alex said, “Mikey just got a nosebleed.”

“That doesn’t look like a nosebleed.” Mr. Boyd said with a raised eyebrow.

“What happened to me?!” Mikey cried.

“Joseph,” Mr. Boyd said calmly, “Are you going to tell me what’s going on here?”

Joey lowered his head.

“Joseph?” Mr. Boyd asked again.

“It’s not a big deal, Dad,” Joey finally said, “The guys were just messing around, that’s all.”

Alex and Chris shushed him, as Alex nudged him with an elbow.

“Messing around?” Mr. Boyd asked.

“Yeah,” Joey continued, “Mikey fell asleep, so the guys put some fake blood on his nose to make it look like a nosebleed.  He started moving around and it got all over everywhere.  It was just a joke.”

Mr. Boyd looked down at Mikey again and saw that he was as white as a ghost, he was terrified.

“Well, it obviously wasn’t a very funny one,” Mr. Boyd said, “Come on, Michael, let’s get you cleaned up.  You boys stay put.”

Mr. Boyd walked Mikey to get cleaned up.  Mikey stopped right in front of the bathroom.  He couldn’t wipe the image of the zombie from his mind.

“Michael?” Mr. Boyd said.

“Yes?” Mikey responded, not taking his eyes off the bathroom.

“Come on, let’s get you washed up in the laundry room.”

Mr. Boyd helped wash off the fake blood with a bar of Lava soap—which Mikey thought hurt like hell—and got him one of Joey’s shirts to wear.

“There,” Mr. Boyd said, “Are you alright, Michael?”

“Yes.” Mikey said, sounding unsure.

“You sure you’re okay?” Mr. Boyd asked.

“Like the guys said, it was just a joke.”

“Come on,” Mr. Boyd said, “I think you’ve had enough excitement for one night. I’ll give you a ride home.”

The ride home was silent.  On one hand, Mikey felt ashamed for not being able to stick it out and go the whole night without having to be driven home with his tail between his legs.  On the other hand, he was upset and resentful about the fact that the other guys pulled a prank on him.  Was this a one-time thing, an official welcome to the group?  Or would he always be the little brother, the scapegoat?

Amid these feelings of anger, he was still terrified.  Terrified of the zombie from his nightmare and the attack that he thought happened when he woke up covered in stage blood.  No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t get the image of the zombie’s decaying face from his mind.

Due to the joke the guys played on Mikey, everyone was grounded for the weekend, everyone except Mikey of course, who might as well have been grounded due to the fact that now he had no one to play with.  In addition to feeling lonely, Mikey got the sense that everyone was mad at him, everyone except Joey maybe.  He had ruined their fun night and their weekend.  It was just a stupid little prank after all and he couldn’t help but thinking that, if it wasn’t for his nightmare, he would have taken the joke differently.

After a week of begging the adults, Mikey was allowed to try and sleepover at the Boyd’s house again.  Chris and Alex made it known that they were still mad at Mikey for getting them in trouble and took any opportunity to call him a “scaredy-cat” or a “wuss.”  But after a couple of hours of berating him, they backed off a bit and focused more of their attention on the games and movies.  The first movie they watched was Evil Dead 2.  Mikey was surprised in how much he enjoyed it.  There were some parts that he thought were scary, but he thought that it was really funny and got a kick out of enjoying it with the guys.  After the movie was over, there were no feelings of dread or that he was being stalked by a zombie or possessed demon.

The next movie they watched was The Howling, which was about a country resort that was run by a bunch of ravenous werewolves.  Mikey didn’t like this movie as much as the Evil Dead one.  The werewolves were scary-looking and there were times when he felt like looking away from the TV.  But he found a way to make it through to the end of the movie.

Just as the third movie was starting up, Mikey fell asleep.  The next thing Mikey knew, he woke up in the middle of the night.  The guys were all asleep, but the TV was still on. They must have fallen asleep before the movie was over, Mikey thought.  He quietly stepped over the other guys’ to go turn off the television.

Just as he turned off the TV, he could still hear something, but it wasn’t coming from inside the house, it was something outside.  It was a low growling sound followed by a quick squeal.  Suddenly, Mikey was overcome with a sense of fear.  What was outside?  Was it a werewolf?  Nonsense, he thought to himself, and I’m going to prove it.  Mikey slipped his shoes on, not even attempting to fasten the Velcro strips, and opened the slide door that led to the back porch.

Mikey couldn’t see much, as it was still very dark outside.  All he could see was the patio, which was illuminated by the light above him.  Mikey heard the growl once again and quickly turned his head to the right, towards the driveway.  What he saw in the distance was what appeared to be a large dog gnawing on the remains of a smaller dog.  The smaller dog he recognized as Mrs. Hesker’s miniature schnauzer Lily.  But there was something off about the big dog, something Mikey just couldn’t put a finger on.

The big dog lifted its head from the carcass and looked right at Mikey.  The dog’s eyes were a bright yellow, almost glowing in the moonlight.  Mikey took a step back and the dog began to walk towards him.  As the light hit the dog, Mikey noticed that it wasn’t a dog at all.  It appeared to be a wolf.  The animal was big, almost the size of the Boyd’s old Saint Bernard that died a couple years back.  It had thick grisly fur that was either dark gray or black.  The wolf snarled at Mikey revealing jagged dagger-like teeth as yellow as its eyes.

Mikey was paralyzed in terror.  If he didn’t do something quick his fate would be no different than little Lily, lying in the driveway.  He thought about his options, at the same time staring at the monster, almost hypnotized in its eyes.  Mikey remembered at that moment that the sliding door behind him was closed. He would have to turn around, run to the door as fast as he could, and slam the door behind him.  The wolf lowered its head and raised its back, the hair rising up like spikes.  Mikey saw the wolf leap and he instantly turned and raced for the door, half expecting the wolf to devour him.  He made it to the door, quickly opened, got inside, and closed it, all in one fluid motion.

At first he tried to scream, but nothing would come out of his mouth.  Then with all his might he was able to scream out.

“THERE’S A WOLF OUTSIDE!” Mikey cried, waking up the rest of the guys from their slumber.

“Whaaaat?” Chris asked, half-asleep.

“A wolf!” Mikey repeated, “Outside!  It killed Mrs. Hesker’s dog!”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Chris asked, more awake.

“Good,” Alex mumbled, “I hated that damn dog.”

“What is all the commotion?!” Mr. Boyd asked walking into the room.

“There’s a wolf outside!” Mikey screamed, “It killed Mrs. Hesker’s dog!”

“Lily?” Mr. Boyd asked.

“Yes! Lily! The dog! Is Dead! A wolf—”

“Just settle down.” Mr. Boyd said, “Let’s take a look.”

Mr. Boyd walked over to the glass sliding door and looked out onto the patio.  There was nothing there.

“There’s nothing out there, Michael.” Mr. Boyd said calmly.

“He was right there!” Mikey said, running over to the door, “He was right there, he chased me inside! Mrs. Hesker’s dog was in the driveway, he was eating it!”

“Okay, calm down,” Mr. Boyd said, “I’m going to go and check it out.  You guys just stay inside.”

Mr. Boyd grabbed Alex’s old baseball bat, which was being used as a stop for the sliding door, and walked out onto the patio.  He then checked the driveway and returned back to the house.

“There’s nothing out there, Mike.” Mr. Boyd said.

“But—”

“There’s no wolf,” said Mr. Boyd, “There’s no dog, there’s nothing.”

“Come on, Mikey,” Chris added, “Just because we saw a movie about werewolves doesn’t mean there’s one outside. Geez.”

“Shut up, Chris!” Mikey shouted, “I never said anything about werewolves, I know what I saw!”

“Come on,” Mr. Boyd said, “I’ll take you home.”

“No!” Mikey replied, “I don’t need to go home. I know what I saw, and it was a wolf.”

“Michael,” Mr. Boyd said, “You need to go home so you can calm down and the rest of us can get back to sleep.”

The ride home wasn’t as quiet as the previous one had been.  Mikey continued to tell Mr. Boyd what he had seen and that he didn’t get scared by any of the movies and that it wasn’t just his imagination.

Mikey had a much more difficult time convincing everyone that the movies weren’t too scary for him.  It took a couple of weeks, even having to admit that everything he saw must have been his imagination playing tricks on him, despite the fact that no one could explain why Mrs. Hesker couldn’t find her dog.  He knew in his heart that what he saw was real, and he planned to prove it.  If he saw it again, he was going to take a picture of the beast.  That meant he was going to have to “borrow” his mom’s Polaroid camera.  Not only could the camera get photographic proof of the wolf, but the flash might also distract it if it was trying to attack him.

Getting a hold of the camera wasn’t going to be a problem, but Mikey still needed some means of defending himself if worse came to worse.  That line of thinking led Mikey to his father’s workbench inside the garage, where he grabbed his father’s hatchet.  He immediately imagined himself as an Apache brave, wielding a tomahawk, hunting a wolf in the wilderness.

Mikey’s time had come.  Two weeks had past since his outburst about the wolf and he was once again over at the Boyd’s house for the night.  He told the guys that, no matter what, he was going to stick it out this time.

“Yeah,” Chris laughed, “Whatever, dude.”

Mikey would prove him wrong.  Mikey would prove all of them wrong, and show them he was not afraid.  He had all that he needed.  In his red vinyl backpack was more than toiletries and a change of clothes.  He had his dad’s hatchet to fight off the beast, his mom’s Polaroid camera to prove it was real, and a flashlight to see in the darkness.

“What’s with the camera?” Joey asked, noticing the Polaroid sticking out of Mikey’s backpack.

“Huh?” Mikey said startled, making sure no one else was around but him and Joey, “Oh, nothing.  I was taking pictures before and I guess I left it in my backpack.”

The movies that the boys watched were much tamer than previous nights.  Instead of scary movies with zombies, werewolves, and masked killers, they watched the Star Wars trilogy for probably the hundredth time. Mikey didn’t even pay attention to the movies. Darth Vader and the evil galactic empire were the furthest things from his mind. He cared only about the monster that he was sure was lurking outside. It was a monster, he was sure of it.  He had seen wolves in his dad’s National Geographic and what he saw that one night was not just a wolf, it was something evil.

The entire night Mikey thought about the wolf-beast.  He thought about his plan to get a picture of it.  He would wait until everyone else was asleep (he made sure that he filled up on enough caffeine and sugar to stay awake) and then he would go outside and wait for the beast.  But what if the wolf never showed up?  Last time it killed Mrs. Hesker’s dog.  Was it a guarantee that it would come back?  But Mikey had a feeling that the wolf would be back, and it would be hungry for blood, his blood, the one that got away.

There was also that slim possibility that the wolf wasn’t real, that it was all in his head.  What if the truth was that his over-active imagination was just playing tricks on him?  He didn’t actually see a zombie in the bathroom.  That was his imagination.  Maybe he didn’t actually see the wolf either.  All the more reason to get proof.  He was going to get his proof one way or another.  He was either going to prove to everyone that the wolf was real, or he was going to prove to himself that it wasn’t.  Either way, he was going to face his fear head on.

After the rebels and the Ewoks defeated the empire and everyone was asleep, which was around one in the morning, Mikey got up out of his sleeping bag, put on his shoes, grabbed his bag, and quietly snuck out the sliding glass door.  He had the Polaroid hanging off his neck and the flashlight in his hand.  He walked over to the driveway where he had seen the beast before.  There was nothing there.  He walked over to the treehouse, his and Joey’s hideout.  Nothing. He walked over to the garage.  He had always gotten a creepy feeling from that garage.  He didn’t know why that was, but he figured if there was anyplace a demon-wolf from the deepest depths of Hell would hang out, that would be the place.  He headed to the back of the garage, where the Boyd’s had buried their Saint Bernard a couple years back, and nothing.

Mikey was starting to lose faith.  He was beginning to accept the fact that the wolf didn’t exist, that what he saw that night wasn’t real.  Then, suddenly, rain started to pour down on him and he noticed his flashlight went out.  Shaking the flashlight and hitting it against his palm, he heard a familiar noise.  The growling was coming from in front of the garage.

Setting the flashlight down, he began creeping around the garage.  There, in front of the garage in all its evil glory was the wolf.  It looked even bigger and than he remembered.  Sparing no time he grabbed the camera and pointed it at the wolf.  When he looked through the view-finder he noticed that the wolf was gone.

Then, in a flash, he saw something black come into view and he snapped a picture.  The wolf knocked him to the ground as it scratched up his chest.  Quickly, Mikey hit the wolf with the camera as hard as he could. The distraction gave Mikey enough time to get up and run.  He ran for the patio, where Alex and Joey had parked their bikes.  Mikey, not thinking twice, hopped on Joey’s bike and sped away as fast as he could.  As he raced for his house, he could feel the wolf at his heels. He peddled faster and faster, like trying to outrun the devil.  For a split second he realized that he was actually riding a bike.  I’m riding a bike, he thought to himself.  Not only was he doing something that in the past seemed impossible, but he was going at such a speed he felt like he was flying.

As he neared his driveway, Mikey realized that he didn’t really know how to stop.  He jumped off the bike, sending it into woods by his house.  He quickly got up as soon as he could and took the hatchet out from his backpack.  He could almost hear native chants as he tightened his grip on the handle.  Turning around, he saw exactly what he expected to see, the monstrous wolf snarling back at him.  As he stared into the yellow eyes of the beast, he raised the hatchet realizing he was not afraid.

 

From the Ann Arbor News on Monday August 5, 1991:

Police Expand Their Search, Child Still Missing

Merritt, Mich.

Washtenaw County and Merritt authorities continued their search Sunday for Michael Owens, a 7-year-old Merritt boy who was reported missing from his neighbor’s house on Saturday, July 13th. The parents, Jim and Maggie Owens reported the missing child to the Merritt Police as soon as they could not locate the young boy.  The neighbors at whom the Owens boy was staying stated that the 7-year-old was last seen around 11:30 p.m. Although there was no evidence of foul play, authorities haven’t ruled out the possibility that something untoward may have happened to Michael Owens, and since Friday night the search has expanded.

Police, along with a community search team, have searched the neighborhood and surrounding area of about a five mile radius. Law enforcement officials are remaining tight-lipped about the search and it is unknown if anything of value to the investigation was discovered.

Merritt Police Deputy Chief Paul Synwell told the press, “We are expanding our search to include the surrounding areas within Washtenaw County.  We are still encouraging local residents to remain diligent and to help in the search where and if they can.”

 

Little Mikey Owens was never found. What was found, however, years later, was a blurry Polaroid photograph. It appeared to be of a large animal with yellow teeth.

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