What We Kill

What We Kill

Howard Odentz

October 2017 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-836-3

IT STARTS LIKE THIS.


 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover Copy



Four life-long friends wake in the woods overlooking the highway, without any memory of how they got there.

One has a triangle burned into his forearm.
One has lost her pants.
One is missing his glass eye.
The last is covered in blood.

As images of big, black eyes and the cries of sheep haunt their addled brains, the town fire alarm and police sirens can be heard in the distance.

What is happening to them? What is happening to their pristine town?
What's more, why can't they remember any of it?
What . . . what did they do?

Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.

Reviews


"A simmering psychological thriller, bolstered by a dynamic narrative voice and a few unexpected twists.” –Kirkus Reviews

Excerpt

"WEST? ARE YOU awake? Weston?” A far off voice calls my name but I’m nestled in clouds. I don’t want to open my eyes.

"Holy Christ,” Anders gasps. Anders Stephenson is my best friend. I’ve always known him. He lives across the street in the persim­mon-colored house. I only know the name of the paint because his mother goes out of her way to tell everyone she used a fancy color.

Mrs. Stephenson is typical Meadowfield.

"What... what’s happening?” I hear someone else cry. That’s Marcy Cole. Marcy is beautiful. She has curly auburn hair and blue eyes. She also has a thing for Anders that’s been brewing since the third grade. As cool as we all are, I don’t think that Marcy and Anders are ever going to happen. When we graduate next spring, Marcy is going to be a mess. Anders wants to take a year off and go visit relatives in Norway. I’m hoping I’m in college by then. I don’t want to be left behind to pick up little Marcy pieces.

That puzzle is a little too abstract for me.

"Earth to Weston Kahn. Earth to Weston Kahn,” Robbie Myers says. "Come in Weston Kahn.” Myers is my other best friend. Me, Anders, Marcy and Myers have all grown up in sight of each other on gently sloping Primrose Lane. Myers is kind of a mess in a nerdy way. If I were to point fingers, I’d point them at his mother, but we all have our little issues.

No one is perfect, even in a town as perfect as Meadowfield.

"What the hell?” cries Anders. I slit open my eyes so little that they might as well not be open at all.

The sun is shining overhead, fractured in a zillion pieces.

Branches.

We’re in the woods.

"Shit,” Anders cries again but this time he sounds almost hysterical.

"Oh my God,” gasps Marcy. Her voice is husky. "Is that blood?”

What does she mean, blood? Where’s blood? Who’s bleeding?

"West?” It’s Myers again. His black hair and Chiclet teeth momen­tarily blot out the sky. He’s leaning over me and his hot breath is assault­ing my nostrils. "I think... oh no... I think Weston might be dead.”

I take a deep breath. "Shut up, Myers,” I murmur. "I’m not dead.” I open my eyes a little more. Only then do I realize that my arm is stinging. The more sleep falls away, the more insistent the pain becomes. I squeeze my eyes shut and feel tears dripping down my cheeks.

"Itis blood.” Marcy chokes out, and this time she starts to sob.

There is so much promise in letting myself slip away again, but I know that I can’t. Something’s not right. As a matter of fact, something is very, very wrong.

I sigh, reach up and push Myers away. "Move,” I tell him through a mouth that might as well be filled with cold oatmeal, and struggle to get to my elbows because my arm really does hurt.

"Sorry,” says Myers. "I thought you were dead.” He leans back on his bony knees. There’s something weird about how Myers looks, other than his scrawniness and his dorky tee-shirt that says ‘Master Baiter’ with a picture of a worm on a hook, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. My head is all full of cotton. Besides, any thoughts of Myers fade away as soon as my eyes begin to focus.

Weare in the woods, and everything is all too familiar. This is Prince Richard’s Maze, the stretch of forest at the edge of Meadowfield that towers over the highway and the Connecticut River beyond. My fingers dig into the ground and October leaves crunch beneath my hands.

Marcy is still crying and Myers starts to cry, too. I hate when he does that. No wonder he gets picked on so much at school.

"Why is there blood?” Marcy blubbers, and this time Myers joins her.

He says, "Anders, there’s so much. What... what did you do?”

I roll to one side and wince. My arm stings like a son of a bitch, but it doesn’t even occur to me to look down and find the source of the pain. I’m too busy gawking at Anders.

There’s blood alright. There’s blood everywhere, but it’s only on him. His blond hair and square jaw are dripping with it. His tall, ropy, basketball frame, covered only in a tee-shirt and jeans, is sloshed in red. Anders looks like Carrie White—not the new one but the old one played by that girl with the stringy hair and the flat face who is older than my mother now.

Anders is painted in blood.

Myers and Marcy are crying, and we’re in Prince Richard’s Maze, but I don’t know why.

"My eye,” Myers suddenly screams. "Where’s my eye?” I know that sounds like a bizarre thing to say, but Myers has a glass eye. I can’t pull my muddied gaze away from Anders because of all the blood, but sud­denly I realize why Myers looks weirder than usual. He’s missing his eye. All that’s left is a droopy, crusty hole in his head. He always forgets to clean it out and it’s gross. "Shit,” he cries. "My mother will friggin’ kill me if I lose it again.”

"What’s happening?” blurts out Anders with his hands held in front of him and the whites of his eyes popping out of his crimson colored face.

"I don’t know,” I say, then wince. The stinging, burning sensation on my arm becomes so insistent that I simply have to look. I glance down and my eyes grow wide. There is a tiny triangle, way smaller than a penny, burned into my forearm. The skin around its edges is puffy and pale.

A triangle.

"Marcy?” whispers Anders. "Marcy?” I’ve never heard Anders Stephenson sound so small or so weak. He’s not weak at all. He’s our jock buddy. He’s the one who sticks up for us when nobody else does. "Marcy?” he says once more, but his words are barely a whisper.

"Um, Marcy?” says Myers through his tears. "Where... where are your pants?”

I look back up and see Myers without his eye, Anders covered in blood, and Marcy wearing only a torn top, dirty panties, and no shoes.

Marcy screams.

For that matter, so does Myers.

We’re in some sort of dream. We have to be. I must be dreaming and at any moment I’m going to wake up. If I’m not, there is no reason why the four of us should be in The Maze.

There’s no reason for so much blood.

Suddenly, a long, deep wail pierces the forest and we all look up. The otherworldly siren is the Meadowfield fire alarm. The sound cuts through town like a sickly fog horn, unable to be ignored. The alarm blares away for a good thirty seconds, and Myers starts hiccupping in the middle of crying. He’s hyperventilating. Myers is a junior volunteer for the town fire department, but he’s not going to be able to show up for the alarm because he can’t find his eye.

Anders is covered in blood.

Marcy’s lost her pants.

I have a burning triangle on my forearm.

What’s more, if this isn’t a dream, then I can’t for the life of me re­member how we ended up in The Maze.

Frankly, I don’t even remember last night.

What the hell is going on?




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