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Authors: Al Sarrantonio

Tags: #Horror

The Boy With Penny Eyes

BOOK: The Boy With Penny Eyes
9.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

By Al Sarrantonio

First Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press

Copyright 2011 Al Sarrantonio

Cover design by David Dodd / Copy-Edited by Patricia Lee Macomber

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For Michael

MERCUTIO: There was a boy with penny eyes.

ADANO: Was he made for death?

MERCUTIO: I know not. My story will tell . . .

The Romance of Adano
, 1301



He was a young boy with a pack of cigarettes, and he took one of the cigarettes out of the pack and put it in his mouth. He struck a match, close to the ground, shielded it with his cupped hand from the wind, and then he lit the cigarette and shook the match out and threw it in the dust.

Even now, at the end of the day, the desert was hot. The dry dust held the heat and let it drift up at him. He ignored it. Hours before,
he had removed his black golf jacket and folded it neatly on the ground next to him. In a few hours, when the desert lost its heat, he would unfold it and put it back on, turning up the collar. But that would not keep the ache out of his legs, which always felt the cold now.

He blew the cigarette smoke out discreetly, letting it go in near invisible breaths. He lay down on his stomach and brought his binoculars up to his eyes.

The town at the bottom of the long slope was as quiet as if it were midnight. He swept the glasses quickly back and forth, stopping to study the front of the house and various points at the perimeter of the town. Nothing moved. He put the binoculars down again and rolled over onto his back. He took a deep drag and found that the cigarette had gone out. Throwing it aside, he put his hands behind his head, closing his eyes and then opening them to stare at the purpling sky overhead and the growing bulb of Venus that would soon be joined by a thousand mantling stars.

The boy's name was Billy Potter. He thought about who he waited for in the town below.

He thought about who he would kill later this night.


The day he left home his mother was drunk. She was almost always drunk. Usually she would begin at noon, with the advent of the soap operas, gently milking a bottle of scotch throughout the day and into the night, but today she was drunk by early afternoon. She was sitting in the rocker in her bedroom, talking to Billy as if he were there.

"Good boy," she cooed, "my little Billy
boy. Does he love his momma? Does he love her?" The rocker moved back and forth in the darkness. "Does he kiss her up and tell her he loves her?" She embraced herself, imagining that he was doing this and telling her how he needed and loved her, what he had done that day at school, what he wanted for his birthday. "Will he give his momma a kiss?"

She stood abruptly, knocking the scotch bottle over onto the thick carpet and spilling what was in her glass. She dropped the glass onto the carpet and stood all the way up. In the living room she heard the television talking to itself. What time was it? Two? Three? The blinds were closed in the bedroom and she pinched two slats open to look outside. Dark. Gray and raining. Four o'clock? Did it matter? "Little Billy boy," she muttered, and took a few halting steps toward the door, finding the knob and then leaning against the door for a moment without opening it. "Kiss your momma, Billy boy," she whispered, closing her eyes and actually falling asleep momentarily. She began to slip down the door, then woke up, leaning back and pulling it open.

The hall light was on, and she blinked into the brightness. She was steadier. Straight ahead was the bathroom, and just to the right of that was Billy's room. The door was closed, a soft line of light visible under it.

"Billy?" she said, her voice not much above a whisper, stepping toward the closed door. "Billy?"

There was no answer.

She put her fingertips to the knob, wanting to grasp it firmly but holding back. A need in her so strong it overwhelmed her made her lean against the wall, and she began to sob. She wanted more than anything in the world to throw open the door, rush into the room, and hold him to her tightly; wanted to kiss his face and hands and call him her own Billy boy. The need was so physical and immediate that it, and the alcohol, overruled her sense and she opened the door and went in.

The lights were on in the room, all of them, including the reading lamp over his hard-backed chair in the corner. He was sitting in the chair, and he looked up at her as she stumbled in.

She almost muttered an apology, but the alcohol, and the need, again overtook her and she approached him. "Billy . . ." she began, holding her hands out, but all at once she realized what she was doing. He looked up at her, silently. Those eyes of his . . .

She stood still, suddenly not knowing what to do, her hands coming alive on their own, wanting to reach out at him, clutch him to her, but instead fluttering out before her and then dropping to her sides. She hugged her
self. She felt like a trapped, cornered animal. He was looking at her with those eyes. What did those eyes mean? They were not accusatory, not hateful, not loving, not warm, not cold. They were the eyes of something from somewhere else. They could not be human eyes.

"Billy," she said, and abruptly she began to sob into her hands, those uncontrollable appendages that said more sometimes than eyes or face ever could. She dropped to her knees before him, crying without control, for herself, for him. "Billy, Billy," she sobbed, and she felt no hands upon her to comfort her. She knew that if she looked up at this moment, she would see him calmly watching her. If he spat upon her, it would be better, since then she would know what kind of monster he was, be able to place him in her heart and act from that knowledge. But to not know what he felt, what he was . . .

She opened her eyes; he was watching her as if she were an insect under a magnifying glass. Or was he? Her heart leapt, for there was a glint at the corner of his eyes, wasn't there? A tear? Something human?

It was gone in a moment, and it may well have never been there. The eyes were blank as glass, silent and calm as the light of candles, and she doubted if she had seen what she thought she had. Could this really be her son? Could this cold thing masquerad
ing as a little boy really have come from her warm flesh?

The alcohol mastered her.

"Billy," she said, pulling his small body against her.

"Mother," he said evenly.

She pushed back from him, her eyes wide. "You're a monster!" she screamed. "How can you be my son? Who are you?"

His eyes regarded her emotionlessly.

"Who in God's name are you!" She slapped him, harder than she'd thought she could. His head snapped to one side, and then slowly came back to face her again.

"Oh, Billy," she began, gasping at what she had done, but then her voice rose. "No!" she shouted. "I'm not sorry! How could I be sorry? Do you know," she said, half hysterical now, backing to the wall and leaning against it as she railed at him, "that your father left because of you? He couldn't stand being around you. You made him afraid. You scared him. Do you know that when I was carrying you, before you were born, you were cold inside me? I had nightmares about you, that you were dead in my womb, or that you were alive and something worse." Tears were streaming down her cheeks, streaking her mascara, and she was spasmodically smoothing back her hair with her hands. "Once, I dreamed that I was on the delivery table, and you were born, and when you came out
of me, you weren't a baby. You were an old man with a wrinkled face, slowly pulling yourself out from within me with gnarled root-hands. And then when you were really born, when I came out of the drugs, and the doctor looked down at me, I thought for sure that you were stillborn. It was the way the doctor looked at me. I began to cry but he told me it wasn't that, and when I asked him what was wrong, he told me everything was fine. But I knew something was wrong." His eyes were turned toward her, hooded under the reading lamp, staring at her dispassionately. "And then they brought you to me, and I held you up and looked you over, head to toe, and there was nothing wrong with you at all until I held you up over me and looked into your eyes." She had almost forgotten he was there now, she had bottled up these thoughts for so long that she just spilled them out, to herself, to him, to no one. She looked at him again, and there was as much fear in her voice as anything. "Your eyes were like copper pennies—dead man's eyes. That doctor saw it, and I saw it, and your father saw it." She sobbed into her hands quietly for a moment. "All the trouble started then, all the trouble. Your father drunk and gone, and me like this, all the trouble . . . All I wanted was a little boy!" she screamed. "All I wanted was a little Billy to kiss and hold!"

BOOK: The Boy With Penny Eyes
9.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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