The boys race back,
crawling over the rotting downed tree, and through the woods.
They can see the house through the barren limbs of the trees,
branches that stick out,
their branching fingers trying to block their view of home.
They push through those branches, some twisted in odd directions,
misshapen bony arms that were broken and healed to grow that way.
They focus on the house through the trees. Home.
They break free of the woods into the sudden freedom of their yard.
Their boots slip on the snow, sloppy wet from the early spring melt.
A discarded bike lies on the ground, half buried,
sticking out of the snow
like the skeletal remains of a man fallen in an odd position.
“The grass,” Kevin calls breathlessly as they run for the house.
“We must have imagined it,” Jesse pants.
They charge into the house again, kicking off their boots,
racing past the comic and discarded socks, to the kitchen again, calling.
She isn’t there.
They search the house again.
“She’s not here.”
“Come on,” Kevin urges.
They head to the back door again,
pulling their boots on, and going out.
They go around to the side, heading for the front.
“Kevin! Kevin!” Jesse cries.
Kevin blinks, disoriented.
It’s hard to breathe, a crushing weight is pressing down on his chest.
He tries to move and can’t.
He’s pinned down.
Kevin is laying on his back in the snow.
He stares at the bare branches of bushes pushing up
through the snow around him and the bare branches of trees above.
“Jessie? What’s happening?” His voice is cracking with fear.
He is pinned beneath
the rotting fallen tree they had climbed over earlier.
“How?” he croaks.
“Kevin?” Jesse’s voice is shaky.
Jesse takes a step back,
staring fixatedly ahead, stopped by a tree behind him.
“Kevin, what’s happening?”
Before him is the rotting old stump,
its sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up,
soft and crumbly with rot.
He feels vertigo, the world seems tilted,
and he feels the sickening sensation of falling.
Falling on the sharp jagged edges sticking up from the stump.
He imagines himself impaled and his blood oozing out
to drip down the stump, staining the snow and rotting leaves.
He turns and staggers away, looking for Kevin.
He takes four or five steps before he spots him.
Jesse runs and falls on him,
clawing at the snow and the downed tree,
his fingers scratching at the rotting wood,
trying to dig at the ground still hardened with the winter frost.
He’s sobbing as he frantically tries to dig his brother out.
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