On the Bookshelf: The Butcher’s Boy by Michael Robb

From Chapter 4

As soon as he caught his breath Michael went to find Oliver. He wanted the hole boarded over so that he never had to go back there again.

His mom headed him off in the house before he could talk to Oliver though, and her concern over his cut and his filthy state landed him in the bathtub. He spent the afternoon being pampered and tended by Doctor Mom and her tackle box full of first aid supplies, while Steve, Oliver, and the movers finished their business.

Michael fell asleep downstairs and only roused briefly when Steve carried him up to his new room. Lucy looked uncomfortable with that, but Mom scowled to keep her in check.

Michael dreamed that he was in the old lady’s yard again, only this time she raised her broom stick up high like and lurched off the porch toward his hiding place. When he turned to run he tripped and fell over a tangle of roots. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get back to his feet, and when the crone was upon him her face twisted into a ghoulish snarl. Her maw gaped wide exposing rows of sharp pointed teeth. The broomstick transformed into an axe, the heavy blade slicing through the air right at his face. Michael woke with a start just before the axe cleaved his skull.

He was freezing. The room was icy, so cold that he could see his breath when he exhaled. This alarmed him and he sat up in bed looking around at his unfamiliar surroundings. His first instinct was to feel for Lucy. She was there nestled against his hip and sleeping soundly. Then Michael looked down at the foot of his bed where a figure stood eyeing him curiously.

It was a boy of about the same age and stature as Michael, but this was no ordinary child; it was a wavering ghost of a boy. Michael would have screamed but his throat was too dry.

There was nothing threatening about the ghost’s gaze, but Michael was no less terrified because of it. The apparition reached a hand toward him and Michael scooted back, waking Lucy. The ghost looked as if it were about to speak, but the dog snarled and snapped at it.

Billy…” the ghost’s eerie voice sounded just before Lucy shot through its smoky form and sent it swirling away into nothingness.

Angry and confused, Lucy recovered from her crash landing and went into a frenzy of barking and sniffing.

Michael realized it wasn’t cold anymore. In fact it was sweltering. He was struggling to breathe and couldn’t peel his eyes away from the spot where the ghost boy had just been standing.

Mom burst into the room, her eyes taking in everything.

What is it?” she asked. “What happened? Are you two all right?”

Lucy yipped in response as Mom came to Michael’s side and pressed her palm against his forehead.

Oh baby, you’re burning up,” she cooed. “You must have had a fever dream. Will you be all right while I go find some Tylenol?”

Michael nodded, but he wasn’t sure if he would ever be all right again. He knew he hadn’t been dreaming, and so did Lucy.

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