Troop 86 carried on through the woods, six of the boys carrying Skinny in a menagerie of sleeping bags and thick branches bound with rope. With her eyes closed, Skinny settled into the notion that she hadn’t made it. The little voices carrying on around her led Skinny to believe she was making her final trip back to a hole out back, where she’d be thrown into and forgotten. When she had helped drag others—they’d catch a beating for even trying to lift the body—she was overcome with numbing guilt that she and the other little pallbearers were doing more harm to the child than Egger ever could. Over rocks, making turns, up to the final hoist, Skinny learned not to watch the body twist and turn, scrape and bleed from the woods or from their final moments alive in the yard, ended with a stained shovel. She couldn’t handle the damage she was inflicting, all because of her. How silly it was to think like that, Skinny knew now. The long drag didn’t hurt at all; in fact, it felt unlike anything she ever felt before. Soft breeze flowed past her and restored some of her calm. The birds above sang a pretty song. In the hands of little voices, Skinny felt safer than she’d ever felt in her whole life.
“You guys are doing great, just a little bit longer to the road. Barry, your phone have any battery? I’m at 2%.” Scout Master Gerald said, the man who found her.
Skinny’s spine tensed at the sound of an older voice, her peace shattered by hard truth—she was dead; this was her final drag. Skinny wanted to open her eyes, but knew that never happened when others were pulled to their grave. Her eyes would never open again. What would it feel like to have dirt poured over her? Would it feel like this?
When the boys stopped at the edge of a road and rested Skinny on the ground, she braced herself for her fall into the pit. In the two days since her escape, she’d seen more than anything in her life, and Skinny relaxed herself by recalling the sun’s warmth, the breeze between trees or while being dragged to her grave. The birds sang a song the bone-wind chime at the house never could, so much happier, maybe she’d get lucky and remember it always.
“We have an emergency here. We’re on the side of Route 93W with a little girl. She looks about 10, maybe 11 years old, unconscious.”
The words were foreign to Skinny, so she focused on the bird’s song instead. She could feel fingers press her neck, blanket her forehead, and lift her eyelids open, a white sheet of blindness reintroducing her sight to the world.
“She’s alive, but beaten badly. She’s bruised all over. I’m not sure, we found her like this in the woods. I think she’s been kidnapped, she had rope marks on her wrists.”
A wave of sadness collapsed over Skinny. Where was her teddy bear? It needed to be buried with her. It had to.
“…on her ankles, too. Look, you need to get here now. If you saw what I’m seeing, you’d be here already. I ain’t no detective, but I think this girl’s been missing for a very long time. Yes, I’ll stay on the line until help arrives.” Barry’s voice became shaky, wishing an ambulance were there already.
The presses against her skin were often and came with words that Skinny didn’t understand, “Help’s coming, sweetie. Stay with us.” Her eyelids fluttered and slowly opened, her head lolling on the ground.
“Gerry! She’s awake!” Barry said, kneeling beside her, trying to keep the boys from smothering Skinny’s air. “Stay back, boys! We don’t want to startle her!” They fell away, standing a few feet away but wide-eyed at the hurt girl from the woods.
“Hi, little angel! Don’t move now, don’t move. Help’s on its way. My name is Gerry, what’s your name?”
When her sight focused on Gerry, Skinny saw a man who looked nothing like Egger or Pa. His eyes were blue, like Mikey’s—and Skinny thought this might be his pa. Where was her teddy bear? In the corner of her eye, Skinny noticed black, the same black she was running from, the same black where she got killed another person; a trap by Egger and Pa.
“No! NO! Bad! Bad! Bad bitch! Egger!” She started low, her voice rising with the panic filling her core. She struggled to move but couldn’t.
“Whoa! Calm down, everything’s ok. You’re safe now! Where is that language coming from? Boys, cover your ears.” Barry said, kneeled next to her, confused.
“What the heck is this, Ger?”
Barry looked to Gerry shocked, the color drained from his face—his jaw dropped in response to Skinny’s warnings, silent and shaking his head.
From the other side of the road, Troop 86 heard rustling in some brush, forcing their attention away from Skinny as they watched it shake with disruption.
“Bad! BAD! NO! Bad bitch!” Skinny flailed her arms and legs free from the sleeping bag gurney, trying to crawl back into the woods. She wasn’t dead, Skinny realized, but she would be soon if they stayed here.
“I’m not a monster!” She wailed, a final plea to get away from the trap and back into the safe woods.
The rustling stopped and a voice cleared the other side of the highway to Troop 86, “Howdy!” Skinny’s restraint stopped. Her voice fizzled to smoke. Her breathing picked up. She closed her eyes and focused on bird’s song, but instead heard a requiem performed by the bone-chime. She never saw a face, but she didn’t have to. Pa’s was one of the only voices she knew, and she could feel his stare from a few feet away.