|Yeah, I’ll be with you soon. Paul’s text illuminated the screen, averting James’s attention from the road. “He’ll meet us there,” sighed James to his wife, Violet. |
Recovering alcoholic, James was exhausted by life’s yelling—this trip was much needed. As trees crowded them with no other car in sight, they felt like the only people in this world. Golden sunlight; faint music from the radio; wind playing with Violet’s loose hair—it was simply beautiful. The beauty faded as the car suddenly stopped. “What do we do now without signal?” asked Violet. Soon spotting a small house, they knocked for what seemed like hours. They were ready to turn back when a woman slightly opened the door, revealing her left side. James explained the situation, and a tall man appeared saying, “There’s no station nearby. I can fix it, but it’ll take a few days.” He continued, “We have an extra room if you want to stay.” Having no other choice, they entered the Barrons’ home. There was nothing on the walls, except for an old picture of a dog and a little boy. Mrs. Barron pointed and said, “That’s my lovely son Miles.” Violet smiled. Now having signal, James sent a quick text to Paul, letting him know what happened. We’ll be back in time. With everyone in the living room, James asked respectfully, “What’s your job Mr. Barron?” He responded, “Oh, call me Dave. I work at the farm…don’t wander in the back, though. My wife, Marla, cooks and Miles goes to school nearby. Nothing much.” Violet loved how the simplicity of their home resembled the simplicity of their lives; she envied how at peace the Barrons seemed to be. Their son Miles, a dark-haired, skinny teenager, soon walked in, covered in dirt. “Miles! Quickly freshen up. We have guests. I’ll treat you guys to a nice big dinner.” said Marla. Miles quietly went to his room.The dinner was more than just nice and big, featuring Marla’s centerpiece stew. “This is nothing like I’ve ever eaten! What’s in it?” exclaimed James. Marla glanced over at Dave, responding, “Meat and some vegetables. Nothing crazy.” Violet laughed, “You have to give me this recipe!”Darkness soon engulfed the house. It was 3:26 AM when James awakened from footsteps near the back. He decided against awaking Violet and instead went to see what was there. He noticed Miles walking through the trees. Suspicious of the Barrons’ generous hospitality, James followed him into a graveyard, where Miles sat staring at the ground. Confused, James walked back to the house and stayed awake with questions.The morning bled in, and James decided to check out the back for answers. Walking into a small foul-smelling shed, he saw shovels and an assortment of knives covering the wall. James scurried out, making sure nothing moved out of place. Sweat danced on his palms as he tried to connect the dots. This continued for two more days. What was happening? Why was Miles going to the graveyard every night? “Something’s wrong,” thought James. Insanity overtook his mind, forcing his eyes and mind to remain awake.At supper, all sorts of dishes lined the table, but always with the stew. “Is there a market nearby?” asked James. After some delay, Dave responded, “We make our own food.” No further questions were asked and silence overwhelmed the room. Staring at the stew, James’s eyes widened. Slamming his hand on the table, he screamed “Where is this meat from?!” Startled, everyone stared blankly at him. Violet raised her voice, “Watch yourself James!” He shouted back, “This is human meat!” Everyone looked at him with faces of disbelief. Marla faintly let out, “How could you say such a thing?” James knew he sounded crazy, but it made sense—the graveyard, the odor, the knives, the lack of life nearby. “I- I don’t know what’s gotten into me. Please excuse me,” said James as he walked out the door. He didn’t believe the Barrons and had to do something. He kept walking, straying off the path. Suddenly, smoke blurred his vision as he stumbled upon the remnants of a fire. Underneath the ashes covering the ground, James saw the sparkle of a silver watch attached to a body with the face burned off. Jumping back with startled eyes, James screamed, “HOLY…what do I do?!” He kneeled down, sinking his face into his palms. His eyes suddenly lit up as his quivering lips formed a smile.The next day, James told everyone: “I apologize for yesterday. That was foolish of me, and I’d like to make it up by cooking tonight.” Everyone smiled back. As supper neared, James laid out the table with the famous stew in the middle, like Marla. Everyone sat, except James. Violet asked, “Aren’t you going to eat? Take the first bite!” James felt a sudden panic, but complied to not seem suspicious. “I’ll eat a little.” As everyone dug in, Marla exclaimed, “This tastes exactly how I make it!” Taking this as confirmation, James said, “I made it exactly how you do…with human meat.” Dropping their spoons, everyone shockingly stared at the stew. Violet ran to the sink throwing up; Marla continued to stare; Miles started breathing heavily; and Dave threw it onto the ground. Violet screamed, tugging James’s shirt, “What were you thinking! Where’s this even from?”Before he could answer, the television in the back said, “A recent fire devastated a forest in upstate Connecticut. There is an unidentified body at the scene, but we found a car plate: PA84675UL. If you know…” James stepped back in shock as Violet fell to the ground wailing, “No, NO!” James looked at the stew and back at the screen. He ran to the bathroom and stared at himself. “What have I done…” Grabbing his stomach, he noticed his wrist was now adorned with the silver watch. As he looked up in the mirror, James saw Paul’s burned face. He stared back. Alive. Yeah, I’ll be with you soon.