They walked their bikes on the street back to Tyler’s.
QP was drunk and high. He slurred his words and swayed as he walked alongside his bike. Not that he said much. No one did. He mostly kept repeating, “Dumah. The Demon of Silence. The punisher of sinners.” Then he’d giggle, as if he had said something funny.
Evan glanced at Savannah, and her lips were sealed so tight, they may as well have been glued.
A car drove by them. The headlights washed over the group with blinding intensity. At the last second, Evan realized it was a police car. Before he had the chance to warn the others, the cruiser flipped on its blue and red lights and pulled to the side of the road.
An older man stepped out of the driver’s seat. He appeared ready to retire. A gray mustache changed red to blue with the alternating lights.
“What’re you kids doing out here?” he asked.
Evan noticed the officer’s hand hovered around the gun at his waist. “Nothing. I mean, my friend here got drunk at a party and ran off. We went to look for him.” Evan motioned toward QP, who happened to be waving at the officer.
“How old are you?” the officer asked.
“Not old enough to drink, sir,” Evan said. “He snuck in a flask. We didn’t even know he was drinking until he started vomiting in the kitchen sink. When someone made fun of him, he ran off.”
“Are you talking about me?” QP asked. “I didn’t throw up in no sink. Officer Old Man.” QP stumbled forward. “Let me tell you something. We found treasure tonight. Millions of dollars worth of buried treasure. But it was stolen. I want to report a crime, Old Sir. I want to report a millions of dollar theft.”
Evan jumped forward and grabbed QP. “Hey, QP, why don’t you shut up.” He looked up at the officer. “I’m sorry. We found him outside the cemetery babbling on about some buried treasure. Sir, his grandpa died not too long ago, and Mac here has been pretty tore up about it. His grandpa told story of some treasure buried out here though, and that’s all he talks about.”
“I hated that old geezer,” QP said. “He was a murderer and then he was murdered by Dumah.” He cackled. “The demon of silence. Shhh.” QP held a thick finger over his lips.
“You kids wouldn’t happen to have identification, would you?”
“I have my school ID in my wallet. Is that fine?” Evan reached into his pocket and produced his wallet, took out his ID, and handed it to the officer.
The older man shined his light on the picture. “You’re a student at Ayser High? My son graduated from there about ten years ago. That prick of an English teacher, Mr. Crouch, I think, still teaching.”
“Yes,” Savannah butted in. “And he’s still a prick. He tried to make me take summer school last year.”
The officer chuckled. “Told my son the same thing. Secret between us, I think he gets a bonus for signing kids up.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Savannah said.
“Well, how about this,” the officer said. “I’ll write down your names, then I’ll let you go on your way. Get this kid home. Get yourselves home. If I see you out here again this late, it’ll be more than a warning.”
The kids agreed and the officer wrote down each of their names.
“Would you like me to give him a ride home?” He shot his gaze at QP.
“No,” Evan said. “Thank you, but you might give his parents a heart attack driving him home in the squad car.”
The officer sneered. “You’re probably right. Stay out of trouble.” He got back in his car and drove off.
“Guys,” QP said with a tongue-heavy tone. “I just got us out of that ticket. You can thank me later.”
“Yeah, we’ll be sure to,” Evan said.
QP started a tune that he had invented for the night, mostly nonsensical words that barely rhymed.
No one else spoke. What was there to say? They had broken into a cemetery, accidentally murdered their friend, dug into consecrated ground to dispose the of the body, and buried him.
Not only that, but there were kids who could place them at the cemetery, at the scene of a serious crime. An officer who had their names and could also place them there.
Evan’s thoughts became darker and darker, and he became afraid. When Jimmy comes up missing, they will start asking around. What’ll they find?
If Jimmy’s body were to be found, the police would have reason to arrest not only Evan and Robert, but everyone in the group.
Should they call and confess? Would that lighten any sentence? Would that help their case in the long run?
And what if he was inevitably going to be arrested for murder? Shouldn’t he actually commit the crime that fit his sentence?
His dad’s face flashed through his mind.
Maybe this was a chance to help his mother and himself escape from his demented father.
Tyler lay in bed and stared at the ceiling fan. The blades spun around and around and his thoughts followed.
Should he tell the police about what they had witnessed? Should he listen to his friends, bury the secret, hold the information until he exploded?
He thought of his brother, Mark, and the secret he had kept for him. Would he and his friends bear those same consequences if no one told?
As his thoughts whirled and whirled, a breeze blew through his room. A shiver like cold steel. His windows were closed. Maybe the air conditioner was on, but this wasn’t cold air blowing from a vent.
An icy presence came upon him like the edge of a knife slides against skin. He thought he heard a voice in the silence. Or was it just the fan’s engine?
Tyler jumped from the bed and sprinted to the switch on the wall near the door. He flipped it and light flooded through his room. The darkness and the noise vanished.
He scanned the immediate area and saw nothing out of place. But he did notice something that didn’t belong.
Tyler shuffled to his window sill. His body broke into a cold sweat and his heart thudded against his chest, as if so afraid it want to beat its way from his body and out of his room.
With a quivering hands, Tyler reached for the object propped against his window.
He climbed back into his sheets with the light still on. He lay awake, holding the mask of silence they had buried Jimmy in, and staring at the ceiling fan until the sun broke through his window and warmed his face.
QP stumbled onto the cold tile of his bathroom.
He had navigated the halls as quietly as possible. His parents hadn’t called out for him, meaning they had remained asleep.
He peeled off his clothes, then rested his face on the toilet seat. His fingers were dirty. His body sticky with sweat. He smelled like his Uncle Nick, who farmed for a living. He wondered if the stench of death from the cemetery had soaked to his skin. If it would always be a part of him now.
That thought pushed him over the edge and he vomited into the toilet. Water splashed back up into his face, making him more sick. When he finished, QP rested his cheek on the cool bathroom tile.
He thought of the mask attached to Jimmy’s face. Of the dirt splashing off of it. Why had that mask been in his grandpa’s attic, especially if he’d worn it to a murder? Was it worth something?
His thoughts shifted to Savannah and Tyler. To Evan. To Tyler.
The alcohol clouded his mind and his judgment, and for some reason the murder seemed unimportant. Or, more accurate, fake. Improbable.
He kept forcing himself to consider his friends, the tragedy, the potential consequences for everyone involved. But his mind wouldn’t grasp that idea. It kept refusing to acknowledge the situation, as if it was meaningless and void of importance.
What really mattered was the mask. And as he thought about the mask, he rolled over and saw it on the bathroom floor beside him. The mouth stitched upward in a sloppy smile.
Had he really smoked that much weed? Was he hallucinating, now?
QP reached for the mask, expecting his hand to swipe through the illusion. But his fingers touched substance.
“What?” he whispered, his rancid breath bouncing off the tile and back into his face.
How had the mask appeared in his bathroom? Did he grab it from Jimmy’s face? Or had someone else snagged it and put in QP’s backpack as joke. As a way to get back at him.
Seeing it there, on the tile floor, reminded him of Jimmy’s dead eyes watching them bury him. Why hadn’t anyone closed them? The thought inspired a new wave of sickness, and QP buried his head into the toilet.
Robert sneaked into his house. His mother was slept on the recliner, snoring.
He slinked past her, holding his breath. But she didn’t flinch in her drunken stupor.
When he reached his room, he noticed a deep cold filled the space between his walls. The air conditioner was broken and he didn’t have a ceiling fan. Yet, an icy presence inhabited the room. He sat on the edge of his bed.
The night had held so much opportunity, yet he was disappointed with every outcome. He had lost his virginity and had killed another human. But it was sloppy and ill-fitted to his fantasies. It had been fast and unsatisfying. He hadn’t been able to study the victim. To take his time and enjoy the moment. Then he had to dispose of it immediately. He didn’t even get the chance to sneak a souvenir.
But that mask. That haunting mask that held silence in its face like a cup holds water.
He recalled the name that QP had used when telling the story. Dumah. He remembered that name.
His mom had read a bible verse to him, one that had stuck out to Robert. He grabbed his bedside bible and sifted through the glossary, looking for the word Dumah.
When he didn’t see it, he Googled the demon’s name and found the verse. He flipped to the page, and caressed the name with his thumb.
He read the verse aloud.
“A prophecy against Dumah: Someone calls to me from Seir, ‘Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?’”
Robert grinned. He had a strong suspicion that the night was just beginning.
Evan sat outside his single-wide home, under his bedroom window.
How could he go back into the house after what he had considered? Patricide. He shook his head and smacked his cheeks. Tears stung his eyes.
Is that the price he’d have to pay to liberate him and his mom? And if so, would they even be able to enjoy their freedom? What she think of him? She’d hate him, despise him. He’d be no better than his father. Worse, even.
Evan stared at the night sky. The prodigal moon had returned. It was full and dark, almost tan, as tan as the mask they had buried. Stars glimmered all around it.
Around him, the sounds had muted with the moon’s arrival and he heard nothing.
An unsettling feeling bubbled inside of Evan. It wasn’t the fact that he and Robert had murdered Jimmy, or that they had hidden that murder, nor was it the fact that he had considered murdering his own father.
When Evan stared at the bright moon, he saw the mask that Jimmy had worn. The burlap mask with blackened eyes and stitched lips.
And he knew this night wouldn’t end for quite some time.
Savannah tore into her house.
She ran from messy room to messy room. “Jose,” she screamed. “Jose. Mom.”
No one answered. No one was home. The silence of an empty house spoke to her. The creaks and the echoes and subtle shifts within the framing.
She stood in the living room and stared at the cigarette butts that littered the coffee table and spilled onto the carpet. A candle flickered in the darkness, throwing shadows throughout the room.
Savannah sat on the ragged couch and curled into a ball and sobbed until she fell asleep.