19 Jun Appalachia – Part One
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"Appalachia - Part One"Written by
Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
I heard this tale at summer camp. From a quiet girl who lived in a small town. On her life she swears it’s true… and I’m inclined to believe her.
For Timmy Welsh, life was harsh and cruel. He lived in small, rural town hunkered down at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. His home, a crumbling brick affair with stained white shutters and broken windows, belied the quality of his childhood. His parents were no different.
Abusive and constantly angry, the Welsh parents led lives of constant disappointment. Father had a bastard of a temper; Mother was a willowy cunt who bemoaned her son for her declining health and ailing youth. Lashes of the belt, screaming matches, threats of disownment, and worse plagued Timmy’s daily life, yet the kid always kept a wily resolve.
Having been born a mistake, he knew no other life than that of the broken home in which he existed now. He constantly labored under the shortcomings of his parents, learning to fix things around the house, run errands, chop firewood, and ensure they didn’t go completely under. As a result, Timmy learned self-sufficiency and independence at an extraordinarily early age.
He lived on the outskirts of a town populated by no more than three hundred people. Practically no mans land for the bright kid, yet he never complained. Rather, he took pride in his work, glossed over the welts he received, and imagined under all his parents’ brutality, some grungy form of love existed.
As the months waned into winter, resources grew scarce and so too did the patience of the Welsh parents. For eleven-year-old Timmy, this meant particularly strenuous labors. He’d do chores from dawn till dusk, often operating in frigid temperatures with threadbare clothing. Still, he found a way to brighten his days.
Borne of his experiences in chopping firewood and common carpentry tasks around the house, Timmy discovered a love for woodworking. For creating things. Beautiful things. All throughout the late summer and fall of that year, he squirreled away pieces of wood. Bit by bit his stash would grow, until finally, he had enough to fulfill his vision.
With exceptional care, he transferred his wooden treasure trove into the basement of his home where an old, wood-burning stove resided. His parents never ventured down there, for want of laziness or simply being too drunk, high, or upset with one another. Timmy was safe.
He hid his cache of wood behind a rusty washer-dryer combo, where he then carved out small chunks of time to work on his project. With a goal in his mind, Timmy’s winter days became marginally more bearable. He still suffered under his parents and risked frostbite with each journey into the snow-covered expanses of his little town, but his project remained. A small spark of joy in an otherwise bleak world.
As the calends of November gave way to the throes of December, Timmy’s project came into fruition: a stunning rocking chair. He poured his love into it—sanded it to perfection, measured everything with precision, drilled openings for the joints, balanced it meticulously. It was his pride and joy.
By the time December came howling to the Welsh household, Timmy was finished. In place of his time spent building, he simply rocked.
Baaaaaack and forth… baaaaaack and forth.
He’d rock until his mother or father screamed for him from upstairs, their voices ragged and raw. Timmy’s peace shattered, but he didn’t complain. He could always return later.
Sometimes it was a matter of hours, other times days passed by until Timmy could return, but he always did and his parents were never the wiser.
Baaaaaack and forth… baaaaaack and forth.
December passed slowly for the Welshes, creeping by in a muted, white void. As the end of the month neared, a day or two after Christmas, the weather worsened. A blizzard, said to be one doozy of a storm on the Welsh’s ancient radio, raged over the Southeastern US. Mountainous regions in particular suffered, with both isolation and high altitudes worsening the living conditions for many Appalachian natives.
For Mother and Father this meant another headache and more screaming at their child. For Timmy, this blizzard threatened both his sanity and his life. Foot upon foot of snow fell upon the town like a great, white beast, suffocating the residents in a shell of whiteness thicker and colder than anything they’d ever experienced.
Timmy could scarcely venture one hundred yards to the tree-line where he retrieved the family firewood. His feet turned to blocks of ice and his breathing grew shallow as he did his best to heed the screaming demands of his father. In spite of his best efforts, it never seemed to be enough.
Timmy could scarcely find the time to complete one task before another thrust itself upon him. And failure to succeed meant stinging blows of a belt or cold-hearted threats of tossing him into the whiteness permanently. Timmy took it all in stride. He still had his rocking chair.
Within two days, the blizzard dumped three-feet of snow on the town. Within four, Timmy became worried they’d be walled in. He struggled to even open his back door, lest an avalanche come tumbling through. Yet his parents, clueless to the world around them, demanded he continue.
On the fifth day, Timmy found himself tasked once again to retrieve firewood. His cheek throbbed from a gash opened by the lick of his father’s belt buckle. It ached something fierce, but he knew not to fight back.
He’d return with the firewood and sit long and silent next to the stove in his rocking chair. Baaaaaack and forth… baaaaaack and forth.
Swallowing the pain, Timmy bundled up as best he could and waded out into the snowy expanse beyond. He struggled, feeling the snow soak through his clothes in a matter of seconds. Ahead of him, he could see the vague outlines of the trees and the mountains beyond… but no firewood.
For hours and hours Timmy searched. He guessed the snowfall buried it or perhaps it had been stolen, but more likely they had simply run out. The blizzard eradicated any sense of time for Timmy. Though he still recalled when day turned to night or vice versa, his numerous chores blurred together.
Still, the young boy searched. He looked long and hard, even scraping ice from neighboring trees, but they were sheathed in ice. Sighing, Timmy turned back to the house… and froze.
Smoke rose from his chimney. Timmy felt a sense of dread build up in his gut. For a brief moment, he thought his father had perhaps bought more wood, but he knew better. Frantically, Timmy started lurching towards the house.
It took him far too long, but eventually Timmy waded through the snow and up to the back door. He raced down to the basement, ignoring a screech from his mother, and skidded to a halt in front of the stove.
His father turned to grin at him, showing gnarled teeth and a filthy beard as he snapped another one of the rocking chair’s slats over his knee. “Been holdin’ out on us, eh? You selfish, little cock stain. Betrayin’ us as we slave to provide for ya?” He tossed the wood into the stove, while Timmy watched blankly. “Well just see where that gets ya.”
Father slid his belt free and told Timmy to bend over. Mutely, the boy obliged. He watched the crackling flames as his father’s belt whipped across his legs, his back, and his rear. Timmy scarcely flinched, even when the belt broke skin.
When Father finished, he stomped on the remnants of the rocking chair and took his son’s chin in a greasy hand. “Remember, ya little bastard, without the grace of your mother ‘n me, your ass would be out there in the snow, good to get fucked by Father Winter. Remember that, now.”
“I will,” Timmy whispered. “I will.”
“Good,” Father dropped his son to the floor. “Clean that shit up.”
Timmy knew better than to respond. Instead he grabbed a broom and began sweeping the pieces while his father went upstairs, undoubtedly cursing to Mother about their son’s ineptitude.
Left alone, Timmy finally began to feel the weight of his predicament settle in. How could he get through another day without his rocking chair? As he cleaned, his eyes began to pick out the other tools he worked with. A hatchet, a drill, a couple hammers, some chicken wire… more and more things stood out to him. Things that had helped him construct his escape from this shoddy world.
As Timmy finished cleaning the last of the rocking chair, he took the chicken wire and drill in his hands. Perhaps he could fashion another escape.
Night came quickly with the weather conditions. Timmy felt grateful when his parents passed out early, giving him time to himself. Once he was certain his parents were asleep, he gathered his tools and went to work.
At around three in the morning, Father heard awoke to a strange sound. A sort of metallic squeaking coupled with a low buzz. When he tried to rub his eyes, he found he could not move. His arms were pinned at their sides, bound by something thing and sharp.
That soft buzz permeated the air again, filling the shoddy bedroom with animosity. Father blinked and strained against his bindings, cursing when he felt whatever it cut into his arms. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he began to make out Timmy, who stood at the foot of the bed.
“Timmy? The fuck you doin’ son? You achin’ for another beating?” Father spat and cursed, waking his wife in the process.
Mother blinked rapidly as she was jostled awake. Her stained blonde hair poked in every which way as she looked around. “Timmy, dear,” she said in a ragged whisper, “Don’t make your father whip you.”
Timmy turned on the lights. He looked pale, the drill in one hand and a roll of chicken wire in the other. Mother and Father continued to curse as their son stalked around the side of the bed to his mother.
“I don’t think you need to worry about me anymore,” he informed in a placid tone.
Mother gazed back at him, showing off a set of brown and black teeth. “Oh, darling,” she drawled in a sickly sweet voice, “I’ll always worry about you. We provide for you. We looooove you.”
Across the bed, Father cursed again and tried to get free, but every time he did the chicken wire dug a little more into his arms, creating shallow lacerations across his body. “You little pig fucker! Lemme out now, or I swear to the new moon I’ll peel the skin off yer back with mah belt!”
“Listen to your father,” Mother crooned. “Be a good boy. An obedient boy.”
Timmy simply shook his head and lifted the drill. “Good-bye, mother.” He plunged the cordless drill into her eye sockets, filling the air with screaming and shrill bzzzzzzzt’s.
Mother bucked and strained against the wire, her vision going red as the drill dug deep into her skull. Timmy calmly plunged the tool up to its rotator, ignoring the blood and his father’s curses. In the middle of the blizzard, there was no one else around.
The drill’s buzzing continued to fill the room. Bzzzzzzzzt. Bzzzzzzzt. After a minute, Mother stopped moving. She lay on the bed, staring up at the ceiling with ruined sockets.
Timmy rounded the bed to his father’s side. Father glared at him, foaming at the mouth and straining hard enough against the wire to form streams of blood along either side of his wrists. “You… little bastard…” he choked out.
“Apt,” Timmy replied, plunging the drill into his father’s socket, “Considering you were never here.” Father thrashed just as Mother had, his vision filling with spirals of black and red light, before darkness swept over him as the drill reached his brain. Bzzzzzzzt. Bzzzzzzzzt.
Father went limp.
Timmy stepped back and wiped the blood from his face. He was free.
Given the conditions of the blizzard and the isolation of the Welsh home, no one came by until four days later. A snowplow operator tasked with clearing the roads made his rounds through the melting snow. He’d been instructed to knock on each door and offer assistance to anyone requiring it.
Humming a tune, the operator knocked on the front door. When no one came to answer, he stepped into the home and was immediately overcome with the stench of rotting meat. Gagging, he called out, “Hello?” No answer… of course. The operator sighed to himself, buried his nose under his shirt, and crept forward.
The smell only grew stronger as he made his way deeper into the home. His footsteps echoed across the threshold as he ventured down a short hallway to the door on the end. Tentatively, he threw open the door, froze for a moment, and then bolted out of the house.
When he reached his snowplow, he paused to vomit before locking himself in his cabin. He radioed emergency services and looked around the surrounding area nervously, eyes wide. At one point he swore he could see a wisp of a grey figure on the tree line a few hundred yards away, but it disappeared after a second look. What he’d seen remained burned into his retinas.
A couple, ripped apart and colored a tepid yellow, with chicken wire scissored across their bodies, digging through their tattered corpses. Eyes little more than craters of brown and yellow, mouths open wide as if still screaming, and for whatever reason, a rocking chair…made from bone and fused with muscle.
The operator hadn’t bolted because of the bodies, though those were foul beyond measure. He’d done his fair share of hunting in the area. Bodies didn’t scare him.
No, it had been the rocking chair. The damned thing had still been moving. Going baaaaaack and forth… baaaaaack and forth.
The girl went on to tell us that the police, of course, conducted an investigation. A double homicide and the disappearance of a child in a tiny, residential area could never be taken lightly. However the case would prove fruitless, given the staggering amount of area the Appalachian Mountains cover.
The incident would slowly fade into obscurity—a tale to be regaled at campfires as the girl had with us. But sightings were still reported from time to time, of a young boy who wandered the Appalachian Trail, armed with a drill. Even worse, at least to me though, were the reports of hikers who stumbled across a clearing with a rocking chair. As it would always be swaying baaaaaack and forth. Baaaaaack and forth.