Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
“Dad, you said you’d play catch with me!” I yelled as my father walked past me to his office, where he spent most of his days when he wasn’t at work.
“I’m sorry, bud, I’ve gotta get these documents done for tomorrow’s big meeting. We’ll do it another day, okay?”
I frowned. That was the same excuse he always gave me, and the same follow-up he always had. ‘We’ll do it another day,’ Yeah, yeah, sure we will, I thought. The longer I stood in front of his door, the more upset I became. I eventually huffed and puffed enough to the point where I stormed out of the house. I left for my go-to place when I was upset: the treehouse.
To a twelve-year-old kid, a tree house was the perfect place for a kid to just get away from his problems and be a kid! It was Reese’s and my place to go when we were sad, mad, or just bored out of our minds. It was our little getaway when things went awry in our lives. We also went there just to hang out. It was our spot.
We had found the treehouse one day while looking through the woods for buried treasure. We didn’t find any treasure, but we did stumble upon the treehouse. We climbed up the ladder and viewed the place from inside. Reese called it a dump, but I saw the potential in it. I fixed her up, grabbing fold up chairs, a rug, and a blanket to cover the only window in the wooden box, to create the coolest treehouse ever! We kept our comic books, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and other miscellaneous knick-knacks up there.
Now that I got the treehouse out of the way, let me explain to you who Reese is. Reese is my best friend. He moved in next door when I was in the second grade. We went over their house and introduced ourselves. I went into Reese’s room and saw that he had a Nintendo Sixty-Four. We sat down and played Super Smash Bros. all day, and that first visit became a sleepover, which we spent staying up late playing video games till our eyes became sore, and then some.
Reese was a good kid. Sure, he’d get into trouble occasionally, like the one time he fed his sisters’ goldfish to the cat, but he was overall a good kid. He’d get into trouble for sneaking out and he constantly was a wiseass to teachers, but again he was a good kid, and most importantly my best friend, my only friend.
That day, Reese was on the last day of his grounding. He was caught sneaking out at night. I was supposed to sneak out as well, but I got cold feet and stayed in bed. Reese went to the treehouse alone, and when he realized I wasn’t there, returned home where his parents caught him trying to sneak back in.
Reese would always tease me, clucking and calling me a chicken when I did stuff like this. I was sure that once he got loose from the confines of his room, he’d be all up in my ear about it.
I entered the woods and was making my way to the treehouse. I was about three quarters of the way there, swinging a stick I found awhile back, pretending it was Excalibur, when I saw it. It was a black hole, the size of a bowling ball, levitating at eye level a few feet away from me. It looked like someone took a picture and hole-punched it, leaving a black spot in its place.
I approached it curiously. I tried to go around it to get a sideview of the thing, but it disappeared. I walked behind where it would have been, and it reappeared. The hole was paper-thin and couldn’t be seen from its sides. I looked at it intensely, trying to see anything inside. I looked down at Excalibur and lifted it upwards. I slowly inserted the stick into the black hole. Suddenly, like a vacuum, the hole absorbed the stick, forcing me to let go. I fell backwards on my rear end, kicking my legs out and skittering back in a feeble attempt to create distance between the black hole and me. I breathed heavily as I stared at the hole in astonishment. Then the stick spat back out and fell at my feet.
I was frozen in place for a good minute. I didn’t know what to do. Then I had an idea. I ran over to a tree and grabbed an acorn off the ground. I went up to the hole and chucked the acorn in. I waited a minute, then the acorn came out, whizzing past my head.
“Whoa!” I said.
That’s when I had another idea.
I went home and grabbed the football from my bedroom, just in case my dad decided he wanted to play catch with me. I brought it to the black hole, got into a throwing stance, stretched my arm backwards, winding up the shot, and then threw. Of course, I missed the hole completely. I ran and grabbed the ball, got closer to the hole, and threw it underhand. This time it went in. A minute passed, and then the ball popped right back out and bounced a few times before it rolled up close to me. I smiled and prepared another throw. I got into the stance, stretched my arm backwards, and chucked it as hard as I could. This time the ball went in, no problem. A minute went by, and I just stood in front of the hole.
The ball suddenly came out fast, spiraling and hitting me dead in the stomach. I fell to my knees in shock and pain. I wasn’t expecting it to come out that hard. That’s when I realized that it all depended on the strength of my throw. If I throw it weakly, the hole would toss it back with the same momentum. Throw it hard, and it comes back hard.
I played catch with the black hole for a good hour, then made my way home. I couldn’t wait to show Reese.
The next day arrived. It was a Sunday, so after Reese got back from church, I was ready to show my friend the coolest thing ever!
When my friend got back home, I quickly ran over to his house and asked his parents if he could hang out. They said of course, and we went to the treehouse.
“Dude, I have something amazing to show you!” I said, hyped for my friend to see my cool find.
“Yeah, yeah, sure you do,” he responded.
We walked about three quarters of the way and started to approach where I’d seen the black hole. That’s when Reese spotted it.
“Whoa! What the hell is that thing?”
“It’s a portal!” I eagerly said.
We looked at it for a good minute, and then made our way closer.
“Throw this into it!” I said, unable to hold back the excitement in my voice. I handed him the football and he brought his arm back and threw it in on his first try. I was a little envious, but I had to remember that Reese played baseball, so his aim was going to be better than mine.
“Now what?” he asked.
A minute went by, even though it felt like an eternity, and the ball finally popped back out and landed on the ground in front of Reese. Reese didn’t say anything for a moment, then knelt and picked up the football. He scrutinized it carefully, looking for any scruffs or nicks on the ball.
“That was pretty amazing,” he said in a monotone. I smiled, grabbed the ball back from him, and threw it into the hole once again.
We played for a good thirty minutes. At first Reese wanted to know how many things could go through the hole. He threw rocks, acorns, and even a worm into the hole. All came out just like they had before. Then we took turns tossing the football into it.
“What’s on the other side?” Reese finally asked.
“I dunno. Space stuff?”
“What if there’s like a whole ‘nother dimension on the other side of it? Maybe there’s an alternate version of us!”
I tossed the football into the portal again and waited for its reemergence.
“Yeah, I guess it’s possible.”
“Aren’t you at all curious what’s on the other side?”
I thought for a moment.
“Yeah, I guess I’m a little curious.”
“Well, what?” I asked, confused.
“Stick your head through the portal!”
“What?! No way!” I said, backing up, as if to say no with my body.
“C’mon! Don’t be a chicken like you were the other night.”
There it was. The chicken comment. I knew it was coming.
“I don’t care what you say, I’m not doing it,” I said, not letting peer pressure get the best of me. Every time he pressured me into doing something, we always ended up in trouble. That’s when he began to cluck, bending his arms into his torso to resemble chicken wings.
“Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!” he chanted.
“Look, I’m not doing it. You don’t know what could be on the other side. What if there’s a monster or something?”
“C’mon, man! It’s just a portal. Don’t you want to know who’s been tossing the ball back through it?”
I didn’t think about that aspect of it. I guess there could’ve been someone on the other side, catching the ball, and then tossing it back to us. But I still didn’t budge in my decision.
“Pussy!” he finally shouted, which hit hard. He’d never called me a pussy before. I didn’t even know that the word was in his vocabulary. I knew the word too, but I’d never dare say it.
He began to walk toward the portal, and I shouted to him, “What are you doing, Reese?!”
“I’m going to look through the portal.”
I quickly followed him, trying to explain that it was a bad idea, but he wasn’t having any of it.
“Look, you can’t be a chicken your whole life. You gotta take chances sometimes. Plus, I want to know who or what has been on the receiving end of our passes. Don’t you?”
“I guess, but I don’t think it’s safe to just poke your head into things you don’t understand.”
“Pussy,” he said, then bent forward to stick his head into the hole.
He hesitated at first, maybe to take in what he was about to do, then plunged his head into the hole.
A few long seconds passed by and nothing happened. He just stood there, arms limp at his sides, looking through the hole. I looked around nervously, like we were doing a bad deed and I was on watch. Then everything happened at once.
Reese fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. I stood right behind him and was hit by something warm and wet, as if someone sprayed me with a Super Soaker with hot water. I looked down at the ground. He was missing his head! His neck leaked copious amounts of blood all over the place. That’s when I realized that I was covered in blood. I screamed a scream only a kid could make. Then something flew out of the portal, and I instinctively caught it as it slammed into my chest. I looked down at the thing in my hands and screamed again. It was Reese’s head! His face was twisted in horror, like he’d just seen a ghost! His tongue lolled to the side and his eyes were glazed over, a white milky film covering his barely-visible pupils.
Memories started flooding into my head. Thoughts of the times Reese and I would play hooky from school. The times we’d sneak out and would tell scary stories to each other in the treehouse, trying to make the other piss his pants. All the fond memories I’ve ever had of Reese came together all at once, and were shattered with one new, horrifying, mental scar.
My hands began to tremble, and I dropped Reese’s head to the dirt and ran away. I kept running till I made it home. I opened the door and slammed it behind me, then ran to the restroom to wipe Reese’s blood from my face. I spent a half an hour scrubbing Reese’s blood from my face, and another scrubbing the blood off my clothes. I was petrified!
I walked out of the restroom and ran up the stairs to my bedroom. I got into bed, even though it was only six o’clock, and lay there mortified. My eyes were wide open, looking straight at the ceiling, staring into space. The image of Reese’s body dropping to the ground and his head landing in my arms kept playing over and over in my head. Then, after hyperventilating for a good ten minutes, I fell asleep.
My dad woke me up. I opened my eyes and thought to myself, that was one weird-ass dream. But my father knocked me out of that thought when he asked me if I knew where Reese was. Apparently he didn’t come home, and his parents thought that maybe he was over here.
They filed a missing persons report the next day, thinking that maybe Reese had run away. After a few days went by, the police decided to do a search of the woods. They spread out and found his decapitated body on the woodland floor.
Local news played the story everywhere. They were looking for his killer and asking if anybody had any information, they should call the local police department. I picked up the phone a few times, mostly to clear my conscience, which was eating me alive, but I didn’t because I knew no one would believe me. Who would? Hey, my friend stuck his head through a portal and it bit his head off. Yeah, I’m sure that would be taken seriously.
After all this time, one question remains with me, though: what did my friend see on the other side of that portal?