John was 13 and Susie 9 when they went out looking for adventure. Neither of them had taken the time to think about where they might go or, better still, how they might get home. There was no time to pack food because it was a spur of the moment thing. John’s idea. He knew that her mother would blame him. His mother would blame him too and he’d feel the sting of his dad’s belt, but that only spurred him on.

He loved being with Susie because she didn’t look at him like the others did. She was his only friend. He had been warned off by her mum more than once because of his temper, and his love of hurting things, animals mainly because they can’t talk. At first he picked on younger boys but they all squealed and he got into serious trouble. Banned from school and forced to stay at home for weeks until the dust settled. He stayed in mainly to keep his mum happy and to stop her tears.  He loved the stares and the fear he caused when he was seen walking around the village. Mother’s grabbed their children and even teenagers had started to avoid him. His parents worried about their only son who was developing a taste for hurting living things. They wondered just how far he would go.

He had taken Susie to teach her family a lesson. He wanted to make her disappear for a couple of hours and while they were in the thickest part of the woods, running and laughing, he felt that desire burning in him to hurt her. At one point he raised his hands and put them around her throat and as she looked up at him and smiled the desire faded. It was the fear in the eyes of his potential victim that increased his desire to hurt them, but he never saw it in her eyes.

After a few hours of being out and having fun he realised they were further away from home than he had planned and he had no idea how to get back. A couple of hours had turned into several.

Susie had no idea they were lost. The crying that greeted the news made him angry at first. Her silly sobbing disturbed the monster in him and the desire to hurt her grew strong in him. As an internal battle raged within him between the him that wanted to strike her and the him that wanted to protect her he realised the area they were in looked vaguely familiar, so his focus went back into getting them home.

The sun had faded and the cold evening air of autumn crept towards them like a lioness stalking prey. Low, slow and silent.

They were alone at a crossroads with no one around to help him decide what to do next but that didn’t bother him. It actually excited him. Their safety was in his hands and the decision was his. So he decided. As they turned left and walked a while he noticed lights in the distance. He knew the village was close and with it a ton of trouble. He thought about turning up alone and pleading his innocence. Telling them that he had spent the day playing alone and lost track of time, but what would he do with Susie?

They could see buildings now and he could smell the fear in the atmosphere. He had a good nose for sniffing out fear and the smell excited him. He knew he had caused a panic and that excited him too. No one even noticed them approaching, they were all so wrapped up in their adult gossip about what might have happened to the missing pair. Susie noticed her uncle’s car sitting outside the local pub and, as she ran inside into the arms of her frantic dad, he waited outside.

The severity of his punishment hit home as he watched a group of angry men and women including Susie’s mum, his dad’s wife, emerge from the pub and walk towards him but he wasn’t afraid. The monster stirred.