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Chapter no 31 – MEAT AND BONES

Playground

“Are you fucking crazy?! We can’t cross that thing!” Bobby cried, adjusting his newly affixed bandages.

CJ looked at the humming grinders, then back at his brother from the edge of the platform.

“What else are we gonna do, just wait here?” CJ asked.

“Maybe we should, maybe someone’ll come here and save us.”

“The last time we didn’t follow the rules…” CJ hesitated, glancing over at Isaac and Sadie, “someone died.”

“Well, if she wasn’t dumb enough to run down a dark hallway by herself, maybe she’d still be alive.”

“Don’t talk about my sister!” Isaac yelled.

“What are you gonna do about it, you little dandelion dipshit?” Bobby barked.

He remained a parrot of his father’s persona.

“Hey! Just stop! We’re moving ahead, with or without you. Stay here if you want. But I’m gonna get to the end of this thing. I’m getting out of here,” CJ said.

“Fucking traitor,” Bobby muttered.

CJ ignored his words, looking away from Bobby and Kip and over toward Sadie, Isaac, Tanya, and little Donnie.

“Does everyone know how to play hopscotch?”

They all nodded except for Donnie, who looked as lost as always. “Does everyone think they can make it across?”

“I think so,” Sadie replied.

She was frightened, but CJ’s courage gave her strength.

Tanya nodded. She took a deep breath, preparing herself mentally, but she was firm in her confidence.

“I’m not the best at hopscotch, but I’m not the worst either. But what about him?” Isaac asked.

His index finger was pointed at Donnie who was yet to break his silence.

Without warning, Donnie broke away from Sadie. He zipped past the entire group, heading directly for the hopscotch path.

“Wait!” CJ yelled.

But young Donnie didn’t listen. He immediately stuck one foot out, and in a fearless blur, set a chain of multiple hops in motion.

The others all collectively held their breath, watching him jump past the gargantuan meat grinders as he made his way to the opposite end of the path.

But Donnie didn’t stop there…

CJ watched on in awe as the boy’s feet landed on the platform titled ‘HEAVEN,’ but what Donnie did next was the last thing he was hoping to see.

Continuing to hop in place, Donnie turned his body around, as would be expected of a player in a traditional game of hopscotch. But this was the furthest thing from a traditional game. As the boy headed back toward his point of origin, CJ released a horrified gasp in unison with the rest of the children.

“No!” CJ cried.

His natural response was the most dangerous; CJ promptly sprang into action.

CJ would have to cross the path himself, regardless. He hoped as he hopped closer towards Heaven, his presence would be enough to force Donnie to turn back.

Donnie didn’t flinch. He continued on the path, his foot dropping quickly onto the 9 square.

The pressure and danger of the situation increased as CJ accelerated his pace. He aimed to beat Donnie to the midpoint of the bridge where he could set both of his heels on the ground in unison.

The star athlete’s God-given assets brought him to the 4 and 5 squares before Donnie. Luckily, as Donnie entered the 6 square, CJ planted both of

his feet firmly. In a single swoop, he scooped Donnie up in his arms and carried on in the other direction without hesitation.

His footing and balance were flawless as CJ propelled them past the final hazards. They both fell forward to safety, landing on top of the depictions of dying angels.

The joy the children felt after the success of CJ’s death-defying stunt was quickly overshadowed. A loud clicking noise echoed out from the ceiling above where they stood.

As the ticks increased in both their pitch and pace, Isaac looked up above them. The same fate that he’d failed at stopping his sister from suffering was suddenly staring back at him again. For the first time, as he watched the large slab of stone closing in, he felt guilt. However, he didn’t have enough time to simmer on Sam’s final moments, or his body would end up juiced by the identical method.

“Go! Go now!” Isaac commanded, looking at Sadie.

The little girl found her gusto. She didn’t cry or argue, knowing the clock was ticking. Sadie’s blonde pigtails bobbed along as she methodically skipped her way towards Heaven.

Tanya and Isaac both looked at each other. “Ladies first,” Isaac said.

As Kip watched Tanya take her hops, he glanced over at his big brother.

The fright in his eyes was dominant.

“We—We’ve gotta go now, right?” Kip asked. “Duh!” Bobby yelped.

Isaac watched holding his breath as Tanya made her way across without fail.

The ceiling was now coming down even faster. The threat of descending death was a mega-dose of motivation for everyone to move fast.

Isaac rushed up to the edge of the chalk outline, struggling to set his worries aside.

Kip and Bobby hustled, lining up behind him.

As Isaac committed and took his first few hops, the steel bottoms of the mooing cages above came loose.

The parting screeches of agony the animals unleashed caused Isaac to nearly lose his foothold. He teetered to the left, trying to keep stable, as he peered down into the blades of chaos. The rapid spirals of malicious metal

tore into the cows’ overfed frames breaking the wailing animals down before his eyes.

As the cows became further entangled, the sickening snap of limbs mixed with the sound of the metal dividing the meat was unignorable. An ultra-violent stew of sinew, beef, fur, and blood painted the chrome.

Regaining his balance, Isaac ripped his eyes away from the destruction and pushed forward.

“Hurry up!” Kip cried, nipping at Isaac’s heels.

Bobby watched the ceiling drop closer and closer as he waited anxiously for both Isaac and his brother to progress. He didn’t have much time left. Bobby had more grace to his step than one might assume. His obsession with skateboarding offered him enough practice to believe in himself. However, he would’ve preferred that the lane be clear when he took his shot. As he watched on, that luxury appeared to be questionable at best.

The boys were oblivious to the pulverized porridge that had suddenly occupied the clear tubes erected in front of the Heaven space. The spouts at the end of them dribbled with hunks of gore and juices drawn out from the crushed cows.

The gushing gunk finally caught Isaac’s eye. As he took another hop forward, the sickening stream grew thicker. What was about to transpire had finally become obvious.

With only a split second to react, Isaac did his best to gauge the projection of the slaughterhouse slop. He paused momentarily, hunching his shoulders to prepare himself.

He vaulted forward past the final squares, propelling himself to Heaven, just before the wave of garbled, drizzly violence reached him.

“Ahh!” Kip cried.

The hunks of horror splattered all over his face, eyes, and entire body. The wet, twitching meat hit him with force, instantly sending Kip tumbling toward a gruesome demise. He toppled over head-first and the sharp, blood-drenched blades minced through his upper body with ease. The familiar sound of bones breaking and meat being mauled found the airwaves again. The machine tore through Kip’s tender tissues like Kleenex at a funeral parlor.

“Kiiiiiiiiiip!” Bobby wailed.

CJ looked back, a sickness the likes of which he’d never known growing inside the pit of his stomach.

Tanya and Sadie were equally distraught, releasing high-pitch screeches that were so intense they sounded demonic.

Donnie was just there.

Bobby mustered all of his strength to keep himself from fainting. Forced to consume the short-lived cries of his kid brother, he watched as the warm fluids erupted from the pile of slop that no longer resembled Kip’s body.

Amid the flood of fluid and gore-caked elements, pieces of Kip peeked out within the mess—the patches of mashed cranium and hair were scattered about, the drippy eyeballs separated from each other divided at such a distance that the possibility of survival was no longer an option.

Bobby remained slack-jawed, as the ceiling dropped lower and lower. The initial shock waned in his system. He knew it wouldn’t be long until another meaty regurgitation was set to commence.

As the cold stone closed in just inches from his skull, Bobby had no choice but to step out onto the first square. He secured both feet and paused.

 

 

The glimmering instruments of horror were in his head. With his eyes steadily fixed on the sharp edges, he watched them slice and dice Kip’s already divided sections. As the portions multiplied repeatedly, Bobby dug his fingernails into his palms.

The sound of his favorite sibling’s shredded meat being sucked into the industrial-grade, modified meat grinder, filled his ears. He noticed one of the gunky tubes at the end of the path filling up to capacity again.

As the bloody pieces of his brother dribbled out of the spouts, Bobby had a decision to make. The cow blood and pink chunks that littered the hopscotch outline made the entire surface slick. The condition effectively eliminated the option of running to avoid Kip’s regurgitated remains.

He would have to withstand it.

Bobby froze in place and squatted, still being serenaded by the cries of the other children. He lowered his shoulder and prepared himself. As the glistening mixture launched out, the idea that he’d just had a conversation with the macabre money shot headed his way entered his mind.

The vomitus mixture engulfed him, but he remained sturdy. The splatter covered his hair, face, and the entire front of his body. The smell of the fresh death crept up his nostrils while chunks of his sibling slid off him in every direction. It was like he’d just taken a long shower in Satan’s bathroom.

Bobby was screaming but maintained his balance in the face of the flurry. He wiped Kip’s ground remnants away from his eyes first. The flow ahead had gone dry, but a hazardous trek still remained. With the pieces of Kip now added to the already slippery track, his venture would surely be the most volatile of all the children.

“Bobby, be careful!” CJ said.

CJ’s words were barely audible. He’d been shaken by Kip’s grisly demise. His mouth curled up and his bottom jaw chattered. The last thing he wanted to see was both of his brothers taken from him in the same breath.

Bobby inhaled deeply, trying to concentrate on getting through as safely as possible. He carefully tight-roped his way past the first three squares, opting not to jump, relying on his balance instead of momentum. But his next step would be far more difficult.

Bobby looked at the pair of double-squares that came next. They had accumulated the thickest portion of bodily slop by a landslide. The mini-

mountain of gore left a sensation of intimidation running rampant inside him.

Bobby kicked away as much of the ground flesh as he could. But his fears manifested when he planted his foot on the cleared surface. Overlooking a pinkish wad camouflaged by the carnage, as Bobby set his heel, his legs slid apart. Reacting quickly, he replanted his sole and avoided slipping into a full split.

The children let out a collective gasp, before finding relief when Bobby’s equilibrium leveled out.

“There’s only a few left!” CJ said.

CJ was more distraught than he’d ever been but found a way to offer his brother words of encouragement.

Bobby repositioned himself and drove forward. Despite his clumsy approach, he was able to set his feet on cleaner spots within the last series of spaces before stumbling across the finish line.

When Bobby pulled himself up from the ground, he was panting hard and teary-eyed.

CJ moved in to hug him, but Bobby shrugged his only remaining brother off. He had other ideas in mind.

Bobby cocked his meaty fist back and rushed Isaac. The pieces of his brother were still dangling from his hand as he slung it forward.

The onslaught shocked all the children.

When the heavy blow connected with Isaac’s nose, it might as well have been a sucker punch. With no inkling that he should brace himself for a fight, his lanky frame collapsed backward onto the floor. Blood and snot rushed out of his face painting his lips and chin.

“Bobby!” Tanya cried.

“What are you doing?!” CJ screamed. “Leave him alone!” Sadie demanded.

The little girl began swinging wildly. Her hands collided several times with Bobby’s big gut.

Sadie’s assault wasn’t much of a threat, but it was more about the principle of her actions than the actual result. The conflict resembled a fly pestering a bull. Sadie’s weak blows bounced off Bobby’s blubber, only serving to agitate him.

Bobby stiffened his fingers and took aim at her. The backhand sent the little girl reeling until she landed butt-first on the ground beside Isaac.

“Bobby! Stop!” CJ barked.

He tangled his arm around Bobby’s attempting to stunt any further violence.

“Get the fuck off me! You wanna be on their side?! I’ll put you down too!” Bobby yelled.

“They didn’t do anything!” Tanya interjected.

“Shut up! They don’t care about you! Kip’s fucking gone now! Because of them!”

“That’s not true!” Sadie exclaimed.

Bobby pointed his bloody finger at Isaac.

“He—He went just slow enough to get Kip knocked off! He could’ve gone faster, but he didn’t! He didn’t want either of us to make it across!”

“Maybe if you just would’ve crossed when the rest of us wanted to, instead of arguing, Kip might still be here!” Tanya yelled.

She regretted her words immediately.

The hurt in Bobby’s eyes somehow compounded. In his own mind, he didn’t believe it, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept. Especially coming from his own sister.

“Stop fighting!” CJ yelled.

He threw his hands by his side and squared back up with Bobby. Their glossy glares entangled together with an uncomfortable intensity.

“Do you wanna get out of here?” CJ asked.

He did his best to keep as cool as possible, but the situation was beyond explosive.

Bobby stared him down, the seething wrinkles of disgust frying like an egg in a pan on his pupils. They drudged up and condensed all the discomfort he felt.

“Well, do you?!”

The question was an easy enough ask, but, under the circumstances, it still required confirmation.

Bobby’s head remained in a state of lockjaw. His teeth dug into the side of his mouth as he nodded.

“Then we need to move. We—We don’t even know how much time we have until the next wall collapses or ceiling tries to crush us,” CJ explained.

“So that’s it? We’re just gonna forget about Kip I guess?” Bobby asked. The watery look resurfaced on CJ’s face.

“I never said that.”

“Then say it! Admit what that faggot did!” Bobby yelled, again gesturing toward Isaac.

“I love Kip just as much as you, but I don’t wanna see anyone else get hurt! The only way we’re getting out of this is together! Don’t you get it?!”

A crooked smile crept up on Bobby’s face. He took a few steps away from CJ.

“Oh, I get it. I see who you are,” Bobby whispered.

CJ didn’t know what else to say to him. He found a small victory in Bobby’s overall demeanor seeming slightly calmer, but the situation remained complicated. The end of their exchange didn’t make him feel like Bobby was on the same page as he was.

A clock remained ticking in his head, as CJ internally re-acknowledged that time wasn’t on their side. Spending time translating his words into something Bobby might get behind was a poor allocation of his effort.

CJ severed the interaction with his brother and panned back to the other kids.

“We’ve got to get going,” CJ said.

As his gaze landed on the group, he couldn’t help but notice that it looked smaller than before. Kip was obviously absent now, but even so, it seemed like there was still someone missing.

“Wait—where—where’s that kid?” CJ asked.

He quickly started to scan his surroundings, eventually falling in the only direction that he hadn’t looked yet—directly behind him.

His eyes found the four deep red letters that lingered ominously over the doorway. The sign read: HELL.

Inside the opening, little Donnie was already making his next move. The crimson glow bleeding out from the crack covered Donnie’s tiny body as he slipped inside.

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