Carving by Eleanor M., 15-17 category, from the Redmond Library.
The walk from the bus stop took almost a half an hour. The trees were tightly encasing the path and the gravel gave way to scrub bushes in parts. One day the path and the gravel would be lost to the all encompassing woods and the bus would no longer stop at the empty mountain pass. When that day came Bethany Buckley hoped she’d be long gone.
When she got home the sun was low but it was not yet dark. The sun left beautiful patterns on the ground between the dense leaves. It was always around five when Bethany got home. The house was hidden behind gnarled oaks trees but the trees were still younger than the house. All you could see of it was the porch. The swing on the porch was covered in a deerskin blanket and her mother's knitting needles that were left lying on the swing.
The Buckley’s had always been self-sufficient. Her father had told her there wasn’t any need for her to go to school at all. They didn’t understand, Bethany had seen what the others had and she wanted it too. The boards creaked the way they always did when she entered the house. The living room had an old splintered table that had broken so many times she’d lost count and the musty smell of mold welcomed her.
“Ma! Pa! Where are you at?” She called out.
Her big brother Bodean rushed through the kitchen towards her, panting. “Li’l Sis! We got a big one-A buck! Biggest one I ever saw!” the backdoor crashed behind him. “We need your help Sis! For cutt'n em up! Ma says if we hurrying she’ll make us a big feast, with the potatoes and ever'thing!”
“Big Bro, I got schoolwork and you know I don’t want to hurt no buck.”
“Sis, Pa’ll be mad if I don’t get ya, jus’ help us out kay?” Bethany didn’t want to get beat or yelled at.
“Fine bro.” She tossed her bag onto the decaying couch and raced after her brother into the carving shed. Ma and Pa had the buck stretched out on the worktable. Pa was cutting the meats off the bone and Ma was prepping the skinnings. Bethany didn’t want another bag made of deerskin, the other children at school teased her. Her Pa looked at her.
“Bethy over there,” He pointed to a decapitated head. Bethany’s heart sunk, she hated skinning deer but the head was the worst by far. Having to look into the eyes of the animal as you removed its skin. “I don’t want to skin the deer head!”
“Bethany Lou!” Pa raised his voice. “We killed him buck almost 4 hours ago, the longer we wait the harder the skinnin’ will be! We have to cut the meat for dinner, so quit being so bratty and clean the head!”
The carving knife fit her hand well, it was old and splintered but still sharp as they day it was born. It wasn’t her knife but she used it the most so it kind of was hers. It was nice to have things to yourself. She made the first cut from along the snout to in between the antlers. The eyes were still bright and black, almost alive. She promised herself she wouldn’t look at the eyes. But the eyes -they should’ve dulled by now. The skin came off easily, drooping along the jaw and bunching up in bloody folds. In a fluid motion she plucked the orbitals out. Now she didn’t have to look at the eyes anymore, only the bony sockets remained. The top of the head came off easily too. The skin was always tough around the antlers in the times Bethany had done this before. It’d never been so easy!
Bethany needed to get a grip on herself. She would be done soon; she just needed to power through. As she worked the back of the neck off, sliding the sharp blade along the flesh. A thought came to her, if she didn’t live here, if she’d been born into any other family, she wouldn’t have to skin this deer. Because she was a Buckely she needed to do this. If she could’ve been anyone else, this buck’s blood wouldn’t be on her hands. She opened the mouth to start cutting the jaw off. The blade moved swiftly through the membrane, until it got stuck. Had she hit the bone? Readjusting she sawed harder, an audible snap rang in her ears. The jaw fell away peeling the flesh along the neck up, blood showered her from an artery? That was impossible! The heart was sitting on the other table in a jar! Her family seemed to take notice.
“Em li’l sis what happened there?” Bodean said. “I’m not sure.” She gripped her hands around the neck trying to locate where the blood had come from. The blood had soaked through her nice shirt.
“Eh probably just some leftover blood that pooled in the brain or something.” Pa said dismissively.
“Probably.” No way! That wasn’t how blood worked. Blood didn’t go into the brain and it had been sitting out for hours. Why was it warm? It was dark out before Bethany finished. Her family had left to make supper. She hung the skull up on the wall. She looked into the empty sockets and the guilt returned.
“Just you and me buddy. I’m sorry about them. Sometimes I hate them too!” She shouted but quickly stopped. Had anyone heard?
“What I’m saying is, I don’t like it here either! But just like me, you just gotta stay. Cause you’re a head on the wall. We can’t leave and we don’t got nowhere to go.” Her eyes lingered on the skull’s eye sockets, she couldn’t break away. She didn’t do a great job cleaving the skull, it still looked fleshy. She caressed the skull spreading blood across the yellowish bone.
“I’m going to get dinner, I feel a little crazy. See you.” She just wanted dinner and to wash the blood off of her hands.
Later that night, Bethany was asleep. Trying to sleep off the stressful day and the large dinner. When she opened her eyes. It was dark. She couldn’t see anything, she couldn’t move, she could only watch as a door opened letting dim moonlight fill the room. She was in the carving shed! This had to be a dream! Yes it was, she wasn’t on the ground but floating above it. It was a different perspective to be looking at the room. She was looking at the room from the wall. It was so different that she almost didn’t recognize herself. Messy brown hair with a tall bulky frame. God, how she wished she looked more petite.
If this was a lucid dream she wanted it to stop. She watched as Bethany dragged bags into the shed. Then dragged the buck in, it looked like how it had been when it was alive. Bethany’s body picked up the knife and sliced the bag open. Black liquid exploded outward and splattered the room, it shined in the moonlight. She couldn’t believe it. Bethany moved to the second bag, the black liquid became a pool. She couldn’t believe. Bethany moved to the deer carcass. She couldn’t. Bethany slowly skinned it. It wasn’t a deer.
“PA!” She screamed, but no words came out. She had not moved, only watched as her body, Bethany’s body skinned her father. She couldn’t close her eyes. Bethany’s body stood, her family scattered on the floor, Bodean was slashed across the sternum, her mother’s decapitated body laying beside him, and her father looked black and wet from head to toe.
It stood and looked straight at her. She watched as Bethany’s body put both hands on either side of her face, gently lifting her. Her body’s eyes were a deep swirling black and seemed to swallow her. In the glossy black eyes she couldn’t see herself, only the deer skull peered back from the inky depths. Unmoving and unspeaking, she had been trapped in that skull. Bethany’s body moved, placing the deer skull on its head like a crown. She was Bethany again. Her footsteps splashed as she left the carving shed and walked through her house to the porch. She covered herself with the deerskin blanket and picked up her mother’s knitting needles. Dim light bathed the oaks that surrounded the house like a thorny wall with the scrub bushes tangled around the base. No one for miles in any direction. It was like a cage. It was already dawn. Hazily, Bethany wondered how long it would be before the bus no longer stopped for her. How long before the path was overgrown. How long would they be left here, alone?
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