I wish now that I had never heard the name of Evan Munroe. As good a friend as he was, I would have been much better off never having known him. Could I manipulate time and erase him from my memory, I surely would.
I suppose I could begin this tale on that dreadful Saturday evening in August, when Evan and myself, along with our boorish friend, Willard Barnes, spent the evening in Willard’s basement playing cards and throwing dice.
A more ill-mannered person than Willard, I swear I had never met. I did, however, grow up with him, and as a result, counted him as one of my closest friends. Evan moved into our neighborhood two years past and became the third member of our trio.
I felt bad for Willard at times and I suppose my intimate knowledge of his home life led me to better understand him than most. To everyone else, he was a wicked bully with a cruel streak, and each of those things was correctly attributed to the large teen.
His mother was a neglective gambler, spending most of her waking hours at the bingo hall, and his father was an abusive drunk, contributing to a most foul behavior in their only son. Willard was a normal child when we had first met at the age of six; his change was gradual over the passing of many years. By the time his personality had become insufferable, it was too late for me, and we had already spent much of our lives as best friends.
In becoming our friend, Evan had little choice in the matter, having moved into the house between ours on the outskirts of town. His options for friends were limited in the beginning, living a good bus ride from our college and the rest of the town.
College was out for the summer and we did what most boys do; stay up all night long and sleep away most of the day. Willard’s parents were rarely home, and even when they were, they cared little for what their son and his friends got up to, so we spent most of our time in Willard’s basement.
Most people had a strong distaste for Willard, so Evan and I were guilty by association, and therefore rarely ever received invites to parties and gatherings from fellow classmates.
Evan, though slightly smaller than Willard, was a bit of a tough guy with strong opinions, which led to his butting heads with Willard quite often. The two could argue ceaselessly at times, as I looked on with only a shake of my head. I dared not insert myself into their debates, even when solicited by each to side with one over the other. I found it best to remain neutral; it lessened the headaches.
Their disputes were always petty and nonsensical in nature, much like the one that was fast escalating that Saturday night in August. They were embroiled in a difference of opinions over the origins of the particular card game with which we had been playing. I was positive neither of them had been correct but each of them was quite adamant in their stand.
More than once they attempted to drag me into the middle of their quarrel but I was having none of it. As their incessant fighting increased in volume and reached a fever pitch, I had decided I needed to step outside for some air.
It was a beautiful August night. There was a slight chill to the air but it was comfortable, especially considering the oppressive humidity that dominated much of the day. Willard’s house backed onto a sizable field which was quite dark, given the absence of street lights in our neighborhood. Even the radiance from a full moon did not afford me much vision in the darkness of the field.
My hopes had been to clear my aching head and listen to the sounds of crickets but that was not to be. Even from out here, the muffled voices of Willard and Evan, continued to pursue me, and to top it off, their voices were now joined by Willard’s parents, who began their own verbal disagreeance from upstairs in the house. It sounded as if some plates might have been hurled against a wall, then a thoroughly intoxicated Mr. Barnes, stumbled out a side door and somehow managed to navigate his way down the driveway and out onto the street without falling.
I shook my head and concentrated on what I believed was a deer, running through the field. I was not entirely sure if it was in fact a deer though, or merely a trick of the eyes in the darkness. In any event, imagined or not, it helped calm me down and I was finally able to enjoy the silence and the sounds of crickets.
Wait a moment, I thought, silence? The fighting in the basement had finally come to an end and I truly was left with only the sounds of crickets. How serene that felt indeed. With a sigh, I figured I should go find out who won, or if both just agreed to disagree, as was usually the case, with neither willing to give in to the other.
“So, what’s the verdict?” I inquired, while descending the steps back to the basement.
Strangely, I was met with only silence.
“Don’t tell me you both fell asleep? It’s too early.”
I then saw Willard rise up from behind a long, chocolate-colored sofa; his face as pale as a ghost. I knew immediately that something was amiss.
“H-he made me do it. He left me with no choice.”
“What are you talking about, Willard?”
“You know how he is? He made me do it.”
I remembered my skin began to prickle. “What did he make you do?”
Speechless, Willard backed up and then sat himself down in a comfy chair which matched the sofa. Tentatively, I approached the sofa and peered over the edge, my heart nearly stopping at the sight which had greeted me. There lay Evan on the floor, very still, red marks around his throat, with his eyes wide open in one final look of horror.
I promptly determined that our friend was dead and my legs almost gave out from under me. I am quite sure I turned a shade of pale to match that of Willard’s now pallid appearance. I had never before seen a dead body and it is something that will haunt me until the end of my days.
“He made me do it,” Willard repeated.
My mind reeled. I was always the rational thinker of our group, the logical one, the problem solver, but in this instance, I had no idea how to proceed. As my stomach twisted into knots, I came to the conclusion that I needed to call for the police.
I turned to leave but Willard must have somehow read the intentions on my face. “Where are you going?”
“Willard, I need to call for help.”
“No point, he is beyond help now.”
“Regardless, someone needs to know. It’s the right thing to do.”
“They will put me in jail or hang me.”
Yes, they most assuredly would, I thought, but kept that sentiment to myself. I continued to the stairs and Willard’s tone changed drastically, his words stopping me in my tracks.
“Maybe you didn’t hear me? I said they will put me in jail or hang me.”
“Yes, I heard you but this is not right. I need to call for help.”
“I told you already he is beyond help. The only person you need to help now is me. I am your friend, remember?”
“Yes, I am your friend. But so was Evan.”
“Evan had that coming. We have been friends longer, you and I. You cannot betray me now.”
“Betray you? Willard, you just murdered Evan!”
“With your help.”
“You stood there and watched and allowed it to happen.”
“I did no such….”
“I will tell them. I will tell them you helped me.”
“Why you evil son of a….”
“Careful, friend. We need to calm down if we are to get ourselves out of this predicament.”
“Yes, we, you and I. I think we should bury him in the field and claim he was never here this evening.”
I stood there, my mouth agape, unable to formulate a response. I was the only friend he ever had and he would think to treat me as such? The ungrateful bastard.
“They will never believe you,” I said, after finding some courage amidst my rising anger. “Look at the size of you over me. How could I have possibly stopped you? I wasn’t even down here when you did it.”
Willard rose in a flash, his pale skin turning a shade of red. “You wanna join Evan?”
“Pardon me? You are threatening me now? Your only friend?”
“I am not going to jail and I am not going to hang, not for him. Do you hear me? But if that happens, you will pay for it.”
“If the police arrest you, how do you plan on killing me from prison?”
“I will tell my Uncle George that you did it and framed me, his favorite nephew. He will kill you.”
Willard’s Uncle George was a dim-witted hillbilly with the mind capacity of a child. How he survived on his own living in a cabin in the woods, I will never know. But Uncle George would believe anything Willard told him and I had no doubts that the simpleton would come after me and kill me. George was a hunter and shooting things was one of the few tasks he was actually good at.
My conscience nagged at me but I believed Willard’s threat. “We bury him in the field then and he was never here this evening.”
Willard smiled that wicked smile and nodded. “Grab his legs.”
As repulsed as I was, I did grab his legs, and the two of us struggled to carry Evan’s body out into the pitch-black field behind his house. As I mentioned, I had never seen a dead body before this night and now I had seen more of one that I would have ever cared to. I never imagined Evan could be so heavy and sweat dripped from my forehead as we finally found a secluded spot a fair distance away from the house.
Willard returned to fetch a shovel, leaving me alone with Evan, his dead eyes still wide open. I turned my back and sat on a stone, facing the opposite direction. I could not believe what I had just been a party to. There was no going back now; I was indeed an accomplice. I felt ill.
Willard promptly began to dig upon his return. When he grew weary, he handed the tool to me to continue, and gave me a look that told me that it was not open for debate.
An hour and a half later, with the moon high in the sky, our grim deed was completed. We had done our best to cover the hole and indeed it looked as though nobody had been digging in the first place. Nothing appeared out of sorts, and with luck, Evan would never be found.
We spent the rest of the night in the basement collaborating our story, that Evan had other plans this evening and had gone someplace else.
Not twenty-four hours later, Evan’s parents began to worry and made phone calls and visits all over the neighborhood. That night, police began canvassing the area, and of course, came to speak with Willard and I, seeing as how we were Evan’s closest friends.
As nervous and as sick as I felt, we both stuck to our story that we had no clue where Evan had gone that evening. The neglectiveness of Willard’s parents, for once, provided benefit. They were home that night in question, but cared little to check in on their son, and therefore had no idea that Evan was ever downstairs. They told police that Willard and I were indeed home the entire evening by ourselves.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. The heat was off and soon life returned to normal and Willard and I were back in school. Evan was treated as a runaway, despite the protests of his parents that he would never have done such a thing. I tried my best to occupy my mind with my studies and think about that night as little as possible. I even tried to avoid Willard as much as I could.
Despite my attempts to forget, Evan haunted my dreams and sleep did not come easily for me. Guilt feasted away at my conscience, but my fear of prison or the hangman’s noose, kept my feelings to myself.
It was October 31st, Halloween night to be exact, when I was invited to a classmate’s party. It was to be a grand event with about thirty other students invited. To my surprise, and regret, Willard was also invited. Try as I might to avoid him, he was not well liked, and thus he followed me everywhere.
As the night wore on, a pretty girl named Edna, entered the living room carrying a game board of some type.
“Hey everyone, I have a nifty idea. It’s Halloween night, the night when our world and the spirit world come together and spirits walk the earth. Let’s try using the Ouija board to contact some spirits.”
A few people groaned, jesting that the board was just a foolish toy. Some others grew pale, obviously frightened at the prospect of inviting spirits into the house. The majority thought it was a fun idea and the majority won over.
Edna excitedly set everything up on a dining room table that sat six. Walter, who was hosting the party, turned off all the lights so that the room was illuminated with only four candles.
“Ok, who should we try and contact?” Edna asked of the full room.
“Erika Blayne,” someone suggested, referring to a woman who had been burned as a witch, a century gone by.
“Horace Pickleton,” another blurted, who had been a serial killer and hung for his crimes.
“Evan Munroe,” a third person shouted, and the room went silent.
Willard and I exchanged glances, and I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath, until I was forced to inhale a gulp of air, lest my face turn blue from holding out too long.
“Evan isn’t dead, he just ran away,” Willard said nervously.
“I never believed that for a second,” replied the boy who had made the suggestion in the first place. “Someone killed Evan, I would bet everything on it.”
“I think so too,” another boy added. “How is it that the police never found him anywhere? I think he is buried somewhere.”
Edna smiled. “Evan Munroe it is then. If he is dead, we can call upon his spirit and ask him what happened.”
Edna explained that four people would be required to each place one of their hands on the Ouija board, in an attempt to channel the spirit of Evan Munroe. She would participate, along with Walter, then she invited over Willard and I.
“You and Willard knew Evan the best, so you both should be involved.”
As you can imagine, the two of us were both quite hesitant, but everyone agreed that we two were the best choices and did not cease in goading us over to the table. Alas, we relented.
I never possessed much of an opinion on the Ouija board. I was undecided about the possibility of an afterlife and what became of a person’s spirit after death. I questioned the validity of the board, which could be purchased in a toy store of all places, for a nominal amount of money.
Reluctantly, Willard and I took a seat at the table with the others and placed our right hands upon the Ouija board, joining hands with Edna and Walter. A nervous sweat began to form on my forehead and worst of all, I was forced to relive that horrible night in my mind.
Edna wasted no time. “We here at this table, call upon the spirit of Evan Munroe. Evan, if you have died, come join with us now. Guide our hands and share with us your fate. Help us find closure in your mysterious disappearance. Please, Evan Munroe, come to us now.”
Willard snorted with contempt right before the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard, boomed outside, shaking the house. Everyone jumped and a few of the girls squealed out loud. There had not been any storms in the forecast.
As everyone calmed, the candles on the table began to violently flicker, threatening to extinguish, despite the fact that every person in the room, sat or stood, completely still. My heart began to race as a breeze seemed to tickle my cheek, as if someone had passed closely by.
Suddenly, Edna yelped, and indeed I nearly did as well, as a tingling sensation flooded into my hand which touched the Ouija board. It was evident by the others faces, that we all felt the same sensation.
“Evan, is that you?” Edna asked, in a nervous squeaky voice.
The board under our hands felt as though it moved of its own accord, for surely I had no part in pushing it. The Ouija board circled the game board several times before stopping over the word, Yes.
“Evan, were you murdered?” she asked next.
Again, the board came to rest over the word, Yes.
“Do you know who murdered you?”
Willard and I both held our breaths, as the board once again stopped on, Yes. There was a collective gasp among the others who huddled around the table now. Even the skeptics were leaning in closely for a better view.
“Evan, can you tell us who murdered you?”
My jaw dropped open in a silent scream as the tingling sensation from my hand began to creep its way up my arm. A moment later it overwhelmed my entire body and suddenly I felt a presence within my mind. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but without a doubt, Evan Munroe was inside my body.
Involuntarily, I let go of the board and lunged towards Willard. He shrieked in terror as my hands wrapped themselves around his throat. Willard was much bigger and stronger than I, though he was helpless to break my strangle hold. Somehow, I had been imbued with great strength. Strength from beyond the grave it would seem.
To the absolute horror of everyone present, I choked Willard to death right there at the dining table. His eyes bulged and stared at me with disbelief, as his life slowly slipped away. My actions had not been my own, and as death claimed Willard, I felt Evan leave my body, and I was left in control once more. I slumped to the floor sobbing while others ran about in a panic.
I can’t say for sure how long I actually sat there before police arrived and took me to their station in handcuffs. During my questioning, I broke down and told them of everything. Of course I tried to plead my case that I had not been the one who killed Willard; that Evan’s spirit had inhabited my body, but of course, the authorities wouldn’t believe such a thing.
After my display of strength in strangling Willard, the police were unsure of my story that Willard had been the one who killed Evan. To them, both deaths were the same, so therefore, I could have been responsible for both.
I somehow avoided the death penalty and wouldn’t hang but now I sat in a cold dark cell where I would spend the rest of my life. Every day I curse the name of Willard Barnes, and I am forced to remember that horrendous night, when we channeled the angry spirit of Evan Munroe.