Prologue - Crimson Silence

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There's a heartbeat to nature. Between the insects, the wind, the water and the animals, they provide a lulling sonata. On one particularly cool afternoon in July, two brothers head out into their backyard which just happens to butt up against the Black Hills of South Dakota.

"I don't like this," Errol whines while placing a foot in the chain link fence.

"Stop being such a wuss," Roadie, then called Roderick, taunts his brother who is barely making his way up the six-foot tall fence.

"I'm not a wuss; I just don't want to cut myself and have to get a shot."

"Mom just told you that to keep you from climbing everything."

"Like you?" Errol huffs while moving his next foot up.

Roderick smiles, "Mom won't let us have the Internet like all other kids get."

"What kids?" Errol challenges.

"Tommy Brandhart, for one," Roderick says.

Errol takes a moment to carefully swing his leg over while not allowing the teeth at the top of the fence to bite into his jeans. As soon as he has a toe hold on the side nearest his brother, his other leg follows quickly as though the path has been made. One more step down and he makes a small hop off the fence to the bed of pine needles below.

"Tommy," Errol fishes out a plastic case from his front pocket and takes a deep puff of his inhaler, "is an even weirder homeschooled kid than we are."

"I'm not weird, and I like Tommy. He's my friend," Roderick gives his brother a little push on the arm and begins moving up the faint trail that's been made over time up the hill.

Errol takes a step back, gaining his footing and follows. "He's just some kid mom made us play with so we don't turn out like him." He shuffles his feet a little quicker to be at Roderick's heels before tugging on the windbreaker his brother is wearing. "He smells like soup and I always see him taking batteries out of our TV remotes whenever he comes over."

Roderick stops and turns back, a look of surprised recognition starts to kindle on his face. "Is that why mom hasn't been letting us have TV time anymore? Does she think we're taking them?"

Errol shrugs and looks to his brother for what he might think.

"That's crap, if there's one thing another kid shouldn't mess with, is another kid's TV privileges," Roderick scrunches his face and then removes it like someone taking off a ski mask. "And he does smell like soup," he says with a crinkle in his nose.

The boys chuckle at each other and after a few moments start back up the path. The worn down walkway is only about ten inches wide, made up of flattened grass and weeds refusing to stop growing each season despite their trampling. Tan, dry pine needles dust the path like a lover might do with rose petals trying to be romantic, perhaps that's the forest's gesture to people, inviting them inside.

Evergreens make up the bulk of trees along the way, but in certain bends and valleys, the distinct black and white trunks of birch stand out amongst the lush greens. The path is slightly damp and Errol complains that mom will make them wash off their shoes now, even though the mud has little give and the needles absorb most of the squishy mess. It has been an extremely dry summer up until the last few weeks that have provided night showers off and on, helping to cool off the days.

A constant reverberation of cicadas and distant bees makes a palpable hum the boys can feel in their bodies as steady as their own heartbeats. The light sounds of running water tell the boys they are nearing the end of the path. The boys have labeled it, Grandpa's Creek, because the sound it makes reminds them of when Grandpa Smythe uses the bathroom. It's boys humor and one of many inside jokes they will keep for themselves, placed high up on the shelves of their memories with countless occasions that only they will find hilarious.

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