Untreed Reads has released Twist by William D. Hicks in multiple digital formats for only $1.50.

Description: As a boy growing up in 1953, Kevin Hull enjoyed playing games with his group of boyhood friends, like the game of “ledge.” After one such game with his friend Billy Hawkins, the two find themselves involved in a terrible accident that will forever change their lives.

A work of short psychological horror from our Spectres line.

Excerpt: The snow, which had fallen just a month before, had completely melted away. Tan clumps of sleeping grass graced the parkways of the streets.

As the boys passed Major Street, one threw a stick into the air. It hovered over a parcel of land owned by the town, then descended like an oddly shaped bird.

Kevin Hull watched it land. At ten years old he was just bumming around with his buddies. A gang of sorts—five mischievous boys walking down the street, being loud and obnoxious. The year was 1953. They were just boys with no malice in their hearts. To hang with your friends was a cool thing. An American pastime, childhood.

As the small group passed stores, Johnny Sanfrantello made lame remarks about them. A beauty parlor received “beauty before age.” To a local drug store he offered “an apple a day.” This was a regular game with the group. Johnny, at twelve, was the oldest boy, so he was the leader. The other boys ranged in age from nine to eleven years old. Johnny made important decisions about which games they played.

His favorite one was ledge. It entailed taking a rubber ball, standing behind a designated line, and throwing the ball against the ledge of the grammar school. If you hit the ball on the small angled top part of the ledge it bounced back without touching the ground. When you caught the ball, you earned ten points. You could also hit the lower ledge with the ball, and catch it to earn five points. The lower ledge was thicker and easier to hit, so it was worth less. When the ball hit the ground before making it past the designated point, didn’t hit the ledge at all, or wasn’t caught, no points were earned. The player would then get chided by his peers.

Some kids were horrible at the game. Especially the uncoordinated ones, and the ones who hated baseball. But all the boys went along with Johnny.

Other games such as “name the store.” Johnny dominated as well. Games like “dare,” around since the beginning of time, Johnny only liked to play once in awhile. Only when he got to make the dare. And he made them hard.

Walking down Main Street the boys spotted a new store. Completely blackened glass, except for a single gold “D” centered in its ebony heart, graced its main window. Nothing else about the store indicated what merchandise would be sold.

“D—dumb. That’s what it must stand for, cause if you go in you gotta be dumb.” Johnny laughed at his own lame joke.

The other boys laughed.

“No…it must mean deadly — nothing that goes in comes out alive.” Tony Pankow tossed a new white rubber ball in the air and caught it in his leather mitt.

“Maybe it means diseased.” Johnny grabbed Tony’s rubber ball midair, then tossed it high into the air. It bounced on a car and went rambling fast down the street.

“Damn, Johnny.” Tony went trotting after the ball.

“Dark—maybe only Negroes go in there.” Jimmy Summers held his nostrils closed.

Tony returned and was once again tossing the ball in the air. “What should we play now?”

Swinging his head from side to side Johnny took a quick look around, then went over and tried the door. It was locked. He rang the bell. “Ding dong bitch, I mean ding dong ditch.” He laughed as he and all the boys scattered like dandelion seeds in the wind.

A man in a t-shirt came out shaking his fist. He began to run to catch the boys, but when his cigarettes fell out of his pocket he stopped.

“Better lose that baby fat Jimmy, or Mr. DeMarco will catch you the next time.” Tony tossed the ball into the air out in front of himself and then ran and caught it.

Ten minutes later they had all arrived in the schoolyard. It was only two blocks south of Main Street and one block west. As usual, Jimmy took a long time to arrive even though he ran all the way. Jimmy didn’t fit in, not at all. But the boys felt sorry for him and let him hang around with them. It didn’t hurt that Jimmy’s mother made wonderful taffy, which she gave only to his friends. That solidified the little pack. Now, Jimmy panted like a hound dog after the hunt.

“Hey Johnny, did you see that creepy old Mr. DeMarco after you rang the bell?” Jimmy asked, breathless. He always liked to be included in the conversation. If that meant he had to butt in that was fine.

“Nah — was he a Negro?” Johnny asked, taking no offense at Jimmy’s change of topic. He was used to the ways of his pack.

“Probably,” Kevin said.

“No, but he must have been a hundred ten years old. His hair looked like steel wool. Long gray strands would break off if you touched them.”

“Are you pulling my leg Jimmy?” Johnny asked, ready to thump Jimmy if he were. Johnny was not too swift, but he was mean as a dog when he got riled. That was one reason why he had cronies who followed him around.

“Nah,” Jimmy said a little intimidated. “Ask Billy, he saw it too.”

“He’s not fibbin’ Johnny,” Billy Hawkins said. “I seen the guy too. He looked real mean, like he might kill someone. Boy he was old. His front teeth was missing, and his nails were yellow as pee. Like a dead man, if you know what I mean. I ain’t kiddin’.”

Each let out a sigh of astonishment. All except Johnny.

“You’re such a liar Billy,” Johnny finally said.

You can order directly from Untreed Reads here: Twist

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