Can Billy Come Out and Play?

Prompt Day # 364: Craft a scene in a treehouse, playground, campground, or arcade where the “radiant boys” – the glowing ghosts of children who have been murdered by their mothers – sometimes gather to play.


Can Billy Come Out and Play?

                “Can Billy come out and play” the boy asked. There were three of them standing there. The bright, midmorning sun shone behind them, giving them a radiant glow. None were smiling. Otherwise, they looked reasonable enough.

“No, he’s being punished. He is not allowed out. Go play now.” She couldn’t deal with this right now. Billy wasn’t in trouble of course, he never caused her any trouble, but he was the reason she was stuck here in this town, in this marriage, in this misery. It was better to treat him as if he had done something wrong. Easier for her when it came time to finish it.

She knocked on his door. “Billy? Some of your friends came by just now asking for you to play. I told them you weren’t feeling well.” Billy was laying on his bed, facing out the window. She followed his gaze. The neighbor’s across the street had a large treehouse and she saw the boys who’d come for Billy climbing up inside it. How had she never noticed such a huge playhouse before? Billy had never mentioned it either.

“I don’t have any friends.” He said flatly.

“Well, anyways, there were three of them and they wanted you to play.” She didn’t know why she told him this, it was as if she was trying to mentally torture him too. She felt guilty.

“It doesn’t matter, you’re right. I’m too sick.” He said and pulled the blankets up.

“I’ll bring you some soup” she said. It was time for another dose anyways.

She was mixing in the special medicine when the doorbell rang.

“Can Billy come out and play?” the three boys stood there again. “We’re going to the playground this time. He should come.”

“I told you before that he is too sick.” She said

“He is still sick? It won’t be much longer then.” The boys stared at her. She wondered if the guilt that flushed inside her with their knowing looks was showing on her cheeks as well. It was like they knew.

“Boys, he can’t come out and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t come back here anymore.” She said trying out her stern mother look at them.

“We just want to make sure he knows where we are when he’s ready to come out and play.” The boy said. “Tell him, for the rest of the day, it’s the playground, ok?” they walked away.

She carried the soup up to her dying son.

“Those boys stopped by again. They said they would be at the playground for the rest of the day. Are you sure you don’t feel up to it?” Now she was fishing. How close was he?

“They aren’t my friends, I don’t know them; I can’t go to the playground. I’m too weak. Maybe you should take me to the hospital, Mom.” Now he was fishing. He suspected she was making him sick of course, he needed confirmation.

“Oh Geez Billy, I’m not taking you to the hospital because you have the flu!” She tried to sound playful, nonchalant.

“Sure, Mom. Sorry for asking.”

“Here, eat your soup, you’ll feel better.” She said. She thought about kissing his forehead for good measure but it would only make her feel worse about herself. Instead she put the spoon in his hand and walked out.

She fell asleep on the chair. Her husband, Billy’s dad was off on a business trip. She needed to make the most of this time. She was just so tired, besides, he was so weak as it was; it couldn’t be much longer. She’d finish him off tomorrow. Either breakfast or lunch.

The doorbell woke her up. She trudged half asleep to answer it.

“Can Billy come out and play?” The same three boys stood in the same formation. She rolled her eyes at them.

“No, for the last time. He…”

“I’d love to.” Billy interrupted. He was standing on the steps behind her and damned if he didn’t look rosy cheeked and healthy. “I feel much better, Mom, I do.” He assured her. “Can I go with them?”

She looked at her boy. Her beautiful, healthy boy and was overcome with love and guilt and regret. What had she been thinking? She was so damn selfish. Thank God it wasn’t too late. She would undo as much as she could, and if he still seemed sick at all, she would take him to the hospital and turn herself in. She grabbed him and hugged him. She kissed him on the forehead and nodded.

“Of course. You go play with your friends. When you get back, I’ll make you Spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, if you want.”

“My favorite. Thanks, Mom, but I don’t think I’ll be hungry. Bye, Love you!” He kissed her cheek quickly and ran off with his friends.

She smiled and sighed. To think she’d been so close to losing him. She went to the kitchen and dumped the poison down the drain, rinsed the bottle, and threw it away. She decided to go upstairs and clean his room, wash the sheets in case there was poison in them from his sweat. She needed a do-over, a clean slate and so did he.

The door to his room was closed. She thought nothing of it. He must have closed it on his way out. She opened the door and froze. There was Billy’s body lying in the bed, still turned on his side, facing the window.

“Billy? What are you doing back in here?” she asked, already fearing the reality of this situation. He didn’t move. “Billy?” she walked closer. “Billy!” She screamed it this time. Rushing over to him, she shook his cold, stiff body. He was dead. Dead and gone. Whatever there was beyond this, she knew at least he was not alone. He was outside, playing with the other boys. The Radiant Boys.