Logan and I are heading to the park to play catch. That’s when I realize I am dreaming. I must be dreaming because Logan is dead. I thought when you realized you were dreaming, you would wake up. But I’m still in the dream. Weird. But I want to stay. I miss Logan. He’s my best friend. Was my best friend.

He gives me that famous Logan grin and opens his mouth to speak. His words are off with his mouth, like in a poorly-dubbed Japanese horror flick. His words are slow and echo around my head, “Go long.” I run so he can throw a long pass. I look back and am amazed at how much distance I have put between us. He tosses the football in a long arcing lob. As it begins its descent, he runs toward me. I catch the ball against my chest, tuck it under my arm and turn to run. He’s faster than me and usually tackles me before I get very far. I glance down at the football and stumble. It’s no longer a ball. It’s Logan’s head, with his thick eyebrows and curly blond hair. “He’s coming for you,” the head says before I drop it. That’s when Logan tackles me. As we go down, I turn and see he has no head. It freaks me out and I start yelling. Yeah, I screamed like a freaking girl. The park goes black, but I’m still wrestling with the headless body. It’s like he’s trying to wrap me up in a cocoon or like a mummy. I can’t get my arms loose. I continue yelling.

A brilliant light pulled me up from the dream. Dad stood at my doorway in his striped boxers and white T-shirt, yelling, “What’s going on in here?”

I was tangled up in the sheet. I wrenched it off and threw it on the floor and scampered to the head of the bed, as far from the attacking sheet as possible.

Mama appeared beside Dad in my doorway. I suddenly felt naked in just my checked pajama pants. They didn’t even reach my ankles anymore. I stopped wearing the pajama top because the shoulders were binding and I couldn’t button it anymore. Mama said I was going through a “growth spurt.” I’d be glad when I stopped spurting and had some clothes that fit.

“Bad dream, honey?” she asked. Dad blocked her from entering my room.

“I’ll take care of it. You go on back to bed.” She stopped trying to come to me, but lingered outside my door. Dad came and sat on my bed.

“You were in here yelling like a baby. You’re 15 now. I expect you to show a little maturity.” Dad was big on me being a man.

“But it was Logan.” I heard my mama’s quick intake of breath. “He attacked me.”

“Logan’s dead. He’s gone. He can’t attack you,” Dad admonished.

“It was his friend, Ken. The boy’s had a nasty shock,” Mama called from the door.

“I knew I shouldn’t have let him talk to the police. Put all sorts of crazy ideas in his head. Now his imagination is running wild. Your mollycoddling him isn’t helping. He needs to stop being a mama’s boy and man up.” I hated when Dad talked like I wasn’t even there.

“But it was Logan,” I whined. Dad hated it when I whined. I did, too, but that didn’t stop me. I gritted my teeth and refused to cry. I felt my face redden. My anger at him, and the whole fucking world, rose to a fever pitch.

“Logan is dead and gone. They buried him,” Dad said.

“No they didn’t. They buried his fucking head!” I shouted, tears slipping from my eyes at last.

“Ken, don’t,” Mama called.

“I’ll let that pass on account you’re upset. You talk like that to me again and I’ll have to get my belt. I ain’t having no backtalk.” Dad was getting mad as well. I knew his threat meant little, though. He hadn’t used the belt on me since I was twelve. Coach Davis noticed the marks on my backside at PE and sent me to the school nurse. She called Social Services. They investigated and Dad had to take a course on anger management. I can’t see where it’s done much good, except he doesn’t use that damn belt anymore.

“Then y’all get outta my room. I didn’t ask you to come in. Leave me alone!” I yelled. Dad grabbed my jaw in a painful grip.

“You’re walking on thin ice, boy.” He shoved me back and left the room. I heard Mama and him bickering down the hallway until she pronounced, “I’m sleeping in the guest room.”

“Goddamnit!” Dad yelled and slammed the bedroom door.

“Sorry, Cupcake,” my older sister Junie said from my door. She always called me Cupcake when Dad got on me about not being man enough. I was mad, but not enough to forgo my standard comeback.

“Then eat me.” She laughed and drifted back to her bedroom. I had to get up to put the sheet back on the bed. I padded to the door to turn off the overhead light. On the way back to the bed, I stumped my toe on the leg of the bed.

“Ow! God fucking dammit!”

I collapsed on my bed, massaging my aching toe and staring into the darkness. I liked the dark. It helped me think without the distraction of sight. Most days, I thought about Logan. I kept my room dark at night and thought about him. I knew where everything was, except the leg of my bed, apparently. In the depths of the night, I would wake up and look around my room. All the familiar sounds, the faint tick of my alarm clock, Dad’s snoring, which even my closed door didn’t muffle. And the familiar dark figures, just on the edge of visibility, huddled around my room like sentinels. It was comforting. Comfort seemed in short supply these days.

Everything used to be so simple. Now Junie would go off to college in the fall. I’d miss her. Mama and Dad didn’t get along. They’d always bickered as far back as I could remember, but it had gotten worse. And Dad seemed mad all the time and took it out on me. I ran cross-country and made good grades; I didn’t get into trouble. What’s his problem? Recently, it was that I wasn’t man enough. He got on that kick after he found out Logan was gay. I guess he thought Logan would infect me with gayness. I’d known he was gay for almost as long as Logan had. He’d only become more open about it as we entered high school. He had been my best friend since first grade, and I didn’t see any reason that should change. Dad didn’t see it that way. He made me account for every second I spent with Logan, and when Logan came over, I had to keep my bedroom door open. And no sleepovers. How sick is that? He’s my best friend, not my boyfriend.

Dad was suspicious because I didn’t have a girlfriend. I liked girls; it’s just that few of them liked me. I think it’s because of Mary Jo Kapechni, We had one date last year. Then she told all the girls I was a lousy kisser and grabbed her tits. Both were technically true, but she made me sound like some sex-crazed loser. Maybe I was a loser, but sex-crazed is a relative term when it comes to teenage boys.

So it was just me and Logan. He was the one person I felt completely at ease with. We just had a natural connection. Until two weeks ago. That was the day he disappeared.

Logan was the third victim.

About a year ago, a guy from Chapel Hill disappeared. He was a good student, a soccer stand out, well liked. His parents said he wasn’t the kind to run away. A close examination of the back door of his house revealed scratches around the lock that the detectives said could mean the lock had been picked. They theorized that someone came into the house and took him.

The story dominated all the local papers for a few days. They posted a picture of Stacy Johnson in his soccer jersey. He was a handsome guy, 15, with flyaway blond hair and big blue eyes. I kind of envied him because I knew that someone who looked like that had no problem getting girls. They mounted a massive manhunt for him but came up with nothing.

A week later, they found Stacy Johnson. Or at least they found his head. Some students came upon it in the middle of his school soccer field. They posted gross pictures of the severed head before the police were able secure the area. Of course, the pictures went viral. Logan and I had seen them. Stacy’s handsome features, frozen in a rictus of terror, eyes and mouth wide. The cuts around the neck wasn’t clean, but jagged. The paper had clinically reported the cuts were “not postmortem.”

No one knew why he had been taken or killed. More important, they had no clues who would do such a thing. They never found the rest of his body.

It took weeks for the horror to die down, but it did. Everyone moved on with their lives. Newer tragedies pushed Stacy off the front page.

About two months later, Jackie Sheldon went missing. He was from Raleigh, an average student, 15, with long blond hair, on the basketball team, but saw little playing time. They said he had words with his father and stormed out. His parents thought everything was okay when he came home that night. The next morning, he was gone. People thought he’d run away. No one connected the two cases until a detective noticed similar scratches on the back door of the Sheldon house. Someone had picked the lock, entered, and taken Jackie.

When Jackie’s head showed up on his parents’ doorstep a week later, all hell broke loose. The detectives scrambled to find some link between Stacy and Jackie. Chapel Hill and Raleigh are close enough for people to mingle. There had to be some connection. The papers proclaimed a serial killer stalked the streets. They named him the Butcher. It sold papers.

There were no pictures of Jackie’s head, but the other details became common knowledge. He’d been held for a week and then beheaded. His body remained missing.


“I knew Jackie,” Logan said to me one afternoon, about a week after they found the boy’s head.

“I thought I knew all your friends,” I said.

“Well, I have to keep some secrets,” he said and laughed, as we lounged in my room, he on my bed, me on the floor leaning against the bed. “We met in summer league basketball last summer and liked each other. He suggested we keep up with emails and texts.” It surprised me that Logan had kept this secret. What else didn’t I know about him?

“Did you know Stacy?” I wondered if there was more.

“No. But Jackie referred to Stacy once. I think he got some pot from him. The email is gone now.”

“Logan. That may be the connection the police are looking for. Jackie and Stacy knew each other. You need to tell someone.”

“I don’t have any evidence, and I don’t need the police snooping around me. Just forget it.”

But I couldn’t. Could it have been a drug deal gone wrong? No, they would probably just shoot. This was ritualistic, as the papers said. It took a lot of planning.

And then Logan disappeared.

We lived in Cary, which is nestled between Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Logan was a 15-year-old high school athlete. He had blond hair. It matched the established pattern.

His mom called us the first morning asking if he was with us. She said he hadn’t been home when she woke up, so she thought he just left early. When he didn’t show up at school, I became nervous. By lunch, I became frantic. Where was Logan? Was he in the hands of that monster? Was he aware of what was happening? Was he as afraid as I was? I’ve never been particularly religious, but I prayed as hard as I knew how. God, please return him. Return all of him.

The media circus descended on Logan’s house. His life was dissected and displayed for all to see. His picture, with his heavy brow and signature grin, stared at me from the newspaper.

Predictably, his head showed up later.


“Go long,” Logan says as he pulls the football behind his head, preparing the throw. I have a moment déjà vu, like I have seen this before, but I run. I look over my shoulder and see the ball sailing through the air. Turning just in time to catch it against my chest, I tuck it under my arm to run. It feels wrong. I look down and see it is Logan’s head, glaring at me. “He’s coming for you,” he growls. I throw the head down and am tackled by his headless body.

I woke, fighting with the sheet, my heart racing. I heard it in my ears. I was drenched with sweat and was breathing like I’d just run the length of the football field. Why was Logan tormenting me? He was my friend.

I lay looking around my darkened room, absorbing the comfort of night, trying to return to a calm place. Off to my right was the dark outline of my open closet door. That was where the monsters used to live, and when I was a kid, I made sure Mama closed that door every night. I doubt that door has been closed since I was ten. Beside it was the bulky dresser with its nine drawers and skinny mirror. I had to duck these days to see myself in it to comb my hair. Then there was the door to my room, which I kept closed as much as I could. This was my sanctuary. All others keep out. Opposite the foot of the bed was the tall chest where I kept my jeans, Ts, and Calvins. It almost came up to my shoulders. I remember when I couldn’t reach the top of it. I’d have to pull my chair from the desk and stand on it. And rounding out my familiar room was my desk, the scene of my homework successes and debacles for ten years.

There, calmness had returned. It always worked.

But something was wrong. There, beside the chest, was another shape. Tall and rounded in the corner. It was too dark to make out what it was, but it didn’t belong. And then it moved. Logan’s message, “He’s coming for you,” wasn’t a taunt. It was a warning. I was paralyzed. How did he get in? He must have picked the lock. I’m a 15-year-old blond. He’s come for me! The next time he moved, it broke the spell.

“Dad!” I screamed. “He’s here! Dad!”

The door burst open, and Dad hit the light switch.

“He’s in the corner,” I yelled. We both looked at the corner at the same time. There sat my desk chair with my hockey stick propped in it. A dirty jersey top was hung over it, swaying in the air from the central air conditioner. Just as I’d left it that afternoon.

Yeah, that went down about as well as you’d expect. I was grounded for two weeks.


People at school were weird to me. They avoided eye contact and didn’t speak to me in the halls. I’d catch people staring at me like I’d grown a second head or something. Ugh, I didn’t mean to make a pun. It’s like I had some disease. I still sat with my friends at lunch, but there was a strained silence most days. Being the best friend of the victim of a serial killer is not the key to popularity.

I told the police detective what Logan has said about Jackie and Stacy. He thanked me and said it was a significant lead, but I saw the lie in his eyes. The investigation was stalled. They were just waiting for the next victim to drop.

I obsessed over the dream. It was always the same. “He’s coming for you.” What if it was a message? Logan was my best friend. We’d do anything for each other. Wouldn’t he warn me if possible? But how could I protect myself? Mama was trying to get Dad to spring for an electronic surveillance system. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it might be, and Dad was considering it. I pushed for it, too, but he said I was a coward. Why is wanting to be safe considered cowardice? I think my dad is demented.


Logan gives me his signature grin and opens his mouth to speak. His words reverberate around my head, “Go long.” I start running so he can throw a long pass. I look back and see I’ve covered a lot of ground. Something about this seems familiar. He tosses the football in a long arcing lob. As it begins its descent, he runs toward me. I catch the ball against my chest, tuck it under my arm and turn to run. I glance down at the football and stumble. It’s no longer a ball. It’s Logan’s head, with his thick eyebrows and curly blond hair. “Wake up, now!” the head says before I drop it.

I startled awake with a catch of my breath. My heart was hammering from the dream again. But he didn’t tackle me this time. I wondered why? Then I heard the faintest creak of a floorboard. I was lying with my eyes closed, but I opened them just enough to see. My room looked as it always had. The open closet door, the dresser, chest, chair, and desk. I had moved the hockey stick after my last scare. But something was off. Logan told me to wake up and I could feel something was wrong in my room. There! Against the blackness of the door to my room was a darker shadow. It was still, but I could discern an outline. The outline of a man.

I feigned sleep, lying on my right side, which was how I passed most nights. I made a small groan and rolled over flat on my back, my right hand slipping under my pillow. My slitted eyes watched the door. A long time passed. Maybe I was just being paranoid, seeing things that weren’t there. Maybe. But I’d swear the shape by the door had just moved. Yes, it had! It was coming closer. I fought to remain still rather than curl up in a ball and wish the monster away. My breath sped up as terror seized me and I ground my teeth to keep from crying out. Sweat and the sour stench of fear poured from my body, making my pajama pants feel clammy.
As usual, my blinds were drawn tight, but one errant moonbeam slipped through and briefly glinted off what appeared to be a needle. He was going to drug me! That’s how he’s doing it! I continued watching, scared nearly out of my wits. I just hoped I didn’t wet the bed. Dad would never forgive that. When the shape was less than three feet away, I pulled my hand from under the pillow. I aimed Dad’s Smith and Wesson and fired four shots point blank into his chest. In the flash of the shots, I saw a man in a balaclava.

Mama and Junie were screaming. Dad burst through the door, hitting the lights.

“What the hell you doing with my gun,” was all he got out before stopping and staring at the figure on the floor. The needle was still in his hand.

“Holy shit! Excellent work, son. That’s my man.”

I just stared at him. I had two bullets left in the gun. I gotta admit, I considered it.