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‘Burnt Offering’ by Michael Whitehouse

I travelled to Somerset in the South of the country last Saturday, March 3rd. Having been contacted by a friend in the local authority there, I was brought in to consult due to the similarities with the Whitman case three years ago. It was suggested that due to my previous experience, I would have some insight.

The following includes everything I discovered about the tragic events which took place on the night of the 27th of February, 2014. Just a few weeks ago:

Two local boys, James Carney (13 yrs old) and Donald Lewis (14 yrs old) had stayed out later than allowed by their parents that Wednesday night. At approximately 11:04 pm both boys were hanging around the outskirts of their hometown. In realising the time and listening to a few concerned voicemails, they knew their parents would be angry at them for staying out after dark. For this reason, they decided to take a shortcut on the way back into town.

To make it home as quickly as possible, Donald suggested cutting across a large flat field known as the Fugavi Patch. James was hesitant in doing so as the area was often avoided by locals - it had picked up a reputation for being unsafe, especially at night. Interviews with the families of both boys, as well as neighbours and the local school headmaster, revealed several second-hand accounts of alleged experiences there. These included strange dim lights, whispering, and an unpleasant chemical smell associated with the field.

Such local stories had obviously made an impact on James, and it was probably for that reason he wished to walk around the Fugavi Patch rather than through it. Despite this hesitancy, Donald persuaded him that it was quite safe and would get them home much quicker. They climbed over a metal fence 5 feet in height which sealed off the entire patch, and proceeded to cross the 972 metres of worn grass to the other side.

As they approached the middle of the ground, James began to complain to Donald about feeling nauseous, along with a burning, stabbing pain in his stomach. It was then that they tried to walk faster, with James becoming increasingly frightened, whispering that he felt like they were being watched. He then staggered slightly, seemingly disorientated and sweating profusely, scratching at his skin while retching, before then vomiting several times. Eventually, the burning pain became too much for him. He could not continue walking, grabbing his stomach and crying out that his insides were ‘on fire’. Donald panicked as red marks and lesions began to appear on his friend’s arms and face. He then called for an ambulance from his mobile phone.

Engulfed by a delirious state, James collapsed to the ground in agony. Writhing in pain on the grass, his eyes widened as he looked around gasping for air, continually asking Donald several times: ‘Who is that man standing over there? What does he want?’, staring repeatedly at a row of tall hedges on the other side of the field, lit by a nearby street light from behind. Donald, however, could see no one there.

As they waited for the ambulance, James grew frantic with fear, pointing and screaming across the Fugavi Patch in the direction of the hedgerows, pleading with his friend to keep ‘the man in blue overalls’ away from him. Donald tried to calm these fears by telling James that they were alone and there was no one there, but James repeatedly cried out in terror, screaming and thrashing around on the ground, clutching his stomach in agony as the red marks on his skin became more pronounced. It was as if his pain, delirium, and suffering increased with each imaginary footstep as his hallucination slowly neared. Finally, just as the ambulance arrived, he lay on his back looking up wide-eyed and crying at some unseen figure standing over him, before letting out a choking shriek and losing consciousness.

James was rushed to hospital but was tragically announced dead on arrival. The autopsy recorded the cause of death as being ‘an acute cardiac event, brought about by a violent allergic reaction to trace chemical waste still present in the soil from a metalworks factory which had previously stood there.’ Further research revealed that this factory had burned down six years previous.

I was able to contact the owner of the land, a Mr Adams. He was very upset about the whole ordeal, as the locals blamed him for James’ horrific death. Mr Adams produced papers clearly showing that the entire area had been decontaminated by a private firm, but a forensics team did detect small trace amounts of various chemicals including ammonia in the ground. This suggests that the decontamination firm had not completed the process adequately. An investigation of this is now pending, and further decontamination of the area is now underway.

The death of James Carney has left the small town community shocked and traumatised, but the official explanation seems to have been well accepted. I cannot, however, dismiss the strange events surrounding the boy’s death. The sickness and excruciating burning pain he experienced before collapsing, and the man in blue worker overalls he screamed about walking towards him, are all in line I suppose with the poisoning hypothesis. However, most perplexing of all were the horrific marks and sores all over the poor boy’s body brought about by the allergic reaction. One, in particular, has caused me some uneasy thoughts as I travel home. That red burn stretched out across James’ abdomen, and it looked uncannily like the imprint of a human hand.

Published inShort Stories


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