“I dare you to touch it.”
A wad of teens stood at the edge of the sunken field, several larger boys nudging and taunting a smaller one.
Two cypress trees stood in the center of the Graco Factory drainage basin. Wrapped around their trucks about four feet from the ground was a metal band. Protruding from the band, at evenly spaced intervals were metal rods, each tipped with a ceramic insulator. A thin, high-tensile galvanized steel wire connected each rod.
Faded yellow signs were at the four corners of the basin warning intruders to stay away. The factory, long abandoned, simply left the basin and its 10,000 volts charged sentinels carelessly neglected. The hazard was too much of a temptation and had become a source of urban legend and gang hazing rituals.
Red-faced, and on the verge of tears, Thad tried to stand his ground, pushing back against the onslaught. The gang jostled him between them like a rag doll. Thad fought to keep upright.
“Yer scared!” jeered Nelson, the gang’s presumptive leader. He shoved Thad forward.
“Am not,” Thad faced his tormentors – feet planted firmly against more violence, hunched over, fists clenched, eyes flashing.
Nelson feigned a lunge, causing Thad to flinch. He stumbled and fell, sprawling in the dead leaves and dirt.
The other boys started laughing and throwing more verbal stones at him.
Thad rubbed at his wet eyes, smearing the dirt and tears on his face into muddy rivulets. He picked up handfuls of musty humus and threw it at the bullies getting most of the debris on himself. They surrounded him, pointing and laughing.
Rolling over onto his hands and knees, Thad tried to escape, pushing through the circle of legs towards the cypress trees. Struggling to gain his feet, Thad raced headlong toward the electrified trees, howling a war cry that crackled and broke through his pubescent voice.
When the gang realized Thad was going to take their dare and grab the humming wires, they chased after him, only he had too much of a head start. They slid to a panicked stop just as he took hold of one of the rods.
The humming from the tree’s electrified band grew louder, and Thad’s body began to convulse. His arms flailed and his head jerked in unnatural directions, his screaming morphed into a high-pitched keening, and his eyes rolled back, only the whites showing.
Nelson yelled for the others to run, leaving Thad to suffer alone.
The humming and Thad’s wailing ceased abruptly. The connection disrupted, the boy crumpled to the ground, unmoving. Small flickers of electricity danced along his arms and legs, and sparked from his fingertips.
With a thunderous gasp, Thad sat bolt up, eyes wide open. His pupils were jet black, a maelstrom of lightning swirling in their depths. He turned his head slowly in the direction of where the other boys ran, a look of malevolent anticipation on his face.