The Nail

by The Cowl Editor on October 26, 2017


baseball bat
Photo courtesy of

by Jonathan Coppe ’18


“What about these?”

PJ was pointing to some rocks. The boys had gotten together to play baseball in Conor’s front yard—Conor had a very big front yard. But when Conor’s parents left to go shopping, Conor’s dad had locked the shed that had the baseballs, so now they had to improvise.

Ed went over and looked at the rocks. He picked one up. It seemed pretty round, and it was about the size of a baseball if you didn’t look too carefully.

“I guess they’ll do,” he said. “Okay. Sean get up to bat. PJ take shortstop.”

“Jeez, we know the positions, Ed…” Caleb said. So it was. Everyone got into position and the game started. The first two batters took first and then second. It was a three-person dugout, so everyone hoped that the bases wouldn’t get loaded. PJ heard once that cricket had fewer bases and he thought maybe that would work better for the numbers they had, but he wasn’t about to suggest that everyone learn a new game.

So anyway, they were standing there hoping Ed wasn’t about to give up another single when he pitched the biggest rock he had in a fastball straight down the middle. The outfield took a sharp breath. Crack! Bill hit a clean line drive. The rock soared clean past Ed and straight at PJ’s forehead.

The poor kid fell flat on his back, letting out a sharp cry of pain. Everyone ran over to him. He was lying with his palms over his face, but he moved his hand and they all saw blood. “Oh shit! Oh shit!”—Caleb never cursed so his choice of words belied a sense of panic.

Since it was Conor’s front yard, it was unanimously decided that he would run inside to get his parents’ first aid supplies and a couple bags of frozen peas. The first aid stuff was in his parents’ bathroom. Conor ran through the house and into their bedroom. He looked into the bathroom. The door was half open.

First he saw the feet. Bare, toes pointed upward, lying on the ground, visible from about the mid shin. There was no hair on them, and they were too big to belong to a kid.

“Mom?” Conor yelled.

No answer. The feet didn’t move, either. Conor looked around. He didn’t see anybody.

He knew his parents weren’t home; he saw them drive away. He took a few tentative steps toward the bathroom. He checked his back again. Nobody there—nobody creeping up on him. He nudged open the bathroom door.

It was a body, lying there, quite flat, palms down. It was pale. Conor stared. It looked about adult-sized, but the head was too big somehow, too long for the rest of the body. That’s what it seemed like anyway, but it was hard to tell because the face was covered by a cloth.

For some time, he just stood there, looking the monstrous thing up and down.

Conor noticed something else about the head, too. The cloth had a tall bump up toward the top of the head. It was a long, thin sort of bump, like the kind cartoon characters would get on TV when they got hit hard on the head.

Conor checked his back one more time. Still no one. He crept over to the body. It didn’t look like it was breathing.

He took the sheet off the face. He was too frightened to scream, to even make any sound at all. The face on the body was his face. It was his head. It was his body, too, actually, just bigger, adult-sized, but still shaped like a child’s body. And right in the middle of his forehead was a single long, thin nail, driven—as far as he could tell—about halfway in. Two thin lines of blood ran from the nail down the left side of his forehead and onto his hair. His eyes were wide open and stared straight up.

Conor just gaped. It was his body, it was his face. He didn’t want to particularly, but he touched it just to know it if was real; he grabbed its hand. It was cold.


Conor jumped.

“Jeez, don’t freak out.” It was just Ed.

“What?” Conor was still trying to get his bearings. Didn’t Ed see the body? Conor turned back to the body to point it out to Ed and call him stupid for not seeing anything. But the body was gone.

“Whatever, where’s the first aid stuff?”

“Oh, uh…” Conor paused and stuttered, trying to break his mind away from the body that had just been there and now wasn’t. His body. “It’s right here.” And Ed took it from the cabinet, and they left the room.