He was wearing a shirt too big for him. It used to belong to his older brother, who had died three years ago, in a car accident seven states away. But he was too young to really remember his brother, anyways. He regularly pilfered his brothers old room, taking away mementos to keep as his own.
His name was Aiden, one of two Aiden’s in his class and of a total of six — six — in his year. It was a trendy name the year that he had been born. He liked the name but he didn’t like it when other people had it, because it was his name. Aiden had hair that could both be described as dark blonde and light brown, and eyes which were simultaneously blue and green. With some soft pudge and slightly plump cheeks, he was neither scrawny or fat. He had a light sprinkling of freckles across his nose, the only part of him that he cherished, because it was the only fucking thing that distinguished him from any of the other white kids, especially the other Aiden’s, from his year.
But even the freckles were faint and couldn’t be seen unless someone was standing less than a foot away. And he didn’t like strangers or anyone getting that close. He craved the recognition of being special, because he knew he was. He could sense it, as strongly as if his specialness was pulsating throughout his veins.
His brother was the only other person Aiden considered special, so that was part of the reason why he wore his brother’s old shirt. It brushed the top of Aiden’s knees and the sleeves almost touched the creases of his elbows. Each time he wore it, his parents lightly reprimanded him for potentially soiling his brother’s old things. His parents were very mild, rarely raising their voices loud enough for a person within spitting distance to clearly hear them. But they hardly got that close to people because they preferred to sit with each other. They didn’t have any issues with other people, they were just boringly complacent together. Aiden watched this, understanding the desire to feel separate. But he knew he was wiser, because he knew that you had to mingle with people in some capacity; it was easier to watch them and to learn their habits, patterns, preferences, and weaknesses this way. He knew though that his parents weren’t even interested in those things. They were interested in fishing, camping, watching the same TV shows and putting together a new 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle each week.
They had gone camping again that weekend. On the first weekend of each month, his parents alternated between camping at one of three different state parks, always choosing the same campsite. They liked to “get back to nature” and to “relax from the hustle and bustle” of their lives. They also told Aiden it was good for him, to smell the fresh air, to get dirt under his toes. Aiden didn’t particularly care about either of those thingsIf anything, he had a slight aversion to dirt, liking to keep his room and backpack meticulously neat and clean.
But he did like their camping weekends. His parents would set up the camper chairs and place a cooler full of beer and iced tea in between them. Once they got the fire going, Aiden knew he was free to do exactly as he wished, as his parents wouldn’t get up for several hours.
And these were the hours of each camping trip that he cherished. Aiden would make his way down the well-worn hiking trails, his fingers brushing each blade of grass that he passed. He walked quickly and silently, while alert to his surroundings. He enjoyed making his own little footpaths, or following the narrow serpentine game trails the wild animals built with their own brute determination. However much he enjoyed exploring down the trails that no one else seemed to even bother with, he especially liked finding a hideaway where he could watch. Aiden always found a spot to sit in for an hour or two, just to notice everything surrounding him. He’d study the tiny birds flick from branch to branch, as easily as grasshoppers jump through grass. He would watch the ibises and crows overhead, the squirrels weaving amongst the trees. Depending on where he was and the time of the day, wild hogs and armadillos would loudly crash by. But they didn’t see him. He could fool the wild beasts even within their own homes.
One of his regular spots to watch was down at the estuary. The ugly dark greyish-brown mud was positively infested with tiny little snails, who left small raised lines behind them as they senselessly made their way across, over, and around their muddy realm. They’d be out for hours, only hiding away during the hottest parts of the day. But when it approached late afternoon, the crabs would always come out.
Aiden looked forward to seeing them more than anything else. They were hardly bigger than an adult’s thumb, and the color of a sickly, ghostly grey. Aiden liked to think they were like him: small, cleverly unobtrusive. They stalked and snatched at the much more prominent, but much more stupid snails. It drove Aiden to a nearly ecstatic state to see the snails being scooped up and then eaten by the crabs.
Watching things hurt each other were one of his favorite things, but the crabs did it so blatantly and almost lazily, which was different from a snake getting a mouse, or a mockingbird catching a cockroach. Because with the snake and bird, their prowess and precision at killing was obvious. But the crabs were different. They approached the whole manner almost lethargically.
Like him, it was only the little things that gave a suggestion of the crabs devotion to the game. It was in their eyes, coming from their eyestalks, which truly hinted at the intensity boiling within them. The eyes of the crabs closely followed the movements of the snails, just as Aiden closely followed everything around him.
But they didn’t notice him. Aiden was confident in that. They weren’t clever enough to take in the small boy who had sat waiting for over an hour, waiting to watch them come out and to stalk and kill in their own way. No. Not until he got up did they seem to even see him, some of them moving away on their quick, blurry legs.
But that was just a few. Most were still oblivious, caught up in their own stupid little crab lives, unaware of Aiden making silent prints in the moist earth. He saw two crabs listfully moving together, both bigger than the rest. One of them had a huge claw, dwarfing the rest of its body. Aiden hovered his white and red striped shoe over them, casting a shadow across the ground. Even now, the crabs didn’t seem to notice a thing. Aiden felt a thrill and then pressed down hard, right into them.
There was a soft mush sound followed by a loud crunch. His heel pressed firmly into the grey mud, holding still for a few seconds. He then began to move the heel with some slight twists, grinding the shells of the crabs. The juicy insides leaked out to mingle with the mud, unseen underneath the shoe. But Aiden knew the bodily liquids were streaming from the crabs, as he had once killed four crabs, one at a time, with a cinderblock and had seen the fluids.
He lightly lifted up his foot and stared down at the crushed bodies. An infinite amount of delicate cracks ran through the shells in the smaller crab, but the larger crabs body had been broken by three deep crevices. The enormous claw seemed like it may have been angled up, as if the crab had made a desperate effort of defense when it had finally realized that something was happening. Aiden smirked at that. He noticed his shoe print laid right on top of the bodies. He thought about smearing the marks away. But the more he looked at the muddy lines on the crabs, the more he liked it.
He turned around, heading back to his parents and to the campfire.