The Monster’s Ball (Part 2) by Kevin Lazarus

Kevin Lazarus in Carthage Falls

 

(From: The Dark Side of Carthage Falls – the Anthology – by Kevin Lazarus – Continued)

There was a slight audible gasp from them. Brett was now staring at me intensely, completely mesmerized.

“So who was it,” Kelly stammered, “do you know?”

“Who do you think it was, you little worm—it was his step dad!” Brett snapped.

Attempting to keep things from melting down into a conflict I continued right on talking. “It was him!” I admitted. “But the really weird thing is—?”

“Yeah?” Derek squeaked nervously.

I choked a little as I whispered. “I—I—couldn’t see his face. He was standing in my bedroom doorway with that streetlight shining right on him through my bedroom window and—his face looked like some kind of shadow—even in the dark!”

Each of the other boys silently stared at me with obvious expressions of shock. Kelly’s lower jaw was hanging down far enough that his chin nearly hit his chest. I even think I heard one of them gasp once more.

“It gets even weirder than that,” I quietly added.

I pursed my lips tightly, while still biting my lower lip. Still somewhat uneasy about saying anymore, I was surprised at how liberating it was to unburden myself of my rather odd experiences at home.

With that growing sense of liberation, I launched into my next story. “Once, when he came home from work, and as he came through the front door, he was being all smiley and happy and all. But before my mom could even say “hi” he suddenly went all weird and got excited; claiming he had just heard something out in the garage.”

Kelly suddenly cut me off again. “Is that even possible? Your garage is like, way at the other end of your house!”

“Yeah—that’s exactly what I thought too!”  “He ran down our hallway and out the garage door—and I followed him. When I caught up with him, he went nuts claiming that he just saw someone crawling under the garage door. It was open far enough that I could’ve slid under it—but I didn’t see anyone. So then he went running out the side door outside, and we both ran to the front of the house. But there was no one there. He got all excited again, pointing down at the sidewalk where there were wet footprints on the cement, sure that they had been left by whoever had been in our garage.”

“WOW, that sounds so awesome!” said Derek, excitedly waiting for more.

“NO,” I said flatly, “the footprints looked just like the shoes he was wearing! He wears these pointy leather shoes to work, I know because I shine them for him. The footprint on the ground looked just like the shoes he was wearing!”

Brett’s eyebrows tilted with one brow dropping lower than the other. “What—does he think you’re stupid?”

“I guess—”

“So what happened next?” Derek begged.

“My mom went to bed. But then he did something else kind of weird. He turned out the lights and went into the kitchen and looked out the window waiting, like he was looking for something. Then he started acting strange again and wanted me to look out the window too.”

“What did you see?” asked Brett.

“There was this guy walking past the house way across the other side of the road. He stopped for a moment and stared at our house and then started walking again. My stepfather swore up and down that that had to be the guy—but—”

“But what?” Kelly asked anxiously.

“Well—he was wearing tennis shoes.”

I waited for them to process what I had just told them. Derek just stared at me as if I had a third eye in the middle of my forehead. And I began to worry about what he would say to the other kids.

Finally, Kelly chimed in. “Well, I’ll admit that thing in the middle of the night is a little creepy, But I don’t know about the whole thing with the garage—you could have that all wrong.”

I must have looked really disappointed, because Brett suddenly gave me a friendly push urging me to tell them more. “Kevin,” he said, “tell them—you know—the hide and seek thing!”

Kelly and Derek shot each other an excited glance, one of profound curiosity and then back at me. “What ‘hide and seek thing’?”

Now, realizing that Derek might not be as discrete as I would hope he would be—possibly worse than Brett. I resisted Brett until he pushed me again. “Come on,” he declared more earnestly, “tell them what you told me!”

Suddenly Kelly started chanting, and then Derek and Brett joined in. “tell us, tell us—”

And like a bubble bursting, I blurted, “he likes to play hide and seek—in the dark—just the two of us!”

All three of my friends fell silent once more.

“Sometimes—he gets home before my mom, right as its getting dark. It always seems to be when she is going to be late getting off of work. And, he turns off all of the lights in the house so that none of them work. I try turning them back on, but somehow he’s turned all of them off so that I can’t. And then he just sits in the dark calling my name—”

Suddenly the school bell went off and all four of us jumped. Mrs. Palter came by and told us to “hurry to our classrooms.” Kelly and Derek leapt to their feet, almost as if they were happy to be leaving, and took off running while Brett dutifully patted me on the back and said: “Come on, we better get going—”

I nodded quietly and followed.

***

Mrs. Owens and my mom had agreed that I would stay after school for awhile until I was caught up on my school work with the other kids. So, I had to walk home by myself. The Sun was setting—

As I approached the orchard, I walked slowly past the opening of the trail. I stopped for a moment and stared at it, but I didn’t even dare consider going that way. That’s not to say the temptation wasn’t there, because it was. It was getting darker by the second and I wanted to be home now more than ever, the orchard was a shortcut.  But I knew better than to do it alone.

Memories of my invisible stalker were already haunting me. Yet, I took comfort in the fact that there were other kids—after school stragglers like me—going in the same direction. And, for a little while I was distracted by the fact that Carly was walking just ahead of me. Though I had no idea why “little miss perfect” was walking home with the rest of us losers.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I wanted to join her, it seemed too bold a move—so I didn’t. One by one, the other kids left the main road headed toward their individual homes. And finally, Carly did the same. But she did something completely unexpected. She stopped and turned facing me. A little surprised I stopped too and hesitantly waved to her. It was then that she did something else amazing—she waved back at me and smiled. As I watched her turn and leave, I now felt a little foolish for not having tried to walk with her.

***

The Sun had nearly set and my home was dark. Not a single light on in the house. And an autumn breeze tickling at the back of my neck only made a cold night, colder. I stood out on the sidewalk staring at my step dad’s car sitting in the driveway, as my entire body went cold. My mother’s car wasn’t there, she wasn’t home!

I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait him out, not in the cold. So I slowly walked up to the front door and opened it as quietly as possible. Reaching in, I flipped the light switch, but, as I feared, nothing happened. Another wave of cold blew through me, and then kept coming in waves with what happened next—what I heard next. His voice, strangely small and odd sounding, as he said only one thing—over and over again in the dark. “K-e-v-i—oh—K-e-v-i—come find me—”

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Copyright 2011 Kevin Lazarus/DreamStream Productions Inc.

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