Chapter One, Part One
Seeing is believing, but not everyone can see past a face or wants to see deeper.
I groaned, waking up from my slumber to hear the voice of my Eomma yelling at me.
“I’m awake, Eomma!”
I yawned, rubbing the sleep from my brown-coloured eyes.
“Good! Time for school, son!” she added, making me groan again.
“Is it? Are you sure?” I asked, hoping she was mistaken.
“Yes, I’m sure! Wake Zack up!” she added as I sat up in bed.
The low light filtering into my room through the heavy turquoise curtains, and the cosy warmth of my double bed made me want to stay curled up in bed until I’d had enough sleep.
I live in a peaceful neighbourhood where our neighbours keep to themselves. It was usually quiet too, which meant it was easy for me to fall back to sleep, but it was also easy for me to be disturbed. Everything from strange little noises, to having crazy dreams, kept me from rest up. Those dreams sometimes became hallucinations, but that was down to the medication I took. Not that it did much to help me. I still get distracted so easily, even by the slightest thing, like the bird, chirping outside my window. It was singing like Sinatra out there in the last of the summer sunshine, and I couldn’t help but watch the happy little bird, with a smile on my face, while I stopped partway in getting dressed.
“RYDER! HURRY UP! YOU’LL BE LATE FOR SCHOOL! DON’T MAKE ME CALL YOUR APPA!” my Eomma impatiently screamed.
“On it!” I called back, then scrambled to get my little brother Zack up. I went back to my room whistling the theme tune to one of my favourite shows, taking my time to find some clothes. I chose a pair of navy-blue jeans, kinda skinny ones, a red Super Mario t-shirt, classic, some black sneakers, and my favourite black and blue snapback hat with a grey gaming controller on it. I love video games, especially older ones. I’ll be giving my brother an amazing collection of games one day. My brother.
Oh, brother! My brother! I needed to make sure he was ready.
“Zack!” I called, going to his room as I pulled on my sneakers not tying the laces.
“Yeah?” He yawned sleepily, still in his Power Rangers Pyjamas as he came out of his bedroom next to mine.
“Get dressed or we’ll be in trouble!” I told him frantically then pointed back into his bedroom.
“Okay...” He sighed, rubbing his little brown eyes.
I went down to get breakfast, and he, followed.
A little too long for Eomma’s liking. She soon came into the room on the phone sorting something out with mine and Zack’s Appa. He was a translator that worked in many different countries for everybody from politicians to tourists. He spoke four languages, English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, which was his first language. My parents are both from South Korea, but both have spent many years in the States. Me and my brother were born here. No matter how many times he went, Appa always made time to buy me and Zack something nice. Me Zack and Eomma would play a game in the hours before he got back called ‘what did Appa get us this time’. I win a lot of the time at that game.
“We’ll see you tonight then. Love you (period)” Eomma finished on the phone and smiled at us. “Your Appa is coming home this evening.” she told us, making Zack cheer, holding his spoon up in the air.
“Wasn’t he in Japan again?” I asked her.
“Was. Now he’s in California. And Ryder, take your hat off indoors!” Eomma scolded me. I pulled my mouth back into a cringe before I muttered an apology. Zack giggled digging into the rest of his Coco Pops. “Ryder, get something to eat on your way out. I need to take Zack and go early to work for a meeting.” Eomma suddenly told me, taking hers and Zack’s plates to the sink.
“Okay Eomma,” I replied, going to the fridge to get something for breakfast. I grabbed some milk and an apple too as Eomma got Zack into his coat. She then rushed back to kiss me on the cheek making me cringe a little bit but say goodbye.
“Don’t forget your pills! Goodbye, honey!” She called to me returning to my brother.
“Bye,” I said, just as they went out the house closing the door behind them. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” I said under my breath smiling then began eating my apple while leaning up against the counter.
“Po...Po...Po...” an unnaturally deep voice said distantly. I turned around looking for the source. I looked around my house then out the window but nearly ended up falling backwards seeing something that looked like a terrifying demon from a horror movie or a manga! It was a tall woman wearing white with a floppy hat. Her skin was extremely pale and her eyes were pitch black like her hair. She was staring right at me, like wary of me. I don’t get why she was taller than me and looked like she could probably beat me in a fight! She turned her head slightly at me. “Po...Po...Po...” She grumbled deeper at me then slunk off down the side of my house. She was walking around like she lived in the area! This was not something that happened in this town. It had a population of fifty thousand, it was located near the border of Oregon and California, and most exciting things in the town was an ice rink, the forests for hikers and the museum that had a couple of cool exhibits dating back hundreds of years.
I wonder if that woman was part of the museum and had somehow come to life. This wasn’t the Museum of Natural History though, and she was getting away so I grabbed my bag then get out the door in lightning speed locking it behind me. I dashed down the front of my house, clumsily climbed over the fence nearly dropping my bag in the process, then ran down the side alley between my house and the house next door. She was just turning the corner when I saw the back of her. Seeing her outside my homemade me dive down behind the trash cans and curl up, which was hard for me being six-foot-tall, but I was just able to peep over the top of the can like I was in Scooby-Doo. Still crouching, I scampered down the alleyway and stopped taking cover at the corner. The theme song to a certain Pirates movie would have been good as backing music.
‘Po...Po...Po’. I still heard her as she walked down the alleyway. It was a busier street that went away my usually quiet neighbourhood, which made me wonder if anyone else would see this strange woman. She started to stroll down the busier road, me behind her sneaking pass the houses and few shops and cafes. I did nudge a dustbin I hid causing the lid fall off into the pavement.
“Dang it!” I hissed, then froze to look up at the odd woman. She stopped and looked over her shoulder at me. Her pale face could be make-up, but I couldn’t tell for sure because her hat was covering her face. My eyes went wide with panic: what if she would come over and rip me limb from limb or drain my blood or stomp on me? She just kept staring at me, but didn’t seem threatened. Her stare was starting to freak me out through. I backed up down the pavement then turned around to set off running. I ran across the street, and didn’t look back as I turned the corner down another long street that had a couple of old factories and compact apartments right until the end of it.
The last building of the street was a corner shop that had large windows, dark grey walls on the outside and a door that had an open sign on it you could see through the window. There was also a big white rectangle sign that read ‘Lenek Corner Shop’ in bold black letters. I had never been to this part of town, it was quiet and unusual, but I wanted to get so I rushed into the shop, hearing the bell ring before I shut the door after me. I peered out the window to see if the creepy woman followed me. There was no sign of her and I leaned up against the door frame. I then began to look around the shop I had chosen to take shelter in like I was playing a PVP game and needed to reload.
The shop had multiple rooms connected up to each other, the main one had a dark brown wooden counter and bottle green cash register that looked like something out of an expensive department store. The floor was wooden floorboards that were a warmer and lighter shade, and on the deep navy painted walls were lines of wooden shelves that went high up the walls. There were books, jars of herbs, tools, some peculiar decorations, the shelves behind the counter had some boxes and packages which looked like deliveries. The next room you had to go up a ramp to get to and it was a bit darker but I could see some ancient antiques. The third room was private, with a curtain up in the doorway to it. Another room went around, following the corner of the street that I saw had a few groceries and plants there, and a big window letting in sunlight. The name of the shop was painting on the window in gold along with the opening times. It looked much bigger on the inside. The lights were warm, but the shop was a little cold and old. It must have been going for a few decades though. There were a few individual displays and bins that were different sizes and had other products for sale near the counter, in the middle of the shop and near the door. I heard from the behind the curtain seventies music being played.
“Huh,” I said to myself a few times while I looked around at the shop curiously. I felt like I was in the exotic spice and tea shop from a show I watched with my Eomma called Grimm. Only this shop wasn’t run by Rosalee Calvert. In fact, I had no idea who ran this because there was no one here.
“Hello?” A voice with an Eastern European accent called to me from behind the curtain. I turned around from where I was looking at towards the counter. I saw a thin woman in her forties, standing about five foot ten with striking blonde hair that had many streaks of grey in it which stopped just below her shoulders, pale skin and glasses with large frames in one hand. She had on a deep green cardigan over a grey blouse buttoned up to her neck, a long black pleated skirt and a golden necklace that had some kind of small pendant on full display. She looked like a kind person, and she must be smart to work here since there was lots of stuff here. Like Yoda smart.
“Oh, hey,” I stuttered and she smiled nodding her head to me.
“You have good timing, I just open,” she said putting her glasses away in a case she had next to the cash register.
“Oh err, I’m not looking to buy anything,” I said shaking my head.
“Hmm, really?” She said in surprise tilting her head at me. “I get students coming to get rare book sometimes,” She told me as she pressed a few things on the cash register.
“Yeah, old books too,” I added glancing at where I had seen some of those old books on herbs, history and a few languages.
“Interesting reading, but you are not here to look at books, no?” She asked me, her accent thick and a bit difficult for me to understand.
“No, err,” I began scratching the back of my neck while I glanced sideways out the window. “I saw something pretty crazy,” I added thinking again about that woman.
“And that is why you run into my shop?” She questioned raising one of her thin eyebrows at me. I nodded then glanced down at the floor.
“My bad,” I muttered then looked up at her checking the shelves of delivers with a checklist on a clipboard. “It’s a cool shop though, I always heard this part of town-” I froze when I felt someone pinch me from behind. I swung around to see no one was there but heard some footsteps going up the ramp. I looked to see peeping around a display in the room up the ramp, a small white boy that had to be a similar age to my little brother with dark brown hair, wearing grey shorts and a cream and red stripy jumper making him look like a kid from the 40s. His skin was extremely pale, even more so than the woman’s skin, and his eyes looked lifeless. He was looking at me curiously but also timidly. A frown formed on my face at him. “Who’s that?” I asked not looking away from the kid.
“Who?” the woman asked and I heard her put her clipboard down. The boy then ran off into the room with antiques before she could see him.
“There was a kid! Right there!” I exclaimed, pointing a finger to where he was stood then strode over into that room. All I could see was several antiques, and even when the woman flicked on the light, I couldn’t see the kid hiding between the aged furniture and decoration. “I know I saw him,” I frowned at the woman who frowned back at me, not like I was insane but with intrigue. Did she believe me?
“There is no boy here. What did he look like?” She asked me tilting her head once more. I gave her a quick description of the kid, gesturing a little with my hands. She hummed to herself then glanced around shaking her head. “No, I never see a boy like that before come in my shop,” She told me and I sighed rubbing my forehead after I took my hat off.
“Maybe I was seeing things,” I shrugged thinking to myself that it was a hallucination probably caused by the fact I hadn’t had my pills yet. “I couldn’t have a glass of water, could I? I need to take some medication,” I asked her and she nodded smiling again.
“I will go to kitchen, stay here,” She said then strode away back towards the room behind the curtain. I walked back down the ramp to the main room but I walked backwards so I wouldn’t miss that kid if he appeared again. He was probably just a hallucination though, and I nearly fell over since I was clumsy and walking backwards, not a great plan. “Here you go,” She said coming back into the room making me spin around to face her then take the glass of water.
“Thanks, Miss, Lenek I take it?” I guessed and she nodded.
“Elsa Lenek, and what is your name, young man?” She asked me as I took my pills out of my bag.
“I’m Ryder, Ryder Park,” I replied with a smile then took the water so I could take my pills. “So, this is your shop?” I asked and she nodded.
“It was my father’s first, he buy it when I was young and we move over from Poland.” She told me as I finished the water and she walked back around the counter to her clipboard.
“Cool,” I added, putting the containers my pills away. “Thank you for that, I should have had them before I left my house, they stop me from hallucinating since my ADHD and autism medication makes me have them,” I explained to her making her jerk her head back a bit in shock.
“You have a lot of medication yes?” She asked me frowning, not like she was judging me but like she was curious. I nodded slowly.
“It used to be worse though, they started to work eventually, the doctors told us that we had to give them time,” I shrugged to her making her nod. She hummed again then glanced down in thought.
“You see that boy or crazy thing before?” She asked me tilting her head.
“No, usually I see lots of different things,” I told her fiddling with my bag strap with my thumb.
“So, what made that crazy thing you see before so crazy?” She asked me, which was a question that made me think about the answer before I gave it.
“It looked and acted, real,” I expressed. “But the thing I saw was so weird it couldn’t be real,” I added shaking my head.
“What did you see Ryder?” She asked me.
“It was a tall woman in a white dress with long black hair and floppy hat,” I explained to her then she hummed in thought.
“Could just be someone, outside there?” She suggested but I frowned not understanding what she meant by ‘outside there’.
“Don’t you mean out there,” I asked and she tutted.
“I get some phrases mixed up,” She told me chuckling at her own mistake. I did smile a little bit myself, but she did have a point.
“It could be, but she didn’t say much she just made a strange noise,” I replied remembering her deep voice.
“What noise?” She asked me.
“Po, po, po, and nothing else,” I told her seeing her face drop slightly. Did she know that woman?
“That is odd, could just be odd person, this is odd town,” She told me looking out at the street. She had a point there, heck that woman could just be a street performer on her way to town or even some kind of cosplayer. But then again if there was a convention in town, I know about it and be there.
“Yeah, could be someone cosplaying as Slenderman’s bride,” I shrugged then looked at my phone to see the time was getting on and that I needed to get to school. “Crap, I gotta get going to school now, thanks for the drink uh...bye!” I rapidly said then rushed to the door. I reluctantly went back down the streets keeping a sharp eye out for the woman and listen for the strange noise she made. It seemed that she vanished though because on the streets all I could see were people on their way to work or school and the only sound that was heard were the various car and bus engines on the road. I felt kinda stupid now, maybe she was just a hallucination. I stopped thinking about my crazy morning and focused on walking to school while I got my earphones and phone out so I could listen to some good old Fall Out Boy.
I got to school towards the end of the rush hour seeing the last-minute people arrive. One of them was my very own best buddy, the Ron to my Harry, the Legolas to my Gimli, the Groot to my Rocket Racoon, Alisha Byrd. She was five foot tall, had a chubby figure much different to my thin one, originally came from Utah but she moved to live with her godfather and guardian when she was four, had long and thick black curly hair, skin that was halfway between chocolate and copper she got since her Mom was Native American and her Dad she got told was African-American, a smile anyone would find welcoming, and a strong love for history. We were both very different, but we’ve been friends since we were six. The moment we became best friends was on the first day she came into my class, she was getting picked on by James Matthews who acted like the typical thick-skulled bully that had a couple of goons with him. I cheered her up by asking her if she wanted to play Spyro the Dragon on my PSP, and she beat my high score then told me the history behind the legend of St. George who killed a dragon. She was the greatest friend I could ever ask for and I’d be lost without her.
“Good mornin’ good mornin’ to you Ryder,” She sang as she started walking with me into the school.
“Hey buddo, you wouldn’t believe the morning I had,” I told her as we walked down the hallways of lockers that had dozens of other students.
“Ooo lemme hear it,” She said eagerly as we approached her locker.
“Saw a tall creepy woman that looked like something out of a Manga looking into my kitchen, she looked real too,” I told her resting up against the locker next to hers as she got a few books out to put in her backpack.
“Hmm, there is a circus in town, stilt walker maybe?” She suggested a good point.
“Did the circus not know one of their freaks were missing?” I joked grinning to myself but I ended up jerking back due to Alisha suddenly shutting her locker door before she frowned at me in disappointment.
“Ryder,” She said in that way that made her sound like a parent scolding her child. “A woman walking on stilts is not a freak, and a lot of those poor people were taken advantage of by circuses and treated like slaves.” She made a good point.
“Yeah, I guess,” I muttered looked down at the floor while I kicked a bit of trash someone dropped.
“Did that woman hurt you at all?” She became protective while she rested one shoulder on her locker.
“No, she just looked at me over her shoulder before I ran off to that strange part of town,” I told her shaking my head.
“Well there you go she was harmless, or a hallucination,” She spoke quieter so no one heard the thing about hallucinations. I got bullied badly for them when I was younger since they were much worse.
“Yeah, I did manage to make a friend though!” I announced smiling joyfully.
“Oh really? Since when do you make friends?” She asked sarcastically.
“She owned a corner shop in the weird part of town, I got creeped out by that woman so went in to lose her,” I said not wanting to admit I got scared.
“You freaked out, didn’t you?” She asked bluntly seeing right through me. I sighed heavily knowing I had failed epically.
“If you saw the way she looked at me you would have done too!” I stressed as we set off walking down the hall back to my locker.
“Sure, sure, you said that about hiding from Professor Hill when you forgot to do your Science homework,” She reminded me which made me tut and roll my eyes as I began to turn the dial on my locker.
“That guy was the male version of Trunchbull, and just as gigantic,” I pointed out while getting the book and homework I needed for the morning.
“Hmm, but he never shouted at you Ryder,” She reminded me with one of her perfectly plucked eyebrows raised.
“Not all teachers that are scary yell, they can be so in other ways,” I pointed out dramatically making her shove me and roll her eyes.
“Whatever, let’s get to class,” She said back to me just as the bell rang, meaning we needed to make like a certain video hedgehog and go fast.