Staring at his feet as he stomped down the road, it was all Walter could do to avoid flipping out. If he didn’t know any better, that woman was looking for a fight. And she would have it, if he hadn’t remembered his manners. Walking away was for the best. He wondered if she was still following him, though he dare not turn to look.
How did she know about his birthmark? It was impossible! For that matter, how did the author of that letter? Where they connected somehow? There was too much to understand, so Walter decided not to think about it. If he did, it would make him angry. Terrible, terrible things happened when he was angry. He didn’t want to remember the last time he felt this way.
He was almost home now. Soon, he’d be carrying his bicycle into the apartment to inspect the damage made to his tires. Or he’d go straight to bed—he only had six hours or so until work needed him again. But how would he get there? Walter cursed at the pavement. Maybe he’d call Burgos. With any luck, he’d answer in the morning.
As he considered spending the night at the theater, something called his attention. At the mouth of a back alley just ahead, he could hear the sounds of a conflict within. His first thought was to ignore it and keep going. But then, one of the clamoring voices called for help, and the call seemed directed at him. Now he was involved.
Walter leaned his bike against the corner of the building. “Hey!” he barked into the darkness, “Leave that guy alone!”
Three faces turned towards him, two of which illuminated by the burning cherries of cigarettes. Without warning, the remaining person darted past, pushing Walter out of his way to escape. A grey hood hid his face as he grabbed Walter’s bike and ran off with it, carrying it in his arms.
“What—hey!” Walter hollered, “Get back here—!” Before he could start after the thief, his whole world was yanked out from under him. His head hit the ground, and he saw stars. Once they cleared, he saw those two smoking shadows looking down on him.
They allowed him to get to his feet. “Phone, wallet, and keys,” said the smaller one, holding out his hand. “Or we break your legs.”
Walter looked behind him. The other guy, twice his size, blocked the way out of the alley. Trapped. Then he remembered—the girl might still be following him. With boldness, he cried out, his only hope that she would hear, “Call the police!”
The big guy reacted immediately, swinging his arm towards Walter’s head with an orc-like grunt. Walter was fast enough to duck under it, the oaf’s knuckles grazing the crown of his head. His shoulder exposed, Walter seized an opportunity. Throwing his weight into him, he managed to push the brute over. Then he watched him stumble and crash into the wall, spewing curses as he fell.
The other shadow was quicker, lunging after him while hissing a battle cry. Walter turned to fend him off—when something cold stuck him in the lower abdomen. He looked down. The shorter thug had stabbed him. For the first few seconds, he didn’t even feel it.
“Hey, let go!” said the hoodlum, trying to take back his knife. Walter had grabbed him by the wrist, holding tight. “I said let go! Let go of me, ya freak!”
No, thought Walter, his soul burning with all the angry heat of the sun and stars. First, you’re going to pay.
With his left, he struck the short man in the collar. As soon as it connected, the two separated in a cacophonous burst of fire and light. Walter flew onto the curb of the street behind him, landing hard on his backpack as his head once again bounced off the pavement. Dizzy, he struggled to his feet, leaning on the building for support. He had to see what he’d done. The man he’d hit had struck a dumpster. Its rusted metal wall had warped around him, supporting his limp body.
He heard someone whimper. It was his bigger accomplice still slouched against the wall, eyes large and wet with terror. Walter had only one thing to say to him. “Leave.” He’d never seen such a fat man move so fast. When he was gone, Walter slid to the ground, leaning against the wall. Feeling weak, he reached for his phone.
Then it all went black.
Groaning, Walter stirred once more. Blinking, he took in his surroundings. A hospital bed, one of many at the end of a wide hall. A harsh pain still radiated from his abdomen. Lifting his head, Walter looked down at his injury. He was topless, his only covering a thick wad of gauze and tape clinging to his wound. That’s right, he remembered, I was stabbed! He reached down to touch the wound, finding his right arm shackled to the rail.
Most other beds were empty, except for the one across from him. He could see the shadow of a nurse moving behind the curtain. Down the hall to his left stood a group of four or five people, nurses speaking with two officers of the city guard. Dressed in blue and gold, one of them turned and looked at Walter, noticing he was awake.
Walter dropped his head onto the pillow, cursing under his breath. The nurse from across the way approached him. “How are you feeling?” she asked, voice full of false compassion.
“I’m not sure,” Walter croaked.
She put a hand on his forehead. “You still have a nasty fever.”
Not this again, thought Walter. His whole life, the people around him assumed he was sick based only on his temperature. Only his parents knew for sure that he was just a hothead. For as long as he could remember, Walter had never taken ill. “I’m more concerned about that,” he told the nurse, nodding toward the bandages.
“You’re gonna be just fine,” she assured. “You didn’t lose much blood at all. We had to get inside and stitch a few things up, but there was no infection. You were smart not to pull out the knife.” Walter shrugged on the inside, sure that he would have, had he not passed out. Sighing relief, he relaxed his shoulders and lay back. “That’s right,” said the nurse, “settle down and stay put.” She pulled his covers up to his chest and asked him if he’d like something to drink.
“Ice water,” he requested, realizing how dry his throat was.
“Back in a second,” she promised, leaving the hall.
Before Walter could even close his eyes, another voice called from his left. “Mr. Helrath?” It was one of the guards. “I’m Officer Laden,” he said with fingers pointing toward his collar, then at the younger, homelier one. “And this is my partner, Officer Mouste.” Both of them had blonde hair and blue eyes, typical for this city.
“We just want to ask you a few questions,” Mouste explained in a calm, almost friendly tone, “to get an idea of what happened here tonight.” He also took it on himself to use the bed’s remote to prop Walter up into a sitting position.
“Ow,” he groaned as the bed pinched his body around the wound. He then attempted to fold his arms, reminded of the handcuffs restraining him. “Self-defense,” he said, frank.
“Fair enough,” said Laden, pulling up a chair to sit with his legs straddled around the back. “We understand that you may be the victim here—I mean that stab wound makes it very likely. This kind of situation is usually pretty straightforward, but…” He paused to scratch his cheek. “We couldn’t help but notice how severely the other party involved was injured.”
Mouste listed them off his memo pad: “Concussion, fractured collar bone, dislocated shoulder, five cracked ribs and—this is weird—second degree burns around his left wrist.”
“Now,” Laden continued, “We don’t want to point any fingers or seem insensitive to your condition, but we need the truth.” He leaned closer. “Who attacked who, exactly?”
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” interrupted the nurse as she returned with a paper cup for her patient. Walter wasted no time accepting the drink and gulping it all down right there. As he allowed the cool liquid to soothe his throat, he thought about what to tell these guards. Just then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed someone in the emergency room lobby. A single occupant—the gold and leather girl from before!
Walter coughed, splashing a mouthful of water onto his chest.
“Oops!” The nurse crooned, dabbing Walter’s chest with a towel.
Mouste looked on and chuckled at the uproar. “You gonna live?” he joked.
“Mr. Helrath,” Laden barked, sounding annoyed. He waited until Walter’s fit was over, then asked the nurse to leave. “Mr. Helrath, why don’t you tell us, in your own words, what happened tonight?”
Walter sighed. Backed into a corner, he gave them the half-truth. He described how he’d meant to aid the person that stole his bicycle in return. He even rehearsed some of the things said, though denied knowing anything about the other party’s burns. The guards explained to him that there was soot found on the other man’s shirt, and more on Walter’s knuckles.
“I don’t know how that happened!” Walter snapped. “I pushed the fat guy, he stabbed me, I hit him, then I passed out. That’s all I remember.” There was a long pause as the guards stared down at him with skepticism. Walter shrugged, exasperated. “Look at me! You think a shrimp like me is capable of something like that!?”
Mouste folded his arms. “He’s got a point.”
His partner sighed, “I still think there was some foul play.”
“Yeah, no kidding!” Walter remarked, gesturing toward his wound. “My bike was stolen, and then I was stabbed!”
“Well,” said Laden, standing up. “As it stands, we have no warrant to keep you detained.” He looked at Mouste.
There was an awkward pause. “Oh!” Mouste realized, grabbing his keys. He fumbled with them for a while until finally finding the one to unlock Walter’s handcuffs, and released him.
“We’ll see you real soon,” Laden grumbled as he pushed Mouste and left the emergency room.
“Can’t wait,” Walter snarled. As he watched them leave, his attention turned to the girl in the waiting room. She stood up to ask the guards a question, looking at him sideways as they answered. Soon after, she was by his side, sitting in the same chair Laden had been. Though she scooted much closer.
“Are you okay?” she asked, reaching for his hand. He pulled it away.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, glaring at her.
She frowned. “I just wanted to make sure you were you were alright…and to apologize for before.”
“Were you following me?” Walter asked, blunt.
“No! I mean…not intentionally. I heard you shout, then—then I found you, so I called an ambulance.” Walter only stared at her longer. She shrugged, “We were going the same direction anyway. I thought…”
“What else did you hear?”
Catching on, she looked around. Then, smirking, she sat back and folded her arms. “That was your talent, wasn’t it?”
He squinted at her. “My what?”
“You know. Your, uh, power. You can do things that normal people can’t.” With her words, she tapped her finger on her left forearm. Without thinking, Walter covered the same place with his hand. She nodded, as though he’d confirmed it.
Walter could feel his face getting hot. “Get. Out,” he growled, reaching for the button to call a nurse.
The girl put her hands up. “Fine!” She said, “I’ll go. But I’ll come back if you have any questions.”
He scoffed, “Why would I ever want that?”
She smiled, “Trust me, you will.” With a flick of her wrist, a metallic bangle flew out of her sleeve and up over her head. In the air, the band stretched out to the size of a hula hoop. When it came down over her, she vanished—chair and all.
Tonight, I met the Boogeyman
Posted 6th of October, 2012
You aren’t going to believe this! I actually MET the BOOGEYMAN! Like a lot of people, I didn’t believe the rumors about this vigilante superhero in our city, but now…man! Let me start from the beginning.
I was coming home from school late last night—I say ‘late’ because I had missed the bus so I had to wait around another hour for the next one. So, it was about eleven-thirty at night. I don’t live in a very good neighborhood, but for whatever reason I decided to take my chances. I don’t usually get picked on, either, because of my size (not the kind of size to be proud of, mind you) but I guess tonight the usual fools were desperate for some action. Now, I’d been in this situation before, more than a few times when I was a kid. I knew the drill—give them what you can and they’ll leave you alone. It’s almost like paying a toll fee, and when you didn’t have any cash, they took something else: shoes, purses, your phone, things like that. But this time I couldn’t spot them any cash. I had spent the last of it buying some snack cakes waiting for the next bus (again, not proud).
I was in my scrubs and an old, ratty pair of sneakers, and they for sure had no use for any of my text books. So I bit the bullet and tried to hand them my phone. No, you read that right, tried. They backed away from my six-hundred dollar smart phone like they were afraid of it, like they’d changed their minds. For a second I was scared that they wanted something worse—but that was when he appeared.
Boom! He landed in front of me, standing between me and my collectors. He wore these grungy boots that went all the way up his calves, camouflaged cargo pants tucked in, and a green leather jacket. He had on these fingerless biker gloves and had tape wrapped around his arms. I couldn’t see his head, as it was obscured by a dark hood.
One of the guys must have freaked out, pulling a gun out of his pants. He didn’t waste any time firing the thing, whooping and hollering as he let off three or four shots that split the air, and nearly my eardrums. I fell on my butt trying to move out of the way; consider me lucky for not typing this up from a hospital.
I could swear up and down that he hit the guy that had jumped in at least twice in the torso. But he just stepped back, like it was just a little shove. Another one of the guys grabbed a piece of wood off the pavement and rushed him, splintering it over his head. Again, he just took it like it was nothing. The guy just stared at him with the broken wood in his hand, like he’d just struck his momma.
He was on him like a viper, coiling his fingers around his arm like a vice and pulling him in. The guy screamed like a baby as he wrestled him the ground, slamming his head on the asphalt. The hooded dude pinned his knee on the guy’s arm and yanked up on his wrist, hard. Snap! The screaming got even louder, and all the other dudes bolted, leaving their friend to suffer.
This guy, he…laughed, then, but I wasn’t sure. His voice sounded muffled. He approached me and helped me to my feet. “Are you alright?” he asked, sounding gruff and deep, like something was caught in his throat. Besides that, there was something…weird about the way he sounded.
I got a glimpse of his face in the streetlight, or what was supposed to be his face. Instead was something smooth and white, with big black circles where his eyes should have been. And where his jaws should have been were dark spaces, as though his head were merely the upper parts of a skull.
“Are you alright?” he asked again, pulling me out of my awe. I nodded. “Good,” he nodded in reply, “stay safe.” He turned and briskly walked away into the night.
“Wait!” I called after him, “Who are you?”
He turned to face me, stepping sideways into the shadows.
And then he was gone. Just like that. I made it home and locked the doors. It’s nearly two AM now, and I can’t sleep. I thought about calling the police but…why should I? The police should be patrolling this place on a regular basis, but where were they when I needed them?#text #long #ramble #The Boogeyman