IV: Here & Now
“—To be honest, I wouldn’t have been surprised if you never remembered me at all.”
I’m so caught off guard by these words that I immediately jump to my feet to see who it is who’s speaking them. There’s no doubt in my mind that I should definitely be the only one up there on that roof, but I’m definitely not imagining that voice.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve momentarily forgotten that I am actually up on a roof. I attempt to get to my feet much too quickly, and begin to stumble down the inclined surface. I feel an instant rush of uncertainty and regret as my feet tumble over the ledge. To put it bluntly, this is going to suck.
I shut my eyes tight, bracing myself for the impending impact, only it never comes. It’s another moment before I realize that I’m standing on solid ground. More precisely, as I open my eyes back up, I find that I’m still standing on my roof.
“I was falling,” I mutter to myself. Things have now officially become too weird for me to allow my thoughts to remain un-vocalized.
“And now, you’re not,” says the same slick voice which had spoken only a moment before. “A ‘thank you,’ wouldn’t be unheard of in a situation like this one, you know.”
I whip around again, this time making sure to pay closer attention to my footing. There, situated lazily atop the peak above my bedroom window, is a thin, pale young man, with hair so black that the night air around him is bright by comparison. Most unsettling of all is that his eyes, which are trained directly on me, seem to be glowing a deep, bright shade of green.
“Who are you?” I demand. “How the hell did you get on my roof?”
“So much hostility,” the boy grins a grin so wide that it threatens to jump right off his face and attack me. “Is that any way to greet an old friend? Your parents taught you better than that. I know that they did.”
For the second time in two days, by parents are being thrown in my face. This time I’m not having any of it; least of all, not from some creepy, glowing-eyed stranger. “Get down here and tell me who the hell you are,” I shout at him.
Any illusion that I’d been managing to maintain of level-headedness is gone now, but I can’t bring myself to care. I’m so far beyond done with everything that’s been happening that I don’t even care if I wake the whole neighborhood.
Then, suddenly, the boy is standing right in front of my face; nose-to-nose. He didn’t walk there though. No, he just…appeared, out of thin air. I jump backwards and almost tumble off the roof again, but he grabs me by the forearm and jerks me back toward him so that his glowing eyes are looking dead into mine.
“You know who I am, Jimmy,” he says lightly. I can’t see his mouth, but I’m sure that he’s still grinning that same unsettling grin. “It’s me, Bump”.
For a moment, I come up blank. I’m so at a loss that I can scarcely even recall what I’ve only just now remembered. Then, I do. I burst out laughing now, I can’t help it.
“Is this some kind of birthday prank? Did Ty put you up to this?”
Normally, Ty’s pranks are mediocre at best, but he’s the only person in the world aside from myself who might have known about my childhood imaginary friend. If he did though, I must have told him about it so long ago that I can’t even remember having done it. The fact that he still could still remember something like that after all these years is actually pretty impressive.
“What prank?” the pale stranger asks as he makes sure that my footing is once again safely situated.
Stepping away from him, I can see that he’s genuinely confused by this statement. It must be a prank though, there’s no other explanation. Sure, I don’t know yet how to explains some of the things that have happened tonight, but I’ll figure it out eventually. The first part is fairly obvious, though.
“So, he actually went out and hired an actor for this? That’s taking things to a new level, even by his standards. How much is he paying you?”
The kid just scratches his head, and gives me this look that says he completely believes that I’ve lost it. That’s ridiculous, though, because I’m the only person on this rooftop making the slightest bit of sense.
“I know that you know who I am,” says the guy who isn’t my imaginary friend, because that would just be stupid. “If you didn’t, then we couldn’t be having this conversation right now. Those are the rules.”
“Oh, so now there are rules?” I ask, incredulously playing along to see where he’s going with this. Finally, that haunting smile flickers from his face. A confused grimace takes its place, drawing hard lines into the young man’s porcelain features.
“There were always rules,” he says. “Jimmy, why do you think that I had to leave?”
Suddenly, the worst day of my entire life is washing back over me, and I’m drowning in it all over again. It had all happened so long ago that it was easy to forget that my parents’ death hadn’t been the only turning point in my life that day.
“Don’t call me that,” I say. There’s a quiver in my voice that shouldn’t be there. This is all just an ill-advised joke that’s gone on for too long now, and has gone too far. What was once begrudgingly impressive is now cruel, and cold. That’s not like Ty. Ty is mischievous. Ty is a prankster. Ty is a people-pleaser, though. He wouldn’t intentionally do anything that would make anybody this uncomfortable. But if Ty isn’t behind this, then the only other explanation is impossible.
“I told you not to call me that!”
I move to shove this person, whoever he is. I’ve had enough of this now. Rather than make contact though, the entire weight of my body falls right through him, and I tumble onto the roof behind him. He looks back at me and frowns, but seems otherwise undisturbed by what’s just happened. Before I can find my words again, he begins to slowly dissipate into nothingness right before my eyes.
“I guess that you just need some more time,” he says in a voice that’s now more of an echo than it is anything else. Then, he’s gone.
Before any of this can sink in, yet another unwelcome blast from the past hits me from behind. On the other side of my bedroom window, Ty begins to shout manically at the top of his lungs. At first, I wonder whether the thing-that-claims-to-be-Bump has manifested itself in front of him the same way that it had me. Then, it dawns on me.
“Shit!” I exclaim as I hurry to my feet and climb into my bedroom as quickly as I can.
The night terrors are back.