Acres of grass carpeted the hills of Hansen Park, embellished with bike paths and picnic tables, its vast view interrupted only by lush trees and restroom buildings. Cool October wind blew grim prequels of winter, the purple-black 10pm sky blanketed by L.A. smog and poked through with blazing stars.
Wearing sweat pants and a tight T-shirt, Shelley Holdridge mounted a sore leg onto a soda-sticky cement table bench for a hurdler stretch, a vigorous three mile run finally conquered. The picnic area was dim-lit by a nearby lamp post, giving off a yellowish medieval dungeon aura, while frog-sounding crickets conversed as if in a reed infested swamp, and the faint unpleasant smell of someone's remnant “weed” hung pungently in the air.
As the blond pony tailed woman stretched, she peered over the table and found a tall, frail homeless man wearing a dirty camouflage coat sleeping on the opposite bench, a scraped up acoustic guitar at his side. A forty-something gent with lengthy hair and beard, reminding Shelley of a Bible character, though his smell and snores were unholy.
The sneering jogger retreated before “Lazarus” could resurrect. Before he could ask her the infamous question she heard from people like him every day: Spare some change?
Roaches and bums Shelley thought, trudging up a grass incline. Roaches and bums would be all that's left if we were ever nuked. She gazed back at the snoozing guitarist as one would shoot a contemptuous glare at leeches.
The bearded musician was amongst many of Hansen Park's homeless “artists” that roamed the area, ranging from acrobats to magicians to painters who performed or sang or acted for cash. Like the landscape's trees and baseball diamonds, its homeless artists, too, were fixtures.
She put back on her earphones and turned on workout music from an arm-strapped smartphone, continuing up the football field-long hill.
Shelley, moderately pretty for a twenty-five-year-old woman, had a blank stone-like face that aged her and rendered her unapproachable. A persona of a stoic Dragon Lady, or the female cyborg from “Terminator 3.” Even her boss, a former drill sergeant, always had a disturbing sense of dread around her, as if she was void of blood vessels or even internal organs.
But Shelley's “delightful” demeanor wasn't the only reason for her scowl this evening.
Three days ago, a good friend of hers was murdered.
Twenty-six-year-old Alan Mims was reclining in his Burbank apartment as usual, playing video games and smoking pot, when he was brutally stabbed by an intruder. He was found with a hole the shape of a sword through his chest and out his back, the Who-Why-How remaining as much a mystery as a brilliant Houdini act, the intruder taking nothing.
Alan was no altar boy, and often sickened people with his obnoxious attitude and slothful lifestyle. But Shelley knew of no one who would slay him medieval style. Aside from his pot and video game addiction, Shelley missed her friend.
Reaching the hilltop's plateau, the music stopped as Shelley's phone flashed its fifth low battery warning.
Shelley glanced right, to a small clearing several yards away, circled by cement picnic tables and thin trees. On top of one of the tables, silhouetted against lamp light and moonshine, sat Jasmin Morales, a tall Latina with long black hair and a voluptuous figure, wearing dirty sweat clothes and beat up tennis shoes. She was statue-still, faced the trees and brush, her back toward Shelley.
Since their freshman year at USC, Hansen Park had always been Shelley and Jasmin's point. Three mile jogs, two-hour tennis matches, a place to get smashed amid finals, a spot to pass out after parties. And though it was now two years since graduating – finals replaced with deadlines, parties traded for nightclubs, boys exchanged for boy/men - their Hansen Park refuge remained.
Tonight was an evening when Jasmin desperately needed Shelley with her.
Shelley approached the clearing, observing the silent woman who had not slept, ate or bathed for days, reeking of cigarettes and alcohol. Never one for sensitivity, this was all foreign to Shelley, and the Dragon Lady simply sighed. “'You know what's missing in this evening?'” Shelley asked/quoted, hands on her hips, standing several feet behind Jasmin. “'That we don't have a very dry Vodka Martini with two olives in a chilled glass right now.' What's that from?”
Aside from being an alky, Jasmin was an aspiring actress and an intense film junkie, often quoting movie lines and asking people, “What's that from?” Drove Shelley nuts. Nevertheless, Shelley hoped it would help wither away the gloomy storm cloud of a woman that sat before her.
Jasmin, however, was unresponsive, keeping her back toward Shelley.
Jasmin's boyfriend was gone. Alan Mims was gone. Dead. Killed a few days ago in his home.
They first met Alan two years ago during one of their typical Saturday morning jogs, the allured young man tailing closely behind them throughout their entire run, causing Shelley to blurt out, “Got some nerve, perv!”
They were Jack, Chrissy and Janet soon after, Jasmin and Alan eventually hooking up, Shelley always the third wheel. And though Shelley wouldn't have minded having the perv for herself, she figured he and Jasmin were a better fit. Jasmin was obsessed with movies and television; Alan was addicted to video games. Jasmin loved alcohol; Alan cherished weed. A match made in space.
Folding her arms, Shelley walked closer to Jasmin, who was still turned around. “Hey, girl.”
Shelley's brows furrowed, a little spooked now. “Jaz? You okay?”
As Shelley stepped further, unfolding her arms, she watched Jasmin slowly and subtly get up from the table, fixated on something before her - something Shelley was unable to see, or hear.
Her back still facing Shelley, Jasmin stepped forward a few more feet, then stopped. Stood solemn, continuing to stare at the darkness before her.
Shelley's chest suddenly surged with shock at what came next.
Jasmin's entire head abruptly split in half, top to bottom, right down to her neck, as if it was a ripe melon sliced swiftly with a sword or machete (except … there was no someone with a sword or machete present). It sounded like padded leather or cooked turkey ripped apart, blood splattering and spewing along the grass.
Shelley's heart staggered while a tiny mouse-like squeak escaped her throat, observing the young woman's head-halves dangling opposite from each other, a ghastly sight that resembled a giant Venus fly trap. The body involuntarily turned toward the wide-eyed Shelley, who now had a three-quarter view of the horrific half faces.
The insides simulated raw ground beef, and the entire display reminded Shelley of a child's plastic long-haired doll head that snaps in half and pops back in place. Or abstract paintings in waiting rooms or high school art classes. Or weird aspirin ads for splitting headaches.
The world went abruptly gray for Shelley and she wobbled like a three-legged chair, gawking at Jasmin's drooping, sagging eyes, the space between the head-halves voiding a great jet of blood, almost solid. Shelley held on grimly, until the world swam back, watching the bloodied body sway and swagger like a drunken sleepwalker, then timber onto its back. Shelley unleashed an awesome scream, with great baritone bellows that splintered up toward wild Soprano levels.
She then blitzed from the clearing, bolted down the hill.
But not a person was in sight, this area of Hansen Park a graveyard this time of night.
She reached the picnic area at the base of the hill, stopping at the table where she was before, the homeless man no where in sight. Panting, wailing, sweat minced with tears, Shelley ripped the phone off her arm, hoping for enough power for a 9-1-1 call. The drained phone, however, wouldn't even turn on.
Her mind whizzed along Mach two, like the last few seconds before puking on a wicked roller coaster, the discombobulated woman wondering what in God's sweet name just happened to her best and dearest friend.
The hell was she looking at?!!
The hell could have done that?!!
Maybe it's an abnormally weird condition...causing a head to split in half under vast amounts of stress...?!!
Bzzzzz! Next contestant!
Unleashing more hysterical sobs and shrieks, Shelley glanced back at the hilltop, waiting for her morning alarm clock to ring. Waiting for Jasmin to pop out any moment and yell “Gotcha!” holding a split-headed prop. "Jigsaw-Jaz ... ha ha!"
Sniper next popped into Shelley's pulsating head. With some sort of special weapon...?
Shelley didn't feel much like finding out, and as her Mustang sat miles away across the park, calling her name, she prepared for another blitz.
Then she paused, a distant twig-snapping noise grabbing her attention. Her heart pounding in her ears, she gazed in the noise's direction, finding the homeless “Lazarus” standing several feet away in the lamplight, staring off into the distance.
Once seeing him with a flip-phone, Shelley decided on another 9-1-1 attempt, and scrambling toward him, shouted, “A girl's been killed!!”
But the long-haired homeless man remained quiet and still.
“Hey! Hey!” Shelley yelled again, snapping her fingers at him as if at a dog.
But he continued staring at something in the distance, eyes and face fixated.
Shelley faced the direction he stared in, finding nothing but trees and darkness, hearing nothing but leaves rattling dryly in a little puff of wind. Terror, directionless yet powerful, again flew through Shelley on dark wings, the man's behavior similar to Jasmin's before she split in half.
“What do you see?!”
Still gazing ahead, the man spoke in a mild tone. “What in God's name's he doin'...?”
Suddenly, a hole the size of a golf ball opened abruptly at the center of the man's forehead, blood spurting, the surrounding skin and flesh folded inward the way a small hole would open from a cracked airplane window in mid-flight. “Pwaaagh!”
With a shrill cry, Shelley held her face, fingers involuntarily digging into the soft pocket of flesh under her eyes as she watched the man's eyeballs roll upward, becoming bare white.
His jaw dropped like a draw bridge, arms dangled lifelessly, blood poured out of the head-hole and ran down his bushy beared like thin spaghetti sauce while he remained standing, teetering and tottering.
Shelley instinctively jolted back in anticipation to bail, but halted, mesmerized by something behind the man from a three-quarter view. Behind his head Shelley observed a long, thin line of blood and brain bits suspended in midair, as if covering a long stick, parallel with the ground and jutting from the back of the head, approximately one-and-a-half-feet in length. While the blood dripped and flesh parts dropped, Shelley examined the “line” closely, her eyes bulging as she realized that the blood and brain were held up by absolutely nothing. Nothing she could see, that is, except the shape of some type of stick, blood forming a sharp triangular spearhead at its end.
Then the thin line of blood suddenly fell to the ground, along with the bits of brain, along with the homeless man, collapsing onto the grass.
Screaming, grimacing at the sprawled hole-headed corpse, Shelley was in half-shock, muttering in her orbiting mind, Something … captivated them.
The newspaper article on Alan flickered in her head: Police baffled over man's mysterious death.
Then Shelley's eyes caught a dark figure twenty feet before her, embedded within tree shadows and silhouetted against the yellowish lamplight.
It'll captivate you, too, Shell...
A man-figure, it seemed, his shaded outline replicating a shadow actor. His stature was thin and lanky, his appearance shrouded by the gloom, and all Shelley could see was a faint pale image of his bright clothing – a costume or outfit – consisting of a tight, long sleeve T-shirt and tight pants.
Close your eyes, Shell ...
His face was also opaque within the shadows with a kind of moon-like haze. His eyes – gleaming, beady, abnormally shaped – stood out the most, like cat eyes, or distant light houses
But her eyelids would not even budge. Nor would her entire body, and she simply stood there, a mannequin with pulse, staring at the stone-still man. She tried with all her strength to move, but couldn't. The feeling was similar to sleep paralysis – waking up with a temporary inability to move. But it was something else. Another feeling, stemming from her brain, the cerebellum. Intensely triggering her intrigue and fascination. The allure felt when seeing a car crash or a fight and unable to look away. Her pleasure sensors, the nucleus accumbens, were also stimulated. A warm glow reminiscent to sitting in a soothing Jacuzzi or bubble bath and not wanting to leave.
Slowly and steadily, the dark figure raised both his gloved hands slightly before him, waist-level, the way a weight lifter holds a barbell for bicep curls – elbows bent, shoulder width apart. He clutched his left hand into a fist, knuckles upward like he was starting a motorcycle. The other hand was palmed up, partly opened, as if resting something in it, like a “stick” or “bat” - and yet it was really nothing. Nothing but the vacant air before him.
All the while, Shelley struggled to close her eyes and move her limbs, her face drenched with perspiration. It was like trying to move through quicksand, or run for your life during a nighmare, and yet stuck.
His eyes on Shelley, his body remaining still, the man continued holding the virtual “stick” horizontally across his waist, the way a musician holds his guitar or a soldier harnesses his rifle. Then, with his right hand, he began touch/feeling another invisible device at the end of the stick, an object which hung from it like a flag off a horizontal pole. Gently, with precision and without sound, he glided his arched fingers over virtual curvatures, moved the hand steadily over the lengths and corners, indicating a large triangular, bell-shaped object with a rocker/smiley-shaped base. He then reached behind his back, withdrawing a smaller invisible object. He held it underneath the “bell,” and began quick-stroking the bell's rocker/smiley base, mimicking a barber or butcher sharpening his tool, soundlessly, as if a T.V. set on mute. With his index finger, he gave a few silent “taps” on one of the object's corners to emphasize its sharpness.
Shelley, still attempting to move and close her eyes, was finally conscious of what was being created, and it was then the man moved forward, placing his right hand back onto the invisible “handle.”
The man kept his “object” clutched at his waist as he approached, not a twig or leaf sound made from the ground where he walked. He stepped out of the shadows, now in full light.
His face was painted turquoise/blue, lips dark turquoise, matching his gloves that reached half his forearms. He was without emotion, cold, a sentinel or toy soldier, saying not a word. A ghastly laceration lay across his upper neck area. His left eye was abnormally huge, beastly, as if the socket harnessed a small baseball, shone bright yellow with a heavy vertical gash just above the eye and brow. His right eye was squinted and partially opened, as if punched or reacting to allergies, the eye color bright apple red. His black hair looked as though cut with a sugar bowl on top, bangs perfectly horizontal across the forehead. He was a terrific blend of KISS, Moe Howard and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
More droplets of sweat ran down Shelley's neck as she conjured every ounce of energy to move, an intensity compared to an amateur weightlifter bench pressing his/her own body weight.
The painted-face man, meanwhile, placed his right hand at the end of the invisible “handle” with the other hand, raised both arms, holding up his noiseless virtual weapon like a ballplayer at bat. And just as the “tool” was in mid-swing, soundless as it flung through the air and a second from striking the shaking woman's neck, Shelley did it.
She broke free. Shut her eyes
She anticipated the “contraption” crashing down on her, but it didn't. Nothing happened, as she stood there with sealed eyes, still feeling the strong grasp from the sensors of her brain.
As before, Shelley heard not a single footstep or movement from the man. Yet she felt his presence. Sensed his horrid face mockingly close to hers. Practically smelled his anger and outrage, waiting for her to break and reopen her eyes, like a lion pacing back and forth, anticipating its human lunch climbing or falling down from a tree, or a vampire in a standoff with its prey wielding a crucifix
Shelley's body was no longer frozen, however, she kept her eyes shut, still feeling the seductive pull, and suspected she would still be vulnerable if she were to look at him. Her only option was to wait and see if this manipulative “spell” would eventually leave - along with him.
She stood there awhile, eyes shut, picturing him before her. Then, a feeling hit Shelley like an electric jolt, an overwhelming sense of familiarity about the face she'd just seen
I know who he is
Pictures flashed in Shelley's head. Flickers of the man, his ghastly face.
That mime. That stupid mime.
She and Jasmin would see him often in the park. That weird, grotesque man with the bright turquoise outfit, pantomiming. Anything from “walls” to “ropes” to “bows and arrows.” And never once, as far as she could remember, did he ever speak.
Shelley and Jasmin paid him no mind, and like many others, no money. Not only were his performances trivial, he was a public nuisance. He'd follow people around, pester them to watch his acts.
After years of being shunned and mocked, the mime became worse, seeking retaliation.
He snatched people's hats and purses in play. Mimicked elderly and handicapped people passing by. Once he was beaten up for inappropriately close-shadowing a man's girlfriend from behind.
A hated mime. Despised. Ridiculed. Alone.
Homeless. For years, living out of an old abandoned turquoise/white ice cream truck parked along a public street near the park.
Dude, thought Shelley. Dude the Mime.
That was his name.
It had been a while since Shelley and her friends had seen him or his truck. Several months. Shelley had figured the freak-o moved to another place to harass others.
But what sort of “thing” was he now?
While she stood there in the frigid night, eyes closed, her skin flushed with primal fear from his ecliptic aura, Shelley was again jolted by something...familiar.
The clearing. Its trees. The picnic bench. The bike path.
It all triggered a vivid memory, as if a re-occurring dream, or the way certain food or furniture smells can transport someone back to an old childhood den, or a pre-school or kindergarten classroom.
This spot. Right here. Yes.
It was six months ago. Before he mysteriously disappeared from the park.
Her eyes were kept closed, yet in her mind, they were opened. The gentle moon was replaced with a blazing sun. Stars became clouds. The cool air was exchanged for sweltering heat. Crickets were now birds.
It was one of their late afternoon jogs. Shelley at the helm, as usual, while Jasmin and Alan straggled behind. The “Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson reject,” as Alan refereed to the mime as, was performing one of his stupid pantomime acts that actually looked kind of interesting, breaking the trio from their exercise. Wearing that turquoise outfit, that crazy make-up, unable to hide that hideous face: the grotesque eyes, the nasty scar, that ugly laceration on his neck.
This time, it was the costumed artist clutching his throat, beating his chest, gasping and panting for air, reaching toward Shelley and the others who stood before him
Something new, Shelley thought. A 'Help! I'm Choking' shtick. “Pant”-omime. Ha ha!
“Lazarus” was also there, the homeless guitar player at his table strumming strings, watching the performer with little interest.
Still reaching out to the people before him, the mime mouthed words without sounds, his breaths becoming shorter.
He fell to the ground, onto his stomach, arms laid out as if skydiving. He lay completely still and quiet, his face turned toward Shelley's, his squinted red eye and enormous yellow eye glaring eerily at her.
A bit of clapping and a sarcastic “Bravo” from the three.
“Die, Mime!” Jasmin shouted, smirking.
Alan tossed him a dollar bill, saying, “Good riddance!”
Before joining her departing friends up the sidewalk, Shelley did a double-take toward the mime, catching something peculiar. Noticed purple bits of food embedded within green-brown saliva running down his chin. Several fruit dates scattered beside him, colored purple just as the food on his chin.
He was also a juggler, often seen bobbling balls, pins, or fruit. Once in a great while he'd plop something edible he was juggling into his mouth.
The “choking” act had looked real, too real, and Shelley had the sense something wasn't right. The mime's eyes remained open, gazing upon hers. Lazarus, too, had expressed the same awkward feeling. Stopped his playing, looked at the man, scratched his head. Then sleeked away.
Shelley had pondered the idea of staying, to see if it was more than an act. But she didn't.
Darkness shrouded the clearing as the sun turned back into the moon, Shelley's thoughts returning to the present evening, keeping her eyes shut while listening to the crickets and feeling the frigid night once again.
She stayed strong, the hypnotic grasp loosening, and she felt like “Alice” reverse-crawling out of the rabbit hole. Soon, Shelley felt no more pull, and slowly opened her eyes.
All she saw before her was his horrific yellow and red eyes inches from hers, jumping her heart into a gallop, and it was like gazing at an extreme close-up photo of the eyes of some wild animal, or like two blazing suns seconds from hitting the earth. But she remained poised, matching his hard, unflinshing stare.
Proclaimed boldly, “We didn't kill you, freak-o … you choked.”
His turquoise/blue face remained before hers, inanimate, devoid of expression. Yet his big yellow eye began glaring slightly off to the side, as if mortified.
“Stupid mime,” Shelley exclaimed, fear transitioning to anger. “What do you want? A hug? A big fat sorry?”
His dark lips remained closed, saying not a word, his yellow eye slowly shifting back to Shelley's, and she could swear that it welled.
Then Shelley watched as the entire entity began dissipating, as though fading into mist. Until nothing was before her except the dimly lit clearing.
“Ha!” Shelley blurted, wincing a half-grin, nodding in triumph. “Silly mime... tricks are for kids.”
Shelley, in her wind pants and Pink Floyd T-shirt, sat on short grass for a seated hurdler stretch. A crisp sunny day, birds chattering, Shelley's long hair gusting freely in the wind.
Encouraged to take time off work, Shelley had found this peaceful mountaintop “mini-park” for her workouts as an alternative to Hansen Park...a place she will never return to
Two weeks had passed since the “event.” Shelley never told anyone what really happened, knowing a padded cell would await her. Instead, 'a Burbank business woman found her friend and a homeless man mysteriously maimed' was the version for police and reporters.
Shelley did, however, find out some things about “Dude the Mime.”
Recently, Shelley had spotted a shirtless street dancer performing at a gas station near Hansen Park. Recognizing the fifty-something homeless man from the park, Shelley discretely asked if he'd known the mime. Continuing his Michael Jackson rendition while playing “PYT,” the former semi-pro baseball player reluctantly obliged Shelley.
Ten years ago, Nelson “Dude” Rucker was a stand-up comic on his way to stardom. But Nelson was also involved with certain 'business associates' and was found one day in an alley with a deformed face and his vocal cords surgically severed from his throat.
No longer able to perform on stage, no longer able to support his family, his wife left him, taking their five-year-old son. Nelson had no place but the streets, and had been there ever since, miming for money. Like many homeless people, the streets got to him, and he gradually became mentally ill.
“Guess you can say that crazy clown had gaged himself out of his own misery,” the dancer had punned as Shelley left the gas station.
Shelley glanced up from her stretch, looked at the other side of the grass field. Thirty feet away sat a woman in a wheelchair who resembled a creature as old as time, pushed by a young man parking the chair so she could enjoy the view.
Her body was a scrawny stick, shoulders hunched almost to the back of her skull. She wore a pink nightgown, had snow white hair put in a bun, and slack and droopy prune-like skin. Her cheekbones were incredibly high, her half-lidded eyes burrowed into her face. Her firm, thin lips cast not a smile, nor a frown.
The man gave the old woman gentle back pats, whispering in her ear. Not only did the woman seem oblivious to the man, but to the entire world around her, and simply stared straight ahead. Then the caregiver walked away, likely for a cigarette or bathroom break.
As she stretched, Shelley thought about Jasmin, as she often did since that night. She reflected on their times in college. Friday nights at 'The Crave.' Jasmin's dumb movie trivia.
She reflected on Alan. Remembered their hot little 'thaing' together before he and Jasmin dated (okay, once while they dated. But only once).
She missed her friends. Wished they would have been more stronger, like her.
Victims of that 'Mad Hatter's' rabbit hole, thought Shelley. That fantasy escape chute for the weak minded and weak willed. That hole for users, drinkers, gamblers, spenders, eaters, gamers, internet addicts, couch veggies, porn junkies, lottery players, horoscope readers, idol worshipers and bums.
But that hole is not for you, Shell...not for you.
Shelley gazed up, noticed the old woman staring in her direction. Not directly at Shelley, but around her, the woman now having a slight grin, as if given some pudding or Jell-O. Shelley hated being stared at, especially by kids and old people. It irked her, the way people get irritated by someone chewing with their mouth opened.
Shelley got up from the grass, the woman's annoying stares being her cue to leave. She stepped no more than two feet before she was abruptly stopped in her tracks.
“Nuuugh!” she shrieked.
It was as if Shelley walked straight into a wall with her cheekbone and shoulder, and as she instinctively touched her cheek, she realized there was no pain. More stunningly, there was no sight, nor sound of whatever it was she walked into.
Shelley put her hand out before her. With four fingers, she touched something. A barrier, a force of some kind. She placed both her palms vertically against the barrier with a bit more pressure. It felt neither hard, nor soft, and it made not a single sound as she touched it. An invisible, noiseless barrier, as though touching tremendous wind or water pressure powerful enough to stop anything – without there being any sort of wind or water.
Shelley glanced at the old woman, who now stared at her with a bigger smile, the way she might have once watched her grandchildren playing in sand.
Shelley slid her right palm along the invisible 'wall,' a foot and a half to her right, her hand stopped by another invisible barrier. Facing this wall, she slid the same palm along the mysterious barrier, to the right, and after three feet, reached another wall. She repeated the pattern, palming two more walls, each thee feet wide, until she was back where she started.
It was a transparent 'box,' the size of a phone booth, and after several more feels, she found that the invisible 'walls' reached from the ground up above her head. As though surrounded by highly spotless glass doors – yet not. She still heard bird chirps, felt cool breeze, watched a squirrel enter and exit past one of the walls. The box was nonresistant to light, sound, and objects – except Shelley.
Then it occurred to Shelley's overloaded mind like a light on the horizon. She looked around the grass field, through her invisible 'cage.' No sign of him anywhere.
Has to be him.
But he's gotta be seen for his tricks to work.
She also felt no stern seductive pull within her cerebellum, on her nerves or in her muscles, and wondered how this was all happening.
Shelley kicked and punched and shoulder-rammed at the soundless force, with no affect. Mounting her sneakered heels at the base of one of the barriers, Shelley pushed on a barrier before her, giving it all her strength. But it was like pushing on a brick wall.
She stopped pushing. Keeping both palms on the barrier, she closed her eyes. Breathed.
Calmed herself. Concentrated. She repeated Imagination a few times, eyes shut, palms on the 'wall,' waiting for it to disappear.
But instead, the invisible barrier pushed against her hands, moving closer, slowly, as if someone was pushing on it from the other side. Someone she could not see.
Shelley quickly placed her hands on the other three walls, all being completely still, and returning to the fourth wall, she found it still moving forward.
“No!” Shelley whimpered, both palms on the moving wall that drove her back toward the opposing wall.
Another thought breached her mind.
She turned toward the old woman who right-flanked her thirty feet away, who now had a wide open smile, displaying all her false teeth which gleamed in the midday sun, smiling as though at a circus and watching monkeys and acrobats.
“Close your eyes!!” Shelley shouted at the old woman, facing her squarely. “DON'T LOOK AT HIM!!!”
But the woman continued to stare with her chilling smile, head cocked to one side.
Shelley hollered “HELP!” a few times, hoping the caretaker would hear. But no one came. Shelley turned and placed her palms onto the moving wall once more, staring ahead. She pictured him before her – that turquoise-blue ghastly face, those abnormally shaped yellow and red eyes, his dark turquoise gloved hands pushing on the 'wall.'
Then Shelley attempted something she had not done before - ever.
In a soft, atone-like voice, Shelley stammered the words, “I'm s-sorry.”
But it was much too late for sorries. The wall was not stopping.
There was now a foot of space in between. Shelley rested both her forearms on the moving and opposing wall, forming a W, facing away from them and toward the smiling old woman.
Her eyes still half-lidded, head slightly cocked, the woman now had a glare like that of a child whose inner forearm was being stroked while read a bedtime story.
“Don't look at him!!” Shelley cried.
Shelley's shoulders were now being squeezed as she continued facing the woman. “CLOSE YOUR EYES!!!”
Shelley's bones began to crack, disjoint, and break, as if her body was a dry stick in a giant steel vice. Her head was squeezed like an orange in an O.J. maker, becoming a hideous purple turnip.
In a faint yet hoarse voice, the crushed woman uttered, “Close... your... eyes...”
Her head became narrower and narrower, simulating a Styrofoam head slowly crushed underneath a car tire, blood streaming from her nose. Then her mouth. Then her ears. Then her eyes. But instead of the blood sticking or clinging onto the invisible force, it simply bounced off the virtual walls and fell to the grass, at their base.
Her eyes bugged out almost comically as if on springs. Brain and blood popped out from the top of her blood matted head the way sebum and water explode from a ripe pimple being squeezed.
The old woman would next get to watch the turquoise-costumed man's “rope” act ... but not until her caretaker's return.