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The Poignant Promise

By Erick Alden All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Horror

Chapter 1

You lie face down in the dirt----your face pressed into the newly manicured, spring lawn---you spit forcing out the few blades of grass, which found their way into your mouth in between the small gap of your front teeth.

Three, six-foot tall jocks stand over you-kicking and throwing out more insults than an anonymous political activist on Facebook. Ouch. Blow! After, blow, your oppressors’ attention diverts as a large SUV, blasting some incoherent rap music pulls up and honks the horn. After spitting on you and delivering a few final blows, they get in and drive off. You get up and brush yourself off.

Evil be to him who evil thinks. In short, the proverb means bad things will come to those who think or wish bad things for others. And, boy, should there have been something in store for Chad, the leader of your oppressors. As you about-face and start walking home you can’t help but notice an old man sitting on a porch a few houses away. His empathic stare tells you that he pities you, but You're really not in the mood to relive the embarrassment which occurred only minutes ago with a complete stranger and you're sure this old man wants to offer his sympathy. Hell, he may even offer stories of when he was bullied and he rose above the situation.

You are already late for dinner, which pisses dad off. The walk home used to be a peaceful time for you; until Chad and a couple of his goons started making it a habit to harass you. Every time you see him now you press your fingers so hard that you feel as if your palms will be penetrated. He is the kind of guy that gets anything and everything he wants out of life. A girl you could only imagine having, a ruling spot in the social hierarchy of the local high school, and two parents with prestigious positions and plenty of wealth. That SUV you saw earlier did belong to him after all, and you couldn’t even afford to use your father’s car with the price of gas. It dawns on you that one of Chad’s friends drove the SUV but you couldn’t bring your inner FBI agent to mentally investigate the situation.

When you got home, you moved with mere rote, setting the table for dinner.  Your ears fill with another round of complaints from your father's workday.  Funny thing, he works with Chad's dad. who also happened to be his boss. You see how unfulfilled your father is and can tell his envious he is of Chad’s father’s position. Dad always wanted to be the boss-He even had a chance at it until mom passed away. Things got really hard for you and him after that. Chad’s father is your father’s superior, and Chad can fuck with you as much as his heart desires. You know dad has a hard time at work, and trouble with the boss’s son could have severe consequences, so you suffer in silence. But no one knows just how much you are hurting. Every night before you go to sleep, you ask yourself why you of all people had to be placed in such poor predicament.

The next day, after sitting in a cold hard chair that made your ass number than any amount of opiate ever could, and staring at the long hand of the clock move slower than a union worker-You got the hell out of English class. Disappointment fills you when you see your recent test score of sixty-three percent, but you are happy to be the hell out of there nonetheless. Chad makes sure to rub in his near perfect score and remind you that one day he’ll be your boss just like his father and your father. You had grown accustomed to the constant insults and put-downs at this point and don’t even acknowledge his snarky little comment. To a degree, you know he’s right. Between your self-defeated father, and lack of your own confidence you gave up on stopping him and just did your best to avoid him.

You barely made it a block from the school when they attacked you again. Frustration and shame fill your pores when they open your book bag and throw the contents into a muddy puddle. So much for doing that extra credit for English you think, and keep your head covered throughout the rest of the beating.

On the walk home, you see the old man from the previous night. You really don’trecognize him aside from yesterday-which is pretty weird considering you’ve been walking this way to and from school every day since you could remember. The house was never for sale you think to yourself. He shoots you an inquisitive look and you get a weird feeling from him. Just something about him was different. You feel compelled to ask this man why he was staring at you so intently so you naturally walk over. It isn’t until you are only a few feet away you realize something odd about him. He has the eye of a vulture-a pale blue eye. You feel your blood run cold and your senses heighten.

“I saw you with your friends last night.” He said.

“Those guys are anything but my friends.” I said

“No point in being a king without peasants to torment.”

“But why do people like me have to suffer at their expense? I never did anything wrong. I mean why can’t those bastards find some other way to inflate their ego that doesn’t involve whipping my ass every day?” You say-half enraged.

He takes a step closer toward you and brings his face closer. With his one eye gazing directly into yours he said “come back tomorrow, and I will have the solution to your problem.”

This really just pisses you off even more. “A solution to my problem” You said. “My dad is a loser, my loving mother has been dead half a decade, I get pummeled to shit nearly every day-and some old man who probably doesn’t even live in this house has all the answers huh?”

He gives you a sedated stare. You can’t tell why, but it actually convinces you he has something up his sleeve. Without uttering another word, you turn around and walk back home to hear more unenthusiastic bitching about the monotony of the office. As you lay in your bed you wonder what the old man might have in store for you. The thought of him handing you a gun and telling you to shoot your enemies down ran through your head, but that was no solution to your problem. The problems in your life couldn’t be fixed with a couple bullets.

After the last bell rang, you follow the rest of the sheep to the exit of the school and begin your stroll to the house in solitude. You are happy to find the ogrish gimps have something better to do with their time today. When you enter the house your eyes fixate on the eye of the man. “Well what is your solution?”

“I can tell you have become emotionally numb in many ways. You don’t connect with other people like you were once able to.” He said.

“What the hell does that have to do with any of this?” You question.

“What if, on top of giving you your life back, I could also make you truly feel again?” You’re a generally skeptical person, but something about the man seems like he was genuine. You’re unable to explain the feeling, but you know he’s not just an ordinary old man.

“That would be nice.” You softly whisper.

The old man points out his index finger and sticks it right into your chest. You gaze at him with uncertainty, but hope whatever bullshit he tries works. Three seconds go by, and you start feeling an unbearable pain in your chest. The pain envelops you as everything slowly turns to black.

When you get home that night you can’t help but to sympathize with your father about his day. It just feels like a whole different experience to you now.

More than a week goes by and you start doubting the old man, until you get home to hear your father’s good for-a-change news. Apparently, Chad’s father made a complete ass of himself somewhere gambling, and ended up being talked about in a story on the news. He was fired from his job and your dad was happy to take the promotion. He secretly despised that man all these years and to finally step up was a big thing for him.

The idea of that old man having anything to do with this crosses your mind but you chalk it up to be no more than a coincidence.  But when news got to you that Chad dropped out of high-school, you are convinced.

Initially, it is great. You finally felt like you could live your life without someone attempting to shit on it. That isn’t even the best part. Angela Pamberton started hinting that she likes you. YOU. Of all people in the entire school. She was best friends with Chad’s girlfriend and you always dreamt of being with her. You never thought in a million years that your most sacred sexual fantasy would come true.

Not soon after, you find yourself on a double date with Angela; Jake and Emma the most popular couple in the entire school. You secretly told yourself that these would be the kind of full-of-themselves degenerates you would never intermingle with, but you don’t feel the resentment, it’s been replaced with aloofness. It was like you can be your dopey self and they love you for it. “Yo Jake pass the popcorn my man.” “Sure thing playa.” He said.

Emma asks Angela if she’d accompany her to the bathroom. Angela turns around as they scurry off. She gives you a flirtatious look. One that makes you realize how lucky-a-guy you were.

Jake leans inward towards you to whisper something. “Emma told me that Angela really wants you tonight man. You are so in there.” You blush and shake your head in disbelief.

Jake went on “I’m serious bro, according to Emma, Angela wants you to be her first time.”

You question. “I thought she lost her V-card a long time ago.”

“Nah man. That’s just people talking about something they don’t know about. I have been her friend a long time and she has barely so much as kissed anyone.”

You are sure he can read the excitement on your face. The girls return from the bathroom. The rest of the night is smoother sailing than a newspaper boat in a kiddie pool.

Everyone says their goodbyes, and depart. You and Angela hold hands on the way back to your vehicle. You hold open the door like the chivalrous gentleman you are-she giggles in response. You walk behind the car and do an embarrassing hope-she-didn’t-see-that dance out of excitement.

She’s holding your hand. Your heart jumps and you bring the car to an abrupt stop. You see Chad, half naked walking in the middle of the street-obviously pretty far gone. He turns around and meets your gaze. An odd feeling of guilt washes over you. Here he is in the middle of the street at whatever god-forsaken hour of the night. And you just couldn’t shake the feeling that you were responsible. The old man kept his word.

When you get home Angela insists on staying the night.  The first time you will ever make love in your life you spend the entire time thinking about the overwhelming feeling of guilt that’s building inside you. You didn’t want to see Chad and his father suffer. They may be ass-hats of human beings but they don’t deserve the extremely unfortunate hand they were dealt.

As soon as Angela falls asleep you tip-toe out the room and start the car. You need to find the old man. It takes you about the same amount of time to get to the house as it did to finish with Angela, so it was a pretty quick ride. You rush in and slam your arms on the door.

The door startles you when it crashes inward and bangs into the which makes a noise that probably interrupts the neighbors’ sleep. There is no one to be found. You search the premise up and down so thoroughly J. Edgar Hoover himself would have been proud; but there is nothing here to suggest anyone lived there in over a decade.

You think back to your experiences with the old man over the past few weeks. Can you even trust your own memories? How can you live with yourself knowing that you could be responsible for ruining the life of another?


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