The way the scrawny kid in front of the rusty gate said the word "afraid" made it sound as if I were only a few steps away from some devilish haunted house when all I was doing was going to get my baseball back.
"Afraid of what? The house?"
I didn't want to push the kid aside. I'm not the rude or bullying type, you see.
But for telling me how scared I ought to be, he remained rather immobile, staring up at me with two deer like brown eyes.
Since I wasn't getting an answer from the kid before me, I just chalked up his fear to the house. After all, it wasn't exactly basking in its glory days.
It looked so dilapidated that one strong wind would be liable to blow it over. It didn't look like it had seen life in a while.
"Okay...okay. I've been warned. Please move," I remarked as I gently reached out a hand to be able to gently lay it on his shoulder to usher him off to the side.
The kid shied away from my hand, looking towards me with those same eyes.
I merely shrugged. At least the kid's shying away made it so I could have a clear path to get my baseball.
I moved through the opening in the gate, looking about the weedy yard for the baseball I had come to find.
The further back into the yard I walked, the less weeded it seemed to get, which was odd to me. Perhaps several decades of no one living there had allowed the yard to adopt odd habits. There.
Nestled under a thorny looking bush I could just make out my baseball.
I reached out a hand to grab it. I was so close. I could -
I paused. My hand was still in mere air. It sounded like the dry crunch of leaves, but that would suggest fall. It was spring.
Or perhaps it was more akin to the snap of a twig. A branch.
I turned then to see who was behind me. It was then that my eyes took in...it. That was the best way to describe what my eyes were seeing.
It seemed to emanate fear without having any distinctive body aside from the sharp, gleaming sword seeming to sprout out of it as a limb. It had to be the embodiment of fear.
Run. I had to run.
I propelled myself up and ran for the house, which no longer looked as decayed as it had from the road. It was as if having life on the property breathed life back into it. But that was stupid.
All this was stupid.
CRUNCH. CRUNCH. CRUNCH.
Okay. Maybe in this case not so stupid.
I raced into the house, shouldering the back door in order to get it to swing open.
The house was devoid of cobwebs; lights burning on the walls to dimly light my way and illuminate what few hiding choices I had.
The room lying off to the left was the best and most immediate option I had. My feet nearly slipped out from under me as I ran. I was in the living room, which wasn't devoid of furniture.
That worked to my advantage, although my immediate instinct was not to hide somewhere easy for whatever it was following me to find.
The window seat. Perhaps it wouldn't look there. I could hear it, feel it, getting ever closer. I opened the window seat, laid myself flat inside, and then shut it upon me.
I was enveloped in darkness; claustrophobic, dusty darkness. Of course I'd pick the one place that was dirty; the one place that felt like I had just buried myself alive.
Again, that was a silly thought. I was going to live. I was still so young. All I wanted was to live.
My cell phone. The sides of the window seat I lay in were making it press into my side. Why hadn't I used that earlier? I tried to shift in order to allow my hand to seek its way into my pocket.
My fingers were so slippery with sweat that I almost dropped it.
It was in the living room. Don't breathe. Whatever you do, hold your breathe. My fingers were trembling now, clumsily making its way across the numbers as I dialed '911'.
"Hello. What is your emergency?"
That was loud. The voice echoed in the window seat. Surely it heard it. But maybe it didn't. Maybe I would be lucky...
No. No. Definitely not lucky.
"Help me," I whispered. After all, I had nothing to lose.
"What is your emergency?"
"I'm about to die," I hissed out; the truth making my own blood run cold.
"I'm going to have to ask you to be more specific."
My eyes stared up at what was staring down at me. Now I knew exactly what it was. It had no definitive features because it was death. It was the perfect embodiment of death.
That was all my fear addled brain could say or think. I couldn't even move my limbs which had seemed to turn to jelly.
All I had wanted was my baseball. All I wanted to do was play the game.
But not this game. Not whatever twisted game of cat and mouse this game ended up being.
"Help you with what? What's the situation? Hello? Hello?"
From outside the house the scrawny kid stood with his deer eyes, listening at the scream within that seemed to die as soon as it was born. The kid's blood ran cold. Not again.
"I'm afraid..." He whispered to himself.
He said it to himself so that he would remain aware. He said it as a warning to others who didn't seem to want to listen.
It was his job to stand here every day, saying the same thing to the people that dared walked past the haunted place. He would say the warning to deaf ears though.
There was no escaping his calling apparently. In the end the humans were always so reckless. Humans thought they were immortal.
But only Death and he, his son, were that way.