The whole day was just too weird. I got up and headed to the fridge just as the phone rang.
"Hello," I asked
"Hey, how's my boy?"
"Oh, hi dad. How's work going?"
"Not too bad. I'll be a little late tonight. Got a new account. In Vegas." The triumph was clear in his voice.
"The MGM Grand? No way," I breathed. Dad had been chasing this account before we moved.
"Yup," he said with some pride, "and we are going for the weekend."
"No way, you serious?" I asked
"Yessiree, but you will have to bring a friend because I am going to be working. We'll get together at night for a show. Think of it, a real Las Vegas show."
"That is so cool dad, congratulations. So I get to invite someone?"
"Yeah, we are flying down Friday afternoon and coming back Sunday night, all on the MGM."
"How did you swing that?" I asked unable to conceal my surprise.
"I told them I was a single parent with two kids that couldn't be left alone."
"Dad, that is so cool. I can't wait."
"Did you get together with your friend?" he asked.
I tried to explain quickly what had happened, but he kept interrupting seeking clarification. He was cool, but a real pain in the ass sometimes.
"So you are staying there tonight? That's good. Leave their number on the fridge, and have a good time."
I said goodbye and headed out to the park with a new spring in my step. Kyle was the best friend I had ever had, but if we were in the same hotel room I might get to see, um, more of him. Hey, It could happen. Ouch, too many lottery commercials.
After wandering for about twenty minutes I found Julius heading out of the park, that familiar ambling gait recognizable in an instant. I called out to him and he turned slowly to wait for me.
"Hey, boy. I was wonderin' when I'd see you again. What's goin' on?" he drawled.
I quickly filled him in on the past day's activities, including the upcoming trip.
"I done tole you he'd be a good friend, probably straight as they come though."
"So where are you headed?" I asked.
"Goin' to the house. Big day coming up and I just...feel so tired lately." He said, the fatigue suddenly clear to me. "You wanna stop over?" he asked.
"Sure, I have got a few hours before I'm due at Kyle's," I said. "So what is the big day coming up?" I asked.
Julius stopped and seemed to go into deep thought, then seemed to mentally shake himself and start walking again. I stayed silent so that he could organize what he wanted to say. He remained silent until we reached a small, neat house about three blocks from the park. He inserted a battered key into the slot and I entered his house for the first time.
The living room, indeed the entire house was quite spartan, the living room containing nothing more that a few chairs and a battered tabletop radio set on the floor.
Julius removed his coat and waved me to a seat.
"I need to ask you some questions," he said. But there was something different now. His voice was different, the drawl gone. Each word was formed carefully and deliberately.
"Wh.. What do you need to ask me?" I stammered, although I wasn't sure why.
"You have anything, well, kinda strange going on in your house? Unexplained cold spots that you walk through? That weird feeling like someone is looking at you? Or maybe you feel a breeze that's more than a breeze, and the windows are closed? Any thing like that?" he asked. He leaned forward intently, his being completely absorbed in my answer.
"I, well, that is," I stumbled," Yeah, actually, now that you, um, mention, something like that, did, does happen, sorta."
I wondered where this questioning was coming from, and why. And how did he know?
Julius seemed to relax, and leaned back in his chair. "I ever tell you about what happened when Jake's daddy tried to exorcise the demon he said I had?"
July 17, 1958
The sun beat down on the town unmercifully, and most kids had retreated to the coolness of their house or to the town pool. Julius lay in his room waiting to hear from Jake. Jake used to climb the drain on the outside of the house when Julius was sick and sit with him sometimes, just so he wouldn't be alone. Julius' parents were a little paranoid when it came to germs and sickness. Jake had never cared, though; even so he wasn't immune to getting whatever Julius had most of the time. But there had been nothing all day, but he would probably sneak out at night. Would he want to try and kiss again? Julius was hoping he would.
Julius woke from a doze, probably induced by the heat. The sound of heavy shoes moving up the stairs woke him, and he turned towards his door. Quiet voices floated back and forth, was that his mother sobbing? He started To get up when the door swung open. His father stood just behind Jake's daddy, and they looked at him as if he were a dangerous animal escaped from a zoo.
Julius was told to stand and face away from them. No sooner had he complied then he felt the handcuffs snap into place, he was driven to his knees by the reverend's foot knocking his balance off. He was then quickly bound at the ankle as well.
The rest flows together like a half-remembered dream. The smoke in his face, the sickening scent of incense, the stinging in his eyes, choking on holy water and the maddening voice of the reverend reading from the bible. Julius screamed, a sound that seemed to fill countless universes telling his pain, but the worst was yet to come.
The reverend led his parents out, telling them to let me recover my strength from the demon, telling them sadly that Jake had not done so well. He had not cried out and allowed the demon passage out of his soul, and had been sent away for intense treatment.
Julius wasn't crying, but my eyes had definitely misted over. We sat in silence for a few minutes before I asked Julius what had happened to Jake.
"I believe his daddy killed him. And I think he is still in your house," he said solemnly. "I have been talking to every resident that ever lived in that house since that time, and quite a few people said they felt the things you have. Only it's a lot more frequent with you."
"Is that important?" I asked.
"Very. It means Jake likes you. And that his time is running out."
I headed back to my house turning over Julius's words. Could he be believed on this subject? I mean, this was pretty out there. The phone was ringing when I entered the house.
"Hey, man. It's Kyle."
"Listen, my mom is making me go grocery shopping. Can we pick you up on the way back?"
"Sure, any idea what time?"
"Lessee, six ten now, my mother takes forever to shop, how about two am?"
"Kyle Stephen, tell him seven thirty or eight like I told you!" his mom yelled in the background.
"What she said," Kyle said.
"Ok, man. See you then."
I wandered upstairs and got my clothes together in my backpack, then took a shower. Feeling refreshed and singing to myself I walked into my room and sat on the bed. I leaned back and studied the ceiling. I wondered what Jake would look like, or what he might be thinking if he did exist. An uncomfortable thought occurred to me then: what if Jake was literally still here? If his father did kill him, where had he hidden Jake? I turned this over in my mind, and my pulse picked up a bit.
I decided to see if there was any truth or if this was an elaborate hoax. I would go to the basement and search for likely spots in the house. My biggest problem was figuring out where a murderer would hide a victim. Wind tousled my hair and I sat up like a bolt and looked at the windows. Yup, closed. And something else, the faint outline of a slim form, about my height. Then it was hard to tell if it was there at all, or if it had been me.
"Jake?" I asked timidly of the air. "Jake, if it's you, it's ok. Please come out."
After waiting for a moment I began to feel stupid, and then downright ashamed. Man that was just stupid to let my imagination run with that story Julius was married to. This house was old and drafty; of course other people had similar experiences. It would only be strange if they hadn't.
There was a knock at the front door and I went to the window and saw a car out front. Must be Kyle I thought with anticipation. I picked up my backpack and as I straightened my vision seemed to shift again, like when I had seen Kyle in that special way, but there was someone standing there now, amid the psychedelic swirls there was a boy. 'It must be Jake', I thought. His hand was on my temple, and his lips closed on mine in the most unreal experience I have ever had. I was frozen with terror and pleasure at once. The spell was broken by Kyle's voice coming up the stairs, calling me, calling me, as if he were miles away. The apparition lifted a finger to its lips, then removed its other hand from my temple. The world went black.
"Justin, hey Justin! Wake up, sleepy! At least you coulda gotten in your bed!" Kyle said as he shook me.
The world swam in to focus, and I saw Kyle's face, sweet and mildly concerned. His face pinched and the concern grew.
"Hey, you ok? You don't look very good."
"Yum, uh, yeah m'ok," I mumbled, slowly getting to my feet.
"Dude, you look like you saw a ghost."
I began to giggle, then to laugh. That was so funny, I thought I would pass out again.
"Hey, seriously, you ok?"
"Didn't know you cared." I grinned.
"I don't, not really. It's just that you look like you're going to puke, and I don't want any on me." He grinned back, then asked in a serious tone, "Really man, you ok?"
I thought for a moment, and it was very clear to me then.
"Yes, oh yes. Right as rain, my friend, as rain."Previous Chapter Next Chapter