I got the phone call right before lunch. My high school was taking a day off for teachers to catch up on work, so I just dropped Eddy off at elementary school and napped until lunchtime.
I was slapping together a sandwich when the phone rang. I couldn't tell what the Caller ID was, so I pressed the TALK button and waited for the other person to speak first.
"Hello, this is Roberts Road Elementary calling about your son, Edward..."
I suppressed a snicker. Eddy was my little brother. He wasn't a bad kid, but he hated school with a passion. I couldn't wait to hear what he did that was so bad his teacher had to call home.
"Hey, uh...My parents aren't home right now," I said. "I'm Edward's older brother. What did he do?"
There was a brief silence at the other end of the phone. "Are you the kid that walks him to school?"
"Shouldn't you be in school?"
"It's a teacher workday."
"Understood. We need you to come talk to your brother."
I was slightly annoyed. Didn't he already have enough people to talk to without me missing lunch? But I agreed to come anyway.
When I arrived, I was about to check in with the front office when I noticed a disturbance on the playground. I went to investigate.
It was surrounded with barbed-wire fence, but Eddy's teacher was standing at the gate with a key. She waved me over and let me in, making sure to lock all three of the padlocks when I was on the other side.
There was a huge crowd of little kids there, all of them crowded around one prone figure. Eddy.
I rushed over, and for half a second I was afraid he was dead, but then he put his arms over his head and bawled. I knelt down beside him, and the kids all took a step closer.
"Hey, buddy," I said softly, struggling to keep the irritation out of my voice. "What's up?"
"He's...gonna...get...me!" Eddy answered in gasping sobs. "I don't wanna..." He said something else, but it was muffled by the sand he was lying in.
"No one's going to 'get' you," I consoled. "And if they did, they would probably give you back anyway."
Eddy sat up and shook his head, whimpering. "He's gonna eat me!" he insisted. "He said so! He has sharp teeth and bloody hair!"
I didn't have time for stupid monster stories. I just wanted to get back to my sandwich. Putting my mouth next to his ear, I growled in a low voice. "Listen, Edward. Either you shut up and play like a normal person, or go be weird at home. You're causing a scene!"
Eddy stopped crying, but he didn't stand up. "I wanna go home," he whispered, his tear-streaked cheeks bright red.
"Fine. Come on." I personally didn't care if he missed school for one day.
His teacher started to protest. "Young man, I don't think you're allowed to do that! Only a parent or guardian can take a child out of school..."
"You let a stranger inside school grounds without even asking for ID," I reminded her. "Wouldn't it be a shame if your employer found out?" Her face blanched, and it slowly dawned on me what I just did. I couldn't believe I said that. Can't you go to jail for blackmail? "Please open the gate so I can take my brother home."
The teacher puffed up, furious, but I slipped my hand inside of my pocket and brought out a glimpse of my phone, and she grudgingly let us out.
We were walking home, and we were about halfway there when I got the strangest feeling. I looked around, but but no one was here except us. Still, it felt like we were being watched. I hated being surprised, though, so I fixed my gaze over my shoulder then made Eddy walk in front of me, keeping a hand on his back to guide me.
Eddy stopped suddenly and made a terrified squeak. I looked back around, intending to reprimand him again, but my words died in my throat.
Standing in front of us, dead ahead, was a man. He was wearing a bright red suit and matching pants, slicked back maroon hair, and dark sunglasses, even though it was cloudy today. He had smiled, exposing a mouthful of yellowed, strangely shaped teeth. His faint shadow seemed to flicker and dance behind him, even though he stood completely still.
I was reminded of Eddy's story about a monster with sharp teeth and bloody hair, and chills ran up my spine. I pushed Eddy behind me and walked past nervously. The man's head never turned, his expression never changed, only staring blankly in the same direction. I don't know why, but for some reason it made him so much creepier. I didn't want to have to slow down within 50-feet of this guy, but if I ran, Eddy wouldn't be able to keep up with me. I stopped and crouched low to the ground. "Eddy," I whisper-yelled. At the sound of my voice, the man's head snapped around and he looked right at me, his smile growing. "Jump on my back!" I shouted.
Eddy complied, tears running down his face, and I took off running, bouncing him up and down on my shoulders. Adrenaline fueled my speed, and we got home in minutes.
Eddy slipped off my back and started locking the doors, while I trudged upstairs to my room, breathing heavily. I didn't even want that sandwich anymore--if I ate anything now, I would puke.
About ten minutes later, Eddy started calling for me. "Josh! Jo-osh!"
"What?" I yelled back down.
"Can you make me lunch?" he asked pitifully. "I didn't get to eat yet."
"Fine," I groaned, and went downstairs. It smelled funny, almost like that time we found a freshly killed deer in our yard. "Eddy? Where are you?" I called.
"In the living room!" he answered. I followed his voice, but paused in the middle of the hall. The walls are painted a hideous red color, so I usually try not to look at them, but today they seemed a little...discolored. Not the entire wall, just some small patches, especially near the bottom. I hoped it wasn't mold, because then I'd have to spend the weekend scrubbing the hallway.
"Josh!" Eddy yelled again, more urgently.
"Be patient!" I retorted, and walked into the living room.
My breath seized in my chest. It felt like I'd been punched in the stomache as I stared, not believing, not understanding.
The strange man from before sat on my couch. His red suit was stained crimson. So was the carpet, the couch, and... my brother. Eddy was dead, lying upright next to the murderer. His heart had been torn out of his chest. Pieces of skin and muscle littered the floor.
"Josh!" the man called again in Eddy's voice. "Josh, Hurry up!" He looked around, but he didn't seem to notice me standing on the threshold.
I stumbled backward and fell, still reeling from the shock. At the thump my butt made when it hit the floor, the man smiled. "Josh," he said. "Can you make me a lunch? Please, big brother?" Then he reached up and took off his sunglasses.
I screamed. I couldn't help it. The man's eyeballs were white and rotting. One of them fell out, and the man laughed as my screams intensified. It wasn't a nice laugh. I didn't know my brother's voice could even make that sound. Then, much to my horror, the man reached over to my brother's face and dug his fingers in. He pulled out Eddy's eye, and pushed it into his own empty socket with a wet plop. The eye started moving immediately, and it focused on me. "Not quite the right fit, I'm afraid," he said with a sigh. "Can I borrow yours, big brother?"
Finally, I came to my senses. I jumped up and ran to the stairs. I could hear that monster still talking in Eddy's voice, insisting that I come back. I raced up to my room and slammed the door. My phone...I have to find my phone! The police will help me. The police will know what to do. I dug my phone out of my pocket and shakily started to dial 9-1-1, but right as it started to ring my phone died with a sad whine. "No, no, NO!" I screamed, and hurled it against the wall a milisecond before I realized all I had to do was plug it in. Helplessly, I watched it shatter against the wall along with my only hope of rescue. I half-heartedly try to put the pieces back together, but then froze as I heard footsteps outside my door.
"Josh!" the monster cried. "Josh, it's me, Eddy! You have to help me! He's gonna eat me, Josh. Echo's gonna eat me! Please don't let me die!"
"You're dead!" I screamed, sobbing. "You're dead! He already ate you and you're already dead!"
"No he didn't," whoever it was outside my door assured me. "I'm ok! But I can hear him coming! Please let me in..."
It was so tempting. The monster sounded exactly like Eddy, and I would have opened the door, if someone had not chosen that exact moment to crash into my house downstairs.
"Nobody move!" they shouted, and I heard several footsteps. "This is the police! You are under arrest for unwarranted stalking, and breaking and entering!"
The police! I exhaled slowly and collapsed onto the floor.
"Who, me?" the monster on the other side of the door asked. He didn't sound scared or even worried, just mildly amused. "No, officers, I believe you are... mistaken."
There were several loud thumps, and gunshots. I counted three before the house was totally silent. I heard more footsteps on the stairs, and a knock at my door.
"Sonny? Are you in there?" It was the policeman. He sounded tired and a little sad.
"Y-yes..." I whispered.
"You can come out now," he told me. "Echo is dead. He tried to jump us."
I remembered the gunshots and shuddered. I could never stand the sight of dead bodies. "How did you know to help u-me? I meant to call 9-1-1, but..." I faltered.
"Some of your neighbors saw Echo sneaking into your house and called the dispatcher," the policeman replied. "Now, I'd like to ask you a few questions. May I come in?"
"Sure." I trudged over and unlocked the door. It creaked open, and someone walked in.
It wasn't the policeman.
The monster--Echo--let out an inhuman growl and shut the door behind him. Before it closed, I saw the police officers downstairs, all dead. The sight made me so sick I threw up.
"Now, sonny," Echo said in perfect imitation of the policeman's voice. "Just stay still. You'll be fine, don't worry. Everything will be okay."
I stumbled backward, gasping for breath, but he crossed over to me in a single step and grabbed the front of my shirt, crooning "Everything will be okay..."
The last thing I saw was his bloodstained hand reaching out towards my face.