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Well, except for that one house painted entirely pink. Everyone in town was used to it, though, and it was often used to give directions in town.
As one would expect, I had a lot of trouble making friends. I wasn't the most social kid in the school. I was still learning social cues, and I didn't really fit in with any of the groups.
Until Mal moved to our school.
He was a strange boy, with a mop of black hair, dark circles around his eyes, and vivid green eyes. He would talk about monsters and fairytales all the time, try to correct the teacher (believing two plus two equaled whatever he felt like the answer was that day) and often ended up in the principal's office. He liked to make strange deranged creatures out of clay, and often colored on his face. Most of the kids avoided him, and one even picked on him for a while, before growing bored doing so.
Despite his lack of popularity, he remained as optimistic as ever, and even a bit prideful.
One day, he noticed me playing alone. He came over and asked if I wanted to play with him. Happy to have a friend, I agreed.
We played hide-and-seek, hop-scotch, and tag. Every now and then we would indulge in our imaginations, he would be a knight, I would be a princess, and then he would save me.
I eventually got labeled one of the "weird kids" which bothered me at first, but then I decided it was better to be weird than alone.
One day, I invited him to my birthday party. He was the only kid my age who attended. When offered cake, he said he didn't want any. Again, he was a weird kid.
A couple months later, he invited me to his house. My parents asked to talk to his parents, but he said they were too busy to talk. My parents, worrying about the safety of their kid and with a "better safe than sorry" attitude, chose not to let me go over unless they could talk to his parents.
However, he convinced me one day to go to his house without my parent's permission.
I was hesitant, I mean, come on, I was young, but I knew what would happen if my parents found out. It took him weeks to talk me into it, and he promised he had all sorts of fun things at his home.
Eventually, I gave in. However, being childishly paranoid, I took my camping pocketknife with me, in the pocket of my pink dress.
When we got there, the place was a dump. It looked like no one had been there in years.
When we entered, I realized that he lived here alone. There were no adults, or any sign there had ever been life in this house, except for a bag of jerky lying on the ground, Mal's favorite.
"What's going on?" I asked, pouting. This didn't look like the fun he promised.
He turned his head and smiled. "This isn't my real home," he said, moving towards me.
I looked at him, wondering where his home really was. He then grabbed my hand, and as if he could read my thoughts, whispered, "I'll show you."
We began to sink into the floor, and I began to scream. He tried to calm me down, but the best he could do was get me to stop screaming. I ended up crying instead.
Eventually, we went all the way through the floor, and ended up in a beautiful field. I couldn't believe my eyes. It looked like a place from a fairytale.
He took me to what appeared to be a small cottage, but when we stepped inside, it was more like a castle, filled with children of different ages.
Everything about this world seemed too good to be true.
And it was too good to be true.
Eventually, I decided I wanted to go home.
That was the first time I had ever seen Mal frown.
"You can't go home," he said quickly.
My eyes widened. "Why not?" I asked, about to cry again.
He glared at me. "You're supposed to stay here, forever," he said coldly, the ends of his hair beginning to float a little, "You will love it here much more than you loved your family."
This disturbed me greatly. Love this place more than my family? It seemed so unthinkable.
He smiled impishly, "Wait 'til you see what else this place has to offer. You can fly, you can change the colors of the plants, you can even choose what age you want to be, and change your mind later!"
To prove his point, he turned himself into a tall handsome man, and summoned some flowers out of thin air and offered them to me. I refused, causing him to begin to grind his teeth, but he acted like nothing was wrong.
"This place is a dream come true. Why would you not stay? I thought we were friends," he said. His last sentence digging into me, but I tried to stand my ground, although I was afraid of what he might do.
"I can't just leave my family! I love them!" He cringed as I stressed "love." His skin began peeling like paper, revealing pitch-black darkness underneath, as if he were made of it.
"Well," he said darkly, turning back into a child, "I am not going to let you go. You are going to stay here, and you are going to like it!"
Suddenly, the plants underneath my feet began to grow and wrap around my legs.
I thought I was going to be trapped, then I remembered my pocket knife. I pulled it out and slashed the plants while there were still only a few, then thought of something. We had sunk into this world, maybe I could float back out again!
I willed myself to rise into the air. As I flew away, the once beautiful world began to turn dark and grey. All of the trees turned dead, all of the color left, and it looked lonely.
Eventually I encountered what appeared to be the very top of this world, almost like an invisible ceiling.
Suddenly, I felt something pull on my ankles. I looked down, and Mal, in the form of the tall man, but with his eyes completely green, including the whites and pupils, and all of the skin peeled away, with the black darkness underneath replacing it. He began to scream at me.
"I won't let you go!"
I floated up higher.
"You can't leave!"
I pushed my hands through the ceiling, as if it were made of water.
I felt the floor on the other side, and began to pull my way up.
"Please... don't leave me."
I was half way through the floor, when I stopped. I put my head back under the floor.
"Come with me then. Come live at my house."
He looked up at me, thoughtfully, tears in his eyes. He seemed fond of the idea for a moment.
Then, almost instantly, the fondness gave way to anger and pride, and his hair began to fly around.
"I will not leave this world! This is my kingdom. You will regret leaving, child. You could have lived for centuries in happiness, but you are choosing to condemn yourself to foolish mortality!"
I didn't understand half of what he was saying, being only seven at that time, but he continued to rattle on for a few minutes, before concluding that if I wanted to live only to eventually die, that was my choice.
"Fine!" I said, feeling a little more defiant than usual.
I began to pull myself up, and he began screaming. Obviously, he thought his prideful speech would have convinced me to stay, and began to lose it when that didn't work.
As I pulled my feet through, he began to sob loudly enough for me to hear on the other side.
But it was too late. I had pulled myself all the way through.
Naturally, when I got home my parents scolded me for worrying them, and going to Mal's house without permission, but they were obviously relieved. I decided not to tell them the whole story, since they wouldn't believe me. However, they noticed a black mark where he had grabbed my ankle. It is still there today.
Sometimes I wonder what exactly he was. Was he a demon? A Faerie from traditional folklore? A Ghost, maybe? Whatever he is, he definitely isn't human.
But then, all I can think of is the strange little boy who used to play with me, who used to be my friend.
If I hadn't gone to his house that day, would he have stayed?
One day, years later, I heard a rustling in the small house in Towanda I had moved into, and turned around to see a familiar face.
I said calmly, "Hello, Mal."
He was in his adult form, probably because I was now an adult. Yet when he walked up to me, he seemed so much like the boy I used to play with all of the time.
"It's not too late to change your mind," he said extending his outstretched hand.
I looked at him, deep in thought, pitying this creature who obviously had been alone all of these years, and never known family, and trying to decide how to respond.
"It's not too late for you to change yours, either. You could stay here."
He then glared at me, and clenched his hand into a fist. He walked away, and sunk into the floor, leaving a large black stain in the carpet, and a small birthday card for a girl who had just turned seven.
Written by PyroGothNerd