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I was 15 years old during that weekend in June when my mum decided to skip town and visit her distant family. Nothing unusual about the decision to just up and leave as she often goes to visit ‘the other side’ as she called it.
She’d either visit her parents – a part of the family that I actually enjoy seeing– who occupy a modest cottage up in the hills of some English land.
Or if she was feeling tolerant, she would make the trip down to see her annoying, yuppie cousins, living it up in their seemingly never-ending Spanish property.
That’s where she was going this time. I never felt the need to go and listen to the constant, loud-mouthed whining of their quest for importance but given the choice now, I would have sat through a week of their intolerable rambling if I could have known what that weekend had planned for me.
My mum woke me up on the Friday morning and as usual, she’d gotten me the day off school. I was told that she’d be back on Monday morning, just in time to make sure that I’d gone back to school to reassure my teachers that it was nothing more than a three day stomach bug. I carried her bags to the car, gave her a kiss on the cheek, waved her goodbye and just like that, she was gone.
I made my way into the kitchen to make my breakfast, all the while thinking how excited I’d gotten the first time my mum had trusted me to stay at home on my own. It was different now, almost trivial.
That first day I just lazed about: I listened to my music, played some games, watched a movie, all of the usual things a bored teenager would do. Then I fell asleep. After what I think was about two hours of sleep, I was awoken in the evening by a knock.
I arose from the couch like a zombie, still sleepy and aching from the awkward position that I’d somehow let my limbs rest in. I had initially planned to ignore the knock at the door but the thought of it being a friend made me want to answer. Having company always made the weekend go faster.
So I clenched the door handle with a faint smile on my face and hoped that I didn’t look as tired as I felt. With my eyes still half closed and that strange taste in my mouth that I get after a sleep, I opened the door. My eyes soon widened when I realized what I was looking at. A tall, bony looking, old man was standing in my doorway. He was dressed in a black suit and tie with an aging bowler hat placed on top of his scraggly, grey hair.
His white shirt was stained with a yellow and brown sort of colour that I could only guess was coffee and the shoes that he was wearing were very well kept, very shiny, so much so that I could see my reflection in them. He began to speak, his words were hushed, maybe even hissed in a child-like sort of tone but I couldn’t focus.
I knew he was speaking but I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying, not while I was looking at his face, staring into his eyes. His complexion was wrinkled and very pale, almost like a hazy shade of silver, but the edges of his eyes were completely black. What looked like smeared charcoal surrounding his vision only highlighted the depth of his gaze. There was nothing human about them, they seemed hollow, lifeless. The fear that gripped me when he stared straight through me was like nothing that I’d ever felt before.
I took a deep breath and finally mumbled a word, “Hello,” I said.
He smiled. Oh god, that smile. It seemed to extend upwards toward his ears as if there was nothing stopping it. His mouth was packed with razor sharp, dirty yellow teeth and every once in a while his black tongue would swipe the surface of his upper deck in a slurp. With his head tilted slightly to the left, he crooned softly, “Hello there child, I’m here to offer you something important, something that you might need. I’m a salesman you see, just a salesman. Please, all I need is a moment of your time in exchange for some peace of mind. Are you interested?”
I couldn’t move, I could hardly breathe, I felt frozen. Terror had encompassed me. I finally muttered a sentence, “I can’t – I have to go – it’s too much, I’m sorry.”
The door slammed behind me and I could breathe again, I could think. I slouched down to the ground, trying to process what I had just witnessed. When out of nowhere a thud made itself known. I looked up, with my mouth ajar and my eyes darting about, then I slowly stood. Making my way into the kitchen I could hear a gentle humming, it was a happy kind of tune but the unknown source made me shiver. My stomach dropped as I turned the corner, he was there, humming that tune, smiling that smile, sat at my table just staring at me. I backed away towards the front door where I was welcomed by a shadow “That can’t be him” I thought to myself.
I began to tear up, I couldn’t help it. I headed straight upstairs, past my bedroom, past my mum’s room and vanished into the bathroom. I could hear him, he was singing now, right outside the door. I panicked, I didn’t know what to do. Then it hit me, my only choice. I couldn’t believe I was actually contemplating climbing out of the second floor window, but I had to. The shadow passing by through the light on the other side of the door was forcing me to do it. I opened the bathroom window and stared outside, but there he was, stood on the edge of my garden, waving at me and slowly drifting down the road. Taking his song and fading into the distance.
That night I slept in the bathroom. With the door and window locked, I set up a bed using a bunch of towels. I just couldn’t bring myself to leave until daylight emerged. The next day finally arrived –after what seemed to be the longest night of my life– and I had to get out of the house. I went over to stay at my friend Adam’s house for the day and forget about what had happened. It’s a strange feeling you get when something so frightening happens to you but seems so unreal that you begin to doubt yourself; It’s like you have two minds. I may have had a moment of doubt but I always knew it was real, and if I didn’t after the first meeting with the salesman, it would definitely be forever etched in my mind after the weekend was over.
Later that night I was told that I couldn’t stay at Adam’s house as his family had to get up for church in the morning. I begged and pleaded with him to let me stay but his stubborn mother was having none of it and sent me on my way. I only lived three streets from where his house was so it wasn’t much of a walk, but I still had to walk back in the dark of night and I wasn’t looking forward to it at all.
That face kept creeping into my mind, the thought of him being in my house yesterday, the fact that someone had been able to scare me out of my own home and that damn song he kept humming… that song he kept humming… I turned the corner and I could hear it. The tune, the voice, he was here. I looked down the road expecting it to be empty “Just my mind playing tricks on me” I thought; but there he was.
Standing under the streetlight staring at me, smiling. He began to walk towards me, his hum turning into a song, singing louder and louder as he began to run at me. I had to run, I sprinted in the other direction as fast as I could and I could hear his footsteps behind me “How is he so fast?” I thought. I had to get back to Adam’s house, I had to. I turned the corner and banged on Adam’s door frantically “Open the door! Open the door!” I shouted.
His mother answered looking terrified, wondering what had happened to me. I stumbled into their house and scurried backwards, only to look outside and realize that he was gone. Was it my imagination? It couldn’t have been, but there was nothing there. Nothing. Nothing, except for an old bowler hat on the ground. Needless to say, she let me stay at the house that night, because –as she put it– I wasn’t fit to stay on my own.
I woke up the next morning feeling like a mess and looking even worse; but at least the sun was out. I had to get back home, I hadn’t been there in a whole day and I had to make sure everything was okay. I thanked Adam and apologized to his mum; then I was off on my way. I stood at my front door, took a deep breath and gripped the handle. Then I heard a bang, then another and another. I jumped back from the door in pure fear, I couldn’t believe it was him again, how is he doing this? But out of nowhere my mum answered; I’d never been so happy to see her in my life. I hugged her and told her never to leave me on my own again.
After that we went inside and sat together all day –something we haven’t done since I was a young boy– and everything felt safe again. She showed me her new white dress that she had bought, told me all about her visit to her annoying cousins and spoke highly of her weekend; but I couldn’t do the same. That afternoon I told her everything that had happened, she listened intently and couldn’t believe that something so horrible had happened to me. She felt so guilty. She apologized over and over and told me that we would go to the police station the next day, but right now it could wait and we had to get ready for dinner. An hour or so later, we settled down for our meal. I told her all about school, explained to her how much better I had gotten on guitar and she just sat there and listened; smiling as I ate my meal.
She stared at me and I felt uneasy, her smile slowly got bigger and bigger, whilst her new, white dress slowly melted into a black suit. She hissed, “Do you see how easy it is to give someone some of your time?” At that moment, the salesman was right in front of me.
I cried out loud, “I knew it wasn’t over, what do you want? Why me? Why my mum?”
“You know why I chose you child, you never listened. I told you it could have been something that you might need, I told you it was important but you ignored me. You didn’t have the time. So I used the one person that you trust, that you listen to; and let’s just say that I like to be somebody else, if only for a while.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll listen now.”
“It’s too late for that. It’s too late. It’s a shame, child because it really could have saved your life.”
That was it. It was over. Done. So, how am I writing this now? Why am I telling you all of this? Well, you’ve given me some of your time so here is your supposed piece of mind; I like to be somebody else, if only for a while.
Credited To: Jacob Newell