The Boy in the Lot, Page 2Ronald Malfi
He clicked the desk lamp on. Yellow light spilled out across the desk and half of the desk chair. Beneath the cone of light, Matthew again reexamined the pockets of his shorts. Then he went to the heap of clothes at the foot of his bed and sifted through each article of clothing—shirts, balled-up socks, another pair of shorts. There was no money anywhere.
Retrace your steps, said a voice in his head. He thought of the story of Hansel and Gretel, how they’d left behind a trail of breadcrumbs in order to find their way back home. Stupidly, this made him think again of his father, who had left no trail of breadcrumbs and appeared to have no intention of ever coming back home.
Holding his breath, because he thought doing so would stop his heart from beating so loudly, he crept out of his bedroom and onto the second floor landing. Across the hall, the doors to his mother’s and Brandy’s bedrooms were closed, the doorknobs a shimmery blue in the moonlight coming in through the high front windows. He proceeded to descend the steps, avoiding from memory the risers that made the most noise. It was like sinking down into the belly of a great ship. Over summer vacation he’d read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and not the dumbed-down version for children either. This had been the actual, honest-to-God novel. And while he did not fully understand everything he’d read, the glory and trepidation and horror of the adventure resonated with him more than any movie ever had. He thought of that book now, and how the underwater light shining through the portholes of Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, must have looked just like the swampy, blue-gelled moonlight coming through the windows of the front hall right now.
He’d hoped that thinking about this would alleviate his fears.
Around him, the house sounded alive. As he crossed from the front hall to the kitchen, a gust of wind bullied the house and made popping, groaning sounds within the walls. Matthew froze, his heart thudding with a series of pronounced hammer strikes within the frail wall of his chest. On the kitchen counter, silverware and drinking glasses gleamed in the moonlight coming through the window over the sink. Across the kitchen, the flimsy floral curtain that hung over the panel of glass in the upper section of the porch door seemed to radiate with a cool, lackadaisical light. His bare feet padding on the cold kitchen tiles, he went to the door, unlocked the dead bolt, and slid the slide lock to the unlocked position. It made a sound that echoed loudly in the empty, silent kitchen, causing Matthew to once again hold his breath.
There came a knocking on the other side of the door. Matthew froze, his skin suddenly blistered with gooseflesh. He waited for the silhouette of a head to appear on the other side of the sheer curtain. No one appeared. He waited. Outside, the wind picked back up, angry and unforgiving. The sound of the bare tree branches bullied by the wind was a haunted, creaking one, reminiscent of warped and loose floorboards. That knocking sound came again, slightly more muted this time. Again, Matthew expected the silhouette of a head to appear framed in the curtained panel of light. Again, no one appeared.
The door squealed on its hinges as he slowly opened it, though much of the noise was obscured by the rattling, locomotive sound of the whipping wind. Cold air blasted him and the flimsy T-shirt and boxer shorts he wore felt no more substantial than cobwebs. The banging sound, he realized, was the screen door banging against the frame. Beyond the screen, he could see the way the wind shook the bushes alongside the detached garage and, beyond, rattled the chain-link fence. Farther out, a sea of cornstalks undulated in the wind. Whirlwinds of dead leaves and scraps of trash danced across the yard.
It occurred to him that if he’d dropped Dwight’s money out here, it was long gone by now. In his mind’s eye—and not without a sense of utter despair—he imagined the dollar bills flitting like bats through the storm-laden night sky somewhere over the Cumberland Gap. Heck, for all he knew, they could be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean by now…
Nonetheless, he pushed open the screen door and stepped out onto the porch. The rickety boards complained loudly beneath his bare feet. The strong wind chilled his bones, and flecks of icy rain pattered against the side of his face. He hugged himself as he scanned the yard. There were scraps of paper stuck in some of the bushes beside the garage. Could they be Dwight’s money?
Matthew took a deep breath, steeling himself for the act…then quickly bounded down the porch steps. He hurried out across the yard, the wind icy cold and unrelenting without the confines of the house to serve as a buffer. Bits of flying grit stung his eyes. There was a motion sensor light above the garage doors; Matthew had completely forgotten about it until it clicked on, blinding and startling him. Like someone caught attempting to escape from a prison yard, he momentarily froze in the spotlight. He knew the light was visible from his own bedroom window, but Brandy’s and his mother’s bedrooms were at the opposite end of the house, facing the road. They wouldn’t be awakened by the light; he was safe for the time being.
Someone moved behind the tall hedgerow. Again, Matthew froze. The hedges stood just over four feet tall and ran the length of the yard to the side of the garage. Matthew blinked and tried to discern through the darkness the movement he had just seen a moment ago—a gliding, whitish blur passing just behind the bushes.
“Is someone there?” His voice was as weak as his knees. It frightened him to address the darkness aloud.
From the periphery of his vision, he caught another glimpse of someone—or something—moving behind the bushes, closer to the garage now. Had the motion sensor light not come on he might have been able to see more, but the gleaming halogen bulb caused inky pools of shadow to drip from the hedges and puddle around the side of the garage, blinding him if he looked too closely in its approximate direction. A twisting shape seemed to ebb and flow in the darkness just beyond the bushes, and he was reminded of the twisting shape he’d seen earlier that day when peering in the windows of the old plastics factory. He thought then of his nightmare, and of the flashing expulsions of light going off behind the grimy windows of the factory in his dream. And of Dwight’s voice, now eerily prophetic, saying, It sounds like someone moving back and forth on the gravel driveway. I look but there’s never anybody there.
As he watched, a figure stepped out from behind the hedgerow and paused, facing him, in the shaft of space between the hedgerow and the garage. The figure was a black blur, as indistinct as a distant memory, but Matthew had no question as to its authenticity. There was someone standing right there.
Matthew managed one hesitant step backward.
The figure took one step forward; one bare foot and a slender white shin appeared in the cone of light issuing from the motion sensor. A second foot joined it. As Matthew stared, the whitish legs and feet appeared to waver, and it was like looking at something from behind the distorting waves of rising heat. The legs weren’t bare at all. They were clad in grayish-blue denim, the feet encased in hard, black shoes.
Another step forward and the figure’s face emerged from the darkness. Matthew could see his father’s face, stubble along his cheeks and neck, the crooked part in the man’s prematurely graying hair. Still in his postal uniform, his shirt partway unbuttoned just as he used to wear it on those days after work when he went immediately to the garage to tinker around without changing his clothes first.
It took a moment for his father’s eyes to focus on him.
The motion sensor light clicked off.
Matthew Crawly was aware of a rush of wind, a strong embrace of arms…and then a piercing sensation at the small of his back. For a moment, he thought he could smell his father’s aftershave lotion mingled with the familiar scent of his perspiration. But that quickly was replaced by a sharp, medicinal smell that stung Matthew’s nose and caused his eyes to water. When he opened his mouth to scream, no sound came out. It was like trying to scream underwater.
His last conscious thought was of Captain Nemo’s submarine coasting soundlessly through the tar-colored waters of a frozen sea, silvery fis
h flitting by like mirrors of dancing light.
The Boy in the Lot
Fear lives in Stillwater.
Eleven-year-old Mark Davis wasn’t happy at all that his family was moving to the small town of Stillwater. He worried that he’d miss his old friends and not be able to make new ones. But he’ll soon learn that was the least of his worries. Something deadly is waiting to welcome him to town.
Enjoy this chilling, short companion piece to Ronald Malfi’s new novel to get just a hint of the terrors that await you—and the residents of Stillwater—in The Narrows!
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
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The Boy in the Lot
Copyright © 2012 by Ronald Malfi
Edited by Don D’Auria
Cover by Scott Carpenter
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: September 2012
Table of Contents
Beginning of Story
About the Author
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