I wasn’t quite… normal, growing up. I have a few memories of my next-door neighbor telling me bedtime stories.
There is a negative sort of feeling attached to these memories. I think he scared the living shit out of me, but I can’t
My mom was a druggie. She finally overdosed when I was twelve. My dad went to work, he almost lived there, he
hated being home. I woke up late, and went to look for her. I was able to look after myself by then, hell, I could take care
of myself when I was EIGHT. But I still wanted to make sure she hadn’t wandered out onto the street or something. I
looked after her, you see.
I didn’t find her until it was time for bed. Nine’o’clock, my dad was still
at work. Shmee told me there weren’t monsters under my bed. But I had to check every night, anyway.
My mother was
under my bed. Her huge, dead eyes glared at me, as I screamed and screamed.
I stayed there for three hours, crouched beside
the bed, afraid to move. My father came home at midnight, wanted to know why I was still up. He called the police. They asked
me questions, I couldn’t answer. I didn’t talk for a week. I couldn’t.
I had screamed too much.
moved a little after that. Not for me, no. My father saw to it that I slept for nine hours a day in that same bed. For four
months. We moved because he couldn’t get work; my mother had ruined his reputation. Johnny, that’s what my neighbor’s
name was. It’s coming back to me a little now. He was very sad to see me leave. He told me to be very careful, he wasn’t
there to look after me anymore. I remember the going away present he gave me. It was a knife. Twelve inches long, made of
silver, with emeralds in the hilt. That thing scared the shit out of me. I left it in my empty room. Right where my mother
I’ve never been back to that house. I’m hoping it will stay that way.
I’m eighteen now.
I no longer really listen to that bear. I haven’t since last Thanksgiving, when he told me to push my father down the
stairs. I listened to him, that last time. And I got away with it, too.
I’m back in my old neighborhood, now.
Not on purpose, no. I’m here because I wanted to take a little drive. It’s stupid to be afraid of a house.
bet there’s a nice family living there now. I bet Nny’s gone. Oh, yes, Nny. He told me to call him that. I always
called him Scary Neighbor Man. I bet he would be proud of me now. He told me to look out for myself, and I have. Oh, I have.
drive past my old house. I was wrong. No happy family. It’s deserted. The windows are boarded up, the boards spray-painted
with gang symbols. I pull my car into the old driveway. The cracked pavement is even older than I remember. I look at my old
window. Someone looks down at me. No, they didn’t. It’s boarded up, too.
I go to the front door. It’s
locked, but a hard kick opens it as well as a key ever did. My father used to change the locks every other month, in case
I decided to run away.
I step into the front room. The decorating is the same. Drab and grey. Slightly more dust. I move
to the stairs, they creak, but they take my weight. I ascend, and go to my old room. The door is closed, the only door in
the house that is. I push it open, and it squeals like something out of a horror movie. For a minute, my mind projects an
image onto the bare walls. My bed, covered it he blanket I had made. Pictures on the floor, tacked to the walls. Crayons scattered
about carelessly. But the image fades. There is only the dust. And the knife.
It lays on top of the dust, sparkling as
if I had just laid it down. I walk over to it, my sneakers leaving tracks in the thick layer of dust. I pick it up, the silver
shines as if it had just been polished, laid here for a second. I never would guess it had been there for over six years.
tip is still sharp, I knew it would be. And I suddenly know what I have to do. I walk slowly out of my old room, down the
stairs. I’m holding the knife still, and a sort of energy is flowing off it into me.
I walk across the dead grass
in the yard. There’s barely a difference, now, between the grass in our yard, and Nny’s yard. I walk to his door,
and pound a few times. The doorbell is there, but it’s plastic case is cracked, I don’t think it works. The sign
above it, Ring me, I Dare You, is old, faded by years of rain.
The door swings open, light floods out of the house. I didn’t
even notice it was dark out here. Nny is standing there, looking exactly as I remember him. He isn’t quite so big, but
I’m not little anymore, either.
“I’m here, Johnny.” I say, holding out the knife to him. “I
came back.” He looked at the knife, took it from me. He remembers it, I can tell. A smile cracks his face.
You’ve grown. Come in, you have much to learn.” I walk inside, and the door shuts behind me.