I was walking down the street from the market with a bag in one hand and milk in the other. The breeze in my face brought me a chill and goose bumps ran the length of my arms. I turned down an alley, dark and deserted. I knew then something was wrong.
As I walked deeper and deeper into the dark alley, a large, red-brick, graffiti covered wall loomed higher before me. I jerked around at the sound of a crash and saw a garbage can fly up over the wall, a bloody eyeball rolling from under it to my feet. Terror struck me as I watched the naked reticle melt away, leaving only a puddle of ooze.
Curiosity soon had me climbing the pile of rubble at the back of the alley in hopes of seeing the destination of the mysterious airborne trash bin. When I peered over the top edge of the red wall the sight set my stomach in a knot and my balance faltered. I fell into the bottomless chasm beyond, deep and dark as pitch.
I was tumbling down through darkness, on and on until I hit water. The oddity of my survival struck me as unusual while I lay there in the shallow puddle trying to reclaim the air in my lungs. When my breathing eased, from the surrounding shadows came a creature. It chanted in its labored breath, “GG, GG, GG, GOOOOO…”
As it reached an extended arm to me, I awoke in my own bed, safe and sound at home. I was breaking in a cold sweat.
I got up and went to the kitchen in search of breakfast, but my sister had beat me to the last of the cereal. My disappointment continued when I found the milk had been spent as well.
Mom proposed that I take a walk and pick up some things from the market. The venture was a touch over a mile but I always enjoyed the exercise. I could use the time to sort out the disturbing dream which had troubled my rest the night before.
As I walked, I passed a familiar alleyway, the ever-present breeze bringing with it a sense of deja vu. I continued on, but when I heard the bang of an aluminum trash lid my dream came rushing back to mind. I gritted my teeth against the urge to go down that alley, and despite the tug, continued on to the market.
In the shop, I chose from the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and candy. I purchased some cereal, a pack of skittles for my sister, and two percent milk as Mom had instructed. I then started out of the market unsure of what the walk home may bring.
The sight of the alley brought my teeth to a chatter and a sinking feeling to my belly. Everywhere, there seemed to be ghosts in my anxiety. A passerby had commented on the pallor of my face, and my own shadow once scared me when it climbed the wall on a turn. That’s when it happened.
From around the corner of the alleyway my sister leapt, “BOO!”
What little color was left in my face surely faded at the trick and I nearly dropped the half-gallon jug in my hand. As I sighed with relief, Jillian took advantage of my unusual reaction and fished out her skittles from the grocery bag. Then with an insulting funny-face, she ran off toward home. I would not have failed to give chase had I not then heard the sound.
“GG, GG, GG, GOOOOO…”
I ventured toward the familiar chant, daring half the length of the alleyway. I crept past a pile of black trash bags on my left and neared a skewed dumpster, the lid half open from lack of being emptied.
The doppler hum of passing traffic from behind me was amplified among the walls of the hollow and drowned out the sound of my scream when the GG sloshed out from behind the green bin. Its eyelids were drooping under green slimy ooze in the sockets. The tusks were huge and its hair curled. It had a short, stimpy nose and was very rude. It let out a loud, stinky burp!
Through my horror at the sight, I could sense a hint of sadness in it before it screeched.
An emerald tear fell from its eye, down past a peculiar red ruby which was inlaid in the beast’s chest. That’s when it opened its mouth and revealed to me two threatening blood stained incisors. I turned heel and ran, my feet carrying me as fast as they could get me home.
Dad must be coming home. The house was arranged properly and Mom’s classic ribs and pea dinner was on the menu as she busied herself in the kitchen. Dad was always out on business and I felt bad that I wouldn’t be here when he arrived. I wasn’t however disappointed that I was missing out on Mom’s classic. She had reminded me that I was spending the night with my friend, Shea.
Shea is a friend from school. He and I were out a little later than we should have been, walking the market square as I recounted the strange experience I had had in the nearby alley. It wasn’t long before he had me convinced to show him.
“Wait!” Shea had shouted as we stood near the dumpster that I claimed to hide the mysterious creature.
We had momentarily been disappointed at its disappearance until Shea thought he had heard something.
We stood in silence until the relief I had felt was stolen from me at the GG’s sound, “GG, GG, GG, GOOOOO…”
My objection caught in my throat as I watched Shea crouch down beside a loose sewer cap where the sound had seemed to originate. Steel scraped against cement as he pushed the cap aside and turned his eyes up to me. I knew exactly what he was thinking but the tremble in my voice kept me quiet and he considered my lack of opinion a silent agreement.
Reluctantly, we dropped into the sewer and Shea led me down into the tunnel until we were met with a jagged hole in the far wall. It was the only way forward and my friend had already bravely begun squeezing through.
On the other side, there was hardly room to stand. The garbage carpeting shortened the total height from floor to ceiling. Contrary to my comment about the vines that we had to push through when entering the room, Shea believed it was a neat fort.
The claustrophobia began setting in when I noted that no egress was possible, save where we had entered, and even now, the vines which we had little trouble in passing into the room, seemed to be knotting and twisting themselves together like the yarn of an invisible seamstress.
I’m still not sure that I would call my action heroic, but when I noticed the closing entrance, I pushed Shea head-first into the small opening that was left, then watched as he writhed and struggled, to pull his legs through, ultimately losing a shoe to the vine’s cinching snare.
The trash heap underfoot bulged behind me, first as a hump, then as a rustling shower of soda cans and wet grocery bags. The GG emerged, and an ear piercing, “RRRRRAAAAAKKKK!” came through red tinged fangs.
The beast pulled back when I flinched, and I remember seeing its big puppy dog eyes before I felt Shea yanking on the tail of my shirt. He had been going at the vines from the other side with the sharp edge of a broken pop can.
As he pulled me through the sticky jumble I was stricken with nausea at the sight of the blood—which turned out to be sap—that covered my clothes.
While we fled, the vines pulled themselves back through the hole, the orifice undulating like a puckering starfish.
Up the ladder we climbed and ran ourselves beyond exhaustion. No one would believe our account, so we slipped into his room unannounced. The two of us passed into a deep, dark, sleep which surely was filled with uneasy dreams, for when we woke, we were both drenched in sweat from head to toe.
Dad was waiting when I returned home. Being in his warm hug could almost make me forget the crazy experiences I had. The allowance he then gave me, on a normal day, would have definitely shooed them away. But because the day was far from normal, my mind was still bereft of ease.
I went out of the sliding back door on to the patio and fell lazily into a lawn chair. I looked at the ten dollar bill against the sun and then turned over to shove it down into my pocket. The exhale that escaped me as I let the reclined chair take my weight was a record breaker and I felt the stress fall away as I gazed up at the wispy clouds.
The sky darkened suddenly. The wooden fence around the backyard began to make tapping noises that became great cracks as the individual pickets warped and snapped in random places. The oak in the yard took a bow, its green cauliflower top presenting its crown to me, and then shifted its branches and leaves in tune with the blood-red sap that began pouring over the broken fence.
The top of the tree became a gnarly face and the leaves went instantly the color of Autumn, coming to rest as a huge gaping mouth amidst a swirling pool of red water. I felt my fingers begin to tingle and as I became unnerved I awoke with a start.
Jack, my dog, was all over me licking and pawing at me in the lawn chair where I had dozed off. I took a hold of his collar and gave him a good scratch behind the ear as I sat up. I followed his hazy eyes, which said he was thoroughly enjoying the scratch, over to where the sewer rats were running around the base of the big old oak, which stood now in its normal majesty. Its trunk was riddled in chips and dings.
The rats were old news to Jack, who’d given up on chasing them years back after my old friend Ryan had also had no luck targeting them with his slingsho—
I glanced back at Jack, this time asserting myself when I stood, “Heel, Boy!”
He impressed me with his obedience, and with man’s best friend at my side, I felt safe. Together we were off to the market because I knew exactly what my allowance would buy.
I lay awake on the sofa, feeling the pulse of the big red line on my face that resembled the zipper I had been sleeping on. I looked drowsily at the misplaced and wrinkled sofa cushions. It was nearing evening, and as I went about straightening up the couch I was bothered by the dream I had while taking my much needed nap.
I had dreamt about the rats, and how they had always been so hard to catch or kill. Its like they had seemed to know when Ryan use to get his slingshot ready. They’d be hiding, and stay there until he wasted his last bearing before coming out again. It was like they hid in fear, but it kept them alive. Something about that had made me feel ashamed in my dream, like I was the bad guy.
I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sat on one of the kitchen stools to take a bite. But my appetite was lost with the memory of the dream.
I opened the lid of the trashcan with my foot and threw the sandwich in smartly. It was time to put this mystery to rest.
Armed with my new slingshot, I went out.
The feel of the alley in the twilight was unusual. I had come in search of this ugly gruesome monster but my guilty dream still plagued me. To make matters worse, I could hear a gentle whimpering from behind the dumpster as I neared.
The recess of the alley was a shadowy void and nothing appeared to be behind the dumpster, but then I could see a glimmer of light reflecting off of something in front of the hidden back wall.
The glimmer strobed as it stretched down into a thin white line before disappearing.
A step closer and I could see another speck of glimmering light, this time blue.
Three steps closer and the glimmer turned out to be a crystal teardrop weaving its way down the face of the GG and falling in front of its red-jeweled breast to the ground.
The fire jewel grew intensely bright and then faded, leaving little dust motes swimming on my retina as my eyes refocused. Though I now saw the pointed fangs of the creature, I could also see beyond them. It wasn’t angry, it was scared… and it wanted to speak.
“I’ve lived in this little corner of your world for many years, you know?” came its gentle voice over a tongue ten inches thick.
My voice was unsteady, but I wasn’t ashamed to show it my fear as I had been my friend, “Why? Why do you live here, lurking like you do?”
“The real world re-G-G, rejects me.” said the GG through its strange stutter.
“How? How can they reject you when you are as real as I am standing here?” I asked, feeling a bit more comfortable.
“Fear. People cast out what they fear.” The red in the ruby of the thing’s chest threatened to grow again but subsided and I asked myself if I were afraid of the creature.
“I’m not afraid.” I offered, still a little uncertain.
Another tear loaded itself up in the tired eyelid of the beast as it sighed.
“That’s a good start,” it said.
“What is that red jewel there?” I asked, watching the light inside of it pulse dimly.
“It is my life force. It grows and fades with faith and belief, just as fear often does.”
And with that statement, a feeling of calm came over me and I noticed the light threaten to grow, but I didn’t let it scare me. As if empowered by my lack of fear, it blazed forth like the sun for an instant, and when it was gone, so was the GG.
As I walked back home in thought, I felt I had a better understanding of my strange dream. Before bedtime, I placed the slingshot on my dresser, feeling a tinge of guilt for ever considering harming the gentle creature with the weapon.
The following day, Shea and I got off the school bus at my stop together. He was rather skeptical of my experience with the GG and just had to see it for himself, “You’re telling me the beast from the sewer is actually just scared? The one with the fangs?”
“Yes, I’m telling you. The ruby in its body is some sort of life-force or energy source.” I assured him.
“I’m not buying it. But if it gets me close to that ruby again, I will go along with it. That thing must be worth a fortune.”
After Mom made sure we had finished our homework, Shea and I retired to my bedroom to wait for dusk.
“Oh, wow!” Shea said while lifting my slingshot from the shelf, “You got the wrist rocket zipper with the pellet holster built in?”
The sun was beginning to set outside of my window. “Yeah, but we won’t be needing it. I promise you, the guy means us no harm.”
“You mean the monster?”
“Yes, the monster.”
“You worry me, ya know. Now you’re calling this thing, the guy.”
“The GG,” I said to appease him, “we should get going if we’re gonna be there around the time he showed up for me.”
I lead Shea in to the alley where I called for the GG. The sound echoed off the bricks, only dampened by the now usual litter in piles along the walls.
“He was here!” I said.
Then I saw Shea’s eyes fixed on the man hole cover that still sat slightly ajar from our last retreat. Just thinking back to that day seemed a distant memory in my new found bravery.
I pushed the lid further aside, and this time led Shea down into the dark.
A shallow trickle of water now flowed along the culvert in the middle of the tunnel—must be from last night’s rain—and the splash of Shea’s sneakers marked his descent at the bottom of the ladder.
Down in the depths of the left hand passage I saw a dull red hue. It was in the opposite direction of the lair, which had scared us senseless only a couple of nights prior, but I knew exactly where the light was coming from, and from what.
I marched on toward the GG, following the drifting sewage that bobbed and twisted in the runoff water.
I was steadfast in my faith and fearlessness, and my surety was awarded by the brightening glow of the red ruby which grew ever closer.
As the GG’s shape grew clear behind the brilliant shine of the gem I smiled. No tears occupied the eyes of the creature—a sure sign that my returning company brought joy to the being—so when the infared glow began to dim, I thought perhaps the GG was doing so to protect our eyes from the light.
As his form became solid behind the darkened jewel and I began to thank him for the courtesy, the GG put a finger to his four tusked mouth and smiled. Then something in his gaze unnerved me as I realized he was looking past me to my friend Shea.
I whirled around to see what was the matter, and in that instant knew that the GG had not turned his life force down by choice. There was a fear larger than my faith with us in the tunnel.
Shea’s arms trembled as he tried to hold the wrist rocket drawn taught and aimed true. His eyes were full of tears on the brink, and pinched between his fingers and his thumb was the leather cup full of pellets, threatening to fire.
My scream didn’t reach his ears before he let the load fly free, “Shea, No!”
It was as if the darkness of the GG’s ruby welcomed the onslaught of those metal bearings. I could do nothing but shield my eyes from the shattering shards of the GG’s life force. With the sound of a thousand broken glasses, I was pitched back against the wall of the tunnel by a hammer of wind from the explosion.
Lying on my back then, I stared sideways at my hand which was numb from the blast. I watched the runoff, now mixed with the GG’s goo, trickle over my fingers, and it ran blue like the toilet water from a port-o-let. I met the monster’s gentle face beyond, staring at me from its sideways place of rest. As I stared into its eyes, I witnessed one last thick tear form at its eyelid, and realized it would be the last one it would ever shed.
A few heaving breaths later, I awoke at home in my own bed and was soaking wet from head to toe. On my wall was the familiar shape of a blue teardrop framed and hung as a poster. Atop my dresser was a glass case, containing a red ruby perched on a pedestal.
For a moment, I could imagine the ruby glow bright and sense the gentle voice of a long lost friend, “Thank you …”
The thought faded as I heard Mom coming up the hall to boast about the new decorations she had bought for me while I had been home sick from school. As reality set back in for me, I knew that the moisture on my sheets wasn’t really sweat at all …
… it was tears.
Thank you for reading Jay M. Horne’s – ‘THE GG’! Written by him at the age of ten and republished as an adult for modern children’s reading pleasure.