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 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.
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.
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.
“GG, GG, GG, GOOOOO…”
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.
We stood in silence until the relief I had felt was stolen from me at the GG’s sound, “GG, GG, GG, GOOOOO…”
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 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.
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.
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.
I glanced back at Jack, this time asserting myself when I stood, “Heel, Boy!”
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.
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 glimmer strobed as it stretched down into a thin white line before disappearing.
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.
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.
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 marched on toward the GG, following the drifting sewage that bobbed and twisted in the runoff water.
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.
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.
For a moment, I could imagine the ruby glow bright and sense the gentle voice of a long lost friend, “Thank you …”